I just got thinking, Why would the first funnel have collapsed while the others stayed attached possibly until the ship reached a 45 degree angle. If it was because of the incline the ship was taking, why did not the others follow it?
It is likely that the forward funnel collapsed due to the after stays breaking when the forward expansion joint opened up as the ship took on an ever increasing angle. Funnel stays were essential to holding the outer funnel in position as it was a fairly light construction. Later vessels had internal bracing which eliminated the need for such stays.
Figured I might as well resurrect an old thread here, although it seems not many people visit the funnel forum these days.
With regard to Colin's question (asked three years ago), I've heard the expansion joint theory Allan brought up many times and think it has some weight to it. There's also a large number of folks who believe that the #1 funnel's base was partially crushed by water pressure as it submerged during the sinking, and that this aided in its collapse.