Captain Steele's Medals Coming Up At Auction


Apr 29, 2004
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From the Liverpool Echo...

THE medals owned by the last men to step off the Titanic in England, before it set sail for its famously ill-fated maiden voyage, are to go on sale.

Benjamin Steel, from Birkenhead, Wirral, was the marine superintendent for the Liverpool-based White Star Line which owned the liner which sunk after hitting an iceberg in 1912.

Based in Southampton, Mr Steel had the job of ensuring the Titanic was safe before it set sale to New York. He had worked his way up from a junior officer with the Royal Navy reserves before being taken on by White Star.

He was in charge of lifeboats on the vessel and was charged with carrying out safety checks before it left port. Ominously, he was the officer who submitted a report to the captain saying the ship was seaworthy before it set sail. Then, after doing this, he left the liner for dry land, the last person to do so before it slipped anchor in Southampton.

Now, years later, it has emerged his medals and other memorabilia are in the possession of an anonymous owner from the south of England. They are now due to go under the hammer in Carlisle and the sale is being handled by auctioneer Steve Lee, from Anfield.

The catalogue guide price for the lot, which also includes other documentation, is between £5,000 and £8,000. But, because of the Titanic connection, it is believed there will be a lot of interest, meaning experts believe they could well sell for a lot more.

Mr Lee, a specialist in medals and coins, said: "Benjamin Steel had been a captain himself, and one of the medals is a transport medal, possibly for sailing to either the Boer War or the Boxer rebellion.

"We also have a copy of the inquest into why the ship went down.

"They asked him why the ship didn't have enough lifeboats, they wanted to blame him. But as far as I know it wasn't the policy at the time to make sure there were enough lifeboats."

The Titanic, which had been claimed as unsinkable, famously sent out a Mayday message at 11.40pm on Sunday, April 14, 1912, saying it had hit an iceberg.

The liner, which had 2,228 passengers on board, had just 20 lifeboats and 1,523 people perished in the icy waters.

The rusting hull of the ship still remains on the bed of the North Atlantic ocean, 1,000 miles due east of Boston.

The medals are due to go on sale on July 29 at the Carlisle showroom of Thomson, Roddick and Medcalf auctioneers.
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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Cheers for that, Andy. I have a feeling that I have some notes somewhere on Steel's career - must dig them out. Is there a Reserve Decoration among the medals?
 
S

Steve Lee

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Yes, there is a Reserve Decoration among them. If anyone is interested in these medals and related items feel free to call Thomson, Roddick and Medcalf on + UK (0) 1228 528 939 and ask for Steve Lee.
 

Inger Sheil

Member
Dec 3, 2000
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Cheers for that, Steve! I'm very interested in them, but don't think I'll be a bidder. Will be intrigued to see what go for, though. Judging from the above, there are interesting parallels with the medals that EJ Smith wore.
 

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