AS the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic approaches, the Daily Echo takes a look back at the devastating impact it had on Southampton.

Hundreds of well-wishers packed Southampton’s dockside, all of them eager to wave off the biggest ship in the world - each of them oblivious to the cruel fate which lay in wait.

No city in the world felt the pain of Titanic’s sinking so intensely as hundreds of families faced a future without their loved ones.

After leaving Southampton on her maiden voyage on April 10, 1912, RMS Titanic struck an iceberg at 11:40pm on April 14.

Daily Echo:

Due to the confusion of the large rescue attempt and the comparatively basic forms of communication, the first news to come at 2:20am by wireless telegram via New York was inaccurate and gave the loved ones of those travelling onboard false hope.

The telegram read: “The White Star liner Titanic, the world’s largest and most luxurious vessel, which left Southampton on Wednesday last with over 2,500 souls on board, collided with an iceberg last evening in mid-Atlantic. For some hours great anxiety prevailed, but fortunately, more reassuring tidings reached us this afternoon, when all the passengers were reported to be safe.”

This initial report, the likes of which were echoed in newspapers around the globe, unfortunately, proved to be wrong and the devastating extent of the disaster wasn't yet known.

An unofficial message soon surfaced from Cape Race, Newfoundland, stating that of the 2,200 to 2,400 persons onboard, only 675 had been saved. With this, the people of Southampton were fraught with worry once more.

Crowds of people anxiously scanned blackboards outside the White Star lines' offices to check for news of their loved ones. Vigils were held there all day and night.

Daily Echo:

One contemporary account said: “The scenes in some parts of the town were heartrending. Nearly a thousand families are directly concerned in the fate of the crew alone, and in most cases, the only breadwinner of the family is lost 

“In some of the poorer streets, where firemen and seafarers live in large numbers very sad sights have been witnessed.

“Nearly every house is represented onboard Titanic, and the manner in which bereaved women fasten on to the faintest glimmer of fresh intelligence is painfully pathetic. This is the greatest disaster that Southampton has ever known.”

More than 1,500 passengers and crew lost their lives - including 53 children. Of the 899 crew who sailed on the ship, 686 died.

Daily Echo: Some of the surviving crew members

Worst hit areas of the city included Chapel, Northam, St Mary’s and Shirley where many of the “below deck” crewmen resided. In one Northam school, 120 of the 240 pupils lost their father.

Mrs May in York Street had 10 children to bring up on her own and another widow had only just given birth to twins. The woman heard that her husband, a fireman, had drowned and died from the shock.

A charity to help the widows and orphans of those killed was set up in Southampton, and in London the RMS Titanic Relief Fund was inaugurated by the Lord Mayor.

Daily Echo: The mayor of The Borough of Southampton, Cllr H Bowyer, distributes money from the Mayor's Relief Fund

The charities become a vital part of everyday life for the families affected, as these entries in the Southampton Titanic Committee Minutes book show:

“To Miss Penrose. Cost a pair of eyeglasses.

“That all the Saints Parish relief committee be asked to contribute half the cost of Mrs Fielder's artificial teeth.

“One Quart of milk per day, six eggs to the value of one halfpenny a week to be continued to Mrs Johnson (widow) for a further three months.’’ Another entry hid a poignant story: “The deceased was a single man aged 20 and the claim is entered on behalf of his brother, a boy aged nine and his sisters both under 12.

“The father of the deceased was a well-known musician in Southampton but owing to poverty was not able to maintain his family, prior to the departure of Titanic. “The boy aged nine was placed under the charge of the matron of Shirley Warren workhouse, and the two little girls are at present being looked after by the Society of Musicians and the Charity Organisation Society and other friends.’’

  • More on the Titanic in tomorrow's Daily Echo and on .