Interesting Story Told By Woman Survivor

Annie Caton's 1934 Account

The Barrier Miner

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Interesting Story Told By Woman Survivor


In the Central Reserve there is a monument to the bandsmen who were on the White Star liner Titanic when it struck an iceberg in the Atlantic on April ]4, 1912, and sank, only 705 being saved out of the 2358 - people on board.

The monument, which is believed to be the only one commemorating the disaster in the Commonwealth, was erected by public subscription in memory of the heroic bandsmen, who went down with the vessel, playing "Nearer, My God, To Thee," as it sank.

The following account of the disaster appeared in the "Newcastle Morning Herald," told by one of the survivors, Mrs. W. Howland, of Merewether (then Miss Annie Caton, massage attendant). It was sent to "The Barrier Miner" by Mr. Phil Earl, now living at Merewether, but formerly resident and bandsman at Broken Hill who in a covering letter says that he well remembers the interest taken in the movement and the enormous crowd, of which he was oné, present on the Sunday afternoon when, the monument was unveiled.

Her Maiden Voyage.

The Titanic, which was built by Messrs. Harland and Wolff, of Belfast, for the White Star Line of Liverpool, was of 46,000 tons, fitted with every appliance for the safety of tho passengers. From keel to navigating bridge, she rose to a sheer height of 104ft. 

Everything in her construction was upon a tremendous scale.

Her plates were 12ft. wide and 30ft. long. In the building up of every part of her, stability and strength were the main considerations.

Throughout the hull were stool girders, beams, and stanchions, like pillars of a cathedral, to give her absolute rigidity in the heaviest seas. A double bottom, riveted by hydraulic power, was believed to ensure absolute safety even though she ripped herself by striking something underwater. The system of watertight compartments had been designed by Lord Pirrie.

On April 10, 1912, the liner started on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York. A large crowd had gathered on tho pier to watch the ship leave her moorings, and as she began to move cheers rolled out across the waters.

The ship's band was playing a lively tune on deck. Passengers leaning over the rails waved farewell greetings to their friends, and gave answering cheers.

An Iceberg Struck

Everything had gone without incident. There had been a glorious journey and the liner had made a great passage until the following Sunday night. 

The ship was steaming at 21 knots. At 9.20, the commodore of the White Star Line (Captain Smith) had left the bridge, after giving final directions to the officer of the watch.

At 11.40 three gongs were sounded from the "crow's nest" - the signal for something right ahead. At the same time one of the men in the "nest" telephoned that there was a large iceberg dead ahead. The Titanic was unable to clear it. She struck the berg a glancing blow, opening up her side from about 20ft. from her starboard bow to the first funnel - a distance of 220ft. - and destroying a number of watertight compartments.

Mrs, Howland had retired about 10.20., Others had gone to bod earlier - all confident of tho safety of the ship, and secure in their trust of the experienced officers. Some were not awara that the iceberg had been struck, and parties of card players went on with their game. But all too soon the seriousness of the vessel's plight was brought home to everyone.

The captain had been recalled; the engines had been stopped; the emergency doors had been closed; wireless signals were sent out; and the order was given, 'All passengers on deck with lifebelts on." There was, however, no panic. The night was cold, and the sea calm.

The work of lowering the boats - each of which was to hold 50 persons - went on smoothly, the Titanic all the time settling down by the head, and the boats moved aimlessly about, the occupants waiting anxiously for the rescuing steamers which they were sure would be answering the calls that had been sent to them.

70S Survivors

In the boat into which Mrs. Howland was placed there were 78 persons so that, except for the fact that the sea was smooth, this little craft might have met the fate of others in like circumstances, and been swamped.  

The first vessel to answer the distress calls was the liner Carpathia, which became known among seafaring people as the "Ship of Sorrow." 

She picked up 705 survivors - all that were saved of tho 2358 souls who had set out from Southampton and Queenstown on the voyage.

Tho crew and passengers of the Carpathia put everything they had at the service of those tragic guests. They gave them their cabins, their clothes, their utmost sympathy and helpfulness; but they could not give them the treasures they had lost. 

The survivors were taken to New York where tho scenes were most heartrending, as indeed they wero throughout.

At 1 o'clock in the morning the starlit night was beautiful. From the lifeboat in which Mrs. Howland had been seated the Titanic looked enormous in the distance. Her length and her great bulk were outlined in black against the starry sky. Every porthole and saloon was blazing with light.

The Titanic Sinks

"It was almost impossible to think that anything could be wrong with such a leviathan," said Mrs. Howland, "were it not for the enormous tilt downwards in the bows, where the water was by now up to the lowest row of portholes. At about 2 o'clock she appeared to be settling rapidly, with the bows and the bridge completely under water. She slowly tilted straight on end with the stern vertically upwards. At the same time the boilers and machinery roared down through the vessel, with a glancing rattle that could have been heard for miles in the silence of the night.  It was certainly for some minutes that we saw at least 150ft. of the Titanic towering up above the level of the sea, looming black and saddening against the sky. Then, with a quiet, slanting dive she disappeared beneath the waters."

The hymn, "Nearer, My God, to Thee," was played by the band as the Titanic sank. The heroic bandsmen had played to the end, even while waist deep in water. They and their gallant conductor went to their death without a thought of fear; and the last recorded request of Captain Smith, as he, too, sank with his ship, was "Be British."

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Annie Caton


Encyclopedia Titanica (2018) Interesting Story Told By Woman Survivor (The Barrier Miner, Friday 4th May 1934, ref: #20276, published 24 August 2018, generated 23rd July 2021 01:34:26 PM); URL :