Was there a Marconi conspiracy?


Jim Currie

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While carrying-out research for my new book( Chance Would be a Fine Thing), I needed to delve into all the available records of the Wireless Operators (Processes Verbal) serving on board ships involved during the period from the first distress (CQD) call made by Titanic until it was all over.
The more I read these, the more I am convinced that a very serious bit of skulduggery was perpetrated by the senior management of The Marconi Company. Worse still; it was encouraged and condoned by the British Commissioner for Wrecks, the British Government and senior management of The White Star Company.
It would have had it's origin in the UK, but because of the cooperation between Westminster and the US Senate, it must have received the blessings of Senator Alden Smith and the members of his Sub-committee.

Does anyone else out there think along the same lines?

Jim C.
 
Dec 4, 2000
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Jim --

Yes, there sure in 'ell was a conspiracy. Which is strange because the Marconi system worked almost flawlessly that night. What would either Marconi (the man) or his company have needed to hide? It certainly wasn't the off-duty operator on Californian as that man was obliged to sleep and had no one in the crew to relieve him -- as was customary aboard many ships in 1912.

If there was something to hide, it was not in the wireless telegraph system, but information contained within the messages transmitted by the system that evening. For years I've been saying that something sent by some ship regarding the Titanic sinking had to be kept from the public. There are two possibilities that fit. One is the traffic from "Yamsi" to White Star sent by Carpathia. The other, and in my view more likely possibility is information sent from Titanic itself.

I eliminate the "Yamsi" material on the grounds it was too public from the outset to have been quashed. Too many people listed to those messages which were either thinly encoded or sent in plain text. There were no mysteries in 1912 about the Yamsi messages except for why Ismay did not realized they were not going to be viewed favorably in the public eye.

Titanic, then is my candidate for the origin of the messages which had to be kept out of public consciousness.

And, what did Titanic say that was so damaging? As I published in my book, "Titanic Myths, Titanic Truths," and in various places on this forum, I believe it was a message sent just after impact on the iceberg. At that time, Titanic still appeared solid as a church and the only damage report received on the bridge was from Fourth Officer Boxhall who said he found nothing when he inspected third class berthing spaces in the bow. We know from quartermaster Olliver that Captain Smith rang down "Ahead" on a slow bell. We also know Smith went immediately to Titanic's wireless office before heading below on his inspection of the ship.

IMM/White Star Line regulations required ships to report serious incidents to the home office as quickly as possible. Certainly, ice damage to the line's newest passenger ship qualified for making that sort of report. So, Titanic and the means (wireless) and the motive (damaged ship) to send something to company headquarters. And, for a few short minutes after impact the ship seemed in working condition, no one had been hurt, and it was moving under its own steam again. We also know that in the morning newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic reported Titanic had struck and iceberg, all aboard were safe, and the ship was heading for Halifax.

I submit that the newspapers got their information from electronic eavsdroppers (like David Sarnoff) who simply "read the mail" from Titanic as Phillips tapped out word that despite striking a berg all aboard the ship were safe and it was heading for Halifax. That was the truth for a short while. Of course, events overtook euphoria and Captain Smith did not hesitate to issue his calls for help. But, when for a while Titanic was damaged, all were safe, and the ship was steaming for somewhere.

If such a message was sent, I think most people can see some of the potentially damaging content. Why would a ship with holes enough to sink ever try to make a run for port while claiming all aboard were safe? Do you think Bruce Ismay would have wanted to answer that question from Senator Smith? The obvious answer is "no." But it gets worse. The message would have been sent just after Ismay was on Titanic's bridge conferring with Captain Smith. This means the head of White Star would have been strongly implicated in the decision to steam away from the scene of the accident. And, that implication could have destroyed White Star Line's limitation of liability under international law which required that company officials not have "privity and knowledge" of events in their ships. The economic ramifications could (and should) have been staggering.


-- David G. Brown
 
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Doug Criner

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Titanic's possible gun-decked message would have been picked up by any number of other ships and stations, not all of which would have been Marconi's, right? Unless the message could have been encrypted and decrypted on very short notice, it seems even more likely that it would have been read by other ships or stations. That night's radio logs that I have seen published were kept in serial fashion, so it could have required quite a coordinated effort for the all the logs to have been sanitized.

If the hypothetical message, sent right after the collision, merely advised the White Star's head-shed of the collision and that everything seemed OK Dokey, that doesn't seem particularly incriminating to me - just mistaken. And, if the conspiracy was continued long after the sinking, it seems even more beyond the point of its relevance being superseded by events. Which leads me to wonder the message, if there was one, contained much more embarrassing and incriminating info than just, We're OK, and proceeding to Halifax.

Jim, I'm ready to jump on almost any skulduggery bandwagon, and I anxiously await your book!
 
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Other stations and ships did keep logs for the transmissions received and send, Titanic's had been also published and in none of them is a message to be found that she is going to Halifax. Must have been a very big conspiracy to hide not only such a message but also made those who did not use Marconi but other system like Telefunken to take part into it.

Interestingly there had been other people like Diane Bristow making also things up claiming that Telefunken and Marconi were in such trade rivalry that Phillips (Titanic used Marconi) ignored the Frankfurt (which used Telefunken) which according to her was much closer and could have helped but was ignored by Phillips.

Ismay had nothing to do with any decision Captain Smith did. Also Captain Smith gave the order "half speed ahead" shortly after the collision long before Ismay was on the bridge.

Some people have really to much fantasy.
 

Adam Went

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Hi Jim and all,

I wasn't aware of the idea of any sort of conspiracy but yours and the subsequent posts have piqued my interest. Is there any way to delve any further into this so many years later? Also, assuming there was some sort of conspiracy, what of the inquest and/or the statements by Harold Bride afterwars? Must be disregard them too or assume that he was in the "ignorance is bliss" category?

Cheers,
Adam.
 

Alex F

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Does anyone else out there think along the same lines?
"secretary" burned out, "seven hours". What kind of "secret"? Is it a clock based? Is it a key to Process Verbals? Do you believe the PV of the Titanic had not been saved? Not in the PV of the Virginian?- I don't.
 

TimTurner

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Well, facts may prove me wrong, but I think David Brown is way off the mark here.

1. As I read it, you're claiming that a message went all the way through the system far enough to reach the newspapers, but later was hushed up by the telegraph company? At that point the horse is out of the barn.

2. Making a report "As soon as possible". Unlikely. This happened in 1912. With today's instant internet access, yes "As soon as possible" would have meant within a few minutes, but in 1912 a few hours would have been considered lightening-fast. Even today, a ship master would be hesitant to send out any kind of incident report without having a certain amount of knowledge about the extent of that incident. Smith wasn't a fool and I doubt he was about to send off a message saying "oops, something happened, we don't know what it was and we don't know how bad it is, but everything is ok". And certainly, there's nothing to hide in the message. If anything, I would guess Smith was in the Marconi office to make sure the operators were awake in case needed and to get word on any ships they were in contact with - sensible information for a captain to have while investigating an incident. At that point, there wasn't anything to know anyway. And what to hide? They didn't know anything yet to hide it.

3. If there were eaves-droppers in the system, then hiding the message would have been ridiculous. Why hide something that other people have already seen? Marconi would only look like fools for hiding it.


Exactly what discrepancies have you found that indicate a hidden message?
 

Jim Currie

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Nice to see some lively debate.

Not wishing to show my 'cards too soon, I would simply ask all of you to look at the question without coloured glasses.

As you all know, in 90% of situations, a conspiracy is when two or more people or groups of people conspire to hide or alter the facts about some thing, person or happening. I suggest to you it is not the act of conspiracy itself which is important but the subject of the conspiracy. What would be so important about the Titanic disaster that it needed a smoke screen? What kind of 'smoke screen could escape the news-noses of enthusiastic journalists? What kind of smoke screen would enhance the Titanic story rather than generate damaging curiosity?

As a simple example of what I mean; David mentions the Halifax story.

Ioannis pointed out that there is no evidence that a wireless message suggesting a diversion to Halifax was ever sent.
In fact, the only real suggestion of Halifax as a destination relative to the Titanic disaster came from Harold Cottam of the Carpathia. He told his questioners that his captain (Rostron) considered Halifax or New York to land the survivors and chose the latter. Cottam also admitted that he believed that he had mentioned Halifax in a casual way during a communication after the survivors had been picked up. In true confused news reporting style, the possibility became a fact. So much so that I believe the name of Dow Jones was also mentioned in the same breath as the magic name of "Halifax".

Jim C.
 
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Tim -- thanks for your respectful criticism and well-reasoned rebuttal. I'm not used to such polite discourse in these matters. Let me respond in the same civil manner in the hopes that we enlighten each other.

First, the actual message did not make its way to WSL headquarters and then get into the press. Rather, it was intercepted along the way (perhaps more than once) by what I call "electronic eavesdroppers." These people, like David Sarnoff, made a living selling information gleaned from wireless signals -- particularly passenger messages from ships like Titanic. Nasty business, but when money is involved people will do almost anything. We can be sure that even the vaunted Wall Street Journal had its "sources" monitoring North Atlantic traffic. Sarnoff gave much information to New York Times editor Carr Van Anda and it was this information that allowed that paper to correctly publish the ship had foundered with great loss of life. My guess is that the message I propose from Titanic just after impact would have been in the hands of these eavesdroppers in earphones before it was read at White Star headquarters.

Ismay would have had strong need to do three things in the aftermath of the iceberg. If the ship was still capable he needed to: 1.) get it safely into a British port, preferrably in North America so the voyage could be concluded successfully; 2.) alert company authorities in New York and Halifax of the need to handle a large number of passengers and move them to their ultimate destinations; and, 3.) convince the world that WSL's new fleet of super ships was so safe they could defeat even icebergs.

As I noted, in the early minutes after impact Titanic did appear fully sound and Boxhall's report upheld this view. There was nothing wrong with the ship's prime movers and they were able to re-start and get the ship under way at the Captain's direct orders. This came within moments of Ismay's discussion with Captain Smith on the bridge about the situation. And, as the engines re-started no one in Titanic's crew or its passengers were known to have been injured or killed. All were safe.

As a licensed shipmaster, I don't believe for a moment that Captain Smith would have on his own volition sent such a message. At best, he would have sent something about a need to make Halifax before continuing to New York. That would have alerted company officials to the need to handle passengers and to the fact something was wrong with Titanic. Other than something necessary of that sort Smith would undoubtedly have kept his counsel. In fact, doing just this is required under the IMM/WSL rules. So, the concept of the message must have come from higher authority. And, the only higher authority was J.Bruce Ismay who just happened to be standing on the bridge in the moments after impact. As I have noted, Ismay had cause for sending the message that I propose was sent. Smith did not and probably objected. But, Ismay held the key to something Smith could not afford to lose -- his pension. So, as every military man knows when the excrement rolls downhill, salute and say, "yes sir."

Something else about shipmasters -- they don't worry about telling their crew to be prepared to do their duty. It's the crew's damned duty to be prepared--period! The idea he was warning the Marconi operators is pure landlubber nonsense. (No offense, Tim, but that's the way it is.) At sea...particularly in pre-1912 ships upon which the customs of sailors originated...you learned quickly to be prepared or be dead. It's still true, but perhaps not as obvious.

Harold Bride, Titanic's second Marconi operator, was off duty in his bunk at impact. While I have grave doubts about the truth of his testimonies, his job was to be asleep at that hour. Rest is part of a sailor's duties -- so he can be sharp when on watch. This is why Bride was probably being truthful when he said that he only learned about the accident after awakening to relieve Chief Operator Phillips at crew midnight. In the interim, Captain Smith had plenty of time to send the message under discussion without Bride's direct knowledge. Then, the Captain left for his tour of the damage with builder Andrews and Chief Engineer Bell.

Was the message I propose sent? Records of of the New Haven Railroad as published in the Wall Street Journal and other newspapers indicate that it most definitely was received by the WSL office in New York. On the morning of the sinking WSL vice president Franklin ordered up two passenger trains to be sent to Halifax to pick up Titanic's passengers. This was before Franklin had confirmation Titanic had sunk. So, he must have had good authority that the ship was steaming for the Canadian port city. One of those trains was actually rolling north of Boston when news of the ship's demise finally reached New York. Franklin then cancelled both it and the second train as unnecessary. The only way Franklin could have obtained authority to order the two passenger trains for Halifax is by trans-Atlantic cable from WSL headquarters.

What the message said became irrelevant after the ship foundered. In fact, the news media found itself with a huge black eye from saying that everyone was safe when, in fact, about 1,500 people were actually dead. Editors had little reason to investigate what appeared to be their own mistake. Unfortunately, few editors had any knowledge of maritime liability law. They overlooked the fact that the key to the mystery of any conspiracy around the message was not in the contents, but in the signature on the message that I propose Titanic sent. If it had been signed by the Captain, no harm done. He was simply responding to the situation as he knew it at the moment the message was sent. When he learned of the more serious nature of the damage, Smith then took all appropriate measures. There would have been no need to hide the first message I propose was sent.

But, if the message was signed "Ismay" or "Yamsi" or contained details of Ismay's input to decisions on the bridge -- BOOM! Now we have proof that Ismay had what is called in legal circles "privity and knowledge" of actions in the ship. Companies like WSL are given considerable protection against liability claims because (especially prior to wireless) the management has no direct influence over its ships once they are over the horizon at sea. They must trust their captains who are fallible human beings to do the right thing. This nature of maritime business adds a risk factor not faced by other landlocked businesses. So, shipping companies were given a limitation of liability, usually to the value of the ship and its cargo (or whatever remains of them). This limitation is why Titanic's lifeboats had to be put in storage. They represented the residue of the ship against which claims could be made.

But, if a company officer had any knowledge or influence of events in a shipping casualty, that limitation of liability could be pierced and claims against the company could soar to the heights of lawyerly avarice. As I understand, this is why top officials of Cunard Line were forbidden to travel in company ships. Ismay foolishly chose to sail on Titanic, a move which raised the specter of pierced limitation of liabilities. When he visited the bridge after the accident, that was an even more stupid move. But, WSL might still have claimed he was only curious and did not have "privity and knowledge" or influence events unless there was written proof -- such as a copy of the message that I propose was sent from Titanic saying all were safe and the ship was steaming for Halifax. Any copy would do. It could have been in a radio log of a third ship. All that was needed was a copy of the message.

Which brings up the question of why Mr. Marconi himself sent a message to Harold Bride that it would be worth "four figures" to keep his mouth shut. Hmmm...

-- David G. Brown
 

Jim Currie

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Hello David. You wrote:

" in the early minutes after impact Titanic did appear fully sound and Boxhall's report upheld this view. There was nothing wrong with the ship's prime movers and they were able to re-start and get the ship under way at the Captain's direct orders. This came within moments of Ismay's discussion with Captain Smith on the bridge about the situation. And, as the engines re-started no one in Titanic's crew or its passengers were known to have been injured or killed. All were safe."

Unless Ismay lied under oath, he was nowhere near the bridge before it was known that the situation was serious. I quote from his evidence:

Day1, April19, 1912.:

"I presume the impact awakened me. I lay in bed for a moment or two afterwards, not realizing, probably, what had happened. Eventually I got up and walked along the passageway and met one of the stewards, and said, "What has happened?" He said, "I do not know, sir.
I then went back into my room, put my coat on, and went up on the bridge, where I found Capt. Smith. I asked him what had happened, and he said, "We have struck ice." I said, "Do you think the ship is seriously damaged?" He said, "I am afraid she is.

I then went down below, I think it was, where I met Mr. Bell, the chief engineer, who was in the main companionway. I asked if he thought the ship was seriously damaged, and he said he thought she was, but was quite satisfied the pumps would keep her afloat." (15 minutes + after impact?)

Captain Smith knew that his ship was mortally wounded 10 minutes after impact because Boxhall met the Carpenter hurrying to the bridge with the bad news. At that time. he would have immediately worked a CQD position and taken it to the Wireless Room. If Smith told Ismay at their first meeting that the ship was mortally woulded then he had to do so at least 10 minutes after impact and after the former had sent his first CQD. No way would he have agreed to move that ship.
Additionally. Ismay could not and would not have discussed an onward journey before hearing the opinion of the Chief Engineer. He arrived on the bridge a second time after hearing Chief Bells confirmation of Smiths story and just in time to hear Smith order the boats out. If he wanted to try for Halifax then, he would have had to countermand that order. I know exactly what Ismay would have been told at that point and it would have made Lowe's "get to hell" sound like the end of a Sunday School lesson.

"I think I went back onto the bridge.[after meeting Bell] I heard the order given to get the boats out. I walked along to the starboard side of the ship, where I met one of the officers. I told him to get the boats out -"


We both agree that the first CQD must have been sent at 11-53pm April 14 and the second one 10 minutes later at 12:03 am April 15. (Titanic bridge time was 1 hour 38 minutes FAST of EST). We also know from QM Rowe that the first lifeboat (No.7)must have hit the water at or near 12:20am April 15 and from 5th Officer Lowe that Ismay was present when it was being filled. So all the times seem to fit very nicely.

However there's, another Marconi phoney to consider. The log entries of Cape Race show the first CQD being heard at 10;25 and the second one at 10:35. See here:
Titanic-CapeRace-log.jpg

Here is a transcript:

10:25 pm: (EST?) [ 12:15 am on Titanic ] J.C.R. Godwin on watch hears Titanic calling C.Q.D. giving position 41.44 N 50.24 W about 380 miles SSE of Cape Race.
10:35 pm: Titanic gives corrected position as 41.46N 50.14W. A matter of 5 or six miles difference. He says "have struck iceberg".
10:40 pm: Titanic calls Carpathia and says "We require immediate assistance
Gray on duty."
Note the obvious differences. If the Cape Race version is correct then the first CQD was sent at 12:03am April 15 and the second sent at 12:13am ship time. These times fit nicely too! Remember that the Junior W/O said? That he rose at 11:55 and went into the Wireless Office to join Phillips? That Smith came into the Wireless Room for the first time just after that?
Incidentally: if a message had been sent to Halifax from Titanic, it would have been sent before the first CQD at 10:15 pm EST (or 10:25 pm EST?) and within 10 minutes of impact. It would have to have been a very lengthy one. It would have included notification of ETA Pilot/Quarantine. Number of PoB and messages for passing on to other interested parties. It would also more than likely have been relayed through Cape Races since Phillips had just finished receiving from that station. Even if in code: why didn't any other vessel hear that lengthy transmission?

Now you might be seeing a glimmer of where I'm coming from?

Jim C.

Titanic-CapeRace-log.jpg
 

TimTurner

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I'm nearly always up for a bit of warm debate.

1.
First, the actual message did not make its way to WSL headquarters and then get into the press.
It doesn't matter how it got there. If it was an extensive eavesdropping network, then it was effectively public and Marconi would have known about it. Either way, Marconi would have known that other parties would have heard the message.

2.
The idea he was warning the Marconi operators is pure landlubber nonsense.
I believe I said he was checking that the Marconi operators were awake and checking the position of nearby ships. This is not nonsense.

3.
The only way Franklin could have obtained authority to order the two passenger trains for Halifax is by trans-Atlantic cable from WSL headquarters.
You know this for a fact?

4.
But, if the message was signed "Ismay" or "Yamsi" or contained details of Ismay's input to decisions on the bridge
So, if I may understand, you are claiming that White Star paid off Marconi to hide a message that said "Struck Ice. All Passengers safe. Proceeding to Halifax under advisement of Ismay."? Ok, maybe. But it seems like Smith would have known better to acknowledge Ismay's influence on air.

I'm still questioning why the scandal mongers who were evesdropping didn't relay this juicy detail. Also, Marconi would have had to pay off all of their other operators, not just Bride. Also, what's the source of this "four-figures" statement?

What you'll need to prove this allegation is the US-UK telegram between White Star and Franklin. So it's really two missing telegrams, not one, and more paid-off wireless operators. You'll need the bank statement of Bride (as well as the other operators). You also need to explain why the evesdroppers were silent.

Personally, I feel that Halifax is a logical destination. Most experts upon hearing that the Titanic was damaged at such-and-such coordinates would assume she would head to the nearest port. That would be Halifax. There would be no need for a special message. Any emergency which damaged the hull or stopped propulsion would have most likely sent the Titanic to Halifax.
 
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The ship had a list to starboard in the first 5 minutes after the collision so the crew did know that something was not right.

There is no single proof or evidence that Titanic was ever going for Halifax (if David Sarnoff got any such message why only him and not also others who were listening?) or any influence by Ismay who had even was not close to the bridge by that time!

It is still astonishing how some people still try to show how Ismay did push Captain Smith in a kind like the fictitious character Linarkos owner of the SS Poseidon.
So with other words no single evidence for any of the claims mentioned in this forum so far.
 

Alex F

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It's nice to have us as reporters.

"I could hear him trying to trying to clear traffic. He was sending messages to make arrangements for a big dinner party and ordering various luxuries. I knew Jack was still transmitting, so I thought I would take his messages for him and pass them on." (Nottingham Evening Post, 1976)
 

andrewbb

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Sorry to interrupt the flow of conversation here, but when was the first trans-atlantic vocal communication?

The reason I ask, is because vocal identification is of higher certainty than letters or handwriting (or morse code). If cousin Duchess Margaret of Scotland crosses the ocean, how do you make sure she arrived safely?
 

Jim Currie

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Sorry to interrupt the flow of conversation here, but when was the first trans-atlantic vocal communication?
The reason I ask, is because vocal identification is of higher certainty than letters or handwriting (or morse code). If cousin Duchess Margaret of Scotland crosses the ocean, how do you make sure she arrived safely?


In fact, if you consult with an old school 'Sparks', he'll tell you that eventually, most really expert wireless operators developed a unique style of transmitting which could be recognised by those who had heard him before. A bit like handwriting. The big problem came with the Chinese 'bug' key which was operated horizontally by forefinger and thumb at almost blur speed. These were in use during the Korean War.

Who is Duchess Margaret of Scotland?

PS. Unless you use a voice analyser, you can often be mistaken as to the identity of someone over the air. Think about when a mother calls her son and gets her adult grandson instead. I'm sure there's many out there who have had that sensation "My! You sound so like your father. I thought it was him."

Jim C,
 

Adam Went

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The Halifax issue seems to be the core issue, but no secret has ever been made of the fact that the Titanic did take off again under her own steam minutes after the sinking but abruptly stopped again once the seriousness of the damage was ascertained - the trip to Halifax seems to be an addition to that, and as I mentioned in my last post, there is no mention of any such thing from Harold Bride who knew how busy they still were in the wireless shack sending messages to Cape Race.

Cheers,
Adam.
 

Alex F

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There is no single proof or evidence that Titanic was ever going for Halifax (if David Sarnoff got any such message why only him and not also others who were listening?) or any influence by Ismay who had even was not close to the bridge by that time!
Suppose David Sarnoff intercepted the following message early in the morning (as far as he can):

5.40 am: "Olympic" Tr "Asian" ... in tow for Halifax ... what news of M.G.Y. ("Titanic"). ... heard M.G.Y. ("Titanic") v. faint wkg. C. Race up to 10.0 p.m., local time. Finished calling S.O.S. midnight.

Nothing more.

What did he hear?

PS refer to page 45 of PV SS Olympic
 
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Alex the claim is that Titanic send out the message that they were going to Halifax (and Sarnoff somehow got that message). And this is something which never happened.
 

Alex F

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May be. If message "for a big dinner party and ordering various luxuries" sent before, during of after the collision by Phillips was not encrypted one. Anybody seen this message?
 
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No. Possibly you should go though the messages send by Titanic.

Also this again has nothing to do with the claim that Phillips send a message stating that Titanic was going to Halifax to land people there!
 

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