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The E-Sylum: Volume 25, Number 2, January 9, 2022, Article 29

RMS CARPATHIA MEDAL

Louise Boling published a nice article on the RMS Carpathia medal in the January 8, 2022 issue of MPC Gram, the email newsletter for collectors of Military Payment Certificates and other military numismatica. With permission, we're republishing it here. To subscribe, enter your email address here: Subscribe to the MPC Gram today! .
Thank you! -Editor

  RMS Carpathia Medal

On December 29th, the Jeopardy Final Jeopardy clue was In the morning of April 15, 1912 officer Charles Lightoller became the last of about 700 people to board this ship. Hmm. 1912 – not the Lusitania. That happened in 1915. The Titanic was 1912 – but people were not boarding her, they were desperately trying to get off her. The answer: the RMS Carpathia.

Your inveterately curious reporter, possessed of a handy cell phone, Googled RMS Carpathia, and read the rest of the story. The RMS Carpathia, a Cunard liner, had left New York City on 11 April 1912, headed to Fiume, Austro-Hungary. On the night of April 14, Harold Cottam, the wireless officer for the Carpathia, off duty but still monitoring the wireless, heard the distress message from the Titanic. He reported the message immediately to the officer of the bridge, who questioned the authenticity of the message. Cottam and the officer of the deck then went to the cabin of the captain, Arthur Rostron, who lost no time in ordering a change of course to respond to the Titanic at all possible speed and ordering a second crew of stokers to the engine room.

Even making full speed, it took the Carpathia about 4 hours to cover the roughly 60 miles, arriving about 1-1/2 hours after the ship's final sinking. The last several miles were through the ice field that had proved fatal to the Titanic. There was no sign of the ship itself, but much debris in the water, as well as the lifeboats. The crew of the Carpathia spent several hours taking aboard the survivors, about 705 people, including the junior wireless operator, Harold Bride, and Second Officer Lightoller. All the resources of the Carpathia were put to making the rescued passengers comfortable. It seemed best for both the passengers and the ship to return to New York City, the original destination of the Titanic. So that was done. The ship, and all aboard, received a hero's welcome.

A Committee of Survivors, chaired by Mrs. Margaret [Molly] Brown, raised money to present medals to each member of the crew, and also a silver loving cup to Captain Rostron, assisted by $5000 from the US Congress. Three hundred twenty [320] medals were created by Dieges & Clust. Senior officers received gold medals [6 of them], junior officers silver, and crew bronze. The obverse of the medal showed the Carpathia, steaming at full speed, on her way to the Titanic. The reverse was inscribed: Presented to the Captain and crew of the R. M. S. Carpathia in recognition of their gallant and heroic services, from the survivors of the S. S. Titanic, April 15, 1912. [See image.] Captain Rostron was also awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of the Carpathia's service.

At the beginning of World War I, several Cunard liners were taken into the British Navy. The Carpathia was one of them. She was used as a troop carrier, transferring Canadian and American Expeditionary forces to Europe, generally in convoy. On 15 July 1918, she departed Liverpool bound for Boston, carrying a crew of 166, and 57 passengers. The convoy had an escort, but on the 17th, the escort left them, and the convoy split into two sections. The seven-ship element with the Carpathia continued west.

Around 0915 on the 17th, southwest of Great Britain, a torpedo was spotted approaching her. She was struck by 2 torpedoes, fired by the German U-boat 55. One of the torpedoes struck her engine room, killing five men and effectively disabling her. Her radio equipment was also destroyed. Her captain, William Prothero, gave the order to abandon ship. After assuring the destruction of all sensitive material he also left the ship. A third torpedo fired after the ship was abandoned resulted in the sinking of the ship. All on board except the five engine room casualties escaped to the lifeboats, and were subsequently rescued by the sloop HMS Snowdrop, which drove off the U-55. The Carpathia sunk about 120 miles south of Ireland, thus ending the life of a gallant ship.

Addendum:

Given that only 320 of these medals were created, it was interesting that one comes up at auction perhaps yearly. Bonham's, New York City, offered a bronze estimated at £5,900 – 8,900 ($8,000 – 12,000) in April 2012. Cowan's auctions, in Cincinnati, offered a bronze medal at auc?on in June 2016, with an estimated selling price of $4000 - $6000. The E-Sylum (Volume 19, Number 47, November 20, 2016, Article 26) references an article from the Glasgow Times, 15 November 2016, about a medal that was sold at auction in Glasgow for £2000. Aug 2018 at Bourne End Auction Rooms, the 14-carat gold medal that had been presented to the bursar (or purser, both terms are used), E. G. F. Brown, sold with a hammer price of £45,000, which is noted to be a record. Those were all the actual medals, as presented to the crew members, and most have provenance going back to that crew member.

There are also many other replicas available. The Titanic Historical Society commissioned the maker of the original Carpathia Medal to issue this extraordinary piece of Titanic history; reproduction medals made from an original 1912 Carpathia medal which are available through their store starting at $135 (bronze). There are at least eight replicas on eBay, starting around $17.

To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
BONHAMS'S TO SELL MEDAL AWARDED TO CARPATHIA CREW FOR TITANIC RESCUE (https://www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v13n38a22.html)
MORE ON MEDAL AWARDED TO CARPATHIA CREW FOR TITANIC RESCUE (https://www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v13n39a15.html)
CARPATHIA MEDALS FOR TITANIC RESCUES OFFERED (https://www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v15n12a16.html)
1912 TIFFANY CARPATHIA MEDAL SOLD (https://www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v19n47a26.html)
MORE ON THE MEDALLIC ART COMPANY DIES (https://www.coinbooks.org/v21/esylum_v21n11a07.html)

Archives International Sale 73 cover back
 



Wayne Homren, Editor

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