OF all the many stories associated with the sinking of the Titanic 100 years ago this weekend none is perhaps more remarkable than that of Commander Charles Greame.
The black sheep of the Grime family of publishers here on the Fylde coast, Charles was on a Mediterranean cruise as a serving officer with the White Star Line. He was ordered in April 1912 to travel overland to link up with the Titanic as it undertook its maiden voyage.
Local historian Kenneth Shenton, who has been researching the commander’s life, says: “Owing to unexpected delays, he only reached Cherbourg in time to see the ship sail into the distance.
“No doubt initially cursing his luck, by a strange quirk of fate, 12 years later, Charles himself would be the victim of an equally horrific event, near Lytham.”
Born in Blackpool on October 5, 1874, Charles Herbert Grime was the fifth of eight children of the founding father of The Gazette, Alderman John Grime.
Eschewing the family’s extensive newspaper holdings, and determined to make his own way in the world, he changed his surname by deed poll to Greame.
Following his marriage in 1902 to Muriel Taylor, the family settled permanently at the heart of the resort, in Lincoln Road, although Charles’s lifelong passion for the sea would take him all around the world.
Having acquired his Master’s Certificate, apart from service with the Royal Navy during the Great War, his entire maritime career was spent with the White Star Line. Generally working the company’s prestigious North Atlantic routes, ships under his command included The Zealandic and The Bardic. Built in Belfast by Harland and Wolff in 1919 the 7,950 ton Bardic, with Charles in charge, arrived in Liverpool on July 6, 1924.
Kenneth says: “Having discharged its passengers, the ship and crew, with Charles in command, made its way to Plymouth to offload its cargo of wood, grain, frozen meat and lead.
However, losing its way in deep fog, The Bardic struck Maenheere Rock, close to the Lizard Lighthouse.
With the ship’s break-up making headline news, Charles’s distinguished career came to a sudden and untimely end.
“He attended a subsequent Board of Trade Inquiry in Liverpool, on November 3, and then travelled home on the 4.40pm business express to Blackpool Central Station.
“It was due to arrive in the resort at 6.10pm, but as the packed four-carriage steam train was approaching Moss Side, a mile or so from Lytham, a hidden flaw in one of the engine’s wheels caused it to dramatically jump the track.
“Crashing into and demolishing a signal box, the first two carriages of the four coach train overturned, the rear carriage instantly bursting into flames.”
Kenneth adds: “Within seconds, the driver, William Crookes and 12 passengers lay dead.
“The 13th victim, Charles Greame, severely injured and initially trapped under the train, died later that night in Lytham Hospital. Remaining the Fylde’s worst ever rail disaster, its death toll was almost double that of the Weeton tragedy of 1961.”