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Film reveals secret notes of lord who headed inquiry

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Doomed: The Titanic sets off on its maiden voyage

Doomed: The Titanic sets off on its maiden voyage

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Narrator: Matrix star Laurence Fishburne

Narrator: Matrix star Laurence Fishburne

Probe: The Titanic inquiry sits in 1912

Probe: The Titanic inquiry sits in 1912

Box containing the Titanic papers which hadn't been opened since 1912

Box containing the Titanic papers which hadn't been opened since 1912

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Doomed: The Titanic sets off on its maiden voyage

A new documentary broadcast this week reveals a never-seen-before perspective on the sinking of the Titanic.

Notes taken during the investigation into the sinking of the famous vessel have been made available for the first time for the Sky History film.

The notes taken by the judge overseeing the inquiry, Lord Mersey, John Bingham have been made public by his great, great grandson Ned Bigham.

The show, presented by A-list Hollywood star Laurence Fishburne, investigates ‘the real reason for the sinking of RMS Titanic?’

After the disaster, Lord Mersey interviewed hundreds of eyewitnesses, with his notes casting new light on the controversy over the speed at which the Belfast-built Titanic was travelling when it struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic in 1912, killing more than 1,500 people.

In his notes, Lord Mersey underlines with importance the historical allegation that the captain of the Titanic, Edward Smith, showed a message he had received warning of icebergs to one of the VIP guests aboard the vessel, the chair of the White Star Line, J Bruce Ismay, who took the note and held onto it, aware that the world’s press would be waiting in New York for the luxury vessel to arrive.

It was feared at the time of the inquiry that Lord Mersey, given his close ties to those in officialdom and connections to heads of the White Star Line, would have a slanted view of what actually happened which would be reflected in his judgment.

The final report was often criticised for covering up the negligence of the Titanic’s captain and White Star Line itself.

Lord Mersey’s private papers have long been sought after by Titanic historians who feel that his personal writings would give a more accurate reflection of what happened on that fateful day.

Speed

He addresses the issue of speed, which has long been one of the main reasons historians believe the disaster could have been averted.

He wrote: “Speed, 21 knots. And never reduced to time of collision, notwithstanding wary that icebergs in vicinity and that she would be likely to meet them.”

While many have blamed Capt Smith for his alleged insistence on maintaining a high speed, Lord Mersey wrote that he had major concerns over the speed at which the ship was travelling, even though he said he was not able to blame Capt Smith for the disaster.

Speaking of the assertion that the crew on the Titanic had been warned about ice in the area, he penned: “Two vessels informed her: icebergs, growlers, floes.”

Growlers are small pieces of icebergs which have broken free, while ice floes are large packs of floating ice which can be over 10km wide. The iceberg the Titanic is believed to have struck was almost 100 feet high and 400 feet long.

The judge’s notes also reveal that he was concerned with the lack of lifeboat deployment drills by the Titanic’s crew ahead of the disaster.

He questioned whether the crew had been trained sufficiently in using the lifeboats, of which there were only 20 available, enough for just half the passengers on board.

Following the inquiry, changes were made in the shipping industry to ensure boats had enough lifeboats for all passengers.

Lord Mersey addressed the role of the SS Californian, which was just under 20 miles from the Titanic when it sent messages to the crew warning of ice fields. He said the ship should have been able to come to the Titanic’s aid had it not turned off its communication system.

Again, changes were made in the industry to ensure ships kept their communications on 24/7.

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