Bruce Ismay was born in Crosby (Liverpool) on 12th December 1862. He was the eldest son of Thomas Henry Ismay and Margaret Bruce. His father was senior partner of Ismay, Imrie & Co, founder of the White Star Line.
Bruce Ismay was educated at Elstree School and at Harrow. He studied for a further year in France until he was old enough for an apprenticeship in his fathers company. His apprenticeship lasted 4 years.
He married Julia Florence Schieffelin and had two sons and two daughters.
His father died in 1899 and so Bruce took over the family business. The firm went from strength to strength. The company was approached by an American company to merge assets and companies. The IMM was formed.
By 1907 after dinner rough plans were drawn up to build 2 huge ships which would dominate the transatlantic crossing. They would also end rivasl competition with the Cunard Line who had started to build the RMS Mauretania and the RMS Lusitania. The ships would be the biggest ships afloat and the most luxurious. Of course they were the Olympic class liners.
See Chapter One for details of the creation of IMM
Ismay often sailed on his ships during their maiden voyage, the Titanic being no exception. When the Titanic hit the iceberg Ismay was rescued from lifeboat c. Many said that he should have gone down with the ship in the knowledge that it was under his encouragement that the ship should cross the Atlantic as fast as possible. Ismay was “showing off” his new vessel to the world. Despite Ice warnings the Titanic crossed the ice field at 22½ knots. One wonders if Captain Smith was ordered or perhaps suggested to maintain speed by the “Owner” of the White Star Line and hence ignore ice warnings or at least to underestimate them.
What happened to Isamy aboard Titanic?
Some witnesses stated that Ismay dressed as a woman to evade notice as he climbed into the boat. It is doubtful that he would have gone to such lengths. His position within the White Star Line would have allowed him to slip into the boat unquestioned by the Officers on the Titanic.
Whatever Ismay did or how he did it does not alter that fact that there were still women and children on the ship. He should have given up his place for them. He was nicknamed “J. Brute Ismay”,
Following his rescue he became a crucial witness in the aftermath Enquiries.
After the Titanic disaster he continued to work within nautical sector and inaugurated a cadet ship called Mersey. It was used to train officers for the merchant navy. He donated £11,000 to start a fund for lost seamen, and in 1919 gave £25,000 to set up a fund to recognize the contribution of merchant mariners in World War I.
J. Bruce Ismay died on October 17, 1937 of a cerebral thrombosis. He is buried in Putney Vale Cemetery in London.