More than 250,000 seamanship certificates released for the first time

The captain of the Titanic originally failed his navigation test, it has emerged today.

280,000 documents, which reveal Masters and Mates Certificates from 1850-1927, have been published for the first time by and the National Maritime Museum.

The documents detail the seamen who passed examinations designed to test their experience and general good conduct, and give evidence of their sobriety, as drunken behaviour was rife in the Merchant Navy during the early-19th century.

The documents show that Edward John Smith, whose body was not recovered after he went down with the Titanic when it sank in 1912, failed his exams the first time round because he did not have sufficient navigating skills.

But he did eventually pass the exam and receive his Masters Certificate in February 1888.

The documents also reveal that Captain George Moodie, master of the Cutty Sark, received his certificate in 1861. international content director Miriam Silverman said: ‘These records provide fascinating insight into Merchant Navy life at the turn of the 19th-Century and signal the end of the stereotypical drunken and disorderly sailor.

‘They are also a rich source of information for anybody looking to find out more about a seafaring relative or trace the career of a famous captain.’

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