On this day, the American House of Representatives suspended business while Congressman Boutelle declared that 'everyone who has read of the collision between the Republic and the Florida must feel there was one silent actor in the tragedy whose name should be immortalised, the Marconi Operator on the Republic, Mr John R. Binns'. John Binns (who was also known as Jack) went to St Mark's school in Gladstone Street, and the Boys National School (both in Peterborough) before starting work in aged 15 in the Great Eastern Station telegraph office. In 1901, he began work as senior operator in the Colchester telegraph office. Over the next eight years he built up a reputation of outstanding excellence while treating himself how to fix broken lines, apparatus, and connections and completing a Marconi three-month Telegraphy & Shorthand course in just five weeks. in January 1909, as chief telegraph operator on the RMS Republic, he set sail from New York with passengers seeking Mediterranean warmth instead of a cold American winter. In thick fog on 24 January, the steamship Florida rammed the Republic. For the next eleven hours, Jack used all his skills to improvise repairs to his damaged tranmitter and seek help. All passengers were saved. (jackbinns.org; Peterborough Local History Society Magazine Millennium Edition)
Taken from The Peterborough Book of Days by Brian Jones, The History Press, 2014.