Stanley Lord

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Stanley Phillip Lord
Stanley Lord.jpg
Captain Stanley Lord
Born 13 September 1877 (1877-09-13)
Bolton, England
Died 24 January 1962 (1962-01-25) (aged 84)

Stanley Lord (13 September 1877 – 24 January 1962) was captain of the SS Californian, a ship that was in the vicinity of the RMS Titanic the night it sank on 15 April 1912 but which did not come to its assistance.

Early life[edit]

Lord was born on 13 September 1877 in Bolton, Lancashire, England. He began his training at sea when he was thirteen, aboard the barque Naiad, in March 1891. He later obtained his Second Mate’s Certificate of competency and served as Second Officer on the barque Lurlei.

In February 1901, at the age of 23, Lord obtained his Master's Certificate, and three months later, obtained his Extra Master’s Certificate. He entered the service of the West India and Pacific Steam Navigation Company in 1897. The company was taken over by the Leyland Line in 1900, but Lord continued service with the new company, and was awarded his first command in 1906.[1]

Lord was given command of the SS Californian in 1911.

Lord was married and had a son. His wife, Mabel, died in 1957, and Lord died in 1962, when it was suggested that the stress of attempts to exonerate himself had contributed to the deterioration of his own health after his wife's death. Their son, Stanley Tutton Lord (1908-1994) married, had children, and died of natural causes. He rarely spoke of his father, except to say he believed in his innocence. In 1965 he wrote a preface to a book by Peter Padfield, The Titanic and the Californian, which supported the case for Lord having been judged unfairly.

Before the sinking of Titanic[edit]

On the night of 14 April 1912, as the Californian approached a large ice field, Captain Lord decided to stop around 10:21 PM and wait out the night. Before turning in for the night, he ordered his sole wireless operator, Cyril Evans, to warn other ships in the area about the ice. When reaching the Titanic, Evans tapped out "I say old man, we are stopped and surrounded by ice." The Californian was so close to the Titanic that the message was very loud in the ears of Titanic First Wireless Operator Jack Phillips, who angrily replied "Shut up! Shut up! I am busy. I am working to communicate with Cape Race." Earlier in the day the wireless equipment aboard the Titanic had broken down and Phillips, along with Second Wireless Operator Harold Bride, had spent the better part of the day trying to repair it. Now they were swamped with outgoing messages that had piled up during the day. Phillips was exhausted after such a long day. Evans listened in for a while longer as Phillips sent routine traffic through the Cape Race relaying station before finally turning in for bed after a very long day at around 11:30 PM.

During the night of Titanic's sinking[edit]

Over the course of the night, officers and seamen on the deck of Californian witnessed eight white rockets fired into the air over a strange ship off in the distance.

Exhausted after 17 hours on duty, Captain Lord was awakened twice during the night, and told about the rockets to which he replied that they may be "company rockets", to help ships identify themselves to liners of the same company.

Meanwhile, on the Titanic, for an hour after the collision, no other ships were noticed until the lights of a ship were seen in the distance. Fourth Officer Boxhall and Quartermaster Rowe tried in vain to contact the strange ship by Morse lamp. Nobody on the deck of the Californian saw these signals, however they had also tried to signal the mystery ship, but were unable to get a response.

In "101 Things You Thought You Knew About the Titanic...But Didn't", published in 2011, authors Tim Maltin and Eloise Aston attribute Captain Lord's belief that the nearby ship was not the Titanic to visual distortions caused by cold-water mirages.[2]

Not able to understand any messages coming from the strange ship, Californian's officers eventually concluded that signals were merely the masthead flickering and not signals at all.

Throughout the night, no one on board the Californian attempted to wake their wireless operator, and ask him to contact the ship to ask why they were firing rockets and trying to signal them, until 5:30 AM. By then however it was too late — the Titanic had gone down at 2:20. When she had slipped below the water, the sudden disappearance of lights was interpreted by the Californian crew that she had simply steamed on her way.

Search and recovery[edit]

On Monday morning, Captain Lord was notified by the Frankfurt that the Titanic had gone down early that morning. At 8:45 that morning, the Californian pulled up alongside the Carpathia and stayed behind to search for additional bodies after the Carpathia steamed towards New York.

Lord's testimony[edit]

The following is from Captain Lord's testimony in the US Inquiry on 26 April:


Lord was dismissed by the Leyland Line in August of the same year. So far as any negligence of the S.S. Californian's officers and crew was concerned, the conclusions of both the United States Inquiry and the British Inquiry seemed to disapprove of the actions of Captain Lord but stopped short of recommending charges. While both Inquiries censured Captain Lord, they did not make any recommendations for an official investigation to ascertain if Lord was guilty of offences under the Merchant Shipping Acts. Lord was not allowed to be represented at either the US or British inquiry — he was called to give evidence before he knew that he was to become a target for criticism, but having answered questions which were later interpreted to cast blame on him, he was denied the opportunity of speaking in his own defence.

While Lord was never tried or convicted of any offence, he was still viewed, publicly, as a pariah. In any case, the events of the night of 14–15 April 1912 would haunt him for the rest of his life and he would spend his remaining days attempting to fight for his exoneration.

In February 1913, with help from a Leyland director who believed he had been unfairly treated, Captain Lord was hired by the Nitrate Producers Steamship Co., where he remained until March 1927, resigning for health reasons. In 1955, following the release of Walter Lord's (no relation) book A Night to Remember and the subsequent film of the same name, Stanley Lord was embarrassed at his portrayal in the movie and attempted to promote his own version of events.[citation needed] In 1958, he contacted the Mercantile Marine Service Association in Liverpool and said "I am Lord of the Californian and I have come to clear my name." The association's general secretary, Mr. Leslie Harrison, took up the case for him and petitioned the Board of Trade on his behalf for a re-examination of the facts, but there had been no finding by the time of Lord's death in 1962. In 1965, largely because Lord had offered no new evidence, his petition was rejected, but in the same year Peter Padfield's book The Titanic and the Californian was published, defending Lord's reputation, with a preface by his son Stanley Tutton Lord.[3] This was followed by a second petition, in 1968, which was also rejected.

The discovery in 1985 of the remains of the Titanic on the sea bed made it clear that the S.O.S position given after the iceberg collision by the Titanic's fourth officer, Joseph Boxhall, was wrong by 13 miles. At both of the Titanic enquiries, in 1912, there had been some conflict about the true position of the ship when it sank. The conclusions of the 1912 enquiries discounted the evidence of uncertainty about the position of the Titanic. At the time, some assumed that the position which Captain Lord had given, for his ship, was incorrect and that he was actually much closer to the Titanic than he claimed to be. While the entries in the Californian's scrap log (used for recording information before it was written up officially in the ship's logbook) referring to the night in question had been removed, sometimes seen as overwhelming proof that Lord deliberately destroyed evidence in order to cover his crime of ignoring a distress call, destroying the scrap log records was actually normal company practice.[4] While modifying the official ship's log or removing pages is a serious violation of maritime law, this was not the case.

A re-appraisal by the British Government, instigated informally in 1988 and published in 1992 by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB), further implicated the consequences of Lord's inaction. Among its conclusions were that although the Californian was probably out of visual sight, the Titanic's rockets had been sighted by the crew of the Californian. Another conclusion stated that it was unrealistic to assume that Lord could have rushed towards the signals and that with the Titanic reporting an incorrect position, the Californian would have arrived at about the time the Carpathia did and fulfilled a similar role - rescuing those who had escaped.[5] The report was critical of the behavior of the other officers of the Californian in reaction to the signals. What has never been satisfactorily resolved was why Captain Lord did not simply wake his radio operator and listen for any distress signals.

Maritime Historian, Daniel Allen Butler, in his 2009 book The Other Side of Night: The Carpathia, the Californian, and the night Titanic was Lost makes a case that Captain Lord's personality and temperament — his behaviour at both inquiries, his threatening of his crew, his frequent changing of his story, altering his story repeatedly while under oath at both inquiries, the absence of the scrap log book, and an odd remark made by Lord in Boston in a newspaper interview: "It is all foolishness for anybody to say that I, at the point of a revolver, took any man into this room and made him swear to tell any kind of story." - point to Lord's having some sort of mental illness. His lack of compassion — never once expressing grief at the loss of Titanic or sorrow for those who had lost family when she sank, is, according to Butler, who is not a psychiatrist, a diagnosis of sociopathy.[6] However, Butler is not a psychiatrist and a post-mortem diagnosis of psychological disorders is difficult. At the times it was rare for men to show emotion publicly.

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


  1. ^ Captain Stanley Lord - Titanic Biographies - Encyclopedia Titanica
  2. ^ *Maltin, Tim and Aston, Eloise 101 Things You Thought You Knew About the Titanic...But Didn't Beautiful Books (2 April 2010)
  3. ^ Eugene L. Rasor, The Titanic: Historiography and Annotated Bibliography (2001), p. 53
  4. ^ 1992 MAIB report p8
  5. ^ MAIB 192 report p18
  6. ^ Butler, Daniel Allen; Epilogue: Flotsam and Jetsam; "The Other Side of Night: The Carpathia, the Californian, and the night Titanic was Lost"[page needed]

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