Rare sale of Titanic letter reveals last moments of crew members

Jack Sprat

Jack Sprat

2016-10-07 09:32:54

The last moments aboard The Titanic are revealed in a letter which is now up for auction at Henry Aldridge and Son.

The company's Titanic and Icons Auction will offer a treasure trove of historic items, including rare letters, official documents and artefacts from aboard the ill-fated ocean liner.

Two of the rarest lots are a pair of letters relating to the ships assistant Surgeon Dr John Simpson.

Having joined the Titanic on April 6, 1912, Simpson he was still technically assigned to the Royal Army Medical Corps Territorials. One of his final acts before he set sail was to write to the Adjutant of the First Battalion to request a transfer, which would allow him to carry out his duties aboard the Titanic. He wrote:

"I have the honour to request that I may be permitted to transfer to the unattached list of R.A.M.C.T. officers as owing to professional duties as Ship's Surgeon in the White Star Line & I am prevented from carrying out all my duties in the R.A.M.C.T. for some time."

According to the auction house, documents regarding the official transfers of notable Titanic crewman are regarded as amongst the "holy grails of Titanic memorabilia", and the letter is expected to sell for £30,000 - £50,000 ($37,130 - $61,890).

The next document is a letter written by the Titanic's second officer Charles Lightoller, regarding the final moments before the ship went down.

It was written on board S.S. Adriatic on May 1, 1912, while Lightoller was returning to England after giving evidence in the US Enquiry into the disaster. The letter is addressed to R.W. Graham of Holt & Co. of New York, to inform Graham that Dr. Simpson had been lost at sea.

"I deeply regret your loss, which is also mine. I may say I was practically the last man to speak to Dr. Simpson, and on this occasion he was walking along the boat-deck in company with Messrs. McElroy, Barker, Dr. O'Loughlin and four assistant pursers. They were all perfectly calm in the knowledge that they had done their duty and were still assisting by showing a calm and cool exterior to the passengers.

"Each one individually came up to me and shook hands. We merely exchanged the words 'Goodbye, old man.' This occurred shortly before the end and I am not aware that he was seen by anyone after. With deepest sympathy for you in the loss of your friend."

This first-hand account paints a vivid picture of the stoic way in which crew members faced their final moments, and is valued at £10,000 - £15,000 ($12,375 - $18,560).

The sale takes place in Devizes, Wiltshire on Saturday October 22.

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