Purser Claude Lancaster

Spencer Knarr

Jun 16, 2004
I hope this is the correct forum to be posting this.
I recently added this item to my collection and I was hoping someone could provide me with some more information about it.

Was it common for the purser of a ship to send out letters such as this?

I have never come across an intact White Star Line seal before. How can I best care for this item?

Can anyone perhaps tell me what the value of this item is?
Dec 31, 2003
Hampstead, London
Hello Spencer. Very interesting, and unique. What a charming, kindly gesture for the Purser to have created this mock-serious 'document' for these young passengers, disembarking at Cherbourg. How they must have endeared themselves to him! It very much resembles the letters of introduction which once served in lieu of passports, were for long afterwards drawn up to accompany them, and may still be presented at embassies.

Noel F. Jones

May 14, 2002
Quite. Such 'ephemera' bears witness to the kind of feelings generated as ocean passages near their end and new-found friends must part. Redolent of 'the channels' indeed. Highly irregular use of the company seal however!

And how are we to interpret "sleeping capacity"?

Value? I haven't a clue but I'd put a reserve of £50 on it. It may fetch much more in the right room.

Now if you could identify the Misses Belcher and Weir or their descendants you might try blackmail....


Spencer Knarr

Jun 16, 2004
Hehe! I'm not looking to sell it really, rather I'm just curious for more information about this item and its value. It certainly is a wonderful piece and I enjoy it having it in my collection very much.

Inger Sheil

Dec 3, 2000
That's Claude Lancaster's rather distinctive signature - the gesture certainly seems to bear out the charm for which this Purser was reknowned. As you're probably aware, Lancaster was a purser on the Olympic, and can be seen in some of the early photos of alongside her officers, alongside men such as Smith, Murdoch and Wilde. What a tremendous item!

Mark Baber

Dec 29, 2000
The New York Times, 20 December 1936

Senior Staff Man of White Star Line Served on Both Majestics of Fleet
Veteran, Retiring Before Time, Rejected Offer of Post on a Secondary Ship
Claud [sic] B. Lancaster, senior purser of the White Star Line, who has made the acquaintance of thousands of American travelers during the thirty-five years he has held that post, will retire at the end of this month in his fifty-ninth year.

He was made a purser on the first Majestic in 1901 and made his last voyage as chief purser of the second ship of the White Star fleet to bear that name in February of this year.

He was one of the veteran officers who suffered through the merger of the Cunard and White Star lines. A berth as purser on the Scythia was offered to him but he declined, saying it would be lowering the dignity of the cloth after serving for more than twenty-five years on such big ships as the Olympic and Majestic. He was also purser of the Oceanic when she was new, as well as the Germanic, the first Laurentic and other liners.

During the World War Mr. Lancaster was a paymaster in the British Navy and had the experience of being torpedoed twice. The first time was on the hospital ship Britannic on Nov. 21, 1916, off the island of Zante in the Mediterranean on a bright sunny afternoon.

The second occasion was on the transport Justicia off the coast of North Ireland on July 25, 1918.

That was the biggest fight of its kind during the World War and lasted twenty-four hours.

The transport was attacked by eight German submarines and was hit by two torpedoes. One struck the Justicia in the evening, Mr.
Lancaster said, and she was under tow the next morning when the second one hit the big ship amidships and sank her.

From the end of February until Sept. 30 of this year Mr. Lancaster was on full pay and was then put on half pay until Dec. 31. On Jan. 1 he will be put on pension and in addition will have a special allowance until he reaches sixty-three, which is the retiring age in the organization.

Mr. Lancaster was popular with passengers, officers and the crews of the ships on which he sailed.


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