The UK Daily Mail is reporting a letter up for auction at Henry Aldridge & Son shows the callous indifference of White Star to grieving families. The letter, sent to Christopher Moody–the brother of Titanic officer James Moody–informs that the can arrange transport of his remains but they will need a £20 deposit for “for any expenses and land charges….” The letter also points out that once he took charge of the body, he would be responsible for all expenses after that.
1) Did White Star Attempt To Commit Fraud?
The Daily Mail says that White Star already knew that James Moody’s remains had not been found as they had been catalogued. Now you can look at this one of two ways:
1)The body had been marked as recovered or they had been told it had been recovered;
2)They were making plans in case it was found.
I doubt White Star was going to commit fraud here (hitting up grieving family members for money when there was no body likely would get some legal notice). Rather either it was miscommunication about his remains or they were simply being proactive in case of recovery. The body was never recovered so money was ever paid to White Star by Christopher Moody.
2)Was White Star Charging To Transport The Body?
It seems an odd position for White Star to take. Why charge for bringing the body of 6th officer James Moody home to England for burial? Here is what the letter actually say on this point:
Should you after further consideration desire the remains of your Brother to be returned will you kindly telegraph us in the morning at the same time sending us a deposit of £20 for any expenses and land charges on the other Side and we will at once cable New York asking then to arrange this if practicable.
A reasonable interpretation of this paragraph is they are not charging to transport the body to England but “expenses and land charges on the other Side….” That would likely mean whatever fees imposed to transport the body away from the ship. They could not store the body on the ship, it would need to go somewhere right away unless Christopher was there to meet the ship when it docked. So they asked him to deposit money so they could make those arrangements on his behalf.
Now I am not saying White Star ought not to have paid those fees. I think it would have been the right thing to do. This was poor public relations on their part and just adds to the overall impression that White Star was callous and cheap. This was not uncommon then and still a sore issue today after a major disaster at sea or on land. Who pays for the removal, transport, and storage of bodies awaiting final disposition? Families are often shocked when, after the loss of a loved on in a terrible disaster,they get a bill for transport or storage of their loved ones remains. Insurance may cover some, all, or none of it. White Star believed its duty was to transport the remains but not to pay for carriage and storage fees beyond the ship.
That of course is less lurid than saying White Star charged relatives to transit remains across the ocean. It makes for a great headline but not quite the truth.
*Last year there was a theory that large numbers of icebergs in 1912 were caused by a rare celestial alignment. The theory, such as it was, received a yawn from the Titanic community. It does not matter whether the icebergs in 1912 were caused by a celestial alignment, a warmer current, or perhaps Marvin the Martian playing with his weapon on Mars. Titanic struck an iceberg because a lot of things went wrong. There was complacency of all kinds from the Board of Trade to Captain Smith deciding to speed up Titanic on a cold, moonless night through an iceberg field. Now researchers at Sheffield University disputes there was an abnormal amount of icebergs in 1912. They claim there was a “raised iceberg hazard” but it was not exceptional. But hold on because they claim that now it is much more dangerous because there is more ship traffic in the Arctic. And this means more iceberg incidents will occur. Well of course if your are moving through areas where icebergs normally float around in, the possibility of hitting one is not remote. Easy to avoid the ones that can be seen but no so the ones just under the surface or getting to close to a berg that has a much larger base underwater than can be seen.
Source: Titanic Theory Put On Ice: Icebergs Were Not At Dangerously High Levels In 1912 – But They Are Today
(9 April 2014,Daily Mail)
* The upcoming Titanic memorabilia auction by Henry Aldridge includes a four page statement signed by Titanic’s surviving officers called “Letter of Marine Protest.” This document, signed by Titanic’s surviving officers, is part of the insurance claim White Star Line submitted. Henry Aldridge says of the document: “It is fascinating that the officers would seem to minimize their encounter with the rather large and ominous iceberg by describing it as a ‘small low-lying iceberg’. This could possibly have been an attempt to downplay the size of the iceberg due to the question of liability and who was to blame for the sinking.” Anyone who has submitted claims to insurance companies knows they want the who, what, when, and how the incident occurred. So the document says the date, time and location where it occurred that the ship collided with the iceberg. The iceberg is described as “ ‘growler’, or small low-lying iceberg.” To be fair to Charles Lightoller, the senior surviving officer, he did not see the iceberg and descriptions of it varied. I am not sure that saying it was low lying minimizes or changes the fact that colliding with it caused ruptures in the hull that sank Titanic. The lookouts did not see it until it was nearly upon them due to there being no moon and the stillness of the ocean. Other things are boiled down to simple factual statements like: “On examination it was found water was coming into several compartments; all hands were called on deck, the boats were ordered to be cleared, and subsequently filled with women and children.”
Later thanks to survivor accounts and witness statements at American and British inquiries, we learn much more about what happened. The insurance company–Atlantic Mutual–had to determine whether the loss was covered or not. Were the officers and in particular Captain Smith negligent in full or in part for what happened?If they denied the claim arguing Smith was negligent, they would have to prove that in court. Who handled the ice warnings and why were they not plotted out? Those and other questions would have to be answered in court. Did Smith know the danger or did one of his junior officers fail to inform him? Get the picture? It would be difficult to prove in court whether Smith was really at fault or one of his junior officers. You could argue indifference or complacency but it would be a long legal battle that might take years to resolve. They choose to pay likely because it would cost more in the long run to litigate the matter and end up paying more in the end. Did Lightoller cover up for Smith or other officers who did not properly plot out the ice field from the warnings received? Possibly but the statements given in the document are factually accurate and meant to neither overplay or underplay anything. Just the basic facts, to paraphrase Sergeant Friday from Dragnet. Atlantic Mutual paid out £3 million (one news report said Titanic was insured for $5 million). When Titanic was discovered in 1985 and later a salvage award was issued, I believe they or a successor company put a claim in with RMS Titanic, Inc. A settlement was reached and the amount paid to them confidential.
1. Titanic Insurance Claim To Be Sold(10 April 2014,Irish Independent**)
2.TITANIC INSURED FOR $5,000,000(Encylopedia Titanica)
*The Titanic Effect is something I call that happens when people recall other maritime disasters that are less known. Consider what is called “Minnesota’s Titanic.” On 13 Jul 1890, a paddlewheeler called Sea Wing was smashed by a wave and turned over killing 98 people (mostly teenagers and young adults). Ben Threinen and Fred Johnson are preparing a documentary about this tragedy so that people remember what happened. Most are stunned when they learn of it says Johnson. And properly so.
Source:Documentary To Recount ‘Minnesota’s Titanic’(11 April 2014,Post Bulletin)
*Dr. Paul Lee is involved in a new project called Titanic Global Database. He is collecting locations “relevant to the Titanic society as an aid to researchers and tourists. ” He plans to add new locations each week but the project is huge and is just starting. You can visit his website at paullee.com.
*With another anniversary of Titanic’s sinking nearly upon us, I always take out two videos to watch. One is the 1958 movie A Night To Remember (based on the excellent book by Walter Lord). Although it was made long ago, it still does the story right and never fails to entertain. Another is the excellent A&E documentary which goes through everything with interviews from survivors, researchers, and others. And it is narrated by David McCallum (Ducky on NCIS) who played Harold Bride in the 1958 movie.
*Kitchen Nightmares is back! Once again we find out how bad some restaurants can become and in dire need of Gordon Ramsay’s help. Of course the season could not start without first going over what happened at the now infamous Amy’s Baking Company. It was the rare episode in which Gordon realized there was nothing he could do since Crazy Amy and Samy The Hammer were totally in denial about what was wrong. They were not interested in anything Gordon had to say or suggest. And America saw two people who either were the greatest actors of all time or truly crazed. The Internet went wild and so did they in responding. From what I saw, it looks like they have not changed much and in fact angrier than before. Now they are making wild claims that Gordon Ramsay sexually harassed Crazy Amy. They make this claim in a video and are declining to take it down despite threats from Fox and the production company. You can view the video at Radaronline. However on their recent appearance on Dr. Phil, they did not make this claim.
**Links to Republic of Ireland newspapers are not provided due to pay for links policy.
Wallace Hartley’s violin is going to be auctioned off, reports the Daily Mail. The violin has undergone extensive scientific tests to determine its authenticity. So far, the violin has proved genuine but final tests confirming authenticity are still being done. The anonymous seller claims Maria Robinson, Hartley’s bereaved fiancé, retrieved the violin after his death. Hartley’s body and two other musicians were recovered and taken to Nova Scotia by CS Mackay-Bennett. Hartley’s body was returned to England and buried in Colne.
The violin, which reportedly was strapped to his body at time of recovery, was not itemized with his effects when his body was returned. It led to speculation that someone had taken the violin. Henry Aldridge and Son, who has auctioned off many Titanic items in the past, is the auctioneer for the violin. The Daily Mail reports the auctioneer has spent considerable money to have the violin authenticated. If authentic, it would command a very high price at auction. It might even, as some speculate, be the most expensive Titanic artifact ever auctioned (not counting of course the possible sale of the entire artifact collection from RMS Titanic).
Supporting evidence for the claim comes from Miss Robinson’s diary where she has a draft letter thanking the Nova Scotia authorities for allowing her to have the violin. The violin itself has an inscription on its tailpiece that says: “For Wallace on the occasion of our engagement from Maria.”
I hope the violin is authentic. It is a genuine piece of history and a reminder of love—and loss.