RMS Titanic heritage remembered on 98th anniversary
By Heather Driscoll-Woodford
A postcard written on-board by survivor Edith Brown, to her step-sister
The White Star Line's passenger ship the RMS Titanic, which had been dubbed 'practically unsinkable' tragically proved everyone wrong on the 15 April 1912.
Just four days into her maiden voyage, from Southampton to New York City, she hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic.
The large ship took less than three hours to sink, taking almost 1500 passengers and crew with her.
We remember Surrey's survivors, and those who sadly died in the tragedy.
The county had links with the Titanic, before she ever set sail on her fateful journey.
In 1909, the ship's designer and builder Lord Pirrie, purchased Witley Park, a mansion in Godalming.
Lord Pirrie (L), with Captain John Smith who went down with his ship
The house was once owned by an Anglo American businessman called J.Whitaker Wright who had been convicted of fraud, and subsequently committed suicide by cyanide pill, in the dock.
After his death, the house and estate was put up for sale in an auction of 50 lots, with the Lord buying the house for £1m , as his primary family residence.
But luckily for Pirrie, who was head of the Harland and Wolff shipbuilders in Belfast, ill health prevented him from joining his ship's maiden voyage, at the last minute.
Ironically, in 1924, he did pass away at sea en route to New York, on-board another ship, the Pacific Steam Navigation Company's liner Ebro, when he contracted bronchial pneumonia, aged 77.
However, other residents of Witley were on board the Titanic.
LUCY AND MARGARET SNAPE
Lucy Violet Snape, aged 22, was one of the ship's stewardesses who died in the disaster.
Newspaper The Daily Sketch reported in April 1912 that her surviving colleagues said she wished her passengers goodbye as she fastened their lifebelts.
Lucy, who was born just outside Farnham, had already suffered a tragedy in her short life, when she was widowed, leaving her to bring up a baby daughter, Margaret.
She had returned to live with her parents at Witley and found a job on board the Titanic with the help of a local MP.
Her daughter, who was with her on the trip, did survive and lived until 1996.
Another Godalming resident gained worldwide posthumous fame for his role in trying to save the stricken vessel and its passengers.
John George Phillips, who was nicknamed 'Jack' was born in 1887, in Farncombe.
He had worked in the local post office, as a telegraph operator before joining a series of ships, working his way up to Chief Wireless Operator on the Titanic.
His role on board, together with Junior Operator Harold Bride, was to relay messages between ship and shore, as well as to communicate warnings between other vessels in the area.
'Jack' Phillips sent distress signals from the ship until the power failed
Aged 25, he'd only celebrated his birthday on the ship, two days before the disaster.
That night Phillips had been working to clear a backlog of messages, sending them via Cape Race in Newfoundland.
Earlier he had received and passed on numerous ice warnings from other ships in the area, including one from the nearest to the Titanic, the SS Californian.
When the iceberg struck at 11.40pm, Jack began sending out distress signals, on the instructions of the Captain.
By a cruel twist of fate, the Californian's wireless operator had gone to bed, after turning off the equipment, and therefore did not receive the SOS messages.
Phillips carried on transmitting the pleas for help until the ship lost power at 2.17am, at which point the Captain relieved them from duty.
Although both men reportedly made it to an upturned lifeboat, Jack died before being rescued and his body was never recovered.
His family memorial, in a cemetery in Godalming, bears an iceberg shaped headstone.
GEORGE H. HUNT
George Henry Hunt had been head gardener of Ashtead Park, a 17th century landscaped park near Leatherhead.
The Titanic leaving the shipyard in Belfast before her maiden voyage
At the time of the Titanic's maiden voyage he had been working and living in Philadelphia, with his wife and two children.
He had arrived in England a few weeks previously on another White Star Liner, the RMS Oceanic, to visit family.
Although due to return to America on the same ship, it suffered propeller damage so the shipping company transferred his Second Class ticket, which cost £12 5s 6d, to the Titanic.
He is reported to have told Mr Johnson, the postmaster in Ashstead, that the doomed ship was "just as safe as crossing on dry land, so long as she doesn't strike an iceberg.''
Sadly, on this occasion that is exactly what happened, and George did not survive the trip.
His widow received help from a local charity in America, after his death, to rent and furnish a house, so she could let rooms to support herself and their children.
George Hunt was not the only one to have decided on a life abroad, before the disaster.
45 year old Walter James Hawksford from Kingston on Thames, was on his way to New York to take up a position as the Schweppes drinks company's first Export Sales Manager.
However, unlike poor George, Walter survived, possibly because as a First Class passenger, the odds for survival were better.
After clambering into Lifeboat 3, he was picked up by the Carpathia and taken to New York.
He later wrote to his wife recalling the terrifying experience, telling her that immediately after the impact people were joking about the ship pushing an iceberg out of the way, before the seriousness of their situation dawned on them.
Another Kingston resident who was unlucky enough to be on-board, was 19 year old bricklayer Leonard Charles Moore.
He had emigrated to America with his brother, shortly before the disaster and was only back in England to visit his family.
And he died when the ship sunk.
Those on-board would have been totally unaware that Third Class passengers had the lowest odds of survival.
The news reaches the streets, outside the White Star Lines offices in London
Only 25% of the people in steerage made it to shore.
40 year old Dorking farrier George Henry Green paid £8 1s for his Third Class passage.
Previously living at 1 Lyons Terrace, with his wife Teresa, and their three children, he was on his way to start a new life in South Dakota.
By 1912, his marriage had broken down and she had taken the family back to her parents in Coventry. With nothing left for him in England George decided to emigrate to Lead City, a newly formed gold mining town.
While on board the Titanic, he sent his brother-in-law a postcard, similar to the one shown at the top of this page, with the simple message "Lovely sailing".
His body was never recovered.
George Francis Bailey from Shepperton was employed as a Second Class Saloon Steward on-board ship.
Although, he had accompanied the Titanic on her journey from the shipyard to Southampton docks, he had only signed up for the steward position on 4 April - ten days before the disaster. And all for the paltry sum of £3 15s a week.
When the crew of rescue ship, the CS Mackay-Bennett, pulled his body from the icy water, he was noted to be wearing a raincoat over his uniform.
He was labelled as 'Body 161' and is buried along with several other Titanic stewards in a cemetery in Halifax, Nova Scotia which was where the recovery ships landed their macabre cargo.
Out of 329 stewards aboard the ship on that voyage, only 48 survived.
SIR COSMO DUFF GORDON AND LUCILE
Surrey is the final resting place for two Titanic survivors who caused world-wide controversy after their rescue.
The Duff Gordons were cleared of any wrong doing in the official enquiry
Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon and his famous fashion designer wife 'Lucile' had booked first class passage under the names Mr and Mrs Morgan.
The use of a pseudonym was possibly to escape press attention when they arrived in New York.
They escaped the sinking ship on the almost empty Lifeboat 1, an act which caused furore, due to suggestions they had bribed the crew not to overfill the boat.
They said they could not hear the cries for help from the water, but other survivors in the same lifeboat disagreed with the Duff Gordon's account.
It was later accepted by the official disaster inquiry that they were blameless and had not stopped the sailors from saving other passengers.
Sir Cosmo died in 1931, and she four years later, in 1935. They are now laid to rest, side by side, in Brookwood Cemetery, near Woking.
YOUR TITANIC CONNECTIONS
Do you know of any Surrey people with links to the Titanic? Were any of your relatives on-board? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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