In Brief

Did Freemasons 'whitewash' Titanic inquiry?

Secret archives reveal that several key members of the investigation were Freemasons

A newly-opened database of Freemason membership records may explain why the investigation into the sinking of the Titanic turned out to be a 'whitewash', the Daily Telegraph reports.

More than two million Freemason membership records from 1733 to 1923 are now open to the public for the first time via Ancestry.com, allowing researchers to trace some of the clandestine connections that may have influenced history. One of the first theories to emerge from the new data suggests that the secret society could have compromised the inquiry into the sinking of the Titanic.

Exactly why investigators only interviewed three passengers and exonerated almost everyone involved in the tragedy has long been unclear. The inquiry declined to assign blame to Captain Smith, the White Star shipping line, or the Board of Trade. A look at the previously secret Freemason records, however, could shed some light on why the inquiry proved to be a damp squib – many of those implicated in the tragedy and the people assigned to judge them were all members of the secretive organisation.

The US Senate's own inquiry into the disaster pointed the finger at the British Board of Trade for allowing the ship to go to sea with a devastatingly inadequate number of lifeboats.

However, the British inquiry, led by Lord Mersey, controversially exonerated the board of responsibility. The new Freemason records reveal that both Lord Mersey and the head of the Board of Trade, Sydney Buxton, were Freemasons, inviting speculation that their shared membership in the organisation may have influenced Lord Mersey's findings.

Furthermore, two of the five chief investigators in the inquiry can also be found on the membership rolls, as can one of the directors of the White Star line's parent company.

Other theories posit Masonic involvement in everything from the British parliament to Jack the Ripper. Famous names featured on the newly-released records include Winston Churchill, Oscar Wilde, Ernest Shackleton, Rudyard Kipling and George VI.

Founded in 1717, the Freemasons are thought to currently have up to six million members, including 250,000 in England and a further 150,000 in Scotland and Ireland.

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