The White Star Line held a contract with the British and American postal services to transport mail between the two countries. The Titanic carried 3,364 bags of mail, which was stored and sorted in the Titanic's Mail Room and Post Office.
Located forward on the Titanic's lower decks, the Mail Room and Post Office were soon underwater after the Titanic collided with the iceberg. All five postal clerks, two British clerks John Jago Smith and James Williamson and three American colleagues William Gwinn, John March and Oscar Woody were on duty. As sea water entered the mail room the clerks struggled to transfer the mail sacks to higher decks and they were seen working in two feet of water.
Oscar Woody would have celebrated his 44th birthday on 15 April 1912. He died in the sinking along with his four postal clerk colleagues. Oscar's body and that of his colleague John Marsh were recovered by the cable-ship Mackay Bennett, dispatched from Halifax to recover the bodies of the victims, and returned to Halifax. In Congress in the United States it was agreed that $6,000 be made available to be shared equally amongst the next of kin of the three United States postal clerks John Marsh, William Gwynn, and Oscar Woody. They, along with their British colleagues, are commemorated by the Postal Clerks Memorial in Southampton's Civic Offices.
The memorial is in the form of a rectangular bronze tablet, with a central semi-circular pediment. The tablet is set within a bevelled frame with beaded edging. Inset within the frame are four-petal flowers in relief form. There are flowers in each corner of the frame, and spaced at regular intervals between each corner; four flowers to each short-side and seven to each longer-side. The crossed flags of Britain and America in relief form occupy the semi-circular pediment of the tablet with the following inscription in serif block-capital lettering beneath:
This tablet is erected by the members of The Postal and Telegraph Service to the honour and memory of John R. Jago Smith, James B. Williamson, British sea post officers, and their American colleagues William H. L. Gwinn, John S. March, Oscar S. Woody, who died on duty in the foundering of the S.S. Titanic April 15, 1912.
"Steadfast in peril."
The memorial is affixed to a rectangular wooden board. Beneath the memorial is a brass strip, with lettering stating that
the above memorial is cast in bronze taken from a reserve propeller blade of S.S. "Titanic", and kindly given by Messrs. Harland & Wolff, Ltd.
For many years the memorial was displayed in the main Post Office on the High Street in Southampton. Above the memorial was a framed print of the Titanic steaming down Southampton Water, one of a limited edition of 350 prints of a painting by Southampton artist Laurence Bagley, and signed by Titanic survivor Bertram Dean. The print was donated to the Post Office on 8 July 1982 by Mr Philip Croucher of Rembrandt Philatelics and Mr Donald Payne of the Nordon Art Company.
Following the closure of the Post Office in April 2008 the memorial was relocated to the Civic Offices. The memorial is now on display in the south block of the Civic Centre on the first floor landing by the door to the Council Chambers. Also on display on the landing is the Titanic Book of Remembrance, which records the names of all the Southampton seafarers lost aboard the Titanic. The book, its plinth and cabinet, produced by the City of Southampton Society, were unveiled to coincide with the 99th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.
- Barnes, Jacky (2011) Book of Remembrance Southampton: City of Southampton Society, http://coss.org.uk/Book-of-Remembrance.php
- Board of Trade (1912) Report on the Loss of SS Titanic London: His Majesty's Stationary Office, p. 7.
- British Postal Museum & Archive, The (2009) The Post Office aboard the Titanic London: BPMA, http://postalheritage.wordpress.com/2009/04/14/the-post-office-aboard-the-titanic/
- Hind, Philip et al (2013) Oscar Scott Woody Oxford: Encyclopedia Titanica, http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-victim/oscar-scott-woody.html
- New York Times, The (1912) Gave lives for the mails New York: The New York Times, 21 April 1912
- New York Times, The (1912) Bringing 189 dead from the Titanic New York: The New York Times, 28 April 1912
- New York Times, The (1912) Aid for postal clerks' kin New York: The New York Times, 3 May 1912
- San Francisco Call, The (1912) Postal clerks died as heroes San Francisco: The San Francisco Call, Sunday 21 April 1912