On this Day: 1912

On this Day: 1912

Date: 15/04/2021 14:11

On this day, in 1912, the RMS Titanic sank after hitting an iceberg on her maiden voyage to New York. With over 1500 fatalities, it remains the deadliest peacetime sinking of a ship to date. Built in Northern Ireland’s world-renowned shipyard, Harland and Wolff, in Belfast, the RMS Titanic was the second of the three Olympic-class ocean liners—the first was the RMS Olympic and the third was the HMHS Britannic. They were by far the largest vessels of the British shipping company White Star Line's fleet. 

Harland and Wolff put their leading designers to work designing the vessels. The design was overseen by Lord Pirrie, a director of both Harland and Wolff and the White Star Line with the chosen architect being Thomas Andrews, the managing director of Harland and Wolff's design department. On 29 July 1908, Harland and Wolff presented the drawings to J. Bruce Ismay and other White Star Line executives, Ismay approved of the design and two days later signed three "letters of agreement" authorising the start of construction.

The disaster was met with worldwide shock and outrage at the huge loss of life, as well as the regulatory and operational failures that led to it. The ship carried only 20 lifeboats, four of which were collapsible and proved hard to launch during the sinking. The lifeboats were enough for 1,178 people—about half the number on board. At the time of the sinking, the lowered lifeboats were only about half-filled. 

In the digital film archive we hold footage of the ship leaving Belfast Lough for Southampton. The film, which was made after the tragic event, is believed to contain the only authentic filmed material of the Titanic and shows the magnitude of her size. 

To watch an interview with John Parkinson, President of the Ulster Titanic Society, whose father worked on the Titanic and remembers its launch on 2nd April 1912, click here.