Menacing minutes go under the hammer

Sunday 8th November 2020 - Belle Gait


Menacing minutes go under the hammer

A rare copy of minutes for a board meeting held following the sinking of the Titanic go up for auction on 14th November.



We all know of the tragedy that befell the Titanic; On April 14th 1912 just before midnight, the ship's lookout, Frederick Fleet, who was in the crow's nest, spotted an iceberg ahead of the ship. Unfortunately, whilst the giant boat on its' maiden voyage did manage to turn to port, thereby circumventing a direct collision, it was unable to avoid a 'glancing blow' which caused six gashes in the side of the liner. These six holes were not unusually large, and in fact, the ship could have remained afloat had only four of the watertight holds been affected and flooded, but unfortunately, the holes were located over six of them. A succession of poor decisions including sailing too quickly and silencing a safety officer who, prior to the ship setting off, voiced their concern at the severe shortage of lifeboats meant the Titanic finally sunk at 20 minutes past 2 am on April 15th less than 3 hours after it struck the iceberg.


A lesser-known fact may be that a special board meeting was held at the company headquarters in London by the bosses of White Star Line a week after the tragedy occurred. All of the senior directors attended this meeting, the minutes of which have recently emerged in an archive kept by the captain of White Star Line, Charles Stark. The minutes will now go under the hammer with Andrew Aldridge of Henry Aldridge & Son Ltd of Devizes, Wiltshire in their online sale starting at 1 pm on November 14th. Andrew is undoubtedly the right man for the job; he is a fourth-generation auctioneer, and widely regarded as the leading authority on the valuation of Titanic memorabilia in the World. This fascinating lot has been valued at £15,000.

The minutes from this meeting which you can see here show that the bosses of the infamous White Star Line were decidedly more interested in protecting their own interests and reputations than they were with the lives of the 1500 people that were lost. The board expressed their concern for the mental wellbeing and lasting psychological effect the tragedy would have on the company chairman, Bruce Ismay, dubbed the 'coward of the Titanic'. Mr Ismay was one of the few survivors having sneakily escaped the doomed cruise liner in one of the few lifeboats. Yet, this collection of senior directors specifically asked that the sympathy for the terrible ordeal suffered by the spineless Ismay be recorded. In addition to this misdirected sympathy, the board sought earnestly to absolve themselves of any blame stating that the Titanic was a 'magnificent vessel' being sailed only by the 'best men in the White Star organisation'. Indeed, the vice president of the company, Mr Harold Sanderson, went on to state: 'I can say without fear of contradiction that a finer set of men never manned a ship.'

Mr Harold Sanderson also asked the board to do everything they could to help the management of the cruise liner company 'live down the effects of the great calamity'. Unfortunately, this did not exclude asking the family members of the victims to pay up to the modern-day equivalent of £2000 to get the bodies of their loved ones back.

Indeed, these incredibly rare minutes are sure to strum up a lot of interest not least because of their illegal behaviour. Mr Aldridge said "'If it [the tragedy] had happened today the owners would very likely have been charged with corporate manslaughter and have to pay out tens of millions of pounds in compensation.'


If you, like Mr Aldridge, are an avid Titanic enthusiast we would certainly recommend checking out this catalogue. Remember the entire sale will take place online, you can watch the action and bid live on the day.