Unless you think he went down with his ship rather than face an enquiry, no! He stayed with the ship and did what he could for the passengers. (Not very effectively or capably, but that's another story)
I can assure you that a man who spends 43 years of his life out on the "old grey widow-maker", including rounding the Horn under sail, is no coward. The ocean has a way of separating men from mice.
there is nothing concrete to suggest Captain Smith
committed suicide before Titanic sank. There is no
hard evidence he had a revolver on his person
during the sinking, either. The whole fiasco of
Capt. Smith's rumored suicide was with a Reuters
There were two officers on Titanic near the bridge
in the final minutes - both who were supplied with
guns, and whose bodies were never found to support
or refute suicide: Chief Officer Wilde and First
Officer Murdoch. Enough witnesses over the years
support that an officer shot himself in the last
moments. Who it was remains forever unknown.
Smith, Wilde and Murdoch were never found. Based
on all the research over the years I have made, I
simply do not believe Smith killed himself.
Murdoch had the tremendous load feeling he was
ultimately responsible for the collision, as being
the OOW, and that 1500 were doomed to die. Wilde
had recently lost his wife and twin sons. So, both
had 'seeds' for despondency, -AND- a revolver on
their person. So, we have MO.
Not knowing much beyond that, the rest is up for
debate and speculation. I cannot say whom I
believe may have been the suicide. The pendulum
could swing in any direction, based on what little
evidence is out there today.
For some really great in-depth information on the suicide and theories on who it could have been, check out Bill Wormstedt's site and also George Behe's. If you go to the links page on the ET site you should be able to find them. The sections are titled "Shots in the Dark" and "Murdoch and the Dalbeattie Defense" respectively. Hope you find this of interest.
Was Jack Thayer the only person to imply that McElroy had and/or fired a weapon? Most reports of McElroy sightings (that I've seen, at least) had him standing off to the side with his cohorts that late in the game. Needless to say, I've wondered if Thayer was mistaken in his identification.
Evidence on who had guns is shaky. Lightoller, writing years later, says they were taken by Smith, Lightoller, Wilde and Murdoch. He may or may not be right. I distrust his account, as I do all evidence written twenty years on.
Lowe had his own Browning automatic and a few passengers were armed. Thayer says McElroy was armed but there is no reason for a purser to have one of the ship's pistols and Thayer's account was written long after the event. Thayer may well have known McElroy, who had quite a bit of contact with passengers. Then again, McElroy may have had his own weapon.
My own gut feeling is that the evidence for guns being used is very nebulous. If you put the stories together Titanic begins to sound worse than the gunfight at the OK corral. One thing I'd like to see is Rheims' letter in the original manuscript, in French. Too much of what we read is filtered through the press or written years after the event.
I think that all of you are missing the point about Captain Smith, and that, frankly, this conversation is winding all over the place. The issue of cowardice here has nothing to do with suicide, going down with the ship, or salty old sea experience. Concededly, there's no direct evidence that Captain Smith was a "coward," and of course, the meaning of "coward" is differentiated, as well. Nonetheless, there is evidence from which certain inferences may be drawn. To me, Captain Smith appears to have demonstrated a shamefull lack of fortitude in preventing the disaster, especially vis-a-vis B. Ismay. Ismay had possession of the ice warnings, Mrs. Ryerson had confirmed that she heard Smith and Ismay discussing getting in to New York as early as possible. Smith sailed the Titanic at top speed, probably at Ismay's instigation. Smith wasn't even on the bridge when the ship hit the iceberg. Captain Stanley Lord, whom everyone has criticized, at length, knew enough to stop his ship before the ice field. Likewise, Smith knew of the ice, the drop in temperature and what that meant, the lack of lifeboats, and given his experience, the risks he was undertaking. But he didn't stop the ship. He didn't even slow it down. I think there's enough here to reasonably infer that he was too afraid to really take charge of his ship. It has nothing to do with a seaman's bravery, etc. In testimony before the British Board of Trade, Sir Ernest Shackleton (the famous Artic Explorer, and a very independent thinking man) expressed his shock and dismay that the ship was going so fast, and indirectly criticized Smith and the White Star Line for this. In fact, what we have here is the old story of a man entrusted with enormous life and death responsbility - - - who refuses to stand up for safety, and thereby places 2,200 lives at an unreasonable risk. This type of behavior is commonplace. It was recently evident in the Alaska Airlines disaster, where mechanics or certain persons with important responsibilities knew that proper maintenance on airplanes wasn't being maintained, and yet the planes were allowed to fly because no one said any thing to stop them from flying. Then, finally, a plane crashed and 200 people needlessly died. So, everyone's entitled to his or her opinion, but I wouldn't let Captain Smith off so easily. With 2,200 lives on his watch, and with many years of experience, he had full knowledge of the possible risks he was undertaking. He willfully breached his solemn duty to exercise the utmost caution, took risks, and likely only played to the favor of the White Star's management. It's not unfair to judge him harshly, along with Ismay and others. The very moving stories of the passengers and crew, the story of the Allisons, the Goodwins, the Paulsons, and many others on this site, cry out for accountability. If your father, mother, sister, or baby, died on the Titanic, how would you feel about Captain Smith? In this day and age, I think a decent case could be made for him, if he had survived and lived to the present, to be sent to jail.
Very good points. But can't a case also be made that Smith was just doing what he had been doing for the past 43 years? Granted, he was not doing the right things, but his actions (or lack of) had become the accepted practice. This of course led to complacency on the part of the liner companies and it took the Titanic disaster to wake people up. Sort of like the Challenger disaster--so many flights had been made that it became routine and things started to get overlooked. I don't think Smith would have "willfully breached his solemn duty." I think he was just ignorant of the fact that his accepted way of doing things was putting the ship in danger. I do recall Shackleton's testimony, but as an Arctic explorer he was much more aware of the dangers of ice than the White Star Line--as far as I know there had not been a major collision between a liner and an iceberg before the Titanic. Everybody needed a wake up call--and they certainly got it! But I would not blame Smith for it happening.
I respect your views, but I'm sure that there were many people who did not abide the "accepted practice" or the "complacency." Lord Mersey contended racing across the North Atlantic was an accepted practice, but he had his own agenda. I'm sure there were those who disagreed with the "practice." But even if we agree that it was an "accepted practice," this fact reinforces my point about Captain Smith. It takes a great deal of courage to decline to follow accepted practice. As such, the issue underlying this aspect of the Titanic disaster is very contemporary. I am aware of courageous people who, every day, out of conscience or whatever, rebel against "accepted practices" that place people's lives at risk - - but because of the Captain Smiths of the world, who are willing to overlook things and take unreasonable risks, the rebels suffer job terminations, demotions, or diminishment of responsibilities, or other kinds of retaliation for refusing to do things, and standing up to management. These people suffer emotional distress, loss of careers, sometimes suicide, divorces, health problems, loss of friends, community status, and respect, by following their consciences. We need to start listening to some of the rebels, and concomitantly, holding the "Smiths" out there accountable.
Further, in the Titanic context, we're talking about protecting the lives of 2,200 ordinary people, not seven or eight adventurers on a mission which they knew was experimental, and dangerous. Nonetheless, even with Challenger, I personally don't think we should ever, implicitly or explicitly, countenance the view that it takes a disaster to implement measures to protect lives.
Thus, I reject the "accepted practices" argument, as well as the Challenger analogy.
By the way, thanks for the article, it was interesting.
captain Smith was a true hero in Robert Ballards TITANIC AN ILLUSTATED HISTORY it says on page 194 under a picture of a memorial statue.the plaque beneath him reads "the memory and example of a great heart a brave life and a heroic death".i am a beliver that captain Smith saved a childs life by handing it over to a steward called Maynard and swam a short distance before becoming still.