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His Final Hours

A Captains Tail

By Donna Fox (HKB)Published 2 years ago 9 min read
His Final Hours
Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

Errrrrr. Creeeeak. Screeeech.

Unmistakable tense silence.

Ba-boom, ba-boom, ba-boom. Captain Edward Smith’s heart beat erratically in his chest. Making him feel laboured of breath. As he stood still for a moment, trying not to let the panic settle in. That sound and bump he felt could have been anything, it doesn’t have to be something bad. Does it?

As sudden as the bump and sound had come, it left. The entire ship was silent, not a soul dared make another sound.

Someone rapped at his quarters door. Throwing his housecoat on, “Come in,” he called. Standing up to meet whom ever appeared in the doorway.

“Captain,” a young crew member spoke. “We need you in the bridge.” he stated, fear present in his eyes.

“I’ll be there shortly.” he replied, dismissing the young man.

Not waiting for the door to close before he started getting dressed in his uniform once again. Breathing hard as his heart continued to race at an even faster pace now. Thinking to himself that surely this couldn’t be good for his heart at his age.

Shaking this thought from his mind as he buttons his jacket in the mirror and gave himself a nod. Assuring himself to put on a brave face and hoping that whatever happened, it wasn’t too bad.

Closing his door behind himself, he marched to the bridge.

Walking in the door of the bridge, Captain Smith looking to his First Officer, William Murdoch. “What happened?” he asked, tightening his jaw in anxious anticipation.

“We struck an iceberg, sir.” Murdoch reports, holding a brave face but appearing shaken. A small bead of sweat running his temple as he stood in position, awaiting orders.

“Turn the engines off and someone find me Thomas, to assess the damage.” Captain Smith commanded.

“Yes sir.” a crew member replied, with a nod and marched out of the bridge.

“What side did we hit?” he asked William Murdoch looking out the window as he tried to settle his own unrest. Hoping it was a small scrape and they would be able to make port in Halifax.

“Starboard.” Murdoch replied, the fear he tried to hide was now becoming more present on his face. A few more beads of sweat leaked out of his hairline and he wicked them away, with his handkerchief.

The bridge door opened and in came another crew member. “Sir, the mailroom is filling with water.” he stated, panic evident on his face. His uniform appeared spatted with water, his pants dripping at the cuffs.

“Thank you.” Captain Smith dismissed the man. Now feeling exasperated with anticipation, “Where is Thomas?” he asked Murdoch. Turning to face him again but knowing he didn’t have the answer either.

On cue, Thomas burst into the bridge, huffing as though short of breath. The lower half of his pants soaked with icy arctic water, now dripping behind him as he walked in. Walking to the table, he threw down his personal blue print of the Titanic.

“How bad is it?” Captain Smith asked. Doing his best to hold a steady voice and hide his fear.

“These five compartments are taking on water.” Thomas indicated, pointing at the mailroom and several other rooms around it. His face grim as he swallowed hard with anxiety as he looked to Captain Smith.

“What does that mean?” Captain Smith asked, licking his lips anxiously.

“It means-“

“Can we make it to Halifax?” he interrupted, unable to hide his fear in this moment.

“No.” he answered, taken aback to see the Captain shaken. “I estimate we will sink in the next two hours, sir.” Thomas stated, his breathing uneven and nervous as he awaited the Captain for a response.

Captain Edward Smith now heard a ringing in his ears and became lost in thought. As his mind began to swirl with growing panic and fear. Making him begin to recall all the events of the day, wondering how he could have prevented or foreseen this.

* April 14th 1912 9:30am *

Opening the door to the bridge, “How was the night shift?” Captain Smith asked, looking to William Murdoch.

“Uneventful as usual.” he replied, as the next shift change occurred and he stepped way from the helm.

“Anything on the agenda today?” Captain Smith asked the crew member nearest, holding a clip board with today’s itinerary.

“Only a lifeboat drill this morning and then your usual dinning obligations.” he replied, handing the Captain the clipboard to read for himself.

“Yeah, we can cancel the drill.” Captain Smith stated, handing the clipboard back.

“Yes Sir.” the crew member answered, immediately crossing it off the itinerary.

“Sir.” name addressed him, with a challenging eye. “I think it’s worth running the drill for the sake of our men. Most would benefit from the experience.” he stated, daring to make direct eye contact.

“Are you questioning my authority?” Captain Smith countered, narrowing his eyes in suspicion.

“No Sir, but I do think we should do at least one lifeboat drill this trip.” he stated, with a raised brow in challenge.

“I have other obligations today and don’t have time for such frivolities.” The Captain retorted. “It’s cancelled and I will have no such challenging of my authority or I'll strip of you of your position. Is that clear Lt Murdoch?” he added, flaring his nostrils at the end as he breathed heavily.

“Yes Sir.” he answered, looking down to the navigation system in defiance.

Seething with anger. Captain Smith leaves the bridge and seeks refuge in the first class smoking room. Receiving a stiff whiskey from his favourite waiter. As though he had expected the Captain.

The day went on as usual. Captain Smith exchanging frivolities with the upper class passengers. Telling his usual stories and recanting his greatest adventures. None of which were even remotely true, but no one challenges a good story.

The drinks flowed through out the day, everyone insisting on buying the Captain a drink as a sign of good will.

Closer to dinner time. Captain Smith received several telegrams with an iceberg warnings, in the charted path.

Needing a break form all the social obligations. Captain Smith went back to the bridge, to speak with whom was on watch. Second Officer Charles Lightoller.

“Iceberg warnings in our course.” The Captain mumbles as he walked in the door, starting to feel tipsy.

“I heard.” Lightoller stated, with a sideways look. Then looking to the extra crew members in the room and silently dismissing them.

“We need to recharge our course.” the Captain stated, feeling control of his tongue and lips start to fade as he walked in. Approaching the table and braced himself against it, casually. (But not really).

The extra crew members filed out and Lightoller approached Captain Smith with caution.

“Sir, are you feeling alright?” he asked in a hushed voice, looking upon the Captain with concern.

“I’m periphery- perfectly fine.” The Captain stated, fumbling with his words now as an involuntary hiccup escaped him. Maybe he was more effected by the liquor than he thought.

“Sir, I think you’re drunk and not in the right mind to do this.” Lightoller stated in a small timid voice, but his eyes held firm.

“No, no, I’m good. I’ll chat- chart the course.” Captain Smith stated, trying to maintain authority.

“Okay.” Lightoller agreed with a sigh. “I’ve already adjusted the course to head slightly south and lower our speed for caution.” he finished, waiting for the the Captain critiques.

“Very well then, carry on.” Captain Smith agreed, turning to leave then pausing at the door. “Actually,” he began, turning back to Charles Lightoller. “We have a shhh shhh schedule to keep, do not slow the speed.” he stated, trying to find a footing on his growing unsteady feet.

“Yes, Sir.” he replied with a nod.

“Good. Now should anything else require my approval, I shall be in my quarters for the evening.” Captain Smith stated, now exiting the bridge and heading straight for his quarters.

Not remembering the exact way he got there but grateful to have the door closed behind him. Clearly he had been a little careless in his consumption tonight. A glass of water and some rest would remedy his aliment in time for morning.

* April 15th 1912, 12:00am *

“Sir, what do you want us to do?” William Murdoch called to Captain Smith.

Pulling himself from what felt like a distant dream. Giving himself a shake, he put his brave face back on. “Ready the lifeboats.” he stated in a firm voice.

“Sir?” he asked, looking bewildered.

“We are evacuating the passengers, sound the alarm.” Captain Smith stated, “All crew on board to ready the lifeboats. Women and children first.” he continued, walking away from the table standing at the window. Observing the soon to be chaotic deck, before him.

“All due respect Captain, but we don’t have enough for everyone.” Thomas stated, his face pale with fear.

“Then fill them to capacity and tell Phillips and Bride to send out distress signal. The Californian is close, they should be able to take on some of our people.” Captain stated, barely looking over his shoulder as he did so.

“Yes sir.” Murdoch stated, running out of the bridge as he began to shout orders to the crew members around.

The bridge fell silent for a few moments, as only muffled yells from on deck could be heard.

“Sir, what happened?” Chief Officer Henry Wilde asked, pale faced as he entered the bridge. Still tucking his shirt into his trousers as though he got dressed in a hurry.

“We’ve hit an iceberg and are taking on water. We are-“

Ding, ding, ding. The decks bell rang, interrupting the Captain. Followed by shouting from the deck below.

“So it is true then.” Wilde stated, with a solemn look as he walked to stand beside the Captain.

“Indeed.” he agreed, standing still in the window. As they watched the deck before them begin to flood with hysterical humans.

The silence between the two men now interrupted when a crew member burst in.

“Sir the Frankfurt and Olympic have responded, but are too far away. The Carpathia is coming but won’t be here for some time, yet.” the young man reported, fear stricken on his sweat covered face.

“No reply form the Californian?” Henry asks, with hopeful eyes.

“No Sir.” he replied, chewing his lips nervously.

“Thank you. See to it that we continue our efforts to evacuate everyone, we can.” Captain Smith replied, dismissing the crew member.

Captain Smith and Chief Officer Wilde watched the chaos on deck. Passengers and crew loading into the lifeboats, some at full capacity, but most not the case. Later they would migrate onto the deck to help those that were still awaiting their safe passage.

Later, the Titanic begins to tip as she takes on more water and the front half dips into the icy water. With that Captain Smith gave his final order. “Every man for himself.”

The crew and passengers left on the ship scrambled for any remaining lifeboats but many did not make it. Including Commander Edward John Smith and Lt Henry Tingle Wilde.

Legend has it these two were last seen back in the bridge sharing a final drink as colleagues. Before the Titanic took them down to the oceans floor. Their bodies would never be recovered.


About the Creator

Donna Fox (HKB)

Thank you for stopping by!! 💚💙💜🩵

If you are interested in longer works by me, I have two books published on Amazon.

Jogger's Trail and Fox in The Hole.

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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Comments (3)

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  • Test7 months ago

    "The Titanic's sinking is a somber moment in maritime history." 🌊

  • God, that was so irresponsible! I love the way you told this story! For us to find out the truth of what actually happened through the flashback. Fantastic story!

  • Novel Allenabout a year ago

    AHH! The Titanic challenge. This reads like a poem. Better read late than never, Decisions we make in our lives influence outcomes. Interesting take on the story. Have a wonderful day.

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