Titanic sails to her doom

The Titanic

February 12. She was described by some (although not by her makers) as "unsinkable." But when the Royal Mail Ship Titanic, pride of the White Star Line, struck an iceberg off Newfoundland, she not only sank but took 1,500 passengers and crew with her.

Nearly 90 years on, it is impossible to imagine the wave of horror and shock that swept across the civilised world. Not only had so many people perished but, as in the San Francisco earthquake, man's greatest technical achievements had been shown to be powerless in the face of nature.

As the casualty lists were compiled, it became obvious that first-class passengers had fared considerably better than poorer travellers. As the screams of the dying filled the air, some of the lifeboats had only a few upper-crust passengers on board, and only a handful of those in the water were pulled to safety. The owners knew that there were too few lifeboats for all the passengers. It was considered that a second line of lifeboats would have spoiled the elegant lines.

January 12. Captain Robert Scott reached the South Pole, only to find that Amundsen had beaten him to it. There was nothing left but to slog homeward through worsening weather. A search party eight months later found three bodies, including Scott's, and hias diaries which reflected on "the inherent heroism of British men of action."

May 11. Phil Silvers, famous as Sergeant Bilko, was born in United States. His skiving anti-hero perfectly caught the experience of army squaddies everywhere and his black-and-white Bilko Show became a worldwide favourite.

April 13. Although "flying machines" were still dismissed as useless novelties by some top brass, the Royal Flying Corps, forerunner of the Royal Air Force, was formed. In the months ahead, RFC pilots and navigators would practise reconnaissance and aerial signalling from their "kites."

December 6. In Sussex, Charles Dawson announced the discovery of fossilised bones know as Piltdown Man. The scientific world was at first fascinated. Piltdown man seemed to offer some sort of missing link between humans and apes. The hoax lasted until 1953 when the bones were shown to be fakes.


In brief

January 12.
An eccentric Midland priest, Archdeacon Colley of Warwickshire was carried through his church alive in his coffin. Half the congregation laughed, the rest left in disgust. The cleric, who had early willed his body to medical research, explained that he was anxious to rehearse his funeral to ensure all went smoothly and to demonstrate that "death is the gate to life."

April 20.
Buckingham Palace announced that two heroes of a recent pit disaster at Hednesford, Henry Merritt and Thomas Stokes, were to receive the King Edward medal for their part in the rescue. Mr Merritt died in the attempt and his award was posthumous.

West Bromwich Albion lose 1-0 to Barnsley in the FA Cup final.

May 25.
Cannock sanitary inspector J. Turton reported great difficulty in persuading builders to install modern water closets "as long as the Council are passing plans for privies."

October 8.
At a meeting of Quarry Bank Urban Council, Councillor Proctor complained that children were dropping "bombshells" in the streets "frightening people sufficiently to make them leap into the air" (loud laughter).