24 May, 2012
Stanley Lord 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.
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 in 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. Lord was given full command of the SS Californian in 1911.
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 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.
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 that she had simply steamed on her way.
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.
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 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 April 14-15, 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.
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.
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.