Titanic . . . the ship we can't forget, 100 years on


From This Is Somerset


Almost 100 years on, the Titanic disaster still tugs at the heartstrings.

The events of that dramatic night in April 1912 are well known but constant retelling of the tale only seems to add more lustre to the legend.

The hosting of 100th anniversary events in 2012 will introduce a new generation to the Titanic story in a similar way that interest was renewed by James Cameron's Oscar-winning film in 1997.

Cameron was on to a good thing, as the Titanic story had everything – heroism and human failings, courage and cowardice, horror and hubris. Over the years, the story has refused to go away. Could better design have saved the ship, could more lives have been saved if the vessel Californian had assisted, why were some of the lifeboats pulling away only half-full?

What is certain is that around 1,500 people were to lose their lives when the 46,000-tonne Titanic struck an iceberg on its maiden passenger voyage and sank in the Atlantic.

What made the news so shocking was that the vessel was considered unsinkable. Built in Belfast by the shipbuilding company Harland and Wolff, Titanic was carrying the great and the good as well as many less well-off travellers in steerage who were seeking a new life in America.

With Captain Edward Smith in charge, the vessel carried more than 2,200 people, including more than 300 in first-class. The "nobs" included White Star Line managing director Joseph Bruce Ismay and Molly Brown, a Colorado woman whose survival was to provide her with the fame she craved.

Among the children on board was two-month-old Millvina Dean from Southampton, who was to live until 2009 to become the last survivor of the sinking.

Over-confidence had led to the Titanic carrying only around 20 lifeboats, enough for about 1,170 people.

Having set sail on April 10, 1912, the Titanic had received the first of many ice reports on April 12 and by the night of the sinking these had become numerous.

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