Letter from William Mellors to Dorothy Ockenden

Richmond County Country Club, N.Y.:

''Dear Dorothy (Ockenden), I was so pleased to receive your letter and to find you had not forgotten me. I had intended writing to you before but I was ashamed of my writing.

You see I have no feeling yet from my knuckles to the tips of my fingers owing to having been frozen in the water, and so having heard from you I have got to write. I can assured you I felt it rather keenly when you left on the Thursday evening without saying good-bye.

Well I am glad to say I am getting along fairly well considering the experience I had on the Titanic.

I did not take any notice of the slight shock caused by the collision. I was asleep at the time it happened, and I just turned over and went to sleep again, about ten minutes later the young chap who shared my cabin with me, came and began to yell out that the ship had struck an iceberg and he thought we were going down. I really thought he was joking and told him so, but was soon convinced of the fact by hearing people running about and shouting on the deck and the engines being stopped.

I soon dressed and got up on deck, to find crowds up there putting on lifebelts and I had about 15 mins hard work tying the women's belts on. It was an awful sight to see the men's faces when the last boat went off.

At this time it was almost impossible to walk on the deck without you caught hold of something owing to the ship heeling right over. We were trying to fix up a collapsible boat when she gave the first signs of going under.

There seemed to be a tremble run through the whole of the ship and the next thing we heard were loud reports inside which I think were the water-tight doors giving way and before you could say Jack Robinson there seemed to be mountains of water rushing through the doors, and I was swept away from where I was right against the collapsible boat, and I simply clung on for all I was worth, whilst all this was going on she was going under water and it seemed as if thousands of men were dragging me under with her, when suddenly her (the forward) nose on which I was seemed to suddenly rise from underneath the water and I and a few more that were close by cut the ropes that held the boat to the falls (davits).

There was suddenly an explosion and I found myself whizzing through the water at an awful pace, having been blown away by the explosion. When I came to my senses a few minutes after I looked round and suddenly saw the ship part in the middle with the stern standing several hundred feet out of the water, at this time I was trying to swim away from her, but could not get more than a few yards away and I had as much as I could do to hold myself up from being dragged down with her. But the suction was not so great as I imagined it would be.

After she had gone the sight that met ones eyes was terrible. There were great masses of wreckage with hundreds of human beings fighting amongst hundreds of dead bodies for their lives.

I had been swimming for about 5 mins when a woman caught hold of my coat collar and begged me to save her life. Well Dorothy I felt that I was doomed and the least I could do was to try to keep both of us afloat. I had been holding her up for about (as far as I could tell) for about 20 minutes when I noticed my hands began to become as swollen as if I had a pair of miniature boxing gloves on and I began to lose my grip of the woman who was almost dead and she must have noticed the fact herself for she began to struggle like a madman and clutched me round the throat with the strength of a man. It was then I noticed she had no life-belt on and I found she was dragging me under the water with her.

I had the most awful fight for life under water as I shall never forget, but eventually I broke away from her and rose at once to the surface. I was so done up with the want of breath that I thought my lungs were affected through holding my breath so long but it did not take so long as it does to tell it. I had not been swimming for long when I was caught hold of by the leg and found a seaman was holding on to me, I tried to kick him off but found my legs were becoming numbed and he held on to me like a leech. I struck at him but he only laughed and began to try to pull me under water. I managed to get hold of him by the hair of his head and push his head under the water. He became almost insensible and I got my feet clear of his hands and when he came to the surface he began to try and swim alongside of me but I managed to keep clear of him. I suddenly heard a most awful sound like a rattle and he threw up his arms and I knew he was dead. I shall never forget it for I am sure he went mad.

I had been swimming for about 1 hour altogether when I saw an object a little way off which turned out to be a collapsible boat with about 20 or thirty people clinging to it, I managed after a hard struggle to get on this and found that the sides were broken away and that she was well under water. After a time I saw some of the people gradually dropping down dead one at the time and we had to push their bodies off to keep the raft afloat. Every now and again we were all thrown into the water owing to the boat capsizing and when we climbed back I noticed there were less climbed on.

We suddenly noticed lights on the horizon which turned out to be the Carpathia and suddenly she turned round and went out of sight and we thought she had picked the other boats up and missed us. There were then several of our own boats in the distance and we were calling them for about two hours and they answered us back by flashing a green light and blowing whistles but would not put back to save us. There was then only ten or twelve of us left on the raft alive and there were five or six laying dead on the bottom. By this time I had become exhausted and had to let a man I had been holding up fall to the bottom of the raft but he was saved. Eventually we were picked up and taken to the Carpathia.

Having been in the water for about six hours and only about ten or twelve saved from 30 to 40 people hanging on the raft. I have since been rather bad through having been frozen from the hips downwards and my hands were the same.

So Dorothy I have told you in a nutshell my experience on the Titanic. I hope you will forgive this writing as I am almost asleep on the pen; well I can scarcely hold it. The doctor thinks I shall get the feeling back to my hands etc. as time goes on.

Will you kindly thank Miss Davy for her letter and tell her I will write as soon as I can. I am awfully busy writing letters now.

Well Dorothy you are the first to hear my story in England. I hope you are getting along well and also given up whistling. I must now close hoping to hear from you by return of mail

With kind regards. I remain
Yours sincerely
William J. Mellors

P.S. Remember me to Miss Gravestock, I do not know her new name and also excuse this rotten writing.

Related Biographies:
William John Mellors

Relates to Ship:
Carpathia

Contributor
Brian Ticehurst

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(1912) Letter from William Mellors to Dorothy Ockenden Encyclopedia Titanica (ref: #3254, accessed 28th June 2017 12:06:53 AM) URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/letter-from-william-mellors-dorothy-ockenden.html

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    Added to Encyclopedia Titanica Tuesday 27th July 2004, last updated .