One hundred years ago on 10th April 1912 the RMS Titanic left Southampton, England on her maiden voyage bound for New York in the USA. Tragically the events of the next few days became one of the most fascinating and enduring stories of all time.
This was no ordinary passenger liner. Named Titanic because she was the largest passenger vessel in history she was considered by many to be ‘unsinkable’. She was the epitome of luxury and one of the marvels of the modern world. Her passengers ranged from some of the world’s wealthiest to the poorest including more than a thousand emigrants, travelling to the new world in the hope of better opportunities for themselves and their families.
For the First Class Passengers the Titanic was quite luxurious with her Grand Staircase and the general feel of a high class hotel. Facilities included a swimming pool, gymnasium, a squash court and even a Turkish bath. Whilst the fittings reflected the class of the passengers even the Third Class passengers enjoyed a sense of luxury and leisure facilities unavailable on other ships of the time.
Although Titanic was primarily a passenger liner, she also carried a substantial amount of cargo. Her designation as a Royal Mail Ship (RMS) indicated that she carried mail under contract with the Royal Mail (and also for the United States Post Office Department). 26,800 cubic feet (760 m3) of space in her holds was allocated for the storage of letters, parcels and other valuables. The Sea Post Office was manned by five postal clerks, three Americans and two Britons, who worked thirteen hours a day, seven days a week sorting up to 60,000 items daily.
Her maiden voyage took her from Southampton to Cherbourg in France and on to Queenstown (now Cobh) in Ireland before heading westwards towards New York. The first 3 days of the voyage from Queenstown passed without incident with the weather becoming clear, calm and increasingly cold. Although she received warnings from other ships of drifting ice it was generally believed that ice presented little danger to large vessels, so she continued at full steam.
At 11.40pm on 14th April the ship’s lookout spotted an iceberg immediately ahead. The helmsman swerved hoping to miss the iceberg, but they would have been better off to have struck it head on. In narrowly avoiding a head-on collision, they suffered an even worse fate! Survivors recalled a gentle shudder that briefly shook the 900 foot long vessel. It came and went so quickly that nobody gave it much of a second thought. The starboard side had struck the iceberg creating a series of holes below the waterline; just enough to cause the metal plates to buckle so that six watertight compartments began taking in sea water. It soon became clear that the ship was doomed.
The “unsinkable” Titanic was ill-prepared for such an emergency. The lifeboats could only accommodate half of those on board and the crew, who had not been adequately trained for an evacuation, launched many lifeboats barely half full. As the band played on a “women and children first” protocol was followed and most of the male passengers and crew were left aboard.
Astonishingly, just two hours forty minutes after hitting the iceberg the ship split apart with the stern section rising out of the water before sinking into the frozen water.
Although many ships were in the vicinity of the Titanic when she struck the iceberg, the speed at which she sank meant that none of those responding to her distress calls and flares were able to reach her in time. The relative position of these vessels and their direction of travel when Titanic struck the iceberg are shown on the Souvenir Sheet. One nearby ship, the Californian had warned Titanic earlier about pack-ice that caused it to stop for the night, her radio operators going to bed. Flares were seen but the Californian, which could have arrived before the Titanic sank, failed to assist until the following day. Before that, at around 4am RMS Carpathia arrived responding to the earlier distress calls and searching the seas was able to convey 710 survivors to New York. The exact number of casualties is unclear. Some cancelled their bookings at the last minute whilst others travelled under aliases and were double counted on the casualty lists. It is thought that 1,514 perished on that fateful night, although the figure could be as high as 1,635.
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Technical Details:Designer: John Batchelor Printer:BDT International Process: Stochastic lithographyStamp Size: 28.45 x 42.58mmSouvenir Sheet: 94 x 64mmSheet Format: 10 Perforation: 14 per 2cmsRelease Date: 1 August 2012Production Co-ordination: Creative Direction (Worldwide) Ltd