On this night 102 years ago, Titanic struck that fateful iceberg. But the ship of course isn't the only thing that sank into the North Atlantic on that cold moonlit night.
Few people realize that R.M.S. Titanic was a R.oyal M.ail S.hip, a designation which meant the boat was officially responsible for delivering mail for the British postal service. On board the Titanic was a Sea Post Office with five seasoned and highly respected mail clerks, two British and three American. These men were responsible for protecting and sorting the 3,423 sacks of mail (7 million individual pieces of mail) on board.
They were all celebrating one of the clerk's birthdays when the collision occurred at 11:40 PM. Within minutes, the mail storage room, which was located well below the ship's water line, began flooding. Frantically, the five clerks brought as many sacks as possible up to the sorting room in preparation for moving the mailbags onto the deck for possible recovery by a rescue ship. Mail was precious cargo and The White Star Line depended upon revenues generated by sea post contracts in order to survive. Clerks were expected to protect the mail at any cost, including their lives if necessary.
They were dutiful until the end; the last time they were seen alive, they were frantically working waist-deep in freezing water to save the mail.
Sadly, all five men died that night and all seven million pieces of mail were lost but if any mail was ever to be recovered, the U.S. Postal Service would still try to deliver it.