Captain Smith had already successfully commanded White Star Line passenger ships such as the Baltic, the Adriatic and the Olympic. When he became the captain of the Titanic, he probably thought that a disaster was very unlikely to take place. Unfortunately, the Titanic sank in the Atlantic Ocean on April 15, 1912. Captain Smith tried to save as many passengers as he could and gave the order of chivalry, “women and children first.”
Many theories describe how Captain Smith died while on the Titanic. William Jones, his childhood friend, said that the best hypothesis is that he followed the marine tradition of going down with his ship. There are also various speculations about the last words that he spoke before perishing. Steward Brown believes that his final statement was, “Well boys, do your best for the women and children and look out for yourselves.”
Smith always had a call to become the captain of his own ship. It was in his genes since his half-brother Joseph Hancock was a captain on a sailing ship. At the age of 17, Smith embarked upon his dream of a maritime career and began an apprenticeship on the Senator Weber in 1867. The first vessel that Smith commanded was the Lizzie Fennel. It was a 1,000 ton cargo ship that moved merchandise to and from South America.
Since he was a proud Englishman, Smith served in the Boer War in 1899 on the Majestic ship. He transported military personnel to Cape Colony. King Edward VII presented Smith with the Transport Medal for his bravery.
In March 1880, Smith began to work at the White Star Line and started out as an officer. He quickly rose in the ranks becoming a renowned captain of the White Star Line. He commanded several luxury liners such as the Olympic and the Titanic. Smith was so popular with high society passengers that they dubbed him as the “Millionaire’s Captain.” Many travelers only wanted to take a voyage on the Atlantic when Smith was the captain.
Even the captain that many deemed to be the safest of all could not prevent the accident on the Titanic. Captain Smith was never found to be negligent or responsible for the Titanic disaster. Instead, he will be remembered as the hero who did the best he could to salvage as many lives as possible. Even till the end, while on the Titanic, he still had that stoicism.
A statue of Captain Smith at Beacon Park in Lichfield, England keeps Smith’s memory alive. Kathleen Scott created the iconic statue, and it was unveiled on July 1914. The memory of Captain Smith is not only immortalized in this sculpture but also in books, movies and documentaries. He was one of the most courageous captains in the world.