John George Phillips

John George Phillips

Mr John George "Jack" Phillips was born on Monday 11 April 1887, above a Draper's shop in Farncombe Street, Godalming, Surrey. His father George Alfred Phillips ran the shop, with his mother Ann (née Sanders), for a man named Gammon who had several branches in the area. By the time Jack was born his twin sisters Elsie and Ethel were already thirteen years old.

Jack was christened at the church of St. John the Evangelist, just a few hundred yards from the shop, where there is a plaque dedicated to his memory. Jack began his education at the Church School, before going on to attend the tiny local private grammar school for boys. By 1902, at the age of fifteen, Jack had finished his schooling and he joined the Post Office where he trained to be a telegraphist.

St John the Evangelist
St. John the Evangelist
School
Godalming Grammer School

He remained at the Godalming Post Office until March 1906 when he left for the to undertake further training at the Marconi Company's Wireless Telegraphy Training School at Seaforth Barracks just north of Liverpool. He graduated in August 1906 and received his first post as an operator aboard the white Star Liner Teutonic.

Clifden
Clifden, County Galway

For the next two years he sailed on various liners including the Lusitania and Mauretania until 1908 when he was given an operating post at the Marconi station just outside the small town of Clifden, on the West Coast of Ireland in County Galway. There he served as an operator, transmitting and receiving messages from the Marconi station in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia. Towards the end of 1911 Jack returned to sea on the Adriatic and remained with her until Christmas. In the New Year he once again boarded his favourite ship, the Oceanic sailing from Southampton to New York.

On returning to England in March 1912 he received his orders to travel to Belfast and join the Titanic. Some have stated that Jack was acquainted with the other Wireless operator Harold Bride before they sailed on the Titanic, but Bride himself confirmed that they had never met before this point.

The wireless was kept busy with commercial traffic after the Titanic sailed from Southampton 1 and the equipment was damaged as a result. Harold Bride estimated that 250 messages were transmitted in the run up to Sunday night. Jack was turning in for a long awaited rest when the collision came about, and was just about to go to sleep when Captain Smith arrived in the wireless cabin. Once Smith had issued the order to send for help Jack remained at his post sending out the both the CQD and the SOS signals, taking short breaks to go and observe the situation outside. He sent Harold Bride to and from the Captain with regular updates as to the progress of the Carpathia until shortly before the sinking when Smith visited the wireless room to release them from their duties.

Both operators left at the same time, Bride going forward to help with collapsible B, and Jack probably running aft. It is not known how Jack left the ship but one way or another he found himself clinging to the same collapsible as Bride and Second Officer Lightoller. Sources say he was conversing with the latter into the small hours about the various ships that could be on the way.

Conditions on the upturned raft were harsh and as Harold Bride stated Jack was being relieved two hours early at midnight because he was exhausted after a heavy day transmitting traffic and repairing equipment. Under the circumstances it proved too much and Jack Phillips died sometime before dawn.

Back home in Godalming the community rallied round and the result was the Phillips Memorial, the largest Titanic memorial in the World. It consists of a cloister, an open field, a field of wild flowers, and a walk along the River Wey.

Jack Phillips Memorial
Jack Phillips Memorial

Notes

  1. Phillips worked the 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. shift, and Bride the 2 a.m. to 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. shift

References and Sources

Parish magazine, May 1887
Post Office Archives, Mount Pleasant
Logs of the Lusitania (1907), Mauretania (1908), Oceanic (1911) (Public Record Office, Kew)
New York Times, 19 April, 1912, Harold Bride''s Account
Marconi Archives, Bodleian Library Oxford
Godalming Town Council minutes (1912-1913)

Newspaper Articles

Lectures pour Tous John George Phillips
As imagined by 'Lectures pour tous', July 1912
Surrey Advertiser and County Times The Heroic Wireless Operator
New York Times (16 April 1912) MARCONI MAN HAD RECORD
Boston Globe (16 April 1912) PHILLIPS THE JACK BINNS
(16 April 1912) SMITH THOUGHT HIS SHIP UNSINKABLE
The Toronto World (17 April 1912) WIRELESS WORK ON A YACHT NOT FAST ENOUGH FOR ME
Washington Times (19 April 1912) Describes Assault By Frenzied Passengers
Chicago Daily Journal (19 April 1912) Thomas Whiteley : Wireless Operator Dies
Steward claims Phillips was taken aboard life-raft and died before rescuers reached him.
Wiltshire Times (20 April 1912) Titanic Wireless Operator
Washington Post (20 April 1912) Titanic's Wireless Chief Died on a Liferaft
The first Marconi operator aboard the Titanic, stuck to his post till the last.
New York Times (21 April 1912) Console Phillips's Parents
Daily Home News (22 April 1912) DR. SHANNON LOST FRIEND ON TITANIC
Oxford Times (27 April 1912) Steward's Statement
Thomas Whiteley interviewed from his hospital bed
New York Times (28 April 1912) Bride Fixing Lifebelt on Phillips
Two Marconi Men Worked to the Last
Godalming and District News (4 May 1912) Post Office Memorial
The Times (20 May 1912) THE TITANIC'S WIRELESS OPERATORS
New York Tribune (30 June 1912) TO HONOR "JACK" PHILLIPS
Surrey Advertiser and County Times (30 September 1912) THE WIRELESS OPERATOR OF THE TITANIC
New York Times (11 October 1914) PHILLIPS FOUNTAIN READY
New York Times (1 May 1915) TO HONOR WIRELESS HEROES
Derby Daily Telegraph (20 January 1925) DEATH OF HEROIC WIRELESS OPERATOR'S MOTHER

Images

Captain Smith and Jack Phillips
CARD WRITTEN BY JACK PHILLIPS
Written just a few months before he joined the Titanic
Jack Phillips
Jack Phillips in a French book for children

Documents and Certificates

1881 Census (England)
1891 Census (England)
Agreement and Account of Crew, National Archives, London; BT100/259
General Register Office: Index of Births, Marriages and Deaths
Mansion House Titanic Relief Fund (22)

Miscellaneous

(1912) Subcommittee Hearings of the Committee on Commerce, Titanic, Titanic Inquiry Project
(1912) Wreck Commissioners' Court, Proceedings before the Right Hon. Lord Mersey on a Formal Investigation Ordered by the Board of Trade into the Loss of the S.S. Titanic, Titanic Inquiry Project

Graves and Memorials

Memorials to Jack Phillips
Brandon C. Holm Titanica! (2007) RMS Titanic: The Funerals, Memorials and Legacy of the Lost Passengers and Her Crew

Bibliography

Colonel Archibald Gracie (1913) The Truth about the Titanic, New York, Mitchell Kennerley
Charles H. Lightoller (1935) The Titanic and Other Ships, Bay Tree
Don Lynch & Ken Marschall (1992) Titanic: An Illustrated History, London, Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0 340 56271 4
John Booth & Sean Coughlan (1993) Titanic Signals of Disaster, White Star Publications, Westbury, Wiltshire. ISBN 0 9518190 1 1
John P. Eaton & Charles A. Haas (1994) Titanic: Triumph & Tragedy, Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 1 85260 493 X
Donald Hyslop, Alastair Forsyth and Sheila Jemima (1997) Titanic Voices: Memories from the Fateful Voyage, Sutton Publishing, Southampton City Council. ISBN 0 7509 1436 X
John P. Eaton & Charles A. Haas (2020) Titanic: A Journey Through Time, The History Press, ISSBN 0750994630
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Comment and discuss

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Watch hours (6 posts)
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Any coming articles or biographies (1 post)
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Credits

Jemma Hyder, UK
Brandon Whited, USA
Photos courtesy of Jemma Hyder

Link and cite this biography

Encyclopedia Titanica (2015) John George Phillips (ref: #2051, last updated: 4th October 2015, accessed 24th June 2021 02:05:20 AM)
URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-victim/jack-phillips.html

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