It is well documented in books and records about the demise of the TITANIC; that Joseph Bell and his brave band of Marine Engineers and Engine Room Ratings stayed down at their posts and ultimately perished there, to keep the lights on during the TITANIC disaster, so that as many passengers as possible might survive. Bravery indeed!
Around this time last year I was sending out leaflets (an electronic copy can be downloaded from here) and news releases about Joseph Bell and the refurbished memorial stone dedicated to him. It stands in the family plot at St. Thomas-a-Becket Old Churchyard, Kirkhouse, Near Brampton, Cumbria, CA8 1JR. You can read the full story and lots of other stories about Joseph Bell and the TITANIC on the website: here.
I became slightly involved with the Joseph Bell Memorial Appeal, when I read about it in 2013 and have helped out occasionally ever since. I did it for 2 main reasons. Firstly, the fact that I have always thought the skills, inventiveness and capabilities of Marine Engineers in particular and all Professional Engineers in general, are not really appreciated by the public at large.
Secondly, the sacrifice that Joseph Bell, his Engine Room crew members and indeed every crew member of the TITANIC, who stayed at their posts and died in the disaster so that passengers’ lives could be saved, should never be forgotten.
In the photo, taken on Saturday 26 April 2014, I can be seen with Barrie Bell Hodgson, as we proudly unveil the refurbished Memorial Stone in St. Thomas-a-Becket Old Churchyard. I was asked to stand in when the VIP appointed to carry out the task had to cancel at the last minute and I was very honoured to accept the invitation.
The fact that Joseph Bell is still remembered is largely due to the hard work and dedication of Barrie Bell Hodgson and Ann Freer, who have both worked tirelessly for many years to see an overgrown patch in an very old churchyard, restored to as near its original condition as is possible, fully visible, with signed access paths and information boards.
They have also co-written a very good book titled TARN TO TITANIC, about ‘The Life and Times of Joseph Bell Chief Engineer’. It is available as a softback book from here or an e-book version can be downloaded for free from here.
In my earlier life I was a seagoing Marine Engineer for 7 years, working in comparable, if somewhat improved but still hot and dirty conditions, similar to those on the Titanic. Sometimes, instead of just reading the words about Joseph Bell and his Engine Room team I put myself in his position and wonder if I would have had the courage, not only to go back down below, to my certain death but to persuade my whole team to join me. Thankfully, I’ll never know.
This blog is very relevant currently of course, as we are seeing many people, who have dangerous or risky jobs, being asked, or feeling obliged, to go to work to help their countries and its population, back to as near normal living as we can get.
THOSE PEOPLE, AND THERE ARE MILLIONS OF THEM, CERTAINLY DESERVE TO BE PROUDLY REFERRED TO AS HEROES.
JHL MBE SSL Co. Chairman