Bosses at Titanic's owner White Star Line said they were victims

Bosses at Titanic’s owner White Star Line portrayed themselves as the victims and expressed ‘heartfelt sympathy’ to their chairman who controversially survived the disaster, board meeting documents reveal

  • Rare copy of the minutes for special board meeting held in the wake of the 1912 tragedy is up for auction
  • It reveals bosses of White Star Line were more concerned with themselves than the 1,500 people who died
  • They were worried about psychological effect ordeal would have on Bruce Ismay – ‘the coward of the Titanic’
  • Mr Ismay, chairman of White Star Line, survived the tragedy by deserting liner and taking a place in a lifeboat

The shameless owners of the Titanic portrayed themselves as victims and lauded their chairman who controversially survived the disaster, newly emerged documents reveal.

A rare copy of the minutes for a special board meeting held in the wake of the 1912 tragedy shows how bosses of White Star Line were more concerned with themselves than the approximate 1,500 people who died.

They were particularly worried about the psychological effect the ordeal would have on Bruce Ismay, who became known as the ‘coward of the Titanic’.

Mr Ismay, the chairman of White Star Line, survived the tragedy by deserting the liner and taking a place in a lifeboat.

The shameless owners of the Titanic portrayed themselves as victims and lauded their chairman who controversially survived the disaster, documents reveal. A rare copy of the minutes for a special board meeting held in the wake of the 1912 tragedy shows how bosses of White Star Line were more concerned with themselves than the approximate 1,500 people who died

They were particularly worried about the psychological effect the ordeal would have on Bruce Ismay (pictured), who became known as the ‘coward of the Titanic’. Mr Ismay, the chairman of White Star Line, survived the tragedy by deserting the liner and taking a place in a lifeboat

The minutes show how Harold Sanderson, the vice-president of White Star Line, requested that the board’s ‘heartfelt sympathy’ for the ‘terrible experience’ suffered by Ismay be recorded

In James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster movie, Ismay was portrayed as bullying the crew to go faster only to sneak into a lifeboat as the ship went down after it hit an iceberg.

The minutes show how Harold Sanderson, the vice-president of White Star Line, requested that the board’s ‘heartfelt sympathy’ for the ‘terrible experience’ suffered by Ismay be recorded.

THE TITANIC DISASTER TIMELINE

Ned Parfett, the ‘Titanic paperboy’, outside of the White Star Line offices in London

April 10, 1912 (12:00): 

The Titanic sets sail from Southampton to New York, calling at Cherbourg and Cork en route.

April 14 (09:00–22.30, ship’s time): 

Marconi Company radio officers on the Titanic received a total of six warnings of ice in the vicinity, not all of which were passed on to the crew.

April 14 (23:39):

Lookout Frederick Fleet, in the crow’s nest, spots an iceberg dead ahead of the ship. Turning to port, the vessel managed to avoid a direct collision, but suffered a ‘glancing blow’ instead.

April 15 (00:05):

Captain Edward Smith orders abandon ship and has radio operators issue distress signals.

April 15 (02:05):

The Titanic’s final lifeboat is launched. Ten minutes later, the liner’s angle in the water increased rapidly, ultimately reaching over 30 degrees, as water reached previously unflooded parts of the ship through deck hatches.

April 15 (02:20): 

The Titanic finally disappeared beneath the waves, some two hours and forty minutes after striking the iceberg.  

The board also sought to absolve themselves of any blame by insisting the Titanic was made to be ‘practically unsinkable’ and was ‘absolutely safe’.

Mr Sanderson went on to call for the board to do all in its power to help White Star Line management ‘live down the effects of this great calamity’ in which so many lost their lives.

The minutes provide another demonstration of the callous attitude shown by White Star Line following the maritime disaster.

The company was documented to have asked the families of some victims for the equivalent of £2,000 for the return of their loved ones’ bodies.

And hours before the luxury liner sailed on her ill-fated maiden voyage, bosses silenced a safety officer who warned the ship needed twice the number of lifeboats it had.

Titanic expert and auctioneer Andrew Aldridge said that had the disaster happened in modern times, White Star Line would have been prosecuted for corporate manslaughter.

Mr Aldridge said: ‘The ship didn’t have enough lifeboats for all the passengers and crew and the management of White Star Line were very much aware of that when Titanic was built.

‘Also, at the time of the disaster the ship was sailing too fast through an ice field for which the crew had received warnings about.

‘If it would have happened today the owners would very likely have been charged with corporate manslaughter and have to pay out ten of millions of pounds in compensation.’

The board meeting minutes have emerged for sale as part of an archive kept by White Star Line captain Charles Stark.

As a senior officer, he was later sent a copy that is titled ‘Special Meeting April 22nd 1912.’

The meeting was held seven days after the sinking at White Star Line’s headquarters in London and was attended by all senior directors.

The board noted that the Titanic was a ‘magnificent vessel’ manned by the ‘best men in the White Star organisation’.

Mr Sanderson stated: ‘Wherever a man had distinguished himself in the service by means of ability and devotion to duty he was earmarked at once to go to the Olympic [Titanic’s sister ship] or Titanic.

‘I can say without fear of contradiction that a finer set of men never manned a ship.’

He added: ‘We knew we had put into service a ship which surpassed all others in size and magnificence. More than this we believed we had made [Titanic] practically unsinkable and absolutely safe for ocean travel.’

Mr Aldridge said: ‘The extremely rare minutes give an unprecedented snapshot into the private meeting of White Star Line’s senior board members in the direct aftermath of the disaster.’

The archive is expected to sell for £15,000 on November 14.

The Titanic is seen leaving Southampton on April 10, 1912, on her maiden voyage. She sank in the early hours of April 15 after striking an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean

In James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster movie, Ismay was portrayed as bullying the crew to go faster only to sneak into a lifeboat as the ship went down. (Above left, Jonathan Hyde as Ismay in the film) 

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