The Case Against Captain Lord Reade for the Prosecution

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This is one of the key books in Titanic research. Its subject is the Californian affair and Reade’s investigation of the matter is exhaustive, and somewhat exhausting to the reader. It’s almost in the category of using a sledgehammer to crack nuts and Reade’s work shows that Captain Lord’s defence is a particularly small and fragile nut.

Reade has investigated in detail the matter of company signals, the visual and sound effects of rockets and the Samson story. He traces the way in which the Californian story became public and reproduces key documents, including statements by Stone, Gibson and Lord.

There is a careful explanation of how Lord escaped any penalty in 1912 and of how he tried to clear his name many years later. An appendix brings the story into the 1990s, when yet another formal investigation was held.

Publication of the book was delayed for several years, as Leslie Harrison, Lord’s main supporter and apologist, refused to allow Reade to use certain materials he had previously been given access to. This is hardly surprising, for Reade, who was a lawyer, mounts such a case for the prosecution that the verdict on Lord’s failure to render assistance must be, “Guilty as charged”.

Tracey McIntire

Dear Dave,
An excellent review! This is one of my favorite Titanic books and the one that I feel really has the best approach to the Californian incident. As you say, it can be very tough reading. I found myself reading just a chapter or two at a time. But you are right, the information is so extensive and the arguments so complete, that it is hard to come to any other verdict for Lord than guilty.

Elizabeth Watt

Hi Dave:

This sounds interesting. What happened in California? Who is Captain Lord and what did he do? Can you tell me a little bit more about this? I've recently become interested in the stories surrounding Titanic and I never heard of this. Thank You.

Tracey McIntire

Dear Elizabeth,
Actually, the Californian was a ship and it was commanded by Captain Stanley Lord. And the question is not what did he do, but what he didn't do. Many people feel that the Californian was close enough to the Titanic to have actually saved some of her passengers. What's certain is that the ship was stopped in ice, some miles from the Titanic, and that rockets were sighted by the Californian lookouts. The radio operator had retired for the night and shut off the wireless. If he had still been on duty, he would have certainly heard the Titanic's distress call. Capt. Lord did not choose to investigate the rockets that were seen. This is an extremely controversial issue as some people feel that the rockets that were sighted were not from the Titanic and that the Californian was too far away to be of any help. I encourage you to read the book mentioned at the beginning of this thread. It is the most comprehensive on this subject.
Hope this answers your questions!

Tracey McIntire

Capt. Lord didn't respond to the rockets that were fired. He also didn't ask his wireless man to turn on the set to see if any distress calls were being sent. If he had, he would have heard the Titanic's CQD/SOS.

Paul Gorelick

I am new to this site so the questions that I am going to ask have probably been asked and answered many times.
1. What is the relationship between Captain Stanley Lord and Leslie Lord who wrote, A Night to Remember?
2. In the movie Titanic, after the look out sounds the iceberg warning, the order is given to turn hard starboard but the wheel is turned hard port. Was that a cinematic error or am I missing something? Thank you, Paul
Hi Paul,

1)A Night To Remember was written by Walter Lord...who as it happens is no relation to Captain Stanley Lord.

2)Steering conventions; what you saw was no moviemaker's gaff but an accurate representation of the commands in use at the time which were a holdover from the days when rudders were directly turned by a man...or men...on a tiller. In order to steer to port, the handle of the tiller had to be pushed over to starboard, and to turn to starboard, the tiller had to be pushed over to the starboard side of the ship. Long after tillers had been replaced by ships wheels, the old conventions persisted.

Michael H. Standart
This thread has long been dead, but just came across it on some random searching.
There is also a thread on whether Captain Lord was guilty or not for not coming to the Titanic's aid.
And the opinion of many is not what Captain Lord did but what Captain Lord did not do.
The story was that an officer was commanded by Captain Lord to try to communicate with the ship seen from the California by using the Morse Lamp which could by sending Morse Code by a flashing light .
But attempts at this were unsuccessful.
The question by some was why Captain Lord or the officer did not awaken the Marconi Operator , Cyril Evans , to try to communicate by wireless, attempts by Morse Lamp having failed.
Titanic had also failed to make contact with a ship in the distance by Morse Lamp.
The "ship in the distance "" being assumed to be the Californian.
But of course if that ship did not have wireless or the wireless operator was asleep the Titanic's distress calls would go unheard.
There are lots other angles.
Captain Lord could have decided it was not safe for his ship to try to reach the ship in the dark and cold waters.
Also there is a question of how many the California could have saved.
I believe it was Mersey who is said to have remarked that " Californian could have saved many, if not all, of of Titanic's passengers and crew."
But some find this highly questionable, consider the smallness of the Californian and it's crew.
But the main question for some seems to be " Why didn't they just wake up the wireless to see if he could make contact or hear anything about the rockets they were seeing from the Californian ? ".
There are lots of other details being discussed on the other threads.
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Mark Baber

Moderator's hat in:

There are enough ongoing discussions of various aspects of the Californian issue. This thread is therefore closed. Carry on elsewhere.

Moderator's hat off.
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