Damning documents relating to Titanic go up for auction in Devizes (From The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald)
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Damning documents relating to Titanic go up for auction in Devizes
1:18pm Friday 2nd November 2012 in News
Evidence that the owners of the doomed ocean liner Titanic pressured the Board of Trade into allowing them fewer lifeboats on the ship than was thought safe is to come under the hammer at a Devizes auction later this month.
Henry Aldridge & Son, who have established an international reputation as experts in Titanic memorabilia, are auctioning the archive of Captain Maurice Clarke, who was the Board of Trade’s emigration officer at the time.
Part of Captain Clarke’s duties was to make inspections to confirm that Titanic complied with the Board of Trade regulations.
Captain Clarke’s private notes regarding his inspection visits and the subsequent British Titanic Enquiry have been hidden from public view for over a century are now being offered for auction. The lot is estimated to fetch between £20,000 and £30,000 at the auction at Aldridge’s Bath Road Business Centre saleroom on Saturday November 24.
The most damning documents in the archive relate to Captain Clarke’s visits and inspections of Titanic on the days just before the ship sailed on its ill-fated maiden voyage in April 1912.
They give a detailed account of the lifeboat drills, tests and an inventory of the distress signals and equipment kept onboard 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 per cent more lifeboats on board, a suggestion which was ignored by the White Star Line.
As Captain Clarke noted privately: "To deviate from regulations which had been drawn up by the Advisory Committee of Ships Owners and approved my department would leave me without support. I might be shifted as suggested to me by owners if I enforced my views as to efficiency."
Auctioneer Andrew 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 Enquiry on June 17 1912 and nothing is mentioned about his request for more lifeboats. Was it a case of suppressing vital evidence or simply not being deemed of interest by the enquiry lawyers?”
The judgment not to take Captain Clarke’s advice was to have calamitous results only five days later when Titanic sank and over 1,500 souls lost their lives due to the inadequate number of lifeboats aboard.
Mr Aldridge said: “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.”