News from 1921: Retirement of Capt Ranson

Mark Baber

Dec 29, 2000
The Times, 21 January 1921

Captain Ranson, O.B.E., commander of the White Star liner Adriatic, now
homeward bound from New York, retires on arrival at Southampton after 44
years' service at sea. During the war he commanded the steamers Baltic and
Adriatic, which carried 40,000 Americans and Canadians across the Atlantic.


Mark Baber

Dec 29, 2000
The Times, 3 February 1921

The White Star liner Adriatic left Southampton for New York under the
command, for the first time, of Lieutenant-Commander A. E. S. Hambelton,
C.B.E., R.N.R., who had charge of the Celtic while that steamer was serving
as a merchant cruiser during the war. He has 29 years' service in the White
Star Line.

A large gathering assembled in the Palace Theatre, Southampton, on the
occasion of the White Star gala night to commemorate the retirement of
Lieutenant-Commander J. B. Ranson, O.B.E., R.N.R., from the command of the
Adriatic. The MAYOR of SOUTHAMPTON welcomed Commander Ranson, who was
presented with a case of cutlery and silver from the victualling department
of the Adriatic.


Senan Molony

Jan 30, 2004
A picture of mine - Ranson was often mistaken for a Captain E.J. Smith, who appears to have commanded some other ship of the line.


Mark Baber

Dec 29, 2000
New York Tribune, 23 January 1921
Original article digitized by the Library of Congress
Retrieved from the Library of Congress' Chronicling America web site,

Dinner Given Capt. Ranson
R. A. C Smith Entertains for Sea Veteran

R. A. C. Smith gave a dinner at his town house, 400 Park Avenue, to Captain
J. B. Ranson last Monday. Captain Ranson has navigated trans-Atlantic liners
for the White Star company for thirty-five years, but will retire after the
present voyage.

Those present at the dinner were P. A. S. Franklin, Randal Morgan, Morgan J.
O'Brien, Rear Admiral J. H. Glennon, David H. Knott, Byron R. Newton,
Frederick A. Wallis, Brigadier General William Wiegel, William B. Leonard,
J. Sinclair Armstrong, Fred Toppin, S. Charles Welsh, Henry A. Gildersleeve,
Howard C. Smith, Henry C. Stuart, William A. Marburg, Robert P. Adams,
William H. Hirst, T. O. McGill, W. W. Heroy, F. W. Ridgeway, Alfred Gilbert
Smith, Henry D. Hotchkiss and William A. Prendergast.


Borge Solem

Dec 1, 2013
I have been researching the history of the S.S. Baltic (2) lately, and came across an interesting interview made with Capt. J. B. Ranson in connection with the rescue of the Republic passengers in 1909.
It was posted in The evening world, January 25, 1909. I have transcribed it and added it to my Baltic (2) web page, along with some pictures. I have posted the text below, if you want to see the pictures you may see them at: Baltic (2), White Star Line

The story of how, by means of wireless telegraphy, the Baltic rescued the passengers of the Republic, which had been cut in two by the Florida, has won the admiration of the world. And the Marconi Company, through the hands of the inventor of the system, Signor Marconi, has presented to Mr. Binns, the gallant operator on the Republic, a gold watch in honor of the occasion. But no English paper has yet told, in detail what messages were sent to and fro in those long hours between the time when Binns sent out that historic signal C.Q.D. and the moment of the arrival of the Baltic as rescuer, nor in detail how science and seamanship cooperated.

The "Outlook" of New York, however, has secured from the captain of the Baltic, Capt. J. B. Ranson, a story of extraordinary interest, in which he tells how he got the signal, how he kept In touch with and found the Republic. In days to come this sort of knowledge will be commonplace. But his story tells what an endless series of messages were needed to bring about the rescue.

What the rescue meant to Captain Ranson may be guessed from this statement of his: - "I went up on the bridge about 6 o'clock on Saturday morning, and stayed there until we docked at 1 o'clock on Monday afternoon - about eighty hours. Food? My food was brought up to me. Sleep? Why, no, I was there on the bridge walking around. I couldn't have slept even had I gone below." "On the morning of the disaster we had already made the Nantucket lightship by the submarine bell. The Baltic was inward bound for New York from Liverpool, and we were going at a reduced speed in a very heavy fog. We had located the lightship about midnight, and had proceeded about eighty miles to the westward. At seven-fifteen on that Saturday morning the wireless operator came rushing up to me on the bridge, he did not take time to write the message on the usual printed form, but had put it down on the first slip of paper he could lay his hands on - and handed me this message:- "The Republic dangerously. Latitude 4017 north; longitude 70 west."

"You can see from the wording of this message, from which some such word as "injured" is apparently omitted after the word "dangerously", in what urgent haste it was sent. It came from the wireless station at Siasconset, on the island of Nantucket. My first move was to throw the helm hard a-starboard, and make for the position of the Republic with all possible speed. We knew her latitude and longitude, and our job was to find her in the thickest kind of a fog. At that time we were sixty-four miles from the position given us in the first message from the Republic, but of course she was drifting all the time, and during our twelve hours’ search I estimate we travelled two hundred miles in our zigzag course before we found her, and all within a sea area of ten square miles.

"We pursued the Republic all day long, like a hound on the scent, and finally found her, at about half-past 6 in the evening, after steering and zigzagging about all day. I was getting wireless messages thick and fast all the time from Captain Sealby on the Republic, from the company's office in New York, via Siasconset, and from the other ships which had joined in the search for the Republic in response to the C.Q.D. distress call, of which we have heard so much during the past, few, days. This is a general danger signal to all ships equipped with wireless apparatus within range, and warns them to be on the alert to render help if necessary. The initials C.Q.D. may naturally be supposed to stand for “Come Quick! Danger!"

"The message I received was as follows:" "Hear general call and message repeated. Republic fifteen miles south of Nantucket light vessel. Requires immediate assistance. Do utmost to reach her. - Siasconset." "You can easily imagine that our operator was kept pretty busy receiving these messages and sending them to the bridge, and that on the bridge we were kept busy, not merely responding to them by wireless replies, but changing the course of our ship in response to the directions or instructions which they gave. As a matter of fact, it may literally be said that my ship, the Baltic, was steered some of the time by Captain Sealby, on the Republic. For example, read these messages from Captain Sealby."

Here Captain Ranson selected from a pile of a hundred or more telegrams written on the thin paper blanks of the Marconi Company the following dispatches, apologizing for their somewhat bedraggled appearance, which he explained was due to the fog and rain that enveloped the Baltic's bridge, where they had been received and read. "You are getting louder. Keep steering south-south-east. Listen for our ship's bell. - Sealby."
"Steer south-east now. - Sealby."

"But it was not only these direct instructions that helped me, which were received, of course, after we were near enough to the Republic so that she could hear our whistle and the bombs we were firing. Some of Captain Sealby's telegrams helped me by inference. For example, quite early in the day I received this wireless:
"Have picked up Nantucket by submarine bell bearing north-north-east. Sounding thirty-five fathoms. -Sealby."
"Now this gave me very important and useful information. I knew that the Nantucket lightship's bell could be heard by the submarine telephone not over seventeen miles, and that therefore the Republic must be within a radius of seventeen miles from the lightship. Consequently, when I could not hear the submarine bell myself, I know that I was outside of the Republic's position."

"In the second place, I knew the Republic was in thirty-five fathoms of water. So we kept sounding continually, and as soon as we struck forty fathoms we changed our course lo strike thirty five fathoms, for I knew there was no use of our being in forty fathoms when they were in thirty-five; and so it was when we got near enough to the Republic for them to hear our whistle. "When I received a message from Captain Sealby saying, "We heard your whistle, but, it has gone out of range now", we immediately chanced our course to get within range again. Here are some of the messages received during the day that indicate the kind of wireless conversation that was continually going on:
"Lucania says please listen for his four blasts."
"Republic says we can hear a bomb to the west of us. Is it you?"
"La Lorraine says he hears Republic's bell, and is steering straight towards him."
"La Lorraine says tell Captain Ranson we are blowing a whistle, not a horn. Please make as much noise as possible."
"Have not heard Lucania, but she is still around. Am in touch with Lorraine. - Sealby."
"La Lorraine and Baltic ask Republic if he hears bell, bomb, or whistle. He replies he hears steamer's whistle' and thinks we must be close to him - Baltic operator."
Republic operator says, "We are sinking rapidly. We are keeping everything clear and standing by for Republics signals. - Baltic operator."
"Captain Baltic: Am cruising round trying to locate you. - Captain Lucania"
"Captain Baltic: There is a bomb bearing north-west from me. Keep firing. - Sealby."
"Siasconset says hear from Republic: says to Baltic to hurry; they are sinking fast. - Baltic operator."
"You are very close now. Right abeam. Come carefully. You are on our port side. Have just seen your rocket. You are very close to us. - Sealby."

"These' messages, taken at random from scores of others, may seem some way matter-of-fact to you, but I can assure you they meant a good deal to us on the bridge of the Baltic, and they indicate how we had to feel our way. After twelve hours search zigzagging and circling in the fog, changing our course as each new bit of information came by wireless, we at last found the Republic. We came within a hundred feet of the ship before we could see anything, and then we saw only the faint glare of a green light they were burning - like the illumination you burn on the Fourth of July."

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