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Sometimes a letter from a person merely repeats biographical details, rambling details not connected to the Titanic, or small mentions of the disaster. This page details some pertinent details gleaned from the letters.
Marshall Drew, Third Class Passenger
"The officer in charge of our lifeboat had a fire-arm on his belt ... As I stood waiting I looked back at steerage and all was blacked out." This latter detail is mentioned in Eaton and Haas' "Titanic - Destination Disaster." Does "the officer" mean one assigned to manning it after it was lowered, or in charge of the loading?
Frank Goldsmith, Third Class Passenger
Mr. Goldsmith seemed to be confused about which side of the ship his lifeboat was located on, and this confusion continues with his descendants to this day. Although he settled on the identification of boat 'D' on the port side, he mentions that his boat rubbed down the rivets on the way down to the water due to the list. He would therefore be in boat 'C' on the starboard side. In a letter (28/11/55) to "The Ladies Home Journal," he remonstrates with them, saying his boat was on the port side. But on the 7th March the next year, his letter to Walter Lord reveals that he is adamant his boat was on the starboard side!
George William Beauchamp, Fireman
Walter Lord's initial letters to survivors were always charming - and loaded with questions. Many were delighted to respond, but Beauchamp was an exception. He replied on a small piece of flimsy card, little bigger than a postcard with the following helpful information: "In stokhold [sic] when ship was struck"
Violet Jessop, Stewardess
Jessop's handwriting is the worst I have ever seen and how Walter Lord managed to read it is a miracle. But, from his replies, it can be seen that she was reluctant to tell him anything; he then asked that if she did decide to publish her recollections herself, where might he obtain a copy of the book or magazine it might be in. Obviously these memoirs were the ones published c.1997
John Podesta, Fireman
In response to a letter from Lord, Podesta wrote on July 4th, 1955 regarding his account of the sinking:
"Give me about a week to write it ... I'll get on with it its a good long TRUE story of my
seeing and hearing in the ill fated liner. If my story does any good to you at any time
it is published I hope you will not forget me."
Obviously Walter Lord saw this last sentence as an attempt to elicit payment for his story but he was unwlling to do so as he hadn't paid anyone else. As he said, "All I can give you is a copy of my book and my thanks."
And this marked the end of the Lord-Podesta correspondence!
Betty Bolling (Roberta Elizabeth Mary Maioni), 1st Class Passenger
Unfortunately, Bolling's letter contained only a few mentions of her time on the Titanic. Her letter, dated July 8th 1955 says only, "I like many of the passengers only had on a nightdress and dressing gown- also when I reached the boat deck many many people were kneeling surrounded by [clerics?] and were praying."
The search for Dr.Simpson
After the calamity, the family of Dr.Simpson, the Titanic's surgeon, tried
to find out what had happened to their kin, who had not survived. To this end, they first tried 2nd Officer Lightoller, who was on the White Star
vessel S.S. Adriatic. He wrote to Mr.R.W.Graham on May 1st, 1912, "...I was practically the last man to speak to [surgeon] Dr.Simpson. 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 & I am not aware that he was seen by anyone after."
Lizette [?] Simpson was in Australia some months later and sought information from Harold Lowe. Writing from Delgetti, South Yarra on 8th October 1912, she says "I came round by the [S.S.] Medic and saw Mr.Lowe after I got on board. He was speaking to Jack [Simpson] after the collision. It was dark and he could not see very well when getting a boat lowered. Jack came to him and said 'here is something that will be useful to you' bringing him an electric torch. He never saw him after that." Lowe had a broken leg at the time.
Interestingly, critics of James Cameron's 1997 film have remarked that his depiction of Lowe's use of a torch as he searches for survivors is incorrect, but Cameron has responded by saying that he needed to find a way of lighting the scene as it would otherwise have been nearly pitch black. But here he find that Lowe was indeed given a torch.
1. Spelling and punctuation have been preserved, where possible.