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New RMS Titanic claims just not credible says Julian Bray

The claims surrounding the actions of officers on board RMS Titanic by fiction writer Lady Patten is just that – fiction claims Media Expert and Marine Lecturer Julian Bray. According to Patten and her claims widely reported in the national press, the helmsman knew about the iceberg in good time but turned the ship the wrong way due to a mistake over steering instructions. The author claims that her Grandfather Second Officer Charles Lightoller covered up the errors in two inquiries and that his widow after Lightoller died in 1953 kept the secret fearing that it would ruin her husbands reputation. Only she later confided in the Lady Patten.

The facts are that Second Officer Lightollers reputation was pretty well ruined and none of the officers on RMS Titannic ever commanded a ship again. Lightoller did however purchase his own small ship and this was involved in the evacuation of troops from Dunkirk with all the other small ships Those who survived were all broken men. Lightoller didn’t issue binoculars to the crows nest lookout and they remained at all times locked in a cabinet, with Lightoller holding the key. http://tinyurl.com/pknlxn

 [AUTHORITIES: see pages 186 onwards  The Titanic Disaster Hearings - Tom Kuntz  isbn 0-671-02553 - 8  and 1912 Facts About Titanic  Lee W. Merideth isbn -0-9626237-4-1 pages 127 onwards.
The testimony of the lookouts to the American Inquiry is very telling. Lightoller prevented  ALL males from boarding life boats AND also kept the ships binoculars away from the Crows Nest Lookouts under lock and key!]

Second Officer Lightoller was in charge of lifeboats on one side of the sinking ship and First Officer Murphy the other. Lightoller only allowed ‘women and children’ onto the few lifeboats (both rigid and collapsible) under his direction whereas Officer Murphy fully understood the order as “women and children FIRST” meaning that once the women and children had boarded men could make up the remaining places. Needless to say Lightollers lifeboats were less than full and fewer survivors were recovered from his lifeboats.

What is also nonsense is the claim that Bruce Ismay, Chairman of White Star who was a passenger on board the striken ship, convinced Captain Smith to carry on steaming rather than stop. This again is rubbish as the double skinned hull claimed to be ‘virtually unsinkable’ if the hull remained watertight. The double skin was only to the floor of the hull, the walls single skinned. The hull was divided into ‘watertight’ compartments, many of the forward compartments had been breached and had already flooded, The ship was in effect doomed at that point as four of the compartments had been breached, no way could the stokers continue to maintain the boilers and in turn provide forward thrust power. The engines were shut down with only the turbine generator remaining to give lighting and power to all decks and the Marconi telegraph room.

The truth is contained in a new series of on-board lectures commissioned for Royal Caribbean being rolled out later this year both on board their cruise ships and in a series of lectures throughout the UK and Ireland leading up to the RMS Titanic centennial cebrations. Here is an extract which effectively challenges head on Lady Pattens claims contained in her fictional book. Simply her fictional story just does not stand up. It's fiction!  >>>>>

RMS Titanic: Why Did She Sink?
By Julian Bray MMC and  Historian Morag Irving BA (Open)

"You may think the answer to the question why did the RMS Titanic sink is fairly straightforward, well, she struck an iceberg. No not that simple. The Titanic was advertised as ‘unsinkable’ well no, she wasn’t; she was described - not by her owners the White Star Line - as ‘virtually unsinkable’. Over the years we have lost the word ‘virtually’. The reasons for the disaster are complex and so many myths and even conspiracy theories have evolved over the years since it occurred, let us now have a look at some of the truths.

The Titanic was probably one of the last man made objects ever to be constructed with ‘no expense spared’ mandate. In 1912 she was the finest example of technology and workmanship. Nothing had been built like her, in size or opulence. Olympic her sister ship was a marvel of the age, but Titanic carried all the improvements envisaged after building the first ship.

Titanic was only 42% occupied when she sailed, thankfully she was not full. The coal strike meant many people were unable to meet the ship, and coal had been taken from other ships and given to Titanic for her voyage.

Titanic was built by a team of 40 to 50 thousand workmen in Belfast. Technically Titanic was a ship inside of a ship. She had a false bottom with a 5’ gap between the two layers. The steel at this point was ¾ inch thick. The idea being if the outer sheets were pierced the inner shell would prevent further flooding. There are myths of a workman being sealed up accidently in the inner shell, but they remain yet another Titanic myth. The double bottom though was only the bottom, the double casing was not on the sides of the ship, where the protection was to be so needed later, 15 water tight doors ran the length of the ship. This innovation would allow the ship to float if flooded in 4 compartments, but 5 had been opened up when she struck the iceberg. The doors could be automatically closed from the bridge. Further innovations included a submarine signalling equipment on the hull.

Riveters working in teams of 4 hammered over 3 million rivets to put her sheets together. 200 rivets a day was the norm, provided it didn’t rain; in which case the men would be sent home and pay would immediately stop. Rivet hammers weighed 5lbs, it was hard skilled work and she really was built by hand. All work was checked, with pay being deducted for any work found to be sub-standard. Loose rivets would be removed and replaced before being signed off.

Interviewing one of the last of the workmen in the 1970’s author and journalist Michael Davie met Dick Sweeney. Mr Sweeney still had a Titanic rivet at home, it measured 3” long. Mr Sweeney describes the pride of shipbuilding, where the entire town would have a holiday when a ship was launched, and the terrible sadness felt when news of the disaster arrived ‘they were ashamed’ he says that a ship built in Belfast should meet such an end.

Much has been written of possible sabotage caused to the ship during construction due to the ongoing struggle for Home Rule in Ireland. The owner of Harland & Wollf Lord Pirrie was pro Home Rule. However, Harland & Wollf was perceived in Belfast as an English company. During her construction Titanic’s hull number was 390904. If you look at the number through a mirror, which may have happened during fitting out, it reads as ‘No Pope’.

I think Mr Sweeny’s interview sums up how I feel about the matter. Men had served long apprenticeships to be skilled craftsmen, they had pride in their work, and would not have thrown this away so easily. At the beginning of the First World War 60% of Harland & Wollf workers were skilled men.

Harland & Wollf’s head draughtsman Mr Andrews was much liked in the shipyard. He was frequently seen going in to work as early as 4 am with his pockets full of notes, his hat covered in paint splatters. Sadly he was lost on Titanic along with 6 other staff from Harland & Wolf who were onboard to note any snags or possible improvements which would then improve the next ship, ‘Gigantic’ as she was then. The drawing office in Belfast is now being renovated to become the central to the newly revamped Titanic quarter.

The steel used to build Titanic was not the first class steel we would associate with shipbuilding today. The time of mass production was just beginning, and materials were not that easy to come by. It was not cut costing (as they would have said in the 1920's , i.e 'cost cutting' as we would say in the 21st Century!)  it was simply of the time and using what technology was available then. Materials were bought from several sources to meet supply. Steel came from Scotland, Ireland and England.

Titanic’s sister ship Olympic had collided with a naval ship the ‘Hawke’ in September of 1911. It was repairs to Olympic following this collision which delayed Titanic’s own maiden voyage. The Hawke had an underwater steel and concrete ram. This ram caused the most damage, when her bow struck Olympics hull the sound could be heard one mile away. Fortunately the incident happened just outside Southampton water so passengers were disembarked on the Isle of Wight.

The damage to Olympic, which had torn off the Hawke’s ram resulted in large hole, photographs show a gap of some 12’. She had peeled back, rather like a sardine tin. White star sued the Admiralty, the Admiralty countersued. (What sank the Titanic page 10 illustration).

A fire had broken out in a coal bunker in boiler room number 5 on the journey from Belfast. The fire continued for almost a week. Mr Andrews and the handover staff were aware of the fire but were unable extinguish it, firemen had repeatedly moved the coal, but were awaiting the remainder of the crew to sign on in Southampton.

When the board of trade officials came onboard to inspect the ship prior to sailing it wasn’t mentioned to them, and neither did their inspections find it. The fire continued as Titanic sailed away. It was not put out until early on the Sunday morning. Water wasn’t used to stop coal fires as oxygen built up in the coal could lead to an explosion, even today coal would still be moved rather than water being applied. Did the coal fire weaken the outer shell of the ship?

The fire had caused the paint to start to flake, but how hot did it become? It was stated at the US enquiry that no damage had been made to the bulkhead steel. The paint work was ‘made good’ by applying a coat of black oil, so the steel can’t have remained too hot. Coal as we have seen was very valuable and would need to be conserved rather than burn away unnecessarily.

Speculation also centred on the sheer size of the ships, were they ‘unmanagable’. The draft from Titanic had pulled other ships towards her, as the New York incident. This may well be why so many feared returning to her in her death throws as they feared the resulting suction. But, Olympic was already successfully operating the Atlantic route.  There were two routes across the Atlantic, the north and the south. Titanic was travelling on the south route, subsequently the route was moved even further south. Ice warnings had been passed to Titanic from several other vessels in the area. Weather conditions had been cooler than in the last 3 decades, and vast fields of ice had drifted much further south than normal.

One lookout had commented he knew ice was about as he could smell it. Not quite as strange as you may think, sailors have remarked when an iceberg is broken up how a strong smell comes from it, due to the vegetation and resulting gasses trapped inside for millions of years. Four fifths of an iceberg is underwater, the iceberg struck by Titanic was reported to be 50 – 100 feet above water. As the ice melts the iceberg turns blue in colour, blue ice is the hardest to see, as it freezes it returns to white, but the sections under the water remain rock hard.

Up in the crows nest, lookouts had to rely on their eyesight to spot ‘growlers’. The binoculars were safely locked up inside. A last minute change of crew had resulted in the failure to issue them to the lookouts. The first in a number of breakdown in the line of command that would cause so much damage. The key to the binocular cupboard was subsequently recovered by an expedition and auctioned fetching £90k.

Lookout Fredrick Fleet sent the message ‘Iceberg straight ahead’ to the bridge. Fleet would survive the disaster, but sadly took his own life some years later. Officer Murdock ordered the engines to stop and the ship to be turned ‘hard a starboard’. This prevented the ship heading the iceberg head on, but it was too late the damage was already done. From the cry “Iceberg ahead!” to the command being given only 30 seconds had passed. Speculation grows if the order had been ‘hard a port’ it may just have been possible to turn in time, we will never know. It is one of the variables, if the Titanic had been travelling at a slower speed, if the look out had binoculars and had seen the iceberg earlier, if the ice warnings had been heeded.

Standing on the deck of the ‘unsinkable’ Titanic, initial reactions must have been extreme shock and disbelief. Third class passengers struggled with language with many not understanding English. Messages could not be passed. The urgency of the situation did not sink in for the first hour, precious time was lost. When asked to appear on deck, they tried to take all possessions with them. Corridors filled and became obstructed with people struggling with cases and parcels. A new life in America meant no return home, and literally carrying everything you owned or hoped to make a living from. Sewing machines, vine roots, and the addition of struggling small children.

Captain Smith’s reaction can only be guessed at, he did not survive. We know that Thomas Andrews the ships designer consulted the Captain and established the ship would stay afloat for only 2 hours. Both men would have been dreadfully aware of how serious this was, and the impact of the number of lifeboat seats compared to the number of passengers.

Titanic’s original plan had been for 32 lifeboats and the davits that would carry them had been ordered. But 16 were removed from the final plan to leave a clear deck space. Titanic instead carried 16 lifeboats and 4 collapsible boats. The order to remove the boats at design stage was given by J Bruce Ismay the chairman of the White Star line, who was onboard Titanic on her the maiden voyage. No laws were broken and nothing underhand was being done here, no law existed in 1912 in the US or the UK that said a seat had to be provided for every passenger. I think the nearest comparison we have to the shock of this is perhaps the twin towers? It simply never occurred to anyone that this could happen.

Captain Smith gives the order ‘Women and children first’. How this is interpreted, lead to lives being lost and saved. On the boat deck Murdock loaded the boats with women firstly but filled them with men. On the Port side officer Lightholler interpreted the order as women and children only. Many more lives were saved from the starboard side.

It is hard to describe how hated the figure of Ismay became in the press following the disaster. Ismay survived the disaster, conflicting reports describe how he came to be seated in a lifeboat. When rescued by Carpathia Ismay appears to have had a full scale breakdown. He was confined to the doctors cabin for the voyage which he was unable to leave, hardly eating and taking only the occasional bowl of soup. The captain of the Carpathia had to prompt Ismay to send a telegram to his offices, Ismay was in deep shock. In 1913 a horse owned by Mr Ismay won the Derby, and was almost instantly rejected as the winner, although it was several heads in front. The reasons were not given, but; this wasn’t J Bruce, the horse was owned by his brother, so deep was the social snubbing and the need for a scapegoat.

Others emerged as heros that night. The unsinkable Molly Brown commandeered lifeboat number 6, she only became Molly Brown after her death, so she never heard herself called Molly in her lifetime. During her lifetime friends called her Maggie Brown. Number 6 was possibly the only boat which went back to look for survivors. The image of a brash woman as portrayed in films about the disaster is a far from the truth. Maggie or Molly had a fascinating life. Molly and her estranged husband became very rich when JJ Brown discovered an iron ore seam on his property. Molly travelled the world on her $700 per month allowance. Molly learned three languages, and was fluent in French, German and Russian. In 1909 she became the first woman to run for senate, albeit unsuccessfully. She campaigned for women’s rights and child welfare issues. Following the first world war Molly was awarded the Legion of Honour, the highest civilian award in France for her work with injured French and US troops.

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