Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Letter reveals for the first time how Titanic owners demanded huge sums from grieving families to be reunited with bodies of ship's crew

An astonishing letter from the Titanic's owners to the family of a dead officer asking for a huge sum of money to return his dead body to England has been uncovered 103 years on from the tragedy.

The letter, dated May 7, 1912, was sent from White Star Lines to Christopher Moody, the brother of 24-year-old officer James Moody, who died after the Titanic hit an iceberg on its maiden voyage.

In it, company bosses demand £20 - the equivalent of £2,000 in today's money - to return his body to England, and state that Christopher Moody will have to pick up the tab from there.

The letter, from bosses at Ismay Imrie & Co, the parent company of White Star Line, read: 'We have your further letter of the 6th instant, and while we will be prepared to transport the remains of your brother across the Atlantic to either Liverpool or Southampton we regret that it is not possible for us to do any more.

'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.

'We also think it right to point out that the arrangements and expenses for taking charge of the remains after arrival of the steamer at Liverpool or Southampton would be on your account.'

Instead, the company suggests that Mr Moody's remains be buried in Halifax with the other survivors, but they offer to send his family 'a photograph of the tombstone', if they want one.

Even more shocking is the fact that Mr Moody's body had not been recovered by the time the letter was sent, and bosses would have known that, as all remains were cataloged.

The remains of Mr Moody, who was on watch when the ship struck the iceberg and later helped passengers into the lifeboats while declining a space for himself, have never been found.

Mr Moody was among the 1,500 passengers and crew to die aboard the Titanic when it sank in the north Atlantic on April 14 1912, two days into her maiden voyage.

He had been serving as the Titanic's sixth officer, and was the only junior officer to perish after staying behind to help evacuate the passengers after the other officers left.

Born in Scarborough in 1887 to John Henry Moody, a town councillor, and Evelyn Louise Lammin, James was privately educated before being sent to King Edward VII Nautical School in London.

He passed his masters exams there in 1911 before becoming an officer. He was originally stationed on the Oceanic, the Titanic's sister ship, but transferred just months before the disaster in 1912.

The letter has come to light after being listed for auction by a collector who acquired it directly from Moody's family. Andrew Aldridge, from the auctioneers, said: 'White Star Line is asking for £20, which was a colossal amount of money in 1912, for the return of the body of one of their own officers.

'The mere concept of requiring payment for the return of the body of anyone who died on Titanic - let alone one of the ship's officers - is just beyond comprehension.

'It is an horrific act on the part of White Star. You can't imagine how Christopher Moody must have felt to have been greeted with a letter like this when he was grieving for the loss of his brother.

'What's more, the £20 White Star were asking for did not cover getting the body home or to the undertakers once it arrived in England. 'But where this letter is most shocking is the fact that Moody's body had not been - and never was - recovered in the aftermath.

'When this letter was sent the recovery ships had already arrived in New York and the bodies they had found had been identified and catalogued. 'You would like to think the sending of this letter was an administrative error but it's open to a lot of interpretation. 'The implications are huge - how many families of the deceased did White Star ask for payment from?

'James Moody was an incredibly brave man, helping to get passengers into liferafts and choosing to stay with the ship until the bitter end. 'It appears that White Star treated his body as a commodity, which callous in the extreme.'

Wednesday 15 April 2015

continue reading

400 believed to have drowned off Libya after migrant boat capsizes

Survivors of a capsized migrant boat off Libya have told the aid group Save the Children that around 400 people are believed to have drowned. Even before the survivors were interviewed, Italy’s coast guard said it assumed that there were many dead given the size of the ship and that nine bodies had been found.

The coast guard had helped rescue some 144 people on Monday and immediately launched an air and sea search operation in hopes of finding others. No other survivors or bodies have been recovered.

On Tuesday, Save the Children said its interviews with survivors who arrived in Reggio Calabria indicated there may have been 400 others who drowned.

The UN refugee agency said the toll was likely given the size of the ship.

The deaths, if confirmed, would add to the skyrocketing numbers of migrants lost at sea. The International Organization of Migration estimates that up to 3,072 migrants are believed to have died in the Mediterranean in 2014, compared to an estimate of 700 in 2013. But the IOM says even those estimates could be low. Overall, since the year 2000, IOM estimates that over 22,000 migrants have lost their lives trying to reach Europe.

Earlier Tuesday, the European Union’s top migration official said the EU must quickly adapt to the growing numbers of migrants trying to reach its shores, as new figures showed that more than 7,000 migrants have been plucked from the Mediterranean in the last four days.

“The unprecedented influx of migrants at our borders, and in particular refugees, is unfortunately the new norm, and we will need to adjust our responses accordingly,” the EU’s commissioner for migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, told lawmakers in Brussels.

More than 280,000 people entered the European Union illegally last year. Many came from Syria, Eritrea and Somalia and made the perilous sea journey from conflict-torn Libya.

European coast guards have been overwhelmed by the numbers. As the weather has begun to warm, even more people have been fleeing conflict and poverty for better lives in Europe.

Of the 7,000 migrants saved in the Mediterranean since Friday, “over 3,500 are still on board rescue vessels and being taken to Italy and so far, 11 bodies were recovered”, EU migration spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud said.

Meanwhile, the EU’s Frontex border agency said that people smugglers trying to recover a wooden boat that had been carrying migrants had fired shots into the air to warn away a coast guard vessel.

The incident on Monday happened some 60 nautical miles off the coast of Libya after an Italian tugboat and the coast guard ship came to the rescue of 250 migrants.

The coast guard vessel was already carrying 342 migrants from a previous rescue.

It’s at least the second incident of this kind, raising concern for the safety of rescue workers and migrants alike.

Late next month, Avramopoulos is expected to unveil a new EU strategy aimed at tackling the migrant wave.

Wednesday 15 April 2015

continue reading