Continued to Work Till Explosion Rent Titanic---Wife is Critically Ill
Among the five postal clerks who stuck to their mail to the last and sank with it when the ill-fated Titanic went down to its watery grave off the Banks of Newfoundland was one Asbury Park man. He was W. L. Gwinn, 38 years old, who until the first of this month lived with his wife and two small children at 794 Washington avenue, Brooklyn. His wife had been in ill-health for some time past, and on April 1 the family moved to this city where it was believed the bracing sea air migh [sic] restore her strength.
She lies grief stricken today in their apartment at 1215 Kingsley street. Her last letter to her husband had told of rapid improvement in her health, but the shock of the news of her husband’s tragic death at his post of duty was more than her frail constitution could withstand. She took to her bed on the same day that she learned the truth, and grave fears are entertained regarding her recovery.
Fourth Officer of Titanic Tells of Gwinn’s Bravery
Fourth officer Boxhall of the Titanic and a steward on board the same boat were the only two who have given any definite information as to what happened among the mail clerks. Both agree that they acted with the utmost bravery and stood by their posts till the last. One of the English clerks reported to Fourth Officer Boxhall that the water was coming in the mail room on deck E. Boxhall went down. He told the government officials that all was in perfect order there. The steward says that he saw Gwinn, and that he recognized him, having met him on the Majestic, an old-time liner of the White Star Line, which has since been put out of commission.
Gwinn seemed cheerful, he said, and while the last lifeboat was being launched, he, with the other clerks, was busily carrying mail---registered parcels and letters first---from the mailing room on deck E up to deck C, from which they thought it might be carried off and saved. When it became apparent that the ship was sinking they only worked more quickly and enlisted the services of the stewards still left aboard to aid them that the work might be hastened.
Gwinn had long held a reputation for bravery. He was a veteran of the Spanish-American War and was at the front in Cuba with the Seventy-first New York militia. His reputation went unsullied with him to the grave.
Worked Over Mail Bags While Ship Was Sinking
The steward was taken off in lifeboat No. 15, and the last he saw of Gwinn, he says, was while the lifeboat crawled away into the night. The Asbury Pak mail clerk was then on Deck C with the four other clerks, Oscar S. Woody of Washington, D.C., John S. Marsh of Newark, N. J., Jago S. Smith and E. D. Williamson of England. They were still working over their mail bags, cool and self-contained until the explosion came, and the darkness, and the ocean swallowed them up. Not once did they waver or blanch from their duty. No one can say that they attempted to get into the lifeboats or thought of themselves for a single instant. They stuck to that which their governments had entrusted to their care, and with it they died.
Gwinn had been connected with the sea post service of the United States government since 1909 and had never been in a disaster at sea before. Previous to his assignment to ocean duty he had been a clerk in the Manhattan postoffice since 1895.
There were 200 sacks of registered mail containing 400,000 pieces aboard the Titanic, according to the report of Postmaster General Hitchcock. He has nothing but praise for the bravery of the mail clerks in charge.
Postmaster General Hitchcock today recommended to Chairman Moon of the postal committee of the house that a provision be inserted in the postoffices’ appropriation bill, now before the house, authorizing the payment of $2,000, the maximum prescribed by law, to the families of each of the three sea post clerks who lost their lives on the Titanic.
[MAB Note: This is not how this paragraph appears in the original. In the original, two lines of type were mis-set, so that the words “post clerks who lost their lives on the” appeared immediately after the last comma.]
“The bravery exhibited by these men,” Mr. Hitchcock stated, “in their efforts to safeguard, under trying conditions, the valuable mail entrusted to them should be a source of pride to the entire postal service, and deserves some marked expression of appreciation from the government.”
When they were last seen by those who survived the disaster, these three clerks, John S. March, William L. Gwynn [sic] and Oscar S. Woody, were on duty engaged with the two British clerks in transferring bags of registered mail from the ships [sic] past [sic] office to the upper deck. An officer of the Titanic stated that when he last saw these men they were working in two feet of water.