Partly prompted by a master mariner friend, retired Royal Navy dental officer Noel Stimson has set out to separate fact from fiction by using the transcript of the British and US inquiries into the loss to demolish some of the most outlandish misconceptions, such as the sinking being staged as part of an elaborate insurance scam.
Dr Stimson assembles a strong case to support his contention that the owners and builders were guilty of complacency in their conception of the ship as ‘unsinkable’ and their decision to equip Titanic with only 20 lifeboats instead of the originally planned 64. He also makes a firm defence of the roles played by the ship’s seafarers – and notably the master, lookouts and radio operators – as well as critiquing White Star Line’s ‘miserable’ failure to ensure proper emergency training for crew. However, he argues, a crucial factor behind the loss of so many of those onboard was the master’s decision to agree to the ‘half-baked’ proposal by White Star’s chairman J. Bruce Ismay to attempt to take the damaged vessel to the port of Halifax. Curiously, he notes, this failed to form part of the official narrative set by the two inquiries.
The Titanic disaster has spawned a seemingly endless flow of books looking at every angle of the loss. However, this one does a better job than many and poses some questions that remain relevant to shipping safety today.