280,000 records from the National Maritime Museum detailing the examinations results of sailors in the 19th century have been released online. Following the introduction of the Mercantile Maritime Act of 1850, all ranks from mates to captains in the Merchant Navy were required to pass exams to prove they could handle ships properly. Historian Tony Robinson explains why the exams were introduced.
The sailors were awarded a Masters Certificate as proof that they were fit for service once they passed the exams. Amongst the famous captains who are included in the records is George Moodie who skippered the Cutty Sark and Edward John Smith who was in charge of the Titanic when it crashed into an iceberg.
However, the records also include a document that show that Smith once failed the navigation exam before he went on to receive his Masters Certificate in 1888.