This shows Beesley posing for a press photographer in the Gymnasium aboard the Titanic, before leaving Southampton. This book is possibly unique in terms of Titanic literature. It was not written by a rich first class passenger, or by or about a wealthy grieving widow, or by an employee of the White Star Line. Beesley (31 December 1877 – 14 February 1967) was a Cambridge Science Graduate with a first class degree. He was therefore an informed and dispassionate observer of events, and as a second class passenger, saw something of what happened in both first and third classes.
He makes the point that only 6% of second class male passengers were saved, a smaller proportion than in first, third or even of the crew.
His account was written and published within weeks of the disaster, while events were fresh in his mind. He also had the opportunity of listening to other survivors accounts on board the Carpathia, during the 4 day passage to New York. On arrival, he was horrified to find the fictional accounts which had appeared in newspapers during the previous three days before any survivors had been interviewed. Among the fiction spread by the American press was the story that the Titanic split in two before sinking. Beesley, watching from his lifeboat is quite adamant that the ship reared up vertically and sank whole from that position. Beesley also denies the unpleasant libel that Chief Officer Wilde shot himself, published before a single survivor was interviewed. Repeated in the UK “Yellow Press”, this caused untold distress to his family – cousins of my Grandmother – that such a calumny should be spread about a man who was a Royal Navy reserve Officer, and a devout Christian.
One other bit of fiction, the music publishers Boosey & Hawks owning the rights to “Nearer My God to Thee” rushed out a special edition of the sheet music, before the Carpathia docked. Mr. Kaye, my violin teacher, had been a private pupil of Wallace Hartley, band leader on the Titanic. According to him, and I have no idea how he came by the information, the very last item played was a hymn called “Autumn”.
Beesleys account is well worth reading as an antidote to the melodrama of many Titanic books, and the spectacular but inaccurate film which came out a few years ago.
Inside back cover, tipped in facsimile of 2nd class Dinner Menu, Sunday 14 April 1912. The author’s last meal before the sinking
PREVIEW BELOW – MAY TAKE A WHILE TO LOAD.