Charles Alfred Bartlett, a White Star Line captain and commodore, was born on 21 August 1868.
Bartlett is best remembered as captain of HMHS Britannic from 1915 until November 1916, when his ship sunk near Greece, probably as the result of a German mine or torpedo.
Bartlett, aka “Iceberg Charlie,” joined White Star Line in 1894 as Fourth Officer of Germanic. He also served on Doric, Gothic, Teutonic, Oceanic, Georgic and Celtic. In the first years of the 20th century he commanded Germanic, Gothic, Cymric, Republic, Romanic, Cedric and several other White Star Liners
About that nickname: Bartlett is said to have gained the distinctive moniker for his purported ability to “smell” distant icebergs (a useful talent for any White Star Line officer).
Whether Bartlett’s supposed iceberg sniffing ability played any role in his not assuming command of Titanic is unknown. However, in early 1912, he accepted an offer to become White Star Line’s marine superintendent, based in Liverpool.
After the Britannic disaster, Bartlett returned to his marine superintendent post. He never commanded another White Star liner. While marine superintendent, Bartlett served for a while as aide-de-camp to King George V. In 1921, Bartlett was made a Commander of the British Empire. At his investiture, King George V reportedly quipped that it wasn’t often he gave a CBE to a man who had lost his ship. (Ouch!)
Bartlett retired as marine superintendent on 31 December 1931. He died at home on 14 February 1945.
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