Next year will see the centenary of the Arctic sinking of the RMS Titanic with the lost of 1,500 lives, an event that was to lead to SOLAS and the creation of the International Maritime Organisation. Currently BBC Radio 4 Extra is broadcasting an adaption of Walter Lord’s A Night To Remember that is well worth listening to.
The event remained sensitive for decades afterwards. In 1947 Cunard lent on the BBC, with the help of the Ministry of Transport and the government of Northern Ireland, to ban a radio play about the sinking. There were dire warnings about ‘damage to British shipping’, legal action threatened and the shipping conference of the time approached the BBC Board of Governors to have the play stifled. Cunard went as high as it could, to the Prime Minister. The play went ahead.Little known is the fact that the moment Titanic sank its crews’ contract were cancelled and the crew survivors found themselves unemployed and penniless on the streets of New York. When their story became known New Yorkers flocked to their aid. Which is far more than White Star lines considered doing.
Inevitably, conspiracy nuts have dug their flaccid claws into the Titanic, from claims that the whole thing was an insurance scam, although Titanic was underinsured, that she had swapped identities with a sister ship at the Harland & Wolff shipyard, apparently under the noses of thousands of workers, and a conspiracy of silence about an alleged wrong wheel over by a helmsman by men loyal to the company which had dumped them in penury in a foreign country.
In many different ways the ghost of RMS Titanic still shadows the maritime industry today. Several survivors of the Bow Mariner tragedy owe their lives to having watched James Cameron’s movie Titanic (See the Case of the Unfamiliar Mariner).