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A Sensational Moment in the TITANIC Inquiry: Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon Giving Evidence

Date: 25 May 1912
Dimensions:
385 x 295 mm
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Ephemera
Object Name: Newspaper
Object No: 00042669

User Terms

    Description
    RMS TITANIC, the largest ship in the world when it was constructed in 1911, was considered to be virtually unsinkable as a result of its size and safety features. On 14 April 1912 the TITANIC struck an iceberg 350 miles east of Newfoundland, Canada and sank with the loss of more than 1,500 lives.

    The front page of this newspaper - The Graphic- An Illustrated Weekly Newspaper dated Saturday 11 May 1912 - depicts an image of a large audience listening to the inquiry examinations of Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon and Lady Duff-Gordon at the London Scottish Drill Hall. Under the footer heading of the image reads:

    'Public interest in the Titanic inquiry, which has flagged of late, revived suddenly when Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon and Lady Duff-Gordon gave evidence as to what happened in emergency boat No 1, and fashionable audiences crowded the London Scottish Hall daily to listen to their searching examination, while once more the great disaster figured large in the newspapers'.

    SignificanceThe sinking of the TITANIC still remains one of the world’s worst peace time maritime disasters. The shocking number of deaths among women and children and the significantly higher proportion of First Class Passengers survivors had a profound effect on the public in an age when society believed in 'women and children first'. Following on from the disaster both the British and United States Governments introduced legislation regarding the provision of adequate lifeboats on board vessels, the formation of an International Iceberg Watch and Iceberg Patrol and the standardisation of emergency distress signals and procedures.
    HistoryThe 46,328 ton RMS TITANIC was the largest ship in the world when it was built for the White Star Line by the Belfast shipbuilders Harland and Wolff. The White Star Line, also known as the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company Ltd, was one of the two Trans-Atlantic steamship companies, the other being The Cunard Line.

    The White Star Line had evolved out of the failed Aberdeen White Star Line of clippers and its original owner Thomas Ismay had proposed a company which would be known for providing a new form of elegance and comfort for sea travellers. First class accommodation was moved from its aft position to midships, passengers were provided with larger cabins and more portholes along with a promenade deck the full length of the ship, fore-shadowing future liner designs.

    In 1911, The White Star Line ordered from Harland and Wolff the three largest vessels built to that date. To be known as the Olympic Class of liners, they were the OLYMPIC, TITANIC, and BRITANNIC.

    More than 11,000 shipyard workers laboured 26 months to complete the 882 foot long, 175 foot high (from keel to the top of one of its four funnels), triple screw, and steel hulled steamer. When launched on 31 May 1911 it became a symbol of national pride and triumph of engineering for the British people in an age of rapidly advancing technology. Built to safety flotation standards higher than those required and with 16 watertight compartments, the vessel was considered virtually unsinkable. The ship was also equipped with a full surgery, library, cafes, a theatre, elevators, Turkish baths, swimming pool, squash court and a gymnasium. The most opulent cabins on board the ship, the two first class suites on B deck, were 17 metres (50 feet) long, timber panelled and equipped with private promenade decks.

    The vessel sailed on its first Trans-Atlantic voyage from Southampton to New York on 10 April 1912, stopping off at Cherbourg in France and Queenstown in Ireland, to load its final passengers and mail before departing for New York.

    On board were approximately 2,220 people. As there were a number of discrepancies between passenger and crew lists (some of the crew, including the eight members of the ships orchestra, were actually counted as second class passengers and some passengers who boarded at Cherbourg in France were not included on the passenger list) - the exact number of people on board may never be known.

    Some of the better known passengers on board the ship were J. Bruce Ismay, Chairman and part owner of the White Star Line, Thomas Andrews, the designer of TITANIC, the mining millionaire Benjamin Guggenheim, Isodor and Ida Straus, owners of Macy's Department Store, Sir Cosmos Duff and Lady Duff, Sir Cosmos a British peer and Lady Duff a wealthy dress designer with stores in London, Paris and New York and John Jacob Astor, Real Estate Developer and hotel chain owner who had scandalised American society by divorcing his wife in 1908 and recently marrying a woman 30 years his junior and younger than his son. There were also on board 700 third class passengers from Ireland, France and Scandinavia who were migrating to the United States.

    On 14 April, approximately 350 miles south east of Newfoundland, TITANIC received a number of radio and visual signal warnings from other ships of ice ahead. The last warning describing an ice field right across the TITANIC's path, never reached Captain Smith and the vessel continued on at 22 knots.

    At 11.40pm the crows nest lookout (Frederick Fleet) reported an iceberg dead ahead and the First Officer (H F Wilde) ordered a full turn to port. The bow missed the iceberg, but an underwater spur of ice ripped a 90-metre gash along the starboard side of the ship, puncturing six of the sixteen watertight compartments. At 12.05, after an inspection of the vessel (in which he hears that the mail room, 24 feet above the keel is filling with water, as are Nos 1, 2 and 3 holds) and discussions with the ship's designer, Thomas Andrews, Captain Smith decides the vessel cannot survive such damage and orders the passengers and crew to muster at the lifeboats. Shortly afterwards, with the ship slowly sinking by the bow, TITANIC's lifeboats are filled (using the principle of Women and Children first), and then lowered down the sides of the ship.

    Captain Smith, and many of the crew, realised that although the vessel was equipped with the prescribed 16 wooden lifeboats and four collapsible boats as required under Board of Trade regulations, these regulations had not kept pace with the increasing size of passengers liners and that whilst they were over 2,200 people on board there is only room in the boats for 1,178. The numbers of potential survivors are further diminished when many of the first boats lowered from the ship are only partially filled with passengers.

    Captain Smith ordered the two Marconi Radio Officers (Phillips and Bride) to send out the CQD (Come Quick Danger) distress signal and later the recently introduced SOS (Save Our Souls) distress signal. When the lights of another vessel were spotted on the horizon, the Captain ordered white rockets to be fired but the other ship, later identified as being the liner CALIFORNIA, did not know what the rockets meant and did not investigate them.

    Although numerous ships heard the distress call, including the other White Star Liner OLYMPIC, over 500 miles away, the closest ship to the TITANIC that received the distress call was the Cunard Liner CARPATHIA, which was 58 miles away and surrounded by ice. Despite the danger to his vessel Captain Rostron ordered the CARPATHIA to head at full speed towards the TITANIC arriving on the scene at just after 4.00 am on the morning of the 15 April 1912 one hour and forty minutes after the TITANIC had sunk with the loss of more than 1,500 lives.

    Unprecedented shock and horror greeted the news of the loss of the TITANIC and two inquires were held into the disaster. Captain Smith was not blamed for the disaster neither were the designer or owners of the TITANIC - but serious questions were raised regarding the fact that First Class Passengers both male and female had a far higher chance of survival than Third Class Passengers who appeared not to have had the same access to lifeboats.

    The TITANIC sank in just over 4,000 metres of water, 350 miles west of Newfoundland and despite the rumours of large amounts of gold, silver and works of art on board it was well beyond the reach of early salvage techniques.

    In the mid-1980s a joint French and American team led by Dr Robert Ballard from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts, USA, launched an expedition to locate the wreck by using eye witness accounts, the official inquires and ships logs. TITANIC was located in September 1985 and almost immediately sparked controversial salvage attempts.


    Additional Titles

    Web title: A Sensational Moment in the TITANIC Inquiry: Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon Giving Evidence

    Assigned title: A sensational moment in the TITANIC inquiry: Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon giving evidence

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