This book is a bit of a puzzle. Lightoller’s autobiography, published in 1935, had to be withdrawn at the insistence of the Marconi Company, because of implied criticism of their wireless operators
I have never before seen this paperback edition, or even seen a copy advertised, and I have wondered if it might be an illegal publication. The paper quality is poor, which suggests that it might be a WW II or shortly later printing. It also seems unlikely that Lightoller himself was involved. Firstly, the cover states that he was “The Only Surviving Officer”, which was not true. Pitman and Boxhall, both outlived him in retirement. It is unlikely that Lightoller himself would have let this pass. Secondly, he is credited as “Commander Lightoller” his retired Royal Navy Reserve rank, not used on the 1935 a, where he is “Charles H. Lightoller”. No rank given.
Internally, Bay Tree Books are described as costing 6d. Each.
Lightoller certainly had an adventurous life, going to sea as a boy of 13, being shipwrecked twice, apart from the Titanic – chapter headings say it all Frisco in the 80s, Rio and Revolutions, Seafights and Cyclones, No Game No Gold, Shanghaied, etc. All good rip-roaring stuff, although some of it is redolent of “swinging the lamp!”
Although White Star Line were reasonably happy with the evidence which he gave to the BOT Titanic inquiry there is no doubt that he and other officers were culpable on two counts that cost lives. They mistakenly believed that the lifeboats might break up if lowered fully loaded. This would not have happened. They were all new, and had been tested carrying a greater weight than a full load of passengers. Following the custom (and it was no more than that) “women and children first”, Lightoller and others, finding no women nearby on the boat deck, lowered half empty boats, when there were men seeking seats. Lightoller’s intention was that the boats would assemble on the surface, adjacent to the lower gangway doors, which would be opened to load women from second and third classes. These doors were never opened (they might well have been under water by this time) The seamen who Lightoller ordered below to open the doors, were never seen again and none survived.
As a Naval Reservist Lightoller eventually rose to command a destroyer in the Dover Patrol during the Great War and at one point engaged a German Submarine with gunfire. The sub was unable to submerge, and the Captain claimed that after surrendering, he and his crew were subjected to machine gun and small arms fire, which only ceased when another British vessel came close enough to witness what was going on and the surrender was finally accepted. No action was taken against Lightoller, but his reputation was certainly tarnished when the U-boat captain’s memoirs were published. Read Lightoller’s own account of the incident, and see what you think…