Liability for lifeboat deaths

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May 8, 2001
Maybe someone could shed some light on this.
I understand that Captain Bartlett stopped the engines, but decided to restart them and head towards shore to possibly save his ship and crew. Unaware that the lifeboats had been lowered, in doing so, the propellers pulled in lifeboat(s) and killed or mangled his crew members.
Who was to blame (or was there blame) for not first getting permission from the captain to fill and launch the lifeboats? Was anyone held responsible for the subsequent action that caused deaths? Normally isn't liability placed on the ultimate person in charge, which would have been Captain Bartlett? But I see that he had a distinguished sea career afterwards even awarded a medal.
Are there different "rules" that apply during war time in regard to service for the country and dying in an event related to that service?
I have not read any transcripts afterwards, and have had limited exposure to the Britannic so apologize if this has been discussed in depth in the past.
Thanks in advance.

Brett Roshong


My understanding is that the Captain would not be held liable because he did not authorize the lowering of the lifeboats.

Inquiry Boards of the time rarely blamed the captain for the lost of a ship under his (I believe that most if not all major ocean liner commanders of that time were men) command. Such instances include Captain Turner of the Lusitania, Captain Smith of the Titanic.

With regard to liability placement I am do not know of any existing maritime law, but then again I am not an expert.
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