“Are you in favour of giving notice to establish the principle of a minimum wage for every man and boy working underground in the mines of Great Britain?” (Ballot paper issued by the Miners’ Federation of Great Britain, January 1912)

Saturday 24 February 1912
The Southampton Newspapers were all reporting on the possible impact of a National Coal Strike on the Town and Port of Southampton. The shipping lines were looking at their options. “The American and White Star lines can face a possible crisis with a certain amount of equanimity, for from the great Olympic downwards their vessels can coal on the other side of the Atlantic, or at Cherbourg, if necessary, although it is possible that should there be a protracted strike, one or two boats might lie up.” Union Castle “always keep a good stock of coal in hand, and if the worst came to the worst the Cape boats could coal at Madeira or Las Palmas, or even at the Cape itself.” North German Lloyd, Hamburg American, Hamburg South American, and Woermann lines coaled at Bremen and Hamburg. Royal Mail had coaling stations in the Azores, and at Tenerife, St Vincent, Las Palmas, Vigo, and Lisbon. London and South Western Railway had “no fears … though their stock of coal at Southampton is rarely greatly in excess of immediate requirements, the Company keep large reserves in London.” However, It was quite possible the LSWR Cross-channel service would be curtailed.
The Olympic needed 6,000 tons of coal, the American lines steamers between 3,500 and 4,000 tons, the Royal Mail ships 5,000 tons, and the Cape Boats between 2,000 and 3,000tons
The coals merchants were saying that their reserve of coal was very low, and that there had been panic buying.
Gas Company advertised that the price of gas had not increased, and that they had an ample supply of coal.

Saturday 2 March 1912
“Several companies have taken the precaution during recent weeks of considerably adding to the reserve supplies. It is possible that some of the inward ships will fill their bunkers elsewhere. If the miners remain out for any length of time the shipping industry will inevitably be thrown out of gear.”

Monday 4 March 1912
“It is stated that all available soft coal at New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore has been bought up to supply foreign steamers.”

Tuesday 5 March 1912
The Echo reported that local Southampton coal merchants had sufficient supplies to last a month to five weeks “if the present mild weather continues”, but that the coal price could reach 40s per ton.
Welsh industry was at a standstill, the Folkestone-Boulogne service was reduced to one steamer a day, and the supply of oranges from Spain severely curtailed. The London and South Western Railway was running a restricted service, and the workers at the Eastleigh Railway Works were being put on short time.
Troopships were still arriving, but would there be a railway service to carry the soldiers onward?
The first transatlantic sailings were cancelled: New York on the 13 March, and Philadelphia on the 20 March.

Wednesday 6 March 1912
There would be no mid-week sailing for New York: the Olympic had been delayed.
There would be no Southampton-St Malo service from 7 March, goods trains were necessarily curtailed, railway staff were on seven days tentative notice.
“Quietly and inevitably all sections of workers in the port are beginning to feel the pinch.”
At the Dock Station rolling stock was already lying idle, and 254 men were waiting to be stood off. “As far as possible [the men] will take their turns for the periods of employment a day at a time so that their turn of idleness will not press hardly on any individual. The Company are giving the men the option of taking their annual leave.”
From Thurs 7 March the 11.0, 2.10 and 6pm Red Funnel steamers would not go beyond Cowes to Ryde and Southsea.

Thursday 7 March 1912
Everywhere ships from the Atlantic liner down to the small passenger steamer are anchored silent
50 LSWR shore and marine staff were stood down at noon, and 1000-1200 men were already out of work in the town: men who would have been crewing the ships, or loading and offloading cargo. Porters hung around on railway platforms, unemployed men watch the sunrise from the piers and wharfs. There was no more coal to supply the hawkers: poorest people were debarred from obtaining coals at any price at all. Food prices were going up. 75 per cent of houses in the town had gas laid on for cooking, but not for heating. The Southampton Gas company had agreed to fit up two or more rooms in various parts of the town at which food could be economically cooked at an exceptionally small charge, or even for no charge at all for the unemployed. They were also prepared to keep the bakers going.
The Olympic had left Belfast.

Friday 8 March 1912
Viscount Howick, a prospective Unionist Parliamentary candidate, was taking a keen interest on the effect of the strike in Southampton, consulting with the mayor and local businesses. He was saying that as long as the Docks could continue to employ a large number of men they might hope to escape some of the acute misery which had fallen on other towns.

Saturday 9 March 1912
The Coal factors had stocks for no more than a fortnight, and no coal would arive in Southampton during the strike. The price of foreign coal was prohibitive. There were emergency train timetables, and no fires in the waiting rooms.
There was a speedily growing inconvenience to the shipping trade: restricted service to Havre and Channel Islands, and cargo services to France reduced. The Southampton-St Malo passenger and goods service had been suspended 7 March, and the 11.10am Cowes ferry would be cancelled from 12 March. White Star and other companies disclaimed liability if they could not keep to their advertised schedules. The Union-Castle Company’s reserve “will tide over the service for some little time”
Harland & Wolff’s and Thornycrofts were suffering “some inconvenience”, and delivery of materials was restricted. General stores like the one at 368 Portswood Road, once Stansfields, now, in 1912, owned by Harry Knight, must have struggled with supplies.
Bread would run short after a fortnight. “In the poorer districts, where every farthing has to be reckoned before it is spent, the wolf, at the present moment, stands very close to the door.” (Hampshire Advertiser 9 March 1912)
The hotels were empty of commercial travellers.

Monday 11 March 1912
Olympic finished coaling ready to sail Wednesday 13 March, but the next sailings of St Paul (23 March) and Oceanic were cancelled.
The train service between Dock Station and Royal Pier was replaced by a motor bus service as long as the strike continued.

Tuesday 12 March 1912
The Echo reported a sharp rise in the price of coal. There was a wholesale stoppage of Railway Traffic, especially as to goods from the large manufacturing centres, and a virtual suspension of cross-channel and Channel islands ferries.
Only two trade unions paid put of work benefits: the Amalgamated Society of Railway Workers and the Amalgamated Society of Engineers. The Gasworkers Union paid lock out money, but the Dockers Union did not.
Olympic left with “moderate” numbers 1st and 2nd class passengers, but record numbers of 3rd class.

Wednesday 13 March 1912
The LSWR Marine clerks were stood down. “Men will be taken from day to day. The burden of unemployment shall be shared.” (Southern Daily Echo) The goods train service was curtailed: rough traffic eg bricks would not be carried until further notice. There was a single cargo service to Honfleur, St Malo, and Cherbourg, but no passenger boats to the French coast. The well-to-do were stocking up on food, ad the poor were “living from hand to mouth.”
Two more unions paid out of work benefits: the Steam Engine Makers Society, and the Brass Finishers Society.”

Thursday 14 March 1912
The 1300 hands at Harland and Wolff were on three-quarter time, and its electricity supply was only 50%. The Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners and the Dock Wharf Riverside and General Workers’ Union were paying benefits.

Friday 15 March 1912
There had been a sharp rise in the price of coal, up by 5 shillings in a week. Merchants’ stocks were running low, and no-one knew when the next supply would be obtained.
There was the ugly possibility of famine prices being reached: the price of flour was up 1 shilling a sack – but local bakeries had not yet put up the price of bread, at least for the next week to ten days.
Train services continued to be hit. There would be no Sunday trains on the St Denys-Netley-Fareham branch, all cheap tickets (except workmen’s) were discontinued until further notice, and there would be no pleasure trips.
The weekend sailings of the big liners were not likely to be affected. Union-Castle were happily placed as they could coal at Madeira or elsewhere on their homeward trip, and again replenish their depleted bunkers on the outward voyage. It is not likely there would be any change – “at all events for some weeks.”

Saturday 16 March 1912
“The negotiations between the coalowners and the men’s leaders have finally broken down.” (Southern Daily Echo)
The coasting trade was suffering, and the loss of the cargoes that normally came to Southampton for transshipment to America meant that the American Line was particularly effected.
“As one small trader put it, ‘Even if the strike were to be settled tomorrow, we would feel the effects of the shortage of money for some time, for those who have been out of work will not be able to pull around again all at once.’”

Monday 18 March 1912
“The White Star Liner Oceanic arrived from New York yesterday, and joins the Philadelphia and the New York, of the American Line, amongst the steamers now lying up.” (Southern Daily Echo) “It is understood that coal suppliers will not be able to supply bunker coal after the end of march at any River Plate ports.” This would effect the supply of meat and grain from Argentina, and the services of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, Lamport and Holt, and Houlder Bros.
LSWR staff on half pay, who lived in the Company’s cottages, would have their rents halved “while the coal strike lasts”, and men in other accommodation would receive an allowance of 2s a week.
Their were crowds shopping on Saturday night, but trade was not brisk, and no trains meant no out-of-town customers. If you could only buy coal in small amounts, you paid more overall: a ton of “kitchen nuts” cost £1 18s, but if you only could only buy 28lbs (a quarter of a hundredweight) at 7d, that would add up to £2 8s 6d per ton. “Rather than pay this price many people experimented with the staying power of the handy briquette.”

Tuesday 19 March 1912
With White Star and American Line transatlantic crossings cancelled, the mails would be dispatched on the North German line’s Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse. The “new White Star Line’s leviathan” the Titanic was announced as arriving in Southampton 3 April, after her sea trials, ready to set sail on her maiden voyage on Wednesday 10 April. “Only unforeseen circumstances arising out of the prolongation of the strike are likely to interfere with [this sailing]. (Southern Daily Echo)
Coal prices were up again, and stocks were running low. “Fortunately for the sake of the poor the weather remains mild.”

Wednesday 20 March 1912
“Every day that the great strike continues seems to increase the scene of stagnation at the Docks … Everywhere vessels, big and little, swung in idleness at the end of their cables, from the smaller packets of the London and South Western Railway Company … to the transport Rewa, which has finished her season’s work, lying hard by the liner New York.” (Southern Daily Echo)
The RMSP’s Oruba had just arrived from the West Indies and was discharging her cargo.
The Midland and South Western Railway announced a reduced timetable, hinting of further revisions if the strike continued.

Thursday 21 March 1912
The Echo reported that nearly 100,000 tons of shipping were lying idle in the port:
Oceanic 17,274 tons
Majestic 10,147 tons. She should have sailed for Liverpool “some time ago” to take her place on the White Star’s Canadian service “but under existing circumstances it seemed useless to send her round to the Lancashire port.”
St Paul 11,629 tons
New York 10,789 tons
Philadelphia 10, 786 tons
Oruba 5,971 tons
Tagus 5,548 tons
Saxon 12,385 tons
Walmer Castle 12,546 tons. She was due to sail for the Cape the next day.
The list did not include “the very considerable fleet” of LSWR cross channel boats:
Princess Ena
which had “taken up snug winter quarters in the outer dock, and the Company’s two crack boats … which are lying up down the river”

“That distress in the industrial parts of Southampton is becoming more acutely felt is shown by the abnormal number of applicants for admission to the Workhouse, and a steady increase in the number of applicants for shelter at the vagrants’ ward. Without fuel, and almost without bread, the lot of many unkilled workers and their families is a parlous one.” Most of those unskilled labourers would normally be employed in the Docks. Food prices had not noticably increased yet, but local shopkeepers were complaining of “an appreciable falling off in their trade.”

Over the river, in Woolston and Bitterne, a relief fund had been set up, donations to Mrs J Blizard, Avenue House, Manor Road. Itchen and District would not become part of the Borough of Southampton until the 1920s.

Friday 22 March 1912
“The third week of the great strike finds general dislocation of the shipping industry still spreading and hanging like a black cloud over the port. Daily the ranks of the unemployed are swelled to join the knots of sailors who stand idly about.” (Southern Daily Echo)
The Cape boats were still running, and the German transatlantic liners, but only one American Line vessel was still in service, the St Louis. She was due into Southampton on Saturday 23 March, but “it seems quite probable that at the last moment her departure, too, may be cancelled. Shipowners, in fact, are ‘marking time’, carefully husbanding their slender stocks of coal.”
The troopship Soudan sailed for the Mediterranean with drafts of Scots Guards and 21st Lancers for Egypt, Royal Garrison Artillery for Gibraltar and Malta, and Royal Engineers, also for Malta.

Saturday 23 March 1912
The next sailing of the St Louis was indeed cancelled. “All four vessels of the American Line will now be idle. In fact, until the coming of the Titanic in the first week in April, the Olympic is the only boat of the White Star and American Lines still running.” (Southern Daily Echo) The General Steam Navigation Company’s service between Southampton and Bordeaux was dependent on the American Line’s New York service, and therefore it was suspended.
The //Kinfauns Castle
arrived from the Cape later than usual, having coaled at Madeira. The Avon would also be coaling at Madeira on her way home from South America. The LSWR announced reduced cross-channel services.
“Some well-known men in the local shipping world take the view that the strike will last until Easter. Should that gloomy prediction be fulfilled, the cry of starving children will be heard.”

Monday 25 March 1912
“Gloomy Easter Prospect … Even if a settlement were arrived at at once, its effect would be still felt during the Easter holidays.” (Southern Daily Echo.) Holiday destinations such as Bournemouth and the Isle of Wight relied on the railways and railway steamers to bring the holiday makers, and many of those holiday makers were out of work, and would not have the money to spend on pleasure. It was unlikely that the special excursion trains would run, either, with their cheap fares.
The crew of the St Louis were paid off, and joined the “knots of sailors who stand idly about.”
Wealthier Southampton householders had “taken the precaution of laying in sufficient fuel to last … for months,” as they could afford to buy in bulk, but “in Southampton’s poorer quarters many have ceased to use coal, though the weather is cold and damp. In house after house in the meaner streets not a curl of smoke ascends from the chimneys.”
The Titanic would be towed down Belfast Lough on the coming Saturday, ready for sea trials before setting off for her delivery voyage “this day week”

Tuesday 26 March 1912
Sixteen men mustered in Southampton to go to Belfast as part of the Titanic’s delivery voyage deck crew: Quartermasters Arthur John Bright, Alfred Oliver, Walter John Perkis, George Thomas Rowe, and Walter Wynn; Storekeeper John Foley; Able Seamen Harry Holman and William Henry Lionel Weller; Boatswain Alfred Nichols and Boatswain’s Mate Albert M Haines; Lookouts Frederick Fleet, George Alfred Hogg, F Jenner, and Archibald Jewell; Lamp Trimmer Samuel Ernest Hemming, and Joiner John Hall Hutchinson.
There would be no mid-week sailing from Southampton to New York. The Olympic was “at present in mid-Atlantic on her homeward trip, and the other boats of the American and White Star Lines have been withdrawn from the service.” (Southern Daily Echo)
There continued to be rumours of coal shortages in the South American ports.
Householders seemed to be using more gas, especially as it provided heat as well as light. Fortunately, the weather remained mild “and the poorer householder can face the discomfort of an empty grate with more equanimity than would otherwise have been the case.”

Wednesday 27 March 1912
“Easter Holiday Traffic … All enquiries as to excursions are met at the moment with shakes of the head and doubtful words.” (Southern Daily Echo)
The sailings of the Philadelphia on April 6, and New York on April 13 were cancelled. Their deck hands and engine room staff would have signed on in New York at American rates for the round trip, “and have been fortunate enough to draw their money while their boats have been laid up.”

Thursday 28 March 1912
The 240-odd Deck and Engineering crew of the St Paul sailed from Liverpool on the Baltic, returning to the United States. “The men of the other idle ships of the American Line will probably follow them.” (Southern Daily Echo 27 March)

Friday 29 March 1912
The Coal Mines (Minimum Wage)] Bill received the Royal Assent.
“PEACE PROSPECTS: Hopeful View of the Miners’ ballot”
“Upwards of fifty men and women applied to the magistrates for relief.” (Southern Daily Echo.) The Police Court managed a relief fund donated by “generous people in the town,” which was going beyond its usual remit to give one-off help of 5s to married men, their wives and families. Unfortunately, they could not help single men with their limited resources. The mayor was calling a public meeting to open a fund “to meet the distress of the town.”
LSWR’s goods service would only carry essential commodities: animal and human foodstuffs, coal and other fuels, and patent matures. This meant that local builders faced a shortage of lime and bricks.
The Avon sailed for South America, but even if the Coal Strike was resolved American Lines’ Philadelphia and New York would not sail on April 6 and 13. “It is more than probable that further batches of the deck and engineering staffs of the idle American Line boats … will be sent back to New York next week by the Olympic which is due to arrive at Southampton about midnight tonight.”
The White Star line was protecting the scheduled sailings of Olympic and Titanic, and suggested that their speed would be limited to 20 knots, a move the Echo believed prospective passengers would accept, “glad to cross the Atlantic in the luxurious comfort afforded by either vessel.”

Saturday 30 March 1912
"The miners’ leaders have now returned to the coalfields to superintend the ballot of the men for or against the resumption of work” (Hampshire Independent)
There would be no cheap fares or excursions on the railways over the Easter holidays, but the LSWR would run “augmented” train and boat services.
The Oceanic’s sailing on 17 April had been cancelled, but the Southern Daily Echo reported that Docks were “busy”:
TheEdinburgh Castle had arrived from the Cape, after coaling in Madeira.
The Olympic arrived from New York, where she had “picked up a large quantity of coal.” She would be sailing as usual the next Wednesday, 3 April. The Titanic should be arriving the same day, ready to sail April 10. “The Titanic is assured of having her bunkers filled.” (Southampton Times) There would be no ceremony for her arrival, and she would not be open for inspection, despite the hopeful applications already being received. “The courteous ‘No’ has been so often uttered that it was suggested that the services of a gramophone be requisitioned at once!”
The transport Somali, which had lain off Netley overnight, came up with troops from South Africa and Gibraltar.
Lucie Woermann, homeward from East Africa
and Prinzregent and Saxon, bound for the Cape.
Three boat trains left the Docks Station for passengers, mails and goods from the Edinburgh Castle, and a “special” left with passengers from the Olympic and 25 trucks of scenery from companies touring with productions of “Ben Hur” and “Pink Lady.” There were also boat trains arriving with passengers for the outgoing Cape liners. The troops from the Somali “were sent to their various destinations by ordinary train.”
Southampton’s poorest were now really feeling the pinch. “The mournful queue of the workless drawn up in Bargate Street [at the Police Station] has become a daily spectacle.” (Hampshire Advertiser) “the attitude of the waiting line was one of incomplaining, if not cheerful, resignation. Many of the women had little tiny tots in their arms, and if some were too tired, worn and helpless to talk to each other, they hugged the sunny side of the road, and strove to make the best of things… Warm petticoats had been pawned days ago to provide food.” 93 applicants had received the 5s relief payment, and 150 loaves “kindly given by a local firm” has been distributed by the police.
The St Mary’s Ward Conservative Association was also distributing relief “in the most deserving cases.”

Monday 1 April 1912
The Mayor of Southampton, Councillor Henry Bowyer, held a meeting at the Guildhall (in the Bargate) to “consider means of alleviating local distress occasioned by the coal strike.” The Police had been administering the Mayor’s Poor Box Fund for the last few days, and the Mayor appealed for more funds, and proposed that they should continue to do so, rather than set up a special fund. The Education Sub-Committee responsible for school meals planned to arrange for the feeding of schoolchildren during the holidays. You could only claim from the Poor Box Fund if you weren’t receiving out-relief from the Guardians of the Poor. The Salvation Army had opened a soup kitchen, and was providing groceries “in special cases.” (Southern Daily Echo)
At 4 am 103 Firemen boarded the Titanic in Belfast for her delivery voyage. They would have food and bedding provided on the way round to Southampton, and return tickets to Belfast. 99 of these men took advantage of those return tickets.
At 6 am 36 Seamen were on board. Of these, 29 Able Seamen and a Boatswain would not be signing on again in Southampton.
Of the men who had mustered in Southampton on the 26 March: Quartermasters Arthur John Bright, Alfred Oliver, Walter John Perkis, George Thomas Rowe, and Walter Wynn; Storekeeper John Foley; Able Seamen Harry Holman and William Henry Lionel Weller; Boatswain Alfred Nichols and Boatswain’s Mate Albert M Haines; Lookouts Frederick Fleet, George Alfred Hogg, F Jenner, and Archibald Jewell; Lamp Trimmer Samuel Ernest Hemming, and Joiner John Hall Hutchinson, only F Jenner does not appear on the crew agreement for the maiden voyage.
Of a skeleton Victualling crew, including cooks and bakers, only three failed to rejoin the ship.
Captain Edward John Smith and the other officers of the Titanic had travelled independently to Belfast to join her. Captain Smith had arrived in Southampton on Saturday as the master of the Olympic, and was replacing Captain Herbert James Haddock, who had commanded the Titanic through her launch until she was handed over to the White Star Line. Captain Haddock would be sailing with the Olympic as her master on Wednesday 3 April. Three of the officers: Charles H Lightoller, James P Moody, and Harold Pitman were coming from the laid-up Oceanic.
The Titanic would not be open to public inspection, as there was a great deal of work still to be done on board.
There would be boats to St Malo and Cherbourg Thursday 4 April, returning from Cherbourg Good Friday 5 April, and St Malo Saturday 6 April, and Tuesday 9 April, returning Wednesday 10 April.

Tuesday 2 April 1912
The Southern Daily Echo gave a fuller report of the Mayor’s speech at the Guildhall meeting. “Many persons thought that a public meeting at the present juncture was somewhat premature. He would be happy to think that this was the case; but … he had come to the opinion that there was much distress in the town, more, perhaps than the average man in the street was aware of.”
Forty “necessitous cases” received assistance at the police station.
The Oceanic’s sailing on 17 April was cancelled, as there would be an “interregnum” between the miners going back to work and the coal supply “filtering as far South as Southampton… It is hoped that this will be the last of the Transatlantic cancellations.”

Wednesday 3 April 1912
The Olympic sailed for New York at noon, under the command of Captain H J Haddock, previously master of the Oceanic and in charge of Titanic at Belfast.
The Titanic was due in “before the clocks chime midnight.” (Southern Daily Echo.) Her master, Captain E J Smith, had been transferred from the Olympic.
The troopship Plassy arrived from Bombay with 511 passengers, including 94 invalids for Netley.

Thursday 4 April 1912
“There are many innocent sufferers from the present industrial upheaval, who have no direct interest in the strike, and will derive no benefit whatever happens. The casual dock labourer at the best of times lives more or less from ‘hand to mouth’ … Every day that passes enlarges the zone of distress.” The various relief funds did their best, and received welcome donations, including 8s from the employees on No. 7 floating bridge.
RMSP’s Danube would be leaving for South America on Good Friday, and Union-Castle’s Kinfauns Castle and Guildford Castle would be leaving Saturday “according to schedule.”
“Quietly and unostentatiously, without any blare of trumpets, the Titanic, the world’s latest and biggest ship, steamed up the silent waters of the Solent and docked at Southampton at midnight, taking the same berth that the //Olympic occupied 12 hours before.”
Stewards and storekeepers began “signing-on.” There was a lot to do on board and less than a week to do it in.

Good Friday 5 April 1912
Titanic was dressed with flags and visible from around the town, but all was quiet on board. Bedroom steward George Beedem had signed on the day before, and in a letter to his mother he said he was "standing by the ship today to see she doesn't run away."

Saturday 6 April 1912
The Miners’ Federation met to consider their executive’s recommendation to return to work after a ballot failed to give the requisite two-thirds majority in favour of not returning to work. After two to three hours lively discussion, the Conference voted by 440 votes to 125 to adopt the resolution.
Most of Titanic’s crew were signing on today.

Easter Monday 8 April 1912
“No one who looked into the Hippodrome … would have thought that the country was just escaping from the throes of a great strike. There was not a vacant seat in the big auditorium, and standing room was at a premium.” (Southern Daily Echo 9 April) The “roaring” farce “On the Beach” by Sir Francis Burnand was performed by Lawrence Brough and Company, a “rollicking little trifle” that had everybody laughing loud and long. Also on the bill were dancers the Three Mahers, comic acrobats Dart and Leonard, wire walkers, pianists, singers and comedians.


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