A new book claims that the Titanic had plenty of time to dodge out of the way of the fatal iceberg but the collision was down to a helmsman who turned the ship the wrong way.
The granddaughter of Second Officer Charles Lightoller has written the novel, “Good as Gold”, revealing a secret that has been kept by their family for the last 100 years.
Lady Louise Patten’s book tells how her grandfather covered up the error in inquires on both sides of the Atlantic fearing that the truth might bankrupt the liner’s owners and put him and his colleagues out of jobs.
“The inquiry had to be a whitewash. The only person he told the full story to was his beloved wife Sylvia, my grandmother,” Patten told the Telegraph. “As a teenager, I was enthralled by the Titanic. Granny revealed to me exactly what had happened on that night and we would discuss it endlessly.
"She died when I was sixteen and, though she never told me to keep the knowledge to myself, I didn’t tell anyone.
"My mother insisted that everything remained strictly inside the family: a hero’s reputation was at stake.
"Nearly forty years later, with Granny and my mother long dead, I was plotting my second novel and it struck me that I was the last person alive to know what really happened on the night Titanic sank.
"My grandfather’s extraordinary experiences felt like perfect material for “Good As Gold”. ”
Until now it was thought that the iceberg was not spotted until it was too late but this book now reveals that the ship steamed straight into the ice mountain because of an error. By the time the error had been realized the side of the ship had been holed and all was lost.
Lightoller believed that even the passengers and crew could have been saved if the ship had not been turned to plough directly into the iceberg.
She said “It just makes it seem all the more tragic…They could easily have avoided the iceberg if it wasn't for the blunder."
This steering error took place because of simple confusion. During that time seagoing ships were undergoing upheaval because of the conversion from sail to steam ships. They had two different steering systems with different commands attached to each. Essentially they were the exact opposite of each other.
One the fateful night, April 14 1912, First Officer William Murdoch spotted an iceberg, two miles away, and shouted “hard a-starboard”. Quartermaster Robert Hitchins misinterpreted the order. He turned the ship right instead of left. Although he was immediately told to correct his mistake it was too late.
The starboard bow was ripped to shreds by the iceberg and the icy water flowed into the ship.
Lady Patten, who is the wife of former British, Tory Education minister, Lord John Patten, said “The steersman panicked and the real reason why Titanic hit the iceberg, which has never come to light before, is because he turned the wheel the wrong way.”
Her grandfather, Lightoller, did not witness what happened on the bridge but was present at the meeting of the four senior officers, which took place in the First Officer’s cabin.
He also heard next decision being made. Chairman of the Titanic’s owner, White Star Line, Bruce Ismay convinced the captain to continue “slow ahead” for another ten minutes.
This extra ten minutes added to the water flooding the hull and forced it up and over the bulkheads. The Titanic sunk within hours.
Lady Patten said “Ismay insisted on keeping going, no doubt fearful of losing his investment and damaging his company’s reputation…The nearest ship was four hours away. Had she remained at ‘Stop’, it’s probable that Titanic would have floated until help arrived.”
Lightoller was the only survivor who knew the truth and he decided to hide what he knew from the world. He felt it his duty to protect White Star Line and his colleagues.