THE mystery has endured 100 years, and exactly what happened to Captain Edward Smith in his last moments, as Titanic sank beneath the Atlantic, will never be known.

By all accounts 62-year-old Captain Smith, was born in Stoke-on-Trent but lived in Southampton before the trip with his wife, Eleanor, was one of the most respected officers serving among the ocean-going liners of his time.

One description said: “He was the very type of a British sea captain, quiet, with shrewd, keen eyes beneath his shaggy brows, strong in command, gentle in social converse, modest as a simple seaman, brave as a lion, of unblemished honour.''

Captain Smith commanded 17 White Star liners in following succession, while his employers had total confidence in his skill, judgement and loyalty to the company.

Although his final actions remain uncertain, thanks to an account by a Titanic fireman, James McGann, who found himself with Captain Smith on the bridge, some of the master's last words were recorded.

The crewman 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'.''