The Truth About Titanic (2013) - full transcript

This documentary lays out financial and business motives of White Star Line and its owners. Stripping away the mythology, it looks at the facts. The story focuses on the lives of the men who built Titanic and her sisters, Olympic and Britannic. It's a story of the beloved, the damned and the forgotten. Heroes become villains while some popular villains emerge with their reputations restored.

Sunday 14th April 1912...

the White Star Line's new mail

steamer 'Titanic'
is three days out

from Queenstown on
her maiden voyage

from Southampton to New York.

Radio messages warning of ice
have been arriving all day,

but 'Titanic' runs
Westward at full speed.

Before dawn breaks
on Monday morning

the great ship will be at
the bottom of the Atlantic

Ocean and more than
fifteen hundred

people will have perished.

The catastrophe truly
is titanic and will

soon become legendary,
but this is the true

story of 'Titanic'
and her sisters

"Olympic" and "Britannic."

It is a story of the beloved,
the damned and the forgotten.

One evening back in 1907

two of the most
important men in

British shipping
met in this house

in London's Belgrave Square.
The host was

Lord Pirrie, Chairman
of Harland & Wolff,

the famous Belfast
shipbuilders... his guest

was J. Bruce Ismay,
Chairman of the White

Star Line and President
of the recently formed

Mercantile Marine...

an American conglomerate
owned by the

banker J P Morgan.

At this time the White
Star Line was engaged

in the fiercest competition
for passengers

on the North Atlantic service.

The trade largely consisted of
the super rich, commuting to

and from America, and
the rising tide of

European migrants heading
for the new world.

By 1907 the White Star
Line, renowned for the

size and opulence of
its vessels, if not

their speed, was facing a
serious challenge from Cunard.

The British government had
given Cunard a subsidy

to build and operate
two new liners

that would outclass
all the competition.

They would be the largest
and fastest passenger

ships ever built up
to that time... they

would be called Lusitania
and Mauretania.

Ismay and Pirrie needed
to act immediately

to counter this potentially
damaging development.

And so it was, around that
Belgrave Square dinner table,

that the concept of the
"Olympic Class" liner was born.

Pirrie would build Ismay
three giant liners...

half as big again as
the new Cunarders...

and provide unprecedented
luxury and innovation.

The relationship between
Harland & Wolff...

the shipbuilder... and
White Star Line...

the operator... was
cosy to say the least.

All White Star's ships
were built by Harland

& Wolff and, in return,
they never built

a ship for a White
Star competitor.

The two chairmen,
Pirrie and Ismay,

sat on the boards of
each others companies...

their interests
inextricably linked.

Work on the design of
the Olympic class ships

started here, in the
drawing office at the

Queens Island
shipyard in Belfast.

Alexander Carlisle....
Managing Director of Harland

& Wolff... was nominally
responsible for the design,

but it was very much
Pirrie's personal project.

Given the cosy relationship
between builder and operator,

it comes as no surprise
to learn that the

ships would be built on
a "cost-plus" basis.

No contracted price... just
build them at whatever cost...

then add the profit margin.

It seems incredible to
us in today's world,

but that's how it was done.

The first and second of the
trio of massive ships,

given yard numbers 400 and 401,

were to be named
"Olympic" and "Titanic."

The Olympic Class ships,
although very large,

were in fact, rather
conventional in both

concept and construction.

Really just larger
versions of a previous

generation of White Star
liners, they employed

the box-section hull,
ten-to-one length to

beam ratio and large
bilge keels which were

the yard's trademarks.
To be sure,

there were many
innovations to attract

the wealthy and discerning...

electric lifts, telephones,
Turkish Baths,

a heated indoor swimming
pool and a state-of-the-art

mechanised gymnasium,
to mention just a few.

However, two design
features would emerge

as hugely significant
in the events which

would follow. The
900 foot hulls

were divided into
16 compartments...

each of which could
be made watertight by

closing steel doors
in the bulkheads.

These doors could
be closed locally,

by switches on the bridge,

or automatically in the
event of flooding.

The watertight
subdivision should

have made the hulls
virtually unsinkable,

but the bulkheads didn't
extend very far upwards.

This design decision
was consciously made

so as not to interfere with
the spacious passenger

areas higher in the ships.

It was calculated
that even if three of

the largest compartments
were flooded...

the ship would still float.

The second innovative
design feature was the

use of the Welin patent
davits for handling

the lifeboats. Unlike
the traditional davit,

the Welin had a geared
quadrant and was able

to lower a number of
lifeboats, one after another.

It meant, in theory
at least, that

the ships could carry lifeboats

sufficient for every
person on board.

The use of the Welin
davit anticipated

a revision of the
Board of Trade rules

for the provision of
life-saving equipment

in the latest generation
of huge liners.

As it turned out, there
was no revision of

these rules in time
to prevent tragedy.

Although half as
big again as the

Cunarders "Lusitania"
and "Mauretania,"

the Olympic ships had engines of
fairly modest power output...

46,000 horse power compared
to Cunard's 70,000.

This reflects the
decision to put comfort

and stability
before high speed.

Whereas Cunard had
employed four

state-of-the-art Parsons
steam turbines....

each driving it's own
propeller shaft...

the White Star opted
for two rather

reciprocating engines....

one driving each wing
propeller... and

a single low-pressure
turbine driving

the centre propeller.

This triple screw
arrangement was considered

to be very economical...
the centre turbine

powered by steam exhausted from
the reciprocating engines.

In reality, it was already an
outmoded propulsion system...

not only less powerful
than the all-turbine

arrangement, but
less efficient too.

Where the new White Star
ships did improve on

their Cunard rivals was
in the matter of comfort,

stability and an almost complete
lack of engine vibration.

The Cunarders might dash
along at 27 knots...

but the Olympic Class ships

sailed more sedately
at 22 knots.

In view of what was in store,
perhaps that was just as well!

This vast open space is
all that now remains

of the two slipways
specially constructed

for the building of the
Olympic Class ships.

No shipyard had ever
attempted to build such

large ships.... and it required
some impressive infrastructure.

The new slips... known
as Numbers 2 & 3...

were to be spanned by a
huge gantry from which

frames and plates could
be craned into place.

The contract for building
this gantry went

to William Arrol &
Company of Glasgow.

William Arrol knew a
thing or two about the

construction of such
enormous structures....

he built the famous
Forth Bridge

and London's iconic
Tower Bridge.

The great Arrol Gantry
remained a Belfast

landmark for over
60 years, until

demolished in the 1970s.

The keel of "Olympic" was
laid on 16th December 1908...

and just over 3 months
later "Titanic's"

keel was laid on
the adjacent slip.

As the mighty hulls
gradually took shape,

the foundry produced
enormous castings of

awe-inspiring size
and complexity.

In the engine shop
work commenced on the

four-cylinder triple-expansion
steam engines

which would drive the
wing propellers.

At five stories high and
weighing nearly 200 tons each,

they remain among the largest
marine steam engines ever built.

The boiler shop produced 29
boilers for each ship...

24 double-enders with
6 furnaces each,

and 5 single-enders
with 3 furnaces each...

159 furnaces per
ship and each to be

hand fired with
shovel and slice.

On the 20th of October 1910

"Olympic," watched
by a large crowd of

invited guests and
shipyard workers,

slid gracefully down the
ways into the River Lagan.

Once completely afloat,
the pristine hull was

blown against harbour
wall, causing some

superficial damage...
the first in a series

of scrapes and incidents
which would dog the

early life of this
pioneer vessel.

During the following
six months "Olympic"

would be fitted out...
while the hull of her

younger sister
reached completion.

On the very last
day of May, 1911,

the shipyard staged a show
that would delight the world.

They launched the 'Titanic'

and then conveyed
the elite of the

invited guests
back to Liverpool

in the brand new "Olympic" ...
handed over

to the White Star
Line that very day.

A PR stunt to match
any staged in

our modern, media
conscious world!

The 18,000 workers in
the shipyard were given

a day's holiday to enjoy
the spectacle....

they were not, however,
paid for the day.

After the brief
call at Liverpool,

where the new super liner was
opened for public inspection...

entrance charges to charity...

"Olympic" sailed
on to Southampton.

Never had a ship
been the subject

of more praise and adulation.

Amid strident fanfares
of publicity she

departed from Southampton
on the 14th June;

bound for Cherbourg,
Queenstown and

New York, on her maiden voyage.

J. Bruce Ismay, chairman
of the line, was

aboard with his wife.
He sent a Marconigram

to Lord Pirrie saying:
"Olympic is a marvel

and has given unbounded
satisfaction. Once

again, accept my warmest and
most sincere congratulations."


The euphoria surrounding
"Olympic" would not last long.

Four months later,
while 'Titanic'

was still fitting
out in Belfast,

she set sail from Southampton
on another westbound crossing.

In command was Capt. E.
J. Smith, Commodore

of the White Star
Line, assisted

by Mr. Bowyer... a
Trinity House Pilot.

At the southern exit to
Southampton Water, the

ship slowed to make
the tricky turns that

would bring her around the
Bramble and into Cowes Roads.

A Royal Navy
cruiser, HMS Hawke,

was seen heading towards
Portsmouth from the West.

Confusion over headings
and intended courses

was exacerbated by a
strong suction current

generated by "Olympic's"
massive displacement,

as the two ships drew
near to each other.

In the closing moments the
Hawke's steering jammed!

The inevitable collision caused
severe damage to both ships...

"Olympic's" voyage
was cancelled

and she returned to Belfast
for extensive repairs.

Back at the shipyard
work on 'Titanic' had

to be suspended and her
place in the graving

dock given up to "Olympic."

It was an expensive setback for

White Star... the
first superliner

out of service and completion
of the second now delayed.

Some of "Titanic's" machinery,

like the starboard side
crankshaft, had to

be cannibalised for
the "Olympic" repair.

Early in 1912, the
newly repaired

"Olympic" was in trouble again.

Her port side propeller had
broken in mid Atlantic,

resulting in yet
another Belfast trip.

Again, completion of
'Titanic' was delayed...

the two sisters could
be seen side by side

for the last time.

At 6am on the morning of
the 2nd of April 1912

'Titanic' left the
Queens Island Shipyard

for her trials. Tugs
manoeuvred her out into

Belfast Lough... slipped
their lines... and

the great ship headed
for the open sea.

She steamed as far as the
Isle of Man... swung

her compasses... performed
her turning circles...

and 12 hours later
was back in Belfast.

Everything had gone
without a hitch in what

must stand for all time
as the shortest and

most perfunctory of sea trials.

Shortly after 6pm
that same day,

'Titanic' sailed for Southampton
under the command of

Capt. Edward J Smith, and
with a complement of officers

largely transferred
from "Olympic."

Capt. Smith, known by all as
"EJ", was the obvious choice.

As White Star's
senior commander

he had taken "Olympic" on her
maiden voyage the previous year.

A sociable and popular captain,

especially among the
millionaire elite,

EJ Smith was, nevertheless,
a bit of a chancer.

Over the years he'd been
involved in a number

of scrapes, groundings
and near misses...

the most recent
of which was the

disastrous collision
with HMS Hawke.

For the week before
sailing day 'Titanic' was

berthed in the Ocean
Dock at Southampton.

Originally known as
the White Star Dock,

it was actually built by
the London & South Western

Railway to accommodate the
new Olympic Class liners.

During this hectic week the new
ship was coaled, victualled

and inspected by the Board
of Trade Surveyor...

and, while all this
was going on, a

small party of men
from the shipyard...

known as the Guarantee
Group, and led by Tom

Andrews, Lord Pirrie's nephew...
was still

busy finishing off the
interior details.

Everything seemed
to be rushed and

this is not too
difficult to explain.

The Hawke collision
had seriously damaged

Olympic and delayed the
completion of Titanic.

The White Star Line was loosing
money by the day... and it hurt!

To add to an already
fraught situation

Britain was in the grip of
a national coal strike.

'Titanic' would need
to bunker around 6000

tons for the maiden
voyage and the only way

to get this quantity was
to take coal out of

other liners, like the
'Oceanic' and 'New

York' which were laid
up for the duration.

This meant double
handling of the coal...

a dirty and very
laborious business!

In the midst of this
mayhem 'Titanic'

was keeping a dark secret...

the coal in the bottom of
Bunker No 6 was on fire...

and had been since they left
Belfast. This potentially

devastating situation
was certainly never

revealed to Board of
Trade Surveyor. Had he

known, the ship would
never have been

given a certificate
of clearance to sail.

On Tuesday 9th April,
Tom Andrews wrote a

letter to his uncle, saying...
"I think she'll

do the old firm credit
when we sail tomorrow."

Neither Andrews, nor
any of the Guarantee

Group would ever
see Belfast again!

Just after noon the following
day 'Titanic' sailed.

Unlike 'Olympic's' departure
the previous summer,

it began as
a low key affair.

However as the great
ship was inched out of

the dock... something
dramatic occurred!

The displacement of the
huge hull tore the

Allan liner "New York"
from her moorings.

Another disastrous collision
seemed inevitable

until EJ stopped 'Titanic' dead
in the water. It was a close

call and was regarded
as somewhat ominous by

the superstitious crew.
Chief Officer Henry

Wilde, newly transferred
from 'Olympic'...

wrote to his sister...
"I still don't like

this ship... I have a
queer feeling about it."

With the panic over,
Titanic sailed down

Southampton Water and
into Spithead. Capt Smith,

on the bridge with that
same Trinity House

Pilot who had been with
him at the 'Hawke'

collision, must
have been glad to

be gaining the
open sea at last.

'Titanic' entered
Cherbourg Harbour

just before sunset
that evening.

The new tenders
'Nomadic' and 'Traffic'

ferried out 274
new passengers...

among them a Mrs.
Margaret Brown,

who would famously
go down in history

as "Unsinkable Molly Brown."

At noon the following
day 'Titanic' dropped

anchor off Roches Point
at the entrance to

Queenstown Harbour...
last port of

call on her passage
to New York.

Queenstown has long
since reverted

to it's proper Irish name...

but the 'Queenstown' days
are a poignant memory....

days when big ships carried
millions of young Irish men

and women away from their
homes... never to return.

At least one passenger
disembarked 'Titanic'

at Queenstown... Father
Francis Browne. His

uncle was the Bishop of
Cloyne and he presided

over his diocese from
the newly built

St. Colmans Cathedral high
above the town.

Father Browne, a keen amateur
photographer, took

the last ever pictures
of the 'Titanic'

before she sailed into history.

To his uncle, the
Bishop, would fall the

sad task of saying
the requiem mass

for the many lost
souls of Ireland.

[bells ringing]

Sharp at 1.30pm
'Titanic's' steam whistle

sounded and the great
ship headed for the

open Atlantic. On
board there were

now 324 First Class

285 second... and 706 third.

In the engine rooms and
stokeholds far below,

Chief Engineer Bell had
things pretty well

under control... except
the worrying bunker

fire which still burned.
He had assigned a

small gang of trimmers to
empty the bunker of coal

and so eventually
extinguish the source.

It was not going to be a
quick and easy job, however.

The ship engines were
working up faultlessly...

first day out of Queenstown
she ran 386 miles...

second day 519...
third day 546...

75 revolutions... 21.5 knots.

By the morning of
Sunday 14th April

the ship was running
at full speed

in calm and fair weather.

At 9am an ice warning
was received

from the Cunarder "Caronia"

and over the next few hours
more warnings came in...

from the "Baltic" -
the "Amerika" --

the "Californian"
and the "Mesaba."

Each report placed the
ice directly ahead

of "Titanic's" track...
but still the

ship drove on at full speed.

At 9.30pm the lookouts
in the crows nest were

told to watch for icebergs.
An hour later

the sea temperature was
down to 31 degrees.

A passing ship was
sighted heading east...

the cargo steamer
"Rappahannock." Her signal

lamp began to flash a
message to 'Titanic'

"Have just passed
through heavy field ice

and several icebergs"
Clearly the danger

lay directly ahead.

'Titanic' replied

"Message received...thank you...
good night"

then continued on her
way at full speed.

One final attempt
to alert 'Titanic'

to the extreme danger ahead

was made by the
"Californian" at 11pm...

sadly the message
got no further than

the Marconi room
where it was rudely

interrupted: "Keep out...

shut up... you're jamming
my signal...

I'm working Cape Race." The
stage was now set for disaster.

A mere 40 minutes later
lookout Fred Fleet,

high in the crows nest,
sighted an iceberg

dead ahead.

First Officer William Murdoch...
in charge of the watch...

ordered the helm

and swung the engine room
telegraph to FULL ASTERN.

But it was too late...
the ship struck

the ice a glancing blow
on the starboard bow.

Murdoch closed all the
water-tight doors and

the carpenter was called
to sound the ship.

It took less than 20 minutes to

assess the extent
of the damage...

the forward 6 compartments
were flooding rapidly.

Tom Andrews did some quick

calculations and
told Captain Smith

that Titanic had no more
than 2 hours to live.

Just after midnight the order
was given to prepare the boats

and muster the
passengers and crew.

The Senior Wireless
Operator, Jack Phillips,

began tapping out
the international

distress call... CQD.

The 'Frankfurt' replied...
then the 'Mount

Temple' the 'Carpathia'
and the 'Olympic.'

Later he tried the new signal...

45 minutes later the
first boat was ready to

be lowered. It was a
little over half full!

"Titanic' was well
down by the head

and lifeboats started to leave
the ship at regular intervals.

The band assembled on the boat
deck and were playing ragtime.

The last boat to be lowered
left at five past two...

full now, as the tragedy
reached it's finale.

Just before 2.20 a.m. the stern
rose for the final plunge.

The lights failed...
and moments

later she was gone.

712 survivors were
picked up by the Cunard

steamer 'Carpathia'
just before dawn that


1502 people had
perished in the ice

cold waters of the
North Atlantic.

Three weeks after the
sinking the Board of

Trade opened its
official inquiry into the

circumstances of the wreck.

It lasted for 36 days...
the longest wreck

inquiry in history...
and during its course

some 98 witnesses were asked a
total of over 25,000 questions.

The President of the Commission
was Lord Mersey of Toxteth,

a recently retired
High Court Judge.

It might well be supposed

that such an exhaustive
inquiry left

no stone unturned
in its search

for the truth... in fact it
was a complete whitewash!

And largely concocted to get the
Board of Trade off the hook.

They were in a very
embarrassing position.

They had permitted
'Titanic' to sail with

a Certificate for 3500
passengers, but with

lifeboat accommodation
for only 1175...

less than one third!

In fact their hopelessly
out of date rules

only required 'Titanic'
to carry 16 lifeboats.

The White Star Line
were quick to point out

that they had exceeded
this requirement...

16 boats under
davits and a further

4 collapsible boats
stowed inboard.

Both parties were being

The Board of Trade Rules, which
hadn't been revised in 18 years,

grouped passenger ships
by tonnage, rather

than the number of
passengers carried.

And, if this wasn't
ludicrous enough, the

upper limit for the
classification system was

for ships of 10,000
tons and above.

But 'Titanic' was over 46,000
tons... more than 4 times

the size of the Board's
highest class.

White Star were well
aware of this anomaly,

but did little or
nothing to correct it.

As they were complicit in the

paucity of life-saving

their passengers
might at least have

expected cautious and
prudent navigation...

but the White Star Line was
equally gung-ho in this matter.

Captain E. J. Smith,
true to form, sailed

headlong into a known
danger area at full speed

and with less than
adequate lookout.

Ernest Shackleton, the
famous Antarctic explorer,

was called to give
evidence and was asked

his opinion on navigation
in the proximity of ice:

What I want you to tell
my Lord is.. do you

think it is of advantage
in clear weather

to have a man stationed
right ahead at

the stem as well as
in the crow's-nest?

Undoubtedly, when you're in the
danger zone; in the ice zone.

And supposing you were
passing through a

zone where you had
ice reported to you,

would you take precautions
as to the look-out?

Supposing you only had
men in the crow's-nest,

would you take any
other precautions?

I would take the ordinary
precaution of slowing down,

whether I was in a ship
equipped for ice or any other,

compatible with keeping steerage
way for the size of the ship.

You would slow down?

I would slow down, yes.

And supposing you were
going 21 to 22 knots,

I suppose that would
be the better reason

for slowing down?

You have no right to go at
that speed in an ice zone.

It might be supposed
that this damning

evidence alone, from
so expert a witness,

would have condemned
the White Star...

but no, like the Board
of Trade itself,

they wriggled off the hook.

Lord Mersey concluded
that the fate which

befell 'Titanic'... which was
hopelessly under-equipped

with lifeboats, and
was slammed into

an iceberg at full
speed, resulting in the

deaths of 1522 people...
was an accident

that was neither foreseeable...

nor the fault of the government
agency which certified her...

nor of the company
which operated her.

So who was to blame for the
catastrophic loss of life?

Mersey concluded that it
was Captain Stanley Lord,

master of the Leyland
Liner "Californian."

By cannibalising
and cherry-picking

largely circumstantial

the Board of Trade
inquiry decided

that Lord's ship
was in clear sight

of the stricken
'Titanic' but made

no attempt to go
to her assistance.

Stanley Lord was the
only individual to be

censured by the court
and it was his ruin.

The discovery of the
wreck of 'Titanic'

more than seven decades later,

was to finally establish that
Lord was entirely innocent...

his evidence as given in 1912
was correct. His ship was

more than 19 miles away...
far too far

away to see or be
seen from 'Titanic.'

For Stanley Lord this
vindication came too late:

he died in January 1962.

The Board of Trade Inquiry
might have let the

White Star Line off
the hook, but in 1913

an Irishman, Thomas
Ryan, brought a civil

action against the
company for the loss of

his son... a third
class passenger.

The judgement handed down in
the High Court of Justice

was to finally damn
the White Star Line.

The navigation of 'Titanic'
was judged to be negligent.

The appalling consequences
of the sinking of 'Titanic'

shook the British shipping
industry to its foundations...

for the White Star Line it
was a potential death blow.

'Olympic' was loading
at Southampton

a few days after the disaster

when the entire complement
of firemen and trimmers,

the so-called 'black gang',
walked off the ship, refusing to

return until sufficient
lifeboats were put on board.

White Star management blustered

and threatened the men
with charges of mutiny,

but in the end they
cancelled the voyage

and gave in. More
boats were provided.

Five more round
trips to New York

were completed that
summer of 1912...

then 'Olympic'
returned to Belfast

for very major alterations.

The cellular double bottom
was extended upwards...

to 4 feet above the
load line, and the

bulkheads were also
extended upwards,

some by as much as 40 feet.

The result of this re-fit was a

ship which could
now remain afloat

with 6 compartments
flooded, and one

provided with lifeboats
for all aboard.

'Olympic' returned to the North
Atlantic service in late 1913

and White Star
desperately hoped

that they could
put the "Titanic'

behind them once and for all.

The outbreak of the
Great European War in

August 1914 largely
achieved this result.

For a while 'Olympic' continued
in commercial service,

but a year later she
was requisitioned

by the Admiralty as
a Naval Transport.

Armed with 6-inch guns and
painted in dazzle camouflage.

During her war service 'Olympic'
steamed 184,000 miles

and carried over
120,000 passengers,

both military and civilian.

She became known as the
'Old Reliable.'

When the war finally
ended, a Belfast trip

heralded another big
refit and conversion

to burn oil rather than coal.
"Olympic' was

the first of the big
liners to be converted.

During the following
decade Olympic enjoyed

her golden years.
Catering for the elite of

the Transatlantic trade,
this most elegant

of ships was a firm
favourite among royalty,

millionaires and the new stars
of the motion pictures.

It seemed that she'd
finally lived down the

reputation for ill-luck
which had dogged her

early life... and the 'Titanic'

connection was
largely forgotten.

In 1934 the British
Government forced the

financially ailing White
Star Line to merge

with its arch rival, Cunard.

It was a precondition
of public funding

to save the shipping industry.

Cunard had a mammoth new liner
on the stocks in Glasgow...

and work had stopped
for lack of funds.

The merger spelled the
end of the road for

'Olympic' which, along
with 'Mauretania', was

one of the first casualties
of the fleet rationalisation.

In this last year of her
active career, 'Olympic'

was again involved in
a serious collision.

She ran down and sank the
Nantucket Light Ship

in dense fog. Seven
men lost their lives.

It was a bad way to finish.


The major structural alteration

dictated by the
'Titanic' disaster

delayed the completion of the
third sister for over a year.

'Britannic' wasn't launched
until February 26th, 1914.

As well as incorporating
all the modifications

that had been carried
out in 'Olympic,'

the new ship was equipped with

lifeboat provision.

Clearly White Star wanted to be

seen to be doing everything

possible to avert
another disaster.

'Britannic' was still fitting
out the following year

when she was requisitioned
as a Hospital Ship.

The hasty conversion to this
role was achieved in one month.

She sailed almost
immediately for Gallipoli,

where the ill-conceived
Allied landing had

faltered with
colossal casualties.

On November 21st 1916,
outward bound on her

6th trip to the Eastern

"Britannic' struck a mine

recently laid by
a German U-Boat.

The great ship rapidly
became totally unmanageable,

taking a severe list,
and in less than one hour

had disappeared below
a calm Aegean Sea.

29 people lost their lives,

but the great majority
of those aboard,

1106 in total,
were saved.

In the aftermath of the
sinking of 'Britannic'

the German government
announced that British

hospital ships
would, henceforth,

be liable to attack.

It seems they concluded
that 'Britannic'

was illegally carrying
war material and

that this had caused
the massive internal

explosions which
reportedly followed

the detonation of the mine.

Certainly, when the
French oceanographer,

Jacques Cousteau, located
and filmed the wreck

in 1976, a gaping hole
on the port bow,

the plates blown outward,
seemed to indicate

that something inside the
ship had definitely exploded.

Looking back at the three
ships nearly a century later,

it is inevitable that the middle
sister is best remembered.

'Titanic' is probably the
most famous ship in history.

But how much of the
mythology of 'Titanic'

has any basis in truth?

Let's examine some of the
conventional wisdom.

'Titanic' was the
largest moving object

ever made by man
up to that time...

Well, actually, 'Titanic'
was exactly the

same size as her elder
sister 'Olympic.'

'Titanic' was heralded
an unsinkable ship...

but neither builder nor owner
had ever made such a claim.

The idea stemmed from
an article in the

press which described
the 'Olympic'

class ships as
"practically unsinkable."

However, once such an
ill-advised claim had been made,

White Star did nothing
to contradict it.

Captain E. J. Smith and
his crew were accorded

heroic status at the time,
especially by

the British press, which
positively wallowed

in a mixture of mawkish
sentimentality and

nationalistic jingoism.

The legacy of heroism
still persists to this

day... but re-examination
of the disaster

reveals a very
different picture.

Smith went down with
the ship, in the best

tradition of the service,
after extolling

his crew to "Be British"...
whatever that meant.

However, he was really
the main culprit in

the whole sorry affair.
After ignoring ice

warnings throughout
the day, he gave

no instructions to slow down,

nor to increase the lookout,
as darkness

fell and the ice-field

Instead, he went to dinner with

some of the elite
of first-class.

Fourth Officer Boxhall worked
out the "Titanic's" position,

which was then
transmitted by the

Marconi men in the
general distress call.

The accuracy of this
position was lauded

by Captain Rostron
of the "Carpathia"

and taken as an absolute by
the Board of Trade Inquiry,

but it was wrong!

The Deck Officers were
praised for their cool

command of the filling
and lowering of the

lifeboats, preventing panic and

ensuring 'women and
children first.'

But why did it
take over one hour

to launch the first lifeboat

and why did so many of the
early boats leave half-full?

The lifeboats had
capacity for 1178 people,

but only 652 people actually
left in these boats.

Lord Mersey concluded
that the third class

passengers had been
afforded proper access

to the lifeboats... but
not a single third

class passenger was
called to give evidence.

Why were more first class men
saved than third class children?

When it was all over
it became clear that

only the dead were heroes.
Those who survived

would be tainted by
'Titanic' forever.

None of the surviving
officers was ever given a

command, while J. Bruce Ismay,

Chairman of the White Star Line
and a controversial

survivor, withdrew into
reclusive obscurity.

Of course, there were
some winners. Guglielmo

Marconi, whose invention
had saved so many

from the 'Titanic,' saw the
value of his company soar.

Rufus Isaacs, the
Attorney General who

had so ruthlessly
prosecuted Stanley Lord

at the Inquiry, happened
to have a brother

on the board of the
Marconi company.... and

so a little bit of
insider trading brought

him a nice fat profit.

Two individuals
managed to escape any

connection to the
tragic affair...

and were able to continue their
prosperous and privileged lives:

John Pierpont Morgan, the man
who actually owned 'Titanic',

and William Pirrie, who
designed and built her.

'Twas ever thus!