Anyone seen this on Cosmo Duff Gordon

Not open for further replies.
Letter clears 'blackguard of the Titanic'

By Nigel Reynolds, Arts Correspondent
Last Updated: 2:17am BST 02/05/2007

He was one of the great blackguards of pre-First World War British society: Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon, the man who not only was said to have bought his way off the sinking Titanic, but then stopped his half-empty lifeboat from returning to pick up drowning passengers.

[Moderator's Note: The balance of the article, originally reproduced here, has been removed due to copyright concerns. It can be found here. MAB]
Looks to me like the whole of the letter was not published in that article. In the absence of that, I can't really comment on it's veracity. While it makes no mention of the controversial statements, that doesn't mean they weren't made in some context. (And later taken out of context.)

In my own opinion, I don't see that Sir Cosmo really did anything wrong. Seen in it's proper context, that fiver he promised to the engineers in the boat came when one of them mentioned that they had lost all their kit. Far from being a bribe, it was an act of kindness and charity that later came back to haunt him.

sashka pozzetti

Former Member
I think anybody that knew the facts knew that no-one had done anything wrong. The only criticisms were that the life boat could perhaps have rowed back to look for surviviors, but it was not the only one not to, and they were scared of sinking. Even Christies have got this wrong, saying that Cosmo was supposed to have bribed the sailors to get off the Titanic, and this is definitely not true. Some people thought that the money was to pay the sailors not to row back, and this was completely dismissed at the inquiry. I think I got that right. Whatever, no one should single these people out because the inquiry did not question everybody in the lifeboats. If they had the Duff Gordon story would have been more mixed into a general overall story of a disastrous mess ,from the flawed design, the lack of life boats to the ignorance of how to manage in a life boat, to the failure to maximize the number of people saved from the sea. The British press are notoriously quick to judge, and slow to apologize, or correct unfair accusations. Mud sticks.
What the Mersey Wreck Commission said on both the Duff-Gordons and Bruce Ismay is well worth reading. Go to TIP | British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry | Report | Account of the Saving and Rescue of those who Survived - Conduct of Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon and Mr Ismay Unfortunately as Sashka said, mud sticks, particularly when the "Big Boys" are targeted by the editors.

The boat with the Duff-Gordons wasn't the only one which chose not to go back and attempt to rescue any swimmers. As hard hearted as this might seem, there were some very sound reasons for this. Rowing a boat into a screaming mob thrashing about in the water is not a particularly good idea. It's a good way to get swamped and end up swimming yourself. Especially if you don't have a lot of able bodied hands to help keep things under control.
And one thing that becomes clear if you read accounts of pre-Titanic shipwrecks is that lifeboats rarely made it away from sinking ships safely. The women and children of the {Central America} were safely ferried to other ships, but this was an exception. A few boats were safely launched from the Arctic, only to never be heard from again.

The precedents those in Titanic's lifeboats would have had in mind would not have been encouraging overall. The situation of those sitting "safely" in the boats must have been scarier than we who know how the story turned out can imagine.
"the man who not only was said to have bought his way off the sinking Titanic, but then stopped his half-empty lifeboat from returning to pick up drowning passengers."

I think the operative words here are "said to have". The whole article is a media beat-up. Even in 1912, nobody claimed Sir Cosmo "bought his way" off the ship. The Francatelli letter actually adds nothing to the story. If she'd proved that Sir Cosmo really bribed the crew, that would be news.

My book covers the Duff-Gordon tale quite extensively and makes the point that the supposed capacity of the boat was baloney. Ever seen a 25' x 7' open boat? There are bigger trailer sailers on our roads!
>>How many could really have fitted in the boat safely?<<

It depends a lot on just how big they are. The assumption was that each passenger would take up something like 10 cubic feet of volumn. The problem with this one is that people come in all shapes and sizes from the petite to the very large so it's entirely possible for a single person to take up the space that two average sized people could fit in.

The numbers quoted were the ideal condition, but the real world is anything but ideal. Had the people on the Titanic been the anorexic wonders who you see working as models these days, the rated capacities might have been realistic.

They weren't and they're not.
Actually, for the emergency boats the allowance was only 8 cubic feet per person.

Boxhall had 18 in boat 2 and thought he could get two or three more in at a pinch.
>>Actually, for the emergency boats the allowance was only 8 cubic feet per person.<<

I'll bet it would have been cozy in there had the thing been maxed out to the rated capacity then.

>>so is a 25 maximum more realistic?<<

Probably. As to the construction of the boats, I wouldn't call any of them flimsy but just undersized for what was expected of them. If you want to find out more on what's known about them, go to Docking Bridge Autumn Edition. Article By Bob Read See The Engelhardt Collapsible. [db 02] for information on the collapsibles.

sashka pozzetti

Former Member
Thank you, that is so interesting, it has completely changed my understanding of the situation. I am sure that the life boat was very effective, but it is the last thing i would want to be adrift in an ocean in. It would have been bad enough in the normal life-boats. It doesn;t look very stable, and they must have been worried about getting swamped over the collapsible sides of such an unfamiliar design.
>>but it is the last thing i would want to be adrift in an ocean in. <<

Damn right, you wouldn't want to be in one! An open boat out on the open ocean is about the most dangerous place you can possibly be short of actually being in the ocean itself. There's a reason for the interest in making a vessel be it's own lifeboat at least until a rescue ship can get on the scene to evacuate the people aboard. The reason being that your chances of survival are much greater if you can stay with the ship as long as possible.

Taking to the boats is the court of very last resort and you do that only if staying with the ship looks like an even worse idea. Even then, it can bite and the Mary Celeste is an example of what can go wrong. Forget the nonsense written by idiot authors who are forever yakking about the Bermuda Triangle. These people took to their boat because some of the barrels of alcohol were found to be broken and the fumes presented a really substantial explosion hazard. Unfortunately for them, the wind carried the ship away, and powered only by oars, they had no chance of catching up. Lost out on the open ocean like that, they were never found even though the ship was several days later.

patrick toms

Former Member
brian ahern states that boats rarely made it to safety pre titanic sinking,he is right but in the case of the titanic the sea was calm and they had plenty of time to launch the lifeboats,but even though there were few of them they could not even do this right.
pat toms president shannon ulster titanic society
Not open for further replies.