Captain Smith's Ships


Dean Manning

I'm curious. Does anybody know who long, and if so the exact dates, that captain Smith commanded the Olympic? The reason is, I'm sorta wondering if Smith had any experience navigating a ship the size of Titanic through iceberg infested waters.


The Olympic left Southampton on its maiden voyage on 14 June 1911. Smith was the captain. From then until 20 September 1911, Olympic carried out the 3 weekly trans-Atlantic run. On 20 September 1911 Olympic collided with HMS Hawke coming out of Southampton harbour under pilot. Olympic was badly damaged in the bow and was patched up by White Star engineers at Southampton before sailing to Belfast for full repairs. Olympic salied again from Southampton on Thursday, 29 November 1911 and continued with the regular trans-Atlantic service. On 14 January 1912 she came through a very bad Atlantic storm. On 24 February 1912 Olympic shed one blade from the port propellor on the way back to Southampton from New York and had to steam on one engine back to England. Once again, she was taken to Belfast for more repairs and she rejoined the White Star trans-Atlantic service again on Wednesday 13 March 1912. Because Olympic was so big, she had to be repaired in the dry dock where Titanic was being fitted out. Titanic had to be hauled out of the dock to let Olympic in. This delayed the launch date of Titanic.Smith joined the Titanic as captain on 1 April 1912 for the sea trials and later the maiden voyage. Smith had captained White Star ships since 1887 and had crossed the Atlantic many times. He survived running aground: fires and other maritime mishaps up to the time he was made Commodore in 1904 and then captained the White Stsr's current flagship starting with the Baltic.
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Thanks Martin for your reply. The reason that I asked the question is because I wanted to know if Smith had any prior experience in navigating a ship the size of the Titanic through an ice field before. As far as I'm concerned, this helps support the arguement that Smith's experience was actually working aginst him the night of the disaster.

Anyhow, Thank you!

hi everyone. I sure could use some help on this one. I recently came across some old photos from 1911. one photo is capt.smith poseing beside a woman on board a ship. i don't think the ship is the rms titanic. along with the photos are a few of the kaiser de gross. question- does anyone know of capt. smith touring or visiting the De grosse or wilhelm's. i would really appreciate the help. I am trying to identify the woman.(by the ship).
Dean to my knowledge Smith had no problems with ice before the Titanic sinking. Not to say he had never seen any it had just not been a problem. It's interesting that Smith often pointed out that he did not lose a ship well it was not from lack of chances. In 1889 while the Captain of the Republic ran aground in New York Harbor , in 1891 the Coptic had the same fate in Rio. In 1901 the Majestic under his command had a fire to deal with although damage was small and he later said he was not made aware of the fire until it was put out. 1909 while in command of the Adriatic he again ran aground in New York and in 1911 while on the Olympic had the famous accident with the HMS Hawke.

Could you give me the book in which you found these facts about Smith. I have been looking but I haven't been able to find such a book. Course I do have a bad habit of looking in the wrong places.

As to Smiths experience it is a good thing to point out that many Officers both Captains and below had very little to do with ice in those days. If you saw it you steered out of it. If you heard about you steered away from it. If you got caught in a field you waited until day light to get out of it. Icebergs and there make up where not really known then. Underwater ice shelfs, bulges beneath the berg where just things that nobody really saw.

A few seamanship books mentioned in other threads mention this. But it was most likely common policy to avoid it rather then get close to it.

The incidents that Mr. Taylor point out above could be used to argue that Smith was a dying bread. A fly by the seat of your pants kind of Captain.

Erik, The book I got that info from is "Titanic The Canadian Story" I have read many of the same reports in other books as well.

I'm a little late getting to this thread, but I'd like to say thanks for the info anyhow. For what it's worth, my opinion of Smith is that even though he may not have had the experience of navigating a ship the size of Titanic through any sort of ice, I really think a captain is the one who is ultimately responsible for his\her ship.

just my $.02.

Was Captain Smith ever in charge of a ship called "Britannic" back in 1892 or so? I know this is not the same Britannic that was a sister to the Titanic and Olympic tho.
Yes indeed Captain Smith made four voyages in the Britannic (number 69368) in 1892 - in all he was in charge of her about 12-15 times.

Brian J. Ticehurst - Southampton UK
There's no mention of it in His Biography on this site, though that same article mentions his commanding Republic, Coptic, Majestic, Baltic, Adriatic and Olympic befor going on to Titanic.

Greatships has A couple of photos of this ship you may find of interest, of the ship as Her Majesties Transport #62
Thanks for the info Brian! I was hoping he had because I just purchased a card with his signature on it and the original owner added under his signature "November 22, 1892- Master of S.S. Britannic" and the name of the ship made me wonder!!
Darren - glad to help.
Here is a list of his voyages from his Official Log at Kew Records Office for the period you want.
27.05.1891 US

All voyages started from Southampton to the United States and some covered two or three trips etc.

Captain Smith in the period of being a Master Captain Smith commanded 14 different ships
Service as Master - 37 years
Number of voyages in that period - 158.
Best regards

Brian J. Ticehurst
I've been trying to establish some chronology of Captain Smith's ships leading up to Titanic. Hopefully, Gary Cooper will see this, since I still haven't got his book! (cuz I'm, uh, currently unemployed you see!)

The only sources I've found so far, are 2 newspaper pieces written after the disaster, one from the NY Times, the other from the Washington Times (both are available on the Encycopedia Titanica site).

The New York Times version is the most complete of the 2, but they both agree on the names of the ships, and on the order. Both put the Senator Weber first, but they get the date wrong (1869 instead of 1867).

The papers say that Smith's first White Star command was Republic in 1887, but Stephanie Barczewski in "Titanic, a Night Remembered" says it was the old Baltic in 1888. Since the old Baltic was sold in 1888, and there is a mention of Smith grounding the Republic in 1889, it seems that the Baltic must have been first. After that, things get harder.

The NY Times has these ships in this order: Cufic, Runic, 1st Adriatic, 1st Celtic, 1st Brittanic, Coptic, Germanic, Majestic, 2nd Baltic ect.(we all know the rest). Just a few snags.

First, in the accidents and incidents of "Falling Star" we have Smith grounding the Coptic in December 1890 in Rio. Did he serve on Coptic twice?

Next, we have Cufic and Runic. These were both cattle boats. It makes sense that Smith would have had to pay his dues on these assignments, as he was still a White Star rookie. But then, in "Falling Star", there is an 1895 entry in which Smith reports dead cows on the Cufic. Since we also know he took over the Majestic sometime during 1895, it would seem that Cufic was the last ship before his 9 year residence on Majestic. Could this possibly have been the second ship named Cufic, (this new one an 8,000 tonner) that entered service in 1895? Perhaps the 2nd Cufic was Smith's first maiden voyage, since in definately wasn't Majestic like you sometimes hear, (Majestic's maiden run was in 1890).
So all the others on the list, (Adriatic I, Celtic I, Britannic I, Coptic, and Germanic), had to have been squeezed in between December 1890 and 1895.

Does anyone have any information that could help pin down which ships Smith has on during this interval?

One interesting aspect of this period that might actually tend to discredit the idea that Smith was somehow more accident prone than others is this: The first Adriatic and Brittanic were both very accident prone ships. In fact, they get their own chapter in "Falling Star". Both had numerous collisions, and were famous for running over sailing ships. But if you look at the accidents and incidents for these ships, there seems to have been a lull in their notoriously accident prone careers in the early 1890's, when Captain Smith had to have commanded them. This proves nothing of course, its just an observation. Unfortunately, the lack of accidents makes it harder to figure out which ship he was on, and when! _Cherio, Rob H.