The Isle of Man Post Office presents a set of six stamps to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the loss of RMS Titanic after striking an iceberg. It is one of the deadliest maritime disasters in peacetime history, more than 1,500 passengers and crew died in the early hours of 15th April 1912.
Captained by Edward John Smith, one of the company’s most respected and experienced officers, and billed as the largest and most luxurious ship in the world, the Titanic was on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York, when tragedy struck.
The trip had begun five days earlier when 914 passengers boarded the liner with 884 members of crew, including a squash professional, swimming pool lifeguards, Turkish bath attendants and a chaperone for single women in third class – four firemen missed the sailing because they were in the pub. First class passengers lost included John Jacob Astor, Benjamin Guggenheim and Macy’s owner Isidor Strauss. Chairman of the White Star Line, Joseph Bruce Ismay, survived the tragedy.
They marvelled at the grand staircase, which ran through six decks, the sumptuous staterooms, oak and mahogany panelling and luxurious fitted carpets, before being escorted to their rooms by stewards.
Second and third class passengers entered through a corridor and were directed to their rooms. They included schoolteacher Lawrence Beesley, who wrote an account of the disaster and seven-year-old schoolgirl Eva Hart, whose life was saved after her mother had a premonition and refused to sleep. At midday Titanic steamed into the Channel and headed for Cherbourg, where a further 274 passengers joined the voyage and then on to Queenstown, in southern Ireland, where they picked up a further 136 passengers and the Irish mail. At 1.30pm on 11th April, Titanic headed into the Atlantic for what was expected to be a six-day voyage.
The first class passengers enjoyed lavish facilities. The catering was exquisite: on 14th April, the ten-course dinner included oyster, consommé, poached salmon, filet mignon, lamb, duckling or sirloin of beef, punch romaine, roast squab, asparagus, paté de foie gras and Waldorf pudding. But for some, it was to be their last supper.
At 11.39pm lookout, Fred Fleet, spotted the iceberg looming in the dark. He rang the bell three times and telephoned the bridge. First Officer Murdoch immediately gave the order ‘hard-a-starboard’ and signalled the engine room ‘stop’ but the liner was cruising at 22 knots and within a minute it had struck the iceberg. Captain Smith rushed to the bridge. After inspecting the damage, it was clear that the ship was doomed: although there was only a small hole, the iceberg had buckled the steel plates and sheered the rivets below the waterline; water was spilling over the bulkheads, flooding the first six compartments and weighing the At 12.05am, the order was given to uncover the lifeboats. But the operation was disorganised. Eighteen lifeboats were launched – the first at 12.45am; the last at 2.05am. Ten minutes after the last lifeboat was launched, the bridge was under water and the forward funnel collapsed. Within five minutes the Titanic gave a sudden lurch and threw the two remaining lifeboats into the sea. There was a rumbling like thunder from the bowels of the ship and at 2.20am the lights went out and the Titanic sank, plunging more than 1,500 people, including Captain Smith, into the icy sea. But it was the heroism of the band that will always be remembered. As the stern began to rise, violinist Wallace W Hartley, who was band leader, told the other seven musicians they could stand down. But they remained. All of them sacrificed their lives for their courage.