The Boxhall Letters

Voyage

The following five letters, written to Mr. Joe Carvalho ofMassaschusetts by Commander Joseph G. Boxhall span the time period ofApril 1961 through July of 1962, and reveal the sentiments of the Titanicofficer regarding the 50th anniversary of the ship's sinking, as wellas his recollections of the immediate aftermath of the sinking.

Commander Joseph G. Boxhall (left), Joe Carvalho (right)
Courtesy of Shelley Dziedzic

It will be noted that Mr. Boxhall retells several incidents in thisseries of letters. It is also apparent that he is living in reducedfinancial circumstances at this time.

All words, spellings, punctuation, dashes, etc. are reproduced herejust as written in the originals. All five letters are on thin blueairmail self-folding stationery, written with a blue ink ballpoint penwith a red sixpence stamp featuring the Queen and Parliament with theaddress: J.G. Boxhall Commdr. RNR Ret. 11 Walcott Avenue FairmileChristchurch Hants. England .

These are written just before the decline in his health in the midsixties. He died in 1967 and his ashes were sprinkled on the sea as herequested, over the position thought to be where Titanic lay at that time.

Monday, 24 April 1961

Dear Mr. Carvalho,

I have to thank you for your very kind letter of the 14 th . Alsofor the two very nice photos of the beautiful models you made of the“Titanic”—Considering you are not a sailor I think you must possessgreat patience and skill—Personally I have never made a model, simplybecause I have not the patience. I am now a very old man of 77 , andmost of my time reading and dozing off to sleep. I also have a verylarge garden –but not being a gardener I just cannot concentrate,therefore I am lazy where a garden is concerned. I suppose you knowthat only 4 of the Titanic's officers survived? But only 2 of us arealive-Herbert James Pitman who was 3 rd officer—I was 4 th officer,being the only one of four who was on duty at the time of the crash.Well, on 18 th March I was very surprised in the forenoon by a visitquite unexpected by Pitman—he with his nephew and wife had come toBournemouth for the weekend—and my wife and I were invited to luncheonwith them the next day—Pitman is a widower and lives at “The RedHouse”—Pitcombe. Bruton. Somerset. England .

Now I must tell that when I was 10 or 11 years old my father took usto Boston in S/S Alecto of which he was master. He docked at MysticDock Chelsea and whilst I stayed with English friends in Orange StreetChelsea , I will remember setting off fireworks in the street linedwith trees then on the 4 th of July. I have been to Boston many timessince in White Star ships, just calling to land the mail and passengersthen proceed to New York . So I never had a chance to go ashore. If Icome across a photo of Pitman taken in the last few years I will sendit, but so far I have failed in my search. John Oldham is writing the“Ismay Line” but I don't know whether it has gone to the publishers yet.

I must close again with many thanks and kind regards.

Yours sincerely, Joseph Groves Boxhall

30 January 1962

Dear Mr. Carvalho,

Many thanks for your nice letter and photograph of your beautifulmodel of the “Titanic”. You must possess a tremendous amount ofpatience. However it looks a wonderful work of art. I have justdiscovered that I had to refer to an atlas to verify my spelling ofMASSACHUSETTS . In fact, I have always used the abbreviated word MASS.As a boy of 11 my Dad took my Sister and I from Hull to Boston MASS. Iwas sea sick really all the journey. Father was master of a steamercalled “Alecto”. We stayed with English friends who lived in OrangeStreet or Avenue, Chelsea and we had the pleasure of being there 4 thJuly celebrations. Since writing you in April—my old Shipmate HerbertJohn Pitman who was 3 rd officer of “Titanic”, and for some yearsPitman and I have been the last 2 surviving officers of the 4 that weresaved. I am sorry to say that he died on 7 Dec. and now –I am the onlysurviving officer of the “Titanic”.

So the “Ismay Line” has already reached America . The author JohnOldham often used to travel here and spend hours asking questions. Itis well-written and I trust it will become a best seller—but all thesame I cannot see that it will can really interest anyone exceptLiverpool people or White Star Line folk.

Many thanks for the coupon they the G.P.O. exchanged it for thisairletter. I don't know that I ever heard of the book entitled “WhiteStar Liner Titanic 1911-12” that you mentioned.--I have read many andno doubt some of them are out of print. There was one named “Titanic”written by Filson Young and that commenced with the description ofseeing the ship before she was launched and the book was the first Ican remember but I have not seen it since the film “A Night toRemember”.-appears to have faded out.

Again, thank you for your model picture and the coupon. My kind regards and best wishes,

Yours sincerely,

Joseph Groves Boxhall Commander RNR Retd.

1 May 1962

Dear Mr. Carvalho,

I have to thank you for your Air letter containing cuttings from“Boston Globe” and “Boston Daily Herald” both of Sunday 8 April andboth very interesting reading—but I suppose this 50 th anniversary ofher sinking on 15 April 1912 has again revived this terrible tragedyand I think it rather sad that it should all be churned up again. Ihave to thank you for the pictures of your beautiful models you havemade. I had intended getting a copy of the Model Engineer published inLondon in April—then it slipped my memory—being an old, old man one'smemory becomes very poor. I don't know whether I told in my previousletter that I visited Boston and laid up at Mystic Wharf Chelsea when Iwas a school boy about 1896. My father was Master of a steamer—we werethere on July 4 th and enjoyed our fireworks. I have been there in theWhite Star ships many times since but never ashore—just a call on ourway to New York .

Kindest Regards, Yours sincerely, J.G. Boxhall

25 th June 1962

Dear Mr. Carvalho,

Many thanks for yours of the 19 th June reminding me of yourprevious letter—however I am very slow at correspondence but as amatter of fact I mailed a picture and letter to you same day as youwrote to me –19 th June but by surface mail as the weight was 3 ½ oz.—Imailed it by the ordinary surface mail. Postage Air Mail would havecost 4 shillings and 6pence which is rather a strain on my rapidlydiminishing capital.

I thank you for the reply coupon which has bought this Air letter for 6pence.

Yours sincerely, J.G. Boxhall

22 July 1962

Dear Mr. Carvalho,

I have to thank you for your letter of June 28 th . Also for theinteresting book Proceedings United States Naval Institute –whicharrived quite recently—The picture of the “Carpathia” must have beentaken as she steamed over the place where the “Titanic” sank because Ican see the British Red Ensign at half mast. Captain Rostron steamedover the ground searching for survivors but all we saw was one body ofa man floating on his back in a dinner jacket. There was someflotsam-fittings, deck chairs and a considerable amount of granulatedcork used by ship's painters under the deck heads whilst the paint iswet. It was some time later-(usually 10 days) when the bodies came tothe surface—when the cable ship Mackay Bennett from Halifax recovered avery great number and took them to Halifax N.S.

Mr. Dent Ray you mentioned was a steward who made himself known tothe Rank organization but I cannot remember meeting him. All thiscorrespondence about the “Titanic” which appears to have flared up this50 th year is getting me down and I am getting to the stage where Ihave more than I can cope with. Many thanks for the book and yourphotographs. Trusting you are fit and well.

Regards, Yours faithfully, J.G. Boxhall Commdr. RNR Retd.

Joseph Carvalho who lives in Massaschusetts was one of the original trustees and co-founders of the Titanic Historical Society of Indian Orchard when that organization was founded in 1963.

He has donated these letters to the Titanic International Society Archives.

Related Biographies:

Joseph Groves Boxhall

Acknowledgements

Shelley Dzeidzic

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