Captain Edward Smith had celebrated his 62nd birthday on 27th January 1912. He was the most senior captain in the White Star Line earning £1,250 per annum, and was a highly popular man with crew and passengers alike. He had previously commanded the Olympic, the Titanic's sister ship on her maiden voyage on 14 June 1911 and the maiden voyage of the Titanic represented his final duty for the White Star Line before his retirement.
After she struck the iceberg, designer Thomas Andrews, who was on-board the Titanic as part of shipbuilders Harland and Wolff's Guarantee Group, toured the ship to assess the damage. He soon informed Captain Smith that his ship would founder.
Captain Smith and his deck officers Chief Officer Henry Wilde, First Officer William Murdoch, Second Officer Charles Lightoller, Third Officer Herbert Pitman, Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall, Fifth Officer Harold Lowe and Sixth Officer James Moody mustered the passengers on deck and lowered the lifeboats, filling them with "women and children first".
As the Titanic sank further her crew struggled to free the last collapsible lifeboat from the roof of the Officer's quarters at the base of the forward funnel. Speaking to First Class Steward Edward Brown he said, "Well, boys, do your best for the women and children, and look out for yourselves", before walking on to the bridge before the Titanic took her final plunge.
Two hours and forty minutes and striking the iceberg the Titanic slipped beneath the surface of the North Atlantic. Only 705 passengers and crew survived in the lifeboats, 1,500 men, women and children perished in the sinking. Captain Smith died, leaving a widow and young daughter. Captain Smith's body if recovered, was not identified.
The statue is a bronze full length, freestanding figure of Captain Smith in his uniform of the Royal Naval Reserves. Captain Smith stands with his arms folded, his right arm atop the left, and his right leg forward. The statue is scaled larger than real life, standing 7 foot 8 inches (234 cm) in height. The statue stands atop a plinth of Cornish granite, with a wide, stepped base. The front face of the plinth carries a bronze plaque.
The plaque reads "Commander Edward John Smith, R.D., R.N.R. Born January 27. 1850. Died April 15. 1912. Bequeathed to his countrymen the memory and example of a great heart and a great life and a heroic death. Be British." A later inscription applied to the plinth, above the plaque, reads "Capt. of R.M.S. Titanic".
The statue stands within Beacon Park in Lichfield, on a site provided by Lichfield City Council. The memorial was sculpted by Lady Kathleen Scott, wife of the late polar explorer Robert Falcon Scott and cost £740 to commission and manufacture.
- Birmingham Mail, The (2012) Experts sink the myth of Lichfield's statue of Titanic skipper Birmingham: Trinity Mirror Midlands, http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/local-news/experts-sink-the-myth-of-lichfields-statue-182640
- Board of Trade, The (1912) British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry: The Loss of the S.S. "Titanic" USA: http://www.titanicinquiry.org/
- Hind, Philip et al (2013) Captain Edward John Smith Oxford: Encyclopedia Titanica, http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-victim/edward-john-smith.html