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This review is from: The Rough Guide to the Titanic (Paperback)Greg Ward wrote in the introduction to the book that "It will never be possible to tell the complete story of the Titanic." Yet in 253 pages he has managed to provide not just a rough guide to nearly everything we might want to know about the Titanic and its sinking in 1912, he wrote it with the skill of a seasoned storyteller. The book begins with "The 1912 Overture" and the drive to develop the White Star Line into a star shipping company. It follows with the story of the building of the Titanic and the technology of the day, including the new "wireless" communication. In one of the many boxed sides stories, Ward gives a short account of the use of the wireless to intercept a vessel carrying the infamous murderer Dr Crippen. There is a deck by deck description of the Titanic telling us where the library was, where the swimming pool was located and so on.
Ward then moves quickly to the night of 14 April when the tragedy unfolded. In a fluent account he tells how the lookout spotted the iceberg, what the captain did in trying to avoid the iceberg, the moment of impact, and the response of the passengers and crew; what they brought with them to the lifeboats - the Collyers took nothing at all; Major Arthur Peuchen took three oranges rather than a box containing $300,000; Henry Widener took his prized edition of Bacon's essays, saying to his mother, "The Little Bacon goes with me."
There is a long account of what went on in the lifeboats and how people were plucked from the sea. All in, 1,500 men, women and children perished that night. Next, Ward gives an account of the sensation created in the newspapers in the aftermath, and the even more sensational investigation and inquiry.
Finally, Ward describes the big questions: What damage did the iceberg actually do; was the Titanic made of substandard steel; were third class passengers impeded in getting to the lifeboats; and conspiracy theories such as whether the Titanic was swapped with its sister ship the Olympic, and sunk as an insurance scam. In one of the more startling revelations, Ward tells us that though many people have heard that the Titanic band played on and went down with the ship with the music of "Nearer My God to Thee", the fact was that the Titanic did not have a band. There was an ad hoc group of musicians playing on deck as the lifeboats were lowered and the entire band went down with the ship - no one could tell exactly what they were playing that night.
As a "rough" guide, Ward has given us a great service providing a short descriptive bibliography of the major books written about the Titanic, beginning with Beesley's "The Loss of the S.S. Titanic", published in 1912. He also provides a list of musical scores dedicated to the Titanic.