It was to become one of the worst peacetime disasters in Thames history. The Duchess of York (later Queen Mary) tried 3 times to break the champagne bottle on the steel hull but it just bounced off. When the launch finally went ahead, the ship rumbled into the water and created a mini-tidal wave that caused a gangway to collapse and swept spectators into the river. Thirty eight people drowned and repercussions were felt in the local community for a long time to come.
During the morning session, historian’s Chris Ellmers (founder of Museum in Docklands) and John Graves (curator of Ship History at the National Maritime Museum) will lay out the wider historical context and social significance of this momentous tragedy.
The event was recorded by early film makers and work survives from two figures, R.W. Paul and E.P. Prestwich. Prestwich filmed from a high altitude and Paul shot his footage from a boat while his fellow crew were allegedly rescuing people from the water. When RW Paul exhibited his work soon after the disaster it became a source of bitter controversy.
BFI Silent Film curator Bryony Dixon will illuminate early film history and the key figures at the centre of this momentous event. Patrick Keiller (artist and director of London, Robinson in Space, Robinson in Ruins) will consider why this event captured his interest and imagination and why he decided to include it in his acclaimed exhibition, The City of the Future. The films are a key moment in early cinema and raise important moral questions. Finally, a speaker from the British Board Film Censorship will consider the wider debate around regulations that would begin over a decade later.
Details of this event are on-line at :
Interesting bit of East End history. Hat-trip SERTUC
UPDATE: Check out this contemporary report in the East Ham Echo Hat-tip Newham Story