Lot 9
  • 9

# - R.M.S. Titanic and H.M.H.S. Britannic--Arthur Jewell.

15,000 - 20,000 GBP
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  • Two autograph letters by the sailor Archie Jewell, a survivor of the sinking of both RMS Titanic and her sister ship HMHS Britannic, describing both disasters to his sister
i) the first letter written on board SS Lapland while in a "very bad" state "through being in the boats the night of the accident", recalling the moment the Titanic sank ("...she went down little by little by the bows then at last her stern went right up in the air and then she went right down straight...I was in my bunk when it happened but I was soon on deck. I looked down in the hold and saw the water rushing in, she was just over two hours before she went down...") and the immediate aftermath ("...we was in the boats for six hours before the steam boat came to us...when it came daylight there was iceburghs all around us and about 20 miles stretch of small ice...I shall never forget the sight of that lovely big ship goin down and the alfull crys of the people in the water and you could hear them dying out one by one it was enough to make anyone jump over board and be out of the way...one boat picked up one of the sailors and he went mad in the boat and wanted to go overboard again but he died in the boat..."), remarking on the shortage of lifeboats ("...I think it is a shame to let them big boats go to sea with such a small lot of boats, had there been boats enough nearly every one would have been saved. If the watertights doors had worked she would not have went down..."), mentioning the ship's band going down with the ship, and that "it was a fine night...not an air of wind and the water as smooth as glass", 4 pages, 8vo, in pencil, on headed stationery of SS Lapland (Red Star Line), undated [24 April 1912], creased and slightly worn at folds, some very light staining, pencil slightly rubbed in places (with no loss of text)

ii) the second letter written just over two weeks after the sinking of the Britannic, providing in stark and gruesome detail a narrative of his actions from the moment he heard the explosion and detected the "smell of powder": soon after he saw the water pouring in, his head was cut open by a man "rushing out of a cabin door right where she was struck" ("I ran up to the boat deck and then some one tied my eye up so I was like old Nelson only one eye"); when his lifeboat was lowered he could see another boat being mangled by the propeller blades ("...it was cutting the poor fellows to pieces...what made it so bad the blades was half out of the water so they were coming right down on the boat...") and his own boat approaching the same fate

"...most of us jumped in the water but it was no good we was pulled right in under the blades...I shut my eyes and said good bye to this world, but I was struck with a big piece of the boat and got pushed right under the blades and I was goin around like a top...I came up under some of the wreckage...everything was goin black to me when some one on top was strugling and pushed the wreckage away so I came up just in time I was nearly done for...there was one poor fellow drowning and he caught hold of me but I had to shake him off so the poor fellow went under..."

Jewell then describes how he and other survivors endured a gruelling journey home, being transported across France in "those beautiful French trains...more like cattle-trucks than passengers trains" and then waiting for a ship to take them across to Southampton ("...we could have eaten an horse, now the worst...the order came we was to go to a rest camp for the night, so off we goes 6 hundred and 50 hungry men to the rest camp only 5 miles to walk and up hill all the way we arrives to this beautiful place at midnight to find that we had to sleep under canvas and on boards on the top of this high hill it was that cold we could not sleep there so we walked up and down the roads all night officers and all they were the same as us, and there was nothing for us to eat or drink in the morning...so that is the way good old england treats you after your ship is put to the bottom..."; 12 pages, 8vo, 50 Bond Road, Southampton, 9 December 1916, some creasing, very light spotting, some faded letters supplied in darker ink


Condition is described in the main body of the cataloguing where appropriate.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

two particularly evocative and moving first-hand accounts of one of only three survivors of both sea disasters.

As one of the look-outs on duty in the late evening of Sunday 14 April 1912, Archie Jewell had received a message from Charles Lightoller, the Titanic's Second Officer, to "keep a sharp lookout for ice, particularly small ice and growlers'. He was relieved from his post and passed on Lightoller's instructions to the new look-outs only 90 minutes before the ship struck the iceberg. He was the first survivor to give evidence at the British Inquiry at Buckingham Gate, during which he was interrogated mostly about his role in the manning of lifeboat no.7, the first to be lowered from the ship. His clear evidence earned rare praise from the Commissioner Lord Mersey.

Four years later, he was serving on the Titanic's sister ship Britannic, a White Star Line ocean liner which was requisitioned as a hospital ship during the First World War. It had completed five Mediterranean voyages unscathed before it hit a mine in the Kea Channel on 21 November 1916. 1,036 of the 1,066 people on board were saved.

Two other Titanic survivors escaped the Britannic alive: the nurse Violet Jessop and fireman John Priest. The latter also survived the sinking of S.S. Donegal, another requisitioned passenger steamship. While in the English Channel on 17 April 1917 it was torpedoed by a German submarine. Jewell did not survive this third disaster.