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Titanic survivor’s moving letter sent days before disaster struck


A rare letter written aboard the Titanic just days before it sank is heading for auction next week, as part of a sale dedicated to the doomed ocean liner.
The letter, written by Second Class passenger Kate Buss, offers a fascinating insight into life aboard the ship, and is expected to sell for up to £25,000 ($35,000) at Henry Aldridge & Sons in the UK on April 21.

Buss was one of the lucky survivors of the tragedy, which claimed 1,503 lives when the ship struck an iceberg and sank on April 15, 1912.

She paid £13 for a one-way ticket to New York, and was en-route to California to marry Samuel Willis, a carpenter from her home town of Sittingbourne, Kent, who had immigrated to America in 1908.

Whilst on board, during the first leg of the journey from Southampton to Queenstown in Ireland, she wrote a letter to her brother Percy, in reply to one she had received on April 10.

Kate Buss' last letter written aboard the Titanic

It reads, in part:

"I received yours on vessel today, have posted mother & Mrs Lingham from Cherbourg. This I think will go out from Queenstown tomorrow. I’ve been quite alright – but now feel dead tired & more fit for bed than anything.

"The first class apartments are really magnificent & unless you had first seen them you would think the second class were the same. We were due to reach Cherbourg at 5pm, but not there yet altho the mail is cleared. I think I’d best try & get some postcards of the vessel.

"My fellow passenger hasn’t turned up yet, so if she is coming it will be from Cherbourg or Queenstown. I was advised to eat well so had a good lunch – two clergymen opposite me at table. No sign of sea sickness yet – I mustn’t crow…Must clear & have a wash now. Will pop this in the post in case I’m sea sick tomorrow."

When the Titanic struck the iceberg in the Atlantic five days later, Buss managed to escape the sinking ship aboard Lifeboat #9. The passengers were rescued the following morning by the SS Carpathia, and Buss was the last to leave the lifeboat, as she was afraid of heights and reluctant to climb the rope ladder.

When Buss finally arrived in New York she applied to the American Red Cross for relief, having lost her belongings, and was awarded $250.

She eventually made it to San Diego and married Samuel in May 1912, and was later joined in the US by her sister Annie. The couple later retired to Pasadena, and following her husband’s death in 1952 Buss moved to Oregon to live close to their daughter, where she remained until passing away in 1972 at the grand age of 96.

Letters written aboard the Titanic are rare and sought-after by collectors, and several have achieved exceptional prices in recent years.

Buss’ letter was posted during the ship’s last stop in Ireland before crossing the Atlantic, but the most valuable letters are those which were never posted and survived the sinking – even if the authors did not.

In October 2017, a letter written on April 13, just two days before tragedy struck, sold at Henry Aldridge & Son for a world record price of £126,000 ($166,000).

It had been written to his mother by the American businessman Oscar Holverson, and was found inside his pocket book when his body was sadly recovered from the ocean.

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