Titanic officer's letter to be sold


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The Independent Online

A rare handwritten letter by the second in command on the Titanic is expected to fetch between £25,000 and £30,000 when it goes under the hammer later this month.

The note, written by Chief Officer Henry Wilde, holds particular interest as it provides a glimpse behind the scenes of the doomed ship as it prepared for its disastrous maiden voyage.

There are currently no known letters written by EJ Smith the Captain of the Titanic making the letter written by Wilde, his deputy, a much sought after item.

Mr Wilde, who perished on the ship along with 1,521 passengers and crew, after it struck an iceberg and sank in April 1915, was only transferred to the Titanic from her sister ship the RMS Olympic at the last moment.

Wilde is remembered as a hero, as following the collision with the iceberg he was put in charge of loading the even numbered lifeboats and worked making sure women and children got away.

In the letter, which was passed down through the generations until being sold to a private collector, Wilde told his family he would return to England in 17 days’ time.

He writes praising the Titanic, describing her as a 'wonderful ship', and the 'latest thing in shipbuilding'.

He writes: “My dear Norah & Edie,

"Thanks for your letter received this morning which I was glad to have & know that you were all right. I would have written to you but so busy & so uncertain what I was going to do.

“I am on the Titanic but I am not sure I am sailing on her yet, I tried to get to Liverpool yesterday but could not manage it but I am not quite sure of going yet. I am wondering whether Mother has had the business settled yet. Will you ask her to let me know.

”I think Mr Williams was arranging it for her without any expense ask her to let me know, if I go on this ship we sail on Wednesday & will be back in 17 days & I will try & come up then.

“I have been kept very busy on board all day on Good Friday & again today Sunday with the crew getting the ship ready she is very far behind to sail on Wednesday working on her night & day, she is an improvement on the Olympic in many respects & is a wonderful ship the latest thing in shipbuilding.

”I would like you all to see her I hope you like you new business & that you will get on there until something better turns up I don't think I have much more to say hope to see you all soon with very best love to mother & you both".

"From Uncle Harry."

Auctioneer Andrew Aldridge told the Press Association,

"Reports at the time show him as a hero who generally only allowed women and children into lifeboats and he was last seen trying to free Collapsible Lifeboats A and B from the roof of the officer's quarters shortly before Titanic sank.

"As there are no letters known to have been written by Captain EJ Smith, this letter is a blue riband item due to the fact is was written by Titanic's second in command.

"It gives the reader a fascinating snapshot into life behind the scenes on the Titanic, it represents a unique collecting opportunity."

The letter is being sold on March 31 in a sale at Henry Aldridge & Son in Devizes, Wiltshire. That particular date marks the 100th anniversary of the of the completion of the ship at Harland and Wolff.

Read Simon Calder on the Titanic Belfast landmark