Death of Captain Smith


Logan Geen

I have heard about 7 different deaths of the Captain:
A) He goes down with the ship
B) He committs suicide
C) He is crushed by the funnel
D) He delivers an infant, than returns to the ship
E) He lets go, saying "I will follow the ship!"
F) He remains in the water and dies after the sinking
G) He doens't die and somehow gets to America
How do you think Captain Smith died? I think he dived off the bridge and probably died in the water later that morning. The infant story is pretty unlikely.
BTW wasn't Captain Charlie Bartlett the captain who brought Titanic from Belfast to Southampton? That would make him Titanic's first Captain. And unless I'm mistaken he commanded the Britannic when that ship went down.
Though we can't know for certain, I'm thinking that he probably died as did most of the others in the water. He probably died from hypothermia in fifteen minutes or less after going into the water, as that is about the outer limit for people to survive in water that cold.
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There is a wonderful myth in my part of the world that Captain Smith survived and wandered to the Great Lakes where, under an assumed name, he commanded one of our ore freighters. It is pure nonsense, but the story has an "I wish it were true" aspect.

-- David G. Brown
>BTW wasn't Captain Charlie Bartlett the captain who brought Titanic from Belfast to Southampton?

No. Herbert J Haddock signed on at Southampton on 25 March 1912, and then proceeded to Belfast to supervise the crew. E.J. Smith arrived in Belfast on 1 April and relieved Haddock, who then took command of Olympic.

Sources: Cameron's Titanic: Belfast's Own; Eaton and Haas' Titanic: A Journey Through Time.

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OK thanks Mark...I believe Ballard's Discovery of Titanic mentioned that the Titanic left Belfast under Captain Bartlett and I read that somewhere else too.

One of the officers stated at one of the enquiries that he saw Smith dive off of the bridge, and elsewhere it was stated that he was spotted nearby boat B but was swept away when the first funnel came down .......... so is this 8 possibilities now lol
Good point Jemma! The list goes on! Here is another one:
-Smith is swept off the bridge, but manages to crawl back aboard
-Smith was seen to walk onto the bridge but moments later the bridge was empty? A Night to Remember I think.
G'day Jemma!

Was that one of the officers or was it Harold Bride who saw Smith dive off the bridge?

~ Inger
Inger Hi how are you?

Almost positive it was Lightoller but would need to check it......

G'day Jemma -

I'm hanging in there in the pre-Christmas rush - trying to organise movements pre-The Big Day with the precision of troop deployment. Hope all is well in your neck of the woods!

Was this the passage of testimony you were thinking of: -

Senator SMITH. When did you last see the captain? When he told you to take care of yourself?

Mr. BRIDE: The last I saw of the captain he went overboard from the bridge, sir.

Senator SMITH. Did you see the Titanic sink?

Mr. BRIDE. Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH. And the captain was at that time on the bridge?

Mr. BRIDE. No, sir.

Senator SMITH. What do you mean by overboard?

Mr. BRIDE. He jumped overboard from the bridge. He jumped overboard from the bridge when we were launching the collapsible lifeboat.

Senator SMITH. I should judge from what you have said that this was about three or four minutes before the boat sank,

Mr. BRIDE. Yes. It would be just about five minutes before the boat sank.

Senator SMITH. About five minutes?

Mr. BRIDE. Yes.

Senator SMITH. Do you know whether the captain had a life belt on?

Mr. BRIDE. He had not when I last saw him.

Senator SMITH. He had not?

Mr. BRIDE. No, sir.
Hmmm sounds familiar, trouble is I've been working on Bride and Lightoller's testimony at the same time lol. Ill pull out my Lightoller stuff when I get home but one of the two def said that he thought Smith was clinging to B when a load of them got swept off.....
From what I've seen, Smith diving off the bridge was seen by Harold, and I've never seen another reference to it. It'd be interesting to see more testimony or an eyewitness account stating that someone else also saw this. It's certainly plausible; I have never bought for one minute the legend that Smith stayed with the ship. I can't imagine why he would see a reason to, he didn't seem like that kind of person.
Actually, there is another account --by the Titanic's barber, August Weikman. Sometime ago, Mark Baber posted a link to a newspaper article interview of Weikman that appeared in the Daily Enterprise, which states in pertinent part:

"While this was going on I was on the upper deck assisting the passengers to the boats. I had a life belt on , and when the forward part of the ship listed I was washed overboard by a huge wave. Looking backward, I could see Captain Smith, who had been standing on the bridge, swimming back to the place where he had stood, having been washed off the Titanic by the same wave that had washed me from the ship into the water."

This account seems much more believable than Harold Bride's, which has Smith diving into the ocean. Smith was simply washed off with others by the first big wave . . . no standing by the ship's wheel 'till the windows break, no going down with the ship, no nothing. I really believe those accounts that suggest Smith tried to get on board Collapsible B, but didn't manage. Like Captain Turner of the Lusitania, who survived that sinking, Smith probably would have saved himself but he just didn't get the chance.
Right, well, of all the many "death scenes" for poor old Captain Smith, there are only three which I would consider as being the probable ones. The first is, of course, that he leapt overboard. The second is that he died on the bridge. The third I would say would have to be that he was caught by the wave. The famous wave that struck the officer's quarters a little before the ship went under is what knocked Gracie overboard, killed Clinch Smith, Moody (and probably Murdoch). I don't believe that Capt. Smith was recognized by anyone after the wave hit, so he may well have been yet another casualty of it. Or, as Weikman says (but Weikman always seems to exaggerate things in his reports) Smith was simply knocked overboard by the wave. We shall never know for certain, but I would say that those are the three most probable ways he bought the farm.

God bless,
Addison Hart
Without endorsing any story about Captain Smith's demise--I must point out that the story he "fell" into the water when the wave swept over the bridge is intrinsically the same as that he "jumped" into the water at that time. Sailors learn pretty quickly that people get hurt falling overboard by hitting their heads or body against hard parts of the vessel on the way down. So, it is fairly common knowledge that if you discover yourself falling...and cannot recover... you simply push off as best you can to make sure your body is clear of the ship. I have always suspected this is what Lightoller actually did--pushed himself away from the Titanic when he realized he could not remain where he was.

-- David G. Brown