23.40 on Sunday 14th April 1912, SS Titanic hit the fatal
iceberg that sank her some three hours later at 02.20 on Monday 15th
April. Joseph Bell the son of John and Margaret, farmers at Farlam in
Cumbria, was the White Star Line Chief Engineer and had served his
apprenticeship at the Stephenson Works in Newcastle upon Tyne. He was a
well respected and very capable engineer at the top of his trade and was
appointed to Chief Engineer of the Titanic, the most celebrated job in
engineering at the time. Titanic had 29 huge boilers and 159 furnaces to
drive the 50,000 horsepower engines that turned the triple screws
attaining a speed of 22.5 knots.
When the disaster struck, Joseph Bell was at his post
in the boiler rooms. As the ship slowly foundered, he gathered his engine
room crew into boiler rooms 2 and 3 to keep the boilers going to maintain
power for the pumps and lights to give the ship the best possible chance
of staying afloat long enough for the "California", who was 4
hours steaming away, to reach them.
Unfortunately, the Titanic was foundering faster than
any rescue ship could reach it and at 02.18, it was reported by a eye
witness that the great ship having foundered by the bows with the stern
high in the air above the freezing Atlantic, the ships lights blinked once
and were extinguished when she broke in two between Boiler room 1 and 2.
At this exact time, Joseph and his crew died as the Atlantic gushed into
the broken ship. It is certain that without the power generated by Joseph
and his crew throughout the death throes of the ship, that even more
people would have died.
He is commemorated on the plaque in the old White Star building in
Liverpool and also on his Mother’s tombstone at Farlam Church with the
epitaph …"greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his
life for his friends…"
Thanks to James Bell for
sending us this account.