Hat worn by Titanic lookout up for grabs

By Steve Hayes 05/01 Updated: 11/01 11:21

Buy photos » Conrad Chin-See with the historic cap. Picture by Jon Mullis 01.012.012.strat.jm1 (www.buyphotos247.com)

TITANIC memorabilia including an historic item of headwear is being offered for sale at a museum near Stratford.

A cap worn by the lookout who first spotted the iceberg and survived the sinking of the legendary ship in 1912 is the star item at the first of a series of monthly sales fairs on Sunday January 15 at the the Armouries museum at Pathlow.

The cap belonging to Frederick Fleet, who was one of the two lookouts on the doomed vessel, is expected to fetch as much as £50,000. At auction in 1965 the hat fetched £225.

It is being sold by Worcester militaria dealer Conrad Chin-See who has owned the hat for the past 15 years, but who is now selling with interest in the Titanic higher than ever with the 100th anniversary of the disaster on April 15.

Mr Chin-See is also selling a rare memorial scroll, sold at newstands ion the days after the sinking to help raise money for the survivors, which is expected to fetch £500, and also a front page of the Northern Echo newspaper, estimated at around £150.

Among a host of Second World War memorabilia being sold at the sale is a copy of Reach for the Sky, the life story of Douglas Bader signed by eight Spitfire pilots.

But there will plenty on offer for people without such deep pockets, with militaria, such as medals, books, and weaponry, and aviation items, on offer starting from just a few pounds.

Organiser, Nicholas Milton, said: "There will be something for everyone at these fairs from those who simply want to come along to look to serious collectors."

"2012 is the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic so we anticipate there will be a lot of interest in these items.

"However, there will be a large selection of arms and armour on sale particularly from the First and Second World War which are also very popular with collectors.

"Many of the artefacts on sale will be less than £100 so it is your chance to own a piece of history. A contribution from each fair will go to the soldier’s charity, the Army Benevolent Fund."

Fairs will be held from 9.30am to 2.30pm every month on the following dates:

January 15, February 26, March 18, April 15, May 20, June 17, July 15, August 12, September 16, October 14, November 4, December 9.

Admission is £3 for adults and under 15s are free.

Visit www.stratfordarmouries.com for more information.

THE STORY behind the man.

FREDERICK Fleet, whose hat is one of the artefacts available for sale at the Armouries' new museum sale, was the lookout who first spotted the iceberg aboard the Titanic and yelled the famous words 'iceberg right ahead!'.

A crew member assigned to man the lifeboats, he was one of 712 survivors on the ship, which contained more than 2,200 passengers and crew.

And many believe Mr Fleet, who committed suicide more than 50 years late, was plagued by guilt for the rest of his life.

A Liverpool-born man of 25 aboard the ship at the time, the lookout crew were left without binoculars due to a late mix up.

And by the time he had seen the iceberg it was too late and attempts to steer the ship out of the way were in vain.

After surviving the disaster he later served in the merchant service through World War I and again in World War II, after having been unemployed in the 1930s.

He also served on Titanic's sister ship Olympic from 1920 to 1935 and signed on as ship's lookout and able seaman.

When his wife died shortly after Christmas 1964, he became depressed and committed suicide by hanging two weeks later. Some who new him said he suffered from guilt all his life because he had lived while so many died.

His grave, in Southampton, went unmarked until 1993, when a headstone bearing an engraving of Titanic was erected through donations by the Titanic Historical Society.

Buy photos» Frederick Fleet - the lookout who first spotted the Titanic (s)

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