ON the 99th anniversary of the Titanic disaster, an author has revealed how the Chorley man who was the highest-ranking survivor later admitted he had helped an inquiry whitewash what had happened.

In the book ‘101 Things You Thought You Knew About The Titanic...But Didn’t’, Tim Maltin tells the story of second officer Charles Lightoller.

Mr Maltin, 38, spent two years researching the book, reading both the British and American inquiries and combing through hundreds of survivor accounts.

He concludes that although Lightoller was a highly competent and brave officer, he subsequently contributed to a “whitewash” to defend his employers.

Charles Lightoller, the son of Chorley mill owners, grew up close to the town centre, and was 38 at the time of the ship’s maiden voyage.

On the night of April 14 he commanded the last bridge watch before the ship’s collision with an iceberg.

Mr Maltin said: “Once the fate of the Titanic became clear, Lightoller was put in charge of the lifeboats on the Port side and led the evacuation of the passen-gers into the lifeboats.

“The evidence points to him being very strict with the “women and children first” rule, turning away boys as young as 13.

“He famously refused entry to Colonel John Jacob Astor IV, one of the richest men in the world, who asked to go with his pregnant wife Madeleine.

“Lightoller was known as a ‘hard case’ who had already been shipwrecked in 1889 at the age of 16 when his ship ran aground in the middle of the South Indian Ocean.

“He also knew all about surviving in the cold, having spent a desperate year in 1898 prospecting for gold in the Yukon, in Canada’s frozen North-West.”

As the ship sank and the remaining lifeboats washed away, Lightoller entered the water, gaining refuge with others on an upturned lifeboat.

“He took command and taught the survivors to shift their weight on the boat to counter the swell”, said Mr Maltin.

“This continued for hours until the rescue ship Carpathia reached them.

"Lightoller was reportedly the last person to be rescued by the ship.”

As the senior surviving officer, Lightoller was a key figure at the subsequent inquiry.

But Mr Maltin claims he was fiercely defensive of his employer White Star, leavng out personal doubts about the lack of trained seamen on board.

“Lightoller was an impressive and decisive witness at the inquiry and was described as having the mind of a barrister.

"However, writing in 1935 he frankly admitted that the British inquiry was a whitewash, saying, ‘a washing of dirty linen would help no-one’.”

Charles Lightoller’s legacy also lives on in other ways, with Chorley’s Albany High School earlier this year naming their newly-rebuilt canteen in his honour, as his family home was on the present school grounds.

Lightoller lived until 1952.

He continued to work at sea and was aboard a vessel which rescued soldiers from Dunkirk in 1940.

COLNE’S Wallace Hartley may have been changing his tune as The Titanic went down, according to author Tim Maltin.

Legend has it that Hartley instructed the liner’s eight-member band to play jaunty music as the ship sank.

But Mr Maltin believes the bandleader switched to sombre tunes as the passengers’ fate became obvious.

Violinist Hartley and his seven fellow musicians played just behind the first funnel.

Some accounts of the disaster differ on the type of music the band played, some saying light tunes were played, while others report hearing more solemn hymns being performed.

In his research for the book, Mr Maltin has concluded that both recollections could be accurate.

He said: “After looking at the evidence I think the band began by playing light, cheerful music, including waltzes, ragtime tunes, and the popular comic songs of the day from the London music halls, to reassure Titanic’s passengers after the collision.

“Irving Berlin’s Alexander’s Ragtime Band was very popular at the time, and Fourth Officer Boxhall said this was the first tune the band played after the collision.

“Another tune that was remembered was In the Shadows, which had been a big London hit in 1911.

“Some survivors reported If Nearer, My God, to Thee, an obviously more sombre tune, was being played as the ship sank.”

Mr Maltin believes that the timing of the testimonies is crucial to understanding which type of music was being played.

“Those who escaped in the lifeboats, obviously the first ones away, tended to recall the lighter tunes,” he said.

“There are far fewer survivors who jumped in the water as the ship entered the water. They are the ones that recall hymns.

“Regardless of the final tune played that night, the music of Titanic’s band evidently made a deep impression on many survivors, both during the disaster and afterwards.”