Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Titanic: They sent out wrong messages

Titanic. Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland. Collection Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
Shipyard men fitting the starboard tailshaft of the Titanic prior to her launch. Photograph © National Museums Northern Ireland. Collection Harland & Wolff, Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
Lord Pirrie, the former head of Harland & Wolff and instigator of the Olympic Class liners constructed on the Queen's Island almost 100 years ago.

Young Harold, Bride, (22) and second in command to the Titanic’s chief wireless operator, Jack Phillips, had always wanted this job.

But maybe not this particular shift as on April 14, 1912, hundreds of messages were piling up on the operators’ work station because of a wireless breakdown the day before. It took Phillips and Bride seven hours to fix the faulty circuitry.

The first ice warning of the day was picked up soon after normal service was resumed and delivered personally to Captain Smith. We know that three more ice warnings were received that day, but none made it to the bridge.

The Marconi men were under direct orders from the Captain and he viewed the passengers’ personal messages as more important. It took hours to clear their communications so the ice warnings were received, written down and forgotten. Phillips died on board, but Harold Bride survived, jumping into the sea and being carried off the Carpathia with bandaged feet.

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