Titanic Band – heroes at the moment of disaster

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The Titanic Band

The Titanic music band added a sense of heroism to this tragic event. Witnesses agree that the band played on till the end and it is certain that their memory will live as a memorial for generations to come.

The key person in the Titanic music band was Wallace Hartley. He was born in Colne, Lincoshire, could play the violin well, and had worked for years as a musician on ocean liners. On the Titanic band he was the leader of a quintet and their job was to play at church services and during tea and after dinner. In addition to Hartley’s five there was a trio who played at the reception hall. They played a piano, cello and violin. The two groups worked separately but on the night of the sinking joined together, possibly for the first time.

Titanic Band – Music even as the boat is sinking

Why did the Titanic band play even as the boat was sinking? They hoped to keep the passengers calm and upbeat and also the crew who had the daunting task of organizing the lifeboats. In this respect their determination to continue playing in the freezing cold even as it became apparent that there was no hope for the boat of for them must surely mark these men as heroes.

Which was their last song?

Hartley had once said that if he was on a sinking ship he would want his last song to be either “Nearer My God to Thee”, a beautiful hymn composed by English Christian poet Sarah Adams; or “O God our Help in Ages Past” by the famous hymn composer and father of English hymnology, Isaac Watts. Survivors testified that the Titanic band played “Nearer My God to Thee”. This is what the newspapers reported and this is what was traditionally accepted in the years since the tragedy. Wireless operator Harold Bride by contrast, reported that the band’s last song was “Autumn”. Probably he meant either the hymn “Autumn” or the “Songe d’ Automne” which was popular at the time. Since none of the band members survived we will never know for sure, but “Nearer My God to Thee” is the one ingrained in the public consciousness. Below are the words of this hymn.

In their Memory

Hartley’s body was found two weeks after the disaster, still wearing the band uniform. It was sent by boat to England. His funeral was attended by about one thousand people while many more thousands lined the streets to pay their respects to his funeral procession. There is a memorial erected in Colne dedicated to him and also a plaque in his home in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire. There is also a plaque to the band’s memory naming all eight members in Liverpool’s Philarmonic Hall. And so, the journey that started with the construction of the boat in Belfast Northern Ireland, came to an end.

Nearer My God to Thee – Lyrics

Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

E’en though it be a cross that raiseth me;

Still all my song would be nearer, my God, to Thee,

Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!


Though like the wanderer, the sun gone down,

Darkness be over me, my rest a stone;

Yet in my dreams I’d be nearer, my God, to Thee,

Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!


There let the way appear steps unto heav’n;

All that Thou sendest me in mercy giv’n;

Angels to beckon me nearer, my God, to Thee,

Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!


The with my waking thoughts bright with Thy praise,

Out of my stony griefs Bethel I’ll raise;

So by my woes to be nearer, my God, to Thee,

Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!


Or if on joyful wing, cleaving the sky,

Sun, moon, and stars forgot, upwards I fly,

Still all my song shall be, nearer, my God, to Thee,

Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee!

More Pages About the Titanic Tragey

Quick Titanic Facts

Titanic: The Beginning

The Titanic Sinking Part 1

The Titanic Sinking Part 2

The Titanic Sinking Part 3

The Mystery Ship that could have saved more people

The Passengers

The Survivors

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About the author

Originally from Scotland, Colin now resides near the beautiful seaside town of Portstewart on the Causeway Coastal Route. By day he works in IT and by day off he spends much of his time travelling around the Island with his young family, writing about his experiences for many sites both locally and nationally.