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Was Titanic really going to be Smith's last trip?

Discussion in 'Captain Edward John Smith' started by Mike Smith, Jul 3, 2000.

  1. Mark Baber

    Mark Baber Moderator Member

    Hello, Robert---

    Your question now resides with an earlier discussion of whether Titanic's MV was, in fact, to have been Smith's swan song. As you can see, it's far from clear that it was.

    In any event, to change commanders for the return leg of a roundtrip, except in case of medical emergency, would be an unheard of event. Notwithstanding the comments George Behe mentioned above, Smith no doubt would have commanded Titanic on the return, even if he was about to retire.
  2. Hello Mark-

    Thanks for the prompt reply. No doubt I should have read through the previous threads more thoroughly and would have found the answer to my question in the first place !
  3. re Captain Smith's retirement,

    Whilst in conversation with my grand parents and 15 year old mother on the 2nd Class Prom Deck, Capt Smith mentions looking forward to having more time at then end of that voyage to take his dog for walks on Southampton Common.
    For information only.
  4. Mark's comment accords perfectly well with the very special memories David has so kindly shared with us. May Captain Smith have been called briefly out of retirement to command 'Gigantic' on her own MV - on the 20th anniversary of his command of 'Britannic'? May his command of the last of the 'Olympics' have been an understanding that was honoured posthumously by its change of name? And belief he had said "Be British"?
  5. Seems odd he never mentioned retiring to his nephew Frank Hancock in this letter now preserved at Mystic Seaport. I believe, given the close nature of these two men, he would have mentioned the fact that Titanic would be his last command. Here is the letter.
  6. Jason D. Tiller

    Jason D. Tiller Moderator Member

    What a fascinating letter, thanks for the link, Shell. It provides an even deeper understanding of the man, including the type of person he was.
  7. The series of 5 letters have been on ET for nearly 5 years now, and were my first posting on Sept. 24, 2000. I find the letters from the Captain and Eleanor Smith's letter provide so much insight, as does all personal correspondence. The entire series is also available at that link above. I love that Smith's wife called him "Ted" and little Helen was called Melville. These are the tiny details that make a person real.
  8. Something else to wonder about: If Captain Smith was expecting to retire immidiately after commanding the Titanic on her maiden voyage, wouldn't there have been some sort of public announcement as to who his replacement would be and when he would be expected to take command? Maybe I'm misreading the tea leaves here but the Captains of the crack express liners were celebrities in their own right. Looks a bit odd that nobody would have said anything.

    Of course, there may have been an intent to do so, but events short circuited the plans.
  9. I agree Mike, that, together with Smith's own lack of announcement to his family member only one month before sailing, really makes me think retiring was not in his immediate future. I can't remember where exactly that rumour got started. So often, to make a better story afterward, this type of twist, meant to titillate the Ironic Button of the masses, is pure journalistic fabrication.
  10. I seem to recall that the rumour started sometime after the sinking. I wonder if it was a media contrivance? It's not as if that was never known to happen.
  11. re Captain Smith's retirement:

    It should be remembered that when masters retire in the British Merchant Service their retirement is usually preceeded by several weeks leave, or in some cases, even a month or two before official retirement takes place.
    As an RNR master it wouldn't be wise to broadcast to all and sundry about retirement as ''sods law'' may dictate to the contrary and an experienced man like Captain Smith would have realised that.
    Ship's Masters moreso than other officers are more likely to be recalled off of leave or even during retirement under certain circumstances.
    Ship owners or the War Office never hold up ship's due to the lack of masters or crew!
    It certainly went on in my day and no doubt Titanic's day also.

    David Haisman
  12. Yes, point well-taken. Had Frank not been such a very close relative, I would think there might be a pressing reason for complete discretion on the topic. It seems that any reference to this impending retirement appears in publications post-sinking. I would love to find the original announcement about this and its provenance, as so often the press simply lifted misinformation from other journals, or doctored up things to make a better story, thus perpetuating a myth with shaky foundation.
  13. There was no announcement, as we know. White Star would almost certainly have known - only at executive level. His wife, Eleanor, may well have known, unless - held back as a surprise - neither she nor Mel had yet been told. There is some reason to believe that the dog had been a pre-retirement gift from a certain wealthy American whose own daughter was born the same year as Melville and was famously fond of dogs. (Melville was named after the author of EJ's favourite novel, 'Moby Dick'!) I was immediately struck by the wonderful rightness of David's first remarks; imagining Mel joining her father on his walks with 'Ben' on the Common.
  14. Don Tweed

    Don Tweed Member

    E.J. was going to retire. Was there a specific choice by White Star Line to succeed Smith?
    Just Wondering, Don

    [Moderator's Note: This message, originally posted under a different topic, has been moved to this pre-existing thread addressing the same subject. MAB]
  15. Janicole

    Janicole Guest

    I'd heard that Smith retiring was only a rumor and that the white star denied the rumor but I haven't seen anything other then that this was the Captain's last crossing. Can someone tell me where to find the information saying that it was just a rumor?
  16. Mark Baber

    Mark Baber Moderator Member

    Hello, Janicole---

    1. Please note this message and take appropriate action.


    2. See the earlier messages in this thread with respect to your question about Smith's supposed retirement.
  17. JMGraber

    JMGraber Member

    Smith's retirement was going to come after the maiden voyage of the Titanic to New York City. What did he plan to do to get back to Britain? Was he going to stay on the Titanic, but as a passenger (a treat for his retirement complimentary of the White Star Line) or did he book passage on another vessel?