Sunday, April 17, 2016

Taking A Friend Home

On the evening of April 15, 1912 the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg on her maiden voyage across the North Atlantic.

The unsinkable White Star ocean liner sank three hours later.

Only 20% of the passenger and crew survived the disaster.

According to the Bowdoin online magazine one of casualty was Richard White and his classmate and fraternity brother, Frank Arthur Smith, spent his thirtieth birthday in Halifax, Nova Scotia. My grandfather's trip was not for pleasure. The families of the Titanic passengers had been informed that the bodies of hundreds of the victims had been recovered and transported by a steamer to Halifax for identification and the Bowdoin senior traveled to Nova Scotia on behalf of the White family, who hoped to recover the bodies of both Richard and his father, Percival. Frank waited anxiously at the Halifax Hotel for several days before receiving a telegram from his friend's wife.

“Richard’s body reportedly found[.] better return with it at once... look sharp for my brothers body[.] wire me fully as soon as you can.”

What was thought to be Richard’s body was found clad in a brown suit, wearing white shoes. The man had fair hair and seemed to be carrying Richard’s effects, but the estimated age was listed as thirty-seven. Richard was only twenty-one. Bowdoin sent measurements taken during Richard’s last physical to assist officials in identifying the body.

Finally, after several delays, the steamer arrived in Halifax where the bodies of the first-class passengers were taken to a make- shift morgue in the city’s curling rink. The corpses of second- and third-class passengers and crew had been sewn into canvas bags to dumped into ocean before the survivors, who “cannot forget the cry of tortured humanity, facing its death in cold and darkness, despairing, a shrill chorus that carried despair across the quiet starlit waters.”

Frank A. Smith was taken to view body number 169. The remains were so battered, so ravaged that it was understandable that the body had been thought to be sixteen years older. Richard’s possessions fared better. He had a gold watch, keys, a bloodstone ring, and his Delta Kappa epsilon fraternity pin.

After positively identifying the body, Frank A. Smith inquired about Percival White with officials and checked among the other passengers yet to be identified. There were no bodies matching his description and it was assumed that Richard’s father was lost at sea.

Frank saw that the coffin was sealed and prepared for travel.

In Portland he met members of the White family.

Richard’s remains were then transported to Winchendon, Massachusetts, and were interred in a private ceremony on May 2.

Frank A. Smith was my grandfather.

He served in WWI as a dcotor.

He married my grandmother Edith.

Sadly he died several months before my birth.

This story was told me by my father.

No one in my family believed it until now.

Then again all stories are true, if interesting.

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