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Encyclopedia > Edward J. Smith
For the recipient of the Victoria Cross see Edward Smith (VC); for the science fiction writer, see E. E. Smith.

Captain Edward John Smith, Royal Naval Reserve (27 January 1850 - 15 April 1912) was the captain of the RMS Titanic.

He was born in Well Street, Hanley in Stoke-on-Trent, the son of Edward and Catherine Smith, and attended Etruria British School. After leaving Etruria School at the age of 12, he spent 9 years working in a factory in Etruria, called the Etruria Forge.

In 1871 he began to become interested in seamanship, and gained a masters certificate at the age of 24, allowing him to take to the ocean. His first command was that of "The Lucy Fennel", and joined the White Star Shipping Line in March of 1880.

He served aboard the company's major vessel-freight liners to Australia, liners to New York-and 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' and 'Coptic', and 'Germanic', among others.

He was 'Majestic's' captain for nine years commencing in 1895, during which period he was awarded the Transport Medal. In addition he was an honorary commander of the Royal Naval Reserve. Captain Smith was regarded as a 'safe captain' and, for the period, he probably was.

However, even he encountered problems. In command of the 'Germanic' on 16 February 1899, she capsized at her New York pier from ice accumulations in her rigging and superstructure. He was also in command of the ‘Olympic’, Titanic's identical sister ship, when she had been damaged in collision with H.M.S. 'Hawke' in September 1911.

Earlier, in June 1911, while maneuvering 'Olympic' into a New York pier, he had damaged a tugboat with the thrust from one of the liner's propellers.

He also commanded troopships in the Boer War. He was made commodore of the White Star fleet in 1904.

He was awarded the Royal Distinction in 1910, before making the trip that would ultimately bring to an end a meaningful career. In 1912, Smith took the bridge of the ‘Titanic’ for her maiden voyage, and what should have been his last in charge of a White Star vessel.

He and his wife, Eleanor lived in Lichfield, Staffs where a statue exists and had a daughter, Helen Melville Smith.

He went down with the ship when the Titanic collided with an iceberg. His body was never recovered.


When anyone asks me how I can best describe my experience in nearly forty years at sea, I merely say, uneventful. Of course there have been winter gales, and storms and fog and the like. But in all my experience, I have never been in any accident ... or any sort worth speaking about. I have seen but one vessel in distress in all my years at sea. I never saw a wreck and never have been wrecked nor was I ever in any predicament that threatened to end in disaster of any sort. -1907

External link

  • TITANIC - A Voyage of Discovery (captain) (http://www.euronet.nl/users/keesree/captain.htm)



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