London: A key which opened a lifejacket locker on the ill-fated Titanic has been sold for a whopping 85,000 pounds at one of the biggest auctions involving Titanic memorabilia in recent years.
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 pounds.
Auctioneer Andrew Aldridge said the amount the key finally sold for “reflected its importance and unique nature”.
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.
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. 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 April 14, 1912. The ship sank less than three hours later on April 15; 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 pounds at the auction.
In one of the letters, written on board 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 April 9, 1912, the day before it sailed.
On March 31, 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. 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.
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 pounds.