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