West End’s first blue plaque unveiled

Blue plaque outside Capt Rostron's former home

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.

Capt Rostron's Grand-Daughter, Mrs Rosemary Pettet says a few words before unveiling the plaque

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.

Ray Turner

Formerly a Civil-Servant and IT Specialist at ONS, Ray is now semi-retired and spare-time self-employed. He contributes to Eastleigh News on a voluntary basis and is also an administrator for the site. 

  4 comments for “West End’s first blue plaque unveiled

  1. April 16, 2012 at 8:54 am

    Thank you Ray for your two posts on Cpt Rostrum and Carpathia’s role in the Titanic sinking.

    I’ve found a lot of the national and local coverage inappropriate and over the top, but you seem to have captured just the right tone.

  2. Stephen Slominski
    April 16, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    I agree with Keith – it’s nice to have Ray adding a bit of quality to the site!
    I can’t help feeling that a lot of the current interest in Titanic, a terrible human tragedy with strong local links, was manufactured in Hollywood and the event was fading in memories. I find the whole concept behind Southampton’s Titanic museum a bit ghoulish and in in poor taste compared to the tribute that Southampton town folk originally erected in Andrews park.
    It feels to me almost as if the Museum is reveling in the tragic events
    I can’t understand why Southampton, trying to build a reputation as a port for cruise liners should want to remind passengers that one of the greatest maritime disasters in history originally departed from here.

    Although 1500 passengers lost their lives on Titanic – just a few years later 1200 went down on Cunard’s Lusitania. In some ways a greater tragedy as many people didn’t stand a chance it went down so quickly.

    Again there were crew from Southampton on board but it hardly ever gets a mention although it was a horrifying attack on innocent civilians which helped change the course of history.

    Perhaps it is not ‘PC’ to talk about it?

    Another harrowing disaster, with a lower loss of life but still in living memory, was the loss of the Herald of Free Enterprise – again hardly ever mentioned these days.

  3. April 16, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    Thanks for your kind comments chaps.

    I think there are several reasons why the Titanic story has captured the public imagination over the last 100 years in a way that no other tragedy has.

    1. The Titanic was said to be unsinkable.

    2. It was also the largest ship ever built at that time, the pride of the White Star Line.

    3. The Titanic sank on its maiden voyage.

    There are many other factors that contribute to the global interest in the Titanic, but those three are central to the story and unique…

  4. April 16, 2012 at 9:39 pm

    A splendid article indeed Ray. Well done.

    People “love” disasters such as the Titanic that evokes emotions for those who have family ties and for those who see, and I hesitate to say this, the romance of the sea and all of the tales of daring and desperation that has been documented throughout history.

    The recent BBC documentry which looked at the Titanic from a perspective of those directly involved was an interesting if not refreshing way of looking at this tradgedy.

    The draw of the sea on both men and women shall continue to produce stories and tales of heroic deeds of individuals and ships companies such as those who went to The Falklands. An island race such as ours will continue to put to sea in order to fulfill a dream, a career or maybe a destiny. Not to do so will take something away from the character of the people who inhabit these isles and built an empire.

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