I'd like to take the trouble to announce my new electronic book (in pdf format) on the continuing saga of the Titanic and the Californian.
Titanic enthusiasts will be familiar with the basic aspects of the story. While laying mortally wounded, the White Star leviathan's passengers and crew saw a ship, tantalisingly close. Distress rockets were sent aloft, but the nearby vessel remained aloof, leaving 1500 to their fate in the icy water. To some, she had steamed off; to others, she lay there all night, patiently watching.
Not so far away, another ship, the British tramp SS Californian has stopped in ice for the night. Her crew saw a ship come up, fire rockets, and then "disappear." The Captain, Stanley Lord, was asleep and the sole wireless operator was off duty too, snoozing in his bunk.
The news of the calamity broke a few hours later when the watch officers on the Californian changed and the wireless man was awakened. The Californian rushed to help, but it was too late.
Within a few days, the Californian's sleepiness had broken and Lord was summoned to be interrogated in the US Senate Investigation. the captain insisted that his officers saw another ship that steamed off, afloat. A few weeks later, Lord and his crew gave testimony at the British Inquiry. Both US and British inquiries rejected Lord's story and he and his crew were accused of failing to help a ship in distress. Lord was vehement in his denials but his attempts to reopen the inquiry to gain exoneration were fruitless, and he lost his job.
But some 6 months later, fate offered Lord another chance and he gained employment in another shipping line, Lawther Latta's. With World War 1 imminent, Lord gave up his appeals to overturn the results of the inquiries. Strangely, he was not formally charged or tried. After a few years, the Titanic seemed a distant memory to many people and Lord retired in 1927 to a cosy, affluent life near Liverpool, reading his books and newspapers and playing golf.
But the 1958 cinematic version of Walter Lord's (no relation) book "A Night To Remember" rekindled the old charge of negligence and the old Captain sought help from his seafaring union, and its general secretary, Walter Leslie Stringer Harrison, who grasped the mantle of this supposed "miscarriage of justice" eagerly, attempting unsuccesfully to reverse the original 1912 findings with two petitions, in 1965 and 1968. By then, Captain Lord had died, but the campaigns were endoresed by his son. Another re-appraissal of the evidence, between 1988 and 1992, seemed inconclusive and divided. Harrison died in 1997.
The Californian matter, as depicted publicly (thanks to a sympathetic press) indicated an aged seafarer valiantly battling the edifice of bureaucracy in denying him an appeal, or even a hearing. But, behind the scenes, there story is very complex. With the legal muscle of his union behind him, Harrison used many tactics to ensure that criticisms of Captain Lord were stymied. He obstructed the publication of a rival book, critical of the captain, in 1975 and took the publishers to court in 1993 due to supposed libel. Harrison's own book (in 1986), ostensibly "the case for the Californian" omits many key passages from evidence that would damage Lord's case.
My book is the first to cover the case from 1912 to the present day. It includes: a discussion of the testimonies as given in 1912; details of many of the so-called "mystery ships" that were alledged to have been in the area of the sinking; for the first time, the internal deliberations in the UK Government during the 1965, 1968 and 1988-92 repraissals of the evidence; a discussion on the legal case instigated by Leslie Harrison in 1993 and how Harrison's friends and colleagues tried to destroy a contrary opinion of Captain Lord's case; evidence that Leslie Harrison kept secret from the public, which would otherwise have damaged his client's case; and provides details of the late Walter Lord's collection of Titanic and Californian material, which partially casts severe doubt upon the testimony of one of Captain Lord's officers ... and whose recollections were instrumental in destroying the captain's case before the eyes of the British Inquiry.