The following five letters, written to Mr. Joe Carvalho of
Massaschusetts by Commander Joseph G. Boxhall span the time period of
April 1961 through July of 1962, and reveal the sentiments of the Titanic
officer regarding the 50th anniversary of the ship's sinking, as well
as his recollections of the immediate aftermath of the sinking.
Commander Joseph G. Boxhall (left), Joe Carvalho (right)
Courtesy of Shelley Dziedzic
It will be noted that Mr. Boxhall retells several incidents in this
series of letters. It is also apparent that he is living in reduced
financial circumstances at this time.
All words, spellings, punctuation, dashes, etc. are reproduced here
just as written in the originals. All five letters are on thin blue
airmail self-folding stationery, written with a blue ink ballpoint pen
with a red sixpence stamp featuring the Queen and Parliament with the
address: J.G. Boxhall Commdr. RNR Ret. 11 Walcott Avenue Fairmile
Christchurch Hants. England .
These are written just before the decline in his health in the mid
sixties. He died in 1967 and his ashes were sprinkled on the sea as he
requested, over the position thought to be where Titanic lay at that time.
Monday, 24 April 1961
Dear Mr. Carvalho,
I have to thank you for your very kind letter of the 14 th . Also
for the two very nice photos of the beautiful models you made of the
TitanicConsidering you are not a sailor I think you must possess
great patience and skillPersonally I have never made a model, simply
because I have not the patience. I am now a very old man of 77 , and
most of my time reading and dozing off to sleep. I also have a very
large garden but not being a gardener I just cannot concentrate,
therefore I am lazy where a garden is concerned. I suppose you know
that only 4 of the Titanic's officers survived? But only 2 of us are
alive-Herbert James Pitman who was 3 rd officerI was 4 th officer,
being the only one of four who was on duty at the time of the crash.
Well, on 18 th March I was very surprised in the forenoon by a visit
quite unexpected by Pitmanhe with his nephew and wife had come to
Bournemouth for the weekendand my wife and I were invited to luncheon
with them the next dayPitman is a widower and lives at The Red
HousePitcombe. Bruton. Somerset. England .
Now I must tell that when I was 10 or 11 years old my father took us
to Boston in S/S Alecto of which he was master. He docked at Mystic
Dock Chelsea and whilst I stayed with English friends in Orange Street
Chelsea , I will remember setting off fireworks in the street lined
with trees then on the 4 th of July. I have been to Boston many times
since in White Star ships, just calling to land the mail and passengers
then proceed to New York . So I never had a chance to go ashore. If I
come across a photo of Pitman taken in the last few years I will send
it, but so far I have failed in my search. John Oldham is writing the
Ismay Line but I don't know whether it has gone to the publishers yet.
I must close again with many thanks and kind regards.
Yours sincerely, Joseph Groves Boxhall
30 January 1962
Dear Mr. Carvalho,
Many thanks for your nice letter and photograph of your beautiful
model of the Titanic. You must possess a tremendous amount of
patience. However it looks a wonderful work of art. I have just
discovered that I had to refer to an atlas to verify my spelling of
MASSACHUSETTS . In fact, I have always used the abbreviated word MASS.
As a boy of 11 my Dad took my Sister and I from Hull to Boston MASS. I
was sea sick really all the journey. Father was master of a steamer
called Alecto. We stayed with English friends who lived in Orange
Street or Avenue, Chelsea and we had the pleasure of being there 4 th
July celebrations. Since writing you in Aprilmy old Shipmate Herbert
John Pitman who was 3 rd officer of Titanic, and for some years
Pitman and I have been the last 2 surviving officers of the 4 that were
saved. I am sorry to say that he died on 7 Dec. and now I am the only
surviving officer of the Titanic.
So the Ismay Line has already reached America . The author John
Oldham often used to travel here and spend hours asking questions. It
is well-written and I trust it will become a best sellerbut all the
same I cannot see that it will can really interest anyone except
Liverpool people or White Star Line folk.
Many thanks for the coupon they the G.P.O. exchanged it for this
airletter. I don't know that I ever heard of the book entitled White
Star Liner Titanic 1911-12 that you mentioned.--I have read many and
no doubt some of them are out of print. There was one named Titanic
written by Filson Young and that commenced with the description of
seeing the ship before she was launched and the book was the first I
can remember but I have not seen it since the film A Night to
Remember.-appears to have faded out.
Again, thank you for your model picture and the coupon. My kind regards and best wishes,
Joseph Groves Boxhall Commander RNR Retd.
1 May 1962
Dear Mr. Carvalho,
I have to thank you for your Air letter containing cuttings from
Boston Globe and Boston Daily Herald both of Sunday 8 April and
both very interesting readingbut I suppose this 50 th anniversary of
her sinking on 15 April 1912 has again revived this terrible tragedy
and I think it rather sad that it should all be churned up again. I
have to thank you for the pictures of your beautiful models you have
made. I had intended getting a copy of the Model Engineer published in
London in Aprilthen it slipped my memorybeing an old, old man one's
memory becomes very poor. I don't know whether I told in my previous
letter that I visited Boston and laid up at Mystic Wharf Chelsea when I
was a school boy about 1896. My father was Master of a steamerwe were
there on July 4 th and enjoyed our fireworks. I have been there in the
White Star ships many times since but never ashorejust a call on our
way to New York .
Kindest Regards, Yours sincerely, J.G. Boxhall
25 th June 1962
Dear Mr. Carvalho,
Many thanks for yours of the 19 th June reminding me of your
previous letterhowever I am very slow at correspondence but as a
matter of fact I mailed a picture and letter to you same day as you
wrote to me 19 th June but by surface mail as the weight was 3 ½ oz.I
mailed it by the ordinary surface mail. Postage Air Mail would have
cost 4 shillings and 6pence which is rather a strain on my rapidly
I thank you for the reply coupon which has bought this Air letter for 6pence.
Yours sincerely, J.G. Boxhall
22 July 1962
Dear Mr. Carvalho,
I have to thank you for your letter of June 28 th . Also for the
interesting book Proceedings United States Naval Institute which
arrived quite recentlyThe picture of the Carpathia must have been
taken as she steamed over the place where the Titanic sank because I
can see the British Red Ensign at half mast. Captain Rostron steamed
over the ground searching for survivors but all we saw was one body of
a man floating on his back in a dinner jacket. There was some
flotsam-fittings, deck chairs and a considerable amount of granulated
cork used by ship's painters under the deck heads whilst the paint is
wet. It was some time later-(usually 10 days) when the bodies came to
the surfacewhen the cable ship Mackay Bennett from Halifax recovered a
very great number and took them to Halifax N.S.
Mr. Dent Ray you mentioned was a steward who made himself known to
the Rank organization but I cannot remember meeting him. All this
correspondence about the Titanic which appears to have flared up this
50 th year is getting me down and I am getting to the stage where I
have more than I can cope with. Many thanks for the book and your
photographs. Trusting you are fit and well.