Small plaque tells Titanic story

Commemorative tile inside All Saints ChurchTitanic memorial at All Saints

Around the interior walls at All Saints Church in Brightlingsea, is a frieze of wall tiles, commemorating the numerous mariners from the town who have lost their lives at sea, along with the name of their vessels that they were aboard. These tiles were instituted by the church’s vicar, Canon Arthur Pertwee, who originally intended them as a memorial for those lost in the Great Storm of 8th December 1872. He was assisted by Mr William Stammers, Church Warden and Mr Arthur Blyth, who wrote the inscriptions. In 1883, thirty-six men lost their lives at sea, and each of them was given their own memorial plaque. The tradition of adding another each time someone from Brightlingsea was lost at sea has continued ever since. The total number has now grown to over two-hundred individual tiles. These tiles are unique, and give an insight to Brightlingsea’s maritime past. These tiles draw visitors to the church from far and wide however, one tile stands out above all the others. The tile commemorating Sidney Conrad Siebert, who died on 15th April 1912 during the R.M.S Titanic disaster is by far the biggest draw for visitors.

Sidney Conrad Siebert was born on 23rd September 1882 in Wandsworth, London. His parents were Conrad Siebert, a baker and Emilia Brown. He had a younger brother called Marcus, two half-sisters and one half-brother from his father’s second marriage. Sidney’s grandfather was also a baker and was born in Lohne, Germany, about 75 miles N.E of Frankfurt, where his father was born.

All Saints Church in BrightlingseaSidney married Winifred Rose Savage on 5th October 1907 at All Saints in Brightlingsea and they had three daughters, Winifred, Lillian and Constance. According to the 1901 census, he was working as a yacht block maker or pulley maker in Brightlingsea, living at 22 Nelson Street. Sometime between 1901 and the next recorded census in 1911, he had secured work at sea and moved to Southampton, residing at 8 Harold Road in the Shirley area.

Before being transferred to the Titanic, he was formerly on the crew of the R.M.S Oceanic, which was a transatlantic ocean liner built for the White Star Line. She sailed on her maiden voyage on 6th September 1899 and was the largest ship in the world until 1901, when the R.M.S Celtic was launched. Sidney worked as a bedroom steward, earning £3.15 a week, which equates to approx. £340.20p in 2017 values. No information exists as to why he transferred across to the Titanic, however it’s possible that this move might have been encouraged by the White Star Line, as Titanic didn’t have a permanent crew. The vast majority of crew members were casual workers; who only came aboard the ship a few hours before she sailed from Southampton on Wednesday 10th April 1912. Sidney was again employed as a bedroom steward in the First-Class cabins, whilst also working as part of the victualling crew, delivering food and beverages to these cabins.

No documented evidence exists of Sidney’s time on board the Titanic, so I’m unsure as to his activities on that fateful night, although like other crew members, he would have done his best to help his passengers off the ship. We do know that he was pulled from the water by some of those in No. 4 lifeboat; where he died soon afterwards from exposure to the cold. His body was returned to the sea for burial.

Titanic carried twenty lifeboats which consisted of: 2 wooden cutters (capacity of 40 people in each), 14 standard wooden lifeboats (capacity of 65 people in each) and 4 collapsible canvas lifeboats (capacity of 47 people in each). These twenty 20 lifeboats could only accommodate 1,178 people, despite the fact that there were approximately 2,224 people on board. No. 4 lifeboat was located on the port side of the boat deck, adjacent to No. 1 funnel, immediately behind the No. 2 lifeboat. This lifeboat was one of the last launched at 01.50 a.m. It was under the command of Quartermaster Walter Perkis with forty-two people on board, ten of whom were crew. By the time the lifeboat reached R.M.S Carpathia around 8:00 a.m., sixty occupants were recorded as being rescued from this lifeboat.

The Titanic disaster remains today as one of the most famous passenger ships to sink with the loss of over 1490 lives.

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