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Stanley Lord

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Last updated by Meril Jeffery John.J

Captain Stanley LordCAPTAIN Stanley Lord, 34, was Master of the Boston-bound liner Californian, owned by Leyland & Co., on the night the Titanic sank.

Born on September 13, 1877 in Bolton, Lancs, he had already spent more than twenty years at sea. Lord was a thin-framed, relatively tall man for the times (5? 10?), blue eyed, with a face weathered and lined by his salt-spray experiences.

He first went to sea at the age of 13 as a cadet in the barque Naiad owned by Messrs J. B. Walmsley. It was March 1891. After obtaining his Second Mate?s Certificate of competency he served as Second Officer in the barque Lurlei.

In February 1901 he passed for Master and three months later obtained his Extra Master?s Certificate. Both were achieved at the exceptionally young age of 23, and exceeded the qualifications of many of the senior officers of the Titanic.

Captain J. D. MacNab, Board of Trade examiner at Liverpool, later recalled that Lord had passed all his examinations ?most brilliantly,? with his later testimonials for good conduct and ability at sea being ?invariably of the highest order.? He added: ?I have ever heard him spoken of as a humane and clever officer and commander.?

Lord entered the service of the West India and Pacific Steam Navigation Company in 1897, which company was taken over by the Leyland Line in 1900. He continued in their service, being appointed to command in 1906 before his 29 birthday, once more an outstanding achievement in a time when men could hardly expect to achieve the helm much before their fifth decade.

On April 5, 1912, Lord commanded the liner Californian (6,223 tons) on a voyage from London for Boston, Mass. On the night of Sunday April 14, he saw ice ahead while on the bridge of his vessel, personally ordering hard-a-port in order to effect a starboard turn while cutting engines.

His vessel came to rest at the edge of an impenetrable icefield that seems to have stretched at least 30 miles north to south, and which other shipping had warned about for days. As it was Lord?s first experience of field ice, he elected to maintain minimum steam and wait for daylight, a wisdom later described by Captain James Henry Moore (of the Mount Temple) as ?the usual thing? to do on encountering ice. It was 10.21pm.

As a precaution for other shipping, Lord ordered his wireless operator to send out the message that his vessel was stopped and surrounded by ice. The information was transmitted around 11pm ship?s time, but Lord was not to know until later that it was rebuffed by the Titanic, on the southerly New York track, with the reply: ?Keep out, keep out, I am working Cape Race.?

Captain Lord had meanwhile calculated his ship?s position as being 42 5? N, 50 7? W, a location more than 19 nautical miles from the Titanic?s later transmitted SOS position of 41 46? N, 50 14? W. In fact the Titanic wreck would later be found in latitude 41 43?, three miles south of the New York track. One minute of latitude equals one nautical mile in every location worldwide.

An Officer of the Watch and an apprentice saw low-lying rockets to the SSE of the Californian during the night of April 14/15, when Captain Lord had retired after a 17-hour day. If the Titanic had been in her SOS position, these men ought to have seen their distant flashes to the SSW.

Because of this disparity, and an opinion by Third Officer Charles Victor Groves (who, like Lord, had gone below before anything was seen in the night sky), the British Inquiry realised that the Titanic SOS position and the Californian stop position could not both be right. The official finding was that theCalifornian position was ?not accurate? ? although it would be shown 73 years later that the Titanic sank 13 miles to the east of her transmitted co-ordinates, and it is now apparent that the wreck is on a line directly SSE of where the Californian claimed to be.

Bolstering the British Inquiry?s assumption was the opinion of Officer Groves, announced in May 1912, ?from what I have heard subsequently? that a vessel in sight of the Californian when the latter lay stopped for the night must have been the Titanic. Since this steamer was only five miles from the Boston-bound Californian, Groves conceded that if the Californian co-ordinates were accurate, it followed that the Titanic would have been wildly off course. The Titanic wreck in fact lies three nautical miles south of the New York track.

After both the American and British official inquiries concluded that the Californian (which had reported herself as stopped) was likely the ?Mystery Ship? seen to approach within five miles of the sinkingTitanic and then recede, it was reluctantly decided by the Leyland line that Captain Lord would have to be asked to resign his commission.

Although Leyland & Co. had submitted evidence to the British Inquiry (of a prior wireless position report to the Antillian) which, it argued, independently supported Captain Lord?s claim to have been where he said he was, the Managing Director was overruled on his suitability to remain in command following publication of Lord Mersey?s report in July 1912.

Captain Lord addressed letters to the national press setting out his views and protestations of the verdict that he ?might have saved all on board? from the following month, and further written communication was addressed to the Board of Trade by he and his professional representative organisation, the MMSA.

But requests for a re-hearing of the evidence were refused. At this point the Board of Trade also decided not to prosecute Lord for an alleged misdemeanour in failing to go to the aid of a vessel in distress. Lord had been only a witness at the Inquiry, not a defendant, but if the Board had attempted to interfere with his seagoing certificate he would have had the power to call his own witnesses and cross-examine others.

Toward the end of 1912, Lord was approached by John Latta, owner of the Nitrate Producers Steamship Co. (Lawther/Latta), who had heard of his plight. Lord was offered renewed command, and entered the company?s service in February 1913.

He served at sea throughout the First World War, and continued to command vessels for Lawther/Latta until poor eyesight forced his retirement in March 1927. More than 30 years later became aware that a film entitled A Night to Remember ?apparently gave great prominence to the allegation that theCalifornian stood by in close proximity to the sinking Titanic.?

Mr Lord called on the Mercantile Marine Service Association (MMSA), of which he had continued to pay annual dues without a break since 1897, to seek their assistance. A vigorous campaign emphasising the former Master?s case was then pursued across all media in the years following.

In 1957 Captain Lord?s wife Mabel (nee Tutton) died, and he began to go into decline. The couple had been blessed with one son, Stanley Tutton Lord (1908-1994). 

Captain Lord died on January 24, 1962, aged 84, almost half a century after the sinking of the Titanic. He is buried in New Brighton cemetery, Merseyside.


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