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 English 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. As the water reached the deck, 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. This was the last reliable sighting of Smith. Just seconds later Trimmer Samuel Hemming found the bridge apparently empty.
There are conflicting accounts of Smith's death. Some survivors said Smith entered the ship's wheelhouse on the bridge, and died there when it was engulfed. Robert Williams Daniel, a first class passenger who jumped from the stern immediately before the ship sank, told the New York Herald in its April 19, 1912 edition how he had witnessed Captain Smith drown in the ship's wheelhouse. "I saw Captain Smith on the bridge. My eyes seemingly clung to him. The deck from which I had leapt was immersed. The water had risen slowly, and was now to the floor of the bridge. Then it was to Captain Smith's waist. I saw him no more. He died a hero." These accounts have remained the iconic image which has remained of Smith.
When working to free Collapsible B, Junior Marconi Officer Harold Bride saw Smith dive into the sea from near the bridge just as the final plunge began, a story which was corroborated by first class passenger Mrs Eleanor Widener, who was in Lifeboat No.4 (the closest to the sinking ship) at the time. Also second class passenger William John Mellors and fireman Harry Senior, who both survived aboard collapsible B, stated that Smith jumped from the bridge. It has been affirmed that the man who jumped from the bridge may have been Lightoller, who was seen jumping at this time.
Newspaper reports said that Smith was reported to have been seen near the overturned Collapsible B during or after the sinking. Colonel Archibald Gracie reported that an unknown swimmer came near the capsized and overcrowded lifeboat, and that one of the men on board told him "Hold on to what you have, old boy. One more of you aboard would sink us all,"; in a powerful voice, the swimmer replied "All right boys. Good luck and God bless you.". Gracie did not see this man, nor was able to identify him, but some other survivors later claimed to have recognised this man as Smith. Another man (or possibly the same) never asked to come aboard the boat, but instead cheered its occupants saying “Good boys! Good lads!” with “the voice of authority”. One of the Collapsible B survivors, fireman Walter Hurst, tried to reach him with an oar, but the rapidly rising swell carried the man away before he could reach him.
Hurst said he was certain this man was Smith. Some of these accounts also describe Smith carrying a child to the boat. Harry Senior, one of Titanic's stokers, and second class passenger Charles Eugene Williams, who both survived aboard Collapsible B, stated that Smith swam with a child in his arms to Collapsible B, which Smith presented to a steward, after which he apparently swam back to the rapidly-foundering ship. Williams' account differs slightly, claiming that, after Smith handed the child over to the steward, he asked what had become of First Officer Murdoch. Upon hearing news of Murdoch's demise, Smith "pushed himself away from the lifeboat, threw his lifebelt from him and slowly sank from our sight. He did not come to the surface again."
These accounts are almost certainly apocryphal, according to historians featured in the A&E Documentary Titanic: Death of a Dream. Lightoller who survived on Collapsible B never reported seeing Smith or receiving a child from him. There is also no way in which survivors on Collapsible B would have been able to verify the identity of the individual concerned under such dimly lit and chaotic circumstances. It is more likely based upon wishful thinking that the person they saw was indeed the Captain. Captain Smith's fate will probably remain uncertain.
There are also conflicting accounts of Smith's last words. Reports said that as the final plunge began, Smith shouted to his crew "Be British boys, 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, as not one member of the surviving crew claimed he said anything like this. Since Steward's Brown account of Smith was the last realible sighting, this would make Smith's last words "Well boys, do your best for the women and children, and look out for yourselves.”
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.