IN THE chaos surrounding the sinking of the Titanic there was initially great relief back home.
The first snippets of information suggested that all passengers had been plucked from life boats, without any loss of life, in the early hours of 15 April 1912.
But over the next 24 hours the full scale of the disaster was dawning on a shocked world.
The liner, which was on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York and considered unsinkable, had struck an iceberg and gone down with the loss of more than 1,500 lives.
Some 700 passengers survived but before they had even been delivered to land, by the rescue ship Carpathia, questions were already being asked about the adequacy of lifeboats.
In the first edition of the Daily Express to fully cover the tragedy it was also reported that the captain of the Titanic had been warned about icebergs by sailors on another vessel.
Both the lack of boats and the failure to reduce speed in the face of the icebergs risk would feature prominently in the subsequent enquiry into Britain’s worst maritime disaster.
The Titanic had just 20 lifeboats, which was barely enough for half the people on board. A full-scale evacuation of the 52,000-ton ship had never been envisaged.
It later emerged that the collision had caused compartments beneath the waterline to buckle and flood. The enormity of the damage was not immediately realised, with some on board later reporting feeling only a slight shudder. Others played football with chunks of ice which were found on deck.
The stricken ship drifted in the Labrador Current for two-and-a-half hours before sliding under the water, with a rumbling roar.
The band really did continue to play as, despite the fatal shortage, many lifeboats rowed away half full. People who ended up in the water died from hypothermia.
With eyewitness reports not yet available, the Daily Express focused on the scenes at the offices of the White Star Line in New York. Relatives who besieged the building were “weeping and hysterical”, demanding a full list of survivors. It was also confirmed that there was no hope for anyone left un-accounted for.
“In this fashion, throughout the day, the White Star offices were turned into a tabernacle of grief,” wrote the newspaper’s correspondent.
Some of the cream of Edwardian and American high society was lost. There was a heart-rending account of how the wife of Benjamin Guggenheim offered “all her wealth” to charter a steamship to look for the missing mining tycoon.
The front page on April 17 also carried a message of sympathy from King George V and Queen Mary.
However grief soon gave way to anger as details of the unequal treatment of passengers in different classes on board began to emerge. Only a handful of people in steerage (third class) even made it on deck, because doors were deliberately locked in a misguided attempt to keep the ship afloat. Out of 79 children in steerage, 52 were drowned.
There was also criticism of the shambolic evacuation overseen by Captain Edward Smith, who went down with his ship. His last known words, on a final tour of the deck, were to crew members, telling them: “Now it’s every man for himself.”
Distress calls from the Titanic gave the wrong location, hampering the rescue operation.
In a footnote to the disaster the wreck of the Titanic, split in two, was located in water two miles deep in an expedition in 1985.