Video provided by Wochit
A sailor who was almost part of the crew on the tragic Titanic could have accidentally played a key role in the catastrophic sinking.
Second officer David Blair was bumped off crew of Titanic’s maiden voyage in 1912 at the last minute.
But he accidentally held onto the key to a locker containing the crow’s nest binoculars.
Had the binoculars been accessible, Titanic historians believe the iceberg, which sent the ship to its watery grave with the loss of 1,522 lives, may have been detected earlier.
Without access to those binoculars the crew only saw the iceberg when it was too late to take action.
Titanic survivor Fred Fleet told the official inquiry into the tragedy that if they had had binoculars they would have identified the iceberg sooner.
Heroic Mr Blair was honoured after plunging into the sea to save a life in a separate sea drama and was awarded several medals during his career.
A set of medals with historic links to the fascinating saga of the rejected Titanic crew member are now going up for sale in Derbyshire, reports the Burton Mail .
Retired Derby headteacher Murray Shaw, 78, was so fascinated by the story he acquired a set of nine medals presented to Blair by a dealer seven years ago.
The medals, which include an OBE for war service and a sea gallantry medal, are now coming up for sale at Derbyshire’s Hansons Auctioneers on March 19 – with an estimate of £15,000 to £18,000.
Mr Shaw said: “David Blair was standing by for three months in Belfast when the Titanic was being built and was signed on for the whole of the New York voyage.
“He would have been responsible for all the navigation equipment but was taken off the ship in Southampton, surplus to requirements. As a former Navy man myself, I can understand why he would have been upset.”
Mr Blair sailed on the Titanic from Belfast to Southampton on April 3, 1912, when he was 37. He was involved in sea trials to measure the vessel’s performance and seaworthiness.
He had been due to be the second officer for the Titanic’s much anticipated maiden voyage to New York on April 10.
But the White Star Line, the ship’s owners, drafted in senior officer Henry Wilde instead from sister ship the Olympic because of his experience of large liners.
Blair wrote of his disappointment in a postcard he sent to his sister-in-law days before the Titanic left Southampton.
In the card he wrote: “Am afraid I shall have to step out to make room for chief officer of the Olympic. This is a magnificent ship, I feel very disappointed I am not to make her first voyage”.
The 46,000-ton Titanic struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic at 11.45pm on April 14 and sank at 2.20am on April 15. Mr Wilde perished.
Mr Blair, who was later awarded the King’s Gallantry medal for jumping into the Atlantic to rescue a crewman, eventually passed the locker key to his daughter Nancy, who gave it to the British and International Seamans Society in the 1980s.
Blair died at the age of 80 in 1955. In 2007, the Titanic key was bought at auction by a Chinese jeweller for £90,000.
Mr Shaw, who turned his medals hobby into a business, said: “If the key was worth £90,000, I feel this rare set of medals belonging to Titanic crew member David Shaw, the man who forgot the key, should be worth just as much.”
Adrian Stevenson, militaria expert at Hansons, said: “It is a fascinating story. It is astonishing to think that Mr Blair may have unwittingly caused the Titanic to sink by simply forgetting to hand in a key.
“His medals show he was a man of honour who put others before himself, but the haste of the last-minute change of plan meant the key was forgotten and the binoculars could not be accessed.
“These were in pre-sonar days when ships were reliant on binoculars to see hazards ahead.
“The loss of the Titanic is a story that has fascinated the world for more than a century. The opportunity to own David Blair’s medals will, I am sure, spark worldwide interest.”
The medals up for auction include: Order of the British Empire 1st type civil award; Sea Gallantry medal 1914-15 Star; British War medal; Victory medal; Royal Naval Reserve Decoration; French Cross of Chevalier of the Legion of Honour; Liverpool Shipwreck and Humane Society medal in silver and the Royal Humane Society medal in bronze.
The set comes with David Blair’s British Mercantile Marine Identity and Service Certificate, a folder of original documentation and a book, Titanic Destination Disaster: The Legend and the Reality.