Early reports that the Titanic had struck an iceberg and was sinking were met initially with incredulity and not viewed as authentic. However, rumours began to spread through the town; by the afternoon of Monday, 15 April most people were aware that the vessel had met with some disaster. Over the following days, crowds of expectant relatives gathered outside the White Star offices in Canute Road, waiting for names of survivors to be released. The first survivors’ lists were posted up on 17 April, but early information was patchy and in some cases inaccurate.
The next few days saw the town dealing with the effects of the disaster. Flags flew at half-mast, condolence notices filled the local newspapers and a memorial service was held at St Mary’s Church on 20 April. Surviving crew returning to Southampton were met by crowds at Southampton West (now Central) Station and welcomed by the Mayor, Henry Bowyer and White Star Line manager Philip Curry. The occasion was marked by an open-air service at the Marlands on 29 April attended by around 50,000 people.
Around 724 of the Titanic’s crew lived within the Southampton area. Of these, only 175 returned home. To families already brought to the brink of hardship by the coal strike, the loss of relatives in the disaster was devastating. Henry Bowyer became chairman of a Relief Fund set up to aid the widows, orphans and dependent relatives those who died in the sinking. Local people arranged concerts, sports days and other charity events to contribute to the fund, which helped families to pay school fees, medical bills, apprenticeship fees and for necessities such as milk, eggs and even artificial teeth.
Several memorials were erected to commemorate those lost in the disaster, some of which can be visited on the Titanic Trail.