THE grand-daughter of a ship’s captain who raced to rescue Titanic survivors has been involved in anniversary services to mark a century since the ship’s sinking.
Rosemary Pettet’s grandfather Sir Arthur Henry Rostron answered the SOS call from the doomed ship, turning his own vessel around and travelling at top speed to help the sinking liner.
The Carpathia was travelling from New York was bound for Fiume – now Rijeka, in Croatia – when awireless operator who had finished his shift picked up the distress signal and rushed to wake up the captain.
Retired Rosemary, who has lived in Berkhamsted since 1968, said: “As soon as my grandfather heard about it he did things straight away. They turned the ship around.
“The emphasis in the films is really on the Titanic. People forget the risks that my grandfather took. He knew he was going in amongst icebergs.
“He made sure the ship could go as fast as she could – they reached 17 knots that night.”
Sir Rostron ordered the heating and hot water to be switched off in order to make as much steam as possible available for the over-worked boilers.
But it still took the ship, which had a normal speed of 14 knots, 31/2 hours to reach the doomed ship’s radioed position.
A quiet and religious man, Sir Rostron never spoke of the rescue operation. “I think it was too awful,” said Rosemary. “People didn’t talk about it.”
However, he did write an autobiography, Home from the Sea, which was later republished under the title Titanic Hero.
On Tuesday last week Mrs Pettet attended a memorial service in Southampton, where she grew up, to mark 100 years since the Titanic set sail.
She laid a wreath at the request of cruise firm Cunard and on Sunday she unveiled a blue plaque at her grandfather’s home in the town.
Mrs Pettet was just three years old when her grandfather died of pneumonia in 1940, aged 71.
“I just remember him being a quiet man. My grandmother was the more lively one to meet socially. I know he was a dutiful man and a religious man,” she said.