With much gratitude to Bob Godfrey for deciphering the awful handwriting!
I shall probably have to wait until I return home from hospital to find your address, but I want to write while the pages of your book are fresh in my mind. First of all thank you for your very kind letter and for your thoughtfulness in sending me your book, complete with inscription and signature which I shall treasure.
You have done a beautiful piece of work. I cannot imagine how you managed to get so much factual information into the book and yet retain that curious dream like quality of the night which you have conveyed so well to the reader. They tell me the book is a best seller and I can well believe it. I am sure you have given the best presentation I have ever seen or know of the actions of Mr Ismay and the Captain of the Californian - they were indeed two vital factors in the tragedy. Enough can never be said for the courage and kindness of officers, men and passengers of the Carpathia. My mother and I were very ill clothed and were most generously given warm things by people who could ill afford to spare them.
Do you know how close we were (or at least were told we were) of running completely out of food and water - On the last day, when we landed in New York, some of us asked the steward for a 'biscuit' (cracker) and he said they were all gone - we were pretty hungry standing around for a long time before docking.
I know there is nothing I can add to your book but knowing your interest personally I am going to jot down a few things that occur to me.
The fact that my mother and I were saved is due to the thoughtful kindness of Mr White of Honolulu. He and his son had the cabin next to us and it was he who came down for life preservers and saw that my mother and I were still in our cabin. We had stayed there under orders from our steward immediately after the accident. Mr White insisted that we come at once as it was then about one o'clock.
I cannot say that we got off in the last boat but it must have been near the end as we had a very short time in the water before the ship sank. Has anyone told you of the cooks lined up on the deck with biscuits (sea) and blankets which were given each passenger? You have well portrayed the indescribable noise the ship made in going down.
There was some comic relief to the picture on the Carpathia - The first night many of us slept in the Dining Saloon, some on tables and others on the settees around the room - you can imagine the picture we made and, of course, it meant early rising so the tables could be set up for the many 'sittings' of meals. I was most interested in your philosophical deductions. The break up of Edwardian Society and traditions which started then, was complete by the First World War, in Europe anyway.
The gripping quality of the story was brought home to me quite forcefully when I was asked to tell about it to some patients in the American Ambulance at Neuilly, where I was working during the First World War as a nurses' aid. The men who had had frightful experiences in the muddy trenches in Flanders were most impressed and thought it far worse than any war tragedy they had seen.
Two funny stories may interest you. In our boat, which was not full, the woman next to me appeared to be French. She was sobbing hysterically as her husband was lost. In the last days of 1914 I met her in the ambulance at Neuilly. She flung her arms about me and said "Oh! Figurez-vous; j'ai perdu mon mari sur le Titanic et mon fiance est sur le front". [Bob Godfrey: "Imagine! I lost my husband on the Titanic and my fiance is at the Front".] Shortly after the tragedy, in my cousin's Sunday School class, they were learning about Jacob - one small boy popped up and said "I thought he had gone down in the Titanic".
I am sorry I cannot get this typed, I hope you won't have too much difficulty with my writing. If you are ever in Boston please give my husband a ring - or drop a line if you know beforehand. We should love to have you stay with us in Topsfield or give you a meal at the Union Club in Boston. Sargent's phone is Richmond 2-1330 and the address 15 Congress Street - he is a lawyer.
Again thank you
Mary Lines Wellman (Mrs Sargent H)
PS I had a small pocket flashlight with me which was the only light in our boat. I had it ??? and still have it in Topsfield.
Another 'legend' was told me a few year later by the purser of a Cunard ship. The Titanic's Chief Purser was supposed to have marshalled his assistant officers near their office and remarked "Sand for breakfast, boys"
In your ??? that have grown up since the disaster, have you mentioned 'Sonar'? On one of our crossings not long after the Titanic a Cunard Captain told us about this type of device which had been invented by the British for detecting icebergs. Out of that grew the tremendous service of the Navy. We know about it particularly as our son was involved in it during the 2nd World War.
1. Some of the writing proved to be impossible to decipher; the relevant pages with the unknown sections can be found by following the links. If you can help transcribe these sections, please email me.
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