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Was the captain of the Titanic drunk on the night the ship struck an iceberg? Letter written by survivor emerges claiming Edward Smith was seen in sal

The captain of the Titanic was drunk when the liner hit an iceberg and sank, a newly unearthed document alleges.

Captain Edward Smith was apparently seen drinking in the saloon bar of the doomed ship in the run-up to the catastrophic collision.

History books record that the white-whiskered skipper was woken in his cabin when the ship struck the iceberg and bravely decided to go down with his ship.

But a previously unseen account by survivor Emily Richards blames Captain Smith for the tragedy and says he was drinking hours before the collision.

The second class passenger made the allegation in a letter she wrote home from on board the Carpathia, which picked up survivors from the Titanic, two days after the liner sank.

Mrs Richards, 24, and her two sons were rescued after making it on to the lifeboats, but her brother, George, was among the 1,522 people who perished in the Atlantic's icy waters.

In the letter, sent to her mother-in-law, Mrs Richards, from Penzance, Cornwall, wrote: 'The boat struck a iceberg at 11 o'clock on Sunday night.

'The Captain was down in the saloon drinking and gave charge to some-one else to stare(sic) the ship.

'It was the Captan(sic) fault.

'My poor brother George ... drowned as far as we know now.'

It is widely acknowledged that Captain Smith, 62, spent the evening of the disaster at a dinner party in the first class restaurant before returning to his cabin for the night.

But the account given by Mrs Richards provides a striking alternative to his movements on that fateful night.

The document, along with a second letter she wrote home after arriving in New York on the Carpathia, has come to light as the 100th anniversary of the sinking draws near.

They are now being sold by Henry Aldridge and Son auctioneers of Devizes, Wilts, with a combined estimate of £20,000.

Auctioneer Andrew Aldridge said: 'This was a woman whose emotions would have been incredibly raw having lost a loved one in the sinking.

'She would have wanted someone to blame and clearly she blamed the captain.

'As far as we know there are no other witness reports that put the captain in the saloon drinking on the evening of the sinking.

'So Emily Richards's account is not consistent with the dozens of others that exist.

'It is very controversial but you can’t ignore the fact she was there. It puts a very different perspective on the events if it is true.

'Captain Smith was largely exonerated by the British enquiry into the disaster and there are numerous accounts of him dying and Englishman’s death by chosing to go down with the ship.

'First person accounts written on Carpathia headed notepaper are incredibly rare. I think only a handful have emerged over the last 15 years so there is a great deal of interest in this.'

Controversial: The letter Emily Richards sent to her mother-in-law from the Carpathia. Along with another letter she sent after arriving in New York, it is expected to reach £20,000 at auction

Authentic: The letter, and the envelope it was sent in, bears the postmark of the Carpathia

A Titanic expert today said this is the first time she had come across any accusation or suggestion that Captain Smith had been drinking on the evening of the sinking.

Una Reilly, the co-founder of the Belfast Titanic Society, questioned why Emily Richards had not made the accusation public if what she had witnessed was true.

Mrs Reilly said: 'She may have witnessed the captain in the saloon bar but what he was drinking can't be verified.

'You can't say that she was mistaken because she was the one who was there, but I do find it strange that she did not repeat this accusation later on in interviews and inquiries.

'I have never heard this accusation being cast upon Captain Smith before.

'It was never raised at the two official enquiries into the disaster to my knowledge.

'After the sinking Captain Smith was almost glorified because he went down with the ship, there wasn't that much blame attached to him.

'There was a statue Captain Smith erected in his home town of Lichfield in Staffordshire and if there was any blight on his character that wouldn't have happened.

'I can't imagine that he would have drinking with the passengers.'

Doomed: The RMS Titanic steaming out of Southampton before its maiden voyage

Mrs Richards and her two young sons, William and Sibley, were on their way to join her husband James, who had emigrated to Ohio earlier that year.

She travelled on the Titanic's maiden voyage from Southampton to New York with her children, her younger brother, George, 23, her sister, Nellie, and mother, Elizabeth.

After the liner struck the iceberg on at 10.20pm on April 14, 1912, the three women and two children were helped into a lifeboat but George remained on board.

Mrs Richards later wrote from Carpathia: 'I hope I shall never see no such thing again.

'It was a dreafull sigh (sic). The water was like a mill pool. Me and mother and the children where (sic) on the last boat.

'The poor men had to come after. I hope my poor George is save (sic). I thankful to say me and the two dear children are save (sic) and my dear mother and Ellen.

'I have lost all my things...I don’t care as long as I am save (sic) from a watergrave.'

In her second later rom the Star Hotel, New York, she wrote: 'George poor boy is gone.

'Willie was dressed in a ships blanket made into a coat the baby has got a cold - but Willie is alright.

'The Americans were kind concerning clothes for the night. This city is a city of mourning.'

The letter goes under the hammer on March 31.

The accepted reason that the Titanic sank is that the ship struck an iceberg at 11.40pm on April 14, 2012.

The impact ripped a hole in the liner's hull and sent water flooding into its first five watertight compartments - one more than the ship was designed to survive.

However, there have been a range of alternative theories put forward, ranging from the possible to the utterly fantastical.

Captain L M Collins, a former member of the Ice Pilotage Service suggested in 2003 that what the Titanic his was not an iceberg but low-lying pack ice.

He based his theory on his own experience of ice navigation and conflicting witness statements given at the inquiry into the Titanic disaster that seemed to suggest crew members were tricked by optical illusions pack ice has been known to cause.

In 2004, Ohio State University engineer Robert Essenhigh suggested that a coal fire may have been to blame for the Titanic running into an iceberg.

He claimed that a pile of stored coal had begun to smoulder and desperate engineers threw it into the furnaces, accelerating the ship to unsafe speeds in the iceberg infested waters.

Was it even the Titanic at all? This artists impression shows the Titanic sinking off the coast of Newfoundland, but one theory suggests it was actually another ship sunk as an elaborate insurance scam

One of the most controversial theories about the Titanic is that it never sank at all.

Robin Gardiner suggests that before its maiden voyage the ship had in fact been switched with its sister ship Olympic, in an elaborate insurance scam.

A year before the launch of the Titanic, the Olympic had been involved in a collision with the HMS Hawke near Southampton.

Gardiner suggests that the White Star Line was not insured for the cost of fixing the boat so, in order to save the company from a loss, it was disguised as the Titanic and deliberately sunk to make claim on that boat's insurance.

Thus, Gardiner believes the Titanic went on to spend 25 years in service as the Olympic.

Even more fantastic is the urban legend that the Titanic was cursed by the mummy of the Priestess of Amen-Ra, who lived in 1050BC.

The story goes that after the mummy had been passed around like a hot potato, giving bad luck to whoever had it in their posession, a journalist, William Thomas Stead, bought it and took it with him as he travelled to America on the Titanic.

According to the legend, he arranged for the mummy to be hidden under the body of his car, for fear that the Titanic's crew would refuse to take it aboard.

He reportedly revealed to other passengers the presence of the mummy the night before the tragedy.

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Added: Mar-8-2012 Occurred On: Mar-8-2012
By: Zipper10
Other News
Tags: Titanic, captain, questionably, drunk, when, ship, sank
Location: Penzance, England, United Kingdom (UK/GB) (load item map)
Views: 8944 | Comments: 28 | Votes: 2 | Favorites: 1 | Shared: 6 | Updates: 0 | Times used in channels: 2
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