Titanic owners wanted money to return body of Scarborough hero James Moody

James Moody is on the left of the front row in this picture of the Titanic captain and officers.
James Moody is on the left of the front row in this picture of the Titanic captain and officers.

He was an officer who helped passengers on to lifeboats as they fled the stricken Titanic but reportedly declined a seat for himself so others could escape.

However, a letter unearthed more than 100 years on from the disaster shows that Scarborough officer James Moody’s selfless actions, which cost him his life, were not reciprocated by his employer, who demanded his family pay out a large sum for the return of his body.

The letter, dated May 7 1912, was sold at an auction in Wiltshire at the weekend for £27,000, to a US collector.

It was sent from White Star Lines to Christopher Moody, the brother of 24-year-old officer James, who was Sixth Officer on the Titanic.

In it, the company asks for a £20 deposit – the equivalent of £2,100 today – to return his body to England and states his brother will also have to meet the 
remaining costs from there.

Mr Moody, who was born at a property in Granville Road, South Cliff, was the only junior officer to perish after staying behind to help evacuate the passengers 
after the other officers left.

The letter, from parent company Ismay Imrie & Co, reads: “We have your further letter of the 6th instant, and while we will be prepared to transport the remains of your brother across the 
Atlantic to either Liverpool or Southampton we regret that it is not possible for us to do any more.

“Should you after further consideration desire the remains of your Brother to be returned will you kindly telegraph us in the morning at the same time sending us a deposit of £20 for any 
expenses and land charges on the other Side and we will at once cable New York asking them to arrange this if practicable.

“We also think it right to point out that the arrangements and expenses for taking charge of the remains after arrival of the steamer at Liverpool or Southampton would be on your account.”

Instead, the company suggests that Mr Moody’s remains be buried in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but they offer to send his family “a photograph of the tombstone” if they want one.

When the letter was sent, Mr Moody’s body had not been recovered.

Auctioneer Andrew Aldridge, of Henry Aldridge & Son, which sold the historic letter, said: “The importance of this letter cannot be overstated as it was unknown to this point that the White Star Line would charge the family of one of the officers onboard the ill-fated liner for the return of their loved one. The irony of this letter is Officer Moody’s body was never recovered, which further illustrates the callous nature of the letter.”

Mr Moody was on watch when the ship struck the iceberg and later helped passengers into the lifeboats while declining a space for himself.

He was the man – immortalised in the film Titanic – who answered the bridge phone from the lookout and uttered the now famous, yet fateful words “Iceberg right ahead”.

He was originally stationed on the Oceanic, the Titanic’s sister ship, but transferred just months 
before the disaster in 1912.

The practice of the time also meant the surviving seamen’s pay was stopped at the end of the voyage, even if it ended by sinking.

The letter was sold by a private collector, who 
acquired it from the Moody family.

There is a memorial to Mr Moody in Scarborough’s St Martin’s Church, and the RNLI also has one which was on display in the former lifeboat house. His birthplace in Granville Road is denoted by a blue plaque.