September 23, 2010
After 99 years of lies and a massive cover-up by White Star Line employees, a new book, Good As Gold, by Lady Louise Patten is about to be released outlining what really happened aboard the Titanic on April 14, 1912.
Good As Gold, by Louise Patten, shows that a series of bad sailing decisions, poor job skills resulted in the sinking of the "unsinkable" ship and then were followed by lies, deceit and a massive cover-up of the truth by both the company chairman and his officers.
Patten is the granddaughter of Titanic Second Officer Charles Lightoller, who was the top-ranking survivor of the Titanic sinking other than the company chairman. The public looked to Lightoller to tell the world what happened. Lady Patten says the only person Lightoller told the truth about why the Titanic sunk was to his wife Sylvia. He, other officers and owners of White Star Line lied at both the American and British inquests held after the sinking to protect themselves from criminal charges, ruining their careers and bankrupting the company. In the end, all they avoided was criminal charges.
Patten says her grandfather alleged that the iceberg was spotted by look out Frederick Fleet, the order was then given by First Officer Murdock to turn "hard-a-starboard" (left) and instead one of six quartermasters aboard, Robert Hitchins, who was at the wheel, turned port (right), apparently not understanding what those two newly used terms meant, steering the ill-fated passenger ship into the iceberg instead of away from it as ordered. Murdock then immediately gave the equivalent order of "not that left you dummy the other left", but it was too late to miss the iceberg.
Then, Patten alleges her grandfather told the family, instead of stopping with the iceberg filling the bulk of the hole in the hull, standard grounding protocol, the ship sailed "slow ahead" for ten minutes under orders by White Star Line' chairman Joseph Bruce Ismay, who was also aboard the ship, instead of coming to a full "stop", ripping a larger hole into the hull, which ultimately sunk her.
Titanic was going to sink one way or another that day, but continuing to sail decreased the time the ship's crew had to get the passengers and fellow crew members safely off the ship onto waiting rescue vessels which would not arrive for four hours after the impact.
Some passengers testifying at the inquest contradicted officers' and Ismay's claims that they had steered away from the iceberg and came to an immediate full stop, though their actions came too late. The testimony of those passengers was dismissed, since they were contray to what the company and their employees had indicated. The ramifications of that deliberate negligence would surely sink the company, result in lengthy, costly criminal trials and be an embarrassment to the British nation as a whole. Patten's new book vindicates those passengers who tried to set the record straight and get justice.
Patten alleges that her grandfather told his wife over and over again throughout the years until his death, there was a meeting in the First Officer's cabin aboard Titanic right before she sunk. The four top officers Captain Edward J. Smith, Chief Officer Henry Wilde, First Officer William Murdoch and Second Officer Charles Herbert Lightoller discussed what had happened and the blunder by Hitchins was revealed as was the decision by Ismay to go "slow ahead".
Hitchins, apparently subject to panic resulting in irrational thinking, would then climb into lifeboat number six and push off with only 28 survivors aboard, though the lifeboat had a capacity of 65, directly sentencing 37 passengers to death. His behavior in that lifeboat would become one of the subordinating subjects of the 1960 Broadway musical, The Unsinkable Molly Brown.
Ismay, forever more known as a coward, would surive in Collapsible Lifeboat C, along with William Carter and 36 others including 6 male crew members, though the lifeboat had a capacity of 47, leaving women and children behind including Carter's own wife and children.
In the end, of the 2,223 passengers only 706 survived, 1517 died. 80% of all male passengers died. Lightoller, Hitchins and Fleet would survive, the other three officers at the last-minute meeting all perished. Hitchins died in 1940, Lightoller died in 1952 and Fleet hung himself in 1965 at the age of 77.
Lightoller would go down in history as having acted "as how an officer and a gentleman should", which we now know is simply untrue as his grandaughter indicates he lied at the inquest hearings.
The British inquest into the incident would decide that the sinking took place as a result of "excessive high speed" of the vessel, during the course of trying to break a world record on the maiden voyage, which according to Patten's book is only partially true. The "excessive high speed" decision was not enough for criminal charges, though the truth would have been.
Had the world known what Hitchins had done, there would have been a trial with charges of manslaughter leveled against him and perhaps other officers, as well as against Bruce Ismay, which is common practice in severe negligence of ship's officers when their actions or inactions result in death.
Instead, Ismay went into forced retirement on June 30, 1913, Hitchins went on to work aboard ships for several more decades and White Star Line would get into severe finanical troubles along with Cunard Line after the Great Depression. The two lines were pushed into a merger by the British government on May 10, 1934, with Cunard being the controlling partner. Cunard, as we know was later purchased by Carnival Corp in 1998.
What makes this new revelation so important today, is this week I reported on the hanging death of a junior waiter aboard the P & O (Carnival Corp) Arcadia. At the inquest into the death, once again held in England just as the Titanic inquest was, officers told a tale of the incident specifics that lead the inquest coroner to conclude that not only had the crew member hung himself but that he was a thief as well.
Today we see how officers and employees lied in the case of the Titantic, writing history to suit themselves, ensuring they were not to blame for deaths as well as to save company profits. What is to make any of us think that that lies were not told at the inquest of that poor junior waiter's death, in order to cover-up a crime and cheat his survivors out of the term life insurance benefit? It doesn't seem like such a far-fetched idea when you look at the history of cruise industry lies, deceit and cover-ups.
When Good As Gold is released, we will have it available on Cruise Bruise.
The Edith Brown Haisman survival story is here