Wiltshire

Titanic locker key sold for £85,000 at auction

Small key for locker on the Titanic Image copyright PA

A key which opened a life-jacket locker on the Titanic has been sold for £85,000.

It was among 200 items from the liner sold at an auction in Devizes.

The key had been predicted to fetch up to £50,000. Auctioneer Andrew Aldridge said the amount the key finally sold for "reflected its importance and unique nature".

A postcard sent by the ship's "heroic" chief wireless operator sold for £19,000.

'Sacrifice to save others'

The locker key had belonged to third-class steward Sidney Sedunary, from Berkshire, who perished when the Titanic went down in April 1912, after hitting an iceberg.

Mr Aldridge said: "Without a doubt [he saved lives]. Here's a man who sacrificed his life to save others."

The auction in Devizes was one of the biggest involving Titanic memorabilia for many years.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The Titanic was the largest liner of its time and was said to be "unsinkable"

RMS Titanic had been four days into a week-long transatlantic crossing from Southampton to New York when the supposedly "unsinkable" ship struck an iceberg on 14 April 1912.

The ship sank less than three hours later at about 02:20 on 15 April; 1,500 passengers and crew died and 710 survived.

A collection of letters written by Chief Officer Henry Wilde, who was second in command on the vessel, fetched £5,000 at the auction.

Image copyright Henry Aldridge & Son
Image caption Letters from Henry Wilde, Chief Officer on the Titanic, were written over a 20-year period

In one of the letters, written onboard Titanic and posted at Queenstown (now Cobh) in Ireland, Wilde indicated he had misgivings about the new ship.

"I still don't like this ship... I have a queer feeling about it," he wrote.

He had been expecting to take command of another ship, the Cymric, and only signed on to the Titanic on 9 April 1912, the day before it sailed.

On 31 March 1912, he said he was "awfully disappointed to find the arrangements for my taking command of the Cymric have altered. I am now going to join the Titanic until some other ship turns up for me".

After the collision, Wilde took charge of the even-numbered lifeboats, and oversaw their loading and lowering into the water. He was among those who died in the tragedy.

Image copyright Photoshot
Image caption Captain Edward Smith (bottom row, third along) and his officers photographed before taking command of the Titanic

Mr Aldridge said: "It is without doubt one of the finest Titanic-related letters, written by one of the liner's most senior officers on Olympic stationery.

"This lot reveals previously unknown details and shows Wilde's obvious disappointment in being transferred to Titanic.

"What is certain is that he worked diligently to load the boats once the seriousness of the situation was clear to him."

Image copyright Saleroom.com
Image caption A postcard sent by the ship's heroic senior wireless operator fetched £19,000 on Saturday

Also included in the sale was a postcard from the ship's senior wireless operator, 25-year-old Jack Phillips, from Farncombe in Surrey, who carried on sending distress messages to other ships as the Titanic sank.

Phillips, who drowned, was described as "the man who saved us all" by survivor and fellow wireless operator Harold Bridge.

The card, signed "Love all, Jack", describes the weather as the ship left Cowes on the Isle of Wight. It was sold for £19,000.

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