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The story of a father's final act of love towards his family as the Titanic sank has been revealed.
Arthur West scrambled down the rope of a rescue boat to give his wife and two daughters a flask of hot milk before returning to the deck, and his fate. The 36-year-old's act of bravery was revealed in an account written by his wife, Ada, which is being auctioned next month with the flask and letters. The items could fetch up to Â£60,000 at the sale in Devizes, Wiltshire.
The luxury liner struck an iceberg and sank on 15 April 1912, killing 1,517 people.
"We were all asleep when the collision took place, but were only jolted in our berths," Mr West's widow wrote. "The steward bade us all get up and dress thoroughly with plenty of warm things. "After seeing us safely into the lifeboat, Arthur returned to the cabin for a thermos of hot milk, and finding the lifeboat let down he reached it by means of a rope, gave the flask to me, and, with a farewell returned to the deck of the ship."
Mr West, his wife and young children, Constance and Barbara, were emigrating to Florida when disaster struck. The family - second-class passengers, from Truro in Cornwall - were put into lifeboat number 10 before their rescue by another liner, the Carpathia.
Ada wrote that the noble actions of her husband, whom she referred to in one letter as "Dad", had not been matched by two men who had managed to sneak on to their lifeboat.
In a statement to the Board of Trade she revealed that the men had hidden under women passengers' skirts: "I saw no signs of wreckage or bodies, only icebergs - had no idea that the disaster had been so great," she wrote. "There were men in our boat who had concealed themselves under the ladies skirts and had to be asked to stop lighting cigarettes as there was a danger of the dresses becoming ignited."
In a letter written in New York following their rescue, she also wrote: "We were amongst the first to leave the ship - when I said goodbye to dear Dad it was without a shadow of fear as to our ever seeing him again. In a separate letter on Titanic branded stationery, Mr West describes the liner's luxury before the disaster: "We went aboard and found our cabin, it's most beautifully fitted and the white paint shines like a mirror," he said. "The rest is mahogany with silver-plated fittings. We have two hanging wardrobes - several drawers - in fact plenty of space for everything."
The statement, the letters and the flask are being auction following the death of Barbara in 2007 - one of the last survivors. The pre-sale estimate for all the items at Henry Aldridge & Son auctioneers is Â£40,000 to Â£60,000.
The tone regarding the men who made it onto lifeboats - in this particular story and whenever else the Titanic makes it into the news - annoys me. Why do we still seemingly feel women are more deserving of life than men in these situations? This sentiment doesn't even carry over into healthcare and the like; it seems to only apply to emergencies..
What I'm saying is: if I'm on a vessel with too few lifeboats, I'm not sitting back and letting my place be taken by a woman. Is there anything wrong with that? Is it even ignoble to save yourself when you could save another in your place?