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Titanic

Over two-thirds of passengers and crew 1,523 men, women and children lost their lives in the freezing North Atlantic when the Titanic hit an iceberg on the night of 14/15 April 1912. Over the decades, many myths have emerged about the ship that her builders believed was unsinkable.

The facts are found in The National Archives, where there is much unique or rare material relating to the ship and her last hours. Highlights include newly discovered blueprints showing how the Titanic was built.

As well as shots of the ship before she set sail, we also hold photographs of the survivors being rescued, taken by passengers on board the Carpathia ship, and portraits of some of crew members and passengers, such as wireless operator Jack Phillips who was transmitting distress signals as the vessel sank.

There is evidence of the nation's grief at the loss with views of a memorial to the victims made in sand on Bournemouth beach and poems written to raise money for widows and their children. Box shots of a game based on the voyage give a different slant.

Then there are the passenger lists with brief details of each passenger, and official crew survivor record cards, in some cases including their photographs. The vast majority of people on board were emigrants from European countries looking forward to a better life in America. These people spent the voyage enduring the rough seas below decks in steerage. Only a few could afford the gilded surroundings of the first class areas.

The National Archives also holds the official registers of deceased passengers: cause of death was 'supposed drowned', as well as reports cataloguing the ship's design errors, the lack of lifeboats and the mistakes made during the short hours as the Titanic sank. The papers available include transcripts of interviews with the surviving passengers and crew members and copies of the distress signals sent by the ship to other vessels nearby.

See our Titanic 100 year anniversary exhibition and listen to our podcast Titanic: the official story, which takes you through the history of the ship using a selection of documents from The National Archives.

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