Titanic Centenary
At noon on the 10th April 1912, the largest ship in the world set sail on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York.  Little did anyone know at the time the 46,328grt Titanic would become a legend as well as a cash cow for greedy bastards making money off the dead.  Fast forward 100 years to the 10th April 2012 and commemorations aplenty, including two memorial cruises - Balmoral sailed from Southampton on the 8th while Azamara Journey would leave New York on the 10th, meeting at the wreck site for a memorial.  The Titanic - Belfast museum opened on the 31st March while Southampton's SeaCity, also covering the city's maritime heritage, would open at 1.30pm the same day.  At 10.45am, in Ocean Dock, Cunard Road was renamed White Star Way.  Tug Tender Calshot was moved from her new home at berth 50 to 41 on the 9th and then from 41 to 43 on the 10th, the berth built especially for White Star Line for when they moved from Liverpool to Southampton in 1907, while Shieldhall (having recently regained her MCA certificate) was awaiting opposite in 46.  We booked the Blue Funnel, which would be part of the flotilla and told to pick up the tickets since it was Easter weekend.  The movements had every vessel involved moving into Ocean Dock at 8am, including the Blue Funnels.  Both Princess Caroline and Ocean Scene were on 44 while HMS Blazer on 47.  Inside, events had been put together by Southampton Solent University, Matt Bunday Events, Tug Tender Calshot Trust and Associated British Ports and hosted by TV presenter, Fred Dinenage, with Deputy Major (and Deputy Port Admiral) Derrick Burke the Sheriff of Southampton and HM Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire Dame Mary Fagan DCVO in attendance.  A script was put together by Terry Yarwood of the Tug Tender Calshot Trust which, (and I quote from the official press release) "takes the audience through the story of the preparation of the departure of Titanic, the anticipation, excitement of the crew and passengers and the hectic activity on the quayside and the departure itself and then the focus changes to the disaster that followed."  The Royal Marines Association Concert Band and the Southampton Choral Society were also involved.  As we crossed at 9.15am on Hotspur IV, we spotted Calshot being moved while the rest of the dock was empty.  
After collecting the tickets from the office just after 9.30am, we boarded the Blue Funnel boat, Ocean Scene, in Ocean Village just after 10am.  We'd been told by someone inside we could go out the front but then told by someone else it as crew only so up the stairs we went then tootled around to the former White Star Dock to await proceedings while Red Jet 4 was the last to arrive.  Some people had brought red roses.  For such a huge event, there were just twenty-four people with tickets.  I assume many didn't know, thought it would be sold out or had to work.  The ceremony inside Ocean Terminal began about 11.15am, a couple of descendants telling their stories which all led to a minute's silence just before noon.  A recording of Titanic's whistle sounded from speakers on the blue cranes by 45 berth, bringing and end to that, which other vessels responded to before Calshot slipped her moorings with the aid of the tugs, Wilendevour and Wilpower and emerged, recreating Titanic's route out of the port as far as the QEII Terminal.  While we followed, guests were given a rose to drop into the water as Port Chaplin Rev. Andrew Huckett from the Southampton Seafarers Centre ended the event with a reading and prayer.  Meanwhile, at berth 44, the original bollards Titanic tied up to had been painted red with a white star on the top on 43/44 berths and an interpretation of her was apparently visible.  HMS Blazer was missing from the action, having a rope caught in a prop so towed away by the harbour master.  Due to Calshot not being able to be powered under her own steam, she is not allowed to go further than Dock Head so she stopped at the QEII Terminal while the rest of us passed then she was towed back to berth 50.  We did the same once we reached Netley while the others in the flotilla continued.  We went back to Ocean Dock so the Titanic nuts could take photos then headed to Ocean Village.
We met my cousin and his fiance afterwards then caught the 3.30pm ferry back and it was still Hotspur.  The rain still held off as Calshot gleamed in the sun and Shieldhall returned from her first commemoration of the week.  She would be going out again on the 14th to conduct a ceremony in the Solent for what was Titanic's final day at sea to remember all who have perished at sea during the past one hundred years.
It was a very memorable day, even for those who are mildly or not at all interested and thank goodness the forecast showers held off until after our part of the event, despite the wind being quite strong and bitter at times.


© Patricia Dempsey 10th April 2012
Not to be reproduced without permission