AS a stoker on the Titanic George Kemish officially had a less than one-in-four chance of surviving. But following his survival the Swanage man was able to give one of the most gripping accounts of the sinking.

His great-niece, Lin Dorey, lives in Richmond Road in Swanage, not far from George’s one-time home at 136 High Street.

“I did meet him as a child but don’t remember him although I grew up knowing that he was on the Titanic,” she says.

Like many survivors George spoke little of the tragedy.

“I think he was traumatised by it,” says Lin, who runs the website for the Dorset dog sanctuary, and greyhound and lurcher rescue. There may have been another, sadder explanation for his reticence.

As Titanic author Charles Pellegrino points out: “All men who survived while women and children were still aboard were required to explain it for the rest of their lives.”

Despite having no memory of her great-uncle, Lin is familiar with his account of the sinking which he offered up to a researcher for the Titanic film, A Night To Remember.

George relates how, at 11.25pm on April 14, he was about to finish his watch in the boiler room when: “There was a heavy thud and grinding, tearing sound.”

Within a few minutes one of the trimmers announced they’d struck an iceberg. George said: “We thought that was a joke because we firmly believed she had gone aground off the Banks of Newfoundland.”

The engine staff were ordered to ‘draw all fires’ because excessive steam pressure was blowing joints and after seeing to this he returned to his quarters where men were packing their bags and dragging their possessions to the recreation deck because their rooms were flooded. The penny still didn’t drop, however. He remembered: “Oh, we thought, this is a huge joke and had a good laugh.”

According to George it was only at around 12.45am they were told that all hands had been ordered to the boat stations.

“The ship was as steady as if she had been in dry dock, going down very steadily forward but even at that time it was hardly noticeable.”

Early boats departed half-empty, he noted, but as it became apparent what was going to happen the later ones were overloaded.

“The band had stopped playing by now. About the last person I took particular notice of was novelist William T Stead, calmly reading in the first class smoke room. It looked as if he intended stopping where he was, whatever happened.”

George watched a lifeboat getting caught up in its lines some six feet from the water. He said: “I saw how desperate the situation was by now, all boats were away. We had been throwing deck-chairs and anything moveable overboard. I took a flying leap, intending to grab the dangling boat falls and slither down them into the water but I missed them. I reckon a parachute would have been handy in that drop.”

He swam until he got onto a lifeboat and as he helped row the boat he felt his hands freezing onto the oars.

“It had been fairly light until now but mercifully clouds covered the moon and it became very dark.”

His recollection of the final seconds, says Lin, chills the blood. He said: “When the Titanic took her final plunge there was a noise I shall never forget. Shouting – screaming and explosions. A hundred thousand fans at a cup final could not make more noise.”

Even after they were rescued by the Carpathia the nightmare continued.

“The first night aboard quite a few died from exposure or frostbite. An officer asked me to go to the ship’s mortuary. Four had died. He had an idea that one of them was a member of the Titanic’s crew and that perhaps I could identify him. I jibbed it. It might have been one of my mates and I had had enough.”

Like most of the crew he was prevented from speaking to the press and taken to Wright’s Seaman’s Mission where they were measured up for clothes to wear on the journey back.

George returned to sea, working on his beloved coal-fired vessels until the 1930s.

He received his trip’s pay; £3 from the Seaman’s Union for the loss of his kit and a promise from the White Star Line of a ‘job for life’. But, he said: “I have never had anything from them.”