Bruce Ismay & Captain Smith

max salazar

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Jul 10, 2005
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Hi everyone!
I was just wondering if anyone knows what Bruce Ismay said to Capt. Smith when they last spoke. I don't know if anyone ever asked him afterwards what words they had before Ismay got in a lifeboat
 

Adam Usher

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Oct 26, 2004
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Hi,
good question! This is something that ive wondered about for a long time. I dont know what was said, but i cannot imagine it being pleasant. Smith will have realised his negligence at this point i would think. I could imagine that Ismay would have shifted the blame onto captain smith. I can also imagine that Ismay got in the way on the bridge, as he wanted to know the seriousness of the situation, and panicked about what he was about to see!
 
Dec 2, 2000
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As far as I know, this has been lost to the historical record. I've seen no testimony at all indicating they had any conversation after the meeting on the bridge. (Maybe I'm missing something.) The evidence I've seen indicates that Ismay spent most of the night "helping" to load the lifeboats. An effort that wasn't entirely welcome if Lowe's reaction is any indication. From Lowe's testimony:
Senator SMITH. You may put that into the record. You said you -

Mr. LOWE. You wish me to repeat it, sir?

Senator SMITH. You uttered this to Mr. Ismay?

Mr. LOWE. Yes; that was in the heat of the moment.

Senator SMITH. What was the occasion of it; because of his excitement, because of his anxiety?

Mr. LOWE. Because he was, in a way, interfering with my duties, and also, of course, he only did this because he was anxious to get the people away and also to help me.

Senator SMITH. What did you say to him?

Mr. LOWE. Do you want me to repeat that statement?

Senator SMITH. Yes, sir.

Mr. LOWE. I told him, "If you will get to hell out of that I shall be able to do something."

Senator SMITH. What reply did he make?

Mr. LOWE. He did not make any reply. I said, "Do you want me to lower away quickly?" I said, "You will have me drown the whole lot of them." I was on the floor myself lowering away.
While I would be surprised if Ismay and Captain Smith didn't have some further words that night, it would appear that nobody thought to keep a record of it.
 

max salazar

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Jul 10, 2005
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I would be very surprised if no further words were exchanged between Capt. Smith and Ismay. You're right thou, it's probably something lost to history. I just wondered if anyone who spoke to Ismay some time later would have asked. Thou I hear Ismay didn't like talking about Titanic
 
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patrick toms

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by the time captain smith had a conversation with bruce ismay anything they said was irellevant
pat toms president shannon ulster titanic society
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>by the time captain smith had a conversation with bruce ismay anything they said was irellevant <<

(Raised eyebrow) And do you have a transcript of this alleged conversation? If not, how can we possibly know the relevance or usefulness of anything they discussed?
 
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Alyson Jones

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(Igsumming this is a Villian thread)I use to think that Bruce Ismay was a villian but i read more in to it,captain Smith and Bruce Ismay are not villians of he Titanic. Captain Smith did not mean to ram Titanic in to the iceberg but i think he was maybe being a bit cocky with captaining the biggest ship and nearly at his retirement but still he did altor he's course to avoid the ice fields.

Bruce Ismay as i just found out that he was a very quiet man that rearly spoke at all. I don't think Ismay would of had an impact on Smiths decission to go faster plus Ismay did help women in to life boats after that,when no women were present he boarded a life boat himself.
History makes these two guys sound evil, which not at all true.
 
Dec 29, 2006
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Newspaper reports published at the time of his death claim that he was an "austere and taciturn man", which surely means that he tended to be silent - although his friends suggested that he "was known to be the possessor of all the attributes of a most vivid and lovable personality interested in a wide range of subjects and gifted with a delightfully keen sense of humour". I have posted the full quote elsewhere on this site.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Maybe at the time of his death, but it is interesting see how he came across while on board Titanic by several passengers.

According to Mrs. Emily Ryerson, Bruce Ismay approached her and Mrs. Thayer and showed them the ice warning from the Baltic that Capt. Smith had handed him earlier, and bragged about putting additional boilers on line. This doesn't exactly sound like a very taciturn man to me.
According to Mrs. Mahala Douglas, Mrs. Emily Ryerson referred to Ismay as displaying a very brusque manner.
According to Elisabeth Lines. Ismay appeared to be almost dictatorial when she overheard a conversation between him and Capt. Smith on Saturday. She said Ismay did all the talking; not exactly what you would expect from someone who tended to be silent.
 
Dec 29, 2006
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Well of course he may have become gloomy and taciturn as a result of the Titanic disaster - survivor guilt, perhaps? My own view is that he was a very ordinary man who inherited his wealth and status rather than earned it (a bit like George W.Bush?).

I am unconvinced about the "speeding" claims because the day-by-day "runs" of the ship indicate that she was still being worked up, with low speeds at the start of the voyage. The plan was probably to bring the boilers on line one by one, resulting (unfortunately) in higher speeds in the ice field, but also suggesting that no attempts were being made to break any records on this first trip.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Hi Stanley.

They certainly were working the speed up all along as you say. The only record that they were apparently trying to better was Olympic's maiden voyage crossing time. That came across quite clearly in the conversation overheard by Elisabeth Lines on Saturday. They were well onto doing that by Sunday night even if they never lit up any of the auxiliary boilers that were planned for Monday or Tuesday. The extra boilers Ismay referred to in his conversation with Mrs. Ryerson were the last of the 24 double-eneded boilers which were actually put on line by 7 PM Sunday evening. They were first lit about 8 AM that morning. By 10 PM the ship was moving through the water at a measured 22.5 knots. She averaged 22.3 knots from noon to 11:40 PM when she struck the berg.
 
Dec 29, 2006
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Although I am sure that these figures have been quoted many times before, Lawrence Beesley noted that, from noon on Thursday 11th April until noon on Friday the Titanic ran 386 miles, while from noon on Friday until noon on the following day she covered a further 519 miles. There was, thereafter, a more concerted attempt to achieve a higher speed and, with more of her boilers in use, the liner covered 546 miles in the 24-hour period ending at mid-day on Sunday 14th April.

Beesley suggests that there was no indication that the Titanic was travelling at excessive speed and, as he had delayed lighting some of the boilers, it seemed quite clear that Captain Smith had no intention of trying to break any speed records on this first journey — in fact, the purser told him that “they are not pushing her this trip, and don’t intend to make any fast running”￾.

My own opinion, for what it is worth, is that having made a slow start, Captain Smith and J.Bruce Ismay may have felt compelled to maintain a high speed in the ice zone — they may not have been trying to smash any records but, at the same time, they did not want to make a late arrival in New York. To that extend, they may indeed have been reckless, but as the chances of running into and iceberg and sinking must (in 1912) have seemed extremely remote, they took a calculated risk, and paid the ultimate penalty.
 

Jim Currie

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Hi Sam! Liked your last.

I agree entirely that they were working-up speed from about 7:00pm but I don't think they were doing so between Noon and that time. My best idea shows they travelling at 22.24knots from Noon until just after 7:00pm. The fact that the log reading for 10:pm was clearly remembered is also a clue. Total distance from Noon was about 259.1 miles. 81 miles of that was covered in the last 3 hours and 40 minutes at 22.5 knots. The log bears witness to this.
I also agree your average speed of 22.3 knots.

As for culpability? Smith did not know exactly where his ship was at any time after Noon on the 14th. He had a fix at 7-30pm but that wasn't plotted at the time so became academic. What he did know was what made him culpable i.e. that there was ice ahead - possibly across path of his ship and despite this he increased his ship's speed.
Actually it was Mr. Ismay's ship. Mr. Ismay knew that Smith knew about the ice but unlike Smith, Ismay was not in his environment - that's why he hired people like Smith. Perhaps Ismay expressed concern since he too knew about the ice. Smith being in total control and wishing to emphasise this, would assure Ismay there was no danger. Ismay would have to take Smith's word for this so with bolstered confidence, would boast to the fare-paying passengers.
I don't think it would take too much imagination to guess what an Owner would say to a captain who had knowingly run the owners shiny new 'toy' into an iceberg and as a result he might loose it.

Cheers!

Jim.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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This entire issue was extensively covered in a joint 2 part article that I and Mark Chirnside wrote called: "Speed and More Speed," that appeared in THS's Titanic Commutator, Issues 182 & 183 last year.

Stanley, the Beesley mileages are not entirely correct. The ship's 1st day's run was actually 484 nautical miles, not 386 as Beesley had quoted in his book. Also, the purser [most probably Reginald L. Barker] actually mentioned to Beesley that the 519 mile run for day 2 was a disappointment.

>>they may not have been trying to smash any records but, at the same time, they did not want to make a late arrival in New York.<<

I agree. There were on track for beating Olympic's maiden voyage crossing performance, and even if they never increased speed beyond what they carried that Sunday night, they would have arrived at the Ambrose lightship late Tuesday night and discharged passengers at the dock early Wednesday morning. It was noticed by several passengers that Titanic's engines were running faster Sunday night than at any other time during her entire voyage. The list includes: Mrs. Mahala D. Douglas, Mr. C. E. Henry Stengel, Mr. Lawrence Beesley, and Mr. George Rheims.

Hi Jim. As you know Smith shared the Baltic ice report with Ismay on Sunday. This was a day after Ismay was delighted that they apparently were well on there way to bettering Olympic's maiden voyage performance. To quote a passage from our article:
Bruce Ismay was certainly no navigator, nor was he an expert about weather conditions in the vicinity of icebergs and field ice. But he did have more than one conversation with Captain Smith during the voyage, and we know that Captain Smith handed him that ice warning received earlier from the Baltic, the one that Ismay showed to Mrs. Ryerson. Ismay was certainly no average first class passenger, nor was he treated as one despite what he wanted others to believe. More than likely, it was Captain Smith who would have confided to Ismay that fog or haze can form in the vicinity of ice, and if that were to happen, they would be forced to slow down or even stop. But it is also likely that he would have told Ismay that if the weather remained clear with perfect visibility, it would be better to get through the region as quickly as possible before any fog or haze could start to develop. It was generally believed that the presence of icebergs by themselves posed little danger as long as they can be seen in time to be avoided.
 

John Knight

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Jun 4, 2004
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"It was noticed by several passengers that Titanic's engines were running faster Sunday night than at any other time during her entire voyage. The list includes: Mrs. Mahala D. Douglas, Mr. C. E. Henry Stengel, Mr. Lawrence Beesley, and Mr. George Rheims."

Sam, do you know how they could tell this? By the sound? I am guessing.
 

Jim Currie

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I wonder what prompted the people mentioned to remember the sounds and sensations caused by the engines? That is - apart from spending an horrific few freezing hours in an open boat and witnessing the sounds and sights of friends and travelling companions meeting their deaths - was it the exhilarating feeling of speed? or was it as a contribution to the proof of culpability?
What you say is correct Michael but as an engineer, you will know there are other circumstances which can also cause the same sensations.

Cheers!

Jim.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>I wonder what prompted the people mentioned to remember the sounds and sensations caused by the engines?<<

Probably the fact that Titanic was a new ship, had the more or less usual slow start followed by the gradual workup as the engines were run in. Had it been any other trip, the ship would have been running at or near her expected service speed practically from the start, and I doubt it would have rated any special notice as there would have been little difference to notice.

>>What you say is correct Michael but as an engineer, you will know there are other circumstances which can also cause the same sensations.<<

I can think of a few, and I'm not even an engineer. Just an ordinary deckplate sailor.