On this day in 1912 the world experienced a shipping disaster that would reverberate though history and leave us with a legacy that continues over 100 years after it occurred. The sinking of the Titanic is not just about a ship sinking on it’s maiden voyage, but also about the arrogance of man, the structures of class and influence of money, the unwritten rules governing trans-Atlantic travel, the heroism of those who stayed at their posts and the folly of man. Strangely enough at this point in our history some of those structures are still visible as we face a global pandemic.
The story of the disaster is well known and I won’t repeat it, suffice to say there is a lot written about the sinking, and a lot of hot air written about it too. The concept of fake news has been with us a long time, and a quick glimpse of those early newspaper headlines will quickly reveal that sucking a story out of your thumb is one way to get your foot in the door and get yourself published.
Unfortunately the sinking did not only affect those on board but also their families. The families of the luckless crew being particularly hard hit, the many graves in Southampton are testament to how the sinking affected the city and it’s people.
Since the Titanic went down in 1912 mankind has become an expert at killing members of its race, 1500 people lost in one disaster may have seemed like a lot, but it was just a portent to what would happen in 1914 – 1918, and while there were lessons to be learnt about that conflict we promptly did it again in 1939 – 1945. Whenever I gave a talk about the Titanic I would count how many people were present at the function and use that to illustrate how many were in a lifeboat on the Atlantic in the morning of 15 April. 1500 seems like a lot, but in reality it is only a lot when you are amongst those who have lost a family member or a father/mother/son/daughter.
The Titanic is not only about a ship, it is about people and how they reacted under those unique circumstances, we can look at them and agree that so many met their deaths with courage and fortitude. “Women and children first” may no longer apply in our modern world; we would probably be afraid to even think about something like that because we may offend the PC mob. Yet when the water is lapping at your feet we are theoretically all equal.
The Titanic is a crumbling heap of rust in the darkness of the North Atlantic, let us leave her in peace and let us remember the ship and it’s people on this day.
DRW © 2020 Created 15/04/2020