Jack Phillips was just 25 years old when he was promoted to chief wireless telegraphist on RMS Titanic – one of the biggest ocean liners in the world at the time of her launch. As the ship was fitted with Marconi’s new wireless operating system, he was required to use the most powerful wireless system on any merchant ship.
Before he joined RMS Titanic on her maiden voyage on 10th April 1912, he is believed to have told a friend that he would have preferred to work on a smaller ship, as he had a fear of icebergs.
However, despite his fear, when RMS Titanic hit an iceberg on 14th April 1912 at 11.40pm, Jack Phillips sprang into action, working tirelessly to communicate with other ships to ensure the passengers and crew were rescued.
As the ship began to sink, Jack remained at his post, sending out distress calls and advising on the ship’s position until the ship finally foundered. His final message was sent to the Virginia at 2:17 – just three minutes before the stern sank.
Jack Phillips tragically died aboard RMS Titanic, along with over 1,500 passengers and crew. However, thanks to his heroic actions, he was able to contact RMS Carpathia who arrived at the scene just before dawn, and rescued the 705 survivors.
Controversy has, unfortunately, plagued his memory, as well as his assistant, Harold Bride, as many believe iceberg warnings were not passed on to the captain. However, we should never forget how Jack Phillips remained at his post, sending messages to other ships as soon as he learnt it was sinking, even when Captain Smith told the radio operators to save themselves, he stayed.