If I could give this CD set 6 stars I would because it is superb. This collection of recordings from the BBC Archive, interspersed with narration by Tim Pigot Smith, really brings home both the triumph and the tragedy of the birth and death of the 'Titanic'. Whilst it must be remembered that memories can become hazy over time, the stories that the survivors have to tell are sometimes harrowing, sometimes uplifting, and sometimes angry. The confusion amongst crew members, conflicting orders being given, no boat drill before the ship sailed, too few lifeboats, preferential treatment of first class passengers, and above all the assumption fuelled by the press that the Titanic was unsinkable only served to make this tragedy worse. Corners were cut during the building of the ship as well, unsuitable rivets and cheap steel being used in areas where strength was needed most. And this where no expense was spared in the outfitting of the ship, particuarly on the first class deck. For me, one of the most memorable stories was that of Edith Russell who refused to leave without her lucky pig musical box. She pleaded with a steward to fetch it from her cabin, which he did, but she was too afraid to get into a lifeboat. However, she did go when her pig was thrown into a lifeboat and desperate not to lose it and her luck she eventually got in. This lifeboat had a number of very frightened, crying children in it which distressed her; but she remembered her pig, and although it was damaged she found it could still play its tune. She used this to amuse and quieten the children. There are many more tales of courage and some bitterness too. If any listener wishes to hear more of these stories then please log on to [...]. The earliest recording is that of C H Lightoller made in 1936, and the most recent would appear to have been made in the late 1980s. Ancestry.co.uk have released a Titanic collection to coincide with the 100th Anniversay of her sinking, these records are free to view until 11.59pm on 31st May 2012.
The advent of sound recording has transformed the telling of history, and this brilliant oral history stands testimony to just how much.
Wonderfully remastered archive recordings have been pieced together with an unintrusive and respectful modern commentary, creating an historical document which brings the Titanic story to life like nothing else can. It's moving and often shocking, as expected, but there are also moments of very human humour - it really is a multi-dimensional look at the individual protagonists of the disaster, as well as the awful whole picture. It's an extremely rich resource, full of the personal detail only these kind of accounts can provide.
For archive footage of such an age, it's very well mastered and the quality is great. If only we had this kind of resource from ages further gone... It makes you realise how lucky we are to have the means today to create such a rich stream of historical record for future generations to enjoy. An excellent resource.
It is a rare audiobook that makes me want to listen to it again straignt away but this is one of those rare beasts. It is a fantastic resource for anyone with any interest in the story of the Titanic because it uses actual archive first hand interviews with many of the people involved, from those that built the ship to the survivors, both passengers and crew.
It tells the whole story of the doomed ship, right from the planning stage until the sinking and beyond. Obviously the largest portion is reserved for the accident itself which goes into great detail but it also describes life on the ship during its voyage prior to the incident and covers all classes of passengers as well as life for the crew members.
It also tries to piece together details of what caused the ship to hit the iceberg and, in the aftermath, what went right and what went wrong and why.
Because of the first hand accounts used (which I assume have been checked for accuracy) it paints a realistic picture of what went on publicly and behind the scenes. Many interviews corroborate the information given in other interviews.
These interviews are the only true record we have of a major disaster as the people interviewed are now dead (well, it did happen 100 years ago) and therefore it should be treasured. Now, I'm off to listen again.
Despite looking at first sight like another anniversary cash-in, BBC Audio's two disc set turns out to be a surprisingly impressive account of the disaster drawing on first-hand accounts from interviews in the BBC archives with excellent and informative linking narration. Thus we get to hear from those who helped build the ship, passengers and crewmembers who survived the sinking, often through pure luck, and even Second Officer Lightoller admitting his unfounded confidence that the ship wouldn't sink led to passengers not taking the sinking seriously, though his absurd inflexibility in not allowing more in half-empty lifeboats and even turning away boys because of his strict interpretation of `women and children first' that needlessly cost so many lives is left to the narration to detail: at the time of his radio interview, Lightoller was still seen as the hero of the day. The gaps in the BBC's archives are filled in by sober readings from narrator Tim Piggott Smith, including the Captain of the Carpathia's genuinely moving account of the aftermath as he realised the enormity of the disaster, while filling in some of the more outrageous injustices, such as the fact that no Third Class passengers were asked to give evidence at the subsequent inquiries.
As always, it's the details that stick in the memory. Despite the White Star Line setting out to build the `largest mobile object ever created,' while lavishing money on the furnishings for First Class passengers they cut corners in obvious areas - not just the number of lifeboats or the quality of the rivets used but even failing to provide the lookouts with much-needed binoculars - while many of the crew didn't even know what was happening and just continued to go about their duties. The disaster was even `predicted' in a novel about the sinking of a ship called the Titan. Much of this will be known to die-hard Titanic buffs, but hearing so much in the voices of those who were there gives it a real value even to those to whom it will be old ground, while it's a splendid, accessible yet detailed overview of the disaster for the general listener too. It's only slightly let down by a few bars of an instrumental version of that song at the end, but that's a minor complaint for such an excellent production.
If this collection of personal accounts of the Titanic's story is anything to go by, then the BBC's archives must be crammed with all sorts of wonderful oral history, just waiting to be re-aired. To be fair though, this really is much more than just a collection of archived material; it has been compiled carefully, weaving the tales in and around the narratives, with great skill - clarifying all the key facts, which are then explored from personal recollections recorded over the last century.
I found that the personal memories added to the wider picture, giving real life to the factual account of the journey and accident. In addition to more detailed accounts of the other ships in the area, you are also privy the reactions of the individuals on board the Titanic, whether calm and heroic or disbelieving and eccentric. I found these very personal accounts, recorded at various points , some as early as the 1930s, to give greater depth to the facts, but at no point does it become overly sentimental or unnecessarily dramatic. There is no need to add any further drama to what is already a shocking and heart-rending tale - this is a really well balanced account and even without the recordings this would be a fantastic documentary - the archived recordings are the cherry on the cake.
I would recommend this highly, even if you have watched/listened to other documentaries lately (as many have been broadcast.) This is one which will surely become a classic, with the voices of the past coming back out of the archives to tell their tale again.
on 18 April 2012
There is a surfeit of items, books and memorabilia to do with the Titanic for obvious reasons this year. But I'd like to make case for this as being a small item with loads of resonance that might be money well spent if you want to explore your emotional and cultural reaction to the sinking of this Edwardian microcosm over a century ago.
The BBC is quite shamelessly and quite rightly capitalising upon the assets of its massive sound and vision archive. If you explore the BBC website, you'll come across loads of gems, yet this proves to be only a tip of an iceberg (unfortunate metaphor!) Of what's available. In this two CD set, the BBC have compiled audio recordings made over the years about the Titanic sinking, mainly concerning survivors and officers and crew members who give their oral testimony in the decades since the sinking. Some of these items have not seen broadcast since the relevant anniversary in which they were originally recorded.
As you might imagine it's a sobering experience, and the BBC have skilfully woven a chronological narrative of the sinking using these recordings, with an overarching narration providing the necessary contexts. As you might expect, the mature voices of child survivors, often with harrowing accounts of being placed in lifeboats point by anxious parents who they never saw again. Most welcome for me was the voice of Charles Lighttoller, whose distinctive burr provided a level narration of his standing experiences. I couldn't help but be haunted by the life he was going to go on to lead even after this recording was made-his experiences in Dunkirk and the tragic loss of two of his sons in the Second World War.
So it's a stimulating and moving item, with the value of real-life testimony to reinforce it. Only reservation, and the reason I only give it four stars, is really not be item' s fault-it's more to do with the nature of oral history. I'd listen to this for about a third of the way through, and started to have a creeping feeling of some of the flaws with oral history-a sense that perhaps some of the correspondents and recordings were of the survivors of the Titanic perhaps telling the listeners what they wanted to hear. We want to hear about the mother whose premonitions of the sinking haunted her family during their embarkation. We want to hear how it's always another officer whose neglect led to the sinking never the one talking to you-we want to hear how the class divisions were part of the tragedy, and how injustice and social stratification led to a disproportionate amount of death among the third class passengers. So my suggestion to you is enjoy the voices of this distinct historical event but remember with qualifications the context in which they were recording the story in later years.
In case you hadn't noticed, it's been one hundred years since the Titanic sank. I know it's hard to believe, as the media have hardly mentioned it at all. But it is, and to commemorate it, the BBC have dipped into their archives for some first hand accounts of the disaster.
There have been bigger disasters, but as this one was British, it's naturally more important than any others. Thankfully, the BBC have held on to recordings from as far back as 1936, where survivors can relate what happened on that voyage. One good thing about this project is that it rights some of the wrongs perpetrated by James Cameron in his dreadful picture. The only shame is that a mere fraction of the people who saw that, will hear this.
The fact that it is "real" people telling the story, rather than actors selling a story really does bring home some of the horror of what they experienced. The narration by Tim Pigot Smith never interferes with the story or gets in the way of the survivors. Naturally, it's the older archive material that has most resonance, as the memories of people sixty years after the event is bound to be clouded by what they've heard and experienced since. Which is why the real highlight of the piece is the recording of Charles Lighttoller, from 1936, and whose tale puts to shame the so called tragedies of modern life.
It's not perfect, but as a piece of social history, it does a fine job.
I absolutely loved this set: riveting and compulsive listening, with a sense of unfolding drama quite as compelling as any carefully crafted fiction, even though we all know the fate of (most) of those aboard. I listened enthralled as the tragedy unfolded.
Tim Piggot-Smith holds the whole together with a beautifully delivered, calmly presented commentary which begins with the background to the ship's production, exploration of the microcosmic class structure on board (following the disaster, during the 34 day inquiry led by Lord Mersey, NO 3rd class or steerage survivors were thought worthy witnesses for consultation!) and an understated but enthralling account of the unfolding events almost exactly 100 years ago. It is hard, with hindsight, not to be shocked by the apparent complacency of many on board as it is only very slowly that the reality of the impending nightmare dawns; making snowballs from the ice scraped off the deadly iceberg as it floats past; returning to bunks as all seemed well. And before the disaster, making little effort to equip the lookouts with binoculars (they had been lost) even though the ship was known to be in the domain of the icebergs, with at least some of the warning messages from fellow mariners actually reaching the bridge. A few, Eva Hart's oddly prescient mother among them - she determinedly slept during the day and remained awake and alert at night through the whole of the fated journey - with an odd sense of premonition, sensed from the outset that all would not be well.
This would be gripping stuff in anyone's voice, but hearing the words of those who survived and left recorded testimony makes this mesmerising listening: the sometimes less than state-of-the-art recording only adds to the atmosphere. I have never been touched by the Titanic fascination before and am frankly surprised at how gripping I found this. I cannot recommend this too enthusiastically. Superb stuff.
I do not wish to be in any way negative about television documentaries which often (but not always) afford a chance for the presenter to put himself in the eye of the public as well as an opportunity to educate based upon well researched materials. This may lead to a fascinating look at newsreel photographs and little known footnotes to history, but the end result is often anodyne with little sense of involvement in the subject.
On the other hand, fictionalised accounts in popular films pay little regard to the true facts and details behind events because their main purpose is to entertain.
The present CD (2 discs) - "The Titanic: Voices from the BBC Archive" however has the major benefit of being a spell binding account of the facts, figures and events leading to one of the world's best known maritime disasters. To hear the voices of those who were involved, if not actually there, brings a haunting immediacy to the listener which will stay in the memory.
It really is a spell-binding account in the form of an audio book which you will not regret buying for self and for others.
For most of us `Titanic' means DiCaprio. However, this 2 cd set, totalling 2 hours and 25 minutes, reveals much more drama than Cameron's epic movie.
Delivering the background and history of the great liner that we only remember because of its demise, the great radio voice of Tim Pigott-Smith totally engages the listener.
Using historical records, the results of investigations and the recorded voices of those who were involved or survived, a very real sense of the genuine drama is conveyed.
This is great radio, preserved on CD for your listening pleasure. You can't fail to find this interesting - this is great entertainment but more than that it is a real history lesson. The myths of the movies are dispelled by the truth of the voices that we are privileged to still be able to hear.
Because of the range of passengers on the Titanic this piece inevitably carries a degree of social comment - this is particularly revealing.
You will want to listen to this in one session, but practically it is split into bite size pieces, so you can chew as much of it as you want. This is a CD set that you will want to listen to again and is a great resource for children and young people to learn about the truth behind the disturbing name of `Titanic'.