Why were the bodies recovered?

Nov 18, 2012
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How did the Postal Clerks' bodies end up outside of the ship? Most accounts put them as dying in the mailroom or somewhere near that trying to recover the registered mail, yet the bodies of Chief Postman Oscar S. Woody and Postman John Starr March were recovered by the Mackay-Bennett. Since the mailroom is very far forward of where the ship split and moreover, their bodies would be unlikely to float had they drowned and been ejected in the split, why were their bodies recovered? Any theories or inquiry testimony about the fate of the postmen?
 
Mar 18, 2008
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Because they did NOT died there!
It is unfortunately a mistake made by a Titanic documentary from Discovery Channel in 1996 and was since then taken as a fact which is not! They tried to save as much post as possible by taking the mail bags to the upper deck but the water rose to quickly and they gave it up and were watching together with 1st class passenger Norman Chambers and his wife down how the water rose higher. Later they went up on deck.
 
Nov 18, 2012
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Thanks for the info!

One more question: Are there any other accounts of what happened to the postal clerks besides those of Chambers and his wife?
 

Adam Went

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Apr 28, 2003
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If I remember correctly, a couple of Titanic films even depict the postal clerks rushing to take the sacks of mail higher up out of the vicinity of the water. Of course that was very early on in the sinking and the full extent of the situation was not yet known - a lot can change in a couple of hours!!

Cheers,
Adam.
 

Scott Mills

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Jul 10, 2008
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Because they did NOT died there!
It is unfortunately a mistake made by a Titanic documentary from Discovery Channel in 1996 and was since then taken as a fact which is not! They tried to save as much post as possible by taking the mail bags to the upper deck but the water rose to quickly and they gave it up and were watching together with 1st class passenger Norman Chambers and his wife down how the water rose higher. Later they went up on deck.
Old news, but, in fact the chief mail clerk, the chief purser, and Captain Smith were seen together well after Boxhall sees the mail clerks trying to rescue the registered mail. Somewhere around 12:45 if I'm recalling correctly.
 
A Night to Remember by Walter Lord also mentions that fact. The confusion regarding the time of death of the postal clerks is a result of the discovery of one of the bodies. The timepiece on it had stopped 1.27 am (long before the bridge had plunged under) leading everyone to the conclusion that they must have died early on in the sinking, while they were still carrying the bags in the mail room. In fact, it is well known now that in the rush o the sinking they forgot to set their timepieces accordingly. If you convert 1.27 to the correct timezone the Titanic was located, you have 2.15 am.
 

Scott Mills

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Jul 10, 2008
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That makes sense. It also isn't terribly convincing evidence even if the particular watch in question was set correctly, since we know very early these men were wading through water trying to save the mail. At any given point in the evening contact between their watches and the sea would have stopped those watches.
 
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Talira Greycrest

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Why were they bothering to try and save the mail when they should have been trying to save themselves? Was the mail more important to them than their lives?
 
May 31, 2006
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Early in the sinking the ship's fate was unknown. The postal workers were charged with the protection of the mail, especially the registered mail and they began hauling mail sacks to an upper deck location to escape the rising flood waters. This work stopped when the flooding became overwhelming and the postal clerks went up on deck to assess the situation there. My great-uncle, William Logan Gwinn was one of the clerks. None of these five men survived and Will Gwinn's body was not recovered. My grandfather, Cornelius J. Gwinn, Will's brother, met the Carpathia when it docked in New York. In a conversation with Officer Boxhall about his brother's fate he believed that Uncle Will was resigned to the outcome. The last Boxhall saw of Will was when they separated Will was sitting on the rail and relatively composed. This seems in accordance with Will's nature and was of some comfort to the family.
 
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Talira Greycrest

Guest
Alan, sorry to hear of the loss of your great-uncle. Not sure if you know this, but in Southampton's Civic Centre, there's a bronze memorial dedicated to Titanic's postal clerks. Apparently, the memorial was made using one of Titanic's spare propellers.
 
So sad to hear about it Alan. As it has already been stated above, the situation was not clear from the onset. Had the damage been a little lighter and the ship stabilized itself, the mail would have been lost for no apparent reason. So, moving the mail sacks to dry areas on the ship was the right thing to do at that moment!