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A letter written by an officer helps us to understand a little better what the attitude of the travelers was. And it turns out, at the very least, surprising
Despite how much has been written, shot and sung about the Titanic, there are still pieces of the puzzle to discover. One is the letter that the second officer Charles Lightoller , one of the few survivors of the ship’s crew, sent just two weeks after the accident explaining the fate of Dr. John Simpson to a friend. The missive will be auctioned for 15,000 pounds (although it is expected to reach 40,000) and reveals how the last moments of the crew were.
“In response to your letter of the 30th, I am sorry to tell you that the assistant surgeon John E. Simpson was on the Titanic, ” tears the letter sent by Lightoller to one of the doctor’s colleagues. “I really regret his loss, which is also mine. I can say that I was the last man to speak with Dr. Simpson, as he walked along the deck with Messrs. McEllroy , Barker , Dr. O’Loughlin and four other assistants. “
“They knew that they had done their duty and that they were still doing so by showing a calm appearance to the passengers”
The officer is a privileged witness of the last moments of life of the high positions of the ship. In their own words, aware that they had little time left to live, “everyone was totally calm knowing they had done their duty and they were still doing it, showing a calm and cold appearance to the passengers “.
The panorama described by Lightoller’s letter gives an idea of the last moments before the cataclysm, closer to the chicha calm than to the hysterical delirium of what one might expect, or of what the movies have shown him. “Each of them came individually to me and we shook hands,” concludes the officer’s letter. “We just exchanged the words ‘goodbye, old man’ (‘goodbye, old man’),” he explains in reference to Dr. Simpson, one more among the 2,227 victims of the sinking of the transatlantic. “This happened shortly before the end and I have no record of anyone else seeing him.” Then, and with the coldness that characterized the rest of the letter, he says goodbye to his companion. The date, May 1, 1912, less than a month after the sad events.
“The encounter must have occurred very shortly before the Titanic sank, probably when deck C had already flooded”
Lightoller is one of the officers who contributed most to helping passengers get on the boats that would allow them to save their lives, and most likely he was heading towards his own boat when he met his friends. According to the calculations made by the auctioneers, the meeting must have taken place shortly before the Titanic sank, probably when the cover C had already flooded and barely four meters separated the water from these boats.
The long road of a letter
Apparently, this letter had spent decades in the hands of collectors of the Titanic until it has finally seen the light of day, as stated by ‘ The Daily Mail ‘. This is the first time it is published, and offers one of the few direct testimonies of what happened on the cover of the ill-fated ferry. Not only that, but just passed the time between the sinking of the ship and his writing, so it is more reliable than other subsequent testimonies.
The text was written on a sheet with the letterhead of White Star Line , the company that chartered the Titanic. At the same time, but separately, another document will also be auctioned: the letter that Simpson himself wrote before setting sail on the Titanic and which would be the last he wrote in life. The cruel paradoxes of destiny make that in that missive, the officer asks permission to the bodies of medicine of the Royal Army to be transferred from another ship, the Olympic, to the Titanic … where he would lose his life just a few days later.
“They knew exactly what was going to happen and still showed great courage”
The two cards are going to be auctioned separately by Henry Aldridge of Devizes. As you remember, the value of this letter is incalculable (of course, in the case of the man who sells it), since it is the most veteran officer who survived the tragedy. The rest, as befitted the law of the sea, sank with the Titanic. “There is a great raw emotion that emerges in the letter,” he explains. “It’s perhaps the most important content I’ve seen in a letter related to the Titanic .” He is also struck by the cold and calm description of the passengers, who perhaps did not suspect that they would continue talking about their fate more than a century later, but they were going to lose their lives.
“It is clear, so it is said, that these men knew exactly what was going to happen and still showed great courage to keep going as if nothing was happening, to help the passengers around them feel good”, explains Alridge. “And then they said goodbye in a very dispassionate way.”