Edward John Smith
E.J. (by Bruce Ismay)
January 27, 1850
April 15, 1912 (age 62)
Perished on Titanic
Edward Smith (father)
Sarah Pennington (married)
New York, U.S.A.
Perished in the ship's wheelhouse
Edward John Smith was an Enlgish naval officer who served as commanding officer of numerous White Star Line vessels. He is best known as the captain of the RMS Titanic, mostly likely because he perished when the ship sank in 1912.
Edward John Smith was born on 27 January 1850 on Well Street, Hanley, Staffordshire, England to Edward Smith, a potter, and Catherine Hancock, born Marsh, who married on 2 August 1841 in Shelton, Staffordshire. His parents later owned a shop.
Smith attended the Etruria British School until the age of 13 when he went to Liverpool to begin a seafaring career. He began his apprenticeship on the Senator Weber owned by A Gibson & Co., Liverpool.
On Tuesday 12 July 1887 Smith married Sarah Eleanor Pennington. Their daughter, Helen Melville Smith, was born in Waterloo, Liverpool, England, on Saturday 2 April 1898.
Life on the RMS TitanicEdit
During the voyage, Smith had been given several ice warnings from other ships in the Atlantic. He didn't know that the ship was heading for a collision course with an iceberg. When Titanic hit the berg, the impact woke him up and he rushed to the bridge only to find out that his ship had been badly damaged and that she would sink.
This struck him hard. However, he and the other crew members did their best to get everyone off the ship.
At about 2:05 a.m. when the water was coming onto the boat deck, people panicked and scrambled up the boat deck towards the stern of the ship fearful for their lives. A third class passenger with her baby tried to ask Smith what they should do, however, Smith remained silent and walked towards the bridge to await his fate. He walked onto the bridge and opened the door to the wheel house. He closed the doors to the wheel house, locked them and stood there looking at the rising water engulfing his ship.Five minutes later, the glass shattered and the water engulfed the wheelhouse, Smith died whilst clinging to the ship's wheel. The ship sank beneath the waves thirteen minutes later, killing an estimated 1,500 people. Smith's body was never recovered.
When Rose died or began dreaming (never been confirmed if she actually died) she went into the great beyond version of Titanic, Smith could be seen in the background, along with Joseph Bruce Ismay.
Behind the scenesEdit
Smith is played by Bernard Hill.
The movie remains silent on whether Smith did yield to Joseph Bruce Ismay's pressure to bring the Titanic ahead of schedule. This is another historical controversy.
It is uncertain on how Smith died on the Titanic. The film portrays the most likely reports which claim that he died at his post in the wheel house. Survivors who supported this claim include the window of a local newspaper, and first class passenger Robert Williams Daniel. However, there were rumours claiming Smith had committed suicide by shooting himself; surviving crewmen however, vigorously denied this rumor.
When working to free Collapsible B, Harold Bride reported seeing a crewman who he believed was Smith jump off the bridge into the sea shortly before the final plunge, a story which was corroborated by first class passenger Mrs. George D. Widener, who was in Lifeboat #4 at the time- however, the crewman who Bride and Mrs. Widener saw jump from the bridge may have been second officer Charles Lightoller who was seen jumping at this time. Accounts of Smith carrying a child to the overturned collapsible B after the sinking before swimming off to freeze in the water are almost certainly apocryphal, according to historians. Despite conflicting accounts, it is most likely that Smith shut himself in the wheelhouse and went down with his vessel as Captains would do if not all passengers and crew members had all left the vessel.
The film never shows Smith's last words to the crew. It may be because there are conflicting accounts of Smith's last words. Reports said that as the final plunge began, Smith was urging his crew to "Be British". Although this is engraved on his memorial and portrayed in the 1996 TV miniseries, it was likely a myth made up by the British press at the time and not one member of the surviving crew claimed he said anything like this. James McGann said that as Smith was locking himself in the wheelhouse, his last words were "'Well boys, you've done your duty and done it well. I ask no more of you. I release you. You know the rule of the sea. It's every man for himself now, and God bless you."
It is worth of note that Bernard Hill has also played in The Return of the King as "King Théoden". Both The Return and the Titanic belong to the 3 most Academy awarded movies, having tied the record with 11 Oscars each (the third being Ben Hur) among others those for Best Picture, Director, Original Song, Original Dramatic Score, Film Editing, Visual Effects, Costume Design, Sound and Art Direction. Also, both movies grossed over $2 billion. Mr. Hill is the only actor to have appeared in two such films. Furthermore, both Smith and Théoden die in both films.
Despite being depicted as a hero through history, Smith's inactions may have contributed to the mass death. During the sinking, he was numb, perhaps suffering from shock. He never issused a general order to abandon the ship. This was seen when an officer ran up to him and told him that the lifeboats were starting to be loaded and women and children should go first. Smith only nodded, not saying a word. After that, he was seen walking around as if in a fog, and made absolutely no effort to save himself and not even to help other passengers.