Titanic Archive to Be Sold by Sotheby’s

When Charles Herbert Lightoller, Second Officer of the Titanic came on duty at 6.00pm for four hours on April 14, 1912, little did he know how his life would change. By the next day, Charles Lightoller was the highest-ranking member of the crew to still be alive. A fascinating archive of photographs and letters relating to Lightoller’s experiences on board the famous ship will be included in The Marine Sale on Tuesday, December 2, 2003 at Sotheby’s, New Bond Street, London. The collection is being sold by his grand-daughter.

Lightoller boarded the Titanic just two weeks before her maiden voyage for the sea trials (A lunch menu from the sea trials for the crew is estimated at £8,000-12,000). On the fateful day, he returned to his cabin, and at 11:40pm, was just going to sleep, when he felt a grinding vibration. Still in his pyjamas, he went on deck where he met Third Officer Herbert Pitman who had also been disturbed by the vibration. They concluded that the vessel had hit something, but could see no sign of anything and returned to their cabins to await orders.

As soon as Lightoller received the orders, he filled all the lifeboats with women and children, and remained on the ship until the water rose on the boat deck. When the rescue-boat Carpathia arrived at dawn, Lightoller found himself in Lifeboat 12, designed for 65-capacity, now with 75 persons on board. It was the last boat to be rescued by the Carpathia. Lightoller helped all the survivors out before he climbed aboard himself, becoming the last Titanic survivor taken aboard the Carpathia. After it arrived in New York, the majority of the remaining crew returned to the UK on SS Lapland, however Lightoller was called to testify at the American Inquiry into the disaster. As the most senior surviving officer he found himself having to defend the Captain, the officers and the company against some of the more serious charges brought against them. A letter he wrote to his wife, Sheila, on Lapland headed paper informing her that he was unable to return with the rest of the crew is estimated at £1,500-2,000, while his typed and annotated unpublished account is estimated at £2,000-3,000.

Several items relating to the 1958 film ’A Night To Remember’, in which Lightoller’s experiences were fantastically acted by Kenneth Moore include a collection of printed material relating to the film (est: £300-400).

One of the young women who he helped into Lifeboat 10 at 1.20am was 16-year-old, Gretchen Fiske Longley. A resident of Hudson, New York, Miss. Longley travelled as a First Class passenger with her aunts Kornelia Theodosia Andrews (aged 63) and Mrs John C. Hogeboom (aged 51). The three ladies boarded the Titanic at Southampton under ticket number 13502 which cost £77 19s 19d and Miss Longley occupied cabin D-9. On April 14, 1914, she had a four-course lunch, and then neatly folded the menu, and placed in her handbag. The menu will be offered in Sotheby’s sale and is estimated at £10,000-15,000.

Also included in the sale will be ships models, pond yachts, schrimshaw, shell valentines, woolwork pictures, sextants and octants as well as a collection of more than 20 pieces of Nelson-related memorabilia comprising a 19th century Staffordshire Nelson jug (est: £300-500); and a revolving book stand made from oak, pine and copper from his Flagship The Foudroyant (est: £700-900).

Elsewhere in Sotheby’s Marine sale, which also includes paintings, are six ship portraits by Samuel Walters (1811-1882) that were commissioned by the 19th century ship owners Scrutton & Sons of London. Scruttons of London commenced business as shipbrokers and ship owners in the West Indian trade, their first vessel being the ship Dominica of 402 tons, purchased in 1808 and sold in 1822. The fleet gradually expanded to about a dozen in the mid nineteenth century, a total of about 30 vessels having passed through the firm’s ownership by 1890. Commissioned at intervals over a period of 13 years, the remaining coastal paintings illustrate the main Channel landmarks in the approaches to London, including Dover, the South Foreland, Deal, and Margate. The first of the paintings was of the brig Spheroid and is estimated at £10,000-15,000. Built at Bermuda in 1826, this small brig traded between St. Vincent and London and had already done yeoman service when purchased by Scrutton & Co. in 1852. Due to good management and unstinting maintenance she retained AI classification and continued in the West Indies trade for Scruttons until broken up in 1884.

The image of the barque Montrose, dated 1868, is also estimated at £10,000-15,000. Depicted off the north Kent coast heading east, the barque was built on Jersey by George Asplet in 1861 to the stringent requirements of Lloyd’s Special Survey. It was still classified AI when sold to Dutch owners in 1886.

The barque Naparima, dated 1855, is estimated at £15,000-25,000. It is shown in weather conditions that contrast with the previous painting of Montrose and here the sky is dark and threatening, and in anticipation of the southwesterly wind increasing. Built at Bristol in 1855 to the requirements of Lloyd’s Special Survey, Naparima remained in service with Scruttons until broken up in 1882. The iron barque Merle is depicted off Dover, dates from 1866 and is estimated at £10,000-15,000. Merle (meaning blackbird) was built by Westwood at London in 1863, to standards in excess of Lloyd’s Special Survey requirements. When sold to G.E. Bromage of London in 1882 she was still classified AI. As often happened with iron vessels, Merle proved to be long lived. Sold to W.Ross of Bristol and then changed to barquentine rig, she was sold to P.L. Moller of Norway in 1896, and re-rigged as a three masted schooner.

The fifth image of the barque Trinidad is estimated at £6,000-8,000. Built at Bristol in 1854 Trinidad traded for Scruttons until sold in 1884. Dated 1856, the image of the brig Mignonette shows the vessel inward bound of Dover and is estimated at £10,000-15,000. Built at Bristol in 1854, Mignonette was wrecked in 1864. In the following year Scruttons ordered a larger replacement bearing the same name, which was built on Jersey.

Six distinctive works by Montague Dawson (1895-1973) will also be offered. These include Thundering along – windfall off the Lizard that is estimated at £60,000-80,000, and With the Wind which is estimated at £6,000-8,000.

Mr Charles Herbert Lightoller was born in Chorley, Lancashire on March 30, 1874. Before joining the White Star Line, in January 1900, Lightoller lived a colorful and adventurous life. He went to sea at age 13, and he was wrecked at sea four times, not including Titanic, and on another occasion, was on board of a burning ship. In 1898, Lightoller left the sea and went to the Yukon to prospect for gold in the Klondike Gold Rush. Unsuccessful in this quest, he had a brief stint as a cowboy in Alberta, Canada.

Lightoller’s early years on the Atlantic run were spent mostly in the Majestic under the command of Captain Edward J. Smith who was to play a significant part in his sea career. From the Majestic, he was promoted to Third Officer on the 17,000-ton Oceanic – the pride of the White Star Line and when the Great War began and the R.M.S. Oceanic became H.M.S. Oceanic, armed merchant cruiser, First Officer Lightoller of White Star Lines became Lieutenant Lightoller of the Royal Navy.

After World War 1, the Lightollers opened a guesthouse, and in July 1939, Lightoller was approached by the Royal Navy and asked to perform a survey of the German coastline, which he and his wife did under the guise of an elderly couple on vacation in their yacht, the Sundowner. At the end of May 1940, Lightoller received a phone call from the Admiralty asking him to take the Sundowner to Ramsgate, where a Navy crew would take over and sail her to Dunkirk. He informed them that nobody would take the Sundowner to Dunkirk but him and the next day, the 66-year-old, accompanied by his eldest son Roger, took the Sundowner and sailed for Dunkirk. Although the Sundowner had never carried more than 21 persons before, they succeeded in carrying a total of 130 men from the beaches of Dunkirk. Lightoller was ’demobbed’ in 1946 at age 72 and he went on to run a boatyard called Richmond Slipways, building motor launches for the London River Police. He passed away on December 8, 1952, and was cremated at Mortlake Crematorium and the ashes scattered in the Garden of Remembrance.

On the night of the disaster, Gretchen and Anna were asleep. Miss Andrews, who had apparently been ill, was reading when the Titanic struck the iceberg. After boarding Lifeboat 10, they were then picked up by the Carpathia and disembarked at New York City on Thursday, April 18, 1912. A report in the Newark Evening News on April 19, 1912: “Still suffering from the hardships they endured, Miss Cornelia T. Andrews, Mrs. John C. Hogeboom and Miss Gretchen F. Longley, who survived the Titanic disaster, are at the home of Mrs. Arthur H. Flack (their sister).

None of the three survivors is able to speak above a whisper so intense was their suffering from the cold. They escaped from the doomed steamship clad in nightdresses covered with fur coats. The survivors were in the fourth boat which left the vessel. They refused places in the other boats so that they could be together and said that the first three boats left with one place vacant in each. As their boat pulled away they saw Major Butt and Colonel Astor on the upper deck. Colonel Astor was waving farewell, which was to be final, to his young wife. Miss Longley pulled an oar in the boat until she was exhausted. Other women gave similar aid to the few seamen in the boat. Aboard the Carpathia, the three women refused staterooms because there were others in still worse condition than themselves. Not until last night did they sleep in a stateroom.”

Miss Andrews later filed a $480.50 claim against the White Star Line for lost possessions including such items are fur coats, numerous dresses, three brass antique lamps and ’one velvet hat with ostrich plumes.’ Gretchen, later married Dr. Raymond Leopold. She died as Mrs Gretchen Leopold on August 11, 1965 and was buried at West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania.

Published in: on October 30, 2003 at 12:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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