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Zach Uram

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I put most of the blame on the radio operators who repeatedly failed to relay the dire warnings of the icebergs to the bridge. Also to captain Smith for travelling through such conditions in the dark! Why didn't he just stop and wait until the morning light.

Zach
 

Mark Baber

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Dec 29, 2000
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the radio operators who repeatedly failed ...

Repeatedly?

Why didn't he just stop

The world didn't work that way at that time. Smith did what every commander of a passenger liner of the day would have done.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>I put most of the blame on the radio operators who repeatedly failed to relay the dire warnings of the icebergs to the bridge.<<

An assertion which doesn't hold water since the watch knew about the warnings and had been given special instructions to be on the lookout for pack ice and bergy bits. The claim tp "Ignorance Because We Recieved No Ice Warnings" thing falls apart for that very reason. They knew.

>>Also to captain Smith for travelling through such conditions in the dark! Why didn't he just stop and wait until the morning light.<<

Becaue, as MAB indicated, that was not how business was done in that day and in reality, is not how it's done even now. The practice was, and still is, to keep course and speed in all conditions short of bad visibility. So long as they could see where they were going, there was no jutification to slow done and none to stop.
 

Tom McLeod

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There are a lot of factors in this one which could hit a lot of threads. Clear thinking and really knowing the facts of that time are very key in this conversation as many here know. Captain Turner survived the Lusitania sinking. He didn't prove to be a terrific witness. He also was the master of the ship and bore the weight for his actions. He was grilled for his speed, how far in the channel he was, the 3 point position he was trying to take and a lot of other things. The accident with the Lusitania was the result of a sub attack. But things could have played out different under Turner's leadership. He did make it out of the trial, presided over by the same judge (Lord Mersey) that was in charge of the British Inquiry for Titanic. Turner was able to go back to sea.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>He did make it out of the trial, presided over by the same judge (Lord Mersey) that was in charge of the British Inquiry for Titanic.<<

Well, if you really want to pick nits, it wasn't a trial. The inquiry into the loss of both the Titanic, the Lusitania, and a number of other casualties were just that: Inquiries. They were not legal actions against individuals but (Supposedly) fact finding investigations done with an eye towards preventing any future casualties.

One could argue at length as to what the real objective was, especially since there were a lot of economic and poltical interests at stake, and it's not lost on historians that government interests were often intertwined with that of the shipping lines. They had a lot to protect and that tended at the very least to make them allies-of-convenience.

The one thing they were not were criminal or civil trials and they were not subject to the same rules.
 

Jim Currie

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Hi Michael!

'nail on the head' again! You are absolutely correct. I have alluded to this 'Inquiry v. Trial' comparison elsewhere.

As far as certain individuals were concerned: these were not true Inquiries - more like Inquisitions in the fashion of Torquemada. The Commissioner is quoted as saying - during the questioning of Stone: - 7856: " you know you do not make a good impression upon me at present".
Shortly after - 7904 Butler-Aspinal sarcastically:-"you did not think they were being sent up for fun? and again at 7907: "you did not think they sprang out from the sea?".

In fact, to me, this whole 'Californian' bit was a total farce. They had already made their minds up before questioning Lord and his officers.
The Attorney General - on Day7 - states to the Commissioner- before commencing with the case concerning 'Californian':- " this question of the 'californian' raises an issue between the master and the officers" (a very indirect association with the loss of 'Titanic') and:- "There is no doubt, as I understand the evidence, that rockets were seen on that night and that 'Californian' was not a great distance from 'Titanic'". How did he arrive at that conclusion - from what evidence?
Was he using Lord's evidence as given at the US Senate Enquiry? Heavens! he hadn't even heard any of the 'Californian' evidence!
When the BOT Inquiry was opened, 26 questions were to be answered. Q.24 deals with the cause of the loss of the ship but does not specifically mention 'Californian'. In the final report, 'Californian' is specifically mentioned in part b. of the answer to Q24. This was all because everyone believed that Boxhall's CQD was correct.
In the Report, the Attorney General states: "I am satisfied this position (Lord's DR at 2230 on the 14th)is not accurate. From that point on, all the rest is academic and Lord's life-time ordeal began.
It was by shear luck that 'Carpathia' was able to save so many. Consider what might have been in the final answer to Q24 if she had been to the west of the ice barrier! Would it have included a reference to the inaccurate CQD contributing to the great loss of life.
We now know where Titanic hit the ice. We also know that Rostron fudged his reported speed. We also know that the BOT Inquiry team included several 'experts'. Despite several glaring pointers, these experts did not pick up the discrepancies between survivors and the CQD. All of that evidence was ignored despite the fact part of the remit was to discover all contributing factors with a view to improving seafaring practices.

Since that time, numerous researchers have concocted a hybrid case based loosely on the same assumption that 'Californian' was nearer than Lord claimed she was but using the updated wreck position as a reference.

Cheers!

Jim.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>As far as certain individuals were concerned: these were not true Inquiries - more like Inquisitions in the fashion of Torquemada.<<

Only minus the rack and thumbscrews.
wink.gif


>>In fact, to me, this whole 'Californian' bit was a total farce.<<

It was, but maybe not for the reasons you think. The problems with the Californian have been debated at length so I won't go into that. The problem for Lord was that he was suspected without being told he was a suspect, indicted without being indicted, tried and convicted without being tried and convicted and had no recourse because legally nothing happened.

Whatever you think of the history, that in my opinion, is the real injustice that was done here.

In some respects, this speaks to a much larger problem, which a lot of casual students are unaware but which professional mariners are all too aware: The guys conducting the inquiries had the means to derail and even end a career. Not through legal action, but by virtue of the fact that they knew people in the "right" places.

Lord Mersey may have been something of a government shill but that was the nature of his job. His unspoken but well understood mandate was to protect the interests of the Crown, and if that meant the Crown got into bed with the shipping line under investigation, his board would do it in a cold second. If that meant throwing the line and by extension any officers and incidental crew to the wolves, he would do it just as quickly and without hesitation.

Lord Mersey was also a hooked up establishement guy and I don't think there was a sailor from the Titanic, who didn't understand that all it would take was a faint damning indictment on the official record, or a word to that "Right Person In A High Place" in the clubroom to tank their careers.

In short, they were expendable and they knew it, and nothing has changed since then.

Anybody who thinks that this wouldn't give some unlucky tar an incentive to be very, very, very careful about what they said then and now has no grasp on reality.
 

Tom McLeod

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Which as Michael says somewhat taints the testimony of those called to the stand. There a lot of information on hand to study, but you really can't trust each word as it was absolute. Long of many stories short, If you are someone like Lightoller you can go against your company, tell it like it was and be the scapegoat pretty easy; and out of a job. Who in their right mind is going to do that, right or wrong?
 
Mar 22, 2003
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>>The problem for Lord was that he was suspected without being told he was a suspect, indicted without being indicted, tried and convicted without being tried and convicted and had no recourse because legally nothing happened. <<

And Lord had only himself to blame for that. His poor attempted coverup of events during the middle watch had much to do with it. Even during the inquiries themselves he held back evidence. Conflicting and contradictory stories from his officer's didn't help with the perception that C saw T's rockets and did nothing about it. And that was the bottom line of it all.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>And Lord had only himself to blame for that.<<

And I'm not quibbling with that in the least. What I have an issue with...academically...is the lack of due process. Everybody has a right to that much.

>>Who in their right mind is going to do that, right or wrong?<<

Not many. I doubt a lot of people resorted to a deliberate bald faced lie. That would have been too easy. The trick is to wrap a whopper of a lie in a sandgrain of truth. The Mersey Court succeeded brilliantly at that.
 

Jim Currie

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Hi Guys!

I've been re-reading the evidence given at both enquiries.

Michael, I agree there does not seem to be any downright lying however I don't entirely agree about Lord's attempt at cover-up. If he did so, it could not have been to protect himself but to protect his juniors who I do think engaged in a little bit of shall we say 'hankey-pankey'.
After all, before he presented himself at the first enquiry, he knew very well what all his officers were going to swear to - especially Stone and Gibson. He knew that their testimonies contradicted what he understood the situation to be.
Apart from his words being twisted in cross examination and substituted for more satisfactory ones (to the court) by some snappy cross examination - his evidence seemed pretty straight forward.

On the other hand, the evidence of Stone and Gibson raises a few questions. These might be:

Stone told Gibson he had reported the initial rocket sightings to Lord via the speaking tube.
Did Stone actually report having seen 5 rockets or of seeing 1 and a half rockets? If the latter, it would explain Lord's lack of immediate alarm but his instructions to keep a sharp watch on the vessel and report any further development.

Gibson saw the last three of the set of 8 at about 0110 hours but no report was made to Lord at that time.
Stone says he saw the last one at 0140 but chose not to make any further report until after 0200 when the mystery vessel sailed away.
To make this second report of this particular event and give a summary, he chose to send Gibson down rather than go himself or use the Tube. Why? if he waited so long to report,did he chose this method of advising the Master?
He he obviously did not think too much was amiss. Why did he even bother to report it? It could have waited till later in the morning.
After all,reporting that a vessel had sailed away apparently unharmed would have most certainly resulted in the wrath of a very tired Captain awakened from a much needed sleep.

Later we're told that Stone reports the spread of three white rockets allegedly fired by 'Carpathia' at 0340 - again by voice tube. Inconsistency seems to be the name of the game here.

In fact, it is not until Stone relates the rocket firing saga in conversation to Mr. Stewart when the latter relieves him at 0400 hrs that everyone is galvanised into action.

It has been suggested that any cover-up was a futile attempt to save individual employment on the part of subordinates. In reality; nothing could be further from the truth with one exception - Gibson. He did not have a 'ticket'.
The word ticket is short for Ticket to work'.
These Hearings had the ultimate power of having an individual's marine qualifications either suspended or worse still- cancelled. It was then as is now the protection of an individual officer's qualifications which was/is the prime motivator. Loss of job motivation among qualified seafarers is not quite the same as the land based version where it is used as a very effective weapon.

My own personal take of this is that what we see is a very sad attempt by Lord to protect his incompetent 2/O and Apprentice.
I think that after Stewart called him, Lord put two and two together. He realised that Stone had neglected to properly inform him of the situation.
He also mis-read the situation. It is possible, he thought that he would be the only one called to account on the US side and that his story would be accepted. He could easily have fobbed-off the Donkeyman's story. Unfortunately events overtook him. However. he fully knew from day one what might happen and was ready with the signed statements of Stone and Gibson if they were needed.

Cheers!

Jim
 
Mar 22, 2003
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My own personal take of this is that what we see is a very sad attempt by Lord to protect his incompetent 2/O and Apprentice.
I think that after Stewart called him, Lord put two and two together. He realised that Stone had neglected to properly inform him of the situation.
He also mis-read the situation. It is possible, he thought that he would be the only one called to account on the US side and that his story would be accepted. He could easily have fobbed-off the Donkeyman's story. Unfortunately events overtook him. However. he fully knew from day one what might happen and was ready with the signed statements of Stone and Gibson if they were needed.
Hi Jim. I tend agree with your overall assessment summary except I'd include a sad attempt to protect himself as well. My reference to coverup had more to do with how he handled the press upon reaching Boston, more than anything else. Also keep in mind he chose to withhold those signed statements that he had at the time, and his official logbook which he brought with him had no mention of the events during the middle watch.

You also asked a few good questions. Sending Gibson down when the ship's lights disappeared at 2:05 may have been because of Lord's previous instructions to him when Stone reported the first time by speaking tube. If I recall, Lord told him to send Gibson down if he got a reply to the Morse signaling. In his letter to Lord, Stone wrote that the ship "had gone out of sight" when he sent Gibson down, which agrees with Gibson saying that it had disappeared. At the inquiry Stone changed this to "disappearing". Why he called lord on speaker tube at 2:45 is a good question because he gave him no new information. Maybe he was unsure that Lord understood what Gibson had told him, and Stone wanted to make sure Lord heard it directly from him. But as you say, it could have waited till morning. Unless of course Stone was worried about something else here like seeking assurance that he had taken the proper actions. Why he didn't report seeing those other lights at 3:20 is another good question as you asked. I'm afraid we can only speculate about this.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>How about Senator Alden Smith's treatment, any different?<<

Senator Smith had a very definate agenda of his own which in some respects was exactly the opposite of what the Mersey Court had in mind. The Mersey courts objective was to

a) find the problem and
b) fix the problem without being so rash as to
c) admit that there was any sort of problem which could bring down the shipping line which they knew would be a valuable wartime asset as well as
d) bring discredit on the Board of Trade which wrote the rules.

Senator Smith wasn't interested in whitewashing anything since he was gunning for the Morgan Trust. An objective which caused him to do nearly the exact opposite which was to dig a lot deeper and expose problems which interested parties were trying to draw attention away from.

You can see a very marked difference in the way he questions witnesses. Far from letting things drop, he went after witnesses relentlessly and tended to latch onto points like a bull mastiff until he either got answers or was forced to give up because he knew he wasn't going to get any.

>>My reference to coverup had more to do with how he handled the press upon reaching Boston, more than anything else.<<

And there's nothing a sharp newshawk hungry for a scoop won't go after faster then somebody who even so much as looks like he has something to hide.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Thanks Michael I've understood it as such.<<

You have a lot of company there.

The really curious part is that you have to read the inquiries with a skeptical eye because you had
a) witnesses with a vested interest in being less then candid,
b) interested parties with something to hide, and
c) investigators who were a little too eager to expose things whether there was anything to expose or not, and
e) investigators who were all too happy to help those with something to hide because
f) exposing the realities would shine an unwelcome spotlight on how they did business.

For all of that, these are still essential primary sources. The information may be suspect, but it's what the people involved actually said.