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Titanic hero’s menu set for £100,000 auction

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2018-04-16

An incredibly rare menu from the first meal ever served aboard the Titanic could sell at auction for more than $100,000 this week.
The menu will cross the block on April 21 during a dedicated sale of Titanic memorabilia at Henry Aldridge & Son in the U.K, with a pre-sale estimate of £80,000 – £100,000 ($115,000 – $143,000).

This first meal was served aboard the Titanic during the ship’s sea trials, eight days before it set sail on its doomed maiden voyage.

On April 2, 1915, two days after the fitting out was completed, the Titanic set out from Belfast to complete a series of tests in the open waters of the Irish Sea.

The ship was sailed at different speeds, her turning ability was tested, and a ‘crash stop’ was completed, in which the engines were reversed from full ahead to full astern, bringing it to a standstill in three minutes and 15 seconds.

This onboard during the tests included 78 stokers, greasers and firemen, 41 members of crew, several representatives from invested businesses, and Francis Carruthers, a surveyor from the Board of Trade who declared the ship seaworthy.

During the 12-hour trial lunch was served for the officers, including Charles Lightoller, to whom this menu originally belonged.

Just two examples of the menu are believed to have survived, and according to the auction house just one – the present example – is intact, making it "a true blue chip item" for Titanic memorabilia collectors.

Titanic menus have become some of the most collectible items of memorabilia from the ship, and regularly fetch high sums at auction.

Back in 2015, a First Class menu for the first lunch served aboard the ship on April 10 sold at Henry Aldridge & Son for just over $100,000; and in 2012, a First Class menu from the final lunch on April 14 sold at the same auction house for a record $120,000.

Charles Lightoller sailed as First Officer during the trials, then dropped down to Second Officer when the Titanic officially set sail from Southampton on April 10.

On the fateful evening of April 14 he was on watch until 10pm, and instructed his men to keep a sharp lookout for small ice when he went blow deck to complete his rounds, less than two hours before the ship hit an enormous iceberg.

Once the Titanic started to sink, Lightoller took charge of loading women and children into the even-numbered lifeboats on the port side – even threatening a group of men with a pistol, as they sought to hijack one of the boats for themselves.

Once his duties were completed he leapt free from the ship, but was pulled down below the surface as it sank. Remarkably, a blast of underwater steam from a submerged boiler propelled him back towards the surface, and he found himself alongside the capsized Collapsible lifeboat B.

Having survived the night on the slowly sinking boat along with other crew members, Lightoller was the last Titanic survivor pulled from the water, when The SS Carpathia arrived on the scene the following morning.

Years later in 1940, Lightoller rescued 120 men from the beaches of Dunkirk in his own vessel the Sundowner, and he finally passed away in 1952 at the age of 78, having lived a truly remarkable life.

The sale on April 21 will offer several other items from Lightoller’s personal collection, including an important summons to appear as witness at the American Titanic enquiry on 30th April 1912; a collection of naval codebooks used during his service in WWI and WWII; and a rare letter regarding his resignation from the White Star Line in 1920.


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