Captain Herbert Haddock
- Oceanic

In 1907, Haddock was assigned to the RMS Oceanic - his Navy records list him as Master between the dates of 5.4.07 until 12.7.07 on the Liverpool to New York service. Shortly thereafter, the White Star Line moved its transatlantic service from Liverpool to Southampton and consequently, Haddock is listed as the Oceanic's captain for the next three years, from 17.7.07 - until March 1912, on the Southampton to New York route.

RMS Oceanic. (Click image to enlarge)

Launched in 1899, the Oceanic was the largest ship in the world until 1901 and at 17,272 gross tonnes was 704 ft (215 m) long and 68.4 ft (20.8 m) wide, powered by triple expansion reciprocating engines equalling 28,000 horsepower. Several officers who worked aboard the Oceanic would end up on Titanic - Charles Lightoller, David Blair, Herbert Pitman, Joseph Boxhall and James Moody.

His time as master of the Oceanic was not without incident. At 2am, Monday the 2nd of June 1907, only a few months into his tenure, a fire broke out in the unoccupied steerage area while the vessel was docked in New York between voyages. Haddock ordered crew down below to extinguish it and with help from the fireboat McClellan, the fire was under control by 2.45am, but the resulting damage totalled more than $10,000.

An Abstract of Log from the November 6th, 1907 voyage from Southampton to Cherbourg - Queenstown - New York" lists "Commander H.J Haddock, R.N.R, C.B." on a voyage that took 5 days, 19 hours and 43 minutes to travel 2,782 miles, an average speed of 19.91 knots.

RMS Oceanic log, 6th November 1907. Image courtesy of Tony Cannings/

A first class passenger list from the 6 November 1907 voyage also allows a glimpse into life aboard the ship, with the following excerpts:

Senior Officers and Staff
Captain: H. J. Haddock (Cmdr., R.N.R.)
Surgeon: J. C. H. Beaumont
Purser: C. B. Lancaster
Assistant Purser: E. Whitehead
Chief Steward: W. Jones

While notable Passengers are listed as: Georgianna Millington Bishop (an amatuer golfer), Lewis David Einstein (American diplomat and historian), Louise Kirkby Lunn (English contralto), Verner Zevola Reed (American capitalist and author).

Information for Passengers
Breakfast from 8 until 10 o'clock.
Luncheon at 1:00 pm
Dinner at 7 o'clock.
The Bar opens at 8:00 am, and closes at 11:00 pm

Comparatively, another "Abstract of Log" from a voyage on the 22nd of April 1908 with Haddock as Captain shows they covered 2890 miles in 6 days, 2 hours and 27 minutes, arriving in New York at 9.52am at an average speed of 19.73 knots.

RMS Oceanic log, 22nd of April 1908. Image courtesy of Tony Cannings/

On Saturday the 2nd of January 1909, the Oceanic lost a propeller blade while Haddock was in command on a voyage from Southampton. It occurred while passengers were having dinner and caused noticeable trembling, forcing Haddock to immediately slow down. Their arrival into New York was further delayed by dense fog and she didn't reach New York until the 7th of January 1909.

On the 24th of November 1909, King Edward conferred officer's decorations of the British Royal Navy Reserve upon Haddock.

A December 8th, 1909 First class passenger list exists showing Haddock still in command.

Senior Officers and Staff
Commander: H. J. Haddock C.B., R.D. (Commr. R.N.R.)
Surgeon: J. C. H. Beaumont
Purser: C. B. Lancaster
Assistant Purser: J. H. M Smith
Chief Steward: W. Jones

Notable passengers are identified as Miss Marie Doro (an American stage actress and film actress, Hon. Sir Alexander Lacoste (Chief Justice of Quebec), Hon. Rodolphe Lemieux (Canadian parliamentarian), and most importantly,  Mr. John P. Morgan, Jr., and Manservant along with Mrs. J. P. Morgan, Jr. , Miss Jane Norton Morgan, and Maid, Miss Frances T. Morgan and Master Henry Sturgis Morgan. This was not the famous (or infamous) JP Morgan himself, but his 43 year old son and family.

Haddock was allegedly publicity shy, however he did make two appearances in a December 1909 New York magazine with two relatively minor incidents, which if accurate, allow us some insight into his personality:

Exchanges of Courtesy

An incident typical of the fine little courtesies existing between transatlantic Captains happened one evening aboard the Oceanic. Captain Haddock, her commander, and several friends were discussing the possibilities of tariff revision, when suddenly there came a knock on the door.

"Come in," said Haddock, and a steward entered and stood at attention.

He wore the uniform of the Cunard line, and his presence on a White Star vessel puzzled the visitors.

"Ah, Edward," said Captain Haddock to the strange steward, "how are you?"

"Quite well, sir," replied the young man, holding up a bundle of English newspapers. "I've brought these with Captain Pritchard's compliments, sir. He wishes me to say that he had northwest gales to the Banks, and four hours of fog from Wednesday noon, sir. On Thursday forenoon in forty-one twelve, sixty-five fourteen,. we saw a dismasted barkentine drifting to the s'uthard. sir."

"Much obliged, Edward." replied Captain Haddock as the steward was retiring. "Express my thanks to Captain Pritchard and ask him if he will take dinner with me on Sunday."

"That is not one of your men, is it?" asked one of the visitors after the steward had gone.

"No, it's Pritchard's boy," said Haddock. "Pritchard is very thoughtful. He leaves Liverpool three days after we clear Southampton, and always brings me the latest London papers."

(Source: Sunday Magazine Of the New-York Tribune, 26 December 1909/Library of Congress' Chronicling America/Mark Baber/Encyclopedia Titanica)

Captain John Pritchard, Cunard Captain and Chief, 1905 Master of the Campania, Carinthia, Saxonia, Ivernia, Lucania and Mauretania. In 1909, at the time the Sunday Magazine reported the friendship with Haddock, Pritchard was Commodore of the Fleet aboard the Mauretania. ("King of Captains" article,

The following article serves as "an illustration of Haddock's all round cleverness." His many talents, due to having "two brains" includes "painting a picture of the sunset... fencing... translating a German recipe into French for the Oceanic's chef... a wireless operator."

Versatility of Captain Haddock

NAVIGATION is always a science Cold, exact figures, astronomical and meteorological observations, experience and common sense, are the things that count when taking a liner across the Atlantic; but, notwithstanding the uselessness of the fine arts in piloting great steam carriers, there is much artistic temperament manifested in the hard, practical make-up of the Captains.

Nearly all have mastered some art of accomplishment entirely apart from navigation; but the laurels for versatility, according to his associates, go easily to Captain Haddock of the Oceanic, who is author, painter, linguist, athlete, and engineer. Captain Roberts of the Georgic explains this versatility by declaring that Haddock has two brains.

This story will serve as an illustration of Haddock's all round cleverness. A dispute arose late one afternoon in the ship news office at the Battery over the exact latitude and longitude in which the Oceanic had passed a dangerous derelict. There was no way of settling it except by consulting the logbook in the steamer's chartroom. The Oceanic had docked early that morning, and one of the reporters volunteered to go up to the ship and verify the derelict's position. At the gangplank he asked a quartermaster where the Captain might be found.

"On the after deck, sir," said the quartermaster. "He was there a half an hour ago, sir, painting a picture of the sunset.'"

A search of the after deck revealed no sign of Haddock. The third officer said he thought the master should be somewhere around, as he and the purser were having a fencing bout on the promenade deck a short time before. A steward who happened along averred that the Captain was in the dining saloon translating a German recipe into French for the Oceanic's chef. The dining saloon was deserted, and at last Haddock was found in his room under the bridge. As he entered, the reporter heard the sharp crackling of a wireless instrument, and a man with his back toward the door sat at the skipper's desk sending a message.

At last the sound ceased and the man in the chair turned. It was Haddock.

"For Heaven's sake, Captain!" said the reporter. "Are you a wireless operator, too? What is there on this ship you can't do?"

"Oh, it's easy," replied Haddock. "I've [studied?] telegraphy many years. I had this wireless installed to keep myself in practice."

(Source: Sunday Magazine Of the New-York Tribune, 26 December 1909/Library of Congress' Chronicling America/Mark Baber/Encyclopedia Titanica)

1910 New Chelsea Piers

According to a New York Tribune newspaper article dated the 17th of February 1910, Haddock had "never had an accident at sea, but the company has planned a little make-believe collision for him on Monday" involving large ribbons of the "American and British colors stretched across the dock between piers No.s 58 and 59" for the Oceanic to break through. The article states that Haddock had been "made a Commander of the Bath in 1902, a commander of the Royal Naval Reserve in 1904 and recently King Edward conferred upon him the royal decoration for meritorious service." During Monday's pier opening ceremony "he will receive the title of C.I. and R.B., which according to the announcements, means chief ice and ribbon breaker of the new Chelsea piers." (New York Tribune, 17th of February 1910)

Later, on the 23rd of November 1910, Haddock was in command when the Oceanic struck a coal barge under tow during its arrival in New York. The captain of the barge and his wife were saved while the vessel sank in view of hundreds of Oceanic's passengers.

Then on Wednesday 23rd of March 1911, the Oceanic was caught in a storm during a Westbound crossing and was struck by lightning, splitting the ship's foremast into pieces which collapsed and narrowly avoided the bridge. First Officer Lightoller was apparently on the bridge at the time.

Newspaper article on lightning striking the Oceanic.
(Norwich Bulletin, March 23, 1911.)

It was not all smooth sailing on the Oceanic either, according to evidence given at the British Inquiry by Harold Arthur Sanderson, Director of the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company that Captain Haddock experienced issues with crew not wanting to comply with boat drill regulations:

We have experienced a very serious difficulty arising from the unwillingness of certain portions of the crew to comply with the Company’s regulations. To such an extent has that existed that they at times refuse duty on the voyage... I am particularly speaking of the firemen…think it is only within the last two years it has occurred. Up to that time we had no difficulty of the kind..The one I refer to was on the “Oceanic,” on a voyage to New York. The men refused duty on the voyage when ordered to a boat muster…I am not aware that there was anything more than a reluctance. They did not think it was fair to ask them to do it. Captain Haddock was in charge of the ship and he logged the men for not complying with orders, and there was so much friction about it that we decided to modify the orders and allow him to muster the men in New York instead of mustering them on the voyage, if that would make it easier to get the firemen to do it; and I believe, in fact, they have been mustering them in New York occasionally instead of mustering them on the voyage.
- Harold Arthur Sanderson, Director of the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company (British Inquiry)

On what would be Haddock's final crossing as master, the Oceanic once again lost a propellor blade on the 29th of February 1912, causing him to arrive one day late into New York.

Olympic Appointment

Talk of Haddock's appointment to commander of the Olympic began as early as December 1910, when several newspapers picked up on wireless messages to that effect.

Capt. Haddock to Have the Olympic and Hears of It by Wireless

The White Star liner Majestic in on Wednesday night, swapped wireless sentiments at sea on Wednesday afternoon with her big sister, the Oceanic, bound eastward and congratulated Capt. Herbert J. Haddock, commander of the latter ship, also Commander of the Bath and of the Royal Naval Reserve, on his promotion.

Capt. Haddock asked for particulars and was told that he had been selected by the White Star Line to take charge of the new colossus, the Olympic, which will go into service next summer.

The Majestic also brought the news of the selection of Capt. Ted Smith, commodore of the White Star fleet, as the commander of the Olympic's sister ship, the Titanic, which will follow the Olympic on the New York service. Capt. Smith has the Adriatic, which sailed yesterday for Queenstown.

The Olympic is too long for any of the Chelsea docks and it is a problem how she will be berthed when she gets here. The line has asked the Government to lengthen the piers in the Hudson. If they are not lengthened it is said that the big ship will dock anyhow and and let about eighty feet of her hull project into the river. There is no law against that, and ships that run into her, it is said, may be held responsible.

(Source: The Sun (New York), Friday 2nd December 1910)

In June 1911, The New York Times carried the headlne "Capt. Haddock to Head White Star Line at Increased Pay" announcing that Haddock would relieve Captain Smith on his retirement to command the Olympic. The article described him as "a naval reserve commander, the only skipper in the Atlantic trade who wears the mid-Victorian mutton chop whiskers without a beard or mustache."

Capt. Haddock to Head White Star Line at Increased Pay

--- Capt. E. J. Smith, R. N. R., the Commodore of the White Star Line, who is to command the new mammoth liner Olympic, will retire at the end of the present year, it is understood, as he will have reached the age limit. He will be relieved by Capt. H. J. Haddock of the Oceanic, a naval reserve commander, the only skipper in the Atlantic trade who wears the mid-Victorian mutton chop whiskers without a beard or mustache.

The second big liner, the Titanic, which is to enter the New York-Southampton service toward the end of the year, will be commanded, it is said, either by Capt. B. H. Hayes of the Adriatic or Capt. Henry Smith. To mark the advent of the Olympic into the service the pay of the Commodore of the White Star Line has been increased from $5,000 to $6,000 a year, which will be the highest pay in the Atlantic trade. The salary of the Captain of the Titanic will be $5,000 unless he should happen to be the Commodore of the fleet.

Owing to the fact that the first voyage of the Olympic will be made while the coronation is taking place, Lord Pirrie, head of Harland & Wolff's shipyard at Belfast, where she was built, and a number of invited guests, will cross from Southampton to New York on the second voyage, arriving here on July 19. The party will stay at the Ritz-Carlton while the Olympic is here.

The Olympic has been open to the public in Liverpool and Southampton at a charge of 60 cents each person, the proceeds being handed over to local charities. The officials of the White Star Line in Liverpool, when asked for passes for their families had to pay for tickets, it was said, the same as the ordinary public. On her arrival here the new leviathan will be open for inspection at 50 cents admission, which will be given to the charitable organizations in New York City. When the Oceanic came out in 1899 the same charge was made, and a sum of $10,000 was thus obtained for local charities.

(Source: June 6 1911 The New York Times)

In 1911 the Haddock family were living at number 40 The Avenue, Southampton. According to the 1911 Census, Mabel is living with their son Herbert and daughters Ruth and Joan, while Herbert Haddock senior is not listed - presumably because he is at sea at the time. Their oldest son Geoffrey is "boarding at Birkenhead School, Shrewsbury Road, Oxton, Birkenhead. Whilst here he was a prefect and played in the cricket and football teams." (Jackie Chandler/Southampton Cenotaph)