Encyclopedia Titanica

Stanley Lord

Captain of the Californian

Stanley Lord
Stanley Lord

Captain Stanley Lord, 34, was Master of the Boston-bound liner Californian, owned by Leyland & Co., on the night the Titanic sank.

Born on September 13, 1877 in Bolton, Lancs, he had already spent more than twenty years at sea. Lord was a thin-framed, relatively tall man for the times (5' 10"), blue eyed, with a face weathered and lined by his salt-spray experiences.

He first went to sea at the age of 13½ as a cadet in the barque Naiad owned by Messrs J. B. Walmsley. It was March 1891. After obtaining his Second Mate's Certificate of competency he served as Second Officer in the barque Lurlei.

In February 1901 he passed for Master and three months later obtained his Extra Master's Certificate. Both were achieved at the exceptionally young age of 23, and exceeded the qualifications of many of the senior officers of the Titanic.

Captain J. D. MacNab, Board of Trade examiner at Liverpool, later recalled that Lord had passed all his examinations 'most brilliantly,' with his later testimonials for good conduct and ability at sea being 'invariably of the highest order.' He added: 'I have ever heard him spoken of as a humane and clever officer and commander.'

Lord entered the service of the West India and Pacific Steam Navigation Company in 1897, which company was taken over by the Leyland Line in 1900. He continued in their service, being appointed to command in 1906 before his 29 birthday, once more an outstanding achievement in a time when men could hardly expect to achieve the helm much before their fifth decade.

On April 5, 1912, Lord commanded the liner Californian (6,223 tons) on a voyage from London for Boston, Mass. On the night of Sunday April 14, he saw ice ahead while on the bridge of his vessel, personally ordering hard-a-port in order to effect a starboard turn while cutting engines.

His vessel came to rest at the edge of an impenetrable icefield that seems to have stretched at least 30 miles north to south, and which other shipping had warned about for days. As it was Lord's first experience of field ice, he elected to maintain minimum steam and wait for daylight, a wisdom later described by Captain James Henry Moore (of the Mount Temple) as 'the usual thing' to do on encountering ice. It was 10.21pm.

Captain Lord's Chart Compass
© Copyright Senan Molony

As a precaution for other shipping, Lord ordered his wireless operator to send out the message that his vessel was stopped and surrounded by ice. The information was transmitted around 11pm ship's time, but Lord was not to know until later that it was rebuffed by the Titanic, on the southerly New York track, with the reply: 'Keep out, keep out, I am working Cape Race.'

Captain Lord had meanwhile calculated his ship's position as being 42° 5' N, 50° 7' W, a location more than 19 nautical miles from the Titanic's later transmitted SOS position of 41° 46' N, 50° 14' W. In fact the Titanic wreck would later be found in latitude 41° 43', three miles south of the New York track. One minute of latitude equals one nautical mile in every location worldwide.

An Officer of the Watch and an apprentice saw low-lying rockets to the SSE of the Californian during the night of April 14/15, when Captain Lord had retired after a 17-hour day. If the Titanic had been in her SOS position, these men ought to have seen their distant flashes to the SSW.

Lord shown with passengers and crew
Lord shown with passengers and crew on a ship's gangway
© Copyright Senan Molony

Because of this disparity, and an opinion by Third Officer Charles Victor Groves (who, like Lord, had gone below before anything was seen in the night sky), the British Inquiry realised that the Titanic SOS position and the Californian stop position could not both be right. The official finding was that the Californian position was 'not accurate' - although it would be shown 73 years later that the Titanic sank 13 miles to the east of her transmitted co-ordinates, and it is now apparent that the wreck is on a line directly SSE of where the Californian claimed to be.

Bolstering the British Inquiry's assumption was the opinion of Officer Groves, announced in May 1912, 'from what I have heard subsequently' that a vessel in sight of the Californian when the latter lay stopped for the night must have been the Titanic. Since this steamer was only five miles from the Boston-bound Californian, Groves conceded that if the Californian co-ordinates were accurate, it followed that the Titanic would have been wildly off course. The Titanic wreck in fact lies three nautical miles south of the New York track.

After both the American and British official inquiries concluded that the Californian (which had reported herself as stopped) was likely the 'Mystery Ship' seen to approach within five miles of the sinking Titanic and then recede, it was reluctantly decided by the Leyland line that Captain Lord would have to be asked to resign his commission.

Lord with wife Mabel
Lord with his wife Mabel
© Copyright Senan Molony

Although Leyland & Co. had submitted evidence to the British Inquiry (of a prior wireless position report to the Antillian) which, it argued, independently supported Captain Lord's claim to have been where he said he was, the Managing Director was overruled on his suitability to remain in command following publication of Lord Mersey's report in July 1912.

Captain Lord addressed letters to the national press setting out his views and protestations of the verdict that he 'might have saved all on board' from the following month, and further written communication was addressed to the Board of Trade by he and his professional representative organisation, the MMSA.

But requests for a re-hearing of the evidence were refused. At this point the Board of Trade also decided not to prosecute Lord for an alleged misdemeanour in failing to go to the aid of a vessel in distress. Lord had been only a witness at the Inquiry, not a defendant, but if the Board had attempted to interfere with his seagoing certificate he would have had the power to call his own witnesses and cross-examine others.

Toward the end of 1912, Lord was approached by John Latta, owner of the Nitrate Producers Steamship Co. (Lawther/Latta), who had heard of his plight. Lord was offered renewed command, and entered the company's service in February 1913.

Lord later command
Captain Lord, centre, with officers of a later command.
© Copyright Senan Molony

He served at sea throughout the First World War, and continued to command vessels for Lawther/Latta until poor eyesight forced his retirement in March 1927. More than 30 years later became aware that a film entitled A Night to Remember 'apparently gave great prominence to the allegation that the Californian stood by in close proximity to the sinking Titanic.'

Mr Lord called on the Mercantile Marine Service Association (MMSA), of which he had continued to pay annual dues without a break since 1897, to seek their assistance. A vigorous campaign emphasising the former Master's case was then pursued across all media in the years following.

In 1957 Captain Lord's wife Mabel (nee Tutton) died, and he began to go into decline. The couple had been blessed with one son, Stanley Tutton Lord (1908-1994).

Captain Lord died on January 24, 1962, aged 84, almost half a century after the sinking of the Titanic. He is buried in New Brighton cemetery, Merseyside.

Research Articles

Tracy Smith, Michael H. Standart & Captain Erik D. Wood Titanica! (2001) The Californian Incident, A Reality Check
Could Captain Lord and the Californian have done more to save the passengers and crew of the Titanic.
Senan Molony Titanica! (2002) Titanic's Rockets
Paul Wilkinson Titanica! (2004) Titanic's Silent Distress Signals
A new look at a minor mystery
Senan Molony Titanica! (2004) Mystery Ship Made Simple
Case-closed on the Californian?
Senan Molony Titanica! (2004) The Middle Watch
Samuel Halpern Titanica! (2005) A Captain Accused
Senan Molony Titanica! (2005) Lifeboats Don't Lie!
Senan Molony Titanica! (2007) Ice: Clear and Absent Danger
An argument hewn from ice!
Senan Molony Titanica! (2009) The informative 'Morning News'
Captain Stanley Lord master of the SS Californian, interviewed by Leslie Harrison
Senan Molony Titanica! (2010) Groves' Inappropriate Joke

Newspaper Articles

The Washington Herald (17 August 1912) Capt. Lord Explains

Documents and Certificates


Paul Rogers Titanic Review (2009) The Other Side Of The Night
Paul Rogers reviews a new book exploring the mystery of the
Paul Rogers Titanic Review (2009) The Titanic and the Indifferent Stranger


Extracts from a conversation between Captain Stanley Lord and Leslie Harrison, held on 19 August 1961.
Search archive online

In the Titanic Store

Leslie Harrison (1997) The Case for Captain Lord: Echo of the Titanic Disaster, Countyvise Ltd; First Edition (1 Jan. 1997)
David Dyer (2017) The Midnight Watch: A Novel of the Titanic and the Californian, Griffin; Reprint edition (11 April 2017)
Peter Padfield (2020) The Titanic and the Californian, Lume Books (December 20, 2020)
Ned Schillow & Dru Schillow (2021) Titanic A Trio of Captains: In Charge, Took Charge, Discharged, Independently published (3 Aug. 2021)
Thomas B. Williams (2007) Titanic and the Californian, The History Press; Revised ed. edition (22 Mar. 2007)
Senan Molony (2006) Titanic and the Mystery Ship, The History Press; Illustrated edition (31 Mar. 2006)

Comment and discuss

  1. Daveywarwick

    There is no such place as New Brighton cemetery, the graveyards correct title is Rake Lane Cemetery, Wallasey, Merseyside.
  2. Roger Burgess

    I am 70, and was raised in Wallasey. In the 1950's or 60's I read a library book setting out the case for Captain Lord's innocence, and it might have even been written by him. If the book still exists, it would be in the Central Library in Wallasey - now part of Wirral Borough Council. It could throw some light on the controversy, but I have never heard of the book since those days. Isn't it interesting that Leyland Line got rid of Captain Stanley Lord? Wasn't Leyland Line part of International Mercantile Marine, as was White Star Line, and all more or less controlled by the American financier, JP Morgan?
  3. Roger Burgess

    I have found the books on this topic. They may be available elsewhere, but are here in the Library in Capt Lord's home town.
  4. Denizensmith

    It is sad that such a man was involved in a conspiracy to sink the Olympic (renamed the Titanic) for an insurance scam. His role was to be a saviour but it all went horribly wrong costing the lives of 1502 passengers. Kazz
  5. Corinne

    You have your facts wrong. The White Star Line company had three "Olympic class liners." They were the Titanic, the Olympic and Britannic. The Olympic sailed before the Titanic and there was never any renaming of the ships. There also never an insurance scam to sink the Titanic.
  6. Kestral54

    Actually, Britannic was originally to be named Gigantic, but changed to Britannic for fear of being too closely associated with the "size name" of Titanic.
  7. Grace (2282)

    ok i think that Stanbly Lord was at fault DUH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  8. wiktoria kowalczyk

    He was innocent, it was all actually because of an optical illusion since they were right on the verge of the Labrador current. In 2012 a historian named Tim Molten finally found out what actually happened. Its all really interesting, watch "Titanic's Final Mystery". You will feel so bad for Captain Lord.
Open Thread Leave a Reply Watch Thread

Californian Crew Summary

Name: Captain Stanley Lord
Age: 34 years 7 months and 2 days (Male)
Physical Features:
Nationality: English
Marital Status: Married
Occupation: Ship's Officer
Died: Wednesday 24th January 1962 aged 84 years
Cause of Death:
Buried:Rake Lane Cemetery, Wallasey, Cheshire, England

Page Options

Watch this page

Improve this Biography

If you have any corrections or something to add please  get in touch