William "Theo" Theodore Ronald Brailey was born on 25 October 1887 in Walthamstow, Essex, England to William "Ronald" Richard Brailey and his wife, Amy Greenwood Brailey. At this time, the family lived at 18 Clarendon Road, Walthamstow, Essex.
On the 1891 census, William and his family lived at 69 William Street, Upton, Slough, Buckinghamshire.
At a young age, he and his sisters were encouraged to play the piano and took music lessons from a woman named Miriam Geary. Theo displayed musical talent, not only on the piano, but also with the cello and flute.
On the 1901 census, the family lived at 36 Merton Road.
When he was almost 15 years old (9 October 1902), Theo left the Kensington Palace Hotel Orchestra to join the army with his father's consent. He signed up as a boy soldier with the Royal Lancashire Fusiliers. After basic training, he was dispatched to Barbados, which had just experience riots, assassinations, and near-economic collapse. A little over a year in service, Theo was appointed as a bandsman. After serving for over four years, Theo left the army on 22 February 1907.
After that, William went on to become a member of the Pier Pavilion Orchestra, welcoming an audience to enjoy a variety show at the pavilion.
He dated and became engaged to a woman named Teresa "Terry" Steinhilber, daughter of August (a watchmaker) and Kate Steinhilber.
By 1911 (via the census), the family had moved to London to 71 Lancaster Road, Kensington.
His father was an ex-Baptist minister, turned spiritualist who, when finding out that Theo would sail on the Titanic, warned him not to go. On 10 April 1912, Theo boarded the Titanic anyway, using ticket 250654 (a second class ticket shared with his bandmates). He boarded the RMS Titanic in Southampton.
As the Titanic sank, Theo and his bandmates continued to play music to soothe the spirits of those around them, and has, on many occasions, been called a hero for his actions.
He perished in the icy waters of the Atlantic that night with all of the members of the Titanic's orchestra. His body was never identified.
Theo Brailey and John Wesley Woodward (another bandmate) had both previously served aboard the Carpathia, the ship who rescued the Titanic survivors.
Theo composed (at least) two instrumental pieces: Ballet of the Roses and A Little Scherzo.
Theo was very interested in aviation (which at that time, was a very new field of interest) and became associated with the Freshfield Aerodrome in Southport Lancashire, where he made several friends.
Steve, Turner, The Band that Played On: The Extraordinary Story of the 8 Musicians Who Went Down with the Titanic (Nashville, Tennessee, Thomas Nelson, 2011)
1891 England Census, Class: RG12; Piece: 1135; Folio: 75; Page: 13; GSU roll: 6096245
1901 England Census, Class: RG13; Piece: 1619; Folio: 128; Page: 7
1911 England Census, Class: RG14; Piece: 147
England & Wales, FreeBMD Birth Index, 1837-1915
Global, Find A Grave Index for Burials at Sea and other Select Burial Locations, 1300s-Current
Have you taken a DNA test for genealogy? If so, login to add it. If not, see our friends at Ancestry DNA.
William is 40 degrees from Chet Atkins, 41 degrees from Edie Kohutek and 34 degrees from Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.