Captain Smith's Daily Duties


Matt Gray

My son has a school project dealing with the Titanic. They are to select someone from the Titanic (He chose the Capt.) and write five letters, that their chosen individual, is to have written. Be it to a friend, loved one, etc..
We thought in the Captains letters we would have him write a bit about his daily duties.
Can anyone help, or lead us in the right path in finding out just what were the daily duties of Captain Smith?
Any help would be very appreciated!

K. Gray (Florida)

Captain Edward John Smith had a steward, or "TIGER", named Arthur Paintin. He usually took his meals with him at a table in the First Class Dining Saloon, or in his cabin. He gave his residence as Winn road, Southampton. He had a dog. I don't really know much about what his daily duties would be, but this website has some extenive information about him and his descendants. You can find it in the biography section on here. If you have anymore qusetions, feel free to post. I have several book and videos, on the the videos pertaining only to Captain Smith. Hope your son does well on his project.


The captains daily shipboard routine would appear to be quite a "leisurely" routine.

Apart from checking every department in the ship, from engineering to the kitchens, every morning, his life seems to have been one of total delegation.

The captain did not work on watches (shifts), like his officers and so he appears to have had a good nights sleep (or a good eight hours at any rate) on most days. The captain had total authority over the speed and the course of the ship, but the minutae was left to his subordinate officers. Woe betide any of them who deviated from his instructions.

However, although the duties of navigation could be delegated, the captain of any vessel (then and now) carried awesome responsibility.
Ultimately, the buck stopped with him. If anything went wrong with his ship, even due to an error on the part of one of his officers, it was his responsibility.

To use a contemporary similie, take the case of Commander Scott Waddell of the USS Greenville.

It is interesting to note that White Star Line rules for its commanders stated that if his ship was further than 60 miles from land, in conditions anything other than perfect, then the captain was required to be on the bridge for however long it took for the danger to clear.

Perhaps this explains Captain Smiths famous remark to Second Officer Lightoller before he turned in on the night of the disaster, asking to be called if things "become doubtful".

When it became apparant that the ship was mortally wounded the captain, true to his station, delegated the loading and lowering of the boats to his senior officers.

His apparant lack of action is seen by some to indicate he was overwhelmed by the magnitude of what was happening and that he had lost all sense of leadership through shock.

Quite the opposite is true. He carried out his final, absolute duty by going down with his ship and he remained its captain to the bitter end.

I hope this helps in some way.


Captain Smith's routine aboard ship, as described above, sounds unlike any Captain's I have ever known. A Captain's duties are broadly stated, but that does not mean he can take liberties with them. In my experience, it is a rare event indeed when a Captain can get more than 4-5 hours' sleep at a stretch. In a large ship of Titanic's size, there is always some matter that requires the Captain's attention. Even more so in a passenger ship, where the Captain is required by tradition and convention to be the social "face" for the Line, in addition to his normal seafaring duties.

A Captain's duties are purposefully stated in broad terms, in order to give the Master the latitude to do the job required of him. Even then, they are not all-inclusive. As for watch-standing...the Captain is not on the watch bill because he is always on watch. I'm serious about that. Can you imagine the responsibility that entails in even the simplest of tasks, like taking a moment to go relieve oneself?

Boxhall gives a good example of how a Captain sometimes fills his time by describing Smith's movements during the latter part of Lightoller's watch and the whole of Murdoch's:

<FONT COLOR="0000FF">16924. You know of none. Was Captain Smith on and off the bridge during your watch? - Frequently.
16925. At what intervals did he come on the bridge? - The first that I remember seeing of Captain Smith was somewhere in the vicinity of 9 o'clock, but from 9 o'clock to the time of the collision, Captain Smith was around there the whole of the time; I was talking to him on one or two occasions.
16926. Were you talking to him on the bridge? - Sometimes in the Officers' chart room and sometimes at his chart room door.

I disagree with the use of the word "leisurely" when describing Captain Smith's routine. His personality and expertise may have been such that he made it appear so, but I can guarantee that his routine during a voyage was anything but.

One thing that should be noted is that officially the captain was not supposed to fraternise with the passengers. In practice and off the record, he was expected to win their patronage by inviting them to dine with him or by other favours.

One thing Captain Smith liked to do was to personally mark the ship's position on the chart when his officers had worked it out.

As Parks says, the captain was always on duty. His day could be very easy but in bad weather he might spend literally days on the bridge, virtually without sleep. If he got things right, nobody said anything. If he stuffed up, the armchair admirals dumped the blame on him. One mistake could end his career. A pity the same rule doesn't apply to the corporate bunglers of today!