Thursday, 15 April 2010

Local Hero

You may recall that I did a post in March about the town of Godalming, which I live close to.  There were lots of pictures of architecture, because I think it's quite a pretty place to live, but after I got home I realised that I'd forgotten to take some pictures of the stuff dedicated to our 'local hero'.

John George 'Jack' Phillips was born in Farncombe on 11 April 1887 and died on 15 April 1912, having just celebrated his 25th birthday.  His claim to fame is that he was the wireless operator on board the Titanic who stayed at his post until 3 minutes before it sank and, effectively, went down with the ship.  Apparently he did actually make it off the ship but died of hypothermia in the water close to Collapsible Lifeboat B.  His body was never recovered.

There is a small cenotaph to him in the shape of an iceberg in the local cemetery.  All the pictures on this page were taken using my iPhone so, sadly, you can't click on them to make them bigger, but the inscription reads: "In memory of John George Phillips, aged 25 years.  Senior wireless operator on RMS Titanic, sank April 15th 1912":

The Titanic and its fate has become quite iconic these days, and, to be honest, probably always has been.  The ship had, after all, been trumpeted as being 'unsinkable' and, it being its maiden voyage, was crammed with the wealthy and famous. It truly must have been a remarkable ship to board at Southampton.

I didn't want this post to end up being about the sinking of the Titanic but I did find some interesting pages on the intertubes while doing a brief spot of research.  For instance, this page has a great deal of information about the radio aspects of the disaster, including a time line and detailed list of all the telegraphic messages sent out up to the moment the radio went dead.  You can sense the panic as you read them.

And this page has more on the biography of Jack Phillips, including photos showing where he was born and went to school.  Probably only of interest to those with a detailed knowledge of Godalming and Farncombe, to be fair.

Godalming was very proud of Jack Phillips, so a collection was made and a memorial to him was built in the park beside the Lammas Lands. It was decided to make it cloister-shaped.  As it was sunny today (12 April), I thought I'd wander down there to take some photos and post them up on 15 April, the 98th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.

The information board at the entrance reads: "The Phillips Memorial Ground is so named after John George (Jack) Phillips, who came from nearby Farncombe.  He was the Chief Wireless Telegraphist on the Titanic which sank on 15th April 1912.  The Cloister was designed by Thackeray Turner, a local architect, and the garden it contains by Gertrude Jekyll.  It was built in 1913 at a cost of £700 following the purchase of this land for £300.  The Cloister was opened on 15th April 1914.  In 1965 one wall was removed and the timber pergola put in its place.  In 1914 the ground was laid out with paths, seats and fences.  Planting was carried out over the years.... [other stuff about the rest of the park]".

Apparently it's the largest Titanic memorial in the world.  This aerial shot gives some idea of the size:

So here, then, are my photos, in no particular order:

The inscription reads: "This cloister is built in memory of John George Phillips, a native of this town, Chief Wireless Telegraphist of the ill-fated SS Titanic.  He died at his post when the vessel foundered in mid-Atlantic on the 15th day of April 1912" and underneath it "The Postal Telegraph Clerks' Association provided this fountain and contributed towards the erection of the memorial".


Anonymous said...

It is a myth that the Titanic was trumpeted as 'unsinkable'. Apparently, that was something that crept into newspaper reporting after the event...
Pedantic of Croydon

peevish said...

Lovely photos, especially the one with the pond. It looks like such a peaceful place.

Alienne said...

It does look really lovely there. You will have to take some more photos when the vines or wisteria or whatever it is are in full swing.

Anonymous said...

A lesson in our fragility - is that what makes the Titanic attract such endless fascination? Hubris, technology failing, an old world sinking, destinations never reached, the Princess Di of the deep...

Mrs Jones said...

Pedantic of Croydon - this is probably true but there does seem to have been talk of it being unsinkable before it, er, sank -

Peevish - it's actually a bit run-down, to tell the truth. The pond is meant to be a fountain but I've never seen it do any spouting, and there are information boards dotted around on the walls that the local yoof have graffitied, and the bowl thing under the large carved inscription is badly broken. I guess the Council spends the minimum amount of money on its upkeep as it has more pressing needs these days.

Alienne - good plan, I will. Not sure if its wisteria although the trunks are thick enough.

Anonymous - you make a very good point, I think it's all those things. It really does have a hold over our cultural imagination.

Kella said...

Thanks for sharing this post, it was lovely reading.