A Titanic survivor’s letter, recently unearthed and sold at a Titanic auction in 2012, has been translated and posted to Reddit. The letter is dated August 8, 1955 – more than 40 years after the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic and sunk.
According to Yahoo! Shine on Wednesday, the writing is from “French passenger Rose Amélie Icard, whose letter containing eyewitness details of the disaster has emerged on Reddit, causing a stir among history lovers.”
The letter was purchased by Titanic enthusiast Mike Delgado, and he posted the memoir online, where history buffs flocked to read and share their impressions of the lost letter, which offers a firsthand narrative into the horrific night the “unsinkable” liner sank to the bottom of the ocean.
Delgado posted images of the pages on Reddit on March 20 with the request to have them translated from French to English.
“I’ve always been fascinated by the Titanic, ever since my dad took me to an exhibit on it when I was 13 years old. It really struck a chord with me,” Delgado said.
Rose Amélie Icard, who was 40 years old at the time, was traveling on Titanic as a personal maid and assistant to a wealthy widow named Martha Evelyn Stone. The pair were among the 706 that survived; over 2,200 souls were sailing aboard the Titanic.
In 1955, at the age of 83 and nine years before her death in 1964, Icard wrote the following nine-page, first hand account of that harrowing experience.
From the posted translation on Reddit:
My most tragic memory of my seventeen-year trip around the world is the Titanic sinking.
I'm 83 years old, but it is a moment of my life that I will never forget. I was in Paris when I met, through an interpreter friend, Mrs. George Stone, a widow of the American president of the Bell Cie Company, who was looking for a person enjoying travelling to accompany her.
My lifelong dream was about to be fulfilled. I decided to go with her to America. I can't list all the countries where we have been.
In winter 1912, we were in Egypt; our travel went on to the Holy Land and ended in Jerusalem.
That unforgettable travel to Jesus' country came very close to be the last of them all.
Back in Europe, after having been in Paris and London, we boarded on the Titanic on April 10th, 1912.
It was Mrs. Stone who got the tickets in London, and told me, delighted, that we would board on the nicest liner.
The preceding nights, I had dreamed about death, ripped open trunks, a presentiment, maybe made me tell myself that I should not have chosen the Titanic.
The Commander Smith, even if he was about to retired, was chosen by the White Star Line to drive this floating palace for his first travel. I can still see him, a handsome old man with a white beard.
It is he himself who helped me to get in the lifeboat.
During the four days that lasted, the short-lived fare of this splendid transatlantic liner, it was all about celebrations, ceremonial dinners of royal luxury, the clothes and dresses were sumptuous. It was a display of shining jewels and of rivers of diamonds worthy of an oriental splendour.
Towards eleven o'clock, Mrs. Stone and I went to bed.
Three quarters of an hour later, as the liner was cruising at full speed, a terrifying shock threw us out of bed.
We were intending to find out what was happening, when a passing officer told us, “It is nothing, return to your cabin.” I answered, “Listen to that loud noise, it sounds like water is flowing into the ship.”
Upon our return to the cabin I saw that our [female] neighbor from across the passageway had gone back to bed.
Her daughter arrived in a panic, yelling, “Mommy, quick quick, get up it's very serious.”
I helped Mrs. Stone to dress; she took her lifebelt and told me to “come quickly.”
I was trembling, and still in my dressing gown, I took a coat, my lifebelt, and followed her on deck.
There I found my travel blanket and my fur coat, left on my lounge chair. They were to miraculously preserve me as revealed later.
We felt beneath our feet the deck lean towards the depths.
I went back below deck to retrieve the jewels of Mrs. Stone, but fortunately, I chose the wrong stairwell and returned to the deck halfway there. Fortunately for me, for I would have never come back up again.
At this moment, we witnessed unforgettable scenes where horror mixed with the most sublime heroism.
Women, still in evening gowns, some just out of bed, barely clothed, disheveled, distraught, scrambled for the boats.
Commander Smith yelled, “Women and children first.”
Firm and calm, in the throng, officers and sailors were taking the women and children by the arm and directing them towards the lifeboats.
Near me were two handsome elderly [people], Mr. and Mrs. Straus, proprietors of the great store Macy's of New York; she refused to go into the boat after having helped in her maid.
She put her arms around the neck of her husband, telling him: “We have been married 50 years, we have never left each other, I want to die with you.”
Semi-conscious, in a neighboring boat was put the young wife of the millionaire J. Jacob Astor, returning from their honeymoon voyage. She was 20 years old, him 50. She latches on to him, he was obliged to push her away with force.
The seamen in blue jackets, belts, and berets, struck up the beautiful hymn, “Closer to You My Lord.”
This is the cry of my faith.
The lifeboats were quickly brought down. By miracle, Mrs. Stone and I found ourselves in the same boat, where we were about thirty people.
The officer said: “Row strongly, you only have twenty five minutes to save your life.”
I took the oars and rowed with so much energy that my hands were bleeding and my wrists were paralyzed; because we had to hurry to escape the huge chasm that was going to be opened when the Titanic would sink.
It was at this moment that I noticed that someone was hidden underneath me. I didn’t have the strength to reveal his presence. I’ve never known who the man who saved his own life this way was.
As we were receding in an almost calm sea, weakly lit by the lantern that the officer was holding, I didn’t take my eyes off the shining Titanic.
Suddenly, there was darkness, whole and inscrutable, shouts, horrible yells, rose in the middle of the creaks of the boat, then that was it.
Sometimes, 43 years after the tragedy, I still dream about it.
From the 2,229 passengers and crew, only 745 were saved.
After that night of terror, at first light, before the arrival of the Carpathia which would collect us dazed, completely exhausted, our boat and some others went back to the scene of the tragedy.
The waters were calm and bare, and nothing could suggest that the sea giant was engulfed there.
Alone, in front of us, two cathedrals of ice which were pinkening under the first sunlight offered a spectacle of rare beauty.
When we were gathered in the dining room of the Carpathia, very painful scenes happened. The young women were there without their husbands, mothers without their sons; a young mother whom a wave had snatched her child from had gone insane, and mistaken for her child a child that was presented to her.
Some survivors told the story of the horrific moments during which all human feelings were opposed.
There had been sublime gestures, a stranger undid his safety belt to give it to an old woman who couldn’t find a spot in any boat, and told her “You’ll pray for me.”
The billionaire Benjamin Guggenheim after having helped the rescue of women and children got dressed, arose at his buttonhole, to die.
A pastor said the prayers for the missing.
The Carpathia, which was headed for Genoa, turned around to bring us back to New York.
I won't talk about our arrival where I witnessed poignant scenes once again.
To Madame Ausein, in memory of her dear mother with whom I've lived this tragic disaster during the night of April 14th to 15th 1912.
Rose Amélie Icard