‘Goodbye old man’: Harrowing Titanic survivor’s letter from second officer to sell for £15,000


The Titanic set sail in 1912 (Picture: Getty)

A harrowing eye-witness account of panicked scenes on the Titanic has emerged for the first time - and it’s expected to sell for up to £15,000.

The letter was written by second officer Charles Lightoller, the most senior official to survive life on the doomed vessel.

In the brave account, Lightoller recalls how several of his colleagues were seen calmly strolling the decks of the doomed vessel in a bid to reassure passengers as the tragedy unfolded.

He also recalls how the eight crew members seemingly accepted their fate, and calmly said: ‘goodbye old man’.

It’s believed that he penned the note to a colleague of Dr John Simpson, a surgeon who perished in the disaster, writing it as he sailed back to London from New York.

‘I am sorry to say that Asst. Surgeon John E. Simpson was on the Titanic (not Asst. Purser, as stated in the papers). I deeply regret your loss, which is also mine’, Lightoller wrote.


The emotional note was written by Charles Lightoller (Picture: Sotheby’s)

“I may say I was practically the last man to speak to Dr Simpson, and on this occasion he was walking along the boat deck in company with Mssrs. McElroy, Barker, Dr O'Loughlin and four assistant pursers.

‘They were all perfectly calm in the knowledge that they had done their duty and were still assisting by showing a calm and cool exterior to the passengers.’

‘Each one individually came up to me and shook hands. We merely exchanged the words "Goodbye, old man”.

‘This occurred shortly before the end and I am not aware that he was seen by anyone after. With deepest sympathy for you in the loss of your friend.’


Captain Lightoller’s note is now up for sale (Picture: Sotheby’s)

Now, it’s thought that the letter could sell for up to £15,000 after being put up for sale by Titanic experts Henry Aldridge and Son - who are also selling a note that Lightoller wrote to the army, taking up their offer of a move to the Titanic.

But because the letter was written onboard the boat before it set sail in Southampton, it could sell for up to £40,000.

Auctioned Andrew Aldridge said: (The disaster) is still fresh in his memory and there is a lot of raw emotion that comes out. It is perhaps the best content in a Titanic-related letter that I have seen.

‘It is quite clear from this account that these men were fully aware of what was about to happen to them yet showed great courage to carry on like normal to help reassure the passengers around them.

‘And then they said their goodbyes in a rather matter-of-fact fashion. This encounter must have been just minutes before the Titanic finally sank at 2.20am.’