The Institute of Marine Engineering Science and Technology has recently made a very generous loan. Royal Museums, Greenwich now provides a home for an important memorial to the engineers of Titanic.
None of the twenty five engineer officers survived, and many of the firemen and coal trimmers also died in the disaster. They delayed the final sinking by keeping the pumps running preventing the boilers from exploding. The lights remained on and the wireless working until the vessel went down.
The loss of Titanic began a change of attitude towards ship’s engineers. During the Royal Naval Exhibition of 1891, Punch published a cartoon about the event, showing a notice which said: “ENGINEER SNUBBING THROUGHOUT THE DAY.”
The three memorials to Titanic’s engineers show them in a newly heroic light. The bronze wall memorial set up at the then Institute of Marine Engineers, was paid for by part of a relief fund set up by the Institute and the Daily Chronicle. By sculptor George Alexander (1881-1942), it shows two engineers, a relief of the sinking vessel and Neptune’s head flanked by polar bears.
The main engineers’ memorial by Whitehead and Sons, stands in East Park, Southampton. It has reliefs of two engineering officers, crowned by a winged Victory standing on a ship’s prow. The memorial, also erected by public subscription and contributions from fellow engineers, was unveiled in 1914 by Sir Archibald Denny. The remainder of the crew, including the coal trimmers and firemen were commemorated by a drinking fountain set up on Southampton Common the following year. It now stands in the bombed ruins of Holy Rood Church.
The engineers’ memorial on the Pier Head at Liverpool, by William Goscombe John was not finished until 1916. By that time unrestricted submarine warfare had placed all merchant seafarers in the front line, the casualties overwhelming those lost in the Titanic. An obelisk terminating in flames and surrounded by the burley figures of engineers and stokers now celebrates all: “Heroes of the engine room”.