Captain E.J. Smith - Timeline

The following chronological timeline uses commonly accepted times and dates as well as some minor alterations and adjustments to account for new information and continued research.


Sunday January 27th

Edward John Smith born to Edward Smith (1805–1885) and Catherine (formerly Hancock, née Marsh, 1809–1893) in Hanley, Staffordshire, England


8th March

Edward John Smith's birth is officially registered.


First job at the Etruria Forge aged 15, operating a Nasmyth steam hammer.


5th of February

At the age of 17, with his parents' consent, he travels to Liverpool and signs onto the Senator Weber as an ordinary sailor.



Smith promoted to Third Mate by his stepbrother Joseph Smith, the Captain of the Senator Weber, after 14 men desert ship at San Francisco.


Serves aboard the Amoy as an able seaman


August 12

In Liverpool, receives his first qualification: Second Mate’s Certificate

Record, as second mate,

New Orleans run on the N. Mosher



Passes First Mate certification



Serves aboard the Arzilla, bound for Valparaiso, Chile, and Callao, Peru.


May 26

In Liverpool, Smith passes his Master's Certificate (#14102)


Smith, at the age of 25, receives his first command as captain of the Lizzie Fennell


January 31

Smith sees the White Star Line’s Britannic and is inspired to switch to steam


1st March - July

Joins the White Star Line, as Fourth Officer of the Celtic

3 July - 6 Feb 1882

Becomes Third Officer of the Celtic


6 February 1882

Becomes Second Officer of the Celtic

1882 - 1884

March - March

Second Officer of the Coptic, sister ship to the SS Arabic.

1884 - 1885


15 transatlantic voyages as Second Officer on the Britannic


20 July

Chief Officer of the S.S. Republic


Thursday 13th January

Ted Smith marries Sarah Eleanor Pennington (1861–1931) at the parish church, Winwick, Lancashire


18 April - 20 August

Temporarily in command of the S.S. Republic


20 August - 27 March 1888

Returns as Chief Officer aboard the Britannic


14 February

Smith applies for his Extra Master’s certification, and fails Navigation


20th February

Passes Extra Master’s certification


27 March - May

Commands S.S. Baltic 


June - September

Commands S.S. Britannic 



Commands the cattle transporter S.S. Cufic for her maiden voyage 



Command of S.S. Republic


January 27

While captain of the Republic, the ship runs aground off the coast of Sandy Hook, New Jersey for five hours resulting in a furnace flue to fracture, killing three men and injuring seven. Incidentally, this is the same date as Smith's birthday.


April - July

Commands S.S. Celtic

1889 - 1890

December - January

Commands S.S. Coptic on a single voyage to New Zealand; this voyage took place after the Coptic was involved in a grounding in Rio dring the previous voyage, when Smith was not captain.

1890 - 1891

February- February

Back to the North Atlantic as Commander of S.S. Adriatic


March - April

Commands S.S. Runic


May - May

Commands S.S. Britannic



Briefly in command of S.S. Adriatic


12th December

Son-in-law Sidney Russell-Cooke born in Paddington to William Russell Cooke and Margaret Mary Smith.


1st November

Smith's 86 year old mother, Catherine Hancock, who lived in Runcorn, Cheshire, where Smith himself intended to retire, dies.


July - January

Commands S.S. Britannic 


July - January

Commands S.S. Germanic

1895 - 1902

July - November

Smith's longest command, the S.S. Majestic, including two trips to South Africa, transporting troops to the Boer War. one in December 1899 and one in February 1900 


Ted and Eleanor are living at 17 Marine Crescent, Waterloo, Liverpool


Saturday 2nd April

Ted and Eleanor have a daughter, who would be their only one child, Helen Melville Smith (1898–1973), who was born in Waterloo, Liverpool, England


8 October

Captain Smith's mother-in-law (Eleanor's mother) dies and is buried in St Oswald's Church, Winwick, along with her husband who had died in 1881.

1902 - 1903

December - May

Commanded S.S. Germanic, while Majestic was refitting. 

1903 - 1904

May - June

Again commands S.S. Majestic


29 June

Commands the new R.M.S. Baltic on her maiden voyage

1904 - 1907

June - March

Commands the R.M.S. Baltic


29 November

Smith sends a letter to his 8 year old daughter Mel, while aboard the Baltic, with a hand drawn picture of a bird.


Smith family move to Southampton, purchasing a red brick, twin-gabled house they name "Woodhead"

1907 - 1911

May - 15th May 1911

Commands the new R.M.S. Adriatic


Tuesday 17th August

New York Times reports Smith's cigars confiscated in an article entitled "Hold-Up and Search of Steamship Captains"


November 4

Adriatic runs into a mud bank along the Ambrose Channel at 3:00 A.M.

1911 - 1912

15th May - March 1912

Commands the new R.M.S. Olympic

14 June

Maiden voyage of R.M.S. Olympic

20th September

R.M.S. Olympic collides with British cruiser HMS Hawke


14th January

The Olympic encounters tremendous gale while west-bound for New York. Captain Smith remembered it as the worst storm he had ever seen in his career and that the wave that tore off the hatch cover was at least 60 feet (18 meters) tall.

24 February

The RMS Olympic throws a propeller blade after striking a submerged object, while on its way from New York to Southampton and has to return to Belfast for repairs.

1 April

Joins the new Titanic in Belfast for her sea trials

4 April

Smith in command of Titanic brings her to dock at berth 44 in Southampton

6 April

Smith receives a personal report from White Star Line of possible Atlantic obstruction: ship mast

10 April

7am leaves house in Winn Road, Southampton

07.30am Arrives onboard Titanic

8am - 9am Crew muster

10.30am photographed on Titanic's bridge and boat deck

1200pm Titanic departs Southampton and immediately is involved in a near collision with the New York.

06.35pm Titanic arrives four hours later in the French port of Cherboug

08:10 p.m Titanic departs Cherboug bound for Queenstown. On Smith's orders Titanic makes a series of long S turns, to test performance.

Thursday 11 April

11.30am Titanic arrives at Cork Harbour on the south coast of Ireland. Has last two photographs taken onboard.

Friday 12 April

Is allegedy overheard in the evening discussing speed with Bruce Ismay, chairman and managing director of the White Star Line, although this conversation is in despute.

Sunday 14 April

10:30 a.m.Captain Smith leads the first-class interdenominational worship service in the dining saloon until 11.15am.

12:30pm Smith gives Second Officer Lightoller an ice warning message to read

01:42pm, An ice report from the RMS Baltic is passed to Smith, Ismay puts it in his pocket, returned only when Smith requested it at about 7.30 that evening.

05:30pmSmith turns "The Corner" directing the ship towards the entrance of New York harbour.

07:00pm Smith is guest of honour at a dinner in the First Class restaurant hosted by passengers George and Eleanor Widener.

8.55pmSmith discusses weather conditions on the bridge with Second Officer Charles Lightoller.

9.20pmSmith goes to his cabin quarters.

11:40pmSmith rushes onto the bridge and is informed by Officer of the Watch, First officer William Murdoch, they have collided with an iceberg.

11:41pm Captain Smith changes the engine room telegraph to "Half-Ahead."

11:42pm Smith orders Quartermaster Olliver to go and find the ship's carpenter and have him sound for damage.

11:43pm Boxhall returns from taking a trip forward (on his own initiative) and reports he cannot see any signs of damage. However Smith does not trust this initial report and asks Boxhall to find the ship's carpenter to sound the ship.

11:46pm Smith sends Quartermaster Olliver with a note to Chief Engineer Bell, probably asking for a damage report.

11:47pm Smith changes the engine room telegraph to "Stop."

11:49pm J.Bruce Ismay arrives on the bridge asking why they have stopped and Captain tells him they have struck ice and that it is serious.

11:52pm Smith visits the Marconi room and tells the wireless operators to 'get ready to send out a call for assistance. But don't send it until I tell you.'

11:53pm Smith and Thomas Andrews inspect the ship.

Monday April 15

12:05am Smith orders the officers to uncover the lifeboats, swing them out and get passengers wearing lifebelts. Chief Officer Wilde is ordered to muster the deck crew and uncover the boats, First officer Murdoch to rouse the passengers and Sixth officer Moody to to find the list for the lifeboat stations.

12:10am Smith orders Quartermaster Walter Wynn to ready the two emergency boats first, before helping uncover the rest.

12:15am Smith vists the Marconi room and orders "Send the call for assistance…the regulation internationa call for help." He supplies their position 41°,44'N, 50°, 24'W.

12:20am Captain Smith confirms to Fourth officer Boxhall, uncovering the boats, that 'Mr Andrews tells me that he gives her from an hour to an hour and a half' and orders Boxhall to calculate their current position (which he calculates at 41°,46'N, 50°, 14'W).

12:22am Captain Smith confirms to Second officer Lightoller to "Yes, swing out" the lifeboats

12:24am Third Officer Pitman asks Captain Smith about putting passengers in the lifeboats on the starboard side - Smith says "Go ahead. Carry on."

12:25am Captain Smith orders the lifeboats to be loaded with passengers.

12:30am Captain Smith is seen speaking seriously to first class passengers JJ Astor and George Widener and is heard announcing to all to put their lifejackets on.

12:35am Captain Smith at lifeboat no.4, port side, orders lamp trimmer Samuel Hemming to put lights in all of the lifeboat.

12:36am Captain Smith orders all women and children waiting to enter lifeboat no. 4 to go down to A deck and enter from there, an order which Second Officer Lightoller follows through on.

12:40am Wireless operator Bride reports to Captain Smith in the wheelhouse that the Carpathia was turning around and heading their way. Smith goes to Marconi room and orders them to send SOS instead of the CQD distress call. Smith calculates the Carpathia's position as 58 miles away, which will take 4 hours.

12:45am Captain Smith is made aware by Fourth Officer Boxhall of a steamer on the horizon about 5 to 10 miles away and orders him to begin sending distress rockets every five or six minutes. He also order him to signal the mystery ship by Morse lamp to 'come at once, we are sinking.' inbetween firing the rockets.

01:05am Smith is seen by Seaman Frank Evans and dining steward William Burke during the lowering of lifeboat no.1 on the starboard side.

01:06am Smith is seen by many crew and passengers including first class steward Alfred Crawford and Countess of Rothe's and her maid Roberta Maioni helping with loading of lifeboat no.8 on the port side.

01:10am Captain Smith is seen by passengers helping with loading of no.6 on the portside and is seen using a megaphone to urge "Women and children first."

01:15am Second Officer Lightoller leds Captain Smith along with Chief Officer Wilde and First officer Murdoch to the locker in Murdoch's cabin where the guns were kept and they were handed out along with ammunition.

01:30am Captain Smith reports to the wireless operators that the engine room was flooding and Phillips broadcasts the message.

01:40am Captain Smith orders Boxhall into Boat no.2 during loading.

01:41am Smith orders Quartmaster Rowe to continue firing rockets and to use the Morse code lamp to contact the 'mystery ship..

01:45am Smith shouts to Boxhall while lifeboat no.2 is being lowered to take his boat round to the starboard gangway hatch and load more passengers from there.

02:00am Captain Smith tells Quartermaster Rowe to stop firing rockets and enter collapsible C.

02:05am Captain Smith relieves Philips and Bride wireless operators with "You had better look out for ourselves."

02:10am At collapsible B Trimmer Samuel Hemming sees Captain Smith calling out "Everyone over to the starboard side to keep the ship up as long as possible." and then later, several report seeing Captain Smith shotuting through a megaphone. "It's everyman for himself"

02:15am Bridge goes under; Captain Smith is never seen again, presumed drowned.

28th April

Message from Eleanour, grief-stricken widow of Captain Smith, is posted outside the White Star Line offices in Southampton.


16th April

A plaque and portrait on one of the walls of the Hanley Town Hall. A week later there is a similar ceremony at his Etruria School, with two portraits and a brass tablet in his memory.



Smith's old friends and passengers, notably the Bishop of Willesden, Lady Astor and the Duchess of Sutherland, form the Captain Smith Memorial Committee


29 July

A statue, sculpted by Kathleen Scott, wife of Antarctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott, is unveiled at the western end of the Museum Gardens in Beacon Park, Lichfield.


Smith's half-sister Thyrza dies.


Mel Smith marries Sidney Russell-Cooke


18 June

Mel Smith gives birth to twins


3 July

Sidney Russell-Cooke dies after accidentally shooting himself.


28 April

Eleanor Smith is struck by a taxi in front of her London home and dies from the resulting injuries


22 March

Mel’s son, Simon, who never married, is killed in action as an RAF pilot during World War II


Priscilla Russell-Cooke, the granddaughter of Captain Smith, passes away at age 23, after contracting polio.


Mel Smith dies.


10 September

Satirical tabloid the Weekly World News runs an article with the headline "Titanic Captain Found in Lifeboat"