Titanic tragedy 100 years on: story of the Hatfield man who died in the sinking
16:50 13 April 2012
SUNDAY marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic with the loss of 1,517 souls, among them was a crew member born in Hatfield.
Ship’s steward Joseph Alfred Gunn was 28 when he perished on April 15, 1912, along with the hundreds of other victims on the ‘unsinkable’ RMS Titanic.
Tragically the ship had been built to be able to withstand a head-on collision, but the side-on impact and the nature of the long opening in her hull proved fatal.
Joseph was born in Hatfield after his father Joseph Smee Gunn, a blacksmith and farrier, moved to the town in 1880 with his own father.
Joseph Snr lived in Stonecross Road and, after his death at the age of 80, in 1935 he was buried in St Luke’s Cemetery.
Joseph Jnr was one of the ship’s 421 victualling crew – of those 322 were stewards who performed more than 57 different functions in each class’ dining saloon, public rooms, cabins and recreational facilities.
Around 60 of them survived.
Stewards were what are today referred to as waiters, waitresses, maids or attendants.
As a second class assistant saloon steward, Joseph Jnr would have been paid a monthly wage of £3,15s.
Prior to becoming part of the crew of the Titanic, he worked on its sister ship the RMS Oceanic.
After setting sail for New York 100 years ago on Tuesday (April 10, 1912) with 2,223 passengers on board, the Titanic hit an iceberg four days into the voyage, at 11.40pm on April 14. She sank at 2.20am on April 15.
The ship did not sail into the iceberg head-on but suffered a glancing blow as the captain, Edward J. Smith, tried to steer the massive vessel around it.
The high casualty rate resulting from the sinking was due in part to the fact that, although complying with the regulations of the time, the ship carried lifeboats for only 1,178 people.
Also Joseph’s chances of survival were much reduced as he was a man – a disproportionate number of men died due to the ‘women and children first’ rule that was rigidly enforced by the ship’s crew.
The procedure meant that many lifeboats rowed away half-filled.
Joseph Jnr is officially recorded as having died in the sinking and his body has never been recovered.