Stanley Lord (September 13th, 1877 – January 24th, 1962) was captain of the SS Californian, a ship that was in the vicinity of the RMS Titanic the night it sank on April 15th, 1912.
Biography[edit | edit source]
Early life[edit | edit source]
Lord was born on September 13th, 1877 in Bolton, Lancashire, England. He began his training at sea when he was thirteen, aboard the Braque Naiad, in March 1891. He later obtained his Second Mate’s Certificate of competency and served as Second Officer in the Braque 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.
Lord was given full command of the SS Californian in 1911.
Before the disaster[edit | edit source]
On the night of April 14th, 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 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[edit | edit source]
Over the course of the night, various officers and seamen on the deck of Leyland Liner Californian witnessed white rockets being fired into the air over a strange ship off in the distance, totaling eight in all.
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 and 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.
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 as the other liner steaming on her way.
Search and recovery[edit | edit source]
On Monday morning, Captain Lord was notified by the Frankfurt that the Titanic had gone down early that morning. At 5:45 that morning, the Californian pulled up alongside the Carpathia and stayed behind to search for additional bodies after the Carpathia steamed towards New York.
Reputation[edit | edit source]
Lord was dismissed by the Leyland Line in August of the same year. So far as any negligence of the SS 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 the S.S. Californian, they did not directly censure the individuals who were on the ship.
Neither did they make any recommendations for an official investigation to ascertain if Captain 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. 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. However, as Lord had no new evidence, his petition was rejected in 1965 and was followed by a second petition in 1968, which was also rejected.
The discovery of the remains of the Titanic on the sea bed, in 1985, neither confirmed nor denied Captain Lord's culpability. While the position of the wreck makes it clear that the S.O.S position given after the iceberg collision by the Titanic's fourth officer, Joseph Boxhall, was off by 13 miles, strong undersea currents, as well as the Titanic's hydrodynamics underwater, could account for the Titanic resting far from the actual position where it slipped beneath the water.
At both of the Titanic inquiries, in 1912, there had been some conflict about the true position of the ship when it sank. The conclusions of the 1912 inquiries 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. However, the entries in the Californian's scrap log logbook referring to the night in question had been removed, seen as overwhelming proof that Lord deliberately destroyed evidence in order to cover his crime of ignoring a distress call. While modifying a ship's log or removing pages is a serious violation of maritime law, no charges were ever brought for that breach.
A re-appraisal by the UK 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 the Titanic's international distress signal of three white rockets fired in sequence had indeed been sighted by the Californian's crew, and by maritime law should have been investigated. Another conclusion stated that, had Lord rushed towards the distress signals that fateful night, the ship would have arrived in time to perhaps save another 200 passengers. 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 alleges that Captain Lord's personality and temperament — his behaviour at both inquiries, his threatening of his crew, his frequent changing of his story, lying 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, claims Butler, a diagnosis of Sociopathy. 
Death[edit | edit source]
Captain Lord died on January 24th, 1962; aged 84, almost half a century after the sinking of the Titanic. He is buried in Wallasey Cemetery, Merseyside.
Legacy[edit | edit source]
In "101 Things You Thought You Knew About the Titanic...But Didn't" authors Tim Maltin and Eloise Aston attribute Captain Lord's belief that the nearby ship was not the Titanic to cold-water mirages.
Portrayals[edit | edit source]
In A Night to Remember, he was portrayed by Russell Napier.
In the 1996 Miniseries Titanic, he was portrayed by Matthew Walker. He is incorrectly depicted as an older man and has a beard.
References[edit | edit source]
- Captain Stanley Lord - Titanic Biographies - Encyclopedia Titanica
- Butler, Daniel Allen; Epilogue: Flotsam and Jetsam; "The Other Side of Night: The Carpathia, the Californian, and the night Titanic was Lost"