COMMEMORATING THE TITANIC ENGINEERING DEPARTMENT APRIL 15TH 1912

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As we approach this 106th Anniversary of the sinking of R.M.S. Titanic on April 15th 1912, it is worth recalling all who made up the engineering department in their various rolls on the night of the 15th April 1912, under the supervision of the Chief Engineer Joseph Bell. Their heroic human endeavour will never be forgotten.

 The engineering crew, who were responsible for keeping the engines, generators, and other mechanical equipment on the Titanic working efficiently, had the education and technical expertise to operate, maintain, and repair the engineering plant – they were consequentially the highest paid members of the crew.

Shortly after leaving Southampton, a fire was discovered in the coalbunker of No 6 Boiler Room and coal trimmers were detailed to trace the source of the fire and extinguish it.

On the night of 14 April, the Second Engineering Officer John Henry Hesketh the senior engineer on duty, and Leading Fireman Frederick Barrett were in No 6 Boiler inspecting the coal bunker and confirming the fire was out when the Titanic struck the iceberg at 11.40 pm. It ripped this part of the ship and the pair escaped through the connecting tunnel to No 5 Boiler Room, closing the bulkhead doors. Barrett later gave evidence at the Southampton Enquiry.

Most of the engineering crew remained below decks in the engine and boiler rooms: some fighting a losing battle to keep the ship afloat by operating the pumps in the forward compartments as well as keeping the steam up in the boiler rooms, to prevent boiler explosion on contact with the water; and others keeping the generators running to maintain power and lights throughout Titanic up until two minutes before the ship sank. It is considered that their actions delayed the sinking for over an hour and helped keep the ship afloat long enough for nearly all the lifeboats to be launched. Some of the men working downstairs were killed when seawater flooded this section as the ship hit the iceberg.

Titanic employed 25 engineers, as well as eight electricians and two boilermakers and all were lost as were 13 leading firemen (Stoker Foremen) and 163 firemen (Stokers). The ship had 29 boilers, each containing three furnaces for a total of 159 furnaces. Each fireman was assigned one boiler and three furnaces. Of the Titanic’s six boiler rooms, each leading fireman was assigned to two of them with 10 to 15 firemen under him. Next to each boiler was a coal chute that deposited coal from the overhead coalbunkers, and a fireman with a shovel would constantly feed coal into the three furnaces. Shifts for all the firemen and their foremen were four hours on and eight hours off. The heat in the boiler rooms usually exceeded 120 °F (49 °C), so a four-hour shift was very demanding. Most of the firemen worked wearing only their vests and shorts. Of the firemen, only three leading firemen and around 45 other firemen survived. Several of the firemen who survived got into the lifeboats dressed only in their vests and shorts in 28 °F (−2 °C) weather. 73 trimmers, or coal trimmers, were on the Titanic. Of the engineering crew, the trimmers were paid the least and had probably the worst job of the crew. The trimmers worked inside the coalbunkers 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 coal chute to the firemen below to shovel it into the furnaces. If too much coal built up on one side of a coalbunker, the ship would actually list to that side. All the residual heat from the boilers rose up into the coal bunkers, and inside, the bunkers were poorly lighted, full of coal dust, and extremely hot from the boilers. Around 20 of them survived.

The 33 greasers worked in the turbine and reciprocating engine rooms alongside the engineers and they were responsible for maintaining and supplying oil and lubricants for all the mechanical equipment. Only four of them survived. There were six mess hall stewards. These men worked in the crew’s kitchen to cook and serve food for the crew: four served the engineering crew; two served the deck crew. Just one steward from engineering survived.

 

 

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