The full story of that dramatic April night in 1912 was told by Lightoller, who went on to become a British war hero in World War II, only to his wife Sylvia. It has remained a family secret for almost 100 years. “My mother insisted that everything remained strictly inside the family. A hero’s reputation was at stake,” Lady Patten, who is the wife of former Conservative Education minister Lord John Patten, told London’s Daily Telegraph. “Nearly 40 years later, with Granny and my mother long dead, I was plotting my second novel, and it struck me that I was the last person alive to know what really happened on the night Titanic sank,” Patten said.
The world's biggest passenger liner when it left Southampton, England, for New York on its maiden voyage on April 10, 1912, the RMS "unsinkable" Titanic struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic four days later, on April 14. It sank within hours with the loss of more than 1,500 lives. According to Patten, it all happened because of confusion about steering orders. When the Titanic sailed, shipping communications were in transition from sail to steam. Two different steering commands were in operation: Tiller Orders for sailing ships and Rudder Orders for steam. Tiller and Rudder orders were the complete opposite of one another: the command to turn "hard a-starboard," for example, meant to turn the wheel right under one system and left under the other.