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Wednesday, 21 March 2012

60) The Centenary of the ill-fated Titanic (15th April 1912- 15th April 2012); An Alderney Five Pound Coin commemorating the maritime legend.

60) The Centenary of the ill-fated Titanic (15th April 1912- 15th April 2012);
An Alderney Five Pound Coin commemorating the maritime legend.

·    The RMS Titanic was one of the three passenger luxury liners commissioned by the White Star Line for providing a weekly service from Southampton, England to New York City, United States.
·  Construction of the Titanic started in 1909 at Harland and Wolff’s shipyard in Belfast, the Company tasked by White Star Line for building the ships. More than 35,000 workers and engineers were employed to build the various ships being constructed by the shipyard, which was one of the World’s biggest and most modern shipyards of its time.

·  The specifications of the ship were:
Length: 269.06 metres
Tonnage: 46,329 gross
Beam: 28.19 metres
Top Speed: 23 knots
Maximum passenger and crew capacity: 2603 passengers and 944 crew (around one-third of the total capacity)
Lifeboats on board: 16 (each with a capacity of 65) & 4 Collapsible boats ( Thus, the total rescuing capacity of the ship was 1178 passengers  i.e. about one-third the Titanic’s passenger carrying capacity. Strange though this may sound, the ship actually had much more than the legal requirement of lifeboat capacity on board). Also, there were 3560 inflatable lifejackets and 49 lifebuoys.
·  The Titanic, aptly named, was not only the World’s largest Passenger liner of its time, but it was also the most luxurious. It offered to its passengers of an ultimate experience in luxury, although it could move at a slower speed than other liners, it more than made up for it through the luxury and lavishness it offered.
·    The forward grand staircase was very spectacular and built in the style of Louis XIV and was covered by an impressive glass dome and extended for five levels.
    The Fourth Funnel on the ship was a dummy
as the ship needed only three, but the
Designers thought that four funnels looked
more aesthetic on such a large vessel.
·The ship had three huge propellers. The outer
  propellers were the largest, each with three blades of manganese-bronze alloy with a total diameter of 23 ft and weighing 38 tonnes. The central propeller was smaller at 17 ft in diameter and weighing 22 tons. The propellers could be stopped, but not reversed.
   Of the 1296 passengers on board there were 28 different Nationalities, 13 honeymooning couples and 12 pet dogs. The break-up of the 918 crew members, included Captain Edward Smith,  seven watch officers, 23 women, 28 engineers, 289 boilermen and enginemen, 491 service staff and seven carpenters.
·         The bulkheads at bow and stern were as high as the D Deck; others were up to the E Deck.
  Featuring ivy and trellis work, the restaurant had French waiters and in good weather the windows could be opened.
·    The ship had its own orchestra which entertained first class passengers. It has been recalled by Titanic survivors, that the heroic members of the orchestra began playing in the first-class lounge following the collision with the iceberg and, after following the passengers onto the boat deck, they remained at their instruments until the end.
·     Six of the 35000 workers who had helped build the Titanic, were specially selected to go on the ship as a rare honour because they knew the ins and outs of the ship to act as a support group called the “Guarantee Group”. They along with the owner’s nephew Mr. Andrews, a leading ship designer in his own right, made no attempt to leave the ship and went down with the ship they had so meticulously built.

The sequence of events which led to the tragic fate:

·         2nd April 1912: Titanic left Belfast at 8.00 P.M. and arrived at Southampton the following day.
·        10th April 1912: At 11.45 A.M. after a grand inauguration and with thousands of cheering spectators on the quayside the Titanic set sail for New York stopping at Cherbourg at 6.00 A.M. to pick up passengers.
·  11th April 1912: the Titanic arrives in Queenstown, Ireland at 11.30 A.M. (approx.) where the last passengers get on board. At this point the Titanic had about 2223 passengers and crew on board i.e. much less than its stated capacity of 3550 passengers and crew.
·   14th April 1912:  Interestingly, the Titanic receives warnings throughout the day. The fatal iceberg is seen dead ahead at 11.40 P.M. and despite all efforts to avoid it, strikes the ship on the starboard side. Also, in hind-sight it has been theorised by researchers that if the officer on the watch had given the instructions to change course slightly to avoid the iceberg about half a minute before he did, one of the greatest shipping disasters of all time could have been avoided and the Titanic may have sailed harmlessly past the giant iceberg. However, we will never know what was going on in the mind of the officer on the watch, who also had a chain of command on the ship as well as accountability for a wrong decision to think about, before the instructions to change course were given. 

·         The ship did not sail into the iceberg head-on but suffered a glancing blow in a manoeuvre trying to avoid it. The iceberg did not open her plates like a can opener, but tore them apart at the riveted joints. The Titanic was designed to survive a head-on collision that would flood the first four of her water tight compartments or a collision from another ship that would ram her in the middle and flood a maximum of two compartments, however, the long rip in the hull was not foreseen and the ship began to sink.

·         At 12.45 A.M. the radio Operator Jack Phillips transmitted the distress signal “CQD” and at 12.25 A.M. Captain Smith ordered evacuation of the ship with “women and children” being put on the life-boats first. It appears that although , altogether, all the lifeboats (16+4 collapsible, in number)had an aggregate capacity of 1178 persons on board the Titanic only about 700 lives could be saved due to the “women and children” protocol being enforced by the ship’s officers and most of the lifeboats went almost half-empty. The survivors on the lifeboats also saved only a few passengers from the icy-cold waters for fear of the boats being over-filled or capsizing. These two reasons were the prime factors,  that,  at least 500 more lives could not be saved. As such, for about 1500 passengers on board there was no escape.

·         The Titanic sank at 2.20 A.M. (a little less than 3 hours after it struck the iceberg) taking with it almost 1500 lives to the horror of the survivors. The Carpathia arrived at the scene of the disaster at 4.10 A.M. (almost two hours after the Titanic went down to its watery resting place) to pick up some 710 survivors.
  .     Fatigue tests on recovered hull indicate that the steel contained high levels of sulphur making it brittle at low temperatures and liable to fracture rather than deform. Steel quality, nevertheless met the industry standards of the time when the concept of brittle fracture was unknown.

·         Though the wreck itself has never been recovered, nearly 6000 artefacts have been lifted from it and are on exhibition or in private collections today.

·         The first successful attempt to locate the Titanic was made in September 1985 by a joint American-French team, led by Dr.Robert Ballard, using side-scan sonar from research vessels Knorr and Le Suroit. The wreck was found at a depth of 2.5 miles , about 370 miles from Mistaken Point, Newfoundland.
.        Dr.Ballard revisited the site in 1987 and took more than 57000 photographs on the details of the wreck which was declared an International Memorial by the U.S. Congress in the same year.
·         In 1998, the first tourists started visiting the site. For about $70,000 tourists can visit the wreck in submarines/submersibles, which land on the Titanic’s wreck, causing it to deteriorate faster and reducing it from a Memorial to a “deteriorating Junkyard”.  

·         The ownership of the artefacts recovered has been the subject matter of several court cases and disputes.

·         Two films have been made on the Titanic tragedy. In 1958 “A Night to Remember” and in 1997 “Titanic” by James Cameron which won 14 Oscar nominations and 11 Awards. Cameron has now come out with a "Titanic-3D" version of the film to commemorate the Centenary of the maritime legend.
·         The Titanic was one of the three Olympic-class ocean liners – the others being the “RMS Olympic” and the “HMHS Britannic” (originally called the “Gigantic”). These 3 ships were the biggest of the White Star Line’s fleet of 29 steamers and ships. The Olympic was requisitioned by the British Government for war services as a troopship in September 1915. She was nicknamed “Old Reliable” and had to her credit striking and sinking of a German submarine U-103.  She had a narrow escape when in May 1934; she collided with the Nantucket lightship with the loss of 7 lives. Rendered unstable, she was broken at a ship building yard in 1937. The “HMHS Britannic” (Her Majesty's Hospital Ship) on the other hand was requistioned as a hospital ship in 1915 by the British Government. She struck a mine or a torpedo and sank in the Kea Channel, Aegean Sea in November 1916 in an eerie similarity to her sister ship,Titanic, four years earlier.

·         Taking advantage of the centenary year some persons who were in possession of Titanic artefacts, tried to set up an auction in the USA hoping to sell them for a fortune despite vehement protests. On the other hand, a couple of days earlier, I came across a news-item that the descendants of a surgeon John Edward who died on the Titanic, have been happy to find out that a letter that he had penned before the ship sank and which is in the possession of an anonymous collector-buyer will be returned to them for public display at Belfast. Indeed this is the least that the collector could do for Edward and his descendants.

Commemorative coin:

Alderney is the northern-most and third largest of the Channel Islands and is a part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, which is a British Crown dependency. The origin of its name “Alderney or Aurigny” is obscure and is possibly Germanic or Celtic. Alternatively, it may derive from the Norse “alda” (swelling wave, roller), “renna” (strong current, race) and “oy” or “ey” (island).

The island of Alderney has its own currency which is at par with that of the United Kingdom’s Pound Sterling. Interestingly, although it is authorised by legislation, Alderney does not issue its own Bank notes and issues coins only. Alderney coins are widely available to collectors only and not used in general circulation, and for normal circulation within the island, Guernsey and UK Notes and coins are mostly used and occasionally, Jersey, Scottish and Northern Irish currency circulates within the island. Also, Alderney occasionally issues commemorative coins in the 1,2 and 5 Pound denominations in cupro-nickel, silver or gold again only for Collectors.

 During research, it was discovered that the Titanic had sailed past Alderney as she travelled from Cherbough to Queenstown on what was to be her first and last voyage.
The Alderney Island has issued a five-pound commemorative coin to mark the centenary of the ill-fated Titanic, which has been brought out in an elegant album.

The face of the commemorative coin album shows the Titanic on its maiden doomed voyage together with the image of the ship on the reverse of the commemorative coin.

The obverse of the coin issued by the Royal Mint on behalf of Alderney, shows the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II designed by Ian Rank-Broadley (his initials appear below the Queen’s portrait “IRB”) which has been the approved design since 1998. On the periphery of this face of the coin are the words “ALDERNEY FIVE POUNDS” and “ELIZABETH II”, as well as the year of issue “2012”. (Notice that the letters “D.G.Reg” (By the grace of God Queen) and “F.D.”(Defender of the Faith) do not appear on this face, like in the Australian coin in the preceding post, and unlike in the coinage issued in the United Kingdom.

The reverse of the coin shown above shows the ship’s profile moving ahead to its doom with its boilers emitting steam. The “Thane Titanic Memorial” (situated in Ireland) is in the background of the ship. Above the ship are the words “1912 RMS – TITANIC – 2012”.
The Royal Mint engraver Lee Robert Jones has placed the memorial figure as looking down at the ship’s profile, as it sails through the Atlantic Ocean.

“Thane” the “Titanic memorial” was designed by Sir Thomas Brock in memory of the victims of the Titanic disaster and has been erected in Belfast, where the ship was built in the Harland and Wolff’s shipyard. The memorial is called “Thane” which is another name for the goddess “Fortuna” and shows her receiving the body of a seaman from two mermaids.

The memorial to the Titanic in Belfast, Ireland, as designed by Sir Thomas Brock.

An image of the Titanic as it has been resting at the bottom of the Ocean for the past century. 

The Canadian Mint and  the Perth Mint (Australia) too have brought out Commemorative coins on the Titanic Centenary.
Below is an image of the silver coin brought out by the Perth Mint, Australia.

An image of the coin issued by the Royal Canadian Mint to commemorate the centenary of the Titanic.

Guernsey Post has issued a set of six stamps on behalf of Alderney, revealing a little known connection between the island and the famous ship. The six stamps together make up a time-line of events surrounding the voyage of the Titanic.
The stamps show the ship embarking on its maiden voyage (36p), at full sail past Braye harbour in Alderney (47p), the ship’s grand staircase (48p), the orchestra playing as the ship sank (52p), the captain (61p) and the life-boats (65p).


British Crown Dependencies:

1) Specimen Banknotes from the States of Jersey

2) Coinage and Currency from the States of Jersey

3) Currency & Coinage of the Bailiwick of Guernsey

4) Currency & Coinage of Gibraltar : An Overseas Territory of Great Britain

5) Coinage of Gibraltar: (A British Overseas Territory): An Uncirculated Decimal Coin Collection Set minted by the Tower Mint, UK in 2010
6) The Isle of Man: An Uncirculated Decimal Coin Collection Set minted by Pobjoy Mint, UK in 2015

7) The Centenary of the ill-fated Titanic (15.04.1912 - 15.04.2012): An Alderney Five Pound Coin Commemorating the Maritime Legend

8) "Man of Steel": A Superman Movie: A set of stamps brought out in 2013 by Jersey post, the States of Jersey, commemorating Henry William Dalgliesh Cavill who played Superman in the Movie

9) Coins & Currency of Bermuda

10) The Bailiwick of Jersey - Presently circulating coinage - Pounds and Pence 

11) St. Helena & Ascension Islands: An Uncirculated Coin Set from 2003 

12) The Legend of the "HMAV Bounty" is interwoven with the heritage of the Pitcairn Islands: An uncirculated coin set from Pitcairn Islands in 2009 depicting the icons/relics of the Bounty minted by the New Zealand Mint 

Famous Battles

1) Bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo and Napoleon's Exile to St. Helena: (Part I): A One Crown Commemorative coin issued by the Ascension Island (minted by Pobjoy Mint UK) 

2) Bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo and Napoleon's Exile to st. Helena: (Part II) 1) A 5 GBP Coin issued by the Royal Mint UK. 2) A"Drie Landen Zilverset" ( ot the "Three Lands Silver set") containing coins issued by the Royal Dutch Mint including coins of Netherlands, Belgium and UK

3) Commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain by issuing a 50 Pence coin by the Royal Mint UK

Gold Coins:
1) Gold Sovereigns issued in 2013 & 2014 by MMTC-PAMP in India under licence from the Royal Mint, UK, carrying the "I" Mint Mark

2) Gold Half-Sovereigns minted by MMTC-PAMP in India in 2014 under licence from the Royal Mint UK bearing the "I" Mint Mark 

Silver Coins:

1) A 20 Pound Silver coin minted for the first timr by the royal Mint UK: reverse design carries the famous St. George slaying the dragon design found on Gold Sovereigns 

British India Coinage:

 1) East India Company Quarter Anna Copper Coin which is one of the first issues under the Coinage Act 1835

2) Victoria Coinage: When she was Queen and afterwards Empress

3) Edward VII: King & Emperor  Coinage

4) George V King Emperor Coinage

5) George VI: The last of the British India Emperors Coinage 

Other British Royalty: 

1) Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee Celebrations (1952-2012): A Five Pound Commemorative coin issued by the Royal Mint, UK

2) Commemorating Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation in 1953: A Five Pound Coin minted by the Royal Mint UK in 2013, depicting the Imperial State Crown

3) The Royal Coat of Arms of the UK: Great British 2012 Coin Set (Uncirculated) issued by the Royal Mint UK

4) Prince George's Christening Ceremony celebrated with coins issued by the Royal Mint UK in 2013

5) The British Empire:  A Case of Numismatic "segregation": (Guest Post by Rahul Kumar)

6) 1) The Portrait Collection: Various Portraits of Queen Elizabeth II on Coinage 2) The Fourth & Final Circulating coinage of the Portrait designed by Ian Rank-Broadley and the First Edition of the portrait of the Queen made by Jody Clark

 British Coinage:

1) The contribution of the Great British One-Pound coins in keeping alive the historical legends/emblems/heritage of the UK (1983 onwards)

2) Transformation of a Five shilling Coin (Crown) into the UK Twenty-five Pence & then the Five Pound Coin

3) Transformation of the Two Shilling Coin (Florin) Coin into the UK Ten Pence

4) The 350th Anniversary of the Guinea: A Two Pound Coin issued by the Royal Mint UK celebrating the milestone

 Commemorative British Coinage:

 1) Commemorating the Bicentenary of Charles Dickens: A Two pound coin celebrating his literary contributions during the Victorian Era

 2) Commemorating 50 Years of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) - presently called the World Wide Fund for Nature by issue of a Fifty Pence coin by the Royal Mint, UK

3) Coins commemorating London Olympics & Paralympics (2012)

4) Commemorating 150 Years of the London Underground : Two pound Coins minted by the Royal Mint UK, showing the "Roundel" logo and a train emerging from a tunnel 

5) Commemorating the 100th Birth anniversary of Christopher Ironside with his" Royal Arms" design on a 50 Pence coin issued by the Royal Mint, UK 

6) 800th Anniversary of the Magna Carta - the Universal Guidepost to Liberty and Freedom

Inspirations from Scottish History: 

1) The Legend of King Bruce & the Spider on Banknotes

Banknotes from Scotland:
1) Commemorating Sir William Arrol and his creation the Forth Rail Bridge by issues of Britain's first ever 5 Pound Polymer Banknote


  1. Ramchandra Lalingkar has commented on 20.11.13:
    "Fantastic post which provides detailed description of the entire history of one of the biggest famous ships named 'Titanic' - right from its measurements,weight etc. to its first and last journey till its sinking to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean as also the main travelers on board including animals. Not only this, your post includes the description and photographs of commemorative coins and stamps. Well researched and compacted in a short post. Thanks".


  2. Thank you so much for your encouraging comments, as always.

  3. The Alderney coin design does not appeal much... The Canadian coin still is ok.. Maybe I was hoping for a dramatic coin design that befits the subject.. and the romanticism associated with it now.

    1. You are right. My first impression when I received this coin from the Royal Mint UK was that it looked more like "a warship" rather than the legendary passenger ship shown on the cover of the coin album.