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Titanic

Captain Edward Smith
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Captain Edward John Smith, RD, RNR, (January 27, 1850April 15, 1912) was the captain of the RMS Titanic when it sank in 1912. He, and his wife Eleanor, had a daughter Helen Melville Smith. There is a statue to his legacy in Beacon Park, Lichfield.

History

Born in Well Street, Hanley in Stoke-on-Trent, the son of Edward and Catherine Smith, he attended Etruria British School. After leaving school, he worked briefly at the Etruria Forge, but seems to have decided from an early age to go to sea. In 1867, he signed on as 'Boy' aboard the Senator Weber, owned by the Liverpool shippers Andrew Gibson & Co., and commanded by his half-brother Joseph Hancock. After serving aboard several other square riggers he gained a masters certificate at the age of 25, allowing him to command his own vessel.

His first command was that of the Lizzie Fennell, and he joined the White Star Shipping Line in March 1880. He served aboard the company's major vessel-freight liners to Australia and liners to New York, where he quickly rose in stature. As the ships grew in size, so did the importance of Captain Smith's presence. He worked his way up through Adriatic, Celtic, Coptic and Germanic, among others. He was Majestic's captain for nine years commencing in 1895, during which he was awarded the Transport Medal. In addition, he was an honorary commander of the Royal Naval Reserve. Smith was regarded as a 'safe captain' and, for the period, he probably was. He was given command of troopships during the Boer War at the start of the 20th century. In 1904, he was made commodore of the White Star fleet, and was awarded the Reserve Decoration in 1910.

However, even he encountered problems during his career. While in command of the Germanic on February 16, 1899, it capsized at its New York pier from ice accumulations in its rigging and superstructure. In June 1911, while maneuvering the Olympic alongside a New York pier, a tugboat was damaged from the thrust of one of the liner's propellers. In September that same year Smith was master of the Olympic when it was damaged in a collision with HMS Hawke.

In 1912, Smith had decided he would retire after commanding the RMS Titanic on its maiden voyage. At 11:40 P.M. on April 14 the Titanic struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic. The ship sank two hours and forty minutes later killing an estimated 1,500 people. Smith refused to be rescued and went down with his ship. His body was never recovered.

Trivia

  • In the 1997 film Titanic, Captain Edward Smith was portrayed by Bernard Hill. An interpretation of Smith's fate is provided when, in the screenplay, he calmly remains at the bridge during the ship's final moments as the wheelhouse collapses from the water pressure and floods.