Within weeks of the sinking of the Titanic a scheme was under consideration in Liverpool to remember the members of the ship's engine room who died in the sinking. The thirty-five engineers aboard the Titanic were employed to keep the ship's engines, generators and auxiliary machinery operating. The Titanic was powered by twenty-nine coal-fired boilers that powered her engines and electricity generators.
Had her lights and wireless telegraph had failed, panic would have been rife and it would have been impossible to summon assistance, or lower her lifeboats safely. In the event power was maintained for the wireless set until ten minutes before she sank, with the lights failing just two minutes before she sank. None of the engineers survived the sinking.
As reported at the time "the proposed Liverpool memorial to the Titanic Engineers should be a national one, and there is in contemplation a river-side scheme that would surpass, in architectural beauty, the Statue of Liberty at New York". Such was the importance of the scheme that "an influential committee... [was]...formed with the approval of the Lord Mayor (the Earl of Derby)" to consider how best to remember the heroes of the engine room, while a plot was identified at St Nicholas Place at the Pier Head, overlooked by the Liver Building.
The memorial is of granite stone and measures 48 feet (14.6 metres) high. It was designed by Welsh sculptor Sir William Goscombe John R.A. (1860-1952) and built at a cost of £4,500. It was unveiled on 6th May 1916. The memorial is noticeably pockmarked on the north-face of the pedestal, a consequence of German bomb and shrapnel damage suffered during the Second World War. It was awarded Grade II*-listed status on 14 March 1975. The memorial was restored in time for the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic. The stonework was cleaned and repointed, and the brightwork re-gilded.
The memorial stands on granite footings, with a wide base surmounted by a splayed granite pedestal. The pedestal is surmounted by a granite obelisk, with four allegorical figures at the base of the obelisk. The squatting figures are shown against a wave-form background surmounted by gilded sunrise carvings. At the north-west, the figure represents "Water" and at the north-east, "Earth". The figure at the south-west represents "Air" and at the south-east, "Fire". The obelisk is surmounted by four female figures, holding buoys between them, beneath a gilded torch flame.
The west side of the pedestal carries two male figures, a stoker (or fireman) and engineering officer. The engineering officer is carrying a spanner, used to help maintain the engines and mechanical equipment aboard the Titanic. The east side of the pedestal carries two male figures of coal trimmers, one with a shovel used to move coal from the bunkers to the stokers at the boiler furnaces. The memorial is significant in its depiction of the ordinary, working-class crew members.
The north side of the pedestal carries a relief carving of a three-bladed propeller encircled with a wreath, beneath the inscription:
In honour of All heroes of the Marine Engine Room This Memorial Was Erected by International Subscription MCMXVI
The south side of the pedestal carries an identical propeller and wreath carving beneath the inscription:
The brave do not die Their deeds live for ever And call upon us To emulate their courage And devotion to duty
The inscriptions make no reference to the Titanic. It was intended that the memorial commemorate the Titanic engine room heroes, however in the intervening years between the sinking and the completion of the memorial many more ships had been lost, especially during the opening years of the First World War. It was felt appropriate that the memorial dedication be broadened to remember all the "heroes of the marine engine room".