John George (Jack) Phillips, (1887 – 1912)

Chief Wireless Telegraphist on the Titanic

John George (Jack) Phillips, 1887 - 1912, Godalming Museum and Godalming Town Council Collection.

John George (Jack) Phillips, 1887 – 1912, Godalming Museum and Godalming Town Council Collection.

This oil painting can be seen in Godalming Museum, and was painted by Ellis Martin from a photograph taken by Jennie Stedman of Farncombe.

Early Life and Career

John George Phillips, known as ‘Jack’ was born in Godalming, Surrey, on the 11thApril 1887 at 11 Farncombe Street. He was the son of George Alfred Phillips and his wife, Ann (née Sanders). They came from Trowbridge in Wiltshire, from a family of weavers. In 1881 the family lived in Deptford Lower Road, Rotherhithe, and George was listed as a draper, with this wife and twin daughters, Elsie and Ethel aged 7, born in Kent.

The Parish Church of Farncombe, St John, now the Farncombe Day Centre. Photograph courtesy of John Young

The Parish Church of Farncombe, St John.
Photograph courtesy of John Young

They moved to Godalming c.1883 when they are listed in the Godalming Directory living in Farncombe Street. His father was manager of Gammons, a draper’s shop owned by the Gammon brothers. The family lived above the shop, and Jack was born there in1887. The house no longer remains. The 1911 census shows that there were five children born to George and Ann but only three survived. His twin sisters never married.

Jack attended a local private school in Hare Lane run by Fanny Stedman. He then went to the St Johns Street School next to the Parish Church of Farncombe, St John. As a young boy Jack sang in the choir at the Parish Church where there is a brass memorial plaque.

Jack was later educated at the Godalming Grammar School, now the public bar of the Red Lion Public House under the headmaster Mr. Charles Elworthy.

Godalming Grammar School, seen here on the left hand side of the pub (photographs by Hugh Turrall Clarke).

Godalming Grammar School, seen here on the left hand side of the pub (photographs by Hugh Turrall Clarke).

Godalming Grammar School, seen here on the left hand side of the pub (photographs by Hugh Turrall Clarke).

Godalming Grammar School, seen here on the left hand side of the pub (photographs by Hugh Turrall Clarke).

The Post Office, now the HSBC Bank

The Post Office, now the HSBC Bank

In 1902 on leaving school he worked at the local Post Office (now the HSBC Bank) in the High Street, as a telegraphist. Here he learned Morse code under the postmaster, Mr Walter Richard Williams, until March 1906.

In 1906 Jack joined the Marconi Company’s Wireless Telegraphy Training School at Seaforth Barracks in Liverpool. On completion of the course, he headed the list of successful candidates in the Postmaster General Examinations. In August after finishing his training he was posted as Junior Wireless Officer on the White Star Line vessel, Teutonic.

During the next three years he served on various liners, including the Lusitania, Mauritania, Campania, Oceanic, Corsican, Canada, Victoria, Danube, and Pretorian.

In 1908 Jack was transferred to the Marconi Transatlantic Station at Clifden, a high-power-transmitting station on the west coast of Ireland in County Galway. He spent three years at Clifden, working as an operator transmitting and receiving messages to and from the Marconi sister station at Glace Bay, Nova Scotia.

In 1911 he left Clifden and returned to sea on the Adriatic. In March 1912 he was sent to Belfast to take up the post of Chief Wireless Telegraphist on the new White Star Liner, Titanic, then being fitted out at the Harland and Wolff shipyard. Lord Pirrie was Chairman of Harland and Wolff, and had bought Witley Park, near Godalming, in 1909.

Click here to continue the story of Jack Phillips on the RMS Titanic.

Read about the Phillips Memorial in Godalming.

Find out about Jack Phillips, the RMS Titanic and Godalming Museum Local Studies Library

Copyright: Godalming Museum 2013

6 thoughts on “John George (Jack) Phillips, (1887 – 1912)”

  1. Johanna weadick says:

    Hello, I am trying to find out if Jack Phillips is related to my late Grandmother in Ireland. Her maiden name was Bridget Phillips. She was born in Liverpool in 1927 her mother was not married to her father whom she never met. She was later brought up in Wicklow in Ireland. The week she died her nephew told me that his wife had researched the family name & traced it back to Jack Phillips. I am from Ireland but now live in Australia. The Irish census archive is only retrievable back to 1902. Any help would be much appreciated. Any relatives might have some more information on the family tree from 1912 to date. kind Regards

    1. Duncan Mirylees says:

      I am very much afraid that your branch of the Phillips family cannot be descended from the Farncombe line. jack Phillips never married, so cannot have had any descendents. Being a very upstanding lad, I think it highly unlikely that he had any offspring under other circumstances. As far as I know, none of his family strayed very far from Farncombe and Godalming.

      1. Deborah sarti says:

        My father always claimed that he was a very distant relative of Jack Phillips, he was either an uncle or a cousin of my grandfather who was born in Dorset. My grandfathers name was Samuel Real, but it could have been through his mothers line?

        1. ESP Admin says:

          Dear Deborah

          Many thanks for your enquiry. The research team at Surrey History Centre have tried to reply to you directly by e-mail but for some reason the messages keep bouncing back.

          I’ve posted their reply below:

          “Thank you for your e-mail of 24 April.

          To be honest, I think it is very unlikely that your father was related –closely at least, to the Phillips family.

          John George (Jack) Phillips had only one sibling, an older sister called Ethel. She had, I believe, physical, or learning difficulties of some kind and never married, so he cannot have had any nephews or nieces.

          Jack was born in Farncombe and Ethel at Lewisham, south London.

          If there were any familial connection, it must have gone back some way and, thus, been quite distant.

          Jack’s father, George Alfred Phillips was born in Trowbridge, Wiltshire and his mother, Ann, in Plymtree in Devon. Dorset, like Devon and Wiltshire are both western counties, so there might be a connection there and all three share county boundaries too.

          The only way to prove this for certain I am afraid, will be to follow your own family tree back until you are able to find some connection and you may also need to research the Phillips line as well.

          I am sorry I cannot, otherwise, be of help, I hope this information is useful to your research.

          Yours sincerely
          Duncan Mirylees,
          for Public Services and Engagement Manager”

          1. Catherine Jones says:

            Hi, Ethel Phillips was thirteen years older than Jack and she had a twin sister called Elsie, who also had no children.
            I am second cousin 3x removed of Jack.

  2. Deborah sarti says:

    My grandfathers mothers name was Sarah Maud Bradley.

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