Leslie Reade and his faults


Jul 9, 2000
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If I recall correctly, from seeing a cross section of the Californian, the ship had a collision bulkhead up forward and the engine/boiler rooms are clearly sectioned off from the cargo holds. Still, I can see where a hole in the region of the cargo hold could lead to a very bad night. The sectioning was there but it just wasn't that extensive.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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I agree Michael. In fact the ship had an aft bulkhead as well, and the deck above the shaft tunnel also appears to be watertight. The internal compartmentalization complied with BOT requirements as far as I can tell, and she carried enough lifeboats for all on board.

My question was directed to the person making the statement that the ship "had no internal compartmentation," which is certainly not the case. Somehow, he obtained somewhat inaccurate information which he posted.

Malcolm also said that "a mild collision with ice could have sunk such a ship." Well if that was such a real concern it certainly did not stop Capt. Lord from cutting across a field of pack ice twice in the morning before reaching the spot where the Carpathia was. Malcolm also stated something about the Californian having poor maneuverability at low speed, and that Lord knew that, but offered no evidence to support any of those claims. And just what does "elaborate manoeuvres" mean, and just what would be required to effect any sort of rescue attempt? The ship could go ahead or astern, turn to either side, and of course stop when needed. It could also make a respectable 13 knots as it did the following morning running down the western side of the pack ice. So what else are we talking about here?

And as far Californian not being able to save large numbers of people, that has no bearing on the actions or inactions taken. The undeniable fact of the matter is that rockets were seen going up at intervals, and the Californian stood still.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>Malcolm also said that "a mild collision with ice could have sunk such a ship." <<

Mmmmmm...he may have a point there. (I wonder if any of the floodable length curves have survived.) The cargo areas are sufficiently wide open that a breach in any one of them...in my opinion...would have been serious cause for concern. Be that as it may, as you pointed out, it didn't stop Captain Lord from chancing not one but two very risky crossings of the icefield in the morning.

>>Malcolm also stated something about the Californian having poor maneuverability at low speed,<<

She probably did, but no more so then any other heavily ladened frieghter of her day. I don't think that would have been a barrier to recovering survivors from boats as this required the ship to be stopped in any event.

Manueverability isn't much of an issue when you're not going anywhere. At least not the last time I looked.
 
Jun 10, 2004
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Re recent responses, the comment on compartments is based on the cross section of the Californian presented in Leslie Reade's book. This shows that the fore and aft holds are wide open spaces, offering a large reservoir for water to flood into.

On manoeuvrability, Californian was a single shaft freighter with modest power. Not the best ship for trying to edge through an ice field in the pitch dark. Recall that she had already failed to stop before running into ice earlier in the evening. Luckily for her it was only light surface ice and not a growler that could have done real harm. This was probably why Lord decided he was not moving his ship until morning.

By the way, I am not disputing your point that distress rockets were seen and nothing was done. That is so. I was commenting on the obvious hostility towards Lord that Reade exhibits. This spoils what is otherwise First Class investigation.
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>Not the best ship for trying to edge through an ice field in the pitch dark.<<

Niether was the Titanic, or even the Carpathia for that matter!

But that's not the real issue here. Nor is manueverability. None of the ships out there was a warship, so they weren't exactly designed to dance the jitterbug, but the Californian managed quite well in this regard and as I pointed out, a ship picking up lifeboats doesn't need to manuever since she's at a dead stop anyway.

Reade's faults?

Well, I'm not disputing that. He did have more then a bit of an agenda in his own right and that went a long way towards clouding his objectivity. When you get down to it, that's the whole problem with the Pro/Anti-Lord debate...advocacy at the expense of objectivity.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Malcolm,

I'm a strong believer in keeping issues separated. I'd be extremely careful about jumping to conclusions about Californian's watertight subdivision based on the the diagrams reproduced in Reade's book. They do not necessarily show the entire and final arrangement, especially in that early diagram that showed her arrangement with a sail rig. The ship was certified to carry 47 passengers and had spaces were provided for this. There were certain BOT rules that were in effect at the time that had to be complied with in order to get that certificate regarding subdivision as well as life saving appliances carried.

Being a single screw ship capable of 13 knots says nothing about her maneuverability, turning radius, stopping distance from full speed, etc. My guess is that she had a turning radius much smaller than most larger passenger steamers of the time, including Carpathia and Titanic.

Reading what you posted, it was not obvious to me that you were just commenting on Reade's apparent hostility to Lord. It seemed you were trying to defend Lord's actions, or inactions, by bringing up issues dealing with the ship that he commanded that really had nothing to do with it. Do you think the Carpathia was any better equipped to rush at 16 knots through an ice region knowing that the ship she was rushing to save had collided with an ice berg and was sinking? I don't think so. And Californian was not carrying any passengers at the time, and therefore had no innocent passengers to put at risk in sharp contrast to what Rostron did with Carpathia.

Was Lord treated fairly by Reade? That is a matter of opinion. I do tend to agree that Reade's work was not entirely without bias. But I can also see why and how such bias came about, just as I see how Lord's supporters also developed a bias for their champion. It is hard to find a truly unbiased account with regard to the Californian affair. But I do find Reade's work well documented and great reference to go to.

Take care.
 
Mar 18, 2009
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Hi all, this is my first time on the message board, this website is amazing. I've just read Reade's book for the first time, I thought it was well researched though like all Californian books there was something of an agenda there. That is the trouble; the evidence from the Inquiries, which I've just trawled through, is full of contradictions from both sides of the argument. Unfortunately having read a lot of Californian books you can only really arrive at a conclusion by ignoring some evidence that doesn't fit. And there lies the problem....
 

Jim Currie

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Hello Wayne,

I find the best way to approach the subject is to start with the fact that the only people who really knew what, where and when concerning Californian were the people actually on board the vessel during the period in question.
I do not think that any living person can actually disprove any of the evidence given by the master officers and crew of Californian.
Sure, some of that evidence was contradictory.
However I'm equally sure; had the powers that be of the day decided on full criminal proceedings, we would be very much less in doubt as to what really happened concerning the part Californian played in the 'mystery' vessel(s) conundrum.

Many of today's researchers assume that somehow they know more than the experts at the time of the Titanic hearings and therefore are able to 'sort things out'. What rubbish! All the evidence available today was available back in 1912 - even the fact that Titanic never got as far as 50-14'West.
The only 'new' evidence is the exact location of the wreck on the sea-bed.
I have heard of evidence given by individuals many years after the event. However, we all know how memory can play tricks - even the memory of a traumatic event.

Simply put: the existing evidence and experts able to sift through it carefully was available shortly after the sinking - the will to get to the truth concerning the part Californian played was not.

As far as the subsequent efforts of those consumed with interest in the subject are concerned; I believe you have 'hit the nail on the head' so to speak.

The really big problem is when historians try to make things fit. Few I have read approached the subject with an open mind. All too many start out to prove a pre-conceived outcome (the proverbial 'bee in the bonnet').
Far too many were and still are influenced by the personal agendas of officials, politicians, press reporters and editors as well as not a few greedy individuals back in 1912.
 

Paul Lee

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Aug 11, 2003
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It is very difficult to say for sure if Reade's agenda was fair to Captain Lord and/or Leslie Harrison. Certainly, the TV teleplay that Reade wrote in 1955, and the newspaper article that his wife wrote for a London paper at about that time do not show Lord as a strict disciplinarian, or "austere autocrat" as was later said. I suggest that most of Reade's hostility to Lord was prompted by his encounter with Leslie Harrison, including the four hour long dinner date between the two adversaries, and the constant badgering by Harrison for Reade to change his mind about Lord's "guilt."

The problem here is that, while Harrison's archive of material, including a lot of stuff that paints him in a VERY bad light, is available for all to see in Liverpool, there is no central repository of Reade's research. This was a great stumbling block when I was researching my own book as I could neither confirm nor verify some of Reade's comments (e.g. Lawyer Burlingham knowing of the tension between Captain Lord and Stone during the 1915 Limitation of Liability hearings). After Reade died in 1989, his Titanic collection was put up for auction, so some of his research may be gone for good. All I could find were his letters to Walter Lord, and de Groot's material that he sent to Haynes in 1993/4 when Harrison sued over "The Ship That Stood Still."
I could thus only partially replicate Reade's work.

I spent a great deal of time trying to trace Reade's material; writing to his brother in law, and even Edward de Groot, who tried to help at my request, got no response, even from Reade's relatives in America. I suppose they were sick of the fiasco that "The Ship..." had become. But I can say one thing with almost 100% certainty; his assertion that Harrison had pestered Lawrence Beesley to change the contents of his affidavit is unfair and quite simply wrong. Laurien Wade had her own agenda to making Beesley seem callous, and it all boils down to her state of mind, and the fact that she had a minimal mention in Beesley's will.

In summary, both Harrison and Reade had their faults, but I find the former to have been more liberal with the use of "facts" to make his case. I knew Harrison on and off for a number of years and felt betrayed when I found out how he had distorted Captain Lord's case.

Paul

My book on the Californian is now available in softcover. See http://www.paullee.com/book_details.php
 

Will Geisler

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Jun 25, 2020
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So I am re-reading this book and I have always loved it. I can't seem to find any other writings of Leslie Reade. Anyone know if there are any or why he only wrote the one book?
 

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