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.
When the water was coming onto the boat deck, Smith stood by and watched Officer Lightoller trying to lanuch Collasple B. 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, and stood there looking at the rising water engulfing his ship.Moments later, the glass shattered and the water engulfed the wheelhouse, Smith died whilst clinging to the ship's wheel.
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
The movie remains silent on whether Smith did yield to Joseph Bruce Ismay's pressure to bring the Titanic ahead of schedule. This is a historical controversy.
In the movie, Smith is shown walking around in shock and being indecisive in most of the scenes; from all eyewitness accounts, the real Smith was quite active in overseeing the loading and launching of the boats; he actively seeked assistance and rescue throughout the sinking and later released crewmen from their duties when the ship was near its end.
It is uncertain on how Smith died on the Titanic. What is known about what were likely Smith’s last moments are this: 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. Despite the myriad historical inaccuracies of Cameron’s production, it may well be that the director got this one right: 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.
When working to free Collapsible B, Junior Marconi Officer Harold Bride said he saw Smith dive into the sea from 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. However, they could here be mistaking Captain Smith for Lightoller, who we know did exactly this at this time, first swimming towards the crow's nest.
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.
For many years, there were also conflicting accounts of Smith's last words. Newspaper reports said that as the final plunge began, Smith advised those on board to "Be British boys, be British!" Although this is engraved on his memorial and portrayed in the 1996 TV miniseries, it was just a myth popularised by the British press at the time; Smith was an experienced transatlantic captain and a cosmopolitan, sophisticated man. Had he been prone to this type of jingoistic statement, he certainly wouldn't have been so popular with the prominent Americans and Canadians who preferred to travel on ships he captained and to dine with him while on board. If he said these words to anyone, it would have been to the crew, but not one of the surviving crew members claimed he said this. Since Steward Brown's account of Smith giving orders before walking onto the bridge was the last reliable sighting, this would make Smith's last words simply "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.