Having met two Titanic sinking survivors in my life I just had to check out the exhibition at the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth.
Crewman Trainee Purser Frank Prentice (18) and Millvina Dean who as a baby was placed in a lifeboat just before the ship plunged down to the seabed 12,500 feet below.
Frank whom I met in Bournemouth in the late 1970’s made it into a lifeboat having leapt what he thought was some 100feet from the ship’s stern as it reared up and then spent what seemed hours in the freezing sea swimming and often bumping into dead bodies until he was picked up by a lifeboat No4.
Lifeboat No10 was where two month old Millvina was placed along with her mother and brother the third lifeboat launched on the port side.
After being picked up they were returned to the UK aboard the ‘Adriatic’ in which they all returned to England on. She was so popular that she was passed around the passengers for them to hold and the crew had to restrict them to ten minutes only each!
LIFEBOAT NO 13 TITANIC EXHIBITION
The Titanic exhibition is built around a reconstruction of lifeboat No13, which was the 7th boat lowered at 1.35am on starboard side on that fatal night. It was reported in the inquiry that lifeboat No15 was being lowered on top of No13 and only some quick action with a knife freed the boat so it could drift away from underneath the descending lifeboat.
Certainly a thought-provoking exhibition telling the story of the night itself, the beginning of the ship, the aftermath and inquiry and even displaying some of the most tactless of souvenirs that one can imagine could possibly be linked to such a sad occurrence even though it was over 100 years ago.
A series of personal stories can be followed as you tour the exhibition under a constellation of star like white heaving rope ends called a ‘Monkey Fist’. 2,208 of them made by Cornwall based artist Dan Arnold represents the iceberg however on that clear night for me it could also be the stars too!
The museum is known to mainly exhibit and tell stories of small craft and as Richard Doughty, Director of National Maritime Museum Cornwall said : “The National Maritime Museum Cornwall is best known for its collection of small boats, so why are we telling a story about what was in 1912 the world’s largest ship? It’s because everything we know, or think we know, comes from the 706 people who left the ship in the lifeboats. Titanic Stories is a small boat story.”
Hard not for them to also feature the movies that have conjured up and tried to tell the story of the sinking like, ‘A Night to Remember’ probably the first and more recently of course ‘Titanic’ with Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. Some of her clothes worn on the film are on show along with several props including White Star crew jumpers.
Certainly I do recommend this there are many artefacts, posters audio and video displays, maybe even try on a replica cork lifejacket to see how it weighs and in your mind picture yourself in the mid Atlantic in freezing water how long could you perhaps have to live?
On that night it was 4C within just 15 minutes hypothermia sets in and death at around 30 minutes on average some extra clothes may help but once wet the heat of the body gets shunted away very quickly!
“Forget about Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio and that film”
However the story that I found quite touching was that of the young two men from the local area of Porthleven some 15 miles from Falmouth that died hoping to find new lives in the USA, Fred and Edgar Giles.
The two men have now been remembered by a memorial plaque placed on the harbour wall, in the pretty seaside village.
Their niece Elsie Balme summed up things very neatly at the unveiling ceremony by saying: “I want you to forget about Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio and that film. Remember instead two nice, ordinary young men who grew up in this village of Porthleven. Remember an elderly lady, my Grandmother, living in a cottage in Unity Road with her terminally ill husband. Remember that 12-year-old, my Father who happened to be in the room when that news was broken.”