Spa Films (Production) Ltd.
Title: “Titanic Arrogance”

Script with TC for International Version  22-05-2011

Scene 1 – Intro

10:00:03:00

Sunday 14th April 1912... the White Star Line’s new mail steamer “Titanic” is three days out from Queenstown on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York.

Radio messages warning of ice have been arriving all day, but “Titanic” runs Westward at full speed.

Before dawn breaks on Monday morning the great ship will be at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean and more than fifteen hundred people will have perished.

10:00:32:02

The catastrophe truly is titanic and will soon become legendary, but this is the true story of “Titanic” and her sisters “Olympic” and “Britannic.”

It is a story of the beloved, the damned and the forgotten.

10:00:47:18  -  MAIN TITLE

Scene 2 – Belgrave Square

10:01:11:04

One evening back in 1907 two of the most important men in British shipping met in this house in London’s Belgrave Square. The host was Lord Pirrie, Chairman of Harland & Wolff, the famous Belfast shipbuilders... his guest was J. Bruce Ismay, Chairman of the White Star Line and President of the recently formed International Mercantile Marine... an American conglomerate owned by the multi-millionaire banker J P Morgan.

10:01:41:24

At this time the White Star Line was engaged in the fiercest competition for passengers on the North Atlantic service. The trade largely consisted of the super rich, commuting to and from America, and the rising tide of European migrants heading for the new world.

10:01:59:00

By 1907 the White Star Line, renowned for the size and opulence of its vessels, if not their speed, was facing a serious challenge from Cunard.

10:02:09:08

The British government had given Cunard a subsidy to build and operate two new liners that would outclass all the competition. They would be the largest and fastest passenger ships ever built up to that time... they would be called Lusitania and Mauretania.

Ismay and Pirrie needed to act immediately to counter this potentially damaging development. And so it was, around that Belgrave Square dinner table, that the concept of the “Olympic Class” liner was born.

10:02:41:12

Pirrie would build Ismay three giant liners... half as big again as the new Cunarders... and provide unprecedented luxury and innovation.

Scene 3 – Design of the Olympic Class

10:12:52:15

The relationship between Harland & Wolff... the shipbuilder... and White Star Line... the operator... was cosy to say the least. All White Star’s ships were built by Harland & Wolff and, in return, they never built a ship for a White Star competitor. The two chairmen, Pirrie and Ismay, sat on the boards of each others companies... their interests inextricably linked.

10:03:16:24

Work on the design of the Olympic class ships started here, in the drawing office at the Queens Island shipyard in Belfast. Alexander Carlisle.... Managing Director of Harland & Wolff... was nominally responsible for the design, but it was very much Pirrie’s personal project.

10:03:37:01

Given the cosy relationship between builder and operator, it comes as no surprise to learn that the ships would be built on a “cost-plus” basis. No contracted price... just build them at whatever cost... then add the profit margin. It seems incredible to us in today’s world, but that’s how it was done.

The first and second of the trio of massive ships.... given yard numbers 400 and 401... were to be named “Olympic” and “Titanic.”

10:04:10:03

The Olympic Class ships, although very large, were in fact, rather conventional in both concept and construction.
 
Really just larger versions of a previous generation of White Star liners, they employed the box-section hull, ten-to-one length to beam ratio and large bilge keels which were the yard’s trademarks.

To be sure, there were many innovations to attract the wealthy and discerning... electric lifts, telephones, Turkish Baths, a heated indoor swimming pool and a state-of-the-art mechanised gymnasium, to mention just a few.

However, two design features would emerge as hugely significant in the events which would follow.

10:04:52:15

The 900 foot hulls were divided into 16 compartments... each of which could be made watertight by closing steel doors in the bulkheads. These doors could be closed locally, by switches on the bridge, or automatically in the event of flooding. The watertight subdivision should have made the hulls virtually unsinkable, but the bulkheads didn’t extend very far upwards. This design decision was consciously made so as not to interfere with the spacious passenger areas higher in the ships.

10:05:27:18

It was calculated that even if three of the largest compartments were flooded... the ship would still float.

10:05:34:22

The second innovative design feature was the use of the Welin patent davits for handling the lifeboats. Unlike the traditional davit, the Welin had a geared quadrant and was able to lower a number of lifeboats, one after another. It meant, in theory at least, that the ships could carry lifeboats sufficient for every person on board.
10:05:56:07

The use of the Welin davit anticipated a revision of the Board of Trade rules for the provision of life-saving equipment in the latest generation of huge liners. As it turned out, there was no revision of these rules in time to prevent tragedy.

10:06:13:06

Although half as big again as the Cunarders “Lusitania” and “Mauretania,” the Olympic ships had engines of fairly modest power output... 46,000 horse power compared to Cunard’s 70,000. This reflects the decision to put comfort and stability before high speed.

Whereas Cunard had employed four state-of-the-art Parsons steam turbines.... each driving it’s own propeller shaft... the White Star opted for two rather old-fashioned reciprocating engines.... one driving each wing propeller... and a single low-pressure turbine driving the centre propeller.

This triple screw arrangement was considered to be very economical... the centre turbine powered by steam exhausted from the reciprocating engines.

In reality, it was already an outmoded propulsion system... not only less powerful than the all-turbine arrangement, but less efficient too.

10:07:10:02

Where the new White Star ships did improve on their Cunard rivals was in the matter comfort, stability and an almost complete lack of engine vibration.

The Cunarders might dash along at 27 knots...  the Olympic Class ships sailed more sedately at 22 knots. In view of what was in store, perhaps that was just as well!

Scene 4 – The Building

10:07:34:07

This vast open space is all that now remains of the two slipways specially constructed for the building of the Olympic Class ships. No shipyard had ever attempted to build such large ships.... and it required some impressive infrastructure.

The new slips... known as Numbers 2 & 3... were to be spanned by a huge gantry from which frames and plates could be craned into place. The contract for building this gantry went to William Arrol & Company of Glasgow.  William Arrol knew a thing or two about the construction such enormous structures.... he built the famous Forth Bridge and London’s iconic Tower Bridge. The great Arrol Gantry remained a Belfast landmark for over 60 years... until demolished in the 1970s.

10:08:23:23

The keel of “Olympic” was laid on 16th December 1908... and just over 3 months later “Titanic’s” keel was laid on the adjacent slip.

As the mighty hulls gradually took shape, the foundry produced enormous castings of awe-inspiring size and complexity.

10.08.43.00

In the engine shop work commenced on the four-cylinder triple-expansion steam engines which would drive the wing propellers. At five stories high and weighing nearly 200 tons each, they remain among the largest marine steam engines ever built.

10:08:59:1

The boiler shop produced 29 boilers for each ship... 24 doubl-enders with 6 furnaces each... and 5 single-enders with 3 furnaces each... 159 furnaces per ship and each to be hand fired with shovel and slice.

10:09:17:12

On the 20th of October 1910 “Olympic,” watched by a large crowd of invited guests and shipyard workers,  slid gracefully down the ways into the River Lagan.

Once completely afloat, the pristine hull was blown against harbour wall, causing some superficial damage... the first in a series of scrapes and incidents which would dog the early life of this pioneer vessel.

10:09:43:03

During the following six months “Olympic” would be fitted out... while the hull of her younger sister reached completion.

10:09:52:18

On the very last day of May, 1911, the shipyard staged a show that would delight the world. They launched the “Titanic” and then conveyed the elite of the invited guests back to Liverpool in the brand new “Olympic” ... handed over to the White Star Line that very day. A PR stunt to match any staged in our modern, media conscious world!

The 18,000 workers in the shipyard were given a day’s holiday to enjoy the spectacle.... they were not, however, paid for the day.

10:10:27:01

After the brief call at Liverpool, where the new super liner was opened for public inspection... entrance charges to charity... “Olympic” sailed on to Southampton.

Never had a ship been the subject of more praise and adulation. Amid strident fanfares of publicity she departed from Southampton on the 14th June; bound for Cherbourg, Queenstown and New York, on her maiden voyage.

10:10:56:14

J. Bruce Ismay, chairman of the line, was aboard with his wife. He sent a Marconigram to Lord Pirrie saying: “Olympic is a marvel and has given unbounded satisfaction. Once again, accept my warmest and most sincere congratulations.”

Scene 5 – The “Hawke” collision

10:11:33:11

The euphoria surrounding “Olympic” would not last long. Four months later, while “Titanic” was still fitting out in Belfast, she set sail from Southampton on another westbound crossing. In command was Capt. E.J.Smith, Commodore of the White Star Line, assisted by Mr. Bowyer... a Trinity House Pilot.

At the southern exit to Southampton Water, the ship slowed to make the tricky turns that would bring her around the Bramble and into Cowes Roads. A Royal Navy cruiser, HMS Hawke, was seen heading towards Portsmouth from the West.



10:12:10:10

Confusion over headings and intended courses was exacerbated by a strong suction current generated by “Olympic’s” massive displacement, as the two ships drew near to each other.

In the closing moments the Hawke’s steering jammed!
 
The inevitable collision caused severe damage to both ships... “Olympic’s” voyage was cancelled and she returned to Belfast for extensive repairs.

10:12:36:17

Back at the shipyard work on “Titanic” had to be suspended and her place in the graving dock given up to “Olympic.” It was an expensive setback for White Star... the first superliner out of service and completion of the second now delayed. Some of “Titanic’s” machinery, like the starboard side crankshaft, had to be cannibalised for the “Olympic” repair.

10:13:00:08

Early in 1912, the newly repaired “Olympic” was in trouble again. Her port side propeller had broken in mid Atlantic, resulting in yet another Belfast trip.

Again completion of “Titanic” was delayed... the two sisters could be seen side by side for the last time.

Scene 6 – Titanic goes to sea

10:13:22:15

At 6am on the morning of the 2nd of April 1912 “Titanic” left the Queens Island Shipyard for her trials.  Tugs manoeuvred her out into Belfast Lough... slipped their lines... and the great ship headed for the open sea. She steamed as far as the Isle of Man... swung her compasses... performed her turning circles... and 12 hours later was back in Belfast.
 
Everything had gone without a hitch in what must stand for all time as the shortest and most perfunctory of sea trials.

10:13:55:04

Shortly after 6pm that same day “Titanic” sailed for Southampton under the command of Capt. Edward J Smith,  and with a complement of officers largely transferred from “Olympic.”

Capt. Smith, known by all as “EJ”, was the obvious choice.  As White Star’s senior commander he had taken “Olympic” on her maiden voyage the previous year.  A sociable and popular captain, especially among the millionaire elite, EJ Smith was, nevertheless, a bit of a chancer. Over the years he’d been involved in a number of scrapes, groundings and near misses... the most recent of which was the disastrous collision with HMS Hawke.

10:14:36:19

For the week before sailing day “Titanic” was berthed in the Ocean Dock at Southampton.  Originally known as the White Star Dock, it was actually built by the London & South Western Railway to accommodate the new Olympic Class liners.

10:14:52:08

During this hectic week the new ship was coaled, victualled and inspected by the Board of Trade Surveyor... and, while all this was going on, a small party of men from the shipyard... known as the Guarantee Group, and led by Tom Andrews, Lord Pirrie’s nephew... was still busy finishing off the interior details.

10:15:12:16

Everything seemed to be rushed and this is not too difficult to explain.  The Hawke collision has seriously damaged ‘Olympic’ and delayed the completion of ‘Titanic.’ The White Star Line was loosing money by the day... and it hurt!

To add to an already fraught situation Britain was in the grip of a national coal strike.  ‘Titanic’ would need to bunker around 6000 tons for the maiden voyage and the only way to get this quantity was to take coal out of other liners, like the ‘Oceanic’ and ‘New York’ which were laid up for the duration.  This meant double handling of the coal... a dirty and very laborious business!

10:15:52:10

In the midst of this mayhem ‘Titanic’ was keeping a dark secret... the coal in the bottom of Bunker No 6 was on fire... and had been since they left Belfast.  This potentially devastating situation was certainly never revealed to Board of Trade Surveyor.  Had he known, the ship would never have been given a certificate of clearance to sail.

10:16:15:18

On Tuesday 9th April, Tom Andrews wrote a letter to his uncle, saying... “I think she’ll do the old firm credit when we sail tomorrow.”  Neither Andrews, nor any of the Guarantee Group would ever see Belfast again!

10:16:31:06

Just after noon the following day “Titanic’ sailed.

Unlike ‘Olympic’s’ departure the previous summer, it began as a low key affair.  However, as the great ship was inched out of the dock... something dramatic occurred!  The displacement of the huge hull tore the Allan liner “New York” from her moorings. Another disastrous collision seemed inevitable until EJ stopped ‘Titanic’ dead in the water.  It was a close call and was regarded as somewhat ominous by the superstitious crew.  Chief Officer Henry Wilde, newly transferred from ‘Olympic’... wrote to his sister... “I still don’t like this ship... I have a queer feeling about it.”

10:17:15:09

With the panic over, ‘Titanic’ sailed down Southampton Water and into Spithead.  Capt. Smith... on the bridge with that same Trinity House Pilot who had been with him at the ‘Hawke’ collision... must have been glad to be gaining the open sea at last.

10:17:31:14

‘Titanic’ entered Cherbourg Harbour just before sunset that evening.

10:17:39:11

The new tenders ‘Nomadic’ and ‘Traffic’ ferried out 274 new passengers... among them a Mrs. Margaret Brown, who would famously go down in history as “Unsinkable Molly Brown.”  







Scene 7 – Farewell to Ireland

10:18:01:16

At noon the following day ‘Titanic’ dropped anchor off Roches Point at the entrance to Queenstown Harbour... last port of call on her passage to New York.

Queenstown has long since reverted to it’s proper Irish name... Cobh, but the ‘Queenstown’ days are a poignant memory.... days when big ships carried millions of young Irish men and women away from their homes... never to return.

10:18:30:00

At least one passenger disembarked ‘Titanic’ at Queenstown... Father Francis Browne.  His uncle was the Bishop of Cloyne and he presided over his diocese from the newly built St. Colmans Cathedral high above the town.  Father Browne, a keen amateur photographer, took the last ever pictures of the ‘Titanic’ before she sailed into history.  To his uncle, the Bishop, would fall the sad task of saying the requiem mass for the many lost souls of Ireland.

10:19:12:21

Sharp at 1.30pm ‘Titanic’s’ steam whistle sounded and the great ship headed for the open Atlantic. On board there were now 324 First Class passengers... 285 second... and 706 third.
 
In the engine rooms and stokeholds far below, Chief Engineer Bell had things pretty well under control... except the worrying bunker fire which still burned. He had assigned a small gang of trimmers to empty the bunker of coal and so eventually extinguish the source.  It was not going to be a quick and easy job, however.

10:19:52:04

The ship engines were working up faultlessly... first day out of Queenstown she ran 386 miles... second day 519... third day 546... 75 revolutions... 21.5 knots.

10:20:09:16

By the morning of Sunday 14th April the ship was running at full speed in calm and fair weather.

At 9am an ice warning was received from the Cunarder “Caronia” and over the next few hours more warnings came in... from the “Baltic” - the “Amerika” – the “Californian” and the “Mesaba.”  Each report placed the ice directly ahead of “Titanic’s” track... but still the ship drove on at full speed.

10:20:38:18

At 9.30pm the lookouts in the crows nest were told to watch for icebergs. An hour later the sea temperature was down to 31 degrees. A passing ship was sighted heading east... the cargo steamer “Rappahannock.”  Her signal lamp began to flash a message to “Titanic” ... “Have just passed through heavy field ice and several icebergs”  Clearly the danger lay directly ahead. “Titanic” replied “Message received... thank you... good night” ... then continued on her way at full speed.

10:21:16:24

One final attempt to alert “Titanic” to the extreme danger ahead was made by the ”Californian” at 11pm... sadly the message got no further than the Marconi room where it was rudely interrupted... “keep out... shut up... you’re jamming my signal... I’m working Cape Race.” 

The stage was now set for disaster.

Scene 8 – the sinking of the Titanic

10:21:39:10

A mere 40 minutes later lookout Fred Fleet, high in the crows nest, sighted an iceberg dead ahead.

10:21:46:21

First Officer William Murdoch... in charge of the watch... ordered the helm hard-a-starboard and swung the engine room telegraph to FULL ASTERN. But it was too late... the ship struck the ice a glancing blow on the starboard bow.

Murdoch closed all the water-tight doors and the carpenter was called to sound the ship.

It took less than 20 minutes to assess the extent of the damage... the forward 6 compartments were flooding rapidly. Tom Andrews did some quick calculations and told Captain Smith that Titanic had no more than 2 hours to live.

10:22:24:08

Just after midnight the order was given to prepare the boats and muster the passengers and crew.

The Senior Wireless Operator, Jack Phillips, began tapping out the international distress call... CQD.  The ‘Frankfurt’ replied... then the ‘Mount Temple’ the ‘Carpathia’ and the ‘Olympic.’ Later he tried the new signal... SOS.

10:22:49:05

45 minutes later the first boat was ready to be lowered. It was a little over half full!

“Titanic’ was well down by the head and lifeboats started to leave the ship at regular intervals. The band assembled on the boat deck and were playing ragtime.

The last boat to be lowered left at five past two... full now as the tragedy reached it’s finale.

10:23:15:19

Just before 2.20 a.m. the stern rose for the final plunge. The lights failed... and moments later she was gone.

10:23:28:20

712 survivors were picked up by the Cunard steamer ‘Carpathia’ just before dawn that morning.

1502 people had perished in the ice cold waters of the North Atlantic.

Scene 9 - The Board of Trade Inquiry

10:23:46:15

Three weeks after the sinking the Board of Trade opened it’s official inquiry into the circumstances of the wreck.

It lasted for 36 days... the longest wreck inquiry in history... and during it’s course some 98 witnesses were asked a total of over 25,000 questions.



10:24:06:00

The President of the Commission was Lord Mersey of Toxteth, a recently retired High Court Judge.

It might well be supposed that such an exhaustive inquiry left no stone unturned in it’s search for the truth... in fact it was a complete whitewash!  And largely concocted to get the Board of Trade off the hook.

They were in a very embarrassing position. They had permitted ‘Titanic’ to sail with a Certificate for 3500 passengers, but with lifeboat accommodation for only 1178... less than one third!

10:24:45:12

In fact their hopelessly out of date rules only required ‘Titanic’ to carry 16 lifeboats. The White Star Line were quick to point out that they had exceeded this requirement... 16 boats under davits and a further 4 collapsible boats stowed inboard.

Both parties were being disingenuous.... The Board of Trade Rules, which hadn’t been revised in 18 years, grouped passenger ships by tonnage, rather than the number of passengers carried. And, if this wasn’t ludicrous enough, the upper limit of the classification system was for ships of 10,000 tons and above.  But ‘Titanic’ was over 46,000 tons... more than 4 times the size of the Board’s highest class.

10:25:30:09

White Star were well aware of this anomaly, but did little or nothing to correct it.

10:25:36:10

As they were complicit in the paucity life-saving provisions, their passengers might at least have expected cautious and prudent navigation... but the White Star Line was equally gung-ho in this matter.

10:25:48:15

Captain E.J. Smith, true to form, sailed headlong into a known danger area at full speed and with less than adequate lookout.



10:25:57:07

Ernest Shackleton, the famous Antarctic explorer, was called to give evidence and was asked his opinion on navigation in the proximity of ice:  


The Attorney General – Sir Rufus Isaacs:
(25043) What I want you to tell my Lord is.. do you think it is of advantage in clear weather to have a man stationed right ahead at the stem as well as in the crow's-nest?
Sir Ernest Shackleton:
Undoubtedly, if you are in the danger zone; in the ice zone.
Isaacs:
(25044) And supposing you were passing through a zone where you had ice reported to you, would you take precautions as to the look-out? Supposing you only had men in the crow's-nest, would you take any other precautions?
Shackleton:
 I would take the ordinary precaution of slowing down, whether I was in a ship equipped for ice or any other, compatible with keeping steerage way for the size of the ship.
Isaacs:
(25045) You would slow down?
Shackleton:
 I would slow down, yes.
Isaacs:
    And supposing you were going 21 to 22 knots, I     suppose that would be the better reason for slowing down?

   

  Shackleton:

 You have no right to go at that speed in an ice zone.

10:27:05:00

It might be supposed that this damning evidence alone, from so expert a witness, would have condemned the White Star... but no, like the Board of Trade itself, they wriggled off the hook.

10:27:16:24

Lord Mersey concluded that the fate which befell ‘Titanic’... which was hopelessly under equipped with lifeboats, and was slammed into an iceberg at full speed resulting in the deaths of 1522 people... was an accident that was neither foreseeable... nor the fault of the government agency which certified her... nor of the company which operated her.

10:27:37:09

So who was to blame for the catastrophic loss of life?

Mersey concluded that it was Captain Stanley Lord, master of the Leyland Liner “Californian.”

By cannibalising and cherry-picking largely circumstantial evidence, the Board of Trade inquiry decided that Lord’s ship was in clear sight of the stricken ‘Titanic’ but made no attempt to go to her assistance.

10:28:01:13

Stanley Lord was the only individual to be censured by the court and it was his ruin.

The discovery of the wreck of ‘Titanic’ more than seven decades later, was to finally establish that Lord was entirely innocent... his evidence as given in 1912 was correct. His ship was more than 19 miles away... far too far away to see or be seen from ‘Titanic.’

For Stanley Lord this vindication came too late... he died in January 1962.

10:28:35:16

The Board of Trade Inquiry might have let the White Star Line off the hook, but in 1913 an Irishman, Thomas Ryan, brought a civil action against the company for the loss of his son... a third class passenger. The judgement handed down in the High Court of Justice was to finally damn the White Star Line.  The navigation of ‘Titanic’ was judged to be negligent.

Scene 10 – Olympic rebuilt

10:29:01:11

The appalling consequences of the sinking of ‘Titanic’ shook the British shipping industry to it’s foundations... for the White Star Line it was a potential death blow.

‘Olympic’ was loading at Southampton a few days after the disaster when the entire complement of firemen and trimmers... the so-called ‘black gang’... walked off the ship, refusing to return until sufficient lifeboats were put on board.  White Star management blustered and threatened the men with charges of mutiny, but, in the end they cancelled the voyage and gave in.  More boats were provided!

10:29:38:18

Five more round trips to New York were completed that summer of 1912... then ‘Olympic’ returned to Belfast for very major alterations.  The cellular double bottom was extended upwards... to 4 feet above the load line... and the bulkheads were also extended upwards... some by as much as 40 feet.

The result of this re-fit was a ship which could now remain afloat with 6 compartments flooded... and one provided with lifeboats for all aboard.

‘Olympic’ returned to the North Atlantic service in late 1913 and White Star desperately hoped that they could put the “Titanic’ behind them once and for all.

10:30:21:15

The outbreak of the Great European War in August 1914 largely achieved this result.

For a while ‘Olympic’ continued in commercial service, but a year later she was requisitioned by the Admiralty as a Naval Transport.

Armed with 6-inch guns and painted in dazzle camouflage.

10:30:42:11

During her war service ‘Olympic’ steamed 184,000 miles and carried over 120,000 passengers, both military and civilian. She became known as the ‘Old Reliable.’

10:30:57:13

When the war finally ended, a Belfast trip heralded another big refit and conversion to burn oil rather than coal. “Olympic’ was the first of the big liners to be converted.

10:31:10:18

During the following decade ‘Olympic’ enjoyed her golden years.  Catering for the elite of the Transatlantic trade, this most elegant of ships was a firm favourite among royalty, millionaires and the new stars of the motion pictures.

It seemed that she’d finally lived down the reputation for ill-luck which had dogged her early life... and the ‘Titanic’ connection was largely forgotten.

10:31:39:24

In 1934 the British Government forced the financially ailing White Star Line to merge with its arch rival, Cunard.  It was a precondition of public funding to save the shipping industry.  Cunard had a mammoth new liner on the stocks in Glasgow... and work had stopped for lack of funds.

The merger spelled the end of the road for ‘Olympic’ which, along with ‘Mauretania’ was one of the first casualties of the fleet rationalisation.

In this last year of her active career ‘Olympic’ was again involved in a serious collision.  She ran down and sank the Nantucket Light Ship in dense fog. Seven men lost their lives.

Scene 11 – Britannic

10:32:30:20

The major structural alteration dictated by the ‘Titanic’ disaster delayed the completion of the third sister for over a year.  ‘Britannic’ wasn’t launched until February 26th, 1914.

As well as incorporating all the modifications that had been carried out in ‘Olympic,’ the new ship was equipped with extraordinary lifeboat provision.  Clearly White Star wanted to be seen to be doing everything possible to avert another disaster.

‘Britannic’ was still fitting out the following year when she was requisitioned as a Hospital Ship.  The hasty conversion to this role was achieved in one month.

10:33:10:07

She sailed almost immediately for Gallipoli, where the ill-conceived Allied invasion had faltered with colossal casualties.

10:33:18:24

On November 21st 1916... outward bound on her 6th trip to the Eastern Mediterranean... “Britannic’ struck a mine recently laid by a German U-Boat.

The great ship rapidly became totally unmanageable, taking a severe list... and in less than one hour had disappeared below a calm Aegean Sea.

10:33:41:05

29 people lost their lives... but the great majority of those aboard... 1106 in total... were saved.

10:33:50:13

In the aftermath of the sinking of ‘Britannic’ the German government announced that British hospital ships would, henceforth, be liable to attack.  It seems they concluded that ‘Britannic’ was illegally carrying war material
 and that this had caused the massive internal explosions which reportedly followed the detonation of the mine.

Certainly, when the French oceanographer, Jacques Cousteau, located and filmed the wreck in 1976, a gaping hole on the port bow... the plates blown outward... seemed to indicate that something inside the ship had definitely exploded.

Scene 12 – Titanic Mythology

10:34:28:00

Looking back the three ships nearly a century later, it is inevitable that the middle sister is best remembered.  ‘Titanic’ is probably the most famous ship in history. But how much of the mythology of ‘Titanic’ has any basis in truth?  Let’s examine some of the conventional wisdom.

10:34:46:21

‘Titanic’ was the largest moving object ever made by man up to that time... Well, actually, “Titanic’ was exactly the same size as her elder sister ‘Olympic.’

10:34:58:01

‘Titanic’ was heralded an unsinkable ship... but neither builder nor owner had ever made such a claim.  The idea stemmed from an article in the press which described the ‘Olympic’ class ships as “practically unsinkable.” However, once such an ill-advised claim had been made, White Star did nothing to contradict it.

10:35:20:10

Captain E.J.Smith and his crew were accorded heroic status at the time... especially by the British press, which positively wallowed in a mixture of mawkish sentimentality and self-righteous nationalistic jingoism.

The legacy of heroism still persists to this day... but re-examination of the disaster reveals a very different picture.

Smith went down with the ship... in the best tradition of the service... after extolling his crew to “Be British”... whatever that meant. 

However, he was really the main culprit in the whole sorry affair. After ignoring ice warnings throughout the day, he gave no instructions to slow down... nor to increase the lookout... as darkness fell and the ice-field approached.  Instead, he went to dinner with some of the elite of first-class.

10:36:11:06

Fourth Officer Boxhall worked out the “Titanic’s” position, which was then transmitted by the Marconi men in the general distress call.  The accuracy of this position was lauded by Captain Rostron of the “Carpathia” and taken as an absolute by the Board of Trade Inquiry... but it was wrong!

The Deck Officers were praised for their cool command of the filling and lowering of the lifeboats... preventing panic and ensuring ‘women and children first.’ But why did it take over one hour to launch the first lifeboat and why did so many of the early boats leave half full?

10:36:47:03

The lifeboats had capacity for 1178 people, but only 652 people actually left in these boats.

Lord Mersey concluded that the third class passengers had been afforded proper access to the lifeboats... but not a single third class passenger was called to give evidence!
 
Why were more first class men saved than third class children?

10:37:15:03

When it was all over it became clear that only the dead were heroes.  Those who survived would be tainted by ‘Titanic’ forever. None of the surviving officers was ever given a command... while J. Bruce Ismay, Chairman of the White Star Line and a controversial survivor, withdrew into reclusive obscurity.

Of course, there were some winners. Guglielmo Marconi, whose invention had saved so many from the ‘Titanic,’ saw the value of his company soar. Rufus Isaacs, the Attorney General who had so ruthlessly prosecuted Stanley Lord at the Inquiry, happened to have a brother on the board of the Marconi company.... and so a little bit of insider trading brought him a nice fat profit.

10:38:00:24

Two individuals managed to escape any connection to the tragic affair... and were able to continue their prosperous and privileged lives;  John Pierpont Morgan... the man who actually owned ‘Titanic’... and William Pirrie who designed and built her.

‘Twas ever thus!

10:38:18:18

CREDITS


David M. Doré
© MMVIII



 



 



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