Titanic Captain Edward John Smith: Facts and Information

Here are ten facts about Edward John Smith, the Captain of RMS Titanic who lost his life when the ship sank in 1912 after hitting an iceberg.

  • Edward John Smith was born on 27th January 1850 in Hanley, Staffordshire.

  • He joined the White Star Line in 1880 and worked his way up to commanding the Republic in 1887, the Majestic in 1895, the Baltic, the Adriatic and the Olympic. His reputation as a good, safe captain grew and he became known as the ‘Millionaires’ Captain’ because some of the wealthiest people in England would only travel on ships he was captaining.
  • He was married to Eleanor Smith and they had one daughter, Helen Melville.

Titanic Captain Smith

  • It is believed that Captain Smith considered retirement before accepting command of the Titanic.
  • Captain Smith was in bed when the ship collided with an iceberg. He was woken up by the sound of the collision and was told what had happened by William Murdoch, the First Officer.
  • Smith has been criticised for failing to properly manage the evacuation of passengers. He knew that the ship was going to sink, but he didn’t pass this information on to all of his officers.
  • Very little is known about what Captain Smith did in time between the Titanic colliding with the iceberg and sinking.
  • It is also unclear how Smith lost his life. Most historians believe that he locked himself in the wheelhouse and went down with his ship, but some of the survivors claimed to have encountered him when he passed an infant child into a lifeboat from the water. His body was never recovered.
  • Legend has it that the final words to his crew were ‘Be British’, but this is probably not true.
  • A statue of Captain Smith stands in Beacon Park, Lichfield.

More Facts About Captain Smith

  • He has been portrayed by many different actors over the years. According to Smith’s daughter, Helen Melville (Mel), Laurence Naismith, the actor who played Smith in A Night to Remember, looked very much like her father. Bernard Hill took on the role of Captain smith in the 1997 movie Titanic directed by James Cameron.
  • Captain Smith was 62 when he died in 1912.

What next? Discover some facts about the Titanic.