Man responsible for making Titanic seaworthy had request for 50% more lifeboats knocked back, new documents reveal

 

Private papers from the man responsible for making sure the Titanic was safe to sail have emerged that show he demanded 50% more lifeboats but was pressurised by the White Star Line into backing down.

The documents have come to light a century after 1,500 people perished when the Royal Mail Steamer Titanic sank into icy waters during her maiden voyage on April 15 1912.

The notes, written by Captain Maurice Clarke, the board of trade safety and emigration official who inspected the Titanic before it set sail, were not even presented to the inquiry into the disaster.

Leading auctioneers of Titanic memorabilia, Henry Aldridge and Son, will put the notes on sale during their final auction this year. They said they are estimated to fetch £20,000-£30,000.

Andrew Aldridge said he believes the history books on the disaster will now have to be rewritten.

"Private notes regarding Captain Clarke's visits, and the subsequent British Titanic inquiry, having been hidden from public view for more than a century, are now being offered for auction," he said.

"The most damning documents in the archive relate to Captain Clarke's visits and inspections of Titanic on Thursday 4th, Tuesday 9th and Wednesday 10th April.

"They give a detailed account of the lifeboat drills, tests and an inventory of the distress signals and equipment kept on-board which bizarrely included only six life buoys - a staggering statistic considering Titanic could accommodate over 3,000 souls.

"Most controversially he states that he wanted 50% more lifeboats on board, suggestions ignored by the White Star Line."

Captain Clarke's private notes stated: "To deviate from regulations which had been drawn up by the Advisory Committee of Ships' owners and approved by my department would leave me without support.

"I might be shifted as suggest to me by owners if I enforced my views as to efficiency".

Mr Aldridge said: "This statement implies that the board of trade official in charge of ensuring Titanic was safe to leave Southampton felt pressurised by the White Star Line with regard to the subject of insufficient lifeboats, a previously unknown fact.

"Quite simply to have a private company exerting this degree of influence over such a vital element of safety should have been headline news but it was not made public after the sinking."

Captain Clarke gave detailed evidence to the British Titanic inquiry on June 17 1912 but nothing was mentioned about his request for more lifeboats.

"Was it a case of suppressing vital evidence or simply not being deemed of interest by the inquiry lawyers?", Mr Aldridge asked.

"The judgment not to take Captain Clarke's advice was to have calamitous results only five days later when Titanic sank.

"These documents effectively rewrite an important element of the Titanic story proving that even after 100 years, new facts are coming to light about the sinking."

The auction of Titanic collectables is due to take place at the Henry Aldridge and Son auction rooms in Devizes, Wiltshire, on November 24.

PA

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