ONE of Worthing’s MPs has spoken of his family’s fascinating connection to the doomed voyage of Titanic.
Sir Peter Bottomley, MP for Worthing West, has three links to the liner which sank 350 miles south-east of Newfoundland, Canada, on April 15, 1912.
Sir Peter’s great-aunt Eileen Lenox-Conyngham sailed on board the allegedly unsinkable ship when she was 11 years old.
The schoolgirl wrote a letter while she was on board, revealing how Titanic was involved in an accident at Southampton dock before she had even set off on her doomed maiden voyage.
Sir Peter said: “Each summer, my great-aunt, her brother and family would go to France or Ireland and they would go on board the biggest boat they could find to avoid seasickness.
“In 1912, they embarked on Titanic leaving Southampton for an Easter trip to France. While on board, Eileen wrote a letter to her tutor, Louisa Sterling, describing her experience of the boat.”
Eileen wrote the letter, above, just four days before Titanic collided with an iceberg, which caused about 1,500 people to die with the sinking ship. Eileen escaped the fate that lay ahead, as she disembarked with her family in Cherbourg, France, before the liner continued her voyage.
The letter, written on White Star Line paper, said: “The Titanic is the bigest (sic) ship in the world there is a swimming bath a gymnation (sic) Turkish baths in it. the (sic) ship started at about 12.15 then we had a long delay because this ship broke the ropes of another ship the Oceanic as it went floating about and knocked into this ship but they got it allright (sic) after a bit.”
Eileen’s letter arrived in Ireland within days of the Titanic sinking and was said to be treasured by Louise for the rest of her life.
After her death, the letter was left to her daughter who decided to sell it auction. In another twist of fate, Sir Peter’s great-aunt, Eileen, purchased the letter she had written 72 years earlier for about £1,000.
Another relative of Sir Peter, Alec Bagot, a distant cousin, was given the post of second wireless operator on Titanic, but he turned the opportunity down and instead became an operator on another liner, Olympic.
He then went on to receive the wireless signals after Titanic struck an iceberg. After receiving the distress signals, Olympic began a 350-mile dash to assist in the rescue of Titanic’s paassengers, but at 100 miles away, the crew were told Titanic had sunk. Sir Peter has a third connection to the British passenger liner – a friend of a friend, Eva Hart, was one of the last remaining survivors of Titanic.
Eva was seven years old when she and her parents boarded the Titanic as second-class passengers on April 10, 1912, at Southampton.
Sir Peter said: “They were there right until the end – her father said to her to be a good girl, and a good girl she was. Eva and her mother left on a lifeboat and she never saw her father again.”
The mother and child were rescued by RMS Carpathia and arrived in New York City on April 18. Eva died in 1996, aged 91.