John Wesley Woodward was thirty-two years old when he joined the Titanic at Southampton. The ship's band were divided into two groups, a five-piece ensemble and a trio string section. The five-piece section was led by Wallace Hartley, who played the violin, accompanied by violinist John Law Hume, cellists Percy Cornelius Taylor and John Wesley Woodward, and bassist John Frederick Clarke.
During the sinking the band played together, first below deck and later out on the Boat Deck. Their impromptu performance was intended to put passengers at ease and they played on, with no regard to their own fate. They all died in the sinking, but their actions and the names live on, and the Titanic's bandsmen are one of the memorialised groups aboard the Titanic.
Previously John Wesley Woodward had resided in Eastbourne, in East Sussex, and played as part of the Eastbourne Municipal Orchestra, the Duke of Devonshire's Orchestra and the Grand Hotel Eastbourne Orchestra. In the aftermath of the sinking a consensus emerged that it was proper for Eastbourne to commemorate his life.
On 24th October 1914 a tablet was unveiled to the memory of John Wesley Woodward. The memorial, in the form of a rectangular granite tablet, was installed within the bandstand on the sea front. The ceremony was performed by the celebrated opera singer Clara Butt. The tablet was restored in time for the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic in 2012.
The tablet has two outer narrow granite pilasters and a central wider panel that form two rectangular recesses. The tablet is topped by a granite cornice. Within the two outer rectangular recesses are affixed rectangular brass plaques. The left hand brass plaque has a detailed inscription. The right hand brass plaque features a bas-relief representation, showing the Titanic in her final moments. The Titanic is shown with her stern high out of the water. In the background is shown the iceberg, while three lifeboats are shown dotted on an agitated sea.
The central panel features a circular bas-relief portrait medallion of John Wesley Woodward. Beneath is a bas-relief on a cello, John Wesley Woodward's instrument.
The inscribed plaque has a dedication in raised capital lettering, above a small bas-relief portrait of a cherub. The inscription reads:
This tablet is erected as a tribute to the self sacrifice and devotion of
John Wesley Woodward
(Formerly a member of The Eastbourne Municipal Orchestra The Duke of Devonshire's Orchestra and the Grand Hotel Eastbourne Orchestra), who, with others of the hero-musicians of the ship's band, perished in the Atlantic through the sinking of the White Star liner "Titanic" on April 15th 1912
"Faithful unto death"
- Eastbourne Gazette, The (1912) John Wesley Woodward In Eastboune Bandstand (2012) Titanic Memorial at the Bandstand Eastbourne: http://www.eastbournebandstand.co.uk/about/titanic/
- Eaton, J. P. & Haas, C. A. (1994) Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy (2nd edition) Yeovil: Patrick Stephens Ltd.