George Rheims


Charles Provost

Is it possible to obtain the original letter written by George Alexandre Lucien Rheims in French to his wife in France. To my knowledge, I think he wrote it right after the Carpathia docked in New York, and lenght several pages. So far I have been able to recover some bits & captions of it, but never found the entire letter. Thanks to anyone who can help. All my best,

Charles Provost
I think that's a good question. There are alleged translations of it about but so much has been made of the allegations in the letter that I'd like to see the original. Too much Titanic evidence has been filtered through newspapers and the like. A notable example is Charlotte Collyer's story, which has obviously been dramatised by the magazine.
How true. You are perfectly right. I once saw an English translation of it, not complete, and that seemed to me a little exaggerated. I felt I would make a mistake by buying it. I would give everything I have to see the original letter written in French by Mr. Rheims. The French being my primary language, it would not be too difficult for me to understand it! Thanks for your input, Dave.

I believe the letter was in the possesion of a nephew named Richard de Roussey de Sales ( sp? )
Richard de Roussy de Sales used to live in Dallas but I think he is dead now--at least he would be in his 90's if living. His mother, Lily, was George Rheims' sister. She died in 1948 in San Francisco--I don't know of any living Rheims relatives other than George's grandson, George Loring Rheims (Jr.), who lives in France.
Is anyone else puzzled by Mr. Rheim's account? I find some details very confusing.

First, his cabin location. In his deposition to the United States District Court, he said that his stateroom was A21 on the port side of the ship. Now, unless I've had too much wine, A21 is located on the starboard side. He even drew a little sketch (exhibit A), marking the location of his stateroom, and sure enough he wrote down "A21" on the port side. To complicate things, A21 is attributed to another passenger, Mr. Brady. Could it be that Mr. Rheims got the number wrong? He seemed to be sure that his cabin was on the port side. Perhaps he inverted the numbers and he really meant A12, which is unoccupied as far as I know?

Second, he told the Court that when the ship struck the iceberg, he was coming right out of the bathroom on the forward part of A-deck, and he said that he saw the berg through a window on the starboard side just as he was closing the door to the bathroom. Referring to the deck plans once again, I'm having a hard time figuring how this could be possible, as there do not seem to be any window in line with the passageway just outside the lavatory. Rheims made it clear that he still had his hand on the knob of the door to the bathroom when he felt a shudder and turned right only to see a white mass passing by through a window. His sketch is very fuzzy and does not really help. It does not match at all with the actual plans of the ship. Does anyone see something that I don't?
Just noticed: the deckplans here on ET indicate that there ARE windows on both sides of the passageway where the baths are located. On the White Star Line's "Plan of first class accommodation" (that I was using as a reference), there are no windows. The passageway seems closed on both sides. If the plans reproduced here are right, it is possible that Mr. Rheims was coming out of one of the three "bath rooms" (closer to the elevator hall), and not out of the "gents lavy", which is located urther ahead. I might have cleared my second point all by myself. But his cabin location is still confusing ;-)
You raise a good point. For somebody standing at the door of either of the two bathrooms at the forward end of A Deck there would be no line of sight to any window. The same goes for two of the bathrooms further back alongside the elevators (there are no windows at the ends of the transverse passage in which they are located). The third (most starboard) of the row opens into the main fore-aft passage and from there a window would be visible at the far end of the passage - facing forward and not likely to provide a view of an iceberg passing to starboard. Also it might just have been possible to see diagonally back through the adjacent 'baize doors' (if they had windows or were open), across the First Class entrance and through one its side windows. That seems unlikely.
Very, very interesting Bob. Thanks for your input. It makes you wonder how the whole thing happened. Rheims had no interest in lying to the Court, so I don't see why he would make up such a situation. He even went as far as providing a sketch so his words could be verified. Are you positive there were no windows at the ends of the transverse passage in line with the bath rooms? Some plans indicate there were, others don't.
I've not seen a plan which shows windows at the ends of that particular transverse passageway. If Rheims' account is accurate, then the only possibility for him to see anything other than solid walls as he turned to the right at a bathroom door on A Deck is the view backwards and to starboard from the one bathroom which opened onto the main corridor, and that would require a line of site through the 'baized doors' (which did have glazed ports) at the end of the corridor, across to a window at the far corner of the First Class entrance, then through the small windows of the walled-in promenade deck which were some distance beyond that. A bit of a stretch, but maybe just possible. See the impression attached, which gives a very rough idea of what he could have seen from the bathroom doorway in the main corridor (the 'baized doors' in the corridor have been omitted for clarity). One further oddity, though. That particular trio of bathrooms was intended for use by ladies, so Rheims should have been using one of those futher forward close to the men's lavatories, but no outside view was possible from the doorway of any of those. He might have been using the modern American euphemism of 'bathroom' to mean the toilet block, but no outside view would have been possible from that doorway either


I haven't had time to look into the details of this yet, but the subject interests me. I see two possibilities here, either the man is lying, or he didn't understand where he was at in the ship, or our understanding of the facts is in some way wrong.

1. It's possible he lied about the iceberg just to get his name in the paper and have a good story to tell. Seeing the iceberg is a lot more interesting than just having been there.

2. It sounds like this man doesn't know his starboard from his port. He might have been lost, and given the wrong location. If so, then there must be a bathroom nearby, possibly up a deck or down a deck, which does meet the conditions specified.

Where can I see a copy of Mr. Rheim's deposition?
There are certainly differing views about where Rheims' cabin was actually located (some have suggested B Deck) but I think you'll find no bathroom or toilet on any deck that would offer any better prospect of glimpsing a passing iceberg. And a merest glimpse is all he could have had in the scenario I've suggested. An impression of light reflected back from something passing by and seen through three layers of windows - he certainly couldn't have seen enough to draw a picture of the berg, which is what he seems to have done.

Rheims' deposition can be seen on the Titanic Inquiry Project website.
Thank you, I found his deposition. I was looking in the wrong place.

Notably, he claims to have had some memory loss due to the accident, so it may be he has an unusually imperfect memory of the events. His deposition was also given in November 1913, over a year and a half after the sinking.

His iceberg drawing is not the iceberg he saw out the window. He only saw "something white" out the window. The iceberg drawing is of the nearest and largest of 4 icebergs he saw in the morning at about dawn. It was about 2 miles off from him.

Also important to this discussion is his drawing of the lavatory ( On this diagram, he indicated that the top was forward. He also seemed to recall that that forward wall was full of windows.

1. It was the smoking room lavatory, but he forgot or confused the details. (The smoking room lavatory would have offered an excellent view)

2. It was the Gentleman's lavatory in forward A Deck, but either he heavily mis-remembered or the forward end of A-Deck was not finished.

3. It was the ladies' lavatory, or the end of the block which the lavatories were located in, and Mr. Rheim's didn't fully state where he was going and his times for that evening.

I think, that the only cases in which we can hold his memory as both accurate and honest is the case that either the ladies' lavatory was actually the gentlemen's lavatory and is mis-labeled on our diagrams, or that it was the gentlemen's lavatory and the cabins at the forward end of A deck were unfinished to the extent that they didn't obstruct his view outside.

I suspect that his testimony is gibberish, mangled by bad memory, passing time, conversations with other witnesses, and possibly by dreams. I think it is likely that he saw the iceberg pass by, and he drew a picture of an iceberg he saw the morning after, but his account of events is more or less useless.