Letters that survived WW2 shipwreck reveal past lives

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28 May 2018
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Ship-90085.png The SS Gairsoppa which sank after being hit by a torpedo in 1941. Image © Bibliothek fu¨r Zeitgeschichte Stuttgart
More than 700 personal letters and other artefacts have gone on display after being trapped at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean for 77 years, preserved in an airlock formed as steam boat SS Gairsoppa sank during World War II

A new exhibition at The Postal Museum is displaying more than 700 personal letters that have been trapped at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean for 77 years, preserved in an airlock formed as steam boat SS Gairsoppa sank.

 

Torpedoed off the coast of Ireland by a German U-Boat on 16 February 1941, the ship has lain undisturbed ever since, resting half a mile deeper than the Titanic. Now, visitors to the London museum’s Voices from the Deep exhibition can see items from the ship’s recently recovered cargo on display for the first time, including 12 bundles of letters, written but never delivered, supplies of tea and a silver ingot that was making its way from colonial India to the UK to help with the war effort.

 

Of 86 crew onboard only one – Second Mate Richard Ayres – survived.

 

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From soldiers writing to loved ones, to mail from businessmen and missionaries, the letters offer a unique insight into the lives of ordinary people, living in extraordinary times, and bring to light the central role the postal service played in British society during the Second World War.

 

The exhibition runs until 13 January 2019 and is included in entry price to the museum.

 

Images: SS Gairsoppa © Bibliothek für Zeitgeschichte Stuttgart, letter © The Postal Museum, underwater photo © Odyssey Marine Exploration.