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In the early hours of the 15th April 1912 the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg. Sailing from Southampton to New York on her maiden voyage she carried 2,224 passengers. More than 1,500 did not survive.
Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon and his wife Lucile were 1st Class passengers and famously escaped in Lifeboat #1, the Captain’s personal lifeboat. This was capable of holding 40 people, however it was launched with just 12 people on board.
After the sinking, Duff-Gordon was the only civilian that was called to the inquest of the sinking. He was accused of bribing his way onto the lifeboat and then paying the crew not to return for survivors. He was eventually acquitted but his name had been dragged through the mud and would not recover.
The report stated:
“The very gross charge against Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon that, having got into No. 1 boat he bribed the men in it to row away from the drowning people, is unfounded”
Letters have recently emerged backing up innocence.
“Presently there was a little boat at the end, what they called the emergency boat, the officers standing there told some stokers to man the boat and no other women were there, so Sir Cosmo asked if we could get in, and we said we would if he could come.
“The dear officers let us, and we dropped into this boat, then they let it down to the water.”
The group were later picked up by the Carpathia. Her words back up Sir Cosmo’s testimony to the inquiry into the sinking.
The letter also talks of the terror and confusion:
“We rowed away from the ship, which was sinking fast, so to get away from swell or sucksion.
“I . . . saw all the lights go out, and the very last of her, then the terrible explosion of rumbling, followed by the cries and screams of the hundreds in the water.”
Sir Cosmo was the most famous survivor of the Titanic and even appears in James Cameron’s epic film Titanic with Leonardo diCaprio and Kate Winslet.