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Titanic: Letter reveals how ship's owners demanded large sums of money to return dead crew's bodies to grieving families

Officer James Moody died helping passengers escape, his brother wrote to ship's owners asking for his body to be returned and was asked for £20 - £2000 in today's money

By Rod Minchin

Published 15/04/2015

Undated handout photo issued by Henry Aldridge & Son of a letter from the the owners of the Titanic to the family of a dead officer asking for a large sum of money to return his dead body to England which has been uncovered 103 years on from the tragedy Pic: Henry Aldridge & Son /PA Wire
Undated handout photo issued by Henry Aldridge & Son of a letter from the the owners of the Titanic to the family of a dead officer asking for a large sum of money to return his dead body to England which has been uncovered 103 years on from the tragedy Pic: Henry Aldridge & Son /PA Wire
Undated handout photo issued by Henry Aldridge & Son of officer James Moody (front left) as a letter from the the owners of the Titanic to the family of officer Moody asking for a large sum of money to return his dead body to England has been uncovered 103 years on from the tragedy. Photo credit should read: Henry Aldridge & Son /PA Wire

A letter from the owners of the Titanic to the family of a dead officer asking for a large 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 the previous month.

The company asks for a £20 deposit - the equivalent of £2,100 today - to return his body to England and state that Mr Moody will also have to meet the remaining costs from there.

The letter, from parent company Ismay Imrie & Co, 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, Nova Scotia, but they offer to send his family "a photograph of the tombstone", if they want one.

When the letter was sent, Mr Moody's body had not been recovered, and the parent company would have known this as all remains were catalogued.

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, from Scarborough, North Yorkshire 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.

He was originally stationed on the Oceanic, the Titanic's sister ship, but transferred just months before the disaster in 1912.

The letter is due to be sold at the weekend at Henry Aldridge & Son in Devizes, Wiltshire and is expected to fetch between £20,000 and £25,000.

It is being sold by a private collector, who acquired it directly from the Moody family.

Auctioneer Andrew Aldridge described the letter as "highly significant and historically important".

"The importance of this letter cannot be overstated as it was unknown to this point that the White Star Line would charge the family of one of the officers onboard the ill-fated liner for the return of their loved one," he said.

"The irony of this letter is Officer Moody's body was never recovered, which further illustrates the callous nature of the letter. This is a unique chance to own a historically game changing Titanic letter."

<< Here is the letter in full >>

C.W. Moody, Esq., 98, Cartergate, Grimsby

Dear Sir,

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.

While sympathising with your inclination we trust, however, that you will eventually decide to allow the remains to be interred with the others which we can assure you will be carried out on your behalf by our people with all due reverence, and if you would care for a photograph of the grave or if there are some words you would like included on the tombstone we shall be happy to have your wish complied with on hearing from you.

Yours faithfully,

 For Ismay Imrie & Co.

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