Southampton Marks Titanic Milestone, 100 Years After Setting Sail

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Chris Ison / AP

British Royal Navy Admiral Lord West casts a memorial wreath to victims of the Titanic disaster into the dock from where the liner sailed 100 years ago, in Southampton, England, on Tuesday, April 10, 2012.

It was exactly 100 years ago, on April 10, 1912, when the ill-fated Titanic sailed from the English port city of Southampton.

And the mood was suitably somber on Tuesday, when a series of events were held there in honor of the ship’s anniversary. More than 650 descendants of those on board met for a ceremony at the exact same place where the Titanic set sail. Southampton was home to more than a third of the more than 1,500 people who died when the ship hit an iceberg and sank on April 15, 1912, during its maiden voyage to New York.

(MORE: Famous Passengers Aboard the Titanic‘s Doomed Voyage)

Those who gathered threw flowers and wreaths into the water, before a minute of silence. Poignantly, a recording of the Titanic‘s whistle was heard across the docks at midday, which denotes when she left her mooring. The service concluded with the hymn “Nearer My God To Thee,” which it’s been said was played by the ship’s musicians as the Titanic sank.

Vanessa Beecham, who lives in the area, paid tribute to her great uncle Edward Biggs, a fireman aboard who died aged just 21. “I enjoyed the ceremony which was tasteful and moving,” she told the Press Association. “It was a worry during the anniversary that the families would be forgotten in all the razzmatazz like the cruise that left a few days ago, but this was lovely.”

After the service, the focus was on the future as well as remembering the grim events of the past. Firstly, many of the city’s schoolchildren paraded through the streets, holding photos of the ship’s crew. And the parade ended at the new SeaCity Museum, which contains a permanent exhibit to the Titanic, and was opened by gold medal Olympian James Cracknell. And in a sea of confetti, the museum was declared open by eight year old Henry Ward, whose great grandfather was a fireman onboard and survived the disaster. Amid tragedy, there can always be shoots of optimism.

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