What has the Boar War got to do with the loss of the Titanic?
Everything, claims author, Valentine Palmer, an acknowledged authority on the Titanic and her loss. Through his close family connection to the event, Palmer was commissioned, in 2011, to write a book about his great uncle, Second Officer Lightoller, the only senior officer to survive the sinking. The book was published in time for the 100th anniversary of the liner’s loss on 15th April 2012.
Palmer has now revisited the great maritime tragedy with a work of fiction, “Sherlock Holmes and the great Titanic mystery’. In the course of this thriller, the detective discovers the real cause of the Titanic’s death. The book, although written as a fiction, makes clear the true facts surrounding the loss of the ship, facts which cannot help but convince the reader of a giant conspiracy that has never been fully revealed.
Palmer explains, ‘During the 19th century, Britain was obsessed with spreading the tentacles of its empire across the known, and unknown, world. This was not just to acquire more land to colour the map red, but to gain the rich resources of the nations it conquered. South Africa was no exception. A group of Dutch farmers there broke from the British yoke and formed their own settlements. This didn’t suit the British government, as these were areas rich in gold and diamond deposits. However, Britain had not reckoned on the grit and determination of the Dutch settlers known as Boars (the Dutch word for farmers). A long drawn out guerilla-campaign by these tough fighters forced Britain to send 400,000 troops to quell these rebels.
The war proved almost unwinnable, costing over 200 billion pounds in today’s money. It also cost the lives of 26,000 Boars, mainly women and children, who died from starvation and disease in the makeshift concentration camps erected by the occupying force. Public opinion in Britain was vehemently opposed to this kind of treatment, but the government were more worried about the cost and the time involved in destroying the spirit of the Boars. By 1910, Europe was already on the brink of war, as the Kaiser began threatening moves against France, Germany’s near neighbour. If Germany invaded France, Britain would be committed to going to her aid, especially as Calais to Dover was a mere 27 miles, a short sail for the German navy. There were also German possessions in Africa, and in a coming war, these would play their part. But how to cope with this? Britain was woefully short of large, fast craft suitable as troop carriers. How then could she fight on distant battlefields like Africa, as well as on European soil? Enter JP Morgan, an American banker and one of the richest and most powerful businessmen of the age.
Morgan, as well as owning railroads and steel mills in America, also had a large fleet of ships, many originally part of shipping lines that he had taken over. His eyes were now set on the acquisition of the White Star Line, a premier British fleet of passenger-carrying liners, plying the valuable transatlantic route. The British government were reluctant to see White Star become part of International Mercantile Marine, Morgan’s vast shipping concern. Apart from losing control of one of the nation’s great shipping lines, there was also the loss of prestige. White Star owned by an American? Never, cried many of Britain’s Good and Great. There was also the coming war to factor in.
The series of large ships that White Star was having built by Harland and Wolfe in Belfast could be designed to easily convert to troop carriers when the time came, and come it surely would. A deal was struck. Morgan got the White Star fleet but agreed that they could be commandeered by Britain in time of war to carry vast numbers of troops to the scene of any fighting.
However, the Admiralty in London was concerned about the fitness of White Star’s ships in an altercation with the Germany fleet in time of war. The giant shipbuilding yard of Harland and Wolfe in Belfast was heavily engaged in building two giant liners, Olympic and Titanic. Bigger and more costly than any previous ship, they were designed from exactly the same plans and were in fact, ‘twin’ vessels. Not long after her maiden voyage to New York from Southampton, the first of these giant ships (Olympic) was rammed by a Royal Naval cruiser, HMS Hawke. Was it an accident, or was it a deliberate act to test the strength of this huge liner?
At that time, many warships were equipped with a steel ram to their bows, for use in close combat with enemy men o’ war. Olympic was crippled, almost beyond any repair and should really have been written off. However, as a naval inquiry placed the blame for the ‘accident’ fair and square on the Olympic, White Star’s insurance claim for the damage was refused. Now they were in real trouble; the income from the lucrative transatlantic trade was in doubt through the condition of Olympic, and the sister ship, Titanic was not quite ready to launch. A scheme was hatched – a scheme so daring and ruthless that, to this day, very few people are willing to consider the possibility of it being true.
How Olympic easily became Titanic and was lost in the deepest part of the Atlantic is a tale I have told in two books. Nor am I the only author to have put forward this theory. However, throughout the world, there seems to be such a strong emotional attachment to the romantic idea of 1,500 rich and poor sharing a watery grave some 107 years ago that the true story of the Titanic and how she sailed on for another 23 years, disguised as Olympic, is unacceptable to millions. And yet, how could a ship so badly damaged by a ramming from a naval cruiser manage this? Impossible. Yet the story goes on.
Sherlock Holmes, like many others with logical, enquiring minds, discovers the truth of the lost ship. It may be a work of fiction, but the great detective’s deductions are irrefutable. People should read for themselves and judge. Did the Titanic sink, or was it her ‘twin’, lost through an insurance scam that went horribly wrong?’ Palmer is convinced. Will you be, after you read ‘Sherlock Holmes and the great Titanic mystery’?