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Titanic: An Analysis Of A Scuttle Cover-Up Theory | Blog | William Cody Winter .Com

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Titanic: An Analysis Of A Scuttle Cover-Up Theory

Some suspect that the story of the Royal Mail Ship (RMS) Titanic is more complex than the official inquiry verdict “...the loss of the said ship was resulting from collision with an iceberg, brought about by the excessive speed at which the ship was being navigated.” There are theories ranging from an insurance scam by White Star Line to an immense British Government cover-up.

In this blog post I take a look at some of these theories, weighing in at the end with my thoughts on the subject.
Titanic docked
Some suspect that the story of the Royal Mail Ship (RMS) Titanic is more complex than the official inquiry verdict “...the loss of the said ship was resulting from collision with an iceberg, brought about by the excessive speed at which the ship was being navigated.” [Lord Mersey 1912].

There are theories ranging from an insurance scam by White Star Line to an immense British Government cover-up.
In this article I shall explain the evidence for and against both the theories, I should note here that as I am covering two theories this article does not completely revolve around the switch theory, but also covers the possibility that the ship was scuttled but was the Titanic all along. So if you hate the story about the Olympic being switched, but still think there was something odd going on with the Titanic, then there is still something here for you. Finally, I will give you a verdict or at least my viewpoint, but in the end it is up to you to weigh up the facts and make up your own mind.

The Titanic’s sister ship the RMS Olympic was built side by side and to roughly the same blueprints as used for the Titanic. However, it would see its maiden voyage (also captained by Edward Smith) nearly a year before the Titanic. She would collide with two other vessels even before her sister’s maiden voyage. First with a tug boat and then more importantly with the His Majesty's Ship (HMS) Hawke. The Hawke being a naval ship was designed to ram enemies so the damage done to the Olympic was great and costly.

On her way back to Belfast for repair, she would develop a pronounced list to port-side and later on a second class survivor of the Titanic (who was a science teacher) would describe the Titanic as having somewhat of a list to the port-side. The damage done to the front of the Olympic was remarkably similar to that later done by an iceberg to the Titanic, according to Harland and Wolff’s own records.

What interest did the government have? We know that the British government had at least one asset to lose by the White Star Line shutting down, the use of their ships in wartime. As when they allowed JP Morgan’s company IMM (International Mercantile Marine CO, 1943-1992 it would be known as United States Lines) to buy White Star, they entered into an agreement that they could use their ships if there was a war and they would have at least suspected that a big war was coming (World War I was brewing).

One of the first arguments against the switch theory is the number of people who would be involved. However, let us consider the types of people who would be involved. Foremost there would be the shipbuilders in Belfast, Harland and Wolff. For a start this cuts down on the number of high-ranking officials involved as we have the chairman of White Star Line J. Bruce Ismay (who would later become known as The Coward Of The Titanic) also a director at Harland and Wolff and Lord Pirrie the chairman of Harland and Wolff also a director at White Star.
Harland and Wolff had an exclusive contract to make White Star’s ships, but they were having financial trouble, even having to build some ships at cost just to keep their shipyards open. If White Star collapsed so would they?

I am not an expert on ship building, but how hard could it really be to keep the knowledge of what you are doing from the average worker at the yard? Tell a few lies and grease a few palms and the biggest incentive of all, would have been that the many workers and their families would have wanted the company to survive, so they and their friends could keep their jobs and feed their families. Should Harland and Wolff go bankrupt 60,000 people in Belfast would lose their jobs and this would have also lost the Prime Minister many seats in Belfast, in what was already his narrow majority.

As I have mentioned the cost of repair to the Olympic was great and anyway of trying to talk the insurance company into believing that the accident was not White Stars fault, was out of the question resulting from the fact, the ship that she collided with, was the property of the Royal Navy. A full naval investigation was launched which concluded that the Olympic was the one at fault. This results in White Star Line’s insurance company refusing to pay out. Furthermore, repairs and loss of revenue would put White Star a further £250,000 out of pocket.

As if all this was not bad enough the cost of the Olympic just kept piling up when on 24 February 1912 she hit a sunken wreck although it was marked on the map. She then had to undergo more repairs. On the 2 March, she started being repaired in Belfast and was finished on 7 March (a job that should only have lasted a few hours).
All this damage and repair have added up, and it now means the Olympic could never again pass a Board Of Trade inspection.

Now, White Star does something odd, with all this expense and delays, the chairman orders changes to the Titanic’s superstructure. He also covers-up the linoleum flooring with a carpet (yet linoleum flooring is the newest and greatest thing), these changes would never be made to the “Olympic”. Changes are also made to the A-deck promenade.

The second aspect people question is the ease of switching the two ships; impossible some say. Other ships, and boats have been and will continue to be switched in an attempt to scam insurance companies (changing a ship’s name is the most common form of sea fraud) and this one may be easier than most, remember they were nearly twins. Most of the items on the ships were interchangeable among White Stars ships, such as the linen. The only items on board that needed a name change were the life belts.

When the Olympic needed to be repaired, to speed things up the starboard propeller from the Titanic was used on her, carrying the hull number 401. So it would even have the right hull number for the Titanic on that propeller, even if she is, in fact, the Olympic. The hardest thing left to switch were the names on the bows and sterns of the ships, plus the bridge telegraphs. No official photos were ever taken of the interior of the Titanic, so whenever you see a picture of the grand staircase etc., it is in fact from the Olympic.

So in a busy shipyard with many ships coming in and out continually you get some painters to paint over the names on one ship and different painters to paint the names back on. Telling them it was just a new repaint and they would be none-the-wiser and would it not also be possible, to bring in temporary painters from elsewhere? They would be even more clueless of what was going on.

The boilermen and stockers that had signed on in Belfast resigned en masse once they reached Southampton. Thousands of seaman at the time were out of work, yet these men quit their jobs on the Titanic as soon as they could. The thing I find maybe the most telling evidence for the switch theory is all the visual clues. First off let us look at the windows on C-Deck, after the initial launch they are evenly spaced but on the maiden voyage they are clearly uneven. There were 14 portholes on the Titanic at launch, but on its maiden voyage there were 16. How did she magically sprout two extra portholes? On her maiden voyage, she has somehow also got a shorter promenade on B Deck.

The Titanic took an autumn route and yet they should have been fully aware of ice in that area as many of the crew had been there on the Olympic just three weeks before. The Titanic that night received five ice warnings from five different ships, all which were ignored, but these weren't the only messages from other ships they would receive, twice the Californian (owned by IMM) would telegraph their position to the Titanic. The second time at 11:00 P.M. the Titanic would respond to the Californian simply with “Keep Out.” What did she mean by “Keep Out”? The innocent explanation would be that it was a warning to keep away so she too did not meet the same fate; however, this was sent about 40 minutes before the Titanic had even struck the iceberg.

How and why did she hit the iceberg at all? The official story is that it came out of nowhere giving the Titanic too little time to dodge it. This may sound plausible enough, but even this is called into great question. One lookout (Fred Fleet) had seen the iceberg from about 11 miles away and had tried to warn the bridge at least three times in the half an hour leading up to the collision, this was also testified to, by one of the stokers that had heard the shouts of “Ice ahead sir.”

Carpathia the vessel that would eventually come to the Titanic’s aide had spotted an iceberg from only two miles away and had time enough to navigate away from it, as testified by its captain at the British inquiry. It could be argued that it was a smaller ship and, therefore, could turn faster, however during the Titanic’s sea trials (which lasted only half of a day, compared to Olympic’s thorough two days) it was found, her full turning circle of 20.5 knots was 0.72 of a mile (1,280 yards). She was also capable of an emergency stop of just 0.48 of a mile (850 yards). This should have given ample time to at least stop and even if the lookouts had failed to give plenty of warning (which they did not fail to do, as mentioned above) the officers at the bridge had an ample vantage point (of two miles) themselves, even on that calm night as attested by Second Officer Lightoller (officer of the watch) at the British inquiry.

The inspectors on the sea trials would fail to be thorough when looking at the Titanic, it was a new ship after all and almost identical to the Olympic. They would not even bother to check the engine rooms, had they done so they would have spotted a fire burning (I will mention this again later). So as you can see they had plenty of time to have either fully stopped or turned to starboard (left) and away from the iceberg, yet they turned to port (right, the side the berg was on) while simultaneously reversing their engines. This caused a long gash along the port-side; it would have been better to hit it head-on.

Lightoller was in his cabin at the time of impact, he says at the inquiry that he felt it was best to stay put in his cabin so he could be found easily. This claim does not add-up, his cabin was just a few paces from the bridge and so at the first sign of danger or trouble of any kind he should have gone to his post. This essentially leaves Lightoller unaccounted for during the initial 30-minute period, leaving some to speculate that he was gone to help sabotage the ship. The only reason I can find for his disappearance and for him to have been possibly lying, is if maybe he was in someone else's cabin (a female's maybe) which would have been frowned upon. However, his whereabouts during those 30 minutes will probably never be known for sure.

How did the officers as a whole behave after the impact? Captain Smith and J. Bruce Ismay were on the bridge within minutes along with Thomas Andrews (the ship’s designer) carrying the blueprints. They assessed within ten minutes that she would sink. Yet, the officers continued to act as if nothing had happened and it would be an hour and twenty-five minutes until the first lifeboat would even be launched (shocking but true).

Why would they behave like this? Simply, an error in judgement by Second Officer Lightoller? Maybe, but he was hardly a novice. He had even experienced his first shipwreck at the age of just 15. He would end up being decorated for gallantry as a naval officer in WWI and would continue to see action during World War II. In fact all the supposed evidence such as the delay in going to the bridge and his half-full lifeboat theory, seemed to point to Lightoller having been a complete imbecile, however giving his previous and future records I do not believe this to be true. This just further adds to making the events on board especially those by Lightoller look very suspicious. Even If he truly were mistaken about the strength of the boats, the Captain and Thomas Andrews both knew different and said nothing and if they did expect to be rescued at any second what did it matter if the lifeboats were full or not?

If this is true, then who were they expecting and are there any ships that could have possibly been the Titanic’s long lost knight-in-shining-armour? Well, in fact, there is a perfect candidate! The ship that kept giving Titanic it’s coordinates, the Californian. Five days before the Titanic’s departure the Californian left Southampton carrying no passengers or cargo, only 3000 woollen sweaters and blankets, just the right amount to launch such a theorised rescue mission. She had been stuck in Southampton for a few days before she left because of a coal strike, yet she would leave fully coaled. It should also be noted that White Star had to cancel two other ships just to get enough coal to make the Titanic’s maiden voyage possible. They also left in such a hurry they did not have time enough to pick up the correct radio charts.

On the 14 April the date that the Titanic would strike an iceberg, the Californian would basically ‘park up’ in an ice field (she was in no danger herself). Her captain would order all her boilers be kept alight and her engines on standby. Captain Lord also decided to sleep fully dressed on a couch, instead of in his own heated cabin. It was as if they were sitting there waiting to come to another ships rescue. What else could she have been doing out there?Interestingly aboard the Titanic that night, Captain Smith would sleep fully dressed in the chartroom. Is this not damning evidence?

The possibility that the Californian was the intended rescue ship (as if there was any doubt) is further fuelled by a comment from one officer of a lifeboat (believed to have been Lightoller) to a survivor. He said, “don’t worry, the Californian will be here to pick you up in case you’re not back in time for breakfast....” Why would he even have thought of the Californian? It was after all the Carpathia that was the one who was the closest and would come to the real rescue.

There was a ship on the horizon at the time the Titanic started sending out distress calls, some including Lightoller himself, would later believe this to be the Californian. In a radio interview for the BBC in 1936 he would state “…we could see all her lights quite clearly. ...that ship was the Californian, though her lights were plain to everyone on board the Titanic she seemed to pay not the slightest heed, either to our wireless calls or to the distress signals we were firing every minute. The reason she didn’t answer our wireless calls which other ships heard halfway around the earth was because she only carried one wireless operator and when we struck the iceberg he had only just gone off watch. So it was no fault of his, but why was no notice taken of our distress signals. Shells that were fired hundreds of feet up in the air to explode with a cascade of stars, heaven only knows. What a chance her captain missed. He could have laid his ship right alongside the Titanic and taken practically every soul on board. Ah, he didn’t and the two ships drifted farther and farther apart” [Charles Herbert Lightoller 1936].

That night Fourth Officer Boxhall and Fifth Officer Lowe should have been on watch, yet they would be replaced at the last minute by Officers Moody and Murdoch (both higher ranking than the first two). The officer of the watch on board the Californian spotted the Titanic’s lights go out at 2.40 AM, unknown to him he had in fact witnessed one of the greatest sea disasters in history, from a distance that could have saved her. Why would they not have seen the flares sent-up by the Titanic and responded to it, especially if they were waiting for it? Well, it seems that they did, but there was a problem the Titanic was expected to be carrying blue and red flares and this is what Captain Lord would have been waiting for. The Titanic was only given white flares, that only meant this is a White Star Line ship. So even if the Californian were not part of a great cover-up, what it saw did not signal distress to them. It was believed by junior officer Boxhall that the ship was within five miles of them when they were sending up the flares.

When Captain Lord was later asked about his ship’s positioning that night he responded, you are “requesting state secrets.” This also fits in with the fact that the crew of the Titanic was forced to sign the Official Secrets Act before being released back to their families (some being held for as long as 24 hours). A sailor who’s story would not be taken seriously at the time (he did call himself ‘Paddy The Pig’ after all), claimed there was a fire below decks that had burnt since she was loaded. He said that when the water came in this created an explosion. Although his story might have been taken with a pinch of salt at the time, in 1985 when the wreck was discovered they found a hole where he said it would be. The edges of the hole were also pointing outwards not inwards as they should have been if it were caused by the iceberg.

Paddy also said that there was a rumour even then between the crew, that the ships had been switched. I should now mention that Paddy's name (his real name) does not appear on the crew register. If we are then to believe that he was never even on the Titanic, how can we explain the fitting damage on the wreck? Some say it was caused by the ship breaking up. Maybe, but just coincidentally it was in the right place.

Both the Americans and the British held their own inquiries, yet the British government tried to convince the Americans not to have their own and when they did, they found it nearly impossible to get any information from the Titanic’s crew. Lightoller would clearly lie at both inquiries, he would say that he saw no fog for ten minutes before the accident and that the ship did indeed turn to port before Fleet rang down from the crows nest, yet at both times he was meant to be in his cabin asleep. Some passengers while on board the rescue ship Carpathia wrote their own statements, which would try to shift the blame from White Star to the Board Of Trade. From the wording of these statements, it was likely written by one of the Titanic’s officers, most likely Lightoller as highest ranking surviving officer.

The British inquiry was carried out by the Board Of Trade, whose antiquated regulations were partly to blame at least for the quantity of the loss of life. So no one can truly expect a fair and impartial hearing. This inquiry would also be led by Lord Mersey that also conducted the whitewash of the Jameson Raid investigation. The Board would also “find” themselves acting as plaintiff and defendant. Lord Mersey’s own son would not just sit on the inquiry but would also be the one to book the hall. A hall that had such bad acoustics that the people in the public galleries would find it nearly impossible to hear a thing.

Was it really just a slip-of-the-tongue that Harold Sanderson from Harland and Wolff kept referring to the Titanic as the Olympic? Or was it a subconscious slip because it was the truth and he were used to referring to it as such? Lord Mersey would ignore any facts that might point to anything having happened, but what he had clearly already decided, would be the verdict all-along. He would not even question the fact that the lookouts noticed the ship begin to turn to port side before they gave the warning. He also “happened” not to see the importance of the colour and type of flares that the Titanic had fired. During the hearing Lightoller would state that no ice warnings were given to the bridge and that in the morning there was no ice to be seen, yet dozens of witnesses said that there were icebergs for as far as the eye could see. Why did he insist on these lies?

The inquiry would try to pin the blame on the captain of the Californian for not coming to the Titanic’s aid. Even saying, that Captain Lord was fully aware of the Titanic’s distress and choose to ignore it. He would not be given the chance to defend himself. Captain Lord would later try to have the case reopened more than once, but would always be unsuccessful. Was he maybe being hounded and used as a scapegoat for having failed his mission that night?

You would think that the story would have ended after those inquiries, but it did not stop there. In fact, it continues into the 1950s on through to the present day. When in 1953 the British Navy chartered the salvage vessel Help, she left Southampton carrying telephoto cameras and remote-controlled retrieval equipment. What was her destination? You may have already have guessed it, she was headed for what at the time, was the last known location of the Titanic. Her mission is not known, however, it was clearly not salvage as she started using heavy explosives to blast the area. When the current location of the wreck was finally found by Dr. Robert Ballard in 1985 they would be monitored by the submarine HMS Oberon, Why?

You may ask that if the cover-up games continued right into the mid-80s, have they also continued into the 21st century. We will never know what people like the government are continuously up to, but of course the cover-up is still going on, because if we should believe the cover-up theory at all, since no-one has made an official acknowledgement, then it’s still going on. We also have proof that they will hide things about the Titanic when it suits them, as in 2012 for the centenary of the sinking, a photo was released of what appears to be a leg and foot (wearing a shoe) inside the wreckage. This photo was taken way back in 2004, and yet the official stance has always been that there is no sign of any bodies at the wreck site (well, I guess they never said anything about body parts).

All right I think it is time that I gave you my personal verdict on the conspiracy theory. The trouble is that the above contains what could be described as two different theories. We have the 'Titanic was switched with the Olympic and scuttled theory', we have the 'Titanic was scuttled (but was not the Olympic) theory'. Therefore, I feel that it is necessary to give you two different verdicts.

Verdict One: The pieces of evidence for the Olympic being the real ship at the bottom of the ocean are in great supply and some of it is almost overwhelming. However, I cannot help but feel it’s not enough to pass a verdict of ‘It was the Olympic’.

Verdict Two: The Titanic (or Olympic) was scuttled. Now with this I can give you a more definitive answer. YES, I truly believe that the Titanic was scuttled by a person or persons unknown. I also believe that there were two parties at work here, which may mean it was done for reasons other than a simple insurance scam. A party that would ensure the flares would be switched. A party that clearly wanted no evidence left, even if that meant risking the lives of everyone on board. I believe that other party to be the British Government, why else would they try to bomb the wreck? However, I cannot tell you their reasoning and it is possible we may never be told.

Titanic Inquiry Project. 1912. British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 20 July 12].
Titanic Inquiry Project. 1912. British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry Day 11 Testimony of Charles Lightoller, cont.. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 21 July 12].

Bruder Releasing. 2012. Titanic: The Shocking Truth. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 20 July 12].
1936, 21 July 12, I Was There. Commander CH Lightoller. 21 July 12.

Robert Farago. 2010. This Day In Gun History: Titanic Fires White Flares. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 23 July 12].

Claudine Zap. 2012. Titanic photo shows evidence of human remains. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 24 July 12].

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