Titanic tennis champions uncovered


Tennis:The story of how two tennis champions survived the Titanic and went on to be members of the sport’s Hall of Fame is one of the less well-known tales of the disaster.

Richard Williams and Karl Behr were both world-class players when they boarded the ill-fated voyage.

Williams, whose father was crushed to death by a collapsing funnel as the ship went down, was in the freezing water for hours and refused to let the rescue ship’s doctor amputate his frozen legs.

And, according to contemporary newspaper reports, Behr proposed to his fiancée Helen Newsom in a lifeboat.

They married a year later.

Both men went on to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, which recognises the greats of the game.

Yale graduate Behr, who was born in New York in 1885, was 26 when he embarked on the Titanic with Miss Newsom and her parents.

He was a Wimbledon doubles finalist and, at the peak of his career, was United States number three.

Williams was born in Switzerland in 1891 but was a US citizen. He won the US Open in 1914 and 1916, and the Wimbledon doubles title in 1920.

He won the Olympic gold medal in mixed doubles in 1924.

Williams — whose full name was Richard Norris Williams II but was better known as Dick — was 21 when he boarded the ship with his father.

He was heading for the US Championships at Newport before entering Harvard University.

Williams was rescued by the Carpathia and insisted on walking every two hours to save his legs, despite the doctor’s wish to amputate.

He reached the quarter finals of the US Open and won the mixed doubles just a few months later.

After the First World War he was awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Legion of Honour and went on to be a successful investment banker.

Williams died in 1968. Behr died in 1949.

The story of the two tennis champions, including rare photos of the men, was told at an exhibition of sporting memorabilia by collector Robert Fuller in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, last month.