Edward Smith

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(Redirected from 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 185015 April 1912) was the captain of the RMS Titanic when it sank in 1912. He and his wife, Eleanor lived in Lichfield, Staffordshire, and had a daughter, Helen Melville Smith. There is also a statue to his legacy in Lichfield.


Born in Well Street, Hanley in Stoke-on-Trent, the son of Edward and Catherine Smith, he 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 he joined the White Star Shipping Line in March 1880. He served aboard the company's major vessel-freight liners to Australia and liners to New York, where he 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, Coptic and Germanic, among others. He was Majestic's captain for nine years commencing in 1895, during which he was awarded the Transport Medal. In addition, he was an honourary commander of the Royal Naval Reserve. Smith was regarded as a 'safe captain' and, for the period, he probably was. He was given command of troopships during the Boer War at the start of the 20th century. In 1904 he was made commodore of the White Star fleet, and was awarded the Royal Distinction in 1910.

However, even he encountered problems during his career. While in command of the Germanic on 16 February 1899, it capsized at its New York pier from ice accumulations in its rigging and superstructure. In June 1911, while maneuvering the Olympic alongside a New York pier, a tugboat was damaged from the thrust of one of the liner's propellers. In September that same year Smith was master of the Olympic when it was damaged in a collision with HMS Hawke.

In 1912 Smith had decided he would retire after commanding the RMS Titanic on its maiden voyage. At 11:40 P.M. on April 14 the Titanic struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic. The ship sank two hours and forty minutes later killing an estimated 1,500 people. Smith went down with the ship. His body was never recovered.


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