London: Titanic's captain was drunk when the ill-fated ocean liner carrying 2228 people hit an iceberg and sank, a previously unseen account by a survivor has claimed. Captain Edward Smith was apparently seen drinking in the saloon bar of the doomed ship in the run-up to the catastrophic collision that led to its sinking on April 15, 1912.
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 Daily Mail reported. 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.
Richards, 24 (when the ship sank), 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, 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," she had said in the letter. 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 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 pounds.
"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," auctioneer Andrew Aldridge said.