Sea disaster remembered 100 years on

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ITS owners had just about covered themselves on trade description grounds.

The Titanic was dubbed “practically unsinkable” by the White Star Line as it prepared to set sail across the Atlantic for the first time.

History, of course, tells a different story.

A story of at least 1,500 deaths in what was then the world’s worst noted sea disaster.

The Titanic’s collision with that iceberg is one of the most infamous tales of them all.

Newspapers and television stations have been jostling for weeks to get their paws first on Sunday’s 100th anniversary.

Such is the public’s continued fascination with the tragedy and the reasons behind it.

Over the coming days the Hartlepool Mail will look back through our archives at how we reported the disaster in 1912.

From the excitement surrounding its launch in Southampton to the collision itself and the local fundraising efforts afterwards.

Yes, the local fundraising efforts.

Raising money on behalf of others in need is no recent phenomenon.

Many of the 700-plus survivors had travelled to New York in the hope of beginning a new life.

Penniless and with their belongings under the Atlantic, they had no means of either starting afresh or returning home to England.

An ordeal often forgotten amid the scale of the carnage.

Hartlepool, as is so often the case today, was not slow at joining the relief efforts on their behalf.

The overwhelming emotion, however, as the 900ft-long and 90ft-wide ship set sail on April 10, was one of awe rather than sympathy.

“World’s largest vessel” was our story’s main headline inside the Northern Daily Mail, the Hartlepool Mail’s predecessor, as we heralded the Titanic’s departure from English shores. The “monster ship”, as we labelled it, had cost British-founded White Star £1.5m to build as it continued its nautical battle for commercial supremacy with fierce rival Cunnard.

With the widespread use of photographs still uncommon in newspapers, the Mail painted a lavish picture with words of the Belfast-built vessel’s facilities.

Our article the day after the Titanic left Southampton said: “Several new features have been introduced in the vessel, including a cafe Parisien and reception room in connection with the restaurant on the promenade deck.

“A suite of rooms, magnificently furnished, consisting of two bedrooms, sitting room , private bath, and valet’s room, communicating with a private promenade and this securing absolute privacy throughout the voyage, can be obtained at a cost of £870.

“No expense has been spared in the decorative part of the vessel.

“There are beautifully carved panels and and columns in mahogany and oak, and walnut inlaid with mother-o’-pearl, stained glass windows and ornamental shaded electric lights.

“For each class of passengers there are reading, writing, and smoking-rooms provided.

“For the first-classs passengers there is an admirable swimming bath and squash racket court, whilst the gymnasium is full of electrical appliances.

“Here both ladies and gentleman can have horseback and even camel-back exercises, cycle races and rowing practice or receive massage.”

With no hint of the tragedy to come, our story was tucked away on Page 2 of the paper.

Ominously the article was placed next to an early report of two vessels colliding further along the South Coast.

One of our headlines read: “Fear of total loss owing to wild weather.”

Thankfully only nine out of 250 passengers and crew died off Beach Head, East Sussex, when the Oceana steamship sank after colliding with a second vessel.

The number of casualties would not be so low within the week when the Titanic met its doom.