RMS Titanic is manoeuvred by a tug at Southampton. Picture courtesy of Southampton City Council.
WIGHT LIVINGIT was a tragedy of enormous proportions which shook the world.
In the early hours of April 15, 1912, the White Star liner Titanic slid beneath the freezing waters of the north Atlantic after striking an iceberg, claiming more that 1,500 lives.
As the 100th anniversary of the sinking approaches, commemoration events are being held around the world to remember the victims of what remains one of largest maritime disasters in history.
Southampton, where the 46,000-ton luxury liner departed on her ill-fated maiden voyage, is holding a number of commemorative events to remember the 500 victims of the disaster from the city — mostly members of the huge vessel’s crew.
The city’s commemorations will include the opening of a new Seacity museum in the former courthouse, with the story of the giant liner forming the centrepiece of the exhibition.
However, reports from the County Press from April 20, 1912, also list passengers and crew from the Island who were caught up in the tragedy.
Indeed, the paper devoted many column inches to the disaster, reporting in its leading article how it was its 'painful duty to record a catastrophe so appalling it had cast a gloom over two hemispheres’.
In what was to become a recurrent theme from all newspaper accounts over the following months, the paper also questioned why the Titanic had been thought to be unsinkable and demanded new laws so the giant liners were forced to carry enough lifeboats for everyone on board.
Most painful of all, however, was the roll-call of the dead and missing from the Island or who had connections with the Island.
Those reported saved included quartermaster W. Perkis, of Ryde, and second steward G. F. Wheat, also of Ryde.
However, others were less lucky. Among the missing were steward A. E. Moore, aged 37, originally from Wootton, steward H. Fairall, 38, from Surrey Street, Ryde, steward J. Longmuir, from Ventnor, steward S. Blake, from Cowes, and stewardess Mrs Snape, from Sandown.
One of the most poignant reports in the paper is the story of William Frederick Cheverton, from Newport, a first-class saloon steward who was believed to have drowned.
He was to have been married shortly and his parents had even received a letter from him, posted from Queenstown, the Titanic’s last port of call in Ireland before she set sail across the Atlantic.
In the letter, he had spoken of the excellent voyage so far and his hopes of doing well, especially on the return journey, when he was expecting a very large number of rich American passengers to board the liner.
The paper reported: "Mr Cheverton was very well known in Newport. He had had a very interesting career, having served on the Renown during the present King’s visit to India, when Prince of Wales, and later on the White Star liners, Teutonic, Adriatic and Olympic (Titanic’s sister ship) from the last of which he was transferred to the Titanic."
Other Islanders on board included Albert White, the grandson of Mr W. Forehead, the verger of St John’s Church, Sandown. In an intriguing story hinted at in the paper, Mr White had changed his name to R. Morrell, of Southampton, before he boarded the Titanic.
He had trained as an electrician but had signed up as a trimmer on board the liner. The paper reports how he had spent his youth in Sandown and was 'well-known by young fellows of his age’.
The paper also understood Mr Searle, a son of a Ventnor coastguard, was on board the vessel. It also said how Coastguard Wardner, of Yarmouth, had lost a brother and a cousin but a sister of Miss Smith, of Yarmouth, a stewardess on board, had been saved.
Among the first-class passengers from the Island reported drowned was Mr A. F. Nicholson, of Claremont, Steephill Road, Shanklin, who had a large business concern in the United States.
The paper said: "Mrs Nicholson did not accompany him. The sparsity of news left hope for him until Wednesday night, when the worst became known. Very great sympathy is extended to Mrs Nicholson in her bereavement."
Following the disaster, Titanic relief funds sprang up across the country to help the victims of the disaster and their families. One of the most shocking aspects of the tragedy was the decision by the White Star Line to stop the pay of the crew from the moment the giant liner sank, leaving many families destitute.
Reports from the County Press in May, 1912, detail a roll-call of events held across the Island to raise funds for the Titanic Disaster Fund.
They included Bembridge Sailing Club, which raised more than £10, teachers and scholars in Denmark Road Upper School, Cowes, who raised £3 and collections being held in Cowes Wesleyan and St Mary’s churches.
There were also parades and collections held by trade unions across the Island, including one at East Cowes, which was also attended by the Salvation Army Band and the town’s band.
In Freshwater, there was a whist drive and musical afternoon. The paper reported: "By far the most successful and united effort to aid the fund was made on Wednesday, when an excellent concert was given at the Assembly Rooms under the joint auspices of the ladies of the local detachment of the British Red Cross Society and the Fortress Engineers. Thanks largely to the to the untiring labours of the promoters, every available seat was booked and a crowd numbering quite 200 was unable to gain admission."
Following the disaster, the outdated Board of Trade regulations, which stipulated the number of lifeboats a ship should carry, was overhauled so vessels carried enough to rescue everyone on board.
The international ice patrol was also founded, which still keeps a weather eye out for icebergs in the north Atlantic, 100 years after the sinking.
As recent events off the coast of Italy have reminded everyone, with the tragic sinking of the Costa Concordia, safety at sea still remains of paramount concern to all seafarers.
And as the large number of casualties from the IW on board Titanic reminds us, the IW did, and continues to this day to send its sons and daughters to work at sea.
The Titanic tragedy was a 'wake-up’ call for the shipping industry. And her legacy is vastly improved maritime safety regulations, benefiting seafarers and passengers alike.
Events to mark the anniversary
• Island Savoyards are performing Titanic the Musical, at Shanklin Theatre between April 19 and 22. Details from the theatre on 868000.
• A huge programme of events is being held in Southampton. Highlights include the opening of Seacity Museum on April 10, the day the Titanic set sail from the city 100 years ago.
• A full-scale outline of the vessel is being installed at Andrew’s Park, near Southampton Guildhall, and distress flares will be fired marking the exact time of the sinking.
Further details of other events from Southampton City Council.