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Stanley Lord guilty as charged

Discussion in 'Accusations against Captain Lord and Subsequent Di' started by schuylervanjohnson, Sep 23, 2013.

  1. I have read many books on Titanic and believe Capt. Lord was a tyrant who bullied his men and scared them to the point where they dared not go against him insisting they go help Titanic which was obviously in distress. It is against maritime law laws of the courts and the laws of God and decency not to go to the aid of a ship in distress. Californian was within 10 miles or so of Titanic and could have saved every soul on board but chose not to. White rockets mean only one thing; SOS. Lord chose not to leave his warm bunk and his men, having watched the rockets and told him of this, dared not pursue it further. The loss of those left on board is all on Lord's shoulders, he did not do his duty and he will forever be seen as what he was; a monster.
  2. >>I have read many books on Titanic and believe Capt. Lord was a tyrant who bullied his men and scared them to the point where they dared not go against him insisting they go help Titanic which was obviously in distress.<<

    Then you better start reading PRIMARY sources. Not one of them supports this claim.

    >>It is against maritime law laws of the courts and the laws of God and decency not to go to the aid of a ship in distress.<<

    Not entirely accurate I'm afraid. You might want to back off and take some time to learn about Admiralty Law (Which is the kind we can at least prove exists.) The requirement to go to the aid of a distressed vessel is trumped by the obligation under the law the captain has to the safety of his ship FIRST. This is reasonable since you can't rescue anybody if you're on the way to the bottom yourself.

    >>Californian was within 10 miles or so of Titanic and could have saved every soul on board but chose not to.<<

    The first is debatable and the second in absolute nonsense. Even if the Californian had been right there at the time of the accident, it would have taken a minimum of ten to twelve hours to transfer all the officers and crew from one ship to the other by boats.

    >>White rockets mean only one thing; SOS.<<

    Not entirely accurate. The law of the period specified rocket of ANY colour.

    >>Lord chose not to leave his warm bunk and his men, having watched the rockets and told him of this, dared not pursue it further. The loss of those left on board is all on Lord's shoulders, he did not do his duty and he will forever be seen as what he was; a monster. <<

    Again, debatable and not an absolute fact. In my own opinion, Lord screwed up. However, even as I hold to that opinion, I'm mindful of the fact that there were a lot of things going on which could have and probably did effect his decision making for better and for worse. As a retired sailor, I'm painfully aware of how uncertainty enters the picture and why. Whatever the case may be, Captain Lord was no monster. If he had been, he would have just gone on his merry way in the morning. Instead what he actually DID was transit the icefield not once but TWICE in an effort to get to the site of the sinking when he became aware of it.



    The actions and behavior of a monster?

    Ajmal Dar likes this.
  3. TimTurner

    TimTurner Member

    The problem with viewing Captain Lord as an Arch Villain is a lack of explanation of his motives. You can give me any number of reasons that Lord made a mistake, or any number of reasons he did the right thing. Maybe he was stupid, or misinformed, or hesitant, or cowardly. But is there any reason on earth the man would in full consciousnesses say to himself "Wow, there's a sinking ship full of drowning people, I better let all them die"?
  4. Adam Went

    Adam Went Member

    There is no one person or thing responsible for the deaths of those who remained on board the Titanic. That would be too simplistic. It is a multitude of things, some of which date back years before the ship struck the iceberg - the hype over it supposedly being unsinkable, for instance. Or the powers that be which allowed her to sail far too quickly into an ice field which they had received warnings about. And, once the damage was done, more lives could have been saved if the boats hadn't been launched half full, and passengers hadn't believed the Titanic to be safer than a lifeboat. No, there are many different factors at work here.

    Having said that, Lord was extremely incompetent that night. Ships don't just fire rockets and appear to list in the middle of the night in the middle of the ocean for no apparent reason. At the very least the Marconi operator should have been roused to find out what all the fuss was about.

    Ajmal Dar likes this.
  5. TimTurner

    TimTurner Member

    Doubtless that Lord could have saved more lives than zero. And certainly he is responsible and to blame for the poor running of his ship. But I doubt he stood their cackling like some cartoon villain.

    One of the most difficult things I have reading theories against Lord is that often they seem to imply that he intentionally allowed people to die. I can understand all manner of incompetence. I can understand that he wrongly prioritized the marcconi operator's sleep over understanding conditions at sea. I can understand that he was confused about what he was seeing and had a brain lapse and forgot that it was his job to figure out what the problem was. I can understand that he might have run his ship on a shoot-the-messenger philosophy and ended up discouraging his crew from informing him of problems. I can understand that he didn't study hard enough at Captain's cram school and forgot what white rockets were supposed to mean. I can understand that he might have been reasonably or unreasonably afraid of endangering his own ship. But I have the hardest time wrapping my mind around the idea that he and his officers knew that people were dying and just shrugged it off.

    I'm not trying to justify Captain Lord, but I'm enormously skeptical of any kind of conspiracy theory about him intentionally killing Titanic passengers for his own perverse amusement.
    Ajmal Dar likes this.
  6. Jim Currie

    Jim Currie Member

    Hello schuylervanjohjnso.

    Your problem and that of many researchers is in the opening statement of your post: "I have read many books on Titanic".

    Instead of reading books about Titanic.. read carefully, and I mean carefully, the evidence given by Captain Lord and his crew during the UK Inquiry. I have done so and written two books on the subject. The first one is a novel woven round the factual evidence I refer to above and the second is a disection of the evidence itself.
    The evidence clearely shows that if there was any guilt to be apportioned concerning the part played by the Californian in the Titanic affair, it should be at the feet of Lord Mersey the King's Wreck Commissioner and Sir Rufus Isaacs, the UK Attorney General.
    The principal clue to Captain Lord's actions lies within the evidence given by James Gibson, Californian's Deck Apprentice. If you are curious enough, read "The Scapegoat" parts 1 & 2.
    Scapegoat Cover.jpg
    Part Two new.jpg

    Jim C.

    Scapegoat Cover.jpg

    Part Two new.jpg
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  7. Thomas Ozel

    Thomas Ozel Member

    This article provides further details of the various challenges that the crew of the Californian would have had to face, if they had come to Titanic's assistance:

    The Californian Incident, A Reality Check by Tracy Smith, Michael H. Standart & Captain Erik D. Wood - Titanic Research
  8. Jim Currie

    Jim Currie Member

    Hello Adam.

    In fact, Lord was extremely competant and at the height of his competancy. Your comment about the middle of the night comes directly from a sarcastic remark made by one of the interrogators.
  9. TimTurner

    TimTurner Member

    Jim, any chance you could give us an excerpt from that book regarding the testimony of James Gibson?
  10. Jim Currie

    Jim Currie Member

    I can do better than that Tim.

    As you probably know, Lord requested that 2nd Officer Stone and Apprentice Gibson each wrote a separate statement of their actions during the 12 to 4am Watch on the morning of April 15, 1912.. These were written on April 18... 3 days after Californian had left the scene of the disaster and the day before she arrived at Boston on April 19. The evidence which clears Lord of any wrong-doing comes from the statement of James Gibson. I quote:

    "Arriving on the bridge again at that time, the Second Officer told me that the other ship, which was then about 3 ½ points on the Starboard bow, had fired five rockets and he also remarked that after seeing the second one to make sure that he was not mistaken, he had told the Captain, through the speaking tube, and that the Captain had told him to watch her and keep calling her up on the Morse light"

    Lord told his questioners that he knew of one rocket for sure and that Stone had reported it to him. Gibson's statement confirms this.
    Lord did not know about the multiplicity of rockets until the vessel seeming to fire them had moved away and disappeared from sight. This being the case; what would be th point in calling his wireless man to make a CQ... all -ships call? Such a call would have to have taken the form of:

    "CQ-CQ-CQ-All ships- All ships- All ships..... Please advise which one of you fired-off 8 rockets recently? Are you OK Now?

    Only a 2 operator ship would have received that call. A ship without a wireless .. and there were many of these... would not have heard it at all. In the highly unlikely event of another ship being contacted, all that Lord would have discovered was that it fired the rockets for a reason which was no longer current.

    It should be remembered that Californian's bridge officers and Apprentice Gibson continuously unsuccessfully attempted to contact the nearby ship for a period on more than 2 and a half hours.
    They used the most common method of contact at night.. a powerful signalling lamp.

    The idea of Lord calling his wireless operator under the circumstances prevailing is pure nonsense.
    Mel Sharp likes this.
  11. TimTurner

    TimTurner Member

    That sounds like an excellent book, you should write it sometime.
  12. >>The problem with viewing Captain Lord as an Arch Villain is a lack of explanation of his motives.<<

    Actually, the problem with portraying Captain Lord as the arch villain in fact lies in the portrayal of him AS the arch villain. You see the same approach used by a prosecutor on a criminal case where a defendant is portrayed as combining all the vices of Hitler, Pol Pot, and the eeeeeeeeevile Snidely Whiplash with none of their virtues. It's not enough that they screwed up, everything about them is made to look like there's sinister intent involved everywhere.

    Sorry but in the case of Captain Lord, (As we say in the 'lil ol South) That dog don't hunt!

    Keep in mind that I'm saying this from the vantage point of one of Captain Lord's critics. I have no doubt that he screwed up, but making a mistake isn't the same thing as having malicious and malevolent intent above and beyond the call of malicious and malevolent intent. I've seen no evidence to support such a thing and quite a bit which goes against it.
  13. Jim Currie

    Jim Currie Member

    Tim: I have already written the books. They are available as ebooks on Amazon.com

    Tim observed: "The problem with viewing Captain Lord as an Arch Villain is a lack of explanation of his motives."

    Tim's right on the money. Lord's actions were laid-out like goods on a market stall. They were, and still are, available for all to see.
    Attempts to explain Lord's actions in layman's terms have consistantly fallen on deaf ears. This is easily understood.
    Unless a person has actually been involved in a similar decision-making process, it is almost impossible to describe what was on Lord's mind as a coherent, progressive series of thoughts culminating in a decision.
    A classic example of what I mean is illustrated by the outrage at the treatment of Captain Lord expressed by ship's masters throughout the world at the time. I have seen this explained away as kind of circling of the waggons.. an example of protecting one's own. That is absolute rubbish! Such an explanations simply illustrates a complete lack of understanding of seamen and seamanship. 99% of all master's who were confronted with a situation as described by Lord and his Apprentice Gibson would have acted in exactly the same way. The problem lies with the evidence of the 2nd Officer Stone. Lord could only have 'screwed-up' if Stone had in fact warned him twice about seeing rockets. The first time after clearly identifying a white rocket and the second time after seeing a total of five. There is strong evidence that he did not.
    According to Apprentice Gibson; Stone never warned Lord about the third, fourth or fifth rockets and only finally reported a total of eight after the other vessel had disappeared. If this was indeed the case then Lord had nothing to be ashamed of.
    Lord was initially told that the ship nearby had fired at least one clearly identified white rocket. 1hour 20 minutes later he was told it had fired a total of 8 but had since disappeared in a SW direction. That he was told about the 5 rockets is very debateable indeed.
    Lord knew that the ship had first been seen to the SE and later disapeared to the SW. That being so, then logically, there was nothing wrong with it and it had moved away... not down. A sinking ship does not change it's bearing from a ship which has been stopped all the time the other was sinking. It follows that Lord never considered that the nearby ship had ever been a problem for him or his ship.
    However, Lord had considered it a potential problem from the very beginning. Thus, like any prudent master, he had given strict orders that attempts should be made to contact the other vessel. His men had tried continuously to do so but without success. It finally moved away.

    Has anyone ever considered that Lord was protecting his young Second Officer?

    Jim C.
  14. Jim --

    Debate about Californian and Captain Lord is something I avoid. However, as a professional mariner, I thank you for the above posts. You've explained the situation in context with the way ships are operated. And, your last sentence about Lord protecting his second officer...wish I had thought of that.

    -- David G. Brown
  15. Adam Went

    Adam Went Member

    Hi all,


    I agree with you, it is ridiculous to think that Lord simply layed there and thought "Oh, there's a ship sinking? Well, they can sort their own problems out."
    There was certainly no malicious intent. Competence, on the other hand, is a different issue altogether.


    Congratulations on your book which I was not aware of, I will certainly be seeking it out. For the moment however, I must respectfully disagree.

    That the Titanic was firing rockets is an established fact. Sarcastic comment or otherwise, ships really did not and do not fire rockets and appear to be at weird angles for no apparent reason. Fair enough that the morse lamp was used to try and contact them, but when this failed, other methods should have been attempted.

    I'm afraid I don't understand why rousing the wireless operator is "nonsense". If there is nobody else capable of operating the equipment, and there is evidently something out of the ordinary taking place, then he should have been awoken to find out what the problem was. He probably wouldn't have needed to send a message out, he would have heard the distress calls of the Titanic loud and clear.

    If it proved to be a false alarm, then he could resume his slumber. No harm done, and we wouldn't be sitting here having this conversation now.

    As to the argument that the Californian would have been incapable of helping passengers even if she had arrived on the scene in time, that is equally a pointless argument. Passengers would still have entered the water but they would have had a better chance of surviving. No doubt there still would have been casualties but the number would have been reduced.

    Now let me be clear about this - I am, as we all are, viewing this with the benefit of hindsight. The crew of the Californian clearly had their reasons for acting in the way that they did. I don't believe they deliberately acted poorly. But that should not excuse them from scrutiny and does not excuse the fact Captain Lord was indeed lax.

  16. Thomas Ozel

    Thomas Ozel Member

    Lord's rationale behind not waking the Californian's wireless operator appears to be based on the fact that Cyril Evans had told him that the only vessel he had been in communication with was the Titanic, and Lord stated at the British Inquiry that the vessel that was visible from the Californian looked too small to be the Titanic - so he would have seen little point in attempting to contact the nearby steamer, as he had concluded that it lacked wireless. As regards the ship appearing to be at a weird angle, Jim has already pointed out that a sinking ship would not be trying sail away from a potential rescue vessel - yet to the crew of the Californian, the nearby ship appeared to be steaming away, so they concluded that it was not in distress. Also, rockets only indicate that a ship is in distress if they are fired in the correct sequence - as this article from the Titanic Historical Society explains:

    Titanic Historical Society
    Michael Rodrigues likes this.
  17. Jim Currie

    Jim Currie Member

    Hello Adam.

    I can just see others looking in on this and thinking "here we go again". This as you probably know already, is one of my favourite threads on this site. I'm glad you challenge..as you should. I will go a little deeper into your reply if I may.

    "ships really did not and do not fire rockets and appear to be at weird angles for no apparent reason."

    No they do not Adam, nor did they back in 1912. Nowadays, there is no way you can mistake a distress rocket for anything else. We can in part, thank the Titanic disaster for that. Back in 1912, it was a completely different kettle of fish. There were many reasons for firing off a rocket. As with today, sinking was the last resort but running out of coal or a damaged rudder were two of the lesser reason. If you search the Inquiry transcripts, you will see a constant thread running through them regarding a 1912 deck officers' perception of rocket-firing at sea. In fact Boxhall of the Titanic had never seen a distress rocket fired in anger. Up until he fired the ones from Titanic, he, like any other deck officer of the day simply knew that they were to be fired at short intervals, could be of any colour and gave off a very loud BANG.
    However, if you carefully read the evidence, you will discover that Captain Lord was not told that the nearby vessel had fired any rockets at all. In fact, he was told that the rockets seemed to come from beyond that vessel. As a result of that, he told 2nd Officer Stone to call the other vessel and find out if he knew anything.. not if he was in any sort of trouble.

    Now for the 'weird angle'.

    Every one of Californian's officers estimated that the vessel stopped nearby was between 4 and 7 miles away. Lord, the most experienced seaman on the bridge,estimated it was 4 miles away.
    They all viewed it with the naked eye and with assisted vision, i.e. binoculars. With binoculars, there was only one way that they could have made a mistake about their estimation as to how far away it was.. lack of experience.
    With the naked eye, they would not have been able to see the horizon. However with binoculars they would clearly see it as well as the position of the ship relative to it. They would see that the red side light and accommodation lights were below the line of the horizon and that the masthead light was above it. If it had been 9 miles away, all the lights would be seen above the horizon. Significantly; at such a close range, any concentration of lights would be reflected on the surface of the flat-calm sea.. the "Sea of Glass" which a recently published book title refers to. Such sights would be seen through glasses as 'weird'.
    As for the indication of a list;the red light being higher than seen before; that suggests a list to starboard. for it to be discernable at that distance due to the change in position of a coloured navigation light, it had to be a very heavy one indeed. Titanic never did take a heavy list to starboard. These lads were seeing distortion due to reflected light. This is what I mean by being able to interpret evidence properly. Moving on.

    "I'm afraid I don't understand why rousing the wireless operator is "nonsense"

    When the other vessel stopped near the stopped Californian, the latter's 3rd Officer attempted to contact her. His action was a normal one. This was at about 11-35pm., an hour and 10 minutes before the other vessel seemed to fire a rocket. The 2nd Officer did the same until seeing what seemed to be a 'flash' at 12-45am.
    Although Californian had a very powerful signalling lamp, the attempts of her officers to call the other vessel long before the first clearly identified rocket was seen were totally ignored.
    Bear in mind the attitude of 1912 seamen to the sight of a single rocket being fired. It did not necessarily mean something was wrong but obviously it was done for a reason.
    If a captain had been told that what seemed to be a rocket or rockets in the direction of, and beyond, a vessel stopped at night so close to his own, he would have told his officers to call it up by light to find out if the other vessel knew anything about such rockets. He would know that if the people on his vessel could clearly see the nearby vessel then those on that vessel could clearly see his vessel and her powerful signal lamp. Like his officers, he would also know that a distress rocket produced a 'BANG' which could be heard over 10 miles away. Since no such sound was reportred to him, he would naturally assume that the rocket or rockets were either not distress signals or, as his officer reported, seemed to be fired from a great distance beyond the nearby vessel.

    It seems on the face of things and according to Lord and Gibson, Captain Lord had been told that a white rocket had been seen in the direction of and beyond the vessel nearby and that it was not a distress rocket. After an hour and 10 minutes, he was told that the vessel nearby had moved-off and that a total of 8 pyrotechnic signals had been seen in the direction of and beyond that vessel while it was stationery. No more signals had been seen.
    This was a vessel which had ignored all attempts to contact her. The rocket or rockets seen in her direction did not make a sound so they were not signals of distress. Besides; if the other vessel had been in trouble and the distance of separation was so small; why didn't she answer continued attempts to contact her? Additionally; since the Wireless Operator had not heard her transmitting, it was highly likely that she did not have wireless apparatus so why call the wireless operator to find out why a nearby ship which had disappeared and which might previously have fired pyrotechnic signals which did not seem to be ones of distress?

    There is one very simple mistake that everyone makes about Californian going to the rescue. It is based on what we know today rather than what was known in 1912.
    In 1912 an right up until the wreck was found, all positions of potential rescue vessels were related to Boxhall's distress position. This includes the position of Californian. If, when the rockets were reported to him, Captain Lord had called his Wireless Operator, as some people think he should have done; the latter would have been given the distress position coordinates being transmitted by Titanic. Lord would then have been in a quandry. The distress position was in the direction of South 16 West from where Californian was stopped yet his officers had seen the white rockets in the direction of South 45 East. Lord would have asked himself three questions;

    1. Are there two vessels in trouble.. one with and one without wireless apparatus?
    2. Which one will I head for?
    3. Have Titanic's people made a mistake with their distress position?

    What would you have done dear reader?

    Jim C.
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  18. TimTurner

    TimTurner Member

    I am enjoying the exchange greatly.

    However "In fact Boxhall of the Titanic had never seen a distress rocket fired in anger." I would think that distress rockets could only be fired in distress. What you appear to be referring to is an anger rocket. I believe that these were used by sea captains to hurl expletives at other ships.
  19. Jim Currie

    Jim Currie Member

    Not really Tim. I borrowed the expression from the original which is used to describe an armchair warrior. i.e. "he never heard a shot fired in anger"

    I think Boxhall was telling his questioner that he had never seen a rocket fired as a signal of distress during a real emergency. In fact, Titanic did not use rockets in the proper sense of the word. The ones she had were socket signals.. a bit like a star shell fired from a gun. Only in this case, they were fired from a tube permenantly attached to a guard rail or bulwark. They were fired using a firing lanyard.

    I must say, in all my years at sea, I never heard of an 'anger rocket'. However, in my day, although all the Titanic fashionables were still in the regulations, we only used rockets or flares for distress signals.

  20. TimTurner

    TimTurner Member

    Yes, but I've never seen an armchair fired in anger, either.