The inquiries' finding that the Titanic sank intact


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I would have to check back on this comment, but I think there was a post on it on a
previous thread.
Thayer didn't actually draw the sketches himself but they were drawn by another passenger from Thayer's descriptions.

In later comments Lightoller remarked that the inquiries were "whitewashed" . Possibly meaning that at mentioning the ship broke in two would not be good for the builders.

Before the 1997 movie came out, before the ANTR DVD came out , and before the Internet and this website came out , all I knew about the Titanic story was from the 1953 movie.
 
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Rennette Marston

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Here's what Lightoller has to say about the inquiries you mentioned:
In Washington it was of little consequence, but in London it was very necessary to keep one’s hand on the whitewash brush. Sharp questions that needed careful answers if one was to avoid a pitfall, carefully and subtly dug, leading to a pinning down of blame on to someone’s luckless shoulders. How hard Mr. Scanlan and the legal luminary representing the interests of the Seamen and Firemen, tried to prove there were not enough seamen to launch and man the boats. The same applied to the passengers, and quite truly. But it was inadvisable to admit it then and there, hence the hard fought legal duels between us. Mr. Scanlan’s conquest of the higher legal spheres of recent years proves he was no mean antagonist to face.”
It seems as though the inquiries, especially the one held by the British Board of Trade, attempted to overlook survivor accounts that didn't portray the Anglo-American shipping establishment in the best light and deflect blame on some hapless scapegoat and avoid taking responsibility directly for what happened. At least that's my interpretation of what he said about it.
 

Rob Lawes

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I would read Lightoller's statement completely differently. I don't think either inquiry really attempted to overlook survivor accounts they just didn't find all of them credible.

This for example, is the line from the final US Inquiry report regarding the break up:

There have been many conflicting statements as to whether the ship broke in two, but the preponderance of evidence is to the effect that she assumed an almost end-on position and sank intact.

In this respect, the American inquiry would have had absolutely no need to cover anything up for White Star and there isn't any reason for them to do so.

Yes, the company was part of J P Morgan's IMM business but the ship was very much a British ship, British registered, British crewed and owned by a British Company. In many ways, it would have been far easier to hang the company and promote how much better US shipping was.

I think the point that Lightoller was trying to make was that the US Inquiry was being conducted by Senators and they didn't have the technical knowledge to ask the right kind of questions. The officers of the Titanic had to explain to a court why a brand new ship, state of the art by the standards of the day, sailed at near full speed in to an iceberg and then sank with a massive loss of life. Any witness from the crew, taking the stand, would naturally feel the heat of the questions and by worried they would be blamed for something. Let's also not forget that the Captain and both Officer's of the Watch on the bridge at the time of the impact, lost their lives and so could not be directly held to account for their actions.

The British inquiry on the other hand was a well practised occasion being as that they were convened all the time to investigate maritime losses. They were staffed with people who had far more understanding of maritime practice and customs.

When Lightoller talks about sharp questions I believe he's talking about not being able to "blag" his answers as the questions were much more forensic and a falsehood more likely to be spotted. To that end, by "keeping his hand near the whitewash brush" he's not talking about the inquiry being a whitewash but he may have been poised to deflect from the truth if he felt he was being blamed for others actions or inactions.
 

Rennette Marston

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In the end, I believe the truth to be somewhat in the middle. That is the inconsistences in survivor testimonies regarding the nature of the break-up, the lack of forensic evidence that was readily available at the time to determine what exactly had happened to the Titanic, the fact that the Titanic was believed to be an "unsinkable" and unbreakable ship by the press and the public in 1912, and the damage control by the British shipping industry over the aftermath of the disaster had played a huge part in swaying the conclusions made at the Titanic inquiries by those presiding over the case who were trusted to know better and the outcome of those decisions. The fact that there was so little verifiable information to rely on at the time and the fact that there were many powerful interests who believed they had a lot to lose in the inquiries and the court of public opinion if circumstances weren't to their liking, I believe, played a great part in the shaping the story of the Titanic. The victors always write the history books, as they say.
 

Rob Lawes

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So here's a question then. Apart from the break up of the ship, which both inquiries got wrong.

What outcomes did they miss?

When you consider the verdict of the British Inquiry:

The Court, having carefully inquired into the circumstances of the above mentioned shipping casualty, finds, for the reasons appearing in the annex hereto, that the loss of the said ship was due to
collision with an iceberg, brought about by the excessive speed at which the ship was being navigated.


There's nothing about a cover up in that statement, it makes it clear that Titanic was being navigated at an excessive speed in dangerous waters.

What recommendations from the Inquiry were missed or overlooked?
 

Rennette Marston

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I think this article may answer some of your questions with regards to whether or not the Titanic inquiries were a "whitewash." If there's anything incorrect that needs to be pointed out, do go right ahead.
 
Sep 6, 2019
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In later comments Lightoller remarked that the inquiries were "whitewashed" . Possibly meaning that at mentioning the ship broke in two would not be good for the builders.

People always misinterpret Lightoller's whitewash comments because they never include the next paragraph...

"A washing of dirty linen would help no one. The B.O.T. had passed that ship as in all respects fit for sea in every sense of the word, with sufficient margin of safety for everyone on board. Now the B.O.T. was holding an enquiry in to the loss of that ship—hence the whitewash brush."
 
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Rennette Marston

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It seems as though the British Board of Trade had realized they were in a very precarious position for approving a ship that, in hindsight of the entire tragedy, criminally lacked more lifeboats for everybody and didn't have key safety installments like a double hull and very high bulkheads. So they basically did damage control on the whole thing.
 

Rob Lawes

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I think this article may answer some of your questions with regards to whether or not the Titanic inquiries were a "whitewash." If there's anything incorrect that needs to be pointed out, do go right ahead.

Having read the article, I'm struggling to see where the evidence is presented for a whitewash?

Apart from repeating Lightollers statement regarding his attitude towards the inquiry which, in itself is not proof that the inquiry was a whitewash, there is little in the way of other evidence presented.

At the end of the article it even goes on to state:

Despite its obvious structural failings, the British Inquiry did genuinely try and get at a number of the facts, and it came to broadly the same conclusions as the American Enquiry, which cannot be said to have been similarly compromised.

So basically, the authors biggest issue is that the board of trade commisioned the inquiry and in part that investigation would involve the rules set out by the board of trade.

This has been the case in all British maratime accident investigations until the formation in 1989 of the Maritime Accident Investigation Branch which came out of a recommendation into the lost of the Herald of Free Enterprise. Ironically the report into the loss of that ship included a report published a in the early 80's that recommended alternative provision be made for maritime accidents due to the nature of the current regulations resulting in the Board of Trade being on occaison both prosecution and defence.

The thing that people often miss with the British Inquiry is that it is not, despite the prensence of the lawyers and the formal nature of it's conduct, a court of law. It was, as is the case with all inquiries, formed to look into the reasons for an accident and how to prevent them from happening again. I think people unfamiliar with this expect it to have been all fire and brimstone much like Tom Hanks in A Few Good Men screaming at the Board of Trade and the White Star Line to tell the truth before they are all marched off to prison for the next 20 years.

If we look at the Herald of Free Enterprise inquiry again, one of the crew whose duty it would have been to ensure the bow door of the ship was closed on departure was absent from his place of duty. No recommendation was made by the inquiry for any form of prosecution.

A seperate Coroner's inquest jury returned verdicts of unlawful killing which then meant that prosecutions could take place and 7 members of the company were charged with with gross negligence manslaughter, and the operating company, P&O European Ferries with corperate manslaughter.

Returning to my original point regarding accusations of a whitewash, I say again, when looking at the outcomes from the British inquiry, what exactly did they miss? In the section dealing with the administration of the board of trade there is a paragraph as follows:

At the same time, it seems to me that it does not justify the delay. Even taking all these matters into consideration, it cannot be that the provision for boat accommodation made in 1894 for vessels of 10,000 tons and upwards remained sufficient to 1910, when vessels of 45,000 tons were being built. Two considerations demonstrate this. The first is that some shipowners recognised the insufficiency of the requirements of the Board of Trade, and voluntarily exceeded those requirements by providing larger boat accommodation than the old Rules and Table exacted. The second is that shortly before Sir Alfred Chalmers left the Board of Trade, the Board had begun to direct attention to the amending of their Rules in this connection.

So the inquiry did find that the delay in updating the regulations was unjustified. It also discovered that moves to update these regulations were underway in the immediate years before the accident. A lot of regulations were in the process of undergoing changes at this point. There had been several conventions on maritime safety between 1908 and 1910 and their recommendations were yet to be implemented. Another example of this being the requirement to use SOS as a distress signal had been ratified years previously but not widely adopted.

The British inquiry also concludes that more effective inspections of lifeboats and lifeboat equipment needs to be made, saying their performance up to the Titanic disaster had not been good enough.

The inquiry also gave the B.O.T greater legal powers to demand shipping companies submit their designs for inspection.

We can't get drawn in to hindsight. Almost every accident that has ever occured could be solved with perfect hindsight. The fact of the matter is that the British inquiry did get almost all of the facts of the accident in the open and make sound recommendations to prevent another accident of this type occuring.

It is natural for people to want to look for blame and to have people carry the can for the failings discovered. That is what Lightoller was worried about when he talked of keeping his hand on the whitewash brush. He was concerned that he and his fellow officers would be the ones who would carry the can. The fact that no one faced a criminal trial in relation to the loss of the Titanic is what seems to upset people. The problem is, that wasn't the fault of the inquiry as that wasn't within their remit.
 
Sep 6, 2019
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Phoenix
Having read the article, I'm struggling to see where the evidence is presented for a whitewash?

Apart from repeating Lightollers statement regarding his attitude towards the inquiry which, in itself is not proof that the inquiry was a whitewash, there is little in the way of other evidence presented.

At the end of the article it even goes on to state:



So basically, the authors biggest issue is that the board of trade commisioned the inquiry and in part that investigation would involve the rules set out by the board of trade.

This has been the case in all British maratime accident investigations until the formation in 1989 of the Maritime Accident Investigation Branch which came out of a recommendation into the lost of the Herald of Free Enterprise. Ironically the report into the loss of that ship included a report published a in the early 80's that recommended alternative provision be made for maritime accidents due to the nature of the current regulations resulting in the Board of Trade being on occaison both prosecution and defence.

The thing that people often miss with the British Inquiry is that it is not, despite the prensence of the lawyers and the formal nature of it's conduct, a court of law. It was, as is the case with all inquiries, formed to look into the reasons for an accident and how to prevent them from happening again. I think people unfamiliar with this expect it to have been all fire and brimstone much like Tom Hanks in A Few Good Men screaming at the Board of Trade and the White Star Line to tell the truth before they are all marched off to prison for the next 20 years.

If we look at the Herald of Free Enterprise inquiry again, one of the crew whose duty it would have been to ensure the bow door of the ship was closed on departure was absent from his place of duty. No recommendation was made by the inquiry for any form of prosecution.

A seperate Coroner's inquest jury returned verdicts of unlawful killing which then meant that prosecutions could take place and 7 members of the company were charged with with gross negligence manslaughter, and the operating company, P&O European Ferries with corperate manslaughter.

Returning to my original point regarding accusations of a whitewash, I say again, when looking at the outcomes from the British inquiry, what exactly did they miss? In the section dealing with the administration of the board of trade there is a paragraph as follows:



So the inquiry did find that the delay in updating the regulations was unjustified. It also discovered that moves to update these regulations were underway in the immediate years before the accident. A lot of regulations were in the process of undergoing changes at this point. There had been several conventions on maritime safety between 1908 and 1910 and their recommendations were yet to be implemented. Another example of this being the requirement to use SOS as a distress signal had been ratified years previously but not widely adopted.

The British inquiry also concludes that more effective inspections of lifeboats and lifeboat equipment needs to be made, saying their performance up to the Titanic disaster had not been good enough.

The inquiry also gave the B.O.T greater legal powers to demand shipping companies submit their designs for inspection.

We can't get drawn in to hindsight. Almost every accident that has ever occured could be solved with perfect hindsight. The fact of the matter is that the British inquiry did get almost all of the facts of the accident in the open and make sound recommendations to prevent another accident of this type occuring.

It is natural for people to want to look for blame and to have people carry the can for the failings discovered. That is what Lightoller was worried about when he talked of keeping his hand on the whitewash brush. He was concerned that he and his fellow officers would be the ones who would carry the can. The fact that no one faced a criminal trial in relation to the loss of the Titanic is what seems to upset people. The problem is, that wasn't the fault of the inquiry as that wasn't within their remit.

Again, people are too focused on the word 'whitewash', thinking Lightoller lied to tried to cover up to save his own skin when in fact the BOT should've been the ones "on trial" not the ones conducting it, that was highly improper and it should've been brought up back then. (Maybe it was)

It's like me being a lawyer and charged with arson but I'm the prosecutor in my own trial.

The BOT especially should've heard from every crew member, but if they heard from one person, they dismiss everyone else thinking they got not only the whole story but the correct one. It wasn't conducted well by the BOT or Lord Mersey.

"The B.O.T. had passed that ship as in all respects fit for sea in every sense of the word, with sufficient margin of safety for everyone on board. Now the B.O.T. was holding an enquiry in to the loss of that ship—hence the whitewash brush."
 

Rob Lawes

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Again, people are too focused on the word 'whitewash', thinking Lightoller lied to tried to cover up to save his own skin when in fact the BOT should've been the ones "on trial" not the ones conducting it, that was highly improper and it should've been brought up back then.

I never said Lightoller lied to save his own skin. I said he was worried that the inquiry would ask questions that would make him seem like he had done something wrong.

As I said above, this wasn't a trial. No one at the British Inquiry was on trial. It was a board of inquiry to establish the facts regarding the loss of the RMS Titanic. It was not a criminal investigation.

The fact that the B.O.T were involved in both the establishment of the inquiry and were part of the investigation into the events that lead to the approval of Titanic as a safe, seaworthy vessel is unfortunate but that's the way it was until the establishment of the Maritime Accident Investigation Branch in the UK in 1989. This was not the first and by no means the last inquiry run to those rules.

The board of the inquiry was made up of Lord Mersey, 2 retired Royal Navy officers, an officer of Trinity House, a Proffesor of Naval Architecture and a Senior Engineer. None of these people were from the board of trade.

I've asked this same question again and again, but please, tell me, what was whitewashed? what did the British Inquiry fail to identify?
 
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Sep 6, 2019
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I never said YOU said anything, I also use the term "on trial" in quotes, no it was an inquiry. Just because it was not the first and by no means the last inquiry run to those rules, doesn't make it right, as I stated, it was completely improper.

I already said what was improper and not hearing from every crew member was number one.
 
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Rob Lawes

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They did hear from every crew member. All surviving members of the crew provided depositions. The was mostly done on their return to the UK after landing in Plymouth from the SS Lapland. From these statements the inquiry was able to establish which they needed to call up to London and question further.

Lord Mersey was appointed by the Lord Chancellor and was not a member of the board of trade or had even had previous dealings with them. The assessors appointed to assist Lord Mersey were not linked to the board of trade either.
 
Sep 6, 2019
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Hence the "whitewash brush" ... you can't question a deposition.

But by all means call the Duff Gordons

Also, when they inspected the Olympic, they did NOT put 65 men a boat and lowered her from the boat deck... fail.
 

Rennette Marston

Rennette Marston
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I would have to check back on this comment, but I think there was a post on it on a
previous thread.
Thayer didn't actually draw the sketches himself but they were drawn by another passenger from Thayer's descriptions.

In later comments Lightoller remarked that the inquiries were "whitewashed" . Possibly meaning that at mentioning the ship broke in two would not be good for the builders.

Before the 1997 movie came out, before the ANTR DVD came out , and before the Internet and this website came out , all I knew about the Titanic story was from the 1953 movie.

He did draw the outlines. Skidmore shaded in the sketch scenes later in the production.
 

Rennette Marston

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I meant that we'll probably never know other key details of the disaster that he did see but didn't tell us. But most likely the bow didn't dramatically resurface out of the water after the break-up, as you pointed out.
 

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