Nation mourns as ‘unsinkable’ ship is lost to the seas

Stamford Mercury memories, The Truth About The Titanic, 26 April 1912
Stamford Mercury memories, The Truth About The Titanic, 26 April 1912

Sunday marks 100 years since the Titanic sank in the North Atlantic.

The Mercury first reported the tragedy on April 19. It said the biggest ocean liner in the world sank after hitting an iceberg.

The Titanic sank on April 15, 1912

The Titanic sank on April 15, 1912

The Mercury reported how the survivors had been picked up by the cruise liner Carpathia and the country was in mourning.

The King and Queen, the Government and representatives of foreign nations had sent messages of deep distress and sympathy and all shipping companies flew flags at half mast.

The report said the “loss of life was unparalleled in the history of mercantile marine”.

On April 26, 1912, the Mercury carried a more detailed account of the disaster.

The report said: “Detailed narratives given by survivors of the Titanic on their arrival in New York are published in the daily press.

“These said that contrary to reports sent late on Thursday night week, the captain and officers stuck to their posts to the last and went down with the ship and that the male passengers all behaved with the greatest bravery.

“After striking the iceberg the Titanic remained above the water for about two and a half hours, and every facility was given for the escape of women and children.

“Some of the women however refused to leave their husbands and, it is said, were reluctant to quit a ship which they believed to be unsinkable.

“Mr Bruce Ismay, giving evidence on Friday before the Committee of the United States Senate, which has been appointed to investigate the accident, said that at no time of the voyage was the Titanic put at full speed.”

The article said the White Star Company had said 1,635 people had died and the 705 survivors included; 202 first class passengers; 115 second class passengers; 178 third class passengers; 206 crew; four officers. Eighty five survivors were still in hospital.

The death toll for the disaster is now recorded as being 1,517.

The article continued: “Glowing tributes are paid by the survivors to the heroism of the captain and officers who stuck manfully to their posts to the last, the male passengers appear to have behaved with the utmost chivalry, and the story of the way in which British and American men met their death unflinchingly, sacrificing themselves for the sake of the women and children is one which both nations may well be proud.

“Believing that the ship was unsinkable, those on board were slow to take alarm and to some extent were re-assured by the band, which continued playing lively airs, even when the water was rapidly pouring in.

“Indeed some of the survivors said that some of the women were reluctant to go to the boats when the order was given, so firm was their faith in the ability of the vessel to right itself. And this reluctance may account for the comparatively small number of lives saved.

“According to one or two survivors, some of the life boats were far from full.

“Mr Bruce Ismay stated that the Titanic remained about two and half hours above the water after striking the iceberg.

“The whole bilge, he says, was ripped up, and the reason why the ship’s watertight compartment did not save her was because all the plates along the starboard were loosened and all the forward compartments on that side where flooded.

“One of the most coherent narratives is furnished by Mr Beesley of London.

“He says that even when the lifebelts were donned it was not thought there was much cause for serious alarm. But a rude awakening came when the order was given “All men stand back away from the boats. All ladies retire to the next deck below” some of the women refused to leave their husbands, others were dragged away against their will.

“The men waited in absolute silence as the women were saved and there was no panic or rush to the boats.

“The last man saved was Colonel Archibald Grace of the United States Army, who actually went down with the Titanic but was picked up by the lifeboat.

“The Morning Post Washington correspondent telegraphed that violent attacks are being made by a portion of the American Press and public including one or two members of Congress, of the White Star Line and Mr Bruce Ismay.

“Mr Ismay is accused of compelling the captain of the Titanic to take a northerly course in order to reach port sooner, and to proceed at a dangerous speed in the neighbourhood of ice and further, of personal cowardice in leaving the ship in a boat when passengers remained to perish.

“Perhaps the most touching incident, and one which revealed remarkable heroism in the face of certain death, was that of the band. As the boats were being lowered the orchestra were playing an operatic selection, and some of the popular melodies of Europe and America.

“It was only just before the liner made her final plunge that the character to the programme was changed and they then struck up “Nearer to my God, to Thee.”