Flooding of the Mail Rooms


Arun Vajpey

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Apr 21, 2009
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I am trying to get a mental picture of the flooding of the mail rooms of the Titanic, which happened quite early after the ship collided with the iceberg. The following is as I have understood it from various accounts. I would be grateful for any opinions and corrections.

As I understand it, there were actually two mail rooms - the main sorting room on G-deck where presumably the 5 postal clerks worked most of the time and the stacking room on the Orlop Deck below where the large mail sacks were stored. The two rooms were connected by a large companionway which carried on upward as far as the E-deck. When the Titanic struck the iceberg at 11:40 pm, those on duty were presumably working in the G-deck sorting office while off-duty crew were sleeping in their quarters (where were the postal workers' quarters located?), among them Willaim Gwynne whom Boxhall noticed was in his nightclothes as the former rushed out to help his colleagues.

The Orlop deck started to flood soon after the collision and apparently the clerks rushed down from the sorting office and tried to drag as many sacks of mail as they could to the upper deck. But within 10 minutes of the collision the Orlop deck was completely flooded and water had started to enter the G-deck sorting office. It must have been somewhere within that 10-minute period that Boxhall arrived and was met by clerk John 'Jago' Smith coming-up the stairs. On being told of the situation in the mail rooms, Boxhall told Smith to go to the bridge and report to Captain Smith while he himself continued damage inspection. Also, Bedroom Steward Theissinger tried to help the postal clerks briefly while Second Stewards Wheat and Dodd looked in.

By then the G-deck sorting room was flooding rapidly and the futility of their mission must have been apparent to the postal workers. They soon abandoned the sorting office and climbed on to the F-deck and by midnight the G-deck mailing room was almost completely flooded. That was when some of the clerks saw Fist Class passengers Mr and Mrs Chambers standing at the top of the stairs on E-deck from where they could see the flooding G-deck mail room**.

** In Paul Quinn's interesting book Dusk To Dawn there is an illustration on page 93 of the Chambers couple looking down the staircase from the top of E-deck to the nearly completely flooded sorting office on G-deck. In the middle of that staircase there appears to be a landing leading off on either side to a corridor, presumably belonging to the F-deck. Is that depiction accurate?

In the next 5 minutes or so Captain Smith looked in at the flooded mail rooms, presumably on continued damage inspection after he split-up briefly from Thomas Andrews. Judging by the detailed description of thier likely inspection route in On A Sea Of Glass, the Captain must have been on his way back to the bridge by then to reunite with Andrews and the exchange that made them realise that the Titanic was doomed.
 
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Dec 27, 2017
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Arun, the postal clerks were billeted on F deck outboard of cabin 69. I can't give you a precise number as the cabin numbers are obscured on the deck plans.

Roger
 
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Arun Vajpey

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Thank you Roger.

Am I right in thinking that the Chambers couple were standing at the top of the stairs on E-deck and looking down? From that vantage point, could they see the flooding of the mail room on G-deck as the water lapped the bottom of the stairs? If they could, that also explains how they saw Captain Smith as he looked-in on his way back to the bridge.
 
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