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Who Was the Captain of the Titanic?

Updated on December 1, 2014
By Bs0u10e01 ( CC-BY-3.0), via Wikimedia Commons
By Bs0u10e01 ( CC-BY-3.0), via Wikimedia Commons | Source

Who Was Titanic's Captain? Did He Go Down with the Ship?

Captain Edward John Smith, 62, was Master of RMS Titanic. He was not only highly respected within the maritime community, but admired by passengers who had sailed with him.

Yes, like in the movie, the real life Capt. E.J. Smith went down with his ship. He was a true captain.

Though we don't know for sure where he was at the last, we do know that he did NOT enter a lifeboat, but perished in one of the great sea tragedies of all time.

Yes, Captain Smith, Master of Titanic, went down with his ship, in the honored tradition of the heroic sea captain. How much more heroic was he than the Captain of Costa Concordia, the ship that recently went down?

See what you think after reading a little about Captain Smith.


Page created 01/30/2012.

(public domain)
(public domain) | Source

Captain Edward John Smith, Master of the Titanic

What a sea captain this man was! This man was Edward John Smith, born Jan. 27, 1850.

He was White Star Line's best. Each time a newer and bigger White Star ship was launched, Smith was given command.

He had been the master of the biggest and finest ships of the era, among them Majestic, Baltic, Adriatic, and Titanic's sister ship, the famous RMS Olympic**. Finally, he was tapped to command the new RMS Titanic.

Passengers loved this man, and clammored to cross the Atlantic on ships under his command. No, he was not just any sea captain.

**If you're interested, you can read about the fascinating careers of Titanic's sisters.

Titanic Captain: The Life of Edward John Smith - Available in Paperback and for your Kindle

Have you read this book about the Captain of the Titanic?

The remarkable career - and life - of this remarkable seaman ended in the cold waters of the North Atlantic with the sinking of the Titanic.

If you'd like to find out more about the life of the man who routinely took hundreds of lives in his hands as he took them to sea, and died like a man with hundreds of others the fateful night of April 14, 1912, this book will interest you.

Titanic Captain: The Life of Edward John Smith
Titanic Captain: The Life of Edward John Smith

Rather than the romanticized glimpses we get of Smith in the movies, this book is based on "original research drawing on the ship's logs, crew lists, newspapers, and first-hand accounts."

ALSO AVAILABLE FOR KINDLE

 

Did you know?

Did you know the name of Titanic's Captian before now?

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 (public domain)
(public domain) | Source

Commander Edward John Smith, RD, RNR

What the letters after Capt. Smith's name stood for

RD stands for Reserve Decoration.

The Reserve Decoration was awarded between 1908 and 1999 to officers with at least 15 years service in the Royal Naval Reserve.

RNR stands for Royal Naval Reserve.

Captain was a Full Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve, and as he had been a commander in the reserve during time of war, a ship under his command was allowed to wear or fly the Blue Ensign.

Smith commanded for the Royal Naval Reserve on the MAJESTIC. For his service as commander of the Majestic, which was requisitioned as a troop transport in 1899 during the Boer War, Smith was awarded the Transport Medal by King Edward VII.

Leaving Queensland, Ireland (modern day Cobh)

 Leaving Cobh their last view of land
Leaving Cobh their last view of land | Source

Last Land Ever Seen by Over 1500 on Titanic

This photo, taken by a friend, is of his last view of land - as his ship left Cobh, Ireland, to begin a Transatlantic Crossing.

This, or a similar view, would also have been the last land ever seen by Captain Smith and some 1500 others. Titanic, too, stopped last at Cobh, then known as Queensland, before beginning the crossing.

(Estimates vary, but most put the tragic count at between 1500 and 1518)

public domain
public domain | Source

Captain Smith Never Entered a Lifeboat

But where was he?

Captain Smith never made it into a lifeboat. Only about 1/3 of those aboard ever did.

But, where was the Titanic's Captain at the end?

Several survivors claimed to have seen him moments before the end. Their stories don't really agree, but here are the supposed final sightings of the beloved master of the great ocean liner:

1 - Standing on the bridge, in near waist deep freezing water

2 - In the radio room

3 - Swimming away after having dived off the sinking ship

4 - Placing a child on one of the overturned collapasable lifeboats

Of course, we may never know his last act or where it took place, but we do know this beloved captain came to an honorable end that night.

(The photo here was taken by a passenger on RMS Carpathia, the rescue ship.)

Titanic: The Complete Story - 3 DVD Set from The History Channel

Titanic: The Complete Story
Titanic: The Complete Story

From the History Channel - the story of the world's most famous ocen liner, from before her first voyage began, through dives to present day dives to the shipwreck.

Thre volume DVD set

 

The Captain of Costa Concordia - vs. The Captain of Titanic

On January 13, 2012, the Costa Concordia cruise ship ran aground and partially sank off the Island of Giglio.

Captain Francesco Schettino called the kitchen and ordered dinner AFTER hitting the rocks that penetrated the hull. He was in a lifeboat himself by 11:30 pm, while many passengers in peril were still onboard. Passengers were still being evacuated well after 3:00 am. Though Italian Authorities had ordered him back on board to oversee evacuations, he never returned to the ship.

He now faces charges of manslaughter and abandoning a ship under his command with passengers still in danger. (A serious maritime offense)

The actions of Francesco Schettino, Captain of Costa Concordia, stand in stark contrast to those of Captain Edward J. Smith, Captain of Titanic.

What do you think of the actions of Captain Schettino on the night of January 13, 2012?

He was cowardly, and those who say he is today the "most hated man in Italy" are right to feel that way.

He was cowardly, and those who say he is today the "most hated man in Italy" are right to feel that way.

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    • pinkrenegade lm 4 years ago

      When you're the Captain of the ship you should be the last person to abandon the ship.

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      He had a responsibility to his crew and passengers, I guess the decision of that moment isn't working out well for him.

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      He had a responsibility to his crew and passengers, I guess the decision of that moment isn't working out well for him.

    • savateuse 5 years ago

      Schettino showed a weak character that night.

    • jolou 5 years ago

      He deserves to spend a long time in jail.

    • tinamahan 5 years ago

      He is an absolute coward, and could never even dream of being a courageous captain, like Captain Smith.

    • ronaldpakasi 5 years ago

      A coward indeed!

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      schettino is a coward,a big fat coward....but hopefully we will not make a statue of a man responsible of the death of nearly 1500 people like you idiots did

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      He is a disgrace to the rank of captain, he abandoned his crew and passengers,he deserves everything he gets.

    • Cynthia Sylvestermouse 5 years ago from United States

      I always hated the idea that a captain should go down with his ship, but I do believe they should see to the safety of their passengers first. After all, they should be the most knowledgeable and experienced on the ship. He is worse than a coward. From what we have read, he caused the accident by playing games. In my opinion, that makes him a murderer. Again, he of all people, should have known the importance of his responsibility. Most hated in Italy might just be an understatement.

    • SecondHandJoe LM 5 years ago

      Next question!. . . I was just going to suggest another book on the Titanic, fiction, but a great read. Raise the Titanic, by Clive Cussler. Thanks for reminding us of the contrast between Captain Smith and this other guy!

    • Tony Payne 5 years ago from Southampton, UK

      He lived up to the reputation of Italians being cowardly in true style.

    • SayGuddaycom 5 years ago

      As a sea captain myself I must say that his actions were despicable and he deserves everything that happens to him.

    • Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 5 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      He had a responsibility to the passengers to see to their safety first and foremost. Since he did not do that, many lives were lost that could have been saved. He was only concerned for his own self and did not have the intestinal fortitude and integrity to be a captain.

    • Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      Big fat coward. Selfish too.

    • Brandi 5 years ago from Maryland

      What he did was hideous and he is not an honorable man. Chivalry is beside the point (although I hope it isn't dead)! He totally shirked his responsibilities as the Captain of that ship. His first thought should have been to get every single passenger and crew member off that boat before himself.

    • AlleyCatLane 5 years ago

      Despicable. As captain he is responsible for everyone's safety and should not leave the ship until all are off. He is also quilty in my eyes for delaying notification to his staff and passengers that the ship was damaged. Had he acted responsibly no lives would have been lost.

    • JoshK47 5 years ago

      There's a certain dignity and chivalry expected of a captain, his actions were reprehensible for someone in his position.

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      If only half of what has been said about him is true, he should never have been put in command.

    • Zut Moon 5 years ago

      I wouldn't want to be him, that's for sure.

    Times have changed since the days of Titanic. Chivalry is dead, and every man for himself is now just fine.

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      • CruiseReady 4 years ago from East Central Florida

        Perhaps that is because no such order was required. Cabin stewards carried keys and were authorized to unlock gates in the event of emergency. It's true that in the panic, not all of the gates were gates were unlocked. (Most gates were only about waist high, unlike the ones in the movie.)

        Larger contributing factors may have been that A) the 3rd class passengers couldn't find the way to the boat deck in the darkness, and B) as members of the 'lower' class of the day, they were conditioned to wait to be told what to do.

        The way up was not simple or straightforward. Cabin stewards did try to help. One steward led four different groups up that night, no doubt including a good portion of the 178 third class survivors.

      • anonymous 5 years ago

        Despite the majority of third class passengers being locked below decks, Captain Smith of the Titanic never once gave the order to unlock the gates, nor did any of his officers, lest they hamper the escape of the first and second class passengers. Chivalry...?

      Inscription at the Capt. Smith Memorial Statue

      A statue of Captain Smith was erected in 1914 in Beacon park. Here is the text of the inscription on it.

      Commander Edward John Smith, RD, RNR.

      Born January 27 1850, Died April 15 1912,

      Bequeathing to his countrymen

      the memory and example of a great heart,

      a brave life and a heroic death.

      Be British

      What do you think?

      Do you think the captain of Titanic thought about saving himself or not?

      See results

      Kids are Curious about Titanic, Too! - Books about Titanic for Kids

      Captain Smith left behind

      a wife and a

      teenaged daughter

      (affiliate link follows)
      (affiliate link follows) | Source

      Please Take a Minute

      Though it's been over a century since the tragic sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic, people are still intrigued by the ship, its demise, and the man who took her to sea. What do you think about Capt. Smith?

      Please take a minute to leave your thoughts about the Captain of the Titanic.

      (Or just to say hello)

      The Guestbook Is: OPEN

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          anonymous 4 years ago

          Captain Edward John Smith was a great Heroic Captain who EVER live

        • pinkrenegade lm profile image

          pinkrenegade lm 4 years ago

          Informative lens. Not everyone knows the Captain's name. Thank you for the great lens.

        • MojoCreator LM profile image

          MojoCreator LM 4 years ago

          Very informative read. Thanks for a great lens!

        • CruiseReady profile image
          Author

          CruiseReady 5 years ago from East Central Florida

          @Karen1960: That's correct. The movie version is inaccurate in that regard. There were some gated areas, however, those gates were only waist high, and at least some were open. The route from below to the boat deck was a confusing one, rather than one simple straight staircase. There are accounts of at least one cabin steward leading goups of third class passengers along the circuitous route up to the boat deck.

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          Karen1960 5 years ago

          The comment about Third Class passengers being "locked below decks" is incorrect - this is a myth perpetuated by film versions of events.

          The Captain of the Concordia should line up right next to Bruce Ismay!

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          anonymous 5 years ago

          A lovely tribute to Captain Smith, a man who will always be remembered as a hero for all the right reasons. It seems like no matter how many movies I see on the sinking of the Titanic, I always hope for a different ending. Sadly the Captain of the Costa Concordia has provided an example in another direction and will also go down in history. Very nicely done, as is this entire series related to the Titanic!...*

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          jolou 5 years ago

          He was a brave and courageous man.

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          tinamahan 5 years ago

          I always enjoy reading anything about Titanic. Captain Smith was a very courageous man, and I am glad that they created a statue in tribute. Thank you so much for sharing this interesting page!

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          ronaldpakasi 5 years ago

          An awesome tribute! Great lens!

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          AJ 5 years ago from Australia

          I have seen the same outlook from Cobh, but with a happier ending. I didn't know it was once called Queensland.

        • KimGiancaterino profile image

          KimGiancaterino 5 years ago

          I find that the hardest scene in the movie "Titanic" -- when the captain succumbs. It's unfortunate he was pressured to break speed records. The story would have ended quite differently, had he been able to complete the journey at his own pace.

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          anonymous 5 years ago

          This is a very interesting article

        • suzy-t profile image

          suzy-t 5 years ago

          This was a great, albeit sad, story. There are few men left on the high seas that could match the stature of Capt.Smith. Thank you for putting it together.

        • Sylvestermouse profile image

          Cynthia Sylvestermouse 5 years ago from United States

          Thank you for reminding us of what a real captain looks like and how he should act. I do hate that he died. Of course, I hate that anyone died, but how could I not admire the memory of the man who looked death in the face and stood his ground.

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          Steve and Annette 5 years ago

          This is a very interesting article about a very interesting man - thank you for writing this lens.

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          Lawrence Hebb 5 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

          Wow, what a lens! I'd read about the Captain of the Titanic before. I also know he was a man of Faith and wasn't afraid to show it. Your lens makes me want to find out more

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          anonymous 5 years ago

          He was unknown to me , Thanks for this lens, Squidlike !

        • profile image

          anonymous 5 years ago

          He was unknown to me , Thanks for this lens, Squidlike !

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          Tony Payne 5 years ago from Southampton, UK

          A Captain is responsible for everyone on board his ship. Sadly Captain Smith was at the mercy of his masters, who pretty much ordered him to sail further north and faster than he knew was safe. He had the opportunity to end his career and to say NO, but sadly obeyed orders, and ended not only his career but the lives of so many. A truly tragic event. Blessed.

        • SayGuddaycom profile image

          SayGuddaycom 5 years ago

          One of the best lenses on Squidoo. fine work.

        • Nancy Hardin profile image

          Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 5 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

          I feel the story of the Titanic is one of those whose legend grows year after year. I believe Captain Smith knew he would be held responsible and preferred to go down with his ship, rather than to live with the knowledge of his failure. He held himself to a higher standard and I'm sure he was spiritually broken as he died beneath the ocean's waves.

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          Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

          Great bio on the Titanic's captain. Thank you.

        • LisaDH profile image

          LisaDH 5 years ago

          I've heard a lot about the musicians who continued to play for passengers while the ship went down, but I haven't heard much about the captain. Some may blame him for the accident, but he did show character by not abandoning ship at the first chance.

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          anonymous 5 years ago

          Not much has been said or heard about the Captain of the Titanic but for his bravado. Surely an unsung hero - at least for me!

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          Mona 5 years ago from Iowa

          Fascinating and tragic. I'm enjoying your series on the titanic very much. Blessed.

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          ohcaroline 5 years ago

          Great lens on this historic event and the man involved in it.

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          poutine 5 years ago

          Now I know a lot more about the captain of the Titanic.

          What a brave mana.

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          cruiselinefans 5 years ago

          Thanks for this lens - a real chance to learn something new about an important historical figure - alongside a current event that highlights WHY he was such a heroic person.

          I bet, if we asked Capt. Smith, he would simply say he was doing his job - performing a duty - and I think this is the other side of qualifying a "hero". An amazing act + humility = real hero. Thanks for sharing!

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          Lindrus 5 years ago

          Thanks for a great lens about a real hero.

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          anonymous 5 years ago

          I do honor this Captain because he never abandoned the passengers of the great Titanic. He is truly great Captain and a model of bravery. http://www.nationalvisas.com.au

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          AlleyCatLane 5 years ago

          Really nice lens. Thanks for sharing a lens about a real life hero. Blessed.

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          JoshK47 5 years ago

          A good man. Thanks for sharing this. Blessed by a SquidAngel.

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          anonymous 5 years ago

          I think Captain Smith did the right thing; although how much of it was to save face we will never know.

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          CruiseReady 5 years ago from East Central Florida

          @Zut Moon: yes, indeed.

        • Zut Moon profile image

          Zut Moon 5 years ago

          I wonder what caused you to write this lens ... LOL

          Quite a contrast between the 2 captains, eh ....

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