Everyone who has heard about the tragedy of the Titanic, or watched the film, probably remembers that the band kept on playing even as the ship sank into the ocean. They gave their lives so that people would remain calm and get on the boats in an orderly fashion. Nearly everyone who survived remembered the band, and we know that none of them survived, so the story certainly seems plausible. In this book, Turner looks at the men in the band – W. Hartley, C. Krins, R. Bricoux, W.T. Brailey, J. Woodward, J.F. Clarke, J.L. Hume, and P.C. Taylor – and considers both their lives before the disaster and the role they may have played in the final moments of the ship’s sinking.
I’ve never heard anything much about the musicians on the Titanic beyond the fact that they died playing. Like everyone else of my age, I’ve seen the film (twice in theaters) and their story is certainly a sad and noble one. Turner takes us behind the scenes with this book and looks at how exactly each man got on the Titanic. Who was waiting for them when they returned from the ship? How did each man become a musician? Were they career musicians or were they just building experience for greater things? These are all questions he seeks to answer.
He also considers the day of the sinking itself, thinking about what songs the men played, how two bands fit together into one for the final moments, and why they might have chosen to play. They could have been ordered to by the bandmaster, or they might have decided to carry on as one, knowing that they were unlikely to have a priority place on the available lifeboats anyway.
Lastly, Turner also looks at the aftermath of the disaster, and how these particular men’s deaths affected their families. The White Star Line, who owned the ship, did have to pay money out to the employees’ families, but who it went to was a matter up for debate in many of the men’s families.
Overall, The Band that Played On was a worthy, deeper look at these eight men, and a very good choice of read for people who are interested in further information about the Titanic and the people who actually ran the boat.
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