Titanic remembered at Marconi Day celebrations
HUNDREDS of people turned out to see a genuine Titanic-type radio room and witness how life-saving messages are beamed round the globe to mark 100 years since the disaster.
Almost 500 people went to the International Marconi Day celebrations at Chelmsford council's industry museum, Sandford Mill, on Saturday.
Members of the Chelmsford Amateur Radio Society fielded 150 messages marking the birth of the wireless inventor who opened his factory in the town in 1912, only weeks after the Titanic sank.
His radio saved 702 people of the 2,200 on board.
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Thunderstorm static blocked distant messages, but one greeting came from New York and another was picked up from Spain, said CARS treasurer Brian Thwaites. The 86-year-old of Great Baddow, who retired as a science teacher at St Peter's School in Burnham 27 years ago, also worked for electronics manufacturer Kelvin Hughes and Marconi Research. He said: "There's been a steady stream of well-wishers with very brief messages.
But former Marconi employee and author Tim Wander, who recently claimed the Titanic disaster was the making of Chelmsford, had a lot to say.
Launching his book about the 1912 New Street factory, he gave three lectures at Sandford Mill.
In a talk, Marconi And The Titanic, he said: "Before the Titanic, Marconi was almost bankrupt. He had borrowed money, equivalent to millions today, from his own family but there were only 40 sea wireless operators, he was building a brand new factory and the shares were worth shillings.
"After the disaster everybody wanted radio. Shares rocketed to £10 and New Street was ready. At the start of the Great War there were only 800 wireless operators.
"But after the Titanic disaster, Marconi radio schools sprang up everywhere and, by 1918, 80,000 people had been trained.
"Superior Marconi communications among the Allies, particularly at sea, helped win the Great War. The company also continued to invest in television, which had a secret element to it, which was radar.
"So when the television service was suspended for the war, the British government had hundreds of Marconi TV experts able to continue their work on radar.
"That undoubtedly saved Britain in the Battle of Britain and was a major contributor to winning the Second World War.
"It all goes back to the Titanic. That tragedy made Chelmsford the birthplace of broadcasting, it also made Chelmsford prominent in saving the world from tyranny. Marconi had genius and understanding of the value of publicity.
"He was a witness at both the British and American disaster inquiries and was the first person to greet survivors of the Titanic as they came off the rescue ship Carpathia in New York.
"He was never out of the news, and nor was radio."
Nick Wickenden, head of Chelmsford Museums, said: "We have had a great day."