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Date added: 13 April 2012

Swindon & The Titanic - 100 years on 

Swindon & the GWR's connection to the tragic liner
 
Titanic connection to Swindon
Titanic:
sank on 15 April 1912
This weekend marks the exact date 100 years on since the tragic sinking of the Titanic.
 
In the early hours of 15 April 1912, 1,514 people perished after the luxury liner struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic. An event that has gone done in history as one of the worst maritime disasters.
 
Among those who died that fateful night include a couple from Swindon on their way to possibly start a new life in America plus a major shareholder in the Great Western Railway.
 
Here we chronicle these connections - the second with video - plus a couple more you may not be aware of, including one very recently.
 
"The Awful Suspense"
Mr & Mrs Ben Howard
 
Retired GWR foreman Benjamin Howard, 63, and his wife Ellen, 60, died on the Titanic, their bodies were never recovered or identified.
 
The couple were on their way to see their sons, Frederick & Herbert, who are known to have settled in the USA in the years prior.

Mr & Mrs Howard, who lived at 85 Cheltenham Street, boarded the Titanic at Southampton as second class passengers. Their ticket (No. 24065) cost the princely sum of £26.
 
Below is the report from the Evening Advertiser on 16 April 1912 that appears on the website for the Swindon Society.
 
THE TITANIC DISASTER
SWINDON PASSENGERS ON BOARD
RETIRED GWR FOREMAN AMONGST THE PASSENGERS
MR AND MRS BEN HOWARD TRAVELLED ON THE TITANIC
"THE AWFUL SUSPENSE”
 
A calamity which will affect many, if not most, of the towns in the kingdom, has not left Swindon untouched.
 
We regret to learn that amongst the passengers on board the ill-fated vessel there were a Swindon ex-foreman and his wife, Mr and Mrs Benjamin Howard of 85 Cheltenham Street, Swindon.
 
Mr Howard was for many years foreman over the Bolt Shop of the Swindon G.W.R. Works and retired some years ago.
 
Titanic news:
in the pre-TV & internet age
exact news on the disaster
was difficult to report
“He had been ailing for some time”, his daughter told our reporter this morning, “and as he had two sons in America it was thought that a sea voyage to America would benefit his health, and so he and mother went. Yes, it is quite true they travelled on the Titanic.
 
“They left home by the 2.15 train to Southampton on Tuesday, and set sail on the Titanic on the Wednesday. I had been thinking of going to Southampton to see them off, but I did not do so.
 
“We had a post-card from Cherbourg; and only on Friday night a letter from Queenstown – a very nice letter, too. But we little thought,” our informant added sadly, “that this was the last we should hear of them.
 
“This news coming so suddenly and unexpectedly, has been a terrible shock; but we hope for the best. But”, she added, “it is terribly hard having to wait in uncertainty – with this awful suspense.
 
“We were more hopeful last night when we heard all the passengers were saved, but now 800 out of 2000 are not many.”
 
Further conversation elicited the facts that Mr. Howard, who was widely known and respected in Swindon, was an Oldham man by birth, but had lived in Swindon a great many years.
 
Sixty-Four years of age, Mr Howard supervised the Bolt Shop for many years, till his retirement some years ago.
 
His family consisted of three sons and one daughter, two of whom - a son and daughter – are married and live in Swindon. Two single sons reside in America, and to them Mr. and Mrs. Howard were on their way at the time of the disaster.
 
Christopher Head
Shareholder in the GWR

Christoper Head, GWR shareholder who died on the Titanic
As a major shareholder in the Great Western Railway, Christopher Head, 42, was a first-class passenger of some distinction.
 
But again, his body was never recovered or identified.
 
And as Elaine Arthurs of the Swindon STEAM museum explains in the video below, the difficulty in proving that Mr Head actually died on the Titanic so that his valuable shares in the Great Western Railway could be transferred proved quite a task.
 
 

 
 
More local connections....
 
Henry Aldridge & Sons
World's Leading Auctioneers of Titanic and White Star Liner Memorabilia
 
Just down the road in Devizes, you'll find the people described as
the 'World's Leading Auctioneers of Titanic and White Star Liner Memorabilia'.
 
And 2012 has been a busy year for Henry Aldridge & Sons.
 
Titanic keys
They recently sold an extremely rare Luncheon Menu - the last one enjoyed by first class passengers on 14 April - for the colossal sum of £76,000!
 
A set of Titanic Lamp Trimmer and Storekeeper Keys also went under the hammer last month for £59,000.
 
And incredibly, these aren't the most valuable Titanic-related items Aldridge's have sold.
 
In 2011, the hand-drawn plan of the ship itself that was prepared by White Star Line architects for the 1912 British inquiry into the sinking sold for £220,000.
 
The auction house refuses, however, to sell items recovered from the wreck, no matter how valuable, citing it as a sea grave that should not be disturbed.
 
Mr Tim Rex
Unfortunate victim on the Titanic Memorial Cruise

This week a cruise ship, the MS Balmoral, is tracing the route taken by the Titanic 100 years ago.
 
But the jouney was disrupted when Swindon BBC cameraman Tim Rex, 56, hit the headlines when he was taken seriously ill and airlifted to hospital in Ireland. His condition is described as 'stable'.
 
The ship was forced to turn around in the mid-Atlantic to enable a helicopter to rescue Mr Rex, one of exactly 1,309 passengers - the same number of paying guests as were on the Titanic on its maiden trip.
 
Despite the delay, it is still hoped that the liner will reach the exact spot the Titanic sank on 15 April, when a memorial service will take place.
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Titanic - wikipedia
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