On today’s date in 1912, Robert Hunston and James Godwin, two young wireless radio operators from Newfoundland, heard the first distress call from the RMS Titanic, which was en route to New York from England.
“My God, Mr. Gray, the Titanic has struck an iceberg and is calling CQD,” Godwin is quoted as saying to head operator Walter Gray in a 2012 Toronto Star story.
The grim announcement came at 10:25 p.m. (ET) on April 14, 1912, adds the Star report.
On its maiden voyage, the luxury liner carrying about 2,200 passengers sank less than three hours later about 600 kilometres off the coast of Newfoundland. Canadian search teams recovered hundreds of bodies, many of which are buried in Halifax, as part of the recovery effort; however, 1,517 passengers were lost at sea.
“Cape Race was the closest land base to the stricken ship, which met its fate about 600 kilometres southeast in the North Atlantic’s freezing Iceberg Alley,” adds the Star report.
“Cape Race was the 911 of the day,” Larry Daley, the president of Titanic Expeditions in St. John’s, N.L., told the Star, adding the seaside station “played a pivotal part in the rescue and saving over 700 lives.”
TITANIC STAMPS & POSTAL HISTORY
In 2012, Canada Post issued a five-stamp Titanic set, including a stamp pane, a souvenir sheet, an uncut press sheet, prepaid postcards, framed prints, a collectible album and a stamp-and-coin collector envelope.
Four domestic-rate Permanent stamps (Scott #2531-2534) were issued as two pairs of se-tenant stamps, two of which show the ship’s bow while the other two feature the stern.
The stern designs are available only on a 16-stamp pane that includes eight stern stamps and eight bow stamps.
The bow designs are also available in a 10-stamp booklet.
An international-rate stamp (SC #2535) shows a full-colour side illustration of the Titanic sailing on a calm ocean with a layered map showing relevant locations. It’s available in a six-stamp booklet, a souvenir sheet and an uncut press sheet.
According to the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum, the Titanic carried nearly 3,500 sacks of mail and more than seven million pieces of mail, including about 1.6 million registered letters and packages.
In 2018, a facing slip recovered from the body of a U.S. postal clerk working on the Titanic before the ship’s untimely sinking brought £14,000 (about $24,000 Cdn.) at an auction by England’s Henry Aldridge & Son.
The postal slip was recovered from Oscar Scott Woody, a 41-year-old postal clerk working in the Titanic’s mailroom when it sank in the Atlantic Ocean on April 15, 1912. Stamped “O.S. Woody” and “TITANIC,” the slip is also marked with the Titanic’s trans-Atlantic postal cancellation.
The April 2018 auction also included a rare letter card written onboard the Titanic and posted with a 1912 one-penny King George V stamp issued by Britain. The card’s message, which includes, “My wife is in England. Do not write to her,” was written by Henry Beauchamp, a second-class passenger that died in the sinking. The card sold for £16,000 (about $27,500 Cdn.).