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Remembering RMS Titanic - Commemorating the Centenary of her Sinking

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RMS Titanic sets out on its fateful voyage

On the night of 14/15 April, 1912, the RMS Titanic sank in the North Atlantic, after a collision with an iceberg. Over 1,500 passengers and crew died, only 710 survived the disaster. This ship's sinking has become one of the most famous events of the 20th Century, with numerous books and films made about the event. 2012 marked the 100th anniversary of the sinking, so how is the loss of the Titanic remembered worldwide today?

All figures are believed to be as accurate as possible; completely factual records were not kept, however, and the exact numbers of survivors and victims are disputed between historians.

Titanic Museums

Around the world there are several museums that either are dedicated to the Titanic or feature displays regarding her and her connection with the place where the museum is located.

Titanic Belfast

Amongst the various memorials in Belfast, the star attraction is the shiny exhibition and conference centre, Titanic Belfast. Built in the heart of the newly-styled 'Titanic Quarter' of the city, this stunning building is situated on the slipways where Titanic and Olympic were built, side by side.

It has been advertised widely, even on the Tube Stations in London, and visitor numbers in the weeks following its opening were massive, selling out its available tickets weeks in advance. The numbers need to be big though, to make the business case for this £100m attraction stack up. An adult ticket costs £13 - locals find this is a bit steep, but visitors from far afield find it reasonable. This ticket gives a timed entry to four interactive galleries, charting the rise of industrial Belfast, the political backdrop to the early 20th Century, and what it was like to work in the shipyards, before getting into the specifics of the construction of Titanic, her fateful voyage, and the subsequent myths, musicals and movies. It finishes with the discovery of the wreck and current scientific underwater exploration around the coast of Ireland.

Even without paying the gallery entrance fee, visitors can still access the building, complete with shop selling all manner of things with a picture of the ship on them, to cafés selling Titanic-sized individual apple pies.

Titanic Belfast, picture by Beatrice

The slipways, on the very spot where the ships were built, now form an open-air plaza, which can be used as a concert venue (eg MTV's Titanic Sounds on Friday 13 April, 2012). Tall poles outline the shapes of the two ships, and these are lit up at night, forming a ghostly silhouette. The names of all those who died are etched on glass panels at the top end of the slipways, and other information boards about the plaza give the visitor additional facts and figures. Tours of the drawing offices next door are also available at £2.50.

The building itself has a number of design features:

  1. It is the height of the ship.
  2. It has four protruding corners, which look like ships' prows.
  3. From above, it forms a star shape, for the White Star Line.
  4. It is covered in aluminium panels, which gives the shimmering effect of light on rippling water.

Sea City Museum, Southampton

A £15 million museum in Southampton, the Sea City Museum, opened on 10 April, 2012, 100 years after the Titanic left port. This is in Southampton Civic Centre's Grade II* Listed 1930s Old Magistrates' Court. Joint tickets for the council-owned Tudor House and Garden are also heavily promoted.

The museum tells the story of the ship's link with the city and has recreations of some of the Titanic's rooms such a typical Second Class cabin, with furniture and furnishings taken from her sister-ship the Olympic.

The first exhibit shows a list of the crew, from Steward Ernest Abbott to Wine Butler Sig Zarracchi, with those from Southampton listed in red, those from elsewhere in blue. The wall is a sea of red, with many of those in blue from neighbouring towns like Eastleigh or Winchester. The last exhibit reveals how many of them survived. The exhibition takes you through the poverty Southampton suffered at the time of the 1912 coal strikes, the hope of employment that Titanic brought, the working conditions where children can re-enact stoking the boilers, the luxury of First and Second Class, recordings from Southampton's Oral History archive describing the sinking, and a room with exhibits from the ship, with a floor map of Southampton in 1912, showing a red dot on every house where someone local had died. Over a third of those who perished in the disaster were from Southampton.

The first temporary exhibition is 'Titanic  – the Legend'. Open for 12 months, it focuses on the international fascination with the story.

The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Halifax

The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Halifax, Nova Scotia, is a marvellous place to spend an afternoon, allow lots of time! It's a huge building, and covers a lot of Halifax's history. Two displays are particularly shocking; the Halifax Explosion on the main floor, and the Titanic display upstairs. These displays are brought right into your face and consciousness through the artefacts on display.

The Titanic display is part of the Museum not to be missed. There are pieces of carved wood from the ship, and Wreckwood1. A recovered deck chair is on display, along with pictures of the ship, including one of the Grand Staircase. Included are a mortuary bag, leather gloves, and the little leather shoes belonging to Sidney Leslie Goodwin.

The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic's display is permanent, and well worth a visit.

Other Museums

In addition to the museums listed above, there are also museums with Titanic displays at:

  • Belfast, in addition to Titanic Belfast, has the Ulster Folk & Transport museum. 22 men from Belfast died on board.
  • Also in Belfast is the SS Nomadic, the tender that carried First and Second Class passengers to the Titanic from Cherbourg, and last surviving White Star vessel.
  • City of the Sea Museum, Cherbourg. The Titanic moored outside Cherbourg and picked up 274 passengers, 142 First Class, 30 Second Class, 102 Third Class, transported in the tenders Nomadic and Traffic.
  • Titanic Experience, Cobh (formerly Queenstown) – In the former White Star offices, Queenstown was the last port the Titanic moored outside, picking up seven Second Class and 113 Third Class passengers via the tenders America and Ireland. Seven passengers disembarked.
  • Receiving Titanic, Cape Race, Newfoundland – Where the distress call was received.
  • Merseyside Maritime Museum, Liverpool – 114 people on board Titanic were from Liverpool, mainly crew.
  • National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. Many of the crew were from London. White Star had offices in London as well as Southampton and Liverpool.
  • Fall River Marine Museum, Massachusetts – This has on display the model used to film the 1953 film Titanic as well as other artefacts.
  • Molly Brown House, Denver. A museum in her house dedicated to her life and the history of Denver.

Titanic Memorials

Southampton Engineer Officers' memorial to RMS Titanic

Following the disaster several separate collections were organised to erect memorials to those who perished, which is why there are so many worldwide commemorating the disaster. Just as the Titanic itself was a highly segregated vessel, with First, Second and Third Class compartments and a structured crew, the memorials themselves reflect this. Memorials for the rich and wealthy on board were paid for by their rich and wealthy friends and relatives. Some are in local parish churches dedicated to local people who died, or the graveyards where Titanic victims and their families are buried.

Memorials in the UK

  • Belfast

    • Belfast Memorial
      The centrepiece of the Titanic Memorial Garden located on Donegall Square in central Belfast in the grounds of Belfast City Hall. It is dedicated to the 22 men from Belfast who died. The memorial shows a female personification of Death holding a laurel wreath over the head of a drowned sailor held up by two mermaids.

  • Colne, Lancashire

    • Wallace Hartley Memorial
      Over 30,000 people attended bandleader Wallace Hartley's funeral in Colne, Lancashire.

  • Dalbeattie, Scotland

    • William Murdoch Memorial
      A memorial plaque to First Officer William McMaster Murdoch. A prize-fund for Dalbeattie Public School was set up, which Twentieth Century Fox donated £5,000 to in an attempt to apologise for controversially portraying the heroic Murdoch as a suicidal murderer in the 1997 film Titanic.

  • Dumfries

    • Dock Park Memorial
      Dedicated to violinist John Law Hume from Dumfries, and steward Thomas Mullin, from neighbouring Maxwelltown.

  • Goldalming, Surrey

    • Jack Phillips Memorial
      The chief telegraph officer who broadcast the SOS. There is a memorial in the Post Office and a Memorial Garden, complete with a fountain.

  • Greenwich
    • Memorial Garden and granite monument at the National Maritime Museum.

  • Lichfield, Staffordshire
    • Captain Smith Memorial Statue
      Made of bronze, 7ft 8in tall on a 7ft tall granite plinth.

  • Liverpool

    • Engineers Memorial
      The Memorial to the Engine Room Heroes of the Titanic is a tall granite monument located in St Nicholas Place, Pier Head.

    • Musicians Memorial
      A plaque on the wall of Liverpool's Philharmonic Hall, Hope Street, dedicated to the musicians.

  • Ongar, Essex

    • Father Byles Window, St Helen's Church
      Reverend Thomas RD Byles led 50 men in prayer as the ship sank. His home church has a stained glass window in his honour.

  • Southampton

    • St Mary's Church's Seamen's Chapel
    • Holy Trinity Church
    • Millbrook Church Memorial
    • St Augustine's Church, a memorial now owned by Southampton Museums Service
    • Gatti Memorial
      A brass plate on an oak table in St Joseph's Church, Bugle Street, dedicated to the restaurant staff who died on the Titanic.

    • The Titanic Musicians' Memorial
      Located off Southampton's QE2 mile, the original was destroyed by bombing in 1940, this is a replacement unveiled in 1990 by local survivors Miss Millvina Dean, who was nine weeks old when the ship sank and the last Titanic survivor, Edith Haisman, Bert Dean and Eva Hart. The memorial includes the opening bars of the hymn 'Nearer My God To Thee', a grieving woman, the infamous iceberg and names all the musicians who died on the RMS Titanic, stating 'They Died At Their Posts Like Men'. No musicians survived the disaster.

    • The Titanic Engineer Officers' Memorial
      This Grade II listed memorial is the grandest of the Titanic memorials in Southampton and is dedicated to the engineering officers, none of whom survived, sacrificing their lives trying to keep the ship afloat and the electricity running as long as possible. The memorial is built of grey granite and bronze, is 30ft long, 20ft high and weighs over 60 tons. In the centre a superb winged angel above a ship's prow is flanked by representations of engineer officers. The names inscribed on the memorial include Thomas Andrews, designer of the ship, Archibald Frost and Robert Knight, all from Harland & Wolff2, the builders of the Titanic. When it was first unveiled in April 1914 an estimated 100,000 Southampton residents attended.

    • The Titanic Crew Memorial
      A memorial to the crew, stewards and firemen stands just inside the remains of Holyrood Church. Smaller than the Officers' Memorial despite more crew than officers dying, it was not unveiled until 1915. It had taken longer to raise the funds for this memorial as the relatives and friends of the crew who had died were often paid small amounts weekly. Originally a drinking fountain, this highly decorative Portland stone fountain has a square plinth, four columns rising above a central urn and the basin to a classical roof, with four columns above this level to a dome. It was originally erected outside Southampton Common, an area popular with children. Within two months of its erection there were requests to fence the memorial off and remove the water supply, as children were playing with the water and even climbing to the top of the memorial. After the Second World War the urn disappeared, rumoured to have been stolen by Canadian soldiers returning home. In 1971 it was decided to place the memorial somewhere safer and it was moved from Southampton Common to the ruins of Holyrood Church, now the Merchant Navy memorial. A replica urn was fitted and a 7ft fence protects the memorial.

    • The Titanic Postal Workers' Memorial
      In Southampton Civic Centre is a memorial plaque to the five postal workers who drowned, made out of a spare Titanic propeller. They died when trying to save the 200 sacks of post on the Royal Mail ship as she sank.

    • The Titanic Passengers' Memorial
      A plaque dedicated to the passengers who died. As this memorial is inside the working dock, permission from Associated British Ports who own the dock has to be granted before you are allowed past the security checkpoint.

    • Captain Sir Arthur Henry Rostron's grave
      Located in the Old Burial Ground, behind the War Memorial, West End, Southampton. Captain Sir Arthur Henry Rostron was captain of the RMS Carpathia that rescued 710 survivors.

    • Canute Chambers
      The offices of the White Star Shipping Company in Southampton. Hundreds of people gathered here for news of the people from Southampton on the Titanic. 549 who died were from there.

    • Southampton Old Cemetery
      This includes 45 memorials for Titanic victims.

    • Hollybrook Cemetery
      Where survivors Frederick Fleet and Samuel Hemming were eventually buried.

Memorials Around the World

  • Australia

    • Titanic Bandsmen's Memorial, Broken Hill

  • Belgium

    • Plaque dedicated to Georges Krins, the First Violin.

  • Ireland

    • Cobh Titanic monument
      A small plaque and memorial stone unveiled on 7 July, 1998, in Pearse Square. It reads: 'Commemorating RMS Titanic and her last port of call on her maiden and final voyage. April 11, 1912. In special memory of the Irish emigrants and all those who lost their lives in this great tragedy.'

    • Lahardane: Addergoole Parish Memorial, St Patrick's Church
      Plaque dedicated to the 14 people from Addergoole Parish who were on Titanic, only three women survived.

  • South Africa

    • James Webber Memorial, Braamfontein Cemetery, Johannesburg
      James Webber was originally from Cornwall but his family moved to South Africa. He travelled Third Class.

  • United States of America

    • Cambridge: Harry E Widener Memorial Library, Harvard
      A collector of rare books who died on the Titanic, his mother gave $2million for the library at Harvard that housed his collection in his memory.

    • Straus Memorial Fountain, New York City
      On 106th Street and West End Drive, a memorial fountain in the shape of a reclining woman dipping her toe in the fountain, dedicated to the founders of Macy's Department Store, who died together when Ida Straus refused to be separated from her husband Isidor.

    • New York Lighthouse
      On her return to New York, Margaret 'Maggie' Brown campaigned to have a memorial to the Titanic built in New York. This would be the 60ft tall New York City Lighthouse. Unveiled on the anniversary of the disaster in 1913, it stood above the East River from the roof of the Seamen's Church Institute of New York and New Jersey until 1968, when that institution moved and the building was demolished. The lighthouse itself was preserved and moved to the South Street Seaport Museum, standing on the corner of Fulton and Pearl.

    • Titanic Women's Memorial, Washington DC
      A statue of a man dedicated to the men who died, giving their lives for women and children to be saved. It was moved from its original place to Haines Point.

    • Archibald Butt & Francis Millet Fountain, Washington, DC
      An 8ft fountain dedicated to Major Butt, military aide to Presidents Taft and Roosevelt, and artist and journalist Francis Millet.

    • Archibald Butt Bridge Memorial, Augusta
      A bridge spanning the Augusta Cannel was dedicated to Major Butt. Recent plans to demolish the bridge and replace it with a bigger one met with opposition.

Southampton and the Titanic

On 10 April, 1912, the RMS Titanic left dock from Southampton for her maiden voyage, sinking on the night of 14/15 April. Only 706 people survived and of the approximately 1,523 people who died on the ship's ill-fated voyage, 549 were from Southampton, 538 of whom were crew. White Star, the Southampton-based company that owned the Titanic, offered employment and good meals at a time when 17,000 of the town's 119,000 population were unemployed. It was said that there was not a street or family in Southampton that had not suffered a loss, especially in the poor Northam and Chapel districts. In one typical school, 125 children lost their fathers.

In 2011 Southampton chose to rename the High Street and Above Bar Street to something new, and although 'Titanic Mile' was one of the suggestions, the name chosen was QE2 Mile, despite having only one QE2-related item (an anchor) in the area. The museum opened for the 100th anniversary is called the 'Sea City Museum' instead of the Titanic Museum. Even a hundred years on, the city has a respectful 'Don't mention the Titanic, the memory is too painful' attitude.

Southampton's Commemorative Events

A large number of events were held in the city centre throughout March and April, either side of the 100th anniversary. The focus was on 10 April, the day the Titanic launched, as well as 15 April, the day of the sinking. These events concentrated on remembrance.

Titanic Berth Event

A remembrance service was held by the Titanic berth in Southampton's Ocean Terminal, hosted by television broadcaster Fred Dinenage3, whose great uncle, James Richard Dinenage, was one of the ship's stewards who died on board. At 12noon on Tuesday 10 April, 2012, exactly 100 years on from the start of the tragic voyage, a recording of the ship's whistle, recovered from her wreck, was sounded. Re-enacting the ship's departure, the tug tender Calshot sailed from her berth followed by a flotilla, with all ships in the port sounding their whistles as a mark of respect.

The story of Titanic's voyage and disaster was told, with Port Chaplain Reverend Andrew Huckett from the Southampton Seafarers Centre leading prayers, and flowers and wreaths were placed into the water in memory of the victims of the tragedy.

Children's Parade

Over 600 schoolchildren from 27 of Southampton's schools paraded through the city from the Titanic Engineers' Memorial towards the Sea City Museum. They carried placards depicting the Southampton residents who served as crew members on the RMS Titanic, in tribute to the men and women who lost their lives in the disaster.

Southampton pupils researched the 897 crew members of the Titanic, 714 of whom were from Southampton. In total 685 crew members lost their lives, 538 from Southampton, many others were from neighbouring areas including the Isle of Wight4.

100th Anniversary Commemorative Service

On Sunday 15 April at 2pm, in St Mary's Church, the annual commemorative service took place.

Titanic – From Prow to Stern

Andrews Park5 had a full-scale outline of the Titanic, the exact length and beam, with the positions of the main features, including lifeboats and funnels, indicated. Southampton's Oral History Unit had recordings of survivors available to hear as well as a list of all those from Southampton who perished. During the night of the centenary there was a spoken timeline of events and Distress Flares launched. The intention was not to dramatise the incident, but to provide an accurate and evocative space for reflection and remembering.

Other Events

Additionally there were family events held throughout the city, encouraging art and crafts and story writing (including with Children's Poet Laureate Julia Donaldson). The city's art galleries had exhibitions on the Titanic, with an exhibition entitled 'Retracing the Unsinkable' on display in the foyer and Gallery 1 and 2 in Southampton City Art Gallery, an exhibition entitled 'Landfalls – The Titanic & Place' in the Bargate Gallery and another in the Concourse Gallery of Southampton Solent University. Concerts were held including The Wreck of the 'Titanic' composed by the late David Bedford, which was also performed in Cherbourg. Several dramatisations were performed, including 'Titanic', the Southampton Story, which used buildings from the Edwardian era with Titanic connections as backdrops. Book signings with authors of Titanic novels and related subjects were also held. There were guided walks around Southampton's Old Cemetery, which has 45 memorials for victims, and The Titanic Trail, which passes the memorials and locations associated with the ship. A self-guided walk booklet was available to purchase from the Tourist Information Centre.

Queenstown and the Titanic

Like Southampton, Queenstown6 has a Titanic trail. At Cobh it is possible to see the pier from which passengers embarked by boat to the Titanic moored offshore, as well as the monument and other buildings associated with the ship. The Titanic Experience is in the former White Star offices. There is also a memorial to those who died on the RMS Lusitainia, which was torpedoed near Queenstown, and a statue to Annie Moore, who left Queenstown in 1891 and became the first emigrant to be processed in Ellis Island, New York, on 1 January, 1892.

Halifax and the Titanic

Halifax considers the Titanic to be part of its story. Like Belfast and Southampton, Halifax is a port city; ships of the Royal Canadian Navy, and ships from all over the world come and go on a daily basis. And from Halifax the ships left for the grizzly task of recovering the dead. The Cable Steamer MacKay-Bennett7, Minia and Montmagny sailed to the site of the disaster. They returned 309 bodies by 30 April, 1912. The McKay-Bennett brought 190 bodies back, the Minia found 15. The CGS Montmagny brought three bodies to Louisberg which were then shipped to Halifax by train. The crew of the Algerine found one body which was brought to Halifax on the SS Florizel. Of those, 59 were claimed by relatives, so shipped out to their families, and the remaining were buried in Halifax cemeteries. 121 are buried in Fairview Cemetery, 10 in Baron de Hersch Jewish Cemetery, and 19 in Catholic Mount Olivet Cemetery.

Of special importance to Halifax is the Grave of the Unknown Child8, and flowers and stuffed teddy bears are often left at his grave. His leather shoes are on display at the Maritime Museum. Halifax had one survivor, Miss Hilda Slaytor, Second Class, and one victim, George Wright, in First Class. Wright's body was never recovered. His house sits on the corner of Inglis Street and Young Avenue, the most beautiful house in Halifax.

The Centenary

On Thursday 12 April, 2012, Halifax's first cruise ship of the season, the Azamara, docked at Pier 22. She was here for a special reason: a port of call before she cruised out to the Titanic site for a memorial service. While here, her passengers visited the Titanic display at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, and the Titanic graves.

On Saturday 14 April at dusk hundreds of people gathered on the waterfront along with a pipe band, Sea Cadet band and a wagon drawn by two Percherons, symbolising how the bodies were carried away from the waterfront. The horse-drawn wagon led a candlelight walk up to the Grand Parade, a walled square in Halifax bordered by St Paul's Church and City Hall. There they were joined by hundreds more for a three-hour programme of music, interpretive dance, and writings by survivors of the Titanic. Flares were fired, as 100 years before, commemorating the call for help. At 2:20am on 15 April, a minute's silence was observed, then St Paul's bells rang.

Sunday 15 April was a day of memorials. At Fairview, the largest Titanic gravesite in the world, cadets and other children laid roses on the graves, pipes played and prayers were said. Also on Sunday there was a memorial service at the JA Snow & Company Funeral Home, the present-day location of the one that handled the funerals 100 years ago – John Snow & Company Funeral Home9.

On Monday, 30 April at 9:30am Halifax church bells chimed, as they did 100 years ago when the MacKay-Bennet sailed into Halifax bearing the recovered bodies. Back then, windows in homes and businesses were draped in black or purple, a sign of mourning for the victims. Five local churches rang their bells, and the SS Acadia, docked at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, was also part of the ten-minute tribute. This is roughly the time the MacKay-Bennet came into Halifax Harbour. Part of the Museum display is an old marine hardware store, which was draped in purple and black.

Titanic Attractions

In addition to museums and memorials, the Titanic name has since been used as a popular visitor attraction, especially in areas without any link to the ship itself.

Not really an attraction, but the White Swan Hotel in Alnwick gives an impression of how being inside the Titanic would have felt, as the Olympic suite is decorated with fixtures and furnishings from the Titanic's sister-ship Olympic, which was scrapped nearby at Jarrow.

1Wreckwood is an ancient tradition of keeping bits of wood from a shipwreck and carving them into picture frames, crib boards, paperweights, etc.2Although Harland & Wolff's main yard was in Belfast, they did have a two-acre site in Southampton's Trafalgar Docks. At one point in 1907 three quarters of the SS Suevic, which had collided with Lizard rocks, was at their yard in Southampton while a new bow was built in Belfast.3The presenter of How? and How 2? as well as being the face of Meridian news.4Among the 316 bodies recovered of the over 1,500 who died on the Titanic were three stewards from the Isle of Wight, recovered by the SS Ilford. These men had grown up at the same time and all found employment as stewards on the Titanic, were found dead together and buried at sea together.5The park is named after Richard Andrews, five times Mayor of Southampton, rather than Thomas Andrews, designer of the Titanic, however the name is appropriate.6Cobh was originally called 'Cove' but was curiously renamed 'Queenstown' on 3 August, 1849, when Queen Victoria visited briefly. This was rather bizarre as Queen Victoria lived in Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, an island which was not renamed 'Queensisle', nor was London renamed 'Queenscity' after Queen Victoria's residency at Buckingham Palace. Since 1922, following Irish independence, it is now known as Cobh.7Locally pronounced Mackie-Bennett.8Despite the name, recent DNA testing has identified the child as Sidney Leslie Goodwin.9That building is now The Five Fishermen Restaurant & Grill, and supposedly haunted.

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