Who employed the postal workers

Richard Benjamin

Former Member
Can anyone help me?

All five postal workers died when the RMS Titanic sank.

They were :
William Logan Gwinn
John Starr March
John Richard Jago Smith
James Bertram Williamson
Oscar Scott Woody

I am interested to know who actually employed these men. Was it Royal Mail or White Star Line?


Former Member
In 1912, the shipping lines received revenues from the Sea Post Service. The clerks were employed by the Postal Authorities.
The three American clerks, John Starr March, and Oscar Scott Woody were recruited from the Railway Mail Service, and William Logan Gwinn was from the Foreign Mail Section
The two British clerks, John Richard Jago Smith
James Bertram Williamson, worked for the British Postmaster General.

After the disaster, the US Postmaster General entered a statement of commendation to the men, in his 1912 report.

The British Postmaster General sent letters to the parents of Smith and Williamson. He then received replies from both families, who acknowledged the sacrifices of their sons.

The story of the Postal Clerks is currently on exhibit at the Smithsonian Postal Museum in Washington DC. You can also access the story through the Smithsonian's website.

Emily Cunliffe

Former Member
Hi everyone,

In relation to the question about the postal workers, I came across a website dedicated just to the postal workers a few days ago I'm sorry but I can't quite remember what it was called but I found very interesting! I'll try and find out what the name of the site's called.

Best wishes

Emily Cunliffe

Former Member
Hi again,

I've just found out what the website's called it's; Posted aboard RMS Titanic, I found it under the Ask Jeeves search engine. I hope that's of some use to you anyway!

Best wishes
Have you been to the Blackhawk Museum before? Is it worthwhile? They sure have a comprehensive website. The Titanic lectures to be given by Lee Meredith and Bob Ballard sound like good excuses to visit.
The museum is a very upscale one in a wealthy neighborhood (off Sycamore Canyon Road and Hwy 680). It's mostly known for the automobile collection (which includes an enormous number of vintage, rare cars, including Fatty Arbuckle's Pierce Arrow, Clark Gable's Deusenberg coupe, Stalin's Packard, Bugatti, Stutz Bearcat, etc.). Ken Behring, owner of the Seattle Seahawks, has the car collection, and displays it there. I have not yet been to the Titanic exhibit (you should check with Laurie Brown, she's been there). The Titanic exhibit is on until October. Maybe I'll have a go at it next week and then drop you a line. By the way, the U.S.S. Iowa is up here in the Carquinez Straights now.

Charlene Vickers

Former Member
The website Emily mentioned can be found at:


Although I'm not sure what to make of the photo at:


It's supposed to show John March's pocket watch stopped at 1:27, the time he supposedly died, but to me it looks more like it stopped at 5:07. I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation, such as minute and hour hands being different back then (although my dad's pocket watch has a short hour hand), or perhaps the minute hand broke off. Or perhaps it didn't stop upon submersion.

That website has very comprehensive material on all the postal workers. I sent some of the information to Phil as an addition to his biographies, and he e-mailed me back. This was around a month ago, so I'm not sure if the biographies will be updated or not. I hope so, so I can say I contributed something.


Ben Holme

Hi Charlene,

And thank you for posting a link to that fascinating site about the postal workers.

The most likely explanation for John March's watch having stopped at 1.27am is that he may have been confused about the time difference and reset his watch two hours early, instead of one. Titanic had passed through the time zone during the day on April 14th. As the ship sank at 2.20am, 2.27 seems a more likely time for his watch to have stopped, had he reset it correctly. Just a thought...


Christine Geyer

Former Member
These Postal Clerks where employed by the Southampton and New York branches of the British and U.S. Post Offices and not members of the White Star or Titanic crew. The post mark on the mail was "Transatlantic Post Office". The Postmaster in 1908 commented " This service is looked upon as the best in US Post Office... they (the Postal Clerks) are paid much higher than their men, minimum salary 1,200 dollars per annum... hard and trying in the winter... only healthy men can stand the strain". The headstamped postal number, 7, first used on the Titanic, was allocated to the Postal Clerks themselves, and not to the ship. When a Postal Clerk was lost in a disaster, the number was never re-allocated to any other Postal Clerk in their service. Eleven numbers in all had been issued to the Southampton sea post.

You can find some more detailed information about the postal clerks on http://www.euronet.nl/users/keesree/maiden.htm#Postclerk as well. Hope that can help

Many regards
I visited this exhibit at the Blawkhawk Museum, locally. It's very small, but is neatly presented and interesting. The story of the postal workers is told. There are videos of "Robin" searching around the wreck, and going into the Postal Department on Titanic. Some keys and watches recovered from bodies of two postal workers are shown. There are pictures of Harold Cottam, a big model of the ship, and many photographs and drawings. Replica lifejackets, clothes and hats are presented. Interestingly, John Jacob Astor's gold watch is on display, with some of his coins. They are apparently owned by a local San Franciscan, and the museum had them on loan.
Can someone explain to me what were the tasks of the postal clerks during the voyage? Would passengers write letters that they would collect and then send them when the ship would dock? What other tasks would they perform?
Dealing with mail collected on board would have been a very minor part of their work. What they were doing mainly was detailed sorting of the contents of hundreds of bags of mail that had been loaded at Southampton, Cherbourg and Queenstown for shipment to addresses in North America.