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Opportunity aboard Titanic
SOUTHAMPTON’S dockland families greeted the arrival of Titanic as a chance to end a long period of unemployment, poverty, and living off charitable handouts.
A crippling coal strike had forced many liners to remain in port, so starving seamen and, in turn, their families of a regular wage.
At the time Titanic’s entry into service on the Atlantic passage between Southampton and New York was seen as a sign of better times to come.
Queues of potential crew members quickly formed on Southampton’s docksides as hundreds of local men waited in line, hoping to be picked for one of the prestigious jobs on board Titanic.
There was a great deal of pride amongst the seafarers who were chosen to crew Titanic, after all this was the greatest ship of all time.
As Titanic prepared to depart in five days time, there was increasingly feverish activity in hundreds of Southampton homes as the men in the families packed their bags and prepared for the great adventure ahead.
Wives, mothers, and children all came out into the streets as one by one the Southampton seamen set off for the Eastern Docks to take their place on the “ship of dreams’’.
Amongst the crew were a total of 29 Able Bodied Seamen, who had seniority over other crew members, and undertook the day-to-day operation of the ship.
Titanic also employed two, Boatswain Mates, experienced seamen who managed and operated equipment such as the lines, cranes, winches, lifeboat davits on the deck.
There was one Master-at-Arms, and one assistant, who, together with the Chief Officer, had the only keys to the vessel’s firearms cabinet.
A total of seven Quartermasters were again highly trained seafarers who worked on, and around, the bridge, steering the ship, managing signal flags, standing watch, and assisting the Duty Officer.
Titanic’s engineers were responsible for keeping the engines, generators, and other mechanical equipment fully maintained and running. They were the highest paid of the crew and had the education and technical expertise to operate, and repair the engineering plant.
All 25 engineers, together with ten electricians and boilermakers were lost as most remained below decks in the engine and boiler rooms fighting a losing battle to keep the ship afloat.
They operated the pumps in the forward compartments, kept the steam up in the boiler rooms and ensured the generators were running to provide the power and lights throughout Titanic, right up to just minutes before the ship sank.
It is thought their actions delayed the sinking for more than an hour and helped keep the ship afloat for nearly all the lifeboats to be launched.
There were 13 leading firemen (stoker foremen) and 163 firemen (stokers) assigned to Titanic, which had 29 boilers, as well as 159 furnaces.
Shifts for all the firemen and foremen were four hours on, eight hours off, and as the heat in the boiler rooms usually exceeded a temperature of 120F, the back-breaking work was incredibly demanding.
There were 73 trimmers, or coal trimmers, on Titanic, who were paid the least and had probably the worst job of the crew as they worked inside the coal bunkers located on top of, and between, the boilers.
The trimmers used shovels and wheelbarrows to move coal around the bunker to keep the coal level, and to shovel the coal down the chute to the firemen below stoking the furnaces.
There were 33 men employed as greasers, working in the turbine and reciprocating engine rooms alongside the engineers and were responsible for maintaining and supplying oil and lubricants for all the mechanical equipment.
A total of 421 men and women were employed in the Victualling Department, and of these, 322 were stewards who performed more than 57 different functions in each class's dining saloon, public rooms, cabins and recreational facilities.
Bath Stewards were responsible for maintaining supplies in the communal bathrooms used by everyone except for a few first class passengers.
Bedroom Stewards were assigned to each class, and in first class they not only cleaned the staterooms and made beds, but were also available to serve food in the cabins or help passengers in dressing.
Most stewards were poorly paid and relied on tips for their income. Each First Class Bedroom Steward was responsible for three to five rooms, Second Class Stewards for up to ten rooms, and Third Class Stewards for as many as 25.
There were 23 female crew on board Titanic: 20 stewardesses, two cashiers, and one “matron’’. Their duties were similar to their male counterparts, although they usually looked after women passengers.
Of the victualling crew, 62 were employed in the galley as chefs, cooks, bakers, butchers, and dishwashers, who worked in the kitchens of each class of the liner.
Additionally there were four clerks in the Purser’s Office dealing with enquiries and requests, including depositing valuables for safekeeping, from the passengers.