Contemporary Reports

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Mar 20, 2000
Here are two Titanic news items from the New York weekly "The Independent:"


THE INDEPENDENT, 16 May 1912, p 1035.

Section: "Survey of the World."

Column:"The Titanic Case in England."

When J. Bruce Ismay, general manager of the White Star Line Steamship Company, reached Liverpool on May 11, according to newspaper reports, he was cheered as she stepped down the gangplank. He will be examined by the Board of Trade's Commission of Inquiry, under the presidency of Lord Mersey.

Witnesses before this commission have testified that more persons would have been placed in the Titanic's boats had the officers not feared they would collapse while being lowered. Had they been more fully manned, they might, however, have saved more persons floating in the sea after the ship had gone down.

The first lifeboat launched carried less than half of its capacity. One of the crew of this boat testified that Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon, one of the passengers, objected to picking up any of those struggling in the water, because it "might be dangerous." Lady Duff-Gordon, his wife, who keeps a shop in Paris under a nom de guerre, joined in the protest against saving the lives of fellow passengers. Subsequently the Scottish peer gave 5 pounds to each of the crew of the lifeboat.

The want of discipline aboard the Titanic has been brought out in the British investigation.

Fire broke out in one of the coal bunkers soon after the ship left Southampton and this damaged one of the bulkheads. Apparently four bulkhead doors were opened by order of the chief engineer after they had been closed from the bridge after collision with the iceberg.

The third steamer to search for bodies at the scene of the Titanic disaster is the Montmagny. Most of those whose bodies were recovered by the MInia seem to have perished from exposure, not drowning.

The Peninsular and Oriental Steamship Company having refused the demands of the Seafarers' Union in regard to lifeboat accomodations and extra men for manning the boats, that union now threatens a general strike.


THE INDEPENDENT, 23 May 1912, p 1087.

Section: "Survey of the World."

Column: "The Titanic Case."

At the Board of Trade's inquiry last week the fact was brought out that the Leyland Line steamship Californian saw rockets fired upon the night the Titanic sank. The Captain insists that the vessel in distress, about five miles distant, was not so large as the White Star Liner. One witness testified that he took the unknown steamer as a tramp. The third officer of the Californian, however, testified that he recognized the ship as a passenger vessel and that his Captain knew the Titanic to be the only passenger vessel near by.

The inquiry has also brought out the fact that Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon's solicitor advised one of the members of the lifeboat crew what testimony his should give about the alleged refusal of certain passengers to take on others who were in the sea near the Titanic.

J. Bruce Ismay has offered to contribute $50,000 and Mrs. Ismay has offered the same sum to found a pension fund for the widows of those who have lost their lives at sea while serving on British merchant vessels. No pension is to exceed $100 a year.

The scout cruiser Birmingham, of the United States Navy, has been ordered from Philadelphia to make a comprehensive study of the ice fields in the track of transatlantic navigation. Reports of the position of ice packs and bergs will be made by wireless as frequently as possible. An international patrol of the danger zone may be established.
May 1, 2004
This reaction to the sinking came from a diary referred to in a book titled The Assassin's Cloak : an anthology of the World's Greatest Diarists. I put down all the bibliographic information I found for it.

15-16 April 1912

About noon the streets were full of posters announcing that the Titanic had struck an iceberg, half-way across the Atlantic on her maiden voyage. She got in touch with the mainland by means of her wireless installation, and hour by hour we were kept informed of her movements. There was something extraordinarily dramatic in the thought of this great overgrown monster wallowing about in mid-ocean, while we in Cornhill could almost watch her flounderings. Then suddenly the messages became blurred and ceased altogether; it was put about - no one yet knows by whom - that all the passengers were saved and that the ship was being towed into Halifax by one of the rescuing liners, and we all went to bed regarding it as a good joke.

But today came the news that she had gone down with over a thousand souls on board within three hours of the collision, and very shortly after wireless messages broke off. Perhaps it is Nature’s most effective tour de force since Sodom and Gomorrah; for she was the last work in ostentatious luxury, and the very embodiment of our insolent claims to have conquered the elements. Our civilisation [sic] has been very properly put in its place, as Roman civilisation [sic] was at Pompeii. I don’t think even the San Francisco and Messina earthquakes made half such an impression on the world as this has. When they happened, we rather tended to say, “What can you expect, with those Godless San Franciscans and those feckless Italians?” But this is essentially an international affair, and hits especially the two soi-disant most competent nations of two hemispheres.

- Sir Alan “Tommy” Lascelles (1887-1981)

End of an Era : Letters and Journals of Sir Alan Lascelles, edited by D. Hart-Davis. London : Hamish Hamilton, 1986. [copyright by Lavinia Hankinson and Caroline Erskine to Canongate Books, Edinburgh & New York for The Assassin’s Cloak : an Anthology of the World’s Greatest Diarists / edited by Irene and Alan Taylor) 2001. ]

A nephew of the fifth Earl of Harewood, he read Greats at Oxford. In the First World War, he fought as a cavalry officer in the Bedford Yeomanry, was wounded and awarded the Military Cross. In 1920, he joined the staff of the Prince of Wales. From 1931 to 1935, he was Secretary to the Governor General of Canada and Private Secretary to George VI from 1943 to 1952.
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