Monday, April 2, 2012


Even though I'm not officially participating in April's A-Z Challenge, there are some fabulous articles by those who are. Here is the list of those participating. As my blog allows, I will be adding articles to correspond to the letter for the day, such as today's subject, B for Britannic.

This month marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Olympic class ocean liner, Titanic. On April 15, 1912 at 2:20 a.m., the highly touted unsinkable ship, slid under the waves.

Most ships built have sister ships, so I wondered, what were the names of them and what happened to them?

The Olympic, Britannic, and Titanic
Artist color depiction
As it happens, the Titanic had two sister ships, the older sister, Olympic, which was started three months before the Titanic (launched on 20 October 1910 and served until 1935), and the youngest sister, Britannic, built in 1913 and launched February 26, 1914. Just in time for the Great War—WWI.

The Titanic disaster had taught the builders some lessons and they were employed in the building of the Britannic. Safety features like the second watertight inner skin added as she was being built and more lifeboats—enough carry every member of the crew and all passengers. Additionally, special emergency lifeboat crane davits, which would enable all lifeboats to be launched despite listing (great idea but still didn’t work with all the port side lifeboats). She was designed not to be able to sink in under three hours. Still there was the prevailing idea that these three ships were virtually unsinkable. In theory, I suppose that was true, but in reality, sadly incorrect.

HMHS Britannic
The British Navy, commandeered the Britannic to be a hospital ship, and she never saw commercial use. All her luxurious fittings were removed and she became a hospital. Her maiden voyage was to provide a hospital for the wounded of the disastrous Gallipoli campaign. The HMHS Britannic completed five successful missions between the Mediterranean and Briton carrying wounded.

On November 21, 1916 an explosion on starboard side of the ship damaging two holds and the watertight bulkhead. The captain ordered her watertight doors be closed and lifeboats readied. Unfortunately, not all the doors were working and the Britannic took on water. Still, she should have been fine had the nurses not opened the portholes on the lower deck for fresh air in the wards and sadly allowed the water to pour into the ship. A lot of water. The captain had thought to make a run for the Kea shore three miles away with hopes of grounding the ship. Didn’t work. Britannic was listing too badly to make it.

The explosion was thought to be either from an enemy mine or torpedo (the German U-73’s records claim the Britannic was hit by one mine). Hospital ships were generally safe from enemy attacks, but rumors abounded that the Britannic was also carrying weapons. That may have made her a target. The Britannic was carrying 625 crewmembers and 500 medical personnel. Twenty-0ne members of the crew died along with 9 medical officers. I have no idea how many patients she carried.

The ship built not to sink in under 3 hours sank in less than 1—55 minutes to be precise.

The Britannic lies 400 feet down on the bottom of the Aegean Sea in international waters. The likes of, Jacques Cousteau, and others have explored her. In 2003, Carl Spenser, and crew dove the wreck. Sonar expert, Bill Smith confirmed there were number of mine anchors located around the ship. He also established the Britannic was hit by one mine and that the rapid sinking was a result of faulty watertight doors (probably due to damage from the explosion) and compounded by open portholes throughout the lower deck.

What a tragic ending for two bright stars of the Olympic-class liners, commissioned by the White Star Line.

HMHS Britannic today
The ship was 882 feet long and the hull broke when
it hit the Aegean floor, which is only 400' down.


Empty Nest Insider said...

This is a fascinating unofficial "B"! I just heard about how one of the original Titanic menus and room keys were recently auctioned off for a fortune! So sad that both ships sank and so many lives were lost. Julie

A Daft Scots Lass said...



A wonderful post , it was an awful tragic event in our history, British televsion are doing a number of programmes connected to the Titanic.


Kyra Lennon said...

Great post! I am happy in the knowledge that I have learned something today, thank you!

Denise Covey said...

I saw those delicious cups of coffee and decided I had to stay for a brew. Thanks for this great post on the Titanic. It's a story that we haven't heard the last of yet.


Jo said...

Interesting Sia, I hadn't heard of the Britannic before. Never really looked into it. There is a blogger who is doing recipes for meals served on the Titanic. Pretty yummy too.

Unknown said...

Is that a picture of the boat at the bottom of the ocean? What a story. Reminds me of the titanic.

T. Powell Coltrin said...

It touches me when people remember.


Hart Johnson said...

Oh, interesting that the Titanic had a sister that also suffered a huge tragedy! Those are some hard lessons.

Cherie Reich said...

Wow! That's fascinating about the Britannic. And people really got to stop calling ships unsinkable. That's just begging for trouble.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating history. I knew the Titanic has a sister ship, but didn't know the tale of the Brittanic. I once read an SF alternate history story where the Titanic had survived and the Beatles did one more album after Get Back. That story definitely tugged the heartstrings in a couple of different ways.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Teresa, I think it's important to remember.

Jo-really? Wow. I know they found some menus but I hadn't seen recipes.

Denise-always have plenty of coffee here. Glad you stopped by. The Titanic was the largest civilian maritime tragedy and you can't help but be fascinated and saddened. Her two sisters were interesting too.

Clarissa, that is indeed the Britannic.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Julie, it's also interesting to realize that all three ships were designed to be luxury liners. All three had the grand staircase, enclosed decks, and sumptuous appointments.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Hart, For sure the Titanic was a much greater tragedy with more people on board and who died. Britannic had a ship's compliment of 625 and 500 medical personnel and only lost 30 people.

What was fascinating to me? The older sister, The Olympic,also had her hull breached when she collided with a British warship off the Isle of Wright. The doors worked for her and the captain was able to close off the flooded compartments (a lot of water damage below the ship's waterline) and make her way back to Southampton on her own power to be repaired.

In fact, the shipyard took the propeller shaft and blade from the Titanic still under construction, and this delayed the Titanic's maiden voyage almost a month--21 days.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Cherie, yep, they do. Nothing is truly indestructible or unsinkable.

James, that would have been an interesting story to read. :-)

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Interesting post! (Even if ya aren't "officially" doing the A-Z.) A Titanic exhibit is coming to Atlanta next month, and I'm really looking forward to seeing it. Thanks for signing onto my blog as a new follower, and I was more than happy to return the favor.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Thank you Susan!
I can't do the A-Z with featuring authors each week. So I do it unofficially and when I can.

Kudos to those of you who do it and a blog every day, 'cept Sundays. I couldn't (I'm a person very aware of my limitations). Not with a working ranch, crops going in, taking a class and writing. I did ask the energizer bunny for help--even before A-Z and he made a fast exit stage left and I haven't seen him since, sigh.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

How sad they both sank!

Kim Sanders said...

Hi Sia, Great post. I never knew the Titantic had sister ships. Sounds like background info for a trilogy.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Kim, on another post I'll share the story of the woman who was on all three ships and lived to tell about it.

If you write a trilogy on this, let me know. There's so much fodder for some great stories with these three ships.

Diane, it is sad.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I wonder if they've considered making a movie about the Britannic?

Mary Aalgaard said...

Another tragedy at sea, for sure. They thought they were unsinkable, and they were so wrong.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Alex, not as much drama and romance as the Titanic, but it would make a good story if you were writing a story set in the drama of war.

Mary, I agree but they sure tried to make them unsinkable and in theory and within normal circumstances, they might have been. But neither the Titanic or the Britannic faced normal accidents the day they sank.

Tonya Kappes said...

I've always found this to be so fascinating. If I LOVED to do a lot of research, I might be able to come up with a murder or two on the ship before it sank.....sigh....always plotting.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sia .. very interesting - we've got lots going on about the Titanic at the moment on tv and radio - but I find I'm too brain tired to listen - one day I shall enjoy with great interest ..

The sinking aspect - especially in the light of the recent Cruise ship catastrophes .. not much has changed ..

Thanks for joining in so appropriately! Cheers Hilary

Natasha said...

Thanks for dropping by at my blog. Loved this post- so very informative. In India, the largest biscuit manufacturer is called Brittania, and many claim it is named in honour of the ship (though it might well be in honour of Britain itself)- either way, was nice to learn so much about a name I have known in a vague sort of way forever.

Natasha said...

Thanks for dropping by at my blog. Loved this post- so very informative. In India, the largest biscuit manufacturer is called Brittania, and many claim it is named in honour of the ship (though it might well be in honour of Britain itself)- either way, was nice to learn so much about a name I have known in a vague sort of way forever.

Anonymous said...

ja tem um filme sobre o britannic

Terangeree said...

The MV Dona Paz -- a passenger ferry in the Philippines -- sank after colliding with an oil tanker on 20 December 1987.

4,341 passengers and crew died.

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