Warning over Titanic lifeboats uncovered

Private papers from the man responsible for making sure the Titanic was safe to sail have emerged that show he demanded 50 per cent more lifeboats but was pressurised by the White Star Line into backing down.

The documents have come to light a century after 1,500 people perished when the Royal Mail Steamer Titanic sank in icy waters during her maiden voyage on April 15, 1912.

The notes, written by Captain Maurice Clarke, the board of trade safety and emigration official who inspected the ship before it set sail, were not even presented to the inquiry into the disaster.

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Henry Aldridge and Son, leading auctioneers of Titanic memorabilia, will put the notes under the hammer in Devizes, Wiltshire, on November 24. They are estimated to fetch £20,000-£30,000.

Andrew Aldridge said he believes the history books on the disaster will now have to be rewritten. “The most damning documents in the archive relate to Captain Clarke’s visits and inspections of Titanic on Thursday 4th, Tuesday 9th and Wednesday, 10th April.

“They give a detailed account of the lifeboat drills, tests and an inventory of the distress signals and equipment kept on-board which bizarrely included only six life buoys – a staggering statistic considering Titanic could accommodate over 3,000 souls.

“Most controversially he states that he wanted 50 per cent more lifeboats on board, suggestions ignored by the White Star Line.”

Captain Clarke’s private notes stated: “To deviate from regulations which had been drawn up by the Advisory Committee of Ships’ owners and approved by my department would leave me without support. I might be shifted as suggest to me by owners if I enforced my views as to efficiency.”

Mr Aldridge said: “This statement implies that the board of trade official in charge of ensuring Titanic was safe to leave Southampton felt pressurised by the White Star Line with regard to the subject of insufficient lifeboats, a previously unknown fact.”