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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A City in Sorrow

One million Great Britain coal miners went on a national strike in February of 1912 with the main goal of an increase in their minimum wage. In the city of Southampton, the strike left 17,000 men without work. Soon, many of them needed help from charities and survived by pawning clothes and furniture to buy food.

striking miners in GB

Miners during Great Britain coal strike of 1912

The strike ended on April 6th with the institution of the Minimum Wage Act, but train and ship schedules were still feeling the effects. Return to steady work was not yet in sight for the miners, and the RMS Titanic was about to make her maiden voyage to New York from Southampton. In order to have enough coal for Titanic’s massive steam engines, the White Star Line ordered its smaller ships to remain in port and their coal delivered to the Titanic. Their New York-bound passengers would be transferred to the Titanic as well.

Southampton had only recently become England’s main port, taking over that position from Liverpool. Now, with so many men out of work in the city, White Star Line advertised job openings for crew members on its new steamer. A fireman, or stoker, could earn 6 pounds a month, and a steward, over 3 pounds. Hundreds applied and were hired.


RMS Titanic leaving Southampton

Of the 1,517 people who died in the sinking, 685 were crew members. Over three quarters, 538 of them, were from Southampton. On one street alone, nearly every house lost someone: a husband, a father, a son, a brother. Some women lost their husbands and sons as well. Those alive at the time reported a great hush descending on the city. An entire generation had been lost.

Most families were left in complete financial ruin. The Titanic Relief Fund raised the equivalent of around $20 million in today’s money for the families of all those who died. For the widows of non-salaried crew members in Southampton, the payments were small. The Salvation Army helped by supplying basics, like milk, soup, and bread. No compensation came from the White Star Line.


Memorial to Southampton's Titanic Crew Members

Today in Southampton, descendants still remember their loved ones who perished on the Titanic, and those who were left behind to carry on during such difficult times. On April 10, 2012, exactly 100 years to the day Titanic departed Southampton , the SeaCity Museum opened, featuring the city’s Titanic story. For more information, please visit http://www.seacitymuseum.co.uk/