WH Baker Letter re Mount Temple


Jamie Bryant

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According to the crew on Mount Temple, they saw a small vessel, made from wood, with a black and white funnel. A few hours later the Carpathia, when at the scene of the accident at daybreak, reported seeing a similar ship, though it was now sailing away. A world wide search for this ship was launched, before and after the British enquiry, though in vain.
But early in August 1912, Captain Lord received an astonishing letter from a certain W.H.Baker, who served briefly as an officer on the Mount Temple, but was now writing from his regular berth on another Canadian Pacific Liner, Empress of Britain:
I came home in the Mount Temple from Halifax that voyage, having been taken out of the Empress at ten minutes notice to fill up a vacancy...The officers and others had told me what they had seen on the eventful night whwn the Titanic went down, and from what they said , they were from ten to fourteen miles from her when they saw her signals. I gather from what was told me that the captain seemed afraid to go through the ice, although it was not so very thick. They told me that they not only saw her deck lights, but several green lights between them and what they thought was the Titanic. There were two loud reports heard, which they said must have been the finale of the Titanic, this was sometime after sighting her. The Captain said at the Washington inquiry that he was forty nine miles away, though his officers had made it fourteen....I tell you these men were fearfully indignant that they were not called upon to give evidence at the time, for they were greatly incensed by the Captain's behaviour in the matter.The doctor had made all preperations and rooms were turned into hospitals, and the crew were standing by ready to help watching her lights and what they said were the green lights of flares coming from her lifeboats.These fellows must feel sorry for you , knowing that they could not, in face of this,have been the mystery ship"
Adapted from Lord: Villain or Victim?
Though a secondary source, it was howerver written just weeks after the sinking.

Jamie Bryant
 

Jamie Bryant

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Please bear in mind this is my first post in this topic, I usually haunt sinking collision and construction.
Many Thanks
J.B
 
Aug 14, 2003
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Jamie, I have heard of this report/letter before but it still begs the question - "If Mount Temple saw the rockets and heard the reports, why didn't Californian also consider that there was a ship in distress?"
 
Dec 2, 2000
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This has the ripe aroma of the varied sea stories and B.S tales that were all over the place at the time.

Never mind the Californian, considering that the Mount Temple didn't arrive at the Titanics radioed SOS position until around 4:30 in the morning, I'd like somebody to explain how they could have seen the Titanic's distress rockets at all. You might want to check out This Link for a little more on the Mount Temple.

- Captain James Moore. The forgotten hero.
 

Dave Gittins

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Jamie, the Baker letter is fairly well-known. You omitted the lie that it begins with. Baker did not know Captain Lord from their days on the training ship Conway. Lord was never on Conway. There is nothing the letter that does not derive from evidence already known (Boxhall's flares; the supposed explosions) or the mischievous statement given to Senator Smith by Dr Quitzrau, a troublemaking Mount Temple passenger. The letter was passed to the Board of Trade by C P Grylls of the Mercantile Marine Service Association on Lord's behalf. To quote from a private source---

"Sir Robert Ellis Cunliffe (solicitor to the Board of Trade)summed up the pointlessness of the story in a memorandum. ‘What help Captain Lord will get from the mere contention that there was something blameworthy on the part of the Captain of the Mount Temple I cannot at present see,’ he wrote. ‘It seems to me that it is for Captain Lord to obtain evidence from any source to show why the findings of the Court are wrong as far as he is concerned; it is not enough to suggest that someone else may also have been guilty of conduct that was blameworthy.’ On 4 September, Grylls was advised that the alleged witnesses should put up, or shut up, to crudely translate the Board’s legalese. Inquiries from the Leyland Line’s solicitors and Lord’s Member of Parliament met with similar rebuffs. Not surprisingly, no witnesses were forthcoming."

I don't propose to get involved in yet another scrap about Californian. I'll just say that I'm with George Behe, who called it 'a manufactured mystery'.
 

Jamie Bryant

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Thank you all for answering the Mount Temple points, but has anyone else heard of the Tramp Steamer sightings (previously mentioned)
J.B
 

Dave Gittins

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Jamie, just about everybody has. It's true that the ship with the black and white funnel is a mystery, in that nobody every found out her name. I don't know where you got some of your information. There's no evidence that she was made of wood and wooden steamers were pretty rare by 1912. The search for her only covered North America and Europe, so it's not impossible that she was from Asia or South America. Whatever she was, she is irrelevant to the tale. She tagged along with Mount Temple for some time and arrived at a spot near the CQD position at about the same time, when all the action was over. Oddly enough, her crew never said a word that's on the record. Maybe she really was Asian and the language barrier prevented her story being told.
 

Frank McElroy

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In my research of my Great Uncle, who in 1901 lived in Liscard on the Wirral, I have received a copy of a letter, which was wrote by a fellow called W.H. Baker who apparently also lived in Liscard, Who wrote it on August 6th 1912, from while aboard the “Empress of Britain” to Capt Lord of the “SS California”, the letter is about the “Mount Temple” and the sinking of the “Titanic” which makes very interesting reading.

Both W.H. Baker and Capt Lord were on a ship named “SS Conway” and the letter concludes with “Rostron was also on the “Conway” with us, as you will of course remember”.

It has thrown my theory of the Mystery ship right out of the window; also bearing in mind the letter was only wrote 4 months after the disaster.

Does anyone know who this Mr W.H. Baker is, as for myself I don’t think I have come across his name before, but at the back of my mind it seems to ring a little bell?

Frankie Mac

[Moderator's Note: This message, originally posted as a new thread, has been moved to this pre-existing thread addressing the same subjec. MAB]
 

Frank McElroy

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But what about what the crew had to say, which the letter states was with-held from both US and English inquiries, read it for yourselves.

August.6th.1912.
“Empress of Britain”. Quebec


Dear Lord,
You will be surprised to get a letter from me after all these years, but when I mention the old “Conway” you will then remember me. My wife had heard that you were living quite close to us in Liscard and sent me your address, so I am writing to tell you how deeply sorry I am for you with regard to the “Titanic” affair, for I know how you must have suffered. I came home in the “Mount Temple”, from Halifax that voyage, having been taken out of the “Empress” at ten minutes notice to fill up a vacancy as one of her officers had been given a shore billet on her arrival at Halifax homeward bound. The officers and others told me what they had seen on the eventful night when the “Titanic” went down, and from what they said they were from ten to fourteen miles from her when they saw her signals. I gather from what was told me that the Captain seemed afraid to go though the ice, although it was not so very thick. They told me they not only saw her deck lights, but several green lights between them and what they thought was the “Titanic”. There were two loud reports heard, which they said must have been the finale of the “Titanic”; this was some time after sighting her, I gathered the Captain said at the Inquiry at Washington, that he was forty nine miles away — but the officers state that he was not more than 14 miles off. I must tell you these men were fearfully indignant that they were not then called upon to give evidence at the time for they were greatly incensed at the Captain’s behaviour in the matter. The Doctor had made all preparation, and rooms were turned into hospitals, ect. And the crew were standing ready to help on deck, watching her lights, and what they said were the green lights burnt in the boats. On our arrival at Gravesend the Captain and Marconi Operator were sent for, also the two log books, scraps, and Chief Officers. What they wanted with the scrap log I cannot understand for there was only about a line and a half written of what occurred during the four hours and quite half a page in the Chief’s book, I saw that myself. These fellows must feel sorry for you knowing that you could not in the face of this have been the mystery ship. I have been residing in South Africa for some years with my wife and family and have only within the last five years returned to England, and have taken up the sea again, and have once more had to begin at the beginning — but I life in hopes of getting promotion sometime. You will of course have heard all about our collision. I hope to see you when I get back. By the way, Rostron was also on the “Conway” with us, as you will of course remember.
Well, no more now. All news when we meet. Wishing you a happy issue out of all your troubles.
Believe me,
Sincerely yours,
(Sgn) W. H. Baker


Frankie Mac
 

Paul Slish

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The Mount Temple question is a whole different issue than the Californian question.

Men may have feared they would have lost their jobs if they spoke out against a Captain. I think the British Board of Trade should have taken a deposition from every member of the crew who claimed they had seen or heard anything unusual on the night of April 14/15 1912.

After reviewing the depositions, the Board of Trade could have convened an Inquiry if the depositions merited further investigation.

William H. Baker was a replacement officer on the Mount Temple on her voyage back to England from St. John, New Brunswick after the Titanic sinking. The Mount Temple was steaming from Antwerp, Belgium to St. John, New Brunswick when she responded and headed for the SOS position given by the Titanic. There is no reason to doubt that Baker talked to officers and other crew members on that return trip.

After 95 years nothing can be followed up on, unless legitimate contemporary accounts from crew of the Mount Temple were discovered.
 

Dave Gittins

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Two points. Captain Lord was never on the stationary training ship Conway.

More to the point, Captain Moore presented a perfectly coherent account of his rescue mission. His starting point is on his course to Cape Sable. We know he reached the vicinity of the CQD position, because he later saw Californian and Carpathia.

The passage "I gathered the Captain said at the Inquiry at Washington, that he was forty nine miles away — but the officers state that he was not more than 14 miles off." is blatantly silly, unless we assume that Captain Moore was a lying incompetent. Here's a passage from a certain book.

"Another attack was made on 6 August 1912, when one W H Baker wrote to Captain Lord. Baker claimed to have served on Mount Temple during her return voyage from Halifax. According to him, Mount Temple's officers told him that their ship had not been 49 miles from Titanic, as claimed by Captain Moore, but only 14 miles. From this position, they had seen '...deck lights and several green lights between them and what they thought was the Titanic.' By some strange logic, this tale was supposed to prove that Californian was not the infamous 'mystery ship' seen from Titanic.

By August 1912, the transcripts of both inquiries were published, and Boxhall's use of green lights was public knowledge. However, there is no evidence that he fired them before Titanic sank. This alone makes Baker's letter suspect. Moreover, as can be seen from the chart, there is no evidence of Mount Temple coming within range of Boxhall's flares before he ceased to fire them when Carpathia reached him. The account is finally demolished by the discovery of Titanic's wreck. To pass within 14 miles of it, Captain Moore would have had to be wildly off his course for Cape Sable. His starting point of 41° 25'N, 51° 14'W is on his correct course to Cape Sable from his turning point at 41° 15'N, 50°W. Baker's claim requires him to have been about 75° off course! Unless we are to decide that Captain Moore was both a liar and a blundering incompetent, Baker's letter may join Quiztrau's affidavit in the trash can of history."
 

Frank McElroy

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Sam, Jamie, Michael S, Michael P, Paul and Dave,

Thanks for your replies, and for all that invaluable information, with regards to man called W.H.Baker.

To put it bluntly, it appears to me, the man’s a liar, I just wanted to have my story be as accurate as possible, but I cannot see what they gets out of it? I have come across quite a lot of this misinformation, during my research of my Great Uncle Hugh McElroy, this is why I prefer, if I can to get my information (if I can) from a good source, then collate it if possible through a second source and if I’m lucky along with any documentation and photo’s.

That is the reason why I asked the question, because it seems a bit far fetched to be true, I could not believe that Senan Molony would have overlooked this letter, when he was researching about the Mystery ship, “California”.

But I’m a very strong believer in all information regarding the “RMS Titanic” should be shared between all, this I learned from Inger Sheil and Brian Ticehurst, who helped me a quite a lot, while I was trying to put the pieces together, with regards to my own research with Hugh, also because this is the passion we have for Titanic, to find how she was cared for from day to day by her ships company, how she was looked after and finally how she died, some people call it research, I call it a passion for a way of life.

If you would like to know how far I have researched my Great Uncle Hugh, drop me a line through ET and I will send you what I have so far, most of what I have collated has come from my family and my research (which has taken me about 20 years so far) and I’m still learning about him.

Once again, a big Thanks to you all,

Frankie Mac
 

Paul Lee

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Just for interest, here are the positions of the Mount Temple as entered in her log.

April 9th (no time entered) - 48 4 N 26 30 W
April 13 (no time entered) - 43 2 N 44 1 (??) W
April 14 (3.50 am?) - 43 56 1/2 N, 46 42 (or 43?) W
April 14 (noon) - 41 38 N 48 20 W

Other than the usual catalogue of desertions while docked, plus a death and burial at sea, theres no mention of the Titanic.


 
Mar 22, 2003
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Paul: The April 9 and 13 positions are probably noon positions for those those dates. They are on the the GC track from Bishop Rock to the corner.
The first April 14 position is an obvious error. The latitude should read 41 56 1/2 N. It is a point very close to the corner, but Moore decided to go past the corner because of ice reports, and go further south to 41° 15'N, 50°W before turning to head for Cape Sable Island. His noon April 14 position is on the line from 3.50 am to this turning point. All this and more are shown on the chart given by the link below. MT positions are little squares in blue.

routes_across_the_atlantic__4_ships_copy1.gif
 

Paul Slish

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Paul Lee. Thanks for the info on the Mount Temple's log. Could you post what the log says for April 15, 1912? It would be interesting to read.
 

Paul Lee

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Its currently in storage, but I'll see if I can find it soon. Believe me, it doesn't mention the Titanic at all!
 

Paul Lee

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According to Capt.Moore shortly after he docked in New Brunswick, he said that he passed the Carpathia at 9.30pm on April 14th. Perhaps more experienced Navigators can look at this, but it doesn't seem likely based on what we know of the Mount Temple's navigation.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Paul, did the report say he sighted the Carpathia at 9.30 pm, or was it a wireless exchange of positions? Passing the Carpathia about that time is about right from what I could tell of the movements of both ships. However, the MT would have passed north of the Carpathia track by about 10 miles close to that time. Their respective track lines would have come within about 6 miles of each other.
 

Paul Lee

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Hi Sam,
It says, "About 9.30 on Sunday night the steamer Carpathia passed us".

I extrapolated the Mount Temple's position back 3 hours from her stated DR position, based on a course to New Brunswick, and did the same for the Carpathia's position, based on the recalculated location on Dave Gittin's website. Of course, I didn't know the speed of either ship, or the actual course, so I had to make some guesses, but it looks to me like something is amiss.
 

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