A Titanic Timeline

On this day in 1912, 2208 passengers and crew had five days until their departure from Southampton on the RMS Titanic. They came from 27 different nations and all walks of life. Many of the passengers were returning to the United States following their honeymoons, vacations, or business travels. Most had never been to America, but dreamed of a new life there. For them, these last five days would be filled with preparations, good-byes, tears, and anticipation. No one had any idea of the tragedy that would soon befall them.



April 5, Good Friday. The Titanic had passed her sea trials in Belfast and departed for Southampton, arriving in port on April 3rd. A long coal strike led several shipping companies to cancel their voyages. White Star Line sent coal from their other ships in port to Titanic, and the ship was ‘dressed’ in colorful flags and pennants as a salute to the city of Southampton.



Titanic officers, with their white-bearded Captain Edward Smith

April 6. The coal strike settled and hiring began in earnest for most of Titanic’s crew. The seaman of Southampton, eager to get back to work, jammed the White Star Line hiring hall. Senior officers received assignments. Dishes, cutlery, and glassware began to arrive. Once on board, everything had to be counted and listed on the inventory before it was stored. General cargo started to arrive—crates and cartons of all manner of goods being shipped to North America.



A crane aboard Titanic used to lift cargo to the ship

April 7, Easter Sunday. All work was halted for the day, and the waterfront was deserted. Only the ship’s bell was heard, marking the hours.

April 8. Work resumed, and with only three days left until departure, many final tasks had yet to be completed. Trains brought fresh supplies to the docks, including all the food and beverages required to feed everyone on board for the week-long voyage to New York. Any last-minute problems were addressed, and every detail checked.

April 9. Thomas Andrews, Titanic’s chief architect, worked tirelessly on board, checking that all was in proper working order and noting changes he or the owner, J. Bruce Ismay, wished to make for future voyages. He wrote to his wife that evening, “The Titanic is now complete, and will I think do the old Firm credit tomorrow when we sail.”



Thomas Andrews

April 10. Sailing Day. Captain Smith boarded around 7:30 a.m. Crew members came up the gangways and mustered together on various decks for orders. Passengers began to arrive around 9:30 a.m. Just before noon, Captain Smith gave the order for the whistles to be blown, announcing Titanic’s imminent departure.

Leaving Southampton

Leaving Southampton

The RMS Titanic leaving Southampton

Next time, we’ll look at the following five days for Titanic. They were to be her last.

Photo credits: Encyclopediatitanica.com, Oocities.org, Spitfiresite.com

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Who Built the Titanic?

The idea for building Titanic was born one evening in 1907 at the London home of Lord Pirrie, head of the Belfast shipbuilding company, Harland and Wolff. His dinner guest, White Star Line director J. Bruce Ismay, wanted to find a way to compete with Cunard Line’s newer, faster ships, the Mauritania and Lusitania. Knowing they couldn’t build a faster ship, Pirrie and Ismay turned to planning a series of bigger and more luxurious vessels—the most elegant ships the world had ever seen. The ships would be named the Olympic, the Titanic, and the Gigantic.


Lord Pirrie and Bruce IsmayWithin six months, construction began on Olympic and Titanic at the Harland and Wolff shipyard on the River Lagan in Belfast. Fifteen thousand workers arrived at 6:00 am every day but Sunday, and clocked out at 5:30 pm. They took a short breakfast break at 8:30 am, and a lunch break at 1:00 pm. Each man was allowed only a certain number of trips to the toilet and was timed in the process. Their pay, averaging two English pounds per week, was deducted if they were ever late for work, damaged company tools or equipment, or broke any shipyard rules. A day’s pay could be lost if a worker went to watch the launch of a ship. Everyone received one week off in summer and two days off at Christmas and at Easter.

Boys as young as 14 were often hired as apprentices. After five years of learning a specific trade, the apprentice could be qualified to join a workers’ union as a plumber, electrician, coppersmith, riveter, plater, joiner, caulker, or one of many other kinds of tradesmen.


Workers leaving Harland and Wolff at the end of a long day

Casualties were common. When Titanic was completed, 254 incidents had been recorded, with 8 fatalities. At the time, these numbers were well within the accepted rates. Two of the deaths were on the riveting squads. The squads each consisted of 4 or 5 men, and were responsible for heating, transporting, and pounding into place many thousands of rivets inside and outside the entire structure. They were paid by the rivet, so each man hurried to keep up his part of the job all day long. The fatalities occurred when two boys, aged 15 and 19, died as a result of falling while they carried red-hot rivets in their tongs to the other men on their squads.

Harland and Wolff normally chose a group of workers who were familiar with the ship to sail on its maiden voyage, called the guarantee group. No one knew the ship like they did, and who better to fix a sticking door or explain the function of some device to the crew than the ones who built it? Being selected for the guarantee group meant the worker had shown excellent skill on the job and was trusted to represent the company in a professional manner. It was a reward for a job well done, and was practically a guarantee of a good future with the company.


Titanic's Guarantee Group

Titanic’s guarantee group was led by its head designer, Thomas Andrews. At 39, Andrews was Lord Pirrie’s nephew and the man most likely to take over at Harland and Wolff one day. The eight other members of the group were:

Roderick Chisholm, chief draftsman, 43.

Anthony Frost, fitter foreman, 38.

William Parr, electrician, 29.

Robert Knight, leading hand fitter, 39.

Ennis Hastings Watson, apprentice electrician, 19.

Francis Parks, apprentice plumber, 21.

Alfred Cunningham, apprentice fitter, 21.

William Campbell, apprentice joiner, 21.

Some of the members of the guarantee group had never been far beyond Belfast, and were thrilled and honored to be taking their first transatlantic voyage on a ship they helped to build. Sadly, none of the men survived the sinking.

Photo credits: Titanicuniverse.com, Discovery Channel

Titanic's hardworking steward

When John Hardy signed on as Titanic’s Chief Second Class Steward, he brought with him fourteen years’ experience at sea. In my yet-to-be-published novel, Ruth Becker meets Hardy just after Titanic has departed Southampton, and is thrilled to learn he has a pram for her to push her little brother on deck.

john hardy

John Hardy

Hardy had worked for the White Star Line for twelve years, serving aboard four ships. In between his duties, he’d married his landlady’s daughter, Etta, in Liverpool, and had two children, Ronald in 1903 and Norah in 1905. The family moved to Southampton, and were living there at the time of Titanic’s sailing in 1912.

John, 36, was already on board as Titanic made her way from the Harland and Wollf shipyards in Belfast on April 2nd, arriving in Southampton on April 4th. The next day, Good Friday, the ship was decorated with colorful flags and pennants as a salute to Southampton. But before she could begin her maiden voyage on April 10th, most of the crew would be hired, thousands of tons of coal would be loaded, and supplies for the voyage would be brought aboard, including enough food for a small city. Also, any cargo, including crates of goods purchased abroad by American customers, was loaded into the cargo hold.

John Hardy was responsible for overseeing 162 second class cabins. On the night of the sinking, he turned off all unnecessary lights in the second class areas, went to bed around 11:30 pm, then felt a slight shock. Checking the passageway, he found nothing amiss and returned to bed. Then the Chief First Class Steward woke him with the news of what happened. John proceeded to rouse the stewardesses and assist passengers to the lifeboats. He worked on deck until the last lifeboat was launched, followed by the collapsible boats. He managed to board the last one, carrying 25 passengers, just 15 minutes before the ship sank. Later, they tied the boat up together with six other boats and took on ten more passengers.

collapsible lifeboat folded away

Example of a collapsible lifeboat with its sides folded away


Titanic crewmembers following rescue

John Hardy continued to work for the White Star Line, then aboard hospital ships and troop transports during the First World War. Twins were born to John and Etta in 1919, and the family moved to New Jersey, where John continued for twenty years as Chief Steward for various ships in the United States Line.

John Hardy died at his son’s home at the age of 82.

hardy tombstone

Photo credits: Encyclopedia Titanica and New York Times