Edward Smith (sea captain)

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Smith on the Olympic, half a year before the Titanic set sail

Edward John "E. J." Smith (27 January 1850 – 15 April 1912) was an English sea captain. He was the captain of the R.M.S Titanic, which sank when it struck an iceberg. Smith was to retire after the maiden voyage of the Titanic, but died when the ship sank.[1]

Smith was born on 27 January 1850 in Hanley, Staffordshire, England.[2] He was married to Sarah Eleanor Pennington from 1887 until his death in 1912. They had one daughter.

In September 1911, Titanic’s sister ship Olympic was hit by the HMS Hawke, but the two ships did not sink. Smith was officially named Captain Edward John “E.J” Smith.

In April 1912, Smith took command of the RMS Titanic. At that time, he was aged 62.

When the Titanic struck the iceberg, Smith knew within minutes that the ship was doomed and that people would die. During the evacuation, Captain Smith did all in his power to prevent panic and did his best to assist in the evacuation; Major Arthur Godfrey Peuchen of the Royal Canadian Yacht Club said "He was doing everything in his power to get women in these boats, and to see that they were lowered properly. I thought he was doing his duty in regard to the lowering of the boats".[3] Robert Williams Daniel, a first class passenger also said:

Captain Smith was the biggest hero I ever saw. He stood on the bridge and shouted through a megaphone, trying to make himself heard.':[4]

Just minutes before the ship started its final plunge, Smith was still busy releasing Titanic's crew from their duties; he went to the Marconi operators room and released Junior Marconi Officer Harold Bride and senior wireless operator John "Jack" Phillips from their duties. He then carried out a final tour of the deck, telling crew members: "Now it's every man for himself."[5] Steward Edward Brown saw the captain approach with a megaphone in his hand. He heard him say "Well boys, do your best for the women and children, and look out for yourselves.” He saw the Captain walk onto the bridge alone, just seconds before the ship took its final plunge.[6] This was the last reliable sighting of Smith. A few minutes later, Trimmer Samuel Hemming found the bridge apparently empty.[7] Titanic’s lights went out and the stern broke off from the bow after it gave way under the pressure. 4 minutes later, Titanic disappeared beneath the ocean.

Smith died that night along with around 1,500 others, and his body was never recovered.

There are conflicting accounts of his death; Some claimed to have seen Smith in the water swimming towards a lifeboat, or near the capsized collapsible lifeboat "B", while others claimed saw shooting himself with a pistol. Other accounts describe him entering the wheelhouse on the bridge and died there when it was engulfed.[8][9][10] The actual fate of captain Smith will probably remain uncertain. His body was never recovered.

Smith has been played by many actors during documentaries, movies, television series, or plays. The most well known actors to play Smith are George C. Scott and Bernard Hill.

A statue of the captain was unveiled in July 1914 in England.

References[change | change source]

  1. "Captain Edward Smith". The Titanic.com. Archived from the original on February 21, 2012. Retrieved August 30, 2014.
  2. "Plaque for Titanic captain's house in Stoke-on-Trent". BBC News. 20 March 2012. Retrieved 26 March 2012.
  3. http://www.titanicinquiry.org/USInq/AmInq04Peuchen02.php Testimony of Arthur G. Peuchen] at Titanic inquiry.com
  4. Robert Williams Daniel, first class passenger
  5. Butler 1998, p. 130.
  6. "TIP | British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry | Day 9 | Testimony of Edward Brown (First Class Steward, SS Titanic)".
  7. Testimony of Samuel Hemming at Titanic inquiry.com
  8. Bartlett 2011, p. 224.
  9. Spignesi, Stephen (2012). The Titanic for Dummies. John Wiley & Sons. p. 207. ISBN 978-1-118-20650-8. Retrieved November 6, 2012.
  10. Daniel Allen Butler writes: "if Smith did indeed go to the bridge around 2:10 a.m. as Steward Brown said, and took refuge inside the wheelhouse, that would explain why Trimmer Hemming did not see him when he went onto the bridge a few minutes later. Earlier, at nightfall, the shutters on the Titanic‘s wheelhouse windows would have been raised, to keep the lights of the wheelhouse from interfering with the bridge officers’ night vision: Trimmer Hemming would have been unable to see Captain Smith had the captain indeed been inside the wheelhouse, awaiting his end". (website)

Other websites[change | change source]