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Titanic's Christian Soldier

Today's Folkestone's Salvation Army in fine voice Photo: ITV Meridian

When Elizabeth Nye was a teenager she and her friends posed for a picture in a lifeboat.

In hindsight it is a spooky image. Because a decade later Elizabeth was cast adrift for real, one of the last survivors to leave the Titanic as it sank.

She grew up in Folkestone, the daughter of a coach builder who was part of the town's Salvation Army corps.

Its members were in that photo too, seen below. At the turn of the 20th Century it was fashionable for family and friends to be photographed in stylised and theatrical guises, and the group chose a sailing scene.

Elizabeth Nye is top row fifth from right Credit: Dave Bryceson

In 1912, aged 29, Elizabeth was on Titanic because she was returning to America after a visit to her hometown. A solid and reliable worker, she had already been tasked by the Army to help with its expansion into New York. A coal strike meant the ship she was booked on stayed in harbour, so she was forced instead to share a second-class cabin on the world's biggest ocean liner.

Elizabeth was in that lifeboat for five hours, navigating the freezing waters of the Atlantic as others drowned and died all around her.

She must have known there was every chance that she would perish too, of exposure or even starvation. Perhaps as her life flashed before her she thought back to that strange photograph from a very different time and place.

Dave Bryceson, author of Elizabeth Nye: Titanic Survivor, says there was not much in the way of conversation as the lifeboat rowed away slowly from the sinking ship.

''The fact she had been saved, she thought that was a blessing from God''

– Neil Abbey, Folkestone Salvation Army

''It was extremely full'', he said. ''People had realised the seriousness of the situation by then. A lot of the earlier lifeboats had gone away. One had just 12 people in, although it could have taken 65. So yes the mood was very very sombre because they'd just seen the Titanic go down. And they realised how many people had lost their lives. So there wasn't a great deal of talking at all.''

The lifeboat was eventually picked up by a rescue ship, Carpathia. On board, Elizabeth wrote to reassure her parents that she was safe, and to explain the circumstances of her rescue. The letter was later published in the Folkestone Herald. She spoke of the heartbreak of seeing dozens of married women who had begun to realise that their husbands had not survived and that they had all become widows in one night.

She was glad to be alive herself of course but had lost everything. Apart from the clothes she was wearing she only managed to rescue one precious gift, the watch her father bought her 11 years before.

Elizabeth Nye in her Salvation Army uniform Credit: Dave Bryceson

Even before Titanic Elizabeth had experienced tragedy - her first husband and daughter had died. But from this point on her fortunes changed. When she arrived in New York she was met by a Salvation Army representative Captain George Darby. She went on to marry him and start another family.

According to Elizabeth's relatives she showed few obvious signs of Titanic trauma in the decades that followed. She did though become very nervous when her son went swimming, perhaps unable to completely escape memories of drowning people on that terrible night.

Elizabeth Nye-Darby died in 1963 after a happy and fulfilled life devoted to God and the Salvation Army.

Neil Abbey, captain of the Army's present-day Folkestone Corp said: ''She was promoted to Colonel. She set her goal to try to help those who were less fortunate than her. The fact that she'd been saved, she thought that was a blessing from God. She must have been a very strong lady in her faith to carry on doing what she did. She's very much an inspiration to a lot of people her a hundred years on.

A replica of the porcelain watering can retrieved from Titanic Credit: ITV Meridian

But Elizabeth's story does not end with her death.

In the 1980s divers finally reached the wreck of Titanic and began to bring objects to the surface. Among them was a porcelain watering can bearing the inscription: ''A Present From Folkestone.''

''I am absolutely certain that it came from Elizabeth's baggage,'' says Dave Bryceson. ''She was the only person on board the Titanic who came from Folkestone and I know she kept a bureau in her home in America in which she would put little souvenirs she collected from Folkestone every time she came across them. So yes I'm sure it belonged to Elizabeth.''