From her heroic engineers who maintained power for the ship's generators to keep the lights on, to her brave postal clerks who struggled to move bags of mail to higher decks, there emerged many stories of individual and collective heroism and bravery amongst the Titanic's passengers and crew. In the days following the sinking one of the most telling stories of heroism recounted was that of her musicians and the musicians tablet in Southampton is one of many memorials to the musicians.
During the sinking the musicians, led by Wallace Hartley, playing together initially in the first-class lounge before moving out onto the boat deck. As the lifeboats were loaded with passengers and lowered their music filled the air. As the situation became more serious, and the angle of the deck became more perilous the musicians changed from playing ragtime tunes to hymns. All eight men died in the sinking and their bravery was widely recorded in survivors testimonies that emerged after the sinking.
On 24 May 1912 a memorial concert honouring the heroism of the musicians was held at the Albert Hall in London. Reports at the time noted that over 10,000 people had attended, and "seven of the world's leading orchestras numbering together nearly 500 instrumentalists, combined to render a programme of classical music, such a treat as music-lovers never had before" and that the orchestra was "the largest and most powerful that had ever appeared in the Albert Hall". Seven internationally-renowned conductors led the massed orchestras, amongst them Sir Henry J Wood, the celebrated conductor of the famous Proms (the Promenade Concerts), and English composer Sir Edward Elgar.
The memorial is in the form of a white marble tablet. The tablet is framed by two pilasters supporting an entablature, surmounted by a segmental-type pediment. The pilasters have incised vertical fluting and square capitals, with circular motif decoration. The entablature is formed of a slender frieze surmounted by a cornice. Above the segmental-type pediment has a circular bas-relief motif at its centre. The pediment is inscribed with the following inscription:
In memory of the heroic musicians of the S.S. "Titanic" lost on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York April 15th 1912.
The central section of the tablet between the pilasters carries a central plaque with relief carving showing a female figure representing grief besides the Titanic sinking. The lower edge of the plaque is inscribed with musical notes of four bars of the hymn 'Nearer my God to Thee', widely reported as one of the hymns played by the musicians as the Titanic neared her end. The names of the musicians are listed around the plaque in the following order: W. Hartley, C. Krins, R. Bricoux, W. T. Brailey, J. Woodward, J. F. Clarke, J. L. Hulme, P. C. Taylor. Beneath, the tablet has the following additional inscriptions:
They died at their posts like men. Erected by the members and friends of the Amalgamated Musicians Union Southampton Branch
Unveiled by His Worship The Mayor Councillor H Bowyer R.N.R. April 16th 1913
The memorial was unveiled in Southampton Library on 16 April 1913 by the Mayor of Southampton. The library stood where the memorial stands today, however that building was destroyed in 1940 during the Second World War. The memorial was lost; the memorial seen today is a replica that was made by Woolston-based stonemasons W Cornish, and unveiled on 7 March 1990 in the presence of Titanic survivors Bertram Dean, Millvina Dean, Eva Hart and Edith Haisman.
- Daily Sketch, The (1912) Titanic's Bandsmen - Impressive Memorial Concert; 25th May, 1912 In Bryceson, D. (1997) The Titanic Disaster: As Reported in the British National Press, p. 271.
- Darani, Zoe (2004) The Musician's memorial Southampton: Hampshire Library and Information Service, http://www.hantsphere.org.uk/ixbin/hixclient.exe?a=query&p=hants&f=generic_objectrecord.htm&_IXFIRST_=1&_IXMAXHITS_=1&t=hs-hs-titanic_9&%3dcms_con_core_identifier=hs-hl-hs8016-i-00-000.jpg&t=hs-hs-titanic_9&s=LApjZ_t5ZL1
- Eaton, J. P. & Haas, C. A. (1994) Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy (2nd edition) Yeovil: Patrick Stephens Ltd.
- New York Times, The (1912) The Titanic's Musicians New York: The New York Times, 22 April 1912