Born in Liverpool in on October 15, 1887, Mr. Fleet practically grew up at sea. He never knew his father, and his mother abandoned him. At the age of 12 he was placed on the HMS Clio, an industrial training ship moored in the Menai Strait at Bangor, Wales. Between 1877 and 1920, this 22-gun corvette wood ship served as a training ship or school for orphaned and delinquent boys who received a general education, instruction on life skills, and training to succeed in a life at sea. This strict, focused, and often harsh life was thought to ‘save’ the boys by molding them into contributing members of society.
In 1903, Fleet went to sea as a Deck Boy and worked his way upto Able Bodied Seaman. He spent four years employed by the White Star Line as look out on Oceanic before accepting the position on Titanic. By 1912, he already had 8 years of experience at sea.
Fleet was scheduled for lookout duty on Titanic’s 10 p.m. to midnight watch the night of April 14, 1912. He received repeated instructions from his commanding officers that he and his fellow lookout Reginald
Lee must keep very alert because the Ship was in the vicinity of icebergs. The moonless conditions and calm sea made sighting icebergs more difficult than normal; icebergs were usually located at night by their reflection in the moonlight or by waves crashing against them. Shivering with cold, Fleet and Lee stared into the blackness as a slight haze began to develop across the horizon. At 11:40 pm, Fleet sounded the iceberg warning. Seconds later – impact. Relieved at midnight, Fleet then assisted in loading Lifeboat 6 which he joined as crew member. Fleet testified at both the American and British Inquiries.
After the disaster, Fleet continued at sea working for various shipping companies until 1936. He married his wife, Eva, in 1917 and continued to live in Southampton. As jobs became fewer and finances more difficult with age, Fleet and his wife moved in with her brother. At her death, in December 1964, the arrangement could no longer continue. Distressed by Eva’s death and with no future prospects, Frederick Fleet hanged himself in January, 1965. He was buried in a pauper’s grave at Hollybrook Cemetery, Southampton. In 1993, a memorial was placed at his gravesite by the Titanic Historical Society.