A LETTER discovered by a historian in a box of war memorabilia from the Old Town has revealed the bravery of a sinking ship’s captain.
It describes how Captain David Reginald Salomons died trying to save his men when HMS Hythe went down during the 1915 Gallipoli campaign in the First World War.
The letter was sent from an eyewitness to Capt Salomons’ father Col Sir David Lionel Salomons, a wealthy baronet, scientist and engineer, from Tunbridge Wells.
It was the name that rang a bell with military historian Andrew Saunders, from Westfield, who made the find when looking through a box of assorted items bought last year from his friend Stephen Mayne, who had previously run a war memorabilia shop in High Street.
Mr Mayne died last October, so Mr Saunders cannot be sure where the letter came from originally, but he suspects a house clearance, as with it was Capt Salomons’ commission document dated 1911, and signed by the King.
He said: “It was only after he died that I got around to sorting out the box, and found the letter.
“We are fairly sure that it was probably something to do with the sister of Captain Salomons. I have got a feeling that she died somewhere in the area.”
In the letter, eyewitness Major Alfred Ruston commends the brave actions of Capt Salomons in the tragedy which claimed the lives of 128 men after a larger ship collided with HMS Hythe.
He wrote: “At the beginning, the two vessels clung to each other for a few minutes and about 50 men and several officers scrambled across on to the other vessel,”
“But though Captain Salomons was warned to get over also himself, he would not do so and I am sure that it was because he would see his beloved men off first.”
“I have never had an officer who supported me more loyally and wholeheartedly or who was so devoted to the company.”
The letter is to go on display at the Salomons Museum in Southborough, Kent, which is run by Canterbury Christ Church University, and celebrates the history of three generations of the Salomons family.