Affadavit of Captain Stanley Lord

Affadavit of Captain Stanley Lord

Postby Karen Kamuda on Sat Dec 13, 2008 8:04 pm

This is the third in a series: The first is a thumbnail "The Californian Incident; the second is "Legal Positions for the Californian Incident.


I went to sea in 1891 as a cadet in the barque Naiad owned by Messrs. J. B. Walmsley. After obtaining my second mate's certificate of competency I served as second officer in the barque Lurlei. In February, 1901, I passed for master and three months later obtained my extra master's certificate.

I had entered the service of the West India and Pacific Steam Navigation Company in 1897. This company was bought by the Leyland Line in 1900 and I continued in their service, being appointed to command in 1906 at the age of 29.

In April, 1912, I was in command of the liner Californian, having sailed from London for Boston, U.S.A. on 5th April. On 13th April, noon latitude by observation was 43˚ 23' North: on 14th April, the noon position by observation was 42° 05' N., 47° 25' W., and course was altered to North 61˚ West (magnetic) to make due West (true). I steered this course to make longitude 51˚ West in latitude 42˚ North on account of ice reports which had been received (Exhibits A and B).

At 5 p.m. on 14th April, two observations of the sun taken by the Second Officer, Mr. H. Stone, to check the longitude were reported to me. These gave a run of 60 miles since noon, which was much ahead of Dead Reckoning. Another observation which I caused to be taken at 5.30 p.m. gave 64 miles since noon.

At 6.30 p.m. we passed three large icebergs five miles south of the ship. These I caused to be reported at 7.30 p.m. by wireless to the s.s. Antillian, the message being as follows: "6.30 p.m. apparent ship's time, latitude 42˚ 5' N., longitude 49˚ 9' W., three bergs five miles southwards of us regards Lord." A little later I was informed that a routine exchange of signals with the Titanic showed that she had also received the message sent to the Antillian. These would appear to have been the same icebergs sighted and reported by wireless during the day by the Parisian in position 41˚ 55' N., 49˚ 14' W. (Exhibit C).

At 7.30 p.m. the Chief Officer, Mr. G. F. Stewart, reported to me a latitude by Pole Star of 42˚ 5 1/2’ N. This with the previous observation for longitude gave me proof that the current was setting to W.N.W. at about one knot.

At 8 p.m. I doubled the lookouts, there being a man in the crow's nest and another on the focs'le head.

At 8.5 p.m. I took charge on the bridge myself, the Third Officer, Mr. C. V. Groves, also being on duty. The weather was calm, clear and starry.

At 10.15 p.m. I observed a brightening along the western horizon. After watching this carefully for a few minutes I concluded that it was caused by ice. At 10.21 I personally rang the engine-room telegraph to full speed astern and ordered the helm hard a port. As these orders came into effect the lookout men reported ice ahead. Under the influence of the helm and propeller going astern the ship swung round to E.N.E. by compass (N.E. true).

The ship was then stopped surrounded by loose ice and from one-quarter to half-a-mile from the edge of a low ice field. As I could not see any clear place to go through I decided to remain stopped until daylight. Allowing S.89.W (true) 120 miles from my noon position, and also taking into account the latitude by Pole Star at 7.30 p.m., I calculated my position as being 42˚ 5' N., 50° 7' W.

At 10.30 p.m. as I was leaving the bridge, I pointed out to the Third Officer what I thought was a light to the eastward which he said he thought was a star.

I went down to the saloon deck and sent for the Chief Engineer. I notified him that I intended to remain stopped until daylight but he was to keep main steam handy in case we commenced to bump against the ice.

I pointed out to him the steamer I had previously seen approaching from the eastward and southward of us and about 10.55 p.m. we went to the wireless room. We met the wireless operator coming out and pointing out the other vessel to him I asked him what ships he had. He replied: "Only the Titanic." I thereupon remarked, judging from what I could see of the approaching vessel, which appeared to be a vessel of no great size and comparable with our own: "That isn't the Titanic." I told him to notify the Titanic that we were stopped and surrounded by ice in the position I had calculated, and he left at once to do so.

Later I noticed the green (starboard) light of the approaching vessel, also a few deck lights in addition to the one masthead light previously seen.

At 11.30 p.m. I noticed that the other steamer was stopped about five miles off, also that the Third Officer was morsing him. I continued watching and noticed that she didn't reply.

At 11.45 p.m. I went on to the bridge, casually noticed the other vessel, and commented to the Third Officer that she had stopped and wouldn't reply to our Morse signals. He answered in the affirmative. At ten minutes after midnight, it now being 15th April, the Second Officer came on to the saloon deck. I drew his attention to the fact that we were stopped and surrounded by ice and that I intended to remain stopped until daylight. I pointed out the other steamer to him, told him that she was stopped and that he was to watch her and let me know if we drifted any closer to her. He then went on to the bridge to relieve the Third Officer, and I went into the chart-room.

I sat there reading and smoking until 0.40 a.m. when I whistled up to the bridge through the speaking tube and asked the Second Officer if the other ship was any nearer. He replied that she was just the same and I told him to let me know if he wanted anything as I was going to lie down on the chart-room settee. I then did so, being fulIy dressed with boots on, etc., and with the electric light on. I left the watch on deck to the Second Officer with every confidence, as he was the holder of a British Board of Trade first mate's certificate of competency (foreign going) and my standing orders, which were well known to every officer, stated categorically that I was to be called at once in all cases of doubt.

At about 1.15 a.m. the Second Officer whistled down to say that the other steamer was altering her bearing to the south-west and had fired a white rocket. I asked him whether it was a company's signal and he replied that he didn't know. I thereupon instructed him to call her up, find out what ship she was, and send the apprentice, James Gibson, down to report to me.

I then lay down again in the chart room, being somewhat relieved in my mind at the news that the other ship was under way and removing herself from her earlier relatively close proximity. For some time I heard the clicking of the Morse key, and after concluding that the Second Officer had succeeded in communicating with the other ship, I fell asleep.

Between 1.30 a.m. and 4.30 a.m. I have a recollection of Gibson opening the chart room door and closing it immediately. I said: "What is it?" but he did not reply.

At 4.30 a.m. the Chief Officer called me and reported that it was breaking day and that the steamer which had fired the rocket was still to the southward. I replied: "Yes, the Second Mate said something about a rocket."

I then went on to the bridge and was for some little time undecided as to the advisability of pushing through the ice or turning round to look for a clearer passage to the south-east. However, as daylight came in I could see clear water to the west of the ice field so put the engines on stand-by at about 5.15 a.m.

About this time the Chief Officer remarked that the steamer bearing SSE from us was a four-master with a yellow funnel and asked me whether I intended going to have a look at her. When I asked him why, he replied that she might have lost her rudder. I said: "She hasn't any signals up, has she?" He replied that she had not, but that the Second Officer had said that she had fired several rockets during his watch. I told him to call the Wireless Operator and see what ship it was. He did so but fifteen or twenty minutes later came back and reported that the Titanic had struck an iceberg and was sinking. Some delay was then experienced before we received an authoritative message giving the estimated position of the disaster but about 6 a.m. the following signal from the Virginian (Exhibit D) was handed to me: “'Titanic' struck berg wants assistance urgent ship sinking passengers in boats his position lat. 41° 46', long. 50° 14', Gambell, Commander."

This position I calculated to be about S.16.W., 19 1/2 miles from our own estimated position. I immediately got under way and proceeded as quickly as possible on courses between S. and S.W., pushing through about two to three miles of field ice. A lookout man was pulled in a basket to the main truck, given a pair of binoculars and instructed to look out for the Titanic.

At 6.30 a.m. I cleared the field ice and proceeded at full speed (70 revolutions). At 7.30 a.m. approximately, we passed the Mount Temple stopped in the reported position of the disaster. As there was no sign of any wreckage I proceeded further south, shortly afterwards passing a ship having a pink funnel and two masts, bound north, which turned out to be the Almerian. A little later, I sighted a four-masted steamer to the SSE of us on the east side of the ice field, and received a verbal message from the Wireless Operator that the Carpathia was at the scene of the disaster. I steered to the south until the steamer was nearly abeam when I altered course and proceeded through the ice field at full speed, making for the other steamer. She proved to be Carpathia and I stopped alongside her at about 8.30 a.m. Messages were exchanged regarding the disaster and subsequent rescue operations.

At about 9.10 a.m. the Carpathia set course for New York and I continued the search for survivors, the ship steaming at full speed with the Second Officer and a lookout man in the crow's nest. While carrying out this search, I saw the smoke of several steamers on the horizon in different directions. We passed about six wooden lifeboats afloat, one capsized in the wreckage; with the exception of two small trunks in a collapsible boat, the others appeared to be empty.

At about 11.20 a.m. I abandoned the search and proceeded due west (true) through the ice, clearing same about 11.50 a.m. The Mount Temple was then in sight a considerable distance to the southwest of us and heading to the westward.

The noon position was 41˚ 33' N., 50˚ 09' W.; the latitude was taken under the most favourable conditions by the three officers and reported to me. I did not personally take an observation this day. From this observation I placed the wreckage in position 41˚ 33' N., 50˚ 01' W., being about S.5.E, 33 miles, from the position in which the Californian had stopped at 10.21 p.m. the previous evening.

I later called for written reports on the events of the night from the Second Officer and Apprentice (Exhibits E and F). In amplifying his report, the Second Officer stated that the rockets he saw did not appear to be distress rockets, as they did not go any higher than the other steamer's masthead light nor were any detonations heard which would have been the case under the prevailing conditions had explosive distress signals been fired by a ship so close at hand. In addition, the ship altered her bearings from S.S.E. at 0.50 a.m. to S.W.1/2.W. at 2.10 a.m.; assuming her to have been five miles from the Californian when she stopped at 11.30 p.m., the distance she must have steamed to alter her bearing by this amount I calculate to have been at least eight miles.

While on passage to Boston, wireless messages about the disaster were received from Captain Rostron of the Carpathia (Exhibit G); the American newspapers "New York American," "Boston Globe," "Boston American" and "Boston Post" (Exhibits H, I, J, and K); a passenger in the Olympic called Wick (Exhibit L); and the Leyland Line (Exhibit,. M and N).

After our arrival at Boston at 4 a.m. on 19th April, I was summoned with the Radio Officer to appear before the United States Congressional Inquiry in Washington. I gave my evidence there in accordance with the above facts. Subsequently, I never had an opportunity to read a transcript of the proceedings or findings of this Inquiry, nor was the matter referred to by those I met on subsequent visits to American ports.

After the return of the Californian to Liverpool, I reported to the Wreck Commissioner and to the Marine Superintendent of the Leyland Line, Captain Fry. While in the latter's office, Mr. Groves, the Third Officer, volunteered the opinion that the ship seen from the Californian on the night of 14th April was the Titanic. This was the first occasion I had heard him make such a statement and I duly commented to this effect to the Marine Superintendent.

I was summoned by telegram to appear before the British Court of Inquiry in London on 14th May and travelled down from Liverpool the previous evening. When I arrived in Court, Mr. Roberts, manager of the Leyland Line, introduced me to Mr. Dunlop and told me he was watching the proceedings on behalf of the owners and officers of the Californian. Apart from the questions asked by Mr. Dunlop when I was in the witness box, I had no further conversation with him nor at any time was I afforded an opportunity to discuss the proceedings with him or to suggest what navigational and other technical facts might be brought out which would verify the truth of the evidence which I had given.

Had I at any time been clearly warned––as I consider I should have been––that adverse findings in respect of the Californian were envisaged, I would have taken all possible steps during the Inquiry to call evidence to prove beyond doubt:
(a) That the "Californian" was completely stopped, with full electric navigation and deck lights burning, from 10.21 p.m. to 6 a.m. Additional evidence to prove this conclusively could have been provided by the production of the engine-room log books covering that period and by the testimony of the Chief Engineer and those engineer officers who kept watch during the night.

If the Court could have been satisfied that the Californian was indeed stopped all night, then inevitably they would have had to conclude:

(i) that the Californian must have been beyond visual range of the actual position of the disaster, for in perfect visibility no other ship's lights were seen by the two lookout men and the two officers of the watch on the Titanic either before or immediately after she struck the iceberg, nor was the Californian in sight of the survivors as day broke. Additionally, none of the green flares burnt in the Titanic's boats which were seen at extreme range from the Carpathia were seen from the Californian.

(ii) that the Californian could not have been the ship later sighted from the Titanic which led to the firing of rockets, for this ship was clearly seen to be under way; to approach from a hull-down position; to turn; and to recede.

(b) That from the navigational evidence the "Californian" must have been at least 25 miles from the position of the disaster. Additional proof could have been supplied from the engine-room log books to show how far she steamed from the time of getting underway at 6 a.m. to reaching the wreckage at 8.30; in addition, further detailed consideration should have been given to the relative movements, positions and astronomical observations of the Californian, Carpathia, Mount Temple and Almerian from before noon on the 14th to the evening of the 15th April in an endeavour to fix as accurately as possible the actual as distinct from the estimated position in which the wreckage and survivors were found. A further point to which the Court gave no consideration was the fact that the area in which the Californian lay stopped all night was covered with field ice extending as far as the eye could see; the area in which the Carpathia found the Titanic's lifeboats contained very many large icebergs.

If the Court could have been satisfied that during the night the Californian was indeed at least 25 miles from the scene of the disaster, they would have had to conclude that even if the distant rocket signals beyond the nearby ship which were apparently seen from the Californian had been correctly identified as distress signals, and news of the disaster confirmed by wireless at the earliest possible moment, it would still have been quite impossible for us to have rendered any useful service, for bearing in mind the time taken to reach the wreckage in daylight, under the most favourable conditions, we could not have reached the survivors before the Carpathia did.

Finally, I would have submitted for the court's consideration the following two important points:

(a) That had I or the Third Officer any reason to conclude that the ship seen approaching from 10.30 p.m. onwards was a passenger ship steaming towards an ice field at 21 knots, then instinctively as practical seamen either one of us would have taken immediate action to warn her that she was standing into danger.

(b) That it was perfectly reasonable for the Second Officer to decide that no emergency action was called for when a ship which had been so close to the Californian as to cause concern, and which had completely failed to respond to persistent attempts to call her up by Morse light, got under way and passed out of sight after substantially altering her bearing. This positive action was more than sufficient to nullify any previous concern which might have been created by her apparently making use of confusing rocket signals of low power reaching only to mast height, and lacking any explosive content or detonation such as was customarily associated with a distress rocket and which should have been perfectly audible in the calm conditions then obtaining.

I was also in Court on 15th May. I clearly recall that when Lord Mersey, the President, pressed Mr. Groves, the Third Officer, to express his opinion that the ship seen from the Californian was the Titanic, Lord Mersey commented that this was also his opinion––a comment which does not appear in the official record of proceedings.

I returned to Liverpool on the evening of 15th May, being due to sail in the Californian on 18th. However, after my return home I was verbally informed by the Marine Superintendent that I was to be relieved and I accordingly removed my gear from the ship.

I first read the findings of the Court of Inquiry in the press and while naturally not at all pleased at the references to myself, I was not unduly concerned as I was confident that matters would soon be put right. I immediately approached the Mercantile Marine Service Association, of which I was a member, and a letter putting my side of the case was published in the September, 1912, issue of the Association's magazine, "The Reporter" (Exhihit 0).

At a later stage, a Mr. A. M. Foweraker, of Carbis Bay, a gentleman who I never met, but who took a great interest in my case, supplied a series of detailed analyses of the evidence which were published in the "Reporter" (Exhibits P and Q) and also in the “Nautical Magazine” under the title of "A Miscarriage of Justice" (April, May and June issues, 1913).

Letters were addressed to the Board of Trade both by the M. M.S.A. and by myself (Exhibit S) requesting a rehearing of that part of the Inquiry relating to the Californian. This request was consistently refused. The M.M.S.A. also sent a letter to the Attorney General (Sir Rufus Isaacs) requesting an explanation of the comment in his closing address that "perhaps it would not be wise to speculate on the reason which prevented the Captain of the ‘Californian' from coming out of the chart room" on receiving the Second Officer's message at 1.15. This obvious reflection on my sobriety I greatly resented, for it was my invariable practice to refrain from taking alcohol in any form while at sea, quite apart from the fact that no previous reference to such a possibility had been made during the course of the Inquiry. The only reply received was that Sir Rufus was on holiday and must not be troubled with correspondence.

I received a letter dated 6th August, 1912 (Exhibit R) from a Mr. Baker, who had served in the Mount Temple on her return voyage from Quebec. This appeared to indicate that she was the ship seen to approach and recede from the Titanic. Although this letter was brought to the attention of the Board of Trade (Exhibit T), no action was taken for the reasons given in the department's letters of 29th August and 4th September, 1912 (Exhibits U and V). Through Mr. Baker, I met Mr. Notley, the officer referred to in Mr. Baker's letters who had been taken out of the Mount Temple. He confirmed that he would give his evidence if called upon to do so, but could not volunteer information because of the adverse effect this might have upon his future employment––a conclusion with which I quite agreed.

I also corresponded with others whose evidence and opinion might prove of assistance to me and received letters from Captain Rostron of the Carpathia (Exhibits W and X); Mr. C. H. Lightoller (Second Officer of the Titanic) (Exhibits Y and Z); and Captain C. A. Bartlett, Marine Superintendent of the White Star Line (Exhibit AA).

Initially, I had been assured by the Liverpool Management of the Leyland Line that I would be reappointed to the Californian. However, I was later told privately by Mr. Gordon, Private Secretary to Mr. Roper (Head of the Liverpool office of the Leyland Line), that one of the London directors, a Mr. Matheson, K.C., had threatened to resign if I were permitted to remain in the company, and on August 13th I was told by the Marine Superintendent that the company could not give me another ship. I then saw Mr. Roper, who said that it was most unfortunate but the matter was out of his hands and public opinion was against me. I was therefore compelled to resign, up to which time I had been retained on full sea pay and bonus.

I continued my endeavours to obtain what I considered to be the justice due to me but without success, although I personally visited the House of Commons on 23rd October, 1912, and engaged in correspondence with the Board of Trade during 1913 (Exhibits BB, CC and DD).

Toward the end of 1912, I was approached (Exhibits EE, 1 and 2) by Mr. (later Sir) John Latta of Nitrate Producers Steam Ship Co. Ltd. (Lawther, Latta & Co.), who had apparently been approached on my behalf by a Mr. Frank Strachan, United States agent for the Leyland Line, who had throughout done everything possible to assist me. After a visit to London to meet Mr. Latta, I was offered an immediate command with the company and entered their service in February, 1913. I served at sea throughout the First World War, and as the aftermath of the Titanic Inquiry in those days was not such as to affect me personally or professionally in anyway, I decided to let the matter drop.

I continued to serve in Lawther Latta's until ill-health compelled me to retire in March, 1927. Sir John Latta's opinion of my service as a shipmaster is given in the reference I received from the Company (Exhibits FF, 1, 2 and 3).

After my retirement, I was unaware of any adverse reference to the Californian in respect of the Titanic disaster, as I have never been a filmgoer and was not attracted towards any books on the subject. Latterly, my eyesight also began to deteriorate and the amount of reading could do was consequently considerably curtailed. However, I noted some extracts from a book called “A Night to Remember” in the Liverpool evening newspaper, the "Liverpool Echo", although the brief extracts which I read––which did not contain any reference to the Californian––did not impress me.

In the early summer of 1958, however, I became aware that a film also called “A Night to Remember” apparently gave great prominence to the allegation that the Californian stood by in close proximity to the sinking Titanic. I therefore personally called on Mr. W. L. S. Harrison, General Secretary of the Mercantile Marine Service Association, of which organisation I had remained a member without a break from 1897.

Acting on my behalf, Mr. Harrison entered into correspondence with the producers of the film, the publishers of the book and later the author, asking for them to give consideration to my side of the story. However, those concerned maintained that the British Inquiry findings were authoritative and provided sufficient justification for the references to the Californian in their publications.

Being desirous of avoiding undue publicity, which owing to my present age and failing health would undoubtedly have serious effects, I am making this sworn statement as a final truthful and authoritative record of what occurred when I was in command of the Californian on the night of 14th April, 1912.

SWORN by the above-named deponent Stanley Lord at 13 Kirkway, Wallasey, in the County of Chester, on this twenty-fifth day of June, 1959, before me, Herbert M. Allen, Notary Public.

"Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” ~~ P. J. O’Rourke
Karen Kamuda
Posts: 235
Joined: Mon Sep 29, 2008 9:37 am
Location: Beautiful Pioneer Valley, IO, Massachusetts

Lord versus Lord

Postby Timothy Trower on Mon Sep 21, 2009 6:55 pm

While going through a file cabinet drawer for the first time in several years, I came across several items that were just plain out of place -- stuff I'd been looking for, stuff I'd forgotten about, and stuff (like the title to our van) that was criminally mis-filed. (By yours truly, no less.)

Tucked into the back of a note pad was a short exchange of letters between myself and Walter Lord in 1992, and attached to his reply was a copy of a letter he had composed and sent to the former chief investigator of the reopened British investigation into the Californian. As Walter wrote me, Captain T. W. Barnett '. . . apparently agreed with me, finding that the two ships were only 5-7 miles apart; so it was "off with his head," and the new investigator found they were 18 miles apart.'

Agree with his conclusions or not, here is the text of his letter to Captain Barnett in October 1990. I've made a very few slight editing changes in the letter, but otherwise it follows exactly Walter's style and format exactly.


Walter Lord
116 East 68th Street
New York, N.Y. 10021

October 8, 1990

Captain T. W. Barnett
The Department of Transport
Marine Accident Investigation Branch
5/7 Brunswick Place
Hants S01 2AN


Dear Captain Barnett:

Thank you for your letter of 13 September. I certainly don’t envy you for serving as a sort of Solomon on the volatile issue of the Californian’s role in the Titanic disaster.

As for my opinion as to the distance between the two ships, I think they were about 10-12 miles apart – near enough to see each other, but not near enough to communicate by Morse lamp. My estimate is based primarily on the testimony of Third Officer Groves of the Californian at the British Inquiry; on a long interview I had with him in London in 1957; and also on subsequent correspondence with him.[1]

This estimate is supported by several separate incidents, all indicating that the Californian lay much closer to the Titanic than Captain Lord ever acknowledged. As we know, the Californian had been stationary all night on the eastern edge of the ice field. Learning of the disaster, she started for the scene at 6 A.M., cleared the ice field at 6:20, and ultimately arrived alongside the Carpathia about 8:30. However, it was not the distance between the two ships, but rather the Californian’s circuitous route that accounted for the 2 1/2 hours she took.[2] Actually, she was in sight of the Carpathia almost from the start, when Second Officer James Bisset observed her getting underway.[3] Other Carpathia officers also watched her: First Officer Dean, Third Officer Rees, Fourth Officer Barnish. Captain Rostron did not notice her at this time. As he later explained, “I had other things on my mind.”[4]

While the Californian was working her way through the ice field between 6:00 and 6:20, she was also spotted by Captain Moore of the Mount Temple, which lay on the western side of the ice field watching the Carpathia pick up the Titanic’s boats on the eastern side. Captain Moore estimated that he was six miles to the west of the Carpathia and the Californian six miles to the north.[5] To have been this near to the Carpathia at such an early hour, the Californian must have spent the night far closer than 20 miles to the scene of the disaster, as usually claimed by her defenders.

The Californian herself provided some additional evidence. At 6:50 she was close enough for Third Officer Groves to see, with the aid of glasses, that the Carpathia’s house flag was at half-mast.[6] The Alan Liner Virginian was not yet on the scene, but as she rushed north hoping to be of some help, her master Captain Gambell wirelessed the Californian at 6:30 A.M., “Kindly let me know condition of affairs when you get to Titanic.” The Californian at once replied, “Can now see Carpathia taking passengers on board from small boats. Titanic foundered about 2 AM.”[7]

Thus, two hours before the Californian officially arrived, she was close enough to the Carpathia to be in visual touch and knew exactly what was happening.

In their continuing effort to keep the two vessels as far apart as possible, Captain Lord’s loyal supporter) informally called “Lordites”) make much of Dr. Robert D. Ballard’s discovery of the Titanic’s hulk 13.5 miles east-southeast of the position she gave in calling for help. But it is the position of the Californian, not Titanic, that is the crux of the matter, and we are no closer to learning that. As Dr. Ballard himself put it, the actual position of the Titanic “does not decisively weight the scales for or against Captain Lord.”[8]

The “Lordites” are not discouraged. They continue to trot out a mind-boggling array of ship positions and bearings, estimated distances between vessels and inconsequential differences in clock settings worthy of a medievalist.

Actually, it does not really matter whether the Titanic and the Californian were 8, 10, 14 or even 20 miles apart. Whatever the distance, its significance fades before the one, single overwhelming reality of the night: the rockets seen from the Californian’s bridge.

As the Californian lay stationary in mid-Atlantic, blocked by the ice field, a strange ship came up from the east, stopped shortly before midnight, and began firing rockets around 12:45 A.M. – all just as the Titanic did. Altogether, eight rockets were fired – the same number as the Titanic fired. All were white – the same as those fired by the Titanic. Around 1:15 A.M. the rockets ceased, and the stranger slowly disappeared, vanishing altogether around 2:20 – just as the Titanic did. About 3:15 three more rockets were seen, but from a different ship more to the south and further away – just as the Carpathia was doing this as she rushed to the rescue. Several points stand out in this remarkable sequence of events:

1. Every Officer on the Californian, including Captain Lord, agreed that the rockets – as seen or described – resembled distress signals.[9]

2. Second Officer Stone and Apprentice Gibson, the two men on the bridge, both thought that the rockets were coming from the strange ship they were watching.

3. Both men suspected that something was wrong. Stone conceded he said, “A ship is not going to fire rockets at sea for nothing.”[10] Gibson said both he and Stone felt the ship was in “trouble of some sort,”[11] and again, “there must be something the matter with her.”[12]Gibson himself decided it was a case of “some kind of distress.”[13]

4. Chief Officer Stewart thought the rockets “might be distress signals” when he relieved Stone at 4:00 A.M. and Stone told him what he had seen.[14] At the British Inquiry Stewart admitted he thought “something had happened.”[15]

5. The Californian saw and ignored still more rockets fired from another ship that night. These rockets were seen at the very time the Carpathia was firing rockets as she neared the scene, and also came from the very direction the Carpathia was coming from.[16]

6. Both Stone and Gibson immediately connected the rockets with the Titanic while the Californian was en route to the scene the following morning – before there was any time for second-guessing or wishful thinking.[17]

7. Captain Lord was informed. Later he said he was told of only one rocket, but he is contradicted by all three of the other men on the bridge that night.[18]

8. Feeling as he did, the Captain claimed there was no need to worry. But he was worried enough to wake up his wireless operator at 5:30 A.M. and ask him then to check.[19] The tragedy is that he didn’t do it sooner.

In the face of all this, the Mercantile Marine Service Association would have us believe that there were really two separate pairs of ships out there: the Titanic and an unknown stranger, and the Californian and an unknown stranger. In each pair, one of the ships came up from the east, stopped some time between 11:30 and midnight, and later began firing rockets. In each pair, about eight rockets were fired. In each pair, the rocket-firing ship gradually disappeared, finally vanishing about 2 1/2 hours after she first stopped. In the case of each pair, another hour passed, and then a third ship appeared firing rockets on the southern horizon. Even on this incredible night, this string of coincidences seems too incredible to accept.

The Californian’s defenders have another theory which seems to me equally unacceptable. This has been advanced by Peter Padfield in his book The Titanic and the Californian and also by marine writer John Carrothers in an article that appeared a number of years ago in the Naval Institute Proceedings. According to this theory, the rockets probably were the Titanic’s rockets, but came from behind another ship standing between the sinking liner and the Californian.

This was also the theory offered by Second Officer Stone, who was on the Californian’s bridge that watch. He first suggested it in a letter to Captain Lord, dated April 18, 1912, relating the events of the night. He later elaborated on it at the British Inquiry. But he certainly never mentioned it in his conversation with Gibson that night.

Moreover, this belated offering collides head-on with Stone’s explanation of the other thing he had to account for: why the lights he was watching “disappeared.” Stone said they disappeared not because the ship he was watching sank, but because she steamed away. If that was the case, the court asked, why didn’t the mysterious ship steam out from in front of the rockets, revealing where they were really coming from. Stone had no answer to that.[20]

As to why the Californian did nothing, we’ll never really know. Certainly Captain Lord was not drunk – he was a teetotaler. Nor did the men on the bridge think the rockets were just a celebration of some sort, as I’ve seen seriously suggested – all the evidence points to the contrary. Nor do I think Captain Lord was just too much asleep to grasp the reports from the bridge. They alerted him three different times, and when at 4:30 A.M. Chief Officer Stewart again told him that Stone had seen rockets during the middle watch, Lord replied, “Yes, I know, he had been telling me.”[21]

In the end, I can’t help being impressed by the way Sir Rufus Isaacs, the Attorney General at the British Investigation summed it all up: “. . . I am unable to find any possible explanation of what happened except it may be the Captain of the vessel was in ice for the first time, and would not take the risk of going to the rescue of another vessel which might have got into trouble, as he thought, from proceeding through ice when he himself had stopped.”[22]

Very truly yours,

Walter Lord


[1] Grove’s testimony, Br 8160-8162; interview, 6 March 1957; letters, Groves to W.L., 17 July 1955; 23 April 1957, enclosing undated MS article, “The Middle Watch, April 15th 1912.”

[2] The Californian’s route to the Carpathia, 6:00-8:30 A.M., can be pieced together from the following sources: Captain Lord, US 718, Br 7256-7260, 7385-7402; First Officer Stewart, Br 8780-8783, 8874; Third Officer Groves, Br 8315-8362; Captain Moore of the Mount Temple, US 778-779.

[3] Sir James Bisset, Tramps and Ladies, 308.

[4] Sir Ivan Thompson to W.L., Nov. 25, 1968.

[5] Moore, US 577-779

[6] Groves, Br 8329-8334.

[7] Daily Mail, 22 April 1912. (Adjusted to Californian time.)

[8] Robert D. Ballard, The Discovery of the Titanic, 200

[9] Lord, Br 6919-6944; Gibson, Br 7763-7766; Stone, Br 7858-7863; Stewart, Br 8590-8593.

[10] Gibson, Br 7515-7522, 7529, 7650-7651, 7667-7668; Stone, Br 7984-7990, 7995-7996.

[11] Gibson, Br 7538-7539.

[12] Gibson, Br 7751, 7755.

[13] Gibson, Br 7756.

[14] Stewart, Br 8590-8593.

[15] Stewart, Br 8769.

[16] Gibson, Br 7559-7580, 7586, 7591, 7596-7601; Stone, Br 8008-8012.

[17] Stone, Br 7859; Groves, Br 8307-8310; Evans, US 744-745.

[18] Gibson, Br 7552-7569, 7609; Stone, Br 7829-7843, 7944, 7952, 7976, 7999; Stewart, Br 8616-8619.

[19] Evans, Br 9059, 9163-9164; Evans, US 736, 742, 747, 748. (Evans’ normal rising hour – 7:00-7:15 A.M. – US 748) Stewart’s version: Br 8758-8769; Captain Lord’s version: Br. 6966.

[20] Stone, Br 7909-7922.

[21] Stewart, Br 8616-8619.

[22] British Enquiry, Minutes of Evidence, p. 957-958.
Timothy Trower
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Re: Affadavit of Captain Stanley Lord

Postby George Behe on Mon Sep 21, 2009 7:48 pm

Hi, Tim.

Thanks very much for posting the text of Walter's letter - it clearly outlines the fatal weaknesses in the claim that a so-called "mystery ship" lay between the Californian and the Titanic.

Good stuff!

All my best,

George Behe
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Re: Affadavit of Captain Stanley Lord

Postby Jim Buchanan on Tue Feb 28, 2012 2:46 pm

Hello there George!

Just had another look at this.

Anyone who based there conclusions on the evidence of 3rd Officer Groves had to be 'on something'.

Groves was clearly not talking about Titanic.

If the other ship was Titanic then she had gained an extra white steaming light and was approaching Californian on a course of North. Further more, she had been doing so for at least 30 minutes!

Groves's evidence also points to Mount Temple being south of Carpathia at 8pm that morning! He said Carpathia was abeam before Californian past Mount Temple at 7-30am. Rubbish!

The evidence of Bissett et al is totally inconsistant with that of Captain Moore of the Mount Temple yet Walter Lord quotes the evidence from these sources as proof of Californian's movements.

What he failed to note was that we have a very good idea of where Mount Temple was at 7 am that morning.
In fact, she was stopped to the west of the west edge of the pack ice at that time.
The pack ice was running NNW to SSE and Californian passed close to the east of MT running SSE down the edge of the pack ice.
We know the longitude of MT at that time and that Californian was half an hour run to the north of her.
At 0700hrs, MT was 10 miles to the WNW of Carpathia and Californian would be about 8 miles to the north of Mount Temple. MT saw Californian crossing the ice to the north an hour earlier when MT herself had gone north to find a way through.
By calculation: at 7 am on MT, Californian would be 13 miles NW of Carpathia and on the west side of the ice. This can easily be demonstrated.

As for Walter Lord's numbered comments. I comment accordingly:

1. Lord's men did not agree they were seeing distress rockets. They saw rockets. They merely agreed that since distress rockest could be of any colour then in retrospect these were distress rockets. Lord himself did not see the rockets!

2. Stone said he thought the rockets came from beyond the other ship. Only Gibson said he thought he saw a flash on the other vessels deck. By the way...what deck?

3. So what?

4.. Ditto!

5. Only the first observation is relevant.

6. So what?

7. Totally false! Gibson wrote in his affadavit that Stone told him he had called Lord immediately after he had become certain that a rocket was fired.. the first actual rocket... the one after the 'flash'.

8. If Gibson was correct, then Lord did indeed think that his second officer had seen one rocket. If Stone did not tell him of the 5th rocket as Gibson implies in his affadavit then the next message Lord got was that the other vessel was pulling away. In which case, a any problems had been resolved. The next morning was a different kettle of fish because now he was hearing of three other rockets fired less than an hour previously!

As for Walter Lord's summing up:

He should have read the evidence more carefully or had someone explain it better to him!

I don't understand his reference to two sets of ships. But if he had read the evidence carefully and still insisted on accepting the evidence of 3rd Officer Groves, he would have discovered that when Groves's nearby ship stopped at 11-40pm Californian time, Titanic had already been stopped for 12 minutes!

The rockets from a moving ship story is another load of rubbish! Poor young Stone was brow-beaten mercilessly about this.. In fact, if anyone cares to read the evidence:

The ship near to Californian was heading ENE... bearing SE while shutting out her read (port) side light and masthead light...when she started turning away toward the south.
She did that between the 7th and 8th rocket. We do not know exactly when but if it was half way, there was no way the last rocket would seem to be coming from a moving ship. So was it Titanic?

No it was not! Unless ofcourse Titanic actually submerged her red side light and port boat deck at the same time she fired her last rocket and the time on Titanic's bridge when this happened was 02-12am!

Now that's one theory we haven't had yet!

"As to why the Californian did nothing" Simply because the man who could have done something was not aware that something needed to be done!

Jim Buchanan
Jim Buchanan
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Re: Affadavit of Captain Stanley Lord

Postby George Behe on Tue Feb 28, 2012 7:32 pm

Hi, Jim.

Thanks for sharing your opinions with us.

All my best,

George Behe
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Re: Affadavit of Captain Stanley Lord

Postby Thomas Golembiewski on Wed Feb 29, 2012 5:08 pm


Yes, I must second George's appreciation . . . a most detailed analysis . . . very uselful . . . keep up the good work
Thomas Golembiewski
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Re: Affadavit of Captain Stanley Lord

Postby Arlene Blundell on Thu Nov 06, 2014 7:50 pm

From the text of the affadavit, it seems that Cpt. Lord and his deck officers on the night of april 14/15 1912 were at odds with one another.

After stating as such to Lord "three times", Lord goes on to mention that "Groves felt the ship they were looking at was the Titanic", and that "this was the first he had heard of it."

After three tries? The first he'd heard of it?

Seems that Captan Stanley Lord was stopped in the ice, and nothing or no-one was going to move him from that position, until daylight that is.

Witness Carpathia. Rostron by comparison charged into that icefield, twisting and turning to avoid bergs, and he got through. Looks very much like Stanley Lord was looking for any reason whatsoever to remain stationary. This is why the excuses fell like autumn leaves. Who knows whether 'Californian' would have "ended up at the bottom' if she tried to move? who knows? Lord seems set on this, yet nothing of the kind happened to 'Carpathia'. :oops:

And I just love how the gentleman that posted this questions Walter Lord's style before we've even had a chance to read it for ourselves.

Like it or not, many people spoke up to condemn Stanley Lord. No charges were ever laid, and he was damned fortunate in that. Walking free as he did for the remainder of his life, the price he paid for this privelage was to have every official body that he petitioned come down against him. Two inquiries, White Star Line, Leyland Line, the Board of Trade, both the American and British press of that day and beyond, film producers, writers, the general public.

When your officers of the watch do not agree with your statements, when firemen from your ship are complaining of a lack of movement toward the disaster area, it's no wonder that people like myself do not believe Stanley Lord.

Damned is he that takes the safe path for his own preservation. Better to have done something than absolutely nothing. No one is suggesting that Lord is responsible for the disaster. Only that he is responsible for failing to render assistance. This does not make Smith and co. any less guilty.

But it sure doesn't make Stanley Lord more innocent either.
Arlene Blundell
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Re: Affadavit of Captain Stanley Lord

Postby Arlene Blundell on Thu Nov 06, 2014 9:57 pm

Call a spade a spade, rather than trying to be 'jolly nice' ALL the time.

History is made up of all sorts of characters. sometimes we have to confront the Stalin's and Vlad The Impalers. no sense being 'nice' about everything. History is not lke that. Quite the opposite in most cases.

It wasn't very 'nice' to be stuck on a sinking wreck like the 1,500 odd victims. Pity it is that Stanley Lord could not even try to make a difference.
Arlene Blundell
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Re: Affadavit of Captain Stanley Lord

Postby Arlene Blundell on Thu Nov 13, 2014 10:21 pm

It seems from the lack of replies that the critics of this site are correct in their assumptions.

I saw other posters here claiming that THS is "not a Lordite site".

I beg to differ.

Criticism of Walter Lord, refusal to stock books that try to condemn Stanley Lord.

If Stanley Lord's critics are so far out of tune, why did the many different inquiries all come down against him?

Another poster tried to say that anti-Lord criticism was 'pouring oil on troubled waters'. Why then did Lord's deck officers fail to ever issue a collective statement in support of their troubled Captain?.

I have never made a case for Titanic's crew being blameless. Their conduct during the evacuation of passengers was chaotic, as was the handling of a ship that size, in weather conditions none of them had ever seen before or since.

But none of it was enough to get Cpt. Lord moving, or have him make the very logical move of waking RO Cyril Evans. Thats the biggest crime on the night. Lack of positive action.
Arlene Blundell
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