Titanic's alarms bells that warned of disaster go on show

A CHILLING reminder of the watertight doors that could not save the supposedly unsinkable Titanic has been brought from the ocean bed to be the centrepiece of the first major exhibition of objects recovered from the wreck, which will open in London in 10 days' time.

Among 150 artefacts - ranging from the ship's telegraph to a button from a sailor's uniform - a labelled fuseplate and pieces of the alarm bells linked to the liner's watertight door compartments will be on display at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.

The alarm first alerted the crew of the Titanic that their lives were in peril when the liner ran into an iceberg just before midnight on 14 April 1912 on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York. She sank with the loss of more than 1,500 lives.

The exhibition, the culmination of prolonged international efforts to locate the wreck and salvage objects from the site, has attracted criticism, both from relatives of the victims and marine archaeologists who say the whole area should be left as a grave. However, two survivors, Edith Haisman, aged 98, and Milvina Dean, 82, have now agreed, along with Don Smith, great-nephew of the Titanic's captain, E J Smith, to open the exhibition, which is costing pounds 300,000 to stage and is expected to attract more than a quarter of a million visitors before it closes next April.

'I agreed to open it because the artefacts had been collected from the sea bed and they couldn't be put back again,' Miss Dean said.

She was nine weeks old, and emigrating with her family from a London pub to a Kansas tobacconist's shop, when she survived the disaster in which her father died. 'Otherwise they would only be washed away and do nobody any good. The artefacts are of historic importance, and I think you will find they have a certain sort of mystique.'

Miss Dean said she would feel quite emotional going to see the relics. 'For years after my mother returned to England she would not speak about it, so I only became interested about seven or eight years ago when the wreck was found.'

The fuse panel with its label 'watertight door bells' is a particularly poignant reminder of the tragedy, according to Stephen Deuchar, the museum's head of exhibitions and displays. 'At first glance this is just a piece of black slate with some labelling,' he said. 'It's only when you stop and look at it that your pulse starts to race.'

The alarm bells would be the first warning the crew had that there had been damage to the ship, as they probably did not feel the collision, he said. The alarms warned the crew to vacate five compartments between the boiler and engine room which the doors sealed off. Up to four of these compartments could fill with water before the ship would sink - and the doors were closed by First Officer Murdoch - but the gash caused by the iceberg is believed to have let in enough water to overwhelm them all. With only enough lifeboats for half those on board, there were just 705 survivors from the 2,228 passengers and crew.

The fuse panel was brought up in the 1987 expedition to salvage artefacts from the wreck site. The actual remains of the ship have not been touched. Only 150 of the 3,600 objects recovered will be on display because many are still undergoing restoration.

Other exhibits include the statue of a cherub which originally stood at the landing of the aft first class staircase, a newspaper from 1912 (restored and readable), the ship's bell and a Gladstone bag which is believed to have been filled with valuables by a looter as the ship went down.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
News
UK Border Control
i100
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Receptionist / Office Administrator - Full or Part Time

£14600 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 2003 the company...

Recruitment Genius: Social Media & Content Marketing Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing, Google certi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 business...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has won the award ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn