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Last Updated: Saturday, 30 September 2006, 21:50 GMT 22:50 UK
Titanic life vest fetches 43,000
The Titanic
The Titanic sank with the loss of more than 1,500 lives
One of the Titanic's few remaining lifejackets has been sold to a private collector for 43,000 ($80,000).

The auction at Devizes in Wiltshire also featured dozens of letters sent by some of the 1,500 people who died when the ship sank in the Atlantic in 1912.

Auctioneer Andrew Aldridge said most items sold for more than expected to collectors from around the world.

One letter, in which passenger Edward Colley wrote of an earlier near-miss with a liner, made 18,000, he said.

The Irish aristocrat who died on his 37th birthday, had poked fun at the service on board the ship in the letter.

The company did not want souvenir hunters, so a lot of things, including clothing, were put in big piles and burned
Alan Aldridge, auctioneer

"He mentioned, for instance, that the ordinary grub in first class was quite good - but if you wanted anything better you had to pay for it," said Mr Aldridge, who conducted the sale in south-west England.

There was also a telegram from the Southampton-based ship's owner stating she was being towed to safety.

The White Star Line's telegram was sent after an inquiry was received from a US senator whose daughter and son-in-law were on board the ship.

Value from rarity

Fellow auctioneer Alan Aldridge said: "Initially it was said everybody on board had been saved and the ship was being towed.

"When it was found out it was a major disaster, everyone from the White Star Line denied sending this telegram."

The white lifejacket, discovered in the debris after the passenger liner went down after hitting an iceberg in the Atlantic, has been on display in a US museum.

Mr Aldridge said the lot's value comes from its rarity.

There are only about six or seven lifejackets left in existence, he said.

"The company did not want souvenir hunters, so a lot of things, including clothing, were put in big piles and burned."

One letter that never made the burning piles was written on official Titanic paper by a passenger called James Hocking.

"Everyone tells me I won't regret taking this trip on the ship," he wrote.

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