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TITANIC DIAPERS: The Search for John Diaper

Refrain: They built the ship Titanic, to sail the ocean blue,

They thought they had a ship that water would never go through

But the Lord's almighty hand knew that ship would never land

It was sad when that great ship went down.

 

Enter Philip Curry via back stair case

 

Curry: Allow me to introduce myself, I am Mr Philip Curry, the Southampton Manager of the White Star Line and I am here to welcome you on board the company's new flagship, Titanic. I can scarcely believe it was less than 12 months ago that I was in Belfast witnessing the launching of our newest liner along with 100,000 others. Those of you who have travelled on her sister ship the Olympic will know all about the luxuriousness of that vessel, and I can assure you that we have used the experience gained on that liner to ensure Titanic surpasses even that pinnacle achieved by the Olympic.

 

The Titanic appeals to the pleasure-seeking millionaire who finds time to enjoy luxury rather than in the business-seeking millionaire who finds comfort in the thought that he is saving time. You will find that to take a complete tour of Titanic will involve you in a whole day's work!

 

Our first class suites - of which we have an unusually large number - are each decorated in different styles and periods. You will find the Promenade deck has increased size to accommodate more guests. We have also made the Café Parisien Restaurant bigger and as you can see, the first class dining room enables over 550 passengers to dine at the same time.

 

One of the most striking rooms on the ship is the Turkish bath with its connecting cooling room. It is decorated with blue and green panels with great use of teak and gilt with bronze Arab lamps, couches, inlaid tables and a handsome drinking fountain. I am sure you will agree it will provide the utmost comfort and luxury.

 

Second class passengers are also generously provided for with a dining salon which extends the full breadth of the ship, there is also a large library and smoking room. The second class staterooms are of a superior character with unusually spacious promenades.

 

Even the third class accommodation is very good with large public rooms, airy apartments suitably furnished which are in excellent positions.

 

The Titanic is, in the estimation of those privileged enough to view her, another triumph in British shipbuilding and shipping. In every detail the latest addition to the White Star Line has left nothing to be desired. Thank You.

 

Reporter: Mr Curry If I may, Hampshire Independant. Is it correct that the watertight subdivision of the Olympic and Titanic is so arranged that any two compartments may be flooded without any way involving the safety of the ship?

 

Curry: Indeed, I believe the design of the watertight compartments render the Titanic almost unsinkable.

 

Reporter: It is true the designer of the ship Mr Andrews and the chairman of the White Star Line, Mr Ismay are among the passengers?

 

Curry: Indeed that is correct - and what greater endorsement can there be for Titanic's maiden voyage!

 

Reporter: I believe there 333 first class staterooms on board sir, some with four-poster beds?

 

Curry: Yes, that is correct.

 

Reporter: Apartments cost £870 I believe?

 

Curry: Sir, it would not be polite for me to discuss finance at such a time.

 

Reporter: I understand the liner has a fully fitted gymnasium and one of the new Marconi wireless rooms.

 

Curry: Yes, yes and the only swimming pool to be found on a steamer!

 

Reporter: Very luxurious sir, and how many millionaires will be sailing on the maiden voyage ?

 

Curry: I really am not a liberty to-

 

Reporter: I have here the passenger list it includes the Countess of Rothes, Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff Gordon, Colonel and Mrs Astor - on their honeymoon - Mr Guggenheim-

 

Curry: Is that the bell I hear for going ashore?

 

Reporter: Just one more point if I may sir, it has been commented upon, that there appear to be only a small number of lifeboats on board?

 

Curry: What we have is more than adequate! The likelihood of any need to evacuate the ship is minuscule. Now madam, unless you wish to file your story with the New York Times, I fear we must leave all the fortunate passengers to enjoy what will be a memorable maiden voyage

 

(Exit down main staircase as women dash the other way)

 

Enter women, waving hankies as if seeing off the ship, lots of 'has she sailed yet' 'can you see her' 'say hello Mrs Simmons hello Mrs Diaper

 

Mrs Simmons: My Fred got a place as a first class steward, he was promoted from being second class steward on the Oceanic, he didn't want to leave the Oceanic he was very happy there but he was persuaded just for the maiden voyage.

 

Mrs Diaper: My John came over from the Olympic, I suppose they want their best men on board with all those toffs travelling

 

Mrs Simmons: lots of tips I'm hoping, and so are the company as they're only paying him £3 15bob a month.

 

Mrs Diaper: My John's a fireman, not much chance of tips for him, still £6 a month is a fair wage I suppose. I shall miss him its not quite a year since we married and we've just had a baby.

 

Mrs Lovel: Such is the life of a sailor's wife - or mother, my son is on board, as a grill cook, mind he lied about his age to make himself appear younger. Apparently the crew quarters are the finest they have seen and its great to have work, its been hard since the coalminers strike, so many families have been one the parish, St Mary's workhouse has been overcrowded these last few years.

 

Mrs Simmons: Oh look there she is (lots of comments - did you see she almost hit that liner, isn't she huge no wonder they almost called her the Elastic etc)

 

Mrs Diaper: Well that's it for a few weeks, would you ladies like to come back for a cuppa - I'm only over the back at Derby Road

 

(Agree and exit down main stairs. Lightholler comes up back stairs)

 

Lightholler on duty, bit of pacing about, perhaps a message delivered to him, looking through binoculars etc. Eliot and Michael need to come up main stairs to do Voices and Jill needs to join to do lifejackets)

 

Voices off

 

ICEBERG RIGHT AHEAD (Eliot)- Lights go down and come back up darker

 

Light: Hard Astarboard

 

THE HELM IS HARD OVER SIR (Michael)

 

Light: Slow ahead. Stop. Seal Watertight compartments

 

AYE AYE SIR (Michael)

 

Light: Firemen, draw the fires to prevent explosions

 

AYE AYE SIR (Eliot)

 

Light: Rouse the passengers, lifeboat drill (if we have lifebelts we can involve audience line some of them up by gap to side passage, Eliot and Jill come from back of room collecting a couple of people)

 

AYE AYE SIR (Michael and then come forward with a message)

 

Light: Mr Bride, Transmit the new distress signal SOS

 

Bride: YES SIR (go out via main stairs)

 

Light: Man the Lifeboats

 

AYE AYE SIR

 

Light: Abandon Ship, women and children first (Eliot, Jill guide people back to seats, only collect jackets if its easy, if not wait till end, then go down main stairs. Kevin go down back stairs)

 

(Lights go down to the strains of 'Nearer my God to thee' Fiona)

 

Two women come on -up back stairs - stand either side of stage facing audience.Curry comes up back stairs and stands centre stage but behind

 

Curry: I regret to inform you that Titanic foundered about 2.30am on April 15th. About 675 crew and passengers have been picked up by the ships' boats of the Carpathia. The California is remaining and searching the position of the disaster. The names of those saved will be posted as soon as received.

 

Woman One: My child kept asking me why are we waiting here - all I could say was 'we are waiting for news of dad'. The night before sailing I put the white star on his cap and whilst I was doing it the star fell all to pieces. I said then I didn't like this. My neighbours boy had a dream about the boat the night before sailing day and he afterwards said they had a dread of her. I know he was not very keen on going but nevertheless he went down. My Fred is sure to be alright, he was always one of the lucky ones.

 

Curry: A have received the following message from his majesty King George V

The Queen and I are horrified at the appalling disaster which has happened to the Titanic and at the terrible loss of life. We deeply sympathise with the bereaved relations and feel for them in their great sorrow with all our our heart

 

Woman two: Its no use looking at the lists for Jack, he was on the death-watch poor bloke, I know he's gone but I know he would have done his duty. On 14th April a large picture in our house crashed to the floor - that's a bad omen, all seamen and their families know that, my mother said 'My goodness a ship will go down tonight'. I told my children this morning that their father will not be coming home any more, I told them that in the paper it says there are some children lost and your father would never leave a child behind, no matter what happened

 

Curry:this letter has come from the wife of Captain Smith

To my fellow sufferers, my heart overflows with grief for you and is laden with sorrow that you are weighed down with and with this terrible burden, that has been thrust upon us. May God be with us and comfort you all, yours in deep sympathy, Eleanor Smith

 

Exit Curry back stairs Enter Reporter from back of hall and stand in same place

 

Reporter:'A letter to the Times from Lord Beresford'

 

Nothing can exceed the heroism of the captain, officers and seamen of the ship; but officers and seamen are the first to offer a wholehearted tribute of unbounded admiration to those whose working below, as they well know how often the real grit and courage of the officers and men of these departments is called upon in moments of emergency. It is stated that the lights were burning until a few minutes before the ship took her final plunge. This proves that the officers and men below remained at their posts when they must have know that death - the most terrible and painful that it is possible to conceive - awaited them at any minute, either by the bursting of a steam pipe or water rising in a compartment.

 

Of 325 first class passengers 203 were saved

Of 285 second class passengers 118 were saved

of 706 third class passengers 178 were saved

 

Of 885 crew, 212 were saved, of those 43 of 66 deck staff were rescued, 72 of the 325 engine room crew and 97 of the 494 victualling staff. Of the officers, Second Officer Lightholler, Third Officer Pitman and second Marconi operator Bride survived.

 

Woman One: First class steward Fred Simmons wasn't on the list. The shock of the news caused me to miscarry and I fell into a depression. Hardly a household in Southampton was unscathed. It was said that in Briton Street nearly every house contributed its quota to the crew, one street in Nicholstown had some 20 distraught households. Their pay was stopped from the minute that the ship sank, it took a month before his back pay arrived, 15s. I don't know how I am to pay the rent, if his body is found I will have to pay to transport it back or it will be buried in Canada. The coroner hasn't even given me a death certificate he's still 'supposedly drown'. He was a good singer, he wrote to me from the ship saying he was hoping to do a show, it would have earned him extra money. It would have been handy as we've just moved into our new home and have a baby. His letter was the first sent to our new home....

 

Woman Two: John Diaper, fireman was saved, I thought I would never see him again, they never let firemen get in the boats but he wasn't on duty when the ship struck and was on lifeboat watch. Knowing he was a rower his officer ordered him into the last boat and he was picked up by the Carpathia and disembarked at New York City on Thursday 18 April. The crew had no clothes but what they stood up in, the workers in Woolworths in New York felt so sorry for them they collected clothes for them. When he got back to Plymouth on 28 April the Union wouldn't let anyone talk to them, there was all this talk about how it wasn't right for crew to survive when passengers drown. He sent me a telegram to meet him at West Station at 11pm that was when I really believed he was alive.

 

Exit Reporter down main stairs Enter Miss Newman up back stairs taking same spot

 

Miss N: I am Miss Newman, honorary visitor from the Titanic fund. I am pleased to report that the Fund stands at £414,000! The committee which was formed to organise the relief for widows, orphans and grieving parents has decreed the following:

 

Widows of officers shall receive a pension of £2 plus 7s 6d a week for their children. Firemen and stokers families will receive 12s 6d plus 2s 6d for children. A crew widow who remarries will receive £28 and a passenger widow £31. We estimate 187 widows, 350 children and 200 parents will benefit from the fund. The relief will be terminated automatically on death or remarriage. Girls will be supported until they are 18 and boys till they are 16. Officers sons will be supported through their education and their School fees paid and the children of the crew will be found apprenticeships.

 

(Exit Miss Newman and women down back stairs)


Enter Senator Smith from up main stair case followed by the witnesses & reporter who go and stand in the side passage till called, reporter can pretend to be taking notes.

 

Smith: Ladies and gentlemen, please come to order. The New York Board of Enquiry into the loss of the Titanic calls order. We call Harold Bride, second Marconi operator. You are Mr Bride of Bannisters Hotel, Southampton?

 

Bride: Yes Sir

 

Smith: And you were one of two Marconi operators on duty that evening?

 

Bride: Yes Sir, Jack Phillips had taken the 8pm to 2am shift and I was due to be on duty from 2am till 8am.

 

Smith: On the night of the sinking Mr Bride, you had the job of relaying messages to and from Captain Smith on the bridge regarding the progress of the Carpathia and other ships in the vicinity, whilst Mr Phillips worked the key?

 

Bride: Yes Sir

 

Smith: Tell us in your own words what happened when the Titanic hit the iceberg.

 

Bride: I was conscious of waking up and hearing Phillips sending to Cape Race. I read what he was sending. It was a traffic matter. I remembered how tired he was and got out of bed to relieve him. I didn't even feel the shock. I hardly knew it had happened until after the captain had come out to us. There was no jolt whatsoever.

 

I was standing by Phillips telling him to go to bed when the Captain put his head into the cabin.

 

"We've struck an iceberg" the captain said, "and I'm having an inspection made to tell what it had done for us. You better get ready to send a call for assistance. But don't send it until I tell you."

 

The captain went away and in ten minutes, I should estimate the time, he came back. We could hear a terrible confusion outside, but there was not the least thing to indicate there was any trouble. The wireless was working perfectly.

 

"Send the call for assistance," said the captain, barely putting his head in the door. "What call should I send?" Phillips asked. "The regulation international call for help. Just that." Then the captain was gone. Phillips began to send CQD. He flashed away at it and we were joking while he did so. All of us made light of the disaster. We joked that way while we flashed signals for about five minutes. Then the captain came back.

 

"What are you sending?" he asked.

 

"CQD" Phillips replied

 

The humour of the situation appealed to me. I cut in with a remark that made us all laugh, including the captain.

 

"Send SOS" I said, "It's the new call, and it may be your last chance to send it." Phillips with a laugh changed the signal to SOS.

 

Smith: And what happened next Mr Bride?

 

Bridge: I noticed as I came back from one trip that they were putting off women and children in lifeboats. I noticed that the list forward was increasing. Phillips told me the wireless was growing weaker. The captain came and told us our engine rooms were taking water and that the dynamos might not last much longer. We sent that word to the Carpathia. I went on deck and looked around. The water was pretty close up to the boat deck. There was a great scramble aft, and how poor Phillips continued to work through it I don't know. He was a brave man. I learned to love him that night and I suddenly felt a great reverence to see him standing there sticking to his work while everybody else was raging about. I will never live to forget the work of Phillips during that last awful fifteen minutes.

 

I looked out. The boat deck was awash. Phillips clung on sending and sending. He clung on for about ten minutes, or maybe fifteen minutes after the captain had released him. T

 

Smith: And after you were relieved from your duties Mr Bride, how did you escape the ship?

 

Bride: From aft came the tunes of the band. It was a ragtime tune. I don't know what. Phillips ran aft and that was the last I ever saw of him alive. I went to the place I had seen the collapsible boat on the boat deck, and to my surprise I saw the boat and the men still trying to push it off. I guess there wasn't a sailor in the crowd. They couldn't do it. I went up to them and was just lending a hand when a large wave came awash of the deck.

 

The big wave carried the boat off. I had hold of an oarlock and I went off with it. The next I knew I was in the boat. But that was not all. I was in the boat and the boat was upside down, and I was under it. And I remember I realised I was wet through, and that whatever happened I must not breathe, for I was underwater.

 

I knew I had to fight for it and I did. How I got out from under the boat I do not know, but I felt a breath of air at last........

 

Smith: Take you time Bride

 

Bride: Thank you sir. I felt I simply had to get away from the ship. She was a beautiful sight then. Smoke and sparks were rushing out of her funnel. There must have been an explosion, but we heard none. We only saw the big stream of sparks. The ship was gradually turning on her nose, just like a duck that goes down for a dive.

 

Smith: Thank you Mr Bride (Bride goes and stand to the other side) We now call the highest ranking surviving officer: Second Officer Lightoller. Are you sir, Herbert Lightoller of Netley near Southampton?

 

Lightoller: Yes sir

 

Smith: Mr Lightoller, can you please in your own words describe the events that led to the loss of the Titanic.

 

Lightoller: We struck at 2.20am. As soon as I was notified I dressed and went back up on deck. My boats were all along the port side and by the time I had got my watch well employed, stripping down the covers and coils down, it became obvious to me that the ship was settling. I swung the boats out and made for the Captain, cupping both my hands over my mouth and his ear, I yelled at the top of my voice "Hadn't we better get the women and children into the boats sir?" He heard me and nodded in reply.

 

Its a risky business at the best of times to attempt to lower a boat filled with people between 70-80 feet at night time. My idea was that I would lower the boats with a few people in each and when safely in the water fill them up from the gangway doors on the lower decks. I lost the bosun's mate and six of the watch as we tried to get the boats out. I detailed two of the remaining watch to go away with each boat as it was lowered.

 

About this time I met all the engineers as they came trooping up from below. Most of them I knew individually, they had loyally stuck to their guns long after they could be of any material assistance. Up to that time they had known little of what was going on, and it was surely a bleak and hopeless spectacle that met their eyes. Empty falls hanging loosely from every davit head, and not a solitary hope for any of them. In point of fact, they were lost to a man, not one single survivor out of 35.

 

Having got away all the boats on the port side. I went over to the starboard to see if anything further was to be done but all the boats had been got away. Just then the boat took a plunge; I was above the wheelhouse and could see the frantic struggles to climb up the sloping deck utterly unable to even hold out a helping hand......

 

There was only one thing to do and I might just as well do it, and get it over, so turning to the fore part of the bridge, I took a header. Striking the water it was like a thousand knives being driven into one's body and for a few moments I completely lost grip of myself - the water was 4 degrees below freezing. As the ship went down I was blown away by a shaft of hot air. The bow of the ship was now rapidly going down, piling the people into hopeless heaps around the steep decks and by the score into the icy water. Had the boats been around, many might have been saved, but of them at this time there was so sign.

 

I eventually made my way to an upturned boat and from there saw Titanic take her last tragic dive to seek a final resting place in the unfathomable depths of the cold, grey Atlantic.

 

Smith: Thank you, you are excused (join Bride) Finally we call Captain Rostron of the Carpathia. Captain Rostron can you please relay events from when you first received the distress signal from the Titanic?

 

Rostron: We had been at sea for three and a half days bound to Gibraltar from New York and were 58 miles from the Titanic's position when the distress signal was received. Mr Cottam, our wireless operator, told me about the distress signal at 12.35am. I ordered the ship to turn round and told the chief engineer to put on another watch of stokes and make all possible speed to Titanic. We received another call from Titanic which said "come quick our engine room is filling up to the boilers". I ordered Cottam to tell Titanic that all Carpathia's boats were ready and that we were coming on a hard as we could. We received no acknowledgement and never received another word.

 

I ordered the doctors on board to prepare to receive survivors. The English doctors and assistants remained in the first class dining room, the Italian doctor and assistants in the second and the Hungarian doctor and assistants in the third. Everything was made ready by 3.45am and at 4am we were close to the boats. All survivors were on board by 8.30am

 

Smith: Did you not consider the safety of your own ship in making for the Titanic at speed across an ice-strewn sea?

 

Rostron: My actions were prompted by my interest in humanity. Although I was running a risk with my ship and passengers. I had to consider what I was going for.

 

Smith: Captain Rostron, your conduct deserves only the highest praise. To make 17 knots to cover 58 miles across an ice-strewn sea to reach the stricken liner was an act of great bravery.

 

Rostron: Well sir, we flushed oil down the heads to calm the sea.

 

Smith: Most ingenious sir. We are adjourned. (go and stand by witnesses)

(As names called stand forward so by the end we have witnesses one side, and women on other and then Senator can come and stand in the middle. Reporter come and stand to the side )

 

Reporter: Captain Rostron saved 760 souls from the Titanic, and received the congressional medal of honour from President Taft and was knighted in 1926. He became Captain of the Master Mariners Club in Southampton and died in 1940. His grave is in West End.

 

Mr Lightoller returned briefly to duties as first officer on the Oceanic but in August 1914 became Lieutenant Lightoller of the Royal Navy. He received the DSC for attacking the Zeppelin L31 with a torpedo boat and later rammed and sank a submarine, gaining a bar to his DSC. After the war he returned to the White Star Line but they wanted to forget the Titanic and all those associated with her. None of the surviving officers ever got their own commands. So after 20 years service he resigned from the White Star Line. The depression years were not easy but in 1939 Lightoller was again employed by the Royal Navy to survey the German coastline with his wife, under the guise of an elderly couple on holiday. And, in 1940, he took his boat Sundowner over to Dunkirk and though the boat had never carried more than 21 persons, succeeded in carrying a total of 130 men from the beaches. He died in 1952.

 

Although Harold Bride survived, being picked up by the Carpathia, he suffered badly from frozen and crushed feet, due to the effects of the cold and the position in which he was sitting on the collapsible hull. Whilst on board the Carpathia, Bride manned the Marconi telegraph, helping to send countless messages relaying names of those saved to land. Bride never got over the experience and moved away to Scotland to avoid the celebrity that went with being a Titanic Survivor. He died in comparative obscurity in 1956.

 

(Ladies come forward as called)

 

Mrs Lovel lost her son John Lovel Diaper, grill cook on the Titanic. His body was never found.

 

Mrs Simmons son Edward took up his apprenticeship at the age of 14 as he received 10s a week the Titanic fund stopped his support after supplying him with a suit, his tools and paying his apprenticeship fees. He trained as an upholsterer, working for a company that supplied furniture for passenger liners - but he never went to sea

 

Mrs Diaper's husband John only made two further trips at sea, 7 weeks on the Arcadia in Oct 1912 and 3 weeks on the Oceanic in January 1914, working instead locally until he was called up for service in the first world war as a Sapper, holding the honours medal for service and the 1914 star. He was wounded in action in Nov 1914. He returned to army service as a cook in the Royal Engineers. He eventually retired to Somerset where he died in 1955.

 

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