The ill-fated voyage taken by the Titanic in 1912 has been at the forefront of people’s minds in the more than 100 years since the tragedy. On its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City, the ship hit an iceberg near the coast of Newfoundland close to midnight on April 14th, 1912, causing the death of more than 1,500 people due to the shortage of lifeboats. Bravely, more than 1,300 men chose to go down with the ship in order to let their wives and children get on board the lifeboats first. The stories of bravery on the RMS Titanic will never be forgotten.
Onboard, the ship during the fateful evening were people who ranged from the wealthiest in Europe and America to the poorest of the poor attempting to make a new life for themselves in the New World.
In the past 100 years, many facts came out about the voyagers, those who survived and those who tragically perished along with the ship. Many stories of heroism in the face of peril are told to this day. Here are some of the most well-known interesting facts about the people who faced an unspeakable tragedy.
The RMS Titanic Crew
Some of the most heartwarming and heart-wrenching stories that came out of that tragedy were the acts of bravery committed by the members of the ship’s crew.
One of these stories involves the postal service workers aboard the ship. Since the RMS Titanic was a Royal Mail Steamer, she had around 200 sacks of registered mail on board. A survivor of the tragedy reported seeing all five of the postal crew working furiously as the ship went down, trying to save the registered mail and take it to the top deck. Sadly, none of the crew members survived.
One of the crew members’, Oscar Scott Woody, body was found later on with his pocket watch still intact. Another postal worker, John Starr March, whose watch was also found, proved the story as his clock seems to have stopped at 1:27, proving that they had spent time trying to save the mail.
Their heroism not only helped save the mail, but it is also reported that the registered mailbags that were on board the ship were used to help recover the infant survivors of the disaster.
The Drunk Chef
In both James Cameron’s depiction of the Titanic’s sinking and the film A Night to Remember a character of a drunk chef was included, which many people might have overlooked. The truth is the story was true. The drunk was Chief Baker Charles Joughin, who acted like a true hero throughout the tragedy, despite his inebriated state.
Joughin is said to have thrown women into lifeboats. In addition to chucking 50 deckchairs into the Atlantic for people to cling to. Not only that, when he was assigned to number 10 lifeboat as skipper, he jumped out at the last moment and back on Titanic because he thought that leaving the ship would, “set a bad example”.
It also seems that his excessive drinking helped save his own life. As due to the large amounts of whiskey he had taken in, he was able to survive the sub-zero waters for hours. And in the end, he scrambled on to an overturned canvas lifeboat. He returned to Liverpool and lived for another 44 years.
Ben Guggenheim Was Not A Coward
“No woman shall be left aboard because Ben Guggenheim is a coward,” is what millionaire Benjamin Guggenheim said before he changed into formal evening wear and sat in deckchairs, smoking cigars and drinking brandy, awaiting his own death.
Although his wealthy status afforded him the right to get on a lifeboat first and even though he could have bribed the crewmen as many of his peers did to escape death, Ben Guggenheim chose to stay behind instead of taking the place of anyone else.
The Unsinkable Molly Brown
Perhaps one of the most well-known stories to come out of the Titanic was that of Molly Brown, portrayed in the James Cameron film by Kathy Bates.
Famously known as “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” Margaret Brown earned that nickname by taking over the lifeboat she was on and threatening to throw the quartermaster overboard if he didn’t turn back to look for more survivors. She was successful in getting the other women on board to work with her and they managed to row their way back to the crash site and save several more people.
Unlucky Frederick Fleet
Frederick Fleet was one of the ship’s lookouts, and consequently was one of the first two people to spot the iceberg and then yell “Iceberg! Right ahead!”
After the ship hit the iceberg, Fleet manned one of the lifeboats and got many people to safety. However, unlike other proclaimed heroes, his welcome home was not very warm.
Frederick was interrogated on more than one occasion to determine whether or not the disaster could have been avoided. He always insisted that he could have prevented it if he’d just had binoculars. He, unfortunately, went on to suffer from depression which resulted in his suicide in 1965.
Wireless Officers Harold Bride and John “Jack” Phillips
One of the wireless officers on the Titanic, Harold Bride, was one of the two people responsible for sending SOS messages to nearby ships, thus allowing the RMS Carpathia to rescue the Titanic survivors.
When the ship went under, he was pulled underneath an overturned collapsible boat. He was able to hold on to its underside all night before being rescued by the Carpathia. After such a harrowing night, Bride did not simply relax, he went on back to work, aiding the Carpathia’s wireless officer to send messages from the other Titanic survivors.
While Bride managed to survive, it was his colleague who perished while trying to send as many distress calls as possible. John “Jack” Phillips insisted on remaining in the room manning the wireless equipment even as the water rushed in. When Bride was saved, he recounted his friend’s bravery in the face of terror.
Heroines Lucile Carter and Noël Leslie
Despite their aristocratic status, both Lucile Carter and countess Noël Leslie helped get their respective lifeboats to safety by managing the oars tirelessly for hours on end to get to safety.
A noted countess and philanthropist, Noël Leslie made perhaps her greatest mark on history when she took charge of one of the Titanic lifeboats and helped steer it to safety. She also urged them to sing songs to keep their spirits up. Not only that, but when they reached the Carpathia, she is also said to have gathered food and medicine and translated for as many passengers as she could.
Archibald Gracie IV
Insisting on following the “women and children first” mandate, Archibald Gracie IV remained aboard the Titanic until every lifeboat was filled up, and then he helped launch the collapsible boats.
When his collapsible overturned, he and several other men had to hold onto its underside for the entire night until he was rescued. However, he sadly succumbed to injuries he had sustained during the wreck and died about a year and half later due to his poor health.
The Most Famous Orchestra in History
Largely due to their portrayal in the 1997 film, the Titanic orchestra gained even more fame and became well –known for their dedication and bravery in the face of absolute mad panic.
Eight band members were part of the orchestra: violinist and bandmaster Wallace Hartley; violinists John Law Hume and Georges Alexandre Krins; pianist Theordore Ronald Brailey; bassist John Frederick Preston Clarke; and cellists Percy Cornelius Taylor, Roger Marie Bricoux and John Wesley Woodward.
The orchestra kept playing as the ship sunk into the icy waters, trying tirelessly to spread as much calm as they could amid such a horrific tragedy.
Many of the survivors reported that the band continued to play until the very end, with one famously saying: “Many brave things were done that night, but none were braver than those done by men playing minute after minute as the ship settled quietly lower and lower in the sea.
The music they played served alike as their own immortal requiem and their right to be recalled on the scrolls of undying fame.”
Around 40,000 people were estimated to have attended Wallace Hartley’s funeral. On April 29, 1912, the Metropolitan Opera organized a special concert in aid of Titanic’s victims. Fittingly, the concert featured ‘Nearer My God to Thee’ and ‘Autumn’, both believed to have been played by the orchestra as the ship went down.
Engineer William Moyles was another of the unsung heroes on board the ill-fated liner as he sacrificed his life by trying to keep the power and lights on for as long as possible.
John Jacob Astor IV
“The ladies have to go first… Get in the lifeboat, to please me… Good-bye, dearie. I’ll see you later.” Those were the reported last words of John Jacob Astor IV, the richest man aboard the Titanic whose body was recovered with $2440 in his pockets, an inordinately large sum of money at the time.
“The conduct of Colonel John Jacob Astor was deserving of the highest praise,” said Colonel Archibald Gracie, the last man to be rescued. “The millionaire New Yorker devoted all his energies to saving his young bride, nee Miss Force of New York who was in delicate health. Colonel Astor helped us in our efforts to get her in the boat. I lifted her into the boat and as she took her place Colonel Astor requested permission of the second officer to go with her for her own protection.
“‘No, sir,’ replied the officer, ‘Not a man shall go on a boat until the women are all off.’ Colonel Astor then inquired the number of the boat, which was being lowered away and turned to the work of clearing the other boats and in reassuring the frightened and nervous women.”
Ida and Isidor Straus
Many of the survivors reported with awe how Mrs. Straus steadfastly refused to get on a lifeboat and leave her husband behind. “Mrs. Isidor Straus,” said Colonel Gracie, “went to her death because she would not desert her husband. Although he pleaded with her to take her place in the boat she steadfastly refused, and when the ship settled at the head the two were engulfed in the wave that swept her.”
Ida reportedly said, “as we have lived, so we will die together”.
Isidor Straus had been the owner of American department store Macy’s since the late 1800s
Captain Edward Smith
One of the most famous stories to come from the tragedy of the sinking of the Titanic is that of the death of its captain Edward Smith, who chose to remain with the ship until his dying breath. Stories of his bravery later came out, including that of an eyewitness, Fireman Harry Senior, who reportedly saw Smith holding a child up above his head during his final breaths. Other accounts have recalled Smith urging lifeboats on as he froze.
The People of New York City
It should be taken into account that many of the people who survived the wreck were either severely shocked, disoriented or had just lost the men who were to provide for them as they ventured into the New World. It is then that the people of New York were said to have stepped in to help.
They opened their homes and their hearts to the survivors and provided whatever aid they could to ease their transition and help them deal with the tragedy.
Esther Hart, who had been travelling with her husband and daughter to New York, was forced to board the lifeboat with her daughter, leaving her husband behind never to be seen again. They had plans to immigrate to America but unfortunately were split up by the tragedy. Esther noted the displays of humanity and kindness she found after facing such deep loss. “I have never experienced such real kindness. God bless the ladies of the ‘Women’s Relief Committee of New York’, say I heartily and fervently. Why, Mrs. Satterlee actually drove me in her beautiful car to the hotel where I was staying pending my return to England and wanted me to go to lunch with her in her house, but my heart was too full for that. She knew the reason and appreciated it like the lady she is.”
The RMS Titanic will forever be known as the ship that went down and took many lives with it. However, we should all take time to learn of the heroism and absolute kindness that drove the people on board during what they believed to be their last moments on earth.
The story of a tragedy also brought with it hope and the stories of the Titanic heroes will continue to live on forever.
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