Captain Rostron’s former home in West End is proudly displaying a blue plaque this evening.
The plaque was unveiled at 2:28pm, exactly 100 years and 12 hours after the sinking of the Titanic.
History records that Captain Rostron, the Captain of the RMS Carpathia, and the crew of his ship changed course and at some risk to themselves made all possible speed through the ice-field to rescue 706 survivors from the Titanic.
Unveiled by Captain Rostron’s Grand-Daughter, Mrs Rosemary Pettet, the plaque is situated on the front of Capt Rostron’s former home in Chalk Hill, West End. The architectural design at the rear of the house is reported to have been designed to remind Captain Rostron of the bridge of a ship, and once had some commanding views over unspoilt Hampshire countryside.
Speaking about her Grandfather, Mrs Pettet said;
I grew up in Hedge End and remember visiting this house. My Grandfather was a humble man and saw it as his duty to go to the assistance of those in peril. Auntie Margaret [Margaret Howman, Captain Rostron’s daughter] asked for the wreath laying service to be carried out annually. Grandfather would have been astonished to learn of the turnout at the ceremony this morning, to learn that every Cunard ship has held a memorial service today and to see this plaque unveiled this afternoon.
The plaque was organised by SOLE [the Southampton Ocean Liner Exhibition], with local historian Eric Payne-Danson championing the idea, pushing it through various bureaucratic obstacles and raising the necessary funds, including donations from West End Local History Society and West End Parish Council.
Speaking after the unveiling, Mr Payne-Danson told the audience;
Of the 706 that were rescued, one sadly died afterwards on board the Carpathia. That’s why the nameplate for Rostron Close [n.b. at the bottom of Chalk Hill] reports that 705 were saved.
Capt Rostron did everything he possible could to rescue as many as possible, raising the whole crew of the Carpathia, diverting all possible steam to the engines of the Carpathia, squeezing 17.5 knots out of a ship that would ordinarily do 14, taking some risk when racing through the ice-field, posting extra lookouts and generally preparing to bring survivors on board.
The last person taken on board the Carpathia was Second Officer Charles Lightoller of the Titanic. Criticised by some for his actions during the evacuation of the Titanic, Lightoller subsequently lived in Netley and owned his own little boat [ Sundowner]. Ordinarily that boat would take no more than 21 people, but when troops needed to be rescued from Dunkirk, Lightoller took his boat across the channel and returned with 130 survivors…
The full story of Captain Rostrum is told in the West End Museum, which is open every Saturday from 10am until 4pm. Admission is free.