However, the story lived on. In the popular French film Amelie, Audrey Tautou’s character creates a fictional letter — from a lover who had died in the crash — for a lonely female concierge after hearing about mountaineers finding similar letters. Now a British student on a field trip to the Alps to examine global warming has added to the legend after stumbling upon a mailbag from the Malabar Princess.
Remarkably, some of the letters it contained have survived sufficiently for Freya Cowan, a third-year geography student, to embark upon a project to reunite about 75 letters and birthday cards with the senders or intended recipients.
While walking away from her University of Dundee colleagues for a lavatory break Miss Cowan, 22, discovered the mailbag, which, due to rock falls and melting snow, had descended about 8,000ft over the years.
“I thought it was a joke, given that only moments before I had been talking about the crash,” she said.
A few letters from the Malabar Princess have been recovered previously but nothing on this scale. It would seem that none of the mail found by Miss Cowan was written by passengers on the plane, who were seamen bound for a new ship in Sunderland. The bag was destined for the US and the Dundee team has already succeeded in finding the owners of some correspondence.
Tim Reid, a glaciologist who was also on the trip, will be forwarding a letter to the daughter of Captain Hank Smith, a US pilot who died in 1999 but wrote a colourful account of his time working in India. “Hank’s letter tells a fantastic story about how he was working in Bombay and the Middle East,” said Mr Reid.
“He had a charter to Basra but had trouble with the aircraft and came down near a British Army encampment. They didn’t have much fresh water so he drank a lot of beer.
“He was there for three or four weeks while the plane was fixed, but needed the help of the Army to fend off Bedouin tribes looking to steal the plane’s equipment.”
It is not known to whom the letter was sent, but Mr Reid traced Mr Smith’s daughter in Texas. “She was absolutely astonished,” he said.
He aims to send her the letter after work to preserve it.
David Barratt, another student on the trip, traced the intended recipient of a letter sent by D Jones, a Salvation Army officer, to her brother, Harlan Cleveland and his wife, Ethel. He is understood to be in his 90s and living in a Salvation Army retirement home in St Petersburg, Florida.
Dated the night of Oct 30, 1950 — just five days before the crash — the letter describes her missionary work in India and asks her brother for money for a camera.
Miss Cowan is keen to deliver two typewritten letters and two handwritten ones, all in the same envelope from “Myra”, who also appears to be a missionary. They were sent to a Mrs Georgianna Roadaswel in Ohio, possibly the village of Haskins.
One, dated Oct 30, 1950, was intended for a Lady Moore. Ironically, considering the letter never arrived, it starts: “I do not often take the time to answer a letter in less than an hour after it arrives but there are some things in yours that I want to talk about with you.”
Later she discussed the problems of her work in India. “There is a growing anti-missionary feeling among some of the folks,” she wrote.
“I feel it is all from one source entirely and I have prayed so often that she might be led into the Light.”
SOURCE: THE TELEGRAPH
SOURCE: THE TELEGRAPH