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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Review-On Board R.M.S. Titanic: Memories of the Maiden Voyage

In late 2012, another fantastic book by Titanic historian George Behe was published called "On Board R.M.S. Titanic:  Memories of the Maiden Voyage."  The book is a collection of letters and postcards by passengers and crew written before and after the sinking of the Titanic, describing their experiences and feelings.  The letters have been preserved as best as he could, even with the spelling and grammatical errors. At the end, we can see photographs of some of the people that wrote the letters in the book and photographs of the ship itself.  Many of the photographs are from George Behe's own collection.

I cannot praise this book enough.  It is a fabulous and in fact one of the best ways to know exactly what it was like to be on board the Titanic and then see her sink.  You get to read as the passengers go on and on about their experiences and their wonder at this fantastic new ship.  Then, you get to read letters afterwards as they give their chilling accounts about Titanic's last moments.  The many of the letters are for the rare and some had never been published before.  Some were even written in other languages and then translated.  One thing I love about it is that because all the letters were copied exactly, you get truth and inaccuracies mixed in and George leaves it up to you to decide what's true and what's not.  The spirit is virtually the same though, as they recall their wonder and horror as they experience the great liner's maiden voyage and death.  It is definitely a treasure and deserves to be a staple in any Titaniac's collection.

If you wish to purchase the book, you may get it from the following links:





Thursday, March 28, 2013

Did The Band Play On?

In books, plays, films, and stories about the Titanic, one story is told in nearly every one of them and that is the story of the Titanic's band, bravely and nobly played "Nearer My God To Thee" as water is coming up and everyone else is struggling for survival all around them.  Did they really do this?  Did they play "Nearer My God To Thee" as many believe?  Or was it "Autumn", as some others believe.  In this post, I hope to examine and determine what happened that night to the best of my abilities.

There are some things we do know about the band.  They were actually two separate bands which played in different parts of the ship at different times.  They likely combined into one band during the sinking.  Wallace Hartley was the bandleader.  We know that they played during the sinking.  No survivor has discounted that story.  We also know that at some point, they played in the Lounge at first (Jack Thayer's account) and then moved on the Boat Deck level of the Grand Staircase where there was a Steinway piano.   Eventually, they did move outside to the Boat Deck.  Beyond that, survivor's accounts vary.  Since none of the members of the band survived, we will never know what exactly happened.  However, I will do my best to answer the questions that have been debated using eyewitness testimonies and a little speculation on my part.

The first question is, did the band play on until the bitter end?

Two detractors that I know of are 1st class passengers Archibald Gracie and A.H. Barkworth.  Gracie said in one of his speeches that he saw the band lay down their instruments.  Barkworth said in a newspaper account, "The next time I passed where the band had been stationed, the members of it had thrown down their instruments and were not to be seen. But I shall never forget the fierce jarring notes of that waltz they played.”

The supporters of the claim were Harold Bride, Helen Churchill Candee, Frank Prentice, Thomas Ranger, and Edward Brown.

Harold Bride gave an interview while he was on the Carpathia and said, "...the band was still playing. I guess all of the band went down. They were playing Autumn then. I swam with all my might. I suppose I was 150 feet away when the Titanic on her nose, with her after-quartet sticking straight up in the air, began to settle - slowly.... the way the band kept playing was a noble thing..... and the last I saw of the band, when I was floating out in the sea with my lifebelt on, it was still on deck playing Autumn. How they ever did it I cannot imagine. That, and the way Phillips (the senior wireless operator) kept sending after the Captain told him his life was his own, and to look out for himself, are two things that stand out in my mind over all the rest..." 

1st class steward Edward Brown talked about the band during the British Inquiry and said:

“There is one other matter I want you to tell us about as you were on the ship to the end. Do you know what the Band were doing at the last?”
“I do not remember hearing the band stop playing. They were playing for a long time, but I do not remember hearing them stop.”

“Where would the band be gathered; where would they play, do you know?”
“Right on the forward companion on the very top - on the boat deck forward companion.”

“Were they playing at the time when you were dealing with this collapsible boat from the top of the Officers' quarters?”

“Up to as late as that your memory serves you?”
“Yes, they were playing then.”

The next question I would like to address is, what was the last song played?

Junior Wireless Operator Harold Bride said, "From the aft came the tunes of the band. It was a ragtime tune, I don't know what. Then there was 'Autumn'. Phillips ran aft and that was the last time I ever saw him." 

Barkworth said, "The next time I passed where the band had been stationed, the members of it had thrown down their instruments and were not to be seen. But I shall never forget the fierce jarring notes of that waltz they played.”

Gracie mentioned that he only heard light waltzes and ragtime. 

There are many more that said that the last song was NMGTT including Frank Prentice, Eva Hart, Esther Hart, Helen Churchill Candee, Edwina Troutt, Edward Brown, and Jacob Gibbons.

The final question I would like to address is, if it was "Nearer My God To Thee", what version did they play?

There were three versions:

"Bethany" was written in 1856 by Lowell Mason and was used in James Cameron's 1997 film.  It has been the most used version of the hymn.

"Horbury" was written in 1861 by John Dykes and was used in "A Night To Remember".

"Propior Deo" was written in 1872 by Andrew Sullivan and has never been used in any film.  It was used mainly by British Methodists and was likely sung by Wallace Hartley, the bandleader and a Methodist, while he was growing up. 


The band played on.  The fact that Harold Bride was in close proximity (about 50 feet away) and he heard them when he came out at 2:17 A.M. pretty much proves that point.  Then factor in that the passengers and crew also heard them.  Titanic historian George Behe suggests that when Gracie and Barkworth saw the band put down their instruments, they may have been going down to their cabins and getting their lifebelts since it was noted by one passenger early on that they had no lifebelt and later it was noted by another passenger that they did.  They played until about 2:18 A.M. when the ship began her final plunge and water came up to where they were.  At about that point, it is likely that went their separate ways to their fates.  It wasn't as late as Bride said because they were swept away about at the same time as Bride landed in the water.  Bride may have either just not remembered or thought he heard them which really would have been the tune going on in his head.  That water was pretty cold so, who knows what Bride was thinking.  It would have diminished his senses greatly.

The question of what song they played has been the subject of much debate.  It has been suggested that since Harold Bride was in such close proximity as opposed to the others who were either watching and listening from the safety of the lifeboats or much further aft towards the stern, he must be right.  I am not so sure.  In the area where Bride was, there was much shouting and screaming as water was flooding the Promenade Deck one deck below and there were also sounds of the creaking and moaning of the ship.  It would have been pandemonium and chaos.  Bride likely heard a few notes that the band was playing clearly.  Ever since Walter Lord speculated that the Bride was really playing the ragtime "Songe d'Automne" in "The Night Lives On", many people have accepted that that is what Bride meant.  I respectfully disagree.  "Autumn" was also a popular hymn during that time.  Pretty much everyone went to church at that time and Bride would have almost certainly heard it during some of the services.  When you listen to it, the tune sounds very similar to "Nearer My God To Thee".  Since so many said that it was "Nearer My God To Thee" (even though some of them may have said that that was the last song because others said so), I believe that Bride barely heard it over the confusion and noise, would not have concentrated, and assumed that it was "Autumn".  Those in the boats, however, would have been able to concentrate on what they were hearing and seeing.  The water was pretty calm, almost like a lake.  That would have allowed the sound to carry further.  To add to the evidence of my belief that it was NMGTT, Hartley was asked shortly before he went on the Titanic if he was ever on a sinking ship, what would he play.  Hartley replied that he would play either "O God Our Help in Ages Past" or "Nearer My God To Thee" (which was one of his favorites).  It has been said that NMGTT would have caused panic, but Hartley once said, “ I know he often said that music was a bigger weapon for stopping disorder than anything on Earth."  NMGTT would have brought people to their knees as they prepared for eternity and since nearly everyone was in some way religious, would have brought comfort in knowing that they were about to meet their Savior.

The version has been confusing to me.  Honestly, I would like a scene where he played as his final song the version he heard growing up, but it wasn't a popular version.  I doubt that the other bandmembers would have known it and not as many would have recognized it.  Therefore, I believe that it was "Bethany".  It was recognized by so many people and it was such a popular version that the other bandmembers would have very likely known it. 

You may or may not agree with me, but one thing is certain.  The band played to keep the spirits of the passengers and crew up as the ship went down and the lifeboats were loaded and lowered right in front of them.  They never made an effort to enter a lifeboat and had the well being of the passengers at the forefront of their minds, even if it cost them their lives.  All of them were true heroes and deserve the honor they have gotten.

If you want to research and draw your own conclusions, I recommend the following websites:






Monday, March 18, 2013

Ismay: Hero or Coward

The actions of Joseph Bruce Ismay have fallen under much scrutiny in regards to the Titanic and he has been a favorite person to be made the villain ever since the sinking by newspapers, films, and books. It is my hope in this post to uncover the truth regarding what happened and why he is hated so much. J. Bruce Ismay was the son of Thomas Ismay, one of the founders of the White Star Line (WSL) which was a ship company. The WSL was bought by J.P. Morgan who was the owner of the International Mercantile Marine which had almost a complete monopoly on all companies that were using the North Atlantic run. J. Bruce Ismay followed in his father's footsteps and eventually became the Managing Director of the WSL. The Titanic was actually Ismay's vision from the beginning. He and Lord Pirrie who owned Harland & Wolff, the ship building company that built nearly all of the WSL's ships, were talking after dinner and the two came up with a plan to construct three new ships that were bigger and more luxurious than any ship that had ever been built. Soon after that, they began making plans and Ismay ordered the three new ships. The Olympic was first built and it was very popular. Ismay went on board as the representative of the WSL for the maiden voyage as he often did and I would think was impressed with her. The Titanic came next. One thing that is not generally realized about Ismay is that he was a very shy man. He was in reality a kind and caring gentleman when you got to know him, but with WSL, he was devoted to the success of his father's company which has caused some to view him as arrogant or difficult to deal with. He may very well have been arrogant, but he pretty much had a right to be. His company was building such wonderful ships. Contrary to popular belief that the Titanic disaster forced him to retire, he put in his notice that he would resign around the time the third ship, Britannic, would launched in January of 1912, 4 months before the Titanic set sail. It is true that he had 20 lifeboats put on board rather than 64. However, you need to put yourself in his shoes. He was a man who was trying to sell passage on his ships rather than anyone else's and you had these "unsinkable" ships which even if they did sink, would have sunk so slowly that there would have been enough time to ferry people between the ships and shore or another ship. In looking back, it was a stupid move. But back then, it seemed like a good decision. When the Titanic set sail on April 10, 1912, Ismay was one of the first passengers on board, having stayed at a hotel near by and boarded at about 9:30 A.M. During the voyage, he would socialize with the 1st class passengers. Because he had sailed with many of them on previous vessels, he was one of the most well known passengers on board. He stayed in one of the best suites on board which encompassed B-52, B-54, and B-56. It was nicknamed the "Millionaire's Suite" because it included 2 bedrooms, a sitting room, and a private 50 foot long promenade deck.  It would cost $50,000 to stay in that room. It was originally supposed to be occupied by J.P. Morgan, one of the richest men in the world and the owner of the White Star Line, but he canceled at the last minute which allowed Ismay to occupy it instead. Passengers claimed that Ismay urged Captain Smith to increase the speed, which is against WSL policy. All WSL officers are required to sign a contract that they won't interfere with the way the ship is run and leave that to the captain. With this being reportedly Smith's last voyage, however, he didn't have much to lose. 1st class passenger Elizabeth Lines said that Ismay and Captain Smith were talking about it in the Reception Room. Ismay was talking loudly and Captain Smith just nodded. Ismay was reportedly urging Smith to increase the speed to get to New York early and make the headlines, adding in that he was just a passenger and that it was up to him. Such claims, I believe, are exaggerated. He admitted to asking about the possibility of increasing speed of Captain Smith and Chief Engineer Joseph Bell, but due to the policy, I think that he pushed Captain Smith to increase the speed. During lunch on April 14th, Captain Smith handed Ismay an ice warning. Ismay apparently showed it to other passengers because he was waving it in front of Mrs. Thayer and Mrs. Ryerson on the Boat Deck, explaining that they were nearing ice. Captain Smith eventually retrieved the message from Ismay. Looking back, we can easily say that it was idiocy to speed through ice. However, at that time, it was natural to try and get out of an area that had ice as fast as you could. Furthermore, you had the best and more experienced crew of the WSL. He showed it to 1st class passengers Marian Thayer and Emily Ryerson on the Promenade Deck and may have shown it to other passengers before Captain Smith asked for it back. Ismay generally ate his dinners at a table in one of the alcoves of the 1st class Dining Saloon except for the 12th in which he ate at Captain Smith's table and the 14th when he ate in one of the alcoves of the A La Carte Restaurant during a party held by the Wideners in honor of Captain Smith. He sat at the table on the Aft Starboard side. Afterwards, it is likely that he went with the rest of the gentlemen to the 1st class Smoking Room a couple of decks above for a smoke and maybe a card game. Afterwards, he retired at about 10:00 P.M. At 11:40 P.M., the Titanic struck an iceberg. The collision caused the ship caused a slight shudder of the ship, but not too bad. It was enough to wake Ismay, though. He went out and inquired about what had happened. He went to the Bridge for the first time during the voyage and saw Captain Smith. Ismay asked, "Do you think that this ship is seriously damaged?" "I'm afraid she is", was the reply. That was enough for him. The order was given to rouse the passengers and lower the lifeboats. Ismay never bothered to into something warmer. I think that as the Managing Director of the White Star Line and one of the guys that came up with the idea, he felt some responsibility. He stayed on deck, helping women and children into the lifeboats and lowering away. He got so passionate in fact, that 5th Officer Lowe, not realizing who he was, harshly rebuked him and told him to stand back. Ismay continued following the officers, often Murdoch, and helping with the loading and lowering throughout the sinking. Now we've come to the point which is most controversial, Ismay's escape. It was 1:40 A.M. and Collapsible C, the last lifeboat on the Starboard side began its descent. The details, unfortunately, are not clear. Some said that the deck was clear and that there were no other passengers. Others said that there was a lot of people and that there was panic. I have always found it hard to believe that with all these stories of panic and with so many left on board, that the deck would be empty with the lowering of the second to last boat on that side with water 1-2 decks below. Jack Thayer mentioned a mass of people around the boat and so did Hugh Woolner. I think that they are right, despite other claims including those of Ismay. There may have been no other passengers (or women or children) in sight, but I find it difficult to believe that there were NO people around the boat. They began to lower the boat and as they lowered it, Ismay and another 1st class passenger, William Carter, got in. Carter from the get go said that they were asked to get in. Ismay on the other hand didn't say so at the inquiries but did admit privately that he was asked. Rowe said he didn't see them talking with any of the officers, but with all the confusion and voices it would be difficult to hear someone at that distance unless they yelled. Lightoller said that on the Carpathia (the rescue ship), Ismay told him, "Women and children went down, I should have gone down too." With this in mind, I think we can picture the scenario. Ismay was standing there, watching the boat go with Carter right beside him. Suddenly, a voice behind them says, "There are no more women on board this ship." Carter said that Wilde told them, "You can get in if you help row." Lightoller described Chief Officer Wilde as a big, powerful chap and the type of man that didn't argue long. Ismay and Carter, believing that the men could justifiably get into the lifeboat and following Wilde's orders, got in as Collapsible C was being lowered. Ismay rowed throughout the night. He looked back once at the Titanic, but then turned away and didn't look back again. He later said at the inquiry that he didn't care to see her go down. On board the Carpathia, Ismay, who already was a sort of reclusive type person, was so shaken up by the tragedy that he was given a room and hated when anyone bothered him. He left all the decisions up to Captain Rostron. He did, however, arrange via the wireless telegraph for a ship to be ready to take the crew back to England. When he got to America, however, he was issued a subpoena and ordered to remain in America for the duration of the Inquiry. Ismay was called to testify and did on days 1 and 11 in the American Inquiry. He was in fact the first one to testify. He later testified at the British Inquiries on days 16 and 17. In America, one man ruined his reputation forever. His name was Randolph Hearst and he was the newspaper magnate. He was a man who hated Englishmen and with such a sensational story as the Titanic tragedy, Hearst couldn't help targeting the one man he could blame and not be lamblasted due to accusing a man who died a hero (like Smith or Andrews) of being at fault. That one man he could blame was J. Bruce Ismay and he did so without mercy. He even nicknamed him, "J. Brute Ismay". He was portrayed as a coward that snuck into a lifeboat like a rat. He sold many newspapers and profited off Ismay's reputation's demise. The British Inquiry and people, on the other hand, was more lenient. The British Inquiry in speaking about Ismay said that if he had died, he would have been just another name on the list of the dead. That is true, considering that he took no woman or child's place. If I may add to that, he also provided some valuable and interesting facts that we likely wouldn't have if he had died that night. Ismay, after he retired, almost never spoke of the Titanic. He did write to Marian Thayer who was also on the Titanic, but his wife prohibited the mention of the Titanic in his presence. Apparently, the tragedy had affected him so much it was better to forget it than relive it. He donated his own money to help the victims of the Titanic disaster and still led a public life afterwards, serving on various boards, but was more withdrawn. It is a mistake to assume that he became a recluse because of the Titanic disaster. He was always that way. He was forced because of his job to be more public and social. The Titanic disaster probably did probably make him more anti-social, though. My conclusion is that he was a hero. He did make a bit of a nuisance of himself during the voyage and sinking of the Titanic. However, his intentions were good. He was simply the victim of circumstance. The portrayal of him in the numerous Titanic films have all been wrong and have made him out to be a cowardly fiend and scoundrel. The Ismay I see historically was a bit of an anti-social man who hid it from public view and was genuinely a kind-hearted man when you got to know him. Because of Hollywood, I don't think Ismay's career will ever recover. However, I hope that one day more people will realize his honorable and dutiful actions during the sinking and justifiable rescue.

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Movements and Death of Captain Smith During the Sinking of the Titanic

The death of Captain Smith has been questioned and unknown since the night the Titanic sank.  There have been many accounts which differ on what happened to him.  Like the question of the officer's suicide which I posted about earlier, we will never.  However, we can come up with a conclusion of what likely happened based on what happened that night and by common ground among most of the survivors' testimonies.

What we do know is that Captain Smith was an experienced, able captain that had been in charge of the White Star Line's biggest and best ships for a while.  If the White Star Line had the rank of "Commodore", Captain Smith, would have that rank.  He had been at sea for 39 years without one ship from sinking from under him and only a few accidents.  He was a popular favorite with many millionaires who preferred to sail under him which earned him the nickname, "Millionaire's Captain".  2nd Officer Charles Lightoller described him as a man with a commanding presence but had an unexpectedly quiet voice.  As the Titanic was passing the docks of Southampton, the stern of the S.S. New York was drawn to the Titanic by her suction and Captain Smith gave orders that prevented a collision.  It has been suggested that this was going to be his last voyage.

On the 13th of April, Elizabeth Lines said that she overheard a conversation between Captain Smith and J. Bruce Ismay (the managing director of the White Star Line).  According to Lines, Ismay pressed Ismay to speed up the ship and Captain Smith said nothing.  He merely nodded.

He usually had his dinners at a small table in the 1st class Dining Saloon but on Titanic's last night, he dined in the A La Carte Restaurant where the Wideners were having a party in his honor.  He sat in at a table towards the Starboard side of the ship in an alcove at the same table as the Wideners, Thayers, and Carters.

It is not clear where Captain Smith exactly was when the Titanic struck the iceberg.  He came onto the Bridge rather quickly asking what they had struck.  It is possible that he was in his sitting room and when the iceberg struck and when he felt the collision and rushed immediately to the Bridge.  "What have we struck?" he asked.  "An iceberg, sir," Murdoch replied.  Murdoch then gave him the brief rundown of what had just happened.  Smith rushed to the Starboard wing of the Bridge where he hoped to see the iceberg but saw nothing.  He then turned to 4th Officer Boxhall and ordered him to inspect the ship.  He also turned to Quartermaster Alfred Olliver who was on the Bridge at that time and ordered him to tell the carpenter to sound the ship.  While they were gone, Chief Officer Wilde who had been inspecting the bow came up to Captain Smith and told him what two crew members told him, that air was escaping in the Forepeak Tank (which meant that water was flooding the Tank Top).  The carpenter was already in the process of sounding the ship when Olliver got to where he was and returned to the Bridge.  As soon as he got there, Captain Smith ordered him to give Chief Engineer Joseph Bell a message which was written down on paper.  When it was delivered, Bell said that it would be done as soon as possible.  We may never know what was in that message, although I suspect that it may have been an order to put out the fires in the boilers to prevent a thermal explosion.  Olliver returned to the Bridge and delivered Bell's reply to Captain Smith and Chief Officer Wilde immediately after that ordered him to help the other crew members with the lifeboats.  Boxhall, while Olliver was delivering the message to Bell, returned to the Bridge.  Possibly feeling that the inspection was too quick, Captain Smith ordered him back down to ask the ship's carpenter to sound the ship (perhaps to make sure that the carpenter was doing his job or get another one to do the same thing).  On his way down, Boxhall ran into one of the carpenters who said that the ship was making water.  The carpenter continued his ascent to the Bridge where he reported what was happening to Captain Smith.  Boxhall continued down where he ran into one of the mail clerks (John Smith) who said that the mail hold was full and asked where the captain was.  Boxhall told him, "On the Bridge".  Boxhall then said, "Well, you go and report it to the captain and I will go down and see."  Boxhall proceeded and found the mail hold filling and the mail clerks hard at work to save the mail.  Boxhall went back up to the Bridge and reported what he found to Captain Smith.  

While he was waiting for the Boxhall and Olliver to return, J. Bruce Ismay, the managing director of the White Star Line, showed up, having been awakened by the impact of the collision.  He asked Captain Smith what they had struck and he told him.  "Do you think the ship is seriously damaged?" Ismay asked.  "I'm afraid so," said Smith.

When Captain Smith learned that water was coming in, he called for Thomas Andrews, the ship's designer, to inspect the ship.  While he was waiting for Andrews (whose cabin was just of the Aft Grand Staircase towards the stern) to get there, Captain Smith went into the Wireless Room which was down the hall from the Bridge near the Officer's Quarters and told the Marconi Operators that they had struck an iceberg and that they had better get ready to send out the call for help.  At that time, Jack Phillips was at the key and Harold Bride who had just woken up was begging Phillips to go to bed.  Andrews got to the Bridge and the two of them along with several officers went down below decks and inspected the ship.  Both of them inspected the ship for about 3 compartments and then Captain Smith went up to the Bridge while Andrews continued the inspection.  Andrews ran up the Grand Staircase upon learning the terrible fate of the ship and informed Captain Smith on the Bridge that the damage was too much for the ship to handle and that she was going down.

In and interview before the Titanic set sail on her maiden voyage, someone asked the Captain Smith if the courage and bravery of seamen in the face of death like the stories of old.  Captain Smith answered, "If a disaster like that to the Birkenhead happened, they would as those men go down."  What he said then was being put to the test now.

From that time on, Captain Smith was unusually indecisive and cautious, yet still active.  It is safe to say that he was in shock that this was happening.  He put so much confidence in these ships and was so sure of himself.  Only a few years before, he said, "I cannot imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. I cannot conceive of any vital disaster happening to this vessel. Modern ship building has gone beyond that."  He was on what was said to be his last voyage before retiring.  He never had a ship sink from under him during his whole career.  Why should this voyage of all the ships and voyages he's commanded go wrong like this?
Captain Smith seems to have gone from one side to the other, initially supervising the preperation and launching of the lifeboats.

After they were done readying the lifeboats on the Port side, Captain Smith and 2nd Officer Lightoller were standing near one boat and either Smith or Lightoller made the comment that the sails and masts would have to be removed from the boats (I think this was to make more room for people).  The person speaking then turned to 1st class passenger Maj. Arthur Peuchen and said, "You might give us a hand".  Peuchen did just that.

While they were lowering Boat No. 6, Quartermaster Hichens who was in charge of the lifeboat had Lightoller who was directing everything to stop lowering the boat which at that point was almost level with C Deck.  He complained about not being able to manage the lifeboat with one sailor (Lookout Fleet).  Lightoller asked for volunteers and Peuchen stepped forward saying,  "Can I be of any assistance? I am a yachtsman, and can handle a boat with an average man."  Lightoller agreed to let him in.  At this point, Captain Smith who was with Lightoller advised Peuchen saying, "You had better go down below and break a window and get in through a window, into the boat."  Peuchen didn't think that that was feasible and so he instead swung himself down on a rope.  This advise from Smith was surprisingly bad.  It would indicate that he was in shock and not thinking clearly.

Boxhall after helping with the boats a little went and got distress rockets.  Both he and Quartermaster Rowe fired rockets, hoping to attract the attention of a ship whose lights were seen in the distance.  Boxhall pointed out the ship in the distance to Captain Smith and he remained with them throughout most of the time that they were signalling.  The steamer seemed to be coming towards them and when it looked like it came close enough, they also got out the Morse lamp and Captain Smith said to him, "Tell him to come at once, we are sinking".  All efforts to contact the ship proved fruitless, unfortunately.  When they had sent off the last rocket they would send that night, Captain Smith told Rowe to get into Collapsible C which was being loaded at that time.  He was put in charge of it.  Boxhall went over to the Port side and assisted with loading and lowering of more boats.  We next find Captain Smith standing in the entrance of the wheelhouse, apparently supervising the loading and lowering of the boats.  Boxhall went up to him and Captain Smith, referring to Boat No. 2, said, "You must get into that boat and get away."  Boxhall did as he was commanded and escaped the sinking liner.

Captain Smith seems to have gone around the ship for the last half hour to release the crew from their duties and save themselves.  He must have started with the Marconi Room.  Bride said that Captain Smith came in and told them, "Men, you have done your full duty.  You can do no more.  Abandon your cabin.  Now it's every man for himself."  

After he went out of the Marconi Room, he crossed through his quarters for the final time and came out to the Starboard side on the Bridge. On his way out, he stopped and had a final brief word with Thomas Andrews.  Mess Steward Cecil Fitzpatrick mentioned that they conversed on the Bridge while he was going help those on Collapsible A.  

He went out to where they were working on getting Collapsible A down from the roof of the Officer's Quarters.  According to Steward Edward Brown, Captain Smith told them, "Well boys, do your best for the women and children, and look out for yourselves."  

He walked across the Bridge to  the other side where he relayed the same message to the crew on the Port side where they had just gotten Collapsible B down.  Fireman James McGann said,  “I was helping to get off a collapsible boat. The last one launched when the water began to break over the bridge on which Captain Smith stood.  When the water reached Captain Smith's knees and the last boast was at least 20 feet away from the ship, I was standing beside him.  He gave one look all around, his face firm and his lips hard set. He looked as if he was trying to keep back the tears, as he thought of the doomed ship. I felt mightily like crying as I looked at him.  Suddenly he shouted: 'Well boys, you've done your duty and done it well. I ask no more of you. I release you. You know the rule of the sea.  It's every man for himself now, and God bless you'.''  2nd class passenger W.J. Mellors said, Captain Smith jumped from the Bridge and said to the officers and crew, "You have done your duty, boys.  Now every man for himself."  There are several accounts which vary on the exact last words that Captain Smith said, but they are basically the same which gives credibility to these stories and makes it almost certain that he spent his final moments on board there.

Edward Brown in his account mentioned that Captain Smith had a megaphone in his hand. It is possible that he used it on the Port side which would be why he was heard by so many there but he didn't use it on the Starboard side which would be why not as many people heard him (and the fact that they were trying to launch the a two ton boat on that possible as soon as possible).

Being so recognizable with his white beard and so famous, it is not surprising that so many people mentioned him in the last moments.  Unfortunately, we don't know exactly what happened to him.  After he released his the people on board, nearly all of the survivors' accounts say that he stayed on the Port side near the Bridge.  What happened after that is a mystery.  2nd Officer Lightoller said mentioned in the American Inquiry that he briefly saw Captain Smith cross the Bridge headed for the Port side.  Harold Bride said, "I now assisted in pushing off a collapsible lifeboat (Collapsible B), which was on the port side of the forward funnel, onto the boat deck. Just as the boat fell I noticed Captain Smith dive from the bridge into the sea."  James McGann said, "He held the child under one arm as he jumped into the sea and endeavored to reach the nearest lifeboat with the child.  I took the other child in my arms as I was swept from the bridge deck.  When I was compelled to release my hold on the child, and I am satisfied that the same thing happened to Captain Smith.  I had gone down to the bridge deck to assist in lowering a collapsible boat.  The water was then coming over the bridge, and we were unable to launch the boat properly.  It was overturned and was used as a life raft, for some thirty of us, mostly firemen, clinging to it.  Captain Smith looked as though he was trying to keep back tears as he thought of the doom of the ship."  1st class passenger Robert Daniel said, "I saw Captain Smith on the bridge. My eyes seemingly clung to him. The deck from which I had leapt was immersed. The water had risen slowly, and was now to the floor of the bridge. Then it was to Captain Smith’s waist. I saw him no more. He died a hero."

I suspect that because he was seen near the Bridge when water was coming up,  that he went down at the wheel as so many captains of sinking ships are heroically portrayed.  I don't believe that Captain Smith went down in the Bridge.  Many people that were in the area said that he leaped into the sea.  Archibald Gracie, 2nd Officer Lightoller, and Jack Thayer seem to be the main witnesses on what happened next but they didn't see Captain Smith after that.  However, Gracie's account mentions that there were men on Collapsible B that said that they saw Captain Smith in the water.  There is a story that came out afterwards that said that Captain Smith gave a baby to those on the Collapsible B and when he was offered a place, he refused and swam away.  I doubt that this story is true because it seems that the baby would have died within seconds if not a couple of minutes after being in the water because it was so cold and the baby's body would not have adjusted well to the temperatures.  Many other stories also came out.  Some even said that he committed suicide (with the good Captain being so recognizable, if he had shot himself, there would be many credible witnesses saying that he killed himself if he did).

It appears that Cameron's film got the portrayal of Captain Smith wrong (even though Bernard Hill's acting was excellent).  He was in shock, but not incompetent.  He supervised the launching and lowering of the boats and did what he could to reach another ship.  He didn't stand around and do nothing like in Cameron's film.

My conclusion is that he died like a sailor.  During the sinking, he probably was in shock that such a thing as the Titanic's sinking could happen.  When water came up, I suspect that he didn't jump as some said, but instead intended to go down with the ship but was carried up by the water washing him off which might have given him the appearance of jumping off (Bride was after all about 40-60 feet away in the midst of chaos and very little light).  I also believe that with several survivors mentioning that Captain Smith was in the water, it is possible that he was seen by survivors either on their way to Collapsible B or while they were clinging to Collapsible B.  With it being so dark and so much going on, it is understandable why not many would see him.  Either way, he died like a man and sailor.  He did his duty and attempted to save as many lives as possible that were under his charge.  For that, he deserves a lot of respect and honor.