The Curious case of Lloyd’s Register, The Times, and the Titanic

By Christopher Browne - Lloyd’s Register

The message was brief and cryptic: “Struck an iceberg and sank in latitude 41.16 N, longitude 50.14 W”.

It might have been just another daily entry in Lloyd’s Register’s Casualty Returns. But it hid perhaps the most infamous event in shipping history – the sinking of the Titanic.

That was 100 years ago – on 14 April 1912 to be precise.

Since then a flurry of historians, scientists, investigators, conspiracy theorists and media pundits have pondered and puzzled over just why this great and ‘unsinkable’ vessel should founder on a lone iceberg.

A spectacular array of events are being held this year in the seven European and North American cities involved in the mighty ship’s last voyage.

However behind the ritual and razzamatazz are some curious post-disaster stories including one about the role of Lloyd’s Register.

A few days after the incident, the national press wrote a series of reports suggesting the Titanic had been built ‘considerably in excess of the requirements’ of Lloyd’s Register.

Although we had not classed the vessel, and the information was patently wrong, you could argue it was a form of faint praise by association.

Although our Secretary at the time, Sir Andrew Scott, didn’t quite see it like that. “I am directed to say that these statements are inaccurate.

On the contrary, in important parts of her structure the vessel as built did not come up to the requirements of Lloyd’s Register for a vessel of her dimensions,” he wrote in a letter to The Times of London.

“I do not for a moment suggest that this circumstance had any bearing whatever upon the loss of the vessel and therefore, for obvious reasons, this letter has been delayed until after the close of the Inquiry (the Mersey Committee set up in the UK to investigate the loss).

Titanic White Star Line 100 years James Cameron Captain Edward Smith Joseph Bruce Ismay Molly Brown Belfast Indiana State Museum Indianapolis