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December 17, 2016

Titanic Survivor’s Letter Reveals Harrowing New Perspective on the Tragedy of the 'Unsinkable Ship'

A harrowing first-hand account of the moment the Titanic sank has been uncovered in a letter purportedly from a French maid who survived the disaster.

The letter, written in French and dated 8 August 1955 – more than 43 years since the RMS Titanic sank in the North Atlantic Ocean on her maiden voyage – is from a French woman called Rose Amelie Icard.

Miss Icard is believed to have been a maid to a wealthy American passenger called Martha Stone, the widow of the president of Canadian telephone company Bell Cie. They boarded the Titanic as first class passengers in Southampton as they made their way back to the United States after a long period of travelling. The pair escaped the sinking passenger ship in a lifeboat and were rescued by the Carpathia before being taken to New York.

The fascinating document emerged on Reddit after a member asked for help to translate a set of Miss Icard's letters bought at auction. It describes scenes of "horror" and "sublime heroism" as passengers tried to escape the sinking vessel.

Although it has yet to be authenticated, if real, it provides a vivid first hand account of the night the Titanic sunk. In the letter, Miss Icard tells how even 43 years after the tragedy on 15 April 1912, she still had nightmares about that night.

Page 1: The Titanic Sinking My most tragic memory of my seventeen year trip around the world is the Titanic sinking.

I'm 83 year old, but it is an hour [a moment] of my life that I will never forget. I was in Paris when I've met, through a friend interpreter, Mrs George Stone, widow of an American, president of the Bell Cie, the general telephone Cie, who was looking for a person enjoying travelling to accompany her.

My lifelong dream was about to be fullfilled: I decided to go with her to America. I can't list... all the countries where we have been.

In winter 1912, we were in Egypt; our travel went on to the Holy Land and ended in Jerusalem.

That unforgettable travel to Jesus' country came very close to be the last of them all.

Page 2: Back in Europe, after having been in Paris and London, we boarded on the Titanic on April 10th 1912.

It was Mrs Stone who got the tickets in London, and told me, delighted, that we would board on the nicest liner.

The preceding nights, I had dreamed about death, ripped open trunks: a presentiment, maybe, made me tell [to myself] that I should not have chosen the Titanic.

The Commander Smith, even if he was about to retired, was chosen by the White Star Line to drive this floating palace for its first travel; I can still see him, a handsome old man with a white beard.

It is he himself who helped me to get in the lifeboat.

During the four days that lasted the short-lived [fare?] of this splendid transatlantic liner, it was all about celebrations, ceremonial dinners of royal luxury, the dresses [were] sumptuous, it was a display of shining jewels and of rivers of diamonds worthy of an oriental splendor.

Page 3: Amongst this elegant audience were seven to eight young couples back from their honeymoon: several were not unknown to us, we had met them in our stay in Egypt.

On the afternoon of April 12th, it was a Sunday, the music played on board had been playing on several occasions Gounod's Ave Maria, La Veuve joyeuse, etc. It was very cold: we were near Newfoundland. I had to go downstairs [one the lower decks] in my cabin to warm me up.

A French boat, « Le Touraine », je crois I think, had transmitted « Beware. Icebergs. » But! The president Bruce Ismay assured us that nothing was to be feared, that the Titanic was [invicible? unsinkable].

The last evening was particularly turbulent animated: concerts, ball, festivity. And yet all this couldn’t chase the indistinct anxiety that was still tormenting me.

I even did not change my clothes, I didn’t feel like it even if all around me the ladies were competing in style between themselves.

Page 4: Towards eleven o'clock: Mrs. Stone and I went to bed.

Three quarters of an hour later, as the liner was cruising at full speed, a terrifying shock threw us out of bed.

We were intending to find out what was happening, when a passing officer told us "It is nothing, return to your cabin." I answered "Listen to that loud noise, it sounds like water is flowing into the ship."

Upon our return to the cabin I saw that our [female] neighbor from across the passageway had gone back to bed.

Her daughter arrived in a panic, yelling "Mommy, quick quick, get up it's very serious."

I helped Mrs. Stone to dress, she took her lifebelt and told me "come quickly."

I was trembling, and still in my dressing gown, I took a coat, my lifebelt, and followed her on deck.

Page 5: There I found my travel blanket and my fur coat, left on my lounge chair.

They were to miraculously preserve me as revealed later.

We felt beneath our feet the deck lean towards the depths.

I went back belowdecks to retrieve the jewels of Mrs. Stone [but] fortunately, I choose the wrong stairwell and returned to the deck halfway there.

Fortunately for me, for I would have never come back up again.

At this moment we witnessed unforgettable scenes where horror mixed with the most sublime heroism.

Women, still in evening gowns, some just out of bed, barely clothed, disheveled, distraught, scrambled for the boats.

Commander Smith yelled, "Women and children first". Firm and calm, in the throng, officers and sailors were taking the women and children by the arm and directing them towards the lifeboats.

Page 6: Near me were two handsome elderly [people], Mr. and Mrs. Straus, proprietors of the great store Macy's of New-York, she refused to go into the boat after having helped in her maid.

She put her arms around the neck of her husband, telling him"We have been married 50 years, we have never left each other, I want to die with you."

Semi-conscious, in a neighboring boat was put the young wife of the millionaire J. Jacob Astor, returning from their honeymoon voyage she was 20 years old, him 50. She latches on to him, he was obliged to push her away with force.

The seamen in blue jackets, belts, and berets, struck up the beautiful hymn

Closer to you my Lord
This is the cry of my faith,
Closer to you.

Page 7: The lifeboats were quickly brought down. By miracle Mrs. Stone and I found ourselves in the same boat, where we were about thirty people.

The officer said “Row strongly, you only have twenty five minutes to save your life”.

I took the oars and rowed with so much energy that my hands were bleeding and my wrists were paralyzed; because we had to hurry to escape the huge chasm that was going to be opened when the Titanic would sink.

It was at this moment that I noticed that someone was hidden underneath me. I didn’t have the strength to reveal his presence. I’ve never known who the man who saved his own life this way was.

As we were receding in an almost calm sea, weakly lit by the lantern that the officer was holding, I didn’t take my eyes off the shining Titanic.

Page 8: Suddenly, there was darkness, whole and inscrutable, shouts, horrible yells, rose in the middle of the creaks of the boat, then that was it.

Sometimes, 43 years after the tragedy, I still dream about it.

From the 2,229 passengers and crew, only 745 were saved.

After that night of terror, at first light, before the arrival of the Carpathia which would collect us dazed, completely exhausted, our boat and some others went back to the scene of the tragedy.

The waters were calm and bare, and nothing could suggest that the sea giant was engulfed there.

Alone, in front of us, two cathedrals of ice which were pinkening under the first sunlight offered a spectacle of rare beauty.

Page 9: When we were gathered in the dining room of the Carpathia, very painful scenes happened. The young women were there without their husbands, mothers without their sons; a young mother whom a wave had snatched her child from had gone insane, and mistaken for her child a child that was presented to her.

Some survivors told the story of the horrific moments during which all human feelings were opposed.

There had been sublime gestures, a stranger undid his safety belt to give it to an old woman who couldn’t find a spot in any boat, and told her “You’ll pray for me”.

The billionaire Benjamin Guggenheim after having helped the rescue of women and children got dressed, a rose at his buttonhole, to die.

A pastor said the prayers for the missings.

Page 10: The Carpathia which was headed for Genoa turned around to bring us back to New-York.

I won't talk about our arrival where I witnessed poignant scenes once again.

To Madame Ausein [???] in memory of her dear mother with whom I've lived this tragic disaster during the night of April 14th to 15th 1912.

Rose Amélie Icard

Grenoble August 8th, 1955

(Translate by /u/frenchlitgeek, /u/azod, and /u/dJe781)



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