The Captain who saved so many

Capt Arthur Rostron with Mrs J Brown Credit: ITV Meridian

Three present-day Cunard liners will mark the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster by remembering the ship that saved survivors on that fateful night. Ignoring the danger from icebergs the Cunard vessel Carpathia put on all steam ahead to get to the site of the sinking as quickly as possible.

Her captain Arthur Rostron later said that God had guided him as the ship - exceeding its normal speed of 14 knots - reached the Titanic just two hours after the sinking. Capt Rostron, 42 at the time, had responded to the SOS call - the first of its kind - from the Titanic.

The Carpathia's wireless operator Harold Cottam had only been in a position to receive the call as he was 10 minutes later than normal in turning in for the night. While off-duty stokers roused from their beds shovelled coal into the furnaces, Capt Rostron made preparations to receive survivors.

The first survivors came on board at 4.10am on April 15 1912 and the final person to reach safety on the Carpathia - at 8.30am - was the Titanic second officer Charles Lightoller.

Now with twice its normal complement of passengers on board, the Carpathia eventually arrived in New York on the morning of April 18. After being involved in war service, the Carpathia was sunk off the Irish coast by torpedoes in July 1918 - just four months before the end of the First World War. Five crew members were lost but 275 survivors were picked up and taken to Liverpool.

Commodore Rostron's granddaughter, Rosemary Pettet, recently said: "I was only a little girl, but I remember my grandfather as a modest person.

"He didn't really talk about Titanic as I believe he thought the sinking was such a tragedy it was not right to speak about it. I do, however, remember him saying about the rescue; 'It wasn't me, but the hand of God guiding me' as he was a religious man."

Carpathia's role will be remembered on all three present-day Cunarders - Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria - on Sunday April 15, with a commemorative dinner on board and during the ships' traditional Sunday church services. Capt Rostron had joined joined the Cunard line in 1895 and had been master of the Carpathia for only three months when the Titanic sank.

The Carpathia picked up all 712 survivors of the Titanic sinking, with Capt Rostron later being awarded America's Congressional Gold Medal and the American Cross of Honour. After serving as captain on other vessels, including the Lusitania which was later sunk in the First World War, Capt Rostron commanded Alaunia during the Battle of Gallipoli. He was knighted in 1926, and died in 1940. He is buried in the West End Church, Southampton.