Famous People on board Titanic

By Monday 15 April 1912, rumours were circulating about the loss of the Titanic. The offices of the WSL in New York and England were besieged by friends and relatives of the passengers on board trying desperately to learn about their kinsman. The Denver Post wrote an article on 16 April 1912, “Relatives in Agony of Fear Besiege the WSL Offices.”

On 29 April 1912 Harold Bride, Titanic's surviving wireless operator gave a statement to the New York Times which gave an indepth account of the disaster and what happened. Click here to read his story.

RMS Titanic lifeboats collected together in New York harbour
RMS Titanic lifeboats collected together in New York harbour

The surviving crew from the Titanic were held for inquiries under strict conditions of almost arrest.

King George V responded to the situation by issuing a statement of condolence:

“The Queen and I are horrified at the appalling disaster which has happened to the Titanic and at the terrible loss of life. We deeply sympathise with the bereaved relations and feel for them in their great sorrow with all our heart.”

The Newspapers of the day printed article after article. The Daily Sketch decided to start "The Titanic Fund", a fund campaign to help the families of those who had lost relatives because of the disaster. Piece by piece, information came from New York. Lists of survivors were telegrammed but it took one week to receive the final count of survivors.  

The British Wreck Commissioner Inquiry (Board of Trade Inquiry)

The final report into the loss of the Titanic was presented to both Houses of Parliament by command of His Majesty King George V. The investigation was held at the Scottish Hall, Buckingham Gate, Westminster, London.

It started on 2 May 1912 and lasted 36 days. The Right Honourable Lord Mersey, Wreck Commissioner presided. Several prominent assessors aided him. The Honourable Rear Admiral S.A Gough-Calthorpe, CVO RN, Captain A.W. Clarke, Commander FCA Lyon RNR, Professor J.H. Biles DSc LLD and Mr. E.C. Chaston RNR.

Report was divided into eight sections as below:

    1. Description of the ship
    2. Account of the ships journey across the Atlantic, the messages she received and the disaster
    3. Description of damage to the ship and its gradual and final effect with observations thereon
    4. Account of the saving and rescue and those who survived
    5. The circumstances in connection with the Californian
    6. The Board of Trade’s Administration
    7. Finding of the Court
    8. Recommendations.

It is the writer's aim to consider sections 5-8 as most of the other detail regarding the ship has already been covered.

For a complete summary of the questions asked and recommendations please click here.

 

The Circumstances in connection with the SS Californian

The Carpathia raced to the rescue of the Titanic whose position was recorded as being at 41° 46' N, 50° 7'W. Stanley Lord, captain of the Californian, had logged their position as being 42° 5' N. 57° 7' W; only 19 miles away. Was this an accurate position? He himself spend little time on the bridge that night and was guided by his officers.

At 11 p.m., a steamer's lights were seen approaching from the east. Captain Lord went to the wireless room to see which ships were in the area. He asked Cyril Evans, the wireless operator, if any ship was near them. Evans said, “I think the Titanic is near us. I have got her.” He meant that he had picked up the Titanic’s Marconi wireless signals. Captain Lord told Evans to send a message to the ship advising them that they had stopped due to the ice.

Evans complied but he was told to “Shut up” by the Titanic’s wireless operator. The Titanic had been conversing with Cape Race and did not want to lose the faint signal. They continued to listen to Cape Race until 11.30 p.m.

The Master told the court that by 11.30 p.m., his ship was only about five miles from the Titanic and he could clearly see her deck lights.

There was also some discrepancy in the witness statements of the crew of the Californian about the rockets fired from the Titanic. The Californian’s Second Officer Stone had counted eight white rockets in total, the first of which had been fired at around 1.40 p.m. He did not report the rockets for twenty minutes but merely observed the steamer. Eventually, he told his apprentice to wake the Master and advise him that the Ship had fired eight rockets. However, no official records were kept in the Californian’s log.

There are contradictions and inconsistencies in the accounts recalled by different witnesses but the matter was clear to the Court.

“The Titanic collided with the berg at 11.40 p.m. The vessel seen by the Californian was the Titanic. The rockets sent up by the Titanic was about eight. The Californian saw eight …. At 2.40 a.m. Mr. Stone called to the Master that the ship from which he had seen the rockets had disappeared. At. 2.20 a.m. the Titanic foundered.”

The circumstances convinced the Court that the Californian was no more than five to ten miles away when the Titanic disaster happened. She could have found her way through the ice to clear water and assist the Titanic with the evacuation. Had she done so, she would have saved the lives of many if not all the lives that were lost.

 

The British Board of Trade’s administration

The Court had been invited by the Board of Trade “to report upon the Rules and Regulations made under the Merchant Shipping Acts 1894-1906 and the Administration of those Acts and of such Rules and Regulations so far as the consideration thereof is material to this casualty.”

During the course of the Inquiry two principal charges were made against the Board.

The Board had been negligent in that they failed to update their rules and regulations relating generally to the provision of lifeboats; and the designers of the Titanic had failed to exercise due care and attention in the supervision of the vessel plans and the inspection of the works done upon her.

It is pointed out as background that in 1887, a Select Committee of the House of Commons was appointed to report on “Saving Life At Sea.”

They found that many passenger ships could not, without great “inconvenience, carry so many ordinary wooden boats as would suffice to carry the whole of the passengers and crew with safety in bad weather.”

They thought that so many boats could not be launched at a time of crisis and would be ineffectual.

As a result, the Merchant Shipping (Life Saving Appliances) Act 1888 was passed. It was later repealed by the Merchant Shipping Act of 1894, which only partially improved lifeboat provision.

The new Act contained tables outlining how many lifeboats were needed calculated by the gross tonnage of the ship. The tables however, stopped calculating at 10,000 tons, which would require 16 lifeboats.

When the Titanic was built in 1911, the builders naively relied upon thirty year old regulations when providing for lifeboats on board even though they knew that 16 lifeboats would not carry all the passengers in an emergency.

One would have thought, that the necessity for a major increase in number of lifeboats would have been obvious given their capacity and the numbers of persons on board. However, the designers chose to ignore the issue and follow the Board of Trade’s regulations.

Sir Alfred Chalmers, who served under the Board as Nautical Advisor from 1896 to August 1911 gave an explanation. He told the Court that the shipbuilding industry had come along way and safer ships were being constructed. He found travelling by sea the safest mode of travel in the world.

He justified the low level of boats required by explaining that an increase in level of boats on board would be ineffective when it came to disasters because there would be too many to launch. He argued that the new wireless was a means of pre-empting danger, which would then be avoided.

His argument was convincing but was simplistic, as proved by the loss of the Titanic. The Court recognised that 16 lifeboats and the four collapsible lifeboats were totally insufficient for a 45,000 ton vessel.

 

Recommendations: Lifeboats.

The Olympic carried only 14 boats and 2 collapsible ones but again was well in excess of the 1888 regulations.

The WSL introduced scale drawings to illustrate how big and how many boats would have been needed to accommodate all passengers and crew. To seat all the Titanic passengers, the boat capacity would have had to have been 24,937 cubic feet, allowing 10 cubic feet per person.

The Board of Trade drafted an amendment to the regulations, suggesting that:

“The accommodation should be sufficient for all persons on board, with, however, the qualification that in special cases where, in the opinion Board of Trade, such provision is impracticable, the requirements may be modified as the Board may think right. (In order to give effect to this recommendation changes may be necessary in the sizes and types of boats to be carried and in the method of stowing and floating them. It may also be necessary to set apart one or more of the boat decks exclusively for carrying boats and drilling the crew, and to consider the distribution of decks in relation to the passengers' quarters. These, however, are matters of detail to be settled with reference to the particular circumstance affecting the ship).”

 

Recommendations: Watertight compartments and construction of RMS Titanic

It was recognised that the Titanic was efficiently designed and constructed to meet all the criteria in her specification and the 1888 regulations. Even though the bulkheads were strong enough and went sufficiently high in the ship to meet the requirements of the 1891 Bulkheads Committee, they did not save the ship because they could still be overtopped as in this case they were.

Had the Titanic been further sub-divided, she would probably have remained afloat longer. Since the Board of Trade did not have any power of supervision over the construction of ships, it was suggested that this should change.

The Board recommended:

    1. That the newly appointed Bulkhead Committee should enquire and report, among other matters, on the desirability and practicability of providing ships with (a.) a double skin carried up above the waterline; or, as an alternative, with (b.) a longitudinal, vertical, watertight bulkhead on each side of the ship, extending as far forward and as far aft as convenient; or (c.) with a combination of (a.) and (b.). Any one of the three (a.), (b.) and (c.) to be in addition to watertight transverse bulkheads.
    2. That the Committee should also enquire and report as to the desirability and practicability of fitting ships with (a.) a deck or decks at a convenient distance or distances above the waterline which shall be watertight throughout a part or the whole of the ship's length; and should in this connection report upon (b.) the means by which the necessary openings in such deck or decks should be made watertight, whether by watertight doors or watertight trunks or by any other and what means.
    3. That the Committee should consider and report generally on the practicability of increasing the protection given by subdivision; the object being to secure that the ship shall remain afloat with the greatest practicable proportion of her length in free communication with the sea.
    4. That when the Committee has reported upon the matters before mentioned, the Board of Trade should take the report into their consideration and to the extent to which they approve of it should seek Statutory powers to enforce it in all newly built ships, but with a discretion to relax the requirements in special cases where it may seem right to them to do so.
    5. That the Board of Trade should be empowered by the Legislature to require the production of the designs and specifications of all ships in their early stages of construction and to direct such amendments of the same as may be thought necessary and practicable for the safety of life at sea in ships. (This should apply to all passenger carrying ships.)

 

The United States Senate Inquiry

At 10.30 on 19 April 1912, Senator William Alden Smith led the Senate Inquiry into the loss of the Titanic. 62 witnesses were called including Bruce Ismay, Wireless Operator Harold Bride and Second Officer Lightoller.

Senator William Alden Smith
Senator William Alden Smith

By the end of the hearings, testimony and affidavits amounted to 1145 pages. In short Senator Smith rebuked the British Board of Trade for not requiring enough lifeboats, criticised Captain Smith for his lack of precautions taken in an area of ice, praised Captain Rostron and denounced Captain Lord for failing to help.

The Senators conclusion speech can be found here.

 

Statistics of passengers and crew saved or lost (from British Inquiry)

Sex

Class

Number on board

Number Saved

Number lost

 

Male

First Class

175

57

118

Second Class

168

14

154

Third Class

462

75

387

 

Women

First Class

144

140

4

Second Class

93

80

13

Third Class

165

76

89

 

Children

First Class

6

6

0

Second Class

24

24

0

Third Class

79

27

52

Crew

 

885

212

673

Totals

 

2201

711

1490

 

The table below indicates how many passengers were saved including crewmembers and a percentage figure is also given.

 

FIRST CLASS

 

Adult males

57

out of 175 0r 32.57%

Adult females

140

out of 144 or 97.22%

Male children

5

all saved

Female children

1

all saved

TOTAL

203

OUT OF 325 OR 62.46%

 

 

 

 

SECOND CLASS

 

Adult males

14

Out of 168 or 8.33%

Adult females

80

Out of 93 or 86.02%

Male children

11

All saved

Female children

13

All saved

TOTAL

118

OUT OF 285 OR 41%

 

 

 

 

THIRD CLASS

 

Adult males

75

Out of 462 or 16.23%

Adult females

76

Out of 165 or 46.06%

Male children

13

Out of 48 or 27.08%

Female children

14

Out of 31 or 45.16%

TOTAL

178

OUT OF 706 OR 25.21%

 

TOTAL PASSENGERS SAVED

499

OUT OF 1,316 OR 37.94%

 

 

 

 

CREW SAVED

 

Deck Department

43

Out of 66 65.15%

Engine Room Department

72

Out of 325 or 22.15%

Victualling Department

97

Out of 494 or 19.63%

TOTAL

212

Out of 885 or 23.95%

 

 

 

TOTAL SAVED ON BOARD

711

OUT OF 2,201 OR 32.30%

 

 

 

ADULT MALES

338

OUT OF 1,667 OR 20.27%

ADULT FEMALES

316

OUT OF 425 OR 74.35%

CHILDREN

57

OUT OF 109 OR 52.29%

 

TOTAL

711

OUT OF 2,201 OR 32.30%

 

Court cases and Claims

Following the disaster the financial stability of the WSL plunged. Shares and stakes in shipping companies slumped at the news of the sinking. There were several legal actions seeking compensation on the grounds of negligence from the WSL and the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company. The claims totalled £3,464,765. Compensation was often paid but negligence was not proved.

The highest compensation of $177,352.75 was awarded to Mrs Charlotte Drake Cardezawas after she filed a 14 page claim for the loss of property. Other claims included jewellery, cars, paintings and other items being transported either as cargo or in the passenger staterooms (or in the Purser’s office).