White Star - ill-fated Hospital Ship the HMHS Britannic

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With Reuben Goossens

Maritime Historian, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer, Author & Maritime Lecturer

Please Note: All ssMaritime and other related maritime/cruise sites are 100% non-commercial and privately owned. Be assured that I am NOT associated with any shipping or cruise companies or any travel/cruise agencies or any other organisations! Although the author has been in the passenger shipping industry since 1960, although is now retired but having completed over 700 Classic Liners and Cargo-Passengers Ships features I trust these will continue to provide classic ship enthusiasts the information the are seeking, but above all a great deal of pleasure! Reuben Goossens.

 

 

Images are mostly from the author’s private collection unless otherwise noted

A special thank you to superb maritime artist Ken Marschall for his works on this page, please visit his Website at www.trans-atlanticdesigns.com

1… White Star Line:

The RMS Olympic was part of the White Star Line and was owned by the British “Oceanic Steam Navigation Company.” However, all of this company’s stock was owned by the “International Navigation Company Ltd,” of England, which in turn, was fully owned by the “International Mercantile Marine Company” (IMMCO), which was an American Corporation.

Therefore White Star Line and later Cunard Line may have been British operated, and Cunard still is today, but in reality it is a wholly American owned company both then and now! The only difference is that today Cunard Line is owned, by different American company, being the Carnival corporation, or as most people know them to be - Carnival Cruises, which is a massive company that now owns so many of the well known cruise brands, such as P&O Australia, P&O UK, Princess Cruises, Costa, Aida and Seabourn Cruises, even the outstanding Dutch company Holland America Line, and the list just goes on! Thus Carnival influences all these cruise companies, except for Holland America, who does stand apart, as they are self managed and marketed, whilst all the others are marketed by Carnival Plc!

2… Introduction to the Britannic:

The first of the Olympic Class Trio to be built was of course the RMS Olympic, which turned out to be the only liner of the three to have a long and successful life at sea and she was a much loved ship by all that sailed on her, regarding the class they were in! The RMS Titanic was as history has proven to be the ultimate disaster, and although it was one of the most tragic of events with a huge loss of life, some good did come out of it, as safety became more regulated. Very quickly both the Olympic received a considerable refit with the strengthening of her hull and watertight doors and other improvements, also a big change with additional lifeboats, and thanks to the crew taking a tough stand on the collapsible lifeboats, they were discarded and new ones obtained and far superior davits were installed, etc!

RMS Britannic as she looked after she was completed and placed in storage in Belfast during the war, before her call up

Note all the additional lifeboats that she carried

Whist the Britannic building was greatly delayed, which was due to the outcome of the court enquiry into the Titanic disaster and due to the results of the enquiry many additional safety features had to be added to the Britannic, even more than to the Olympic, which was due to her having been built earlier and whilst this new ship was obviously far more accessible!

Gigantic or Britannic?

It has always been said that the third ship was to be named the Gigantic and the story goes as thus: Before the Titanic disaster, she was to be named the Gigantic, a name which would seem to be in keeping with her sister’s names. However, White Star Line later denied that she was to be called Gigantic and that late in May 1912 it was announced that she would be named Britannic, a name that was considered “lucky” due to the superb career of their first Britannic.

I must say however, that the truth is that one way or another that the above has never been fully proved or disproved for that matter. But at some stage there was a poster printed in the 1900s that showed her clearly as the “Gigantic”, but the question begs who printed it, for it does not say “White Star Line.” Thus I will leave it open-ended and for you to make up your own mind!

The Britannic (Gigantic?) was the sister ship to the Olympic and Titanic, although the three sisters never sailed on the North Atlantic together

This, the third of the great White Star Olympic class liners, the Britannic was also built by Harland & Wolff in Belfast, in fact she was laid down in the very same yard the same slip where Olympic had been built several years earlier. Laid down in November 1911, she was extensively modified while still on the stocks to correct the fatal design flaws that had contributed to Titanic's disaster. But, like her ill-fated sister, Britannic was destined never to complete a single fare-carrying voyage for her owner and, in fact, sank more quickly than Titanic even with her new safety modifications.

3… Construction and Launching of the Britannic:

Britannic’s keel was laid on November 30, 1911 at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast. But due to improvements introduced as a consequence of the sinking and the massive loss of life of the Titanic, the Britannic would not be launched until 1914.

She was constructed in the same gantry slip (#400) that was used to build RMS Olympic, thus by reusing the Olympics’ space saved the shipyard time and money by not having to clear out a third slip similar in size to those used for Olympic and Titanic. In August 1914, before Britannic could commence transatlantic service between New York and Southampton, the First World War began. Immediately, all shipyards with Admiralty contracts were given top priority to use available raw materials. All civil contracts, including the Britannic, with good reason slowed down.

Construction Photographs

 

Here we see one of her decks laid and work continues to build the third of the Olympic Class liners!

 

Here we see one of her watertight doors

 

One of Britannic's massive four cylinder triple expansion steam engines

 

Here we see her turbines being finished

 

Here we see one of 24 double-ended boilers

 

This is the rudder’s steering turbine engine

 

One of Britannic’s propeller shafts

 

Britannic nearing her launch-date as well as a great view of her Gantry!

This is a rare colourised image

Source unknown – Please see Photo notice at bottom of page

With her building having slowed down due to the war, but once her hull and the main part of her superstructure had been completed, except the Bridge and housing and funnels up on Boat Deck, etc, the Britannic was launched with many White Star dignitaries present on February 26, 1914, and she was towed to the Harland & Wolff fitting-out berth to complete the Britannic.

Photographs of the Launching

 

                 

Below her mighty stern we see a group of dignitaries just prior the launching on February 26, 1914

 

An excellent view as she rolls off the blocks

 

   The great ship is finally afloat and should be looking forward to a long future – BUT?

With the war having commenced, the Admiralty began to requisition a large number of ships as armed merchant cruisers or as troop transport ships. The problem however for the relevant companies involved that the Admiralty was paying the companies for the use of their vessels, but the risk of losing a ship during military operations was considered to be very high. However, the big passenger liners were not taken for direct military use, mostly because smaller ships were easier to manoeuvre and operate. During this time, White Star decided to withdraw the RMS Olympic from service until the danger on the Atlantic had passed, thus the Olympic returned to Belfast on November 3, 1914, while the fitting-out on her sister continued slowly.

An impression of Britannic’s First Class Staircase

Sent in by a supporter but source unknown – Please see Photo notice at bottom of page

 

A very rare image of the illustration that became a reality!

Slowly the fitting out of the Britannic’s interiors were almost completed and she was looking good with most of the same features of the Olympic, and her First Class Staircase had another feature as is shown above, rather than a clock, as on the previous sisters, she had a stunning painting surrounded by timber scrolls and elegant decorations.

Although the ship was far from ready, but as far back as in July 2, 1914 White Star Line had announced that the RMS Britannic would commence her Southampton to New York service in the spring of 1915.

The official White Star Poster that accompanied the announcement of her commencement in spring 1915

However, White Star was soon told that the ship may well be required and be used as a hospital ship, and thus she was partially prepared for the job before she was even officially requisitioned. In May 1915, she had her mooring trials of her engines and she was now fully prepared for an emergency entrance into war duties with as little as four weeks notice. Tragically it was in that very same month on May 7, 1915 that the Cunard passenger liner RMS Lusitania was torpedoed by a U-Boat some 18km from the Irish coast and Old Head of Kinsale Lighthouse.

The tragic final moments of the RMS Lusitania

above is © Copyright by Ken Marschall Visit Ken’s Web Site at: www.trans-atlanticdesigns.com

German U-Boat number U-20 was under the command of Kapitänleutnant Walter Schwieger, who was sent to attack British ships around the British coast, and he was known to attack all kind of ships and he even fired at neutral ships as he suspected that they may be British in disguise. In an earlier voyage, he narrowly missed hitting a hospital ship with one of his torpedoes. Thus his reckless reputation made it more likely for him to torpedo a British passenger liner, such as the Lusitania. His evil act killed 1,198 innocent lives out of the 1,959 on board the RMS Lusitania with 761 survivors. The world was stunned to hear about this atrocity, for it was the first time ever that a passenger ship had been targeted and it was against all wartime conventions!

With this horrid event having occurred the Admiralty decided that there was an immediate need for additional and larger tonnage and that operations would have to be extended into the Eastern Mediterranean and wherever it was needed!

Thus in June 1915, the British Admiralty decided to requisition larger passenger liners for used as troop transports for the Gallipoli campaign. The first to depart were the Cunard liners; HMT Mauretania and HMT Aquitania. As the Gallipoli landings had proved to be disastrous and the casualties were to say the least massive with countless losses of Australian, New Zealand and British soldiers, in addition with countless more wounded as it had been an unbelievable slaughter field, there was a desperate need for large hospital ships to provide efficient treatments and to aid in the evacuation of the wounded. For this reason the troopship, HMT Aquitania would become a hospital ship in August, and the then in storage RMS Olympic would take over from the Aquitania and become a trooper from September 1915.

4… From Liner to Hospital Ship:

On November 13, 1915 the Britannic was officially requisitioned to become a hospital ship by the British Admiralty. Thus as she was still in storage at Belfast, she had to return to the Harland & Wolff yards and be rapidly made ready as a hospital ship with facilities for some 3,300 beds, and her luxury fittings and furnishings were removed and placed into storage, whilst other simpler furnishings were loaded for use on board.

Senior medical staff such as officers, doctors and senior registered nurses, etc would be accommodated in First Class accommodations, whilst the rest would use Second Class and the best of Third Class accommodations. The huge First Class Dinning Room became the ICU “Intensive Care Unit”, whilst the adjoining Reception Lounge was converted into a fully equipped operating theatre.

Public rooms and glazed in decks became large dormitories for the wounded, and it was also convenient as their location would always be close to their lifeboat stations should any emergency ever come about. Thus, the Britannic became a full-scale hospital ship and upon completion she was able to accommodate just over 3,300 wounded.

During this time she was also repainted in the official “International Red Cross” livery, being all white with three large red crosses on each side of her hull, as well as a green band. Officially her Red Cross designation would give her safety in international waters.

Here we see the HMHS Britannic as she was seen in a movie

The Britannic arrived at Liverpool from Belfast on December 12, which was a very big day for the ship, for 1: Captain Bartlett, who had been the company’s marine superintendant in Belfast whilst the Britannic was being built, boarded her on this day; 2: She was officially commissioned as a hospital ship and given her Pennant Number G 618 on this day. 3: Under the command of Captain Charles A. Bartlett the Britannic took on board a comprehensive medical staff. made up of 52 officers and doctors, 101 nurses, 336 orderlies, and 675 male and female crewmembers (although many crew had already boarded previously), making this a big day for the ship! During the Britannic’s stay in Liverpool she took on all her requirements such as food, supplies of various kinds, but most importantly a massive amount of medical supply.

Captain of the HMHS Britannic, Captain Charles A. Bartlett

5… HMHS Britannic’s Career as a Hospital Ship:

Voyage 1: Her Maiden Departure.

December 28, 1915 - HMHS Britannic departed Liverpool on her maiden departure bound for Mudros located on the Island of Lemnos, Greece. She made a call at Naples Italy early in the morning on December 28, where she would load coal and departed in the afternoon and arrived in Mudros on December 31, where she took on board some 3,300 casualties. On January 3, 1916 she departed bound for Southampton where she arrived on the 9th.

Here we see the HMHS Britannic on her maiden departure

 

Here we see two nurses at a ward set up along the deck space, during a voyage to Lemnos or Naples as it is empty

Voyage 2:

January 2, 1916 – she departed for her second voyage to Mudros and again stopped at Naples. However, this time she was held up in Naples due to the countless casualties based on other ships. It was decided to transfer thousands of these to the Britannic and she returned to the UK, rather than going on to Greece. She arrived back in Southampton on February 9.

She remained in Southampton for well over a month.

Voyage 3:

March 20 – Britannic departed this time for Augusta in Sicily where she loaded casualties from another ship and arrived back in Southampton on April 4.

Having offloaded all casualties in April, she was anchored off the Cowes, Isle of Wight and she was used as a floating hospital as there was an overload of casualties ashore. At the end of her mission there, she sailed for Belfast.

May 8 – Britannic arrived at Harland & Wolff to be refitted as a passenger liner once again.

June 6 – Britannic is officially released and returned to White Star Line, but she is laid up,

August 28 – The Britannic is requisitioned once again by the Admiralty as a hospital ship and she made ready once more and departs for Southampton.

Voyage 4:

September 24 – she departs Southampton Mudros, arriving in Naples for coal on the 29th. She arrived in Mudros on October 3 and took on board a large number of casualties as usual. She returned to Southampton on October 11.

She is seen here in Naples loading coal

 

Here we see the HMHS Britannic and the HMHS Galeka berthed alongside at Mudros, as they transfer wounded soldiers and goods

These smaller hospital ships would do the work in the local areas and transfer their wounded to the larger ships as they arrive

Voyage 5:

October 20 – Britannic departs Southampton for a direct sailing for Mudros. On board she has additional medical personal and a large stock of medical supplies which are to be used in Malta, Egypt and in India! She arrived at Mudros on October 28. Everything is offloaded and departs as soon as possible with further wounded onboard and returns to Southampton on November 6.

The Britannic is looking somewhat worn, but she is a hard working ship!

 

She is seen here at Mudros during having offloaded the medical supplies onto barges

Voyage 6 – Her Final Voyage!

November 12 – HMHS Britannic departed Southampton with a total of 1,066, being a medical staff and crew, and she arrived at Naples around 7 am on November 17, for it was here she would normally load coal.

However rather than departing on time in the afternoon, she was held up, because of extreme bad weather conditions and she departed three days late for Lemnos on November 20. How different her history might have been IF she only been able to depart on time, for the very next day November 21, 1916 would be the magnificent Britannic’s very last day afloat!

6… Details of Her Final Days and Tragic Voyage:

After completing five successful voyages to the theatre of war and back to England transporting countless of ill and wounded soldiers and others, the Britannic departed Southampton for Lemnos at 2.23 pm on November 12, 1916 being her sixth voyage to the Mediterranean.

The Britannic passed Gibraltar around midnight on 15 November, she arrived at Naples at around 7 am on November 17, for Naples was usually her coaling and water refuelling stop, thus it being the first port of call on each voyage, except one. However, a storm stopped the ship from departing until Sunday afternoon the 20th, as there was a break in the weather and Captain Bartlett decided to take advantage of this quiet spell and sail. The seas rose up again as soon as the Britannic had left port.

Tuesday November 21, 1916:

The following morning November 21 the storms had thankfully gone and the seas were calm and Britannia had passed the Strait of Messina in the very early hours and without problems. Next was Cape Matapan and that was rounded during the first few hours of the day. Soon the Britannic was steaming at full speed into the Kea Channel, between Cape Sounion, which is the southernmost point of Attica, the prefecture that includes Athens, and the island of Kea.

Whilst en route to pick up patients off the coast of Greece in the Kea Channel at Lemnos, Mudros, the Britannic was rocked without warning by a violent explosion and amazingly this great and well-built ship sank in just 55 minutes! Here is what happened …

At 8:12 am on November 21, without any warning there was a very loud explosion and the ship was thrown instantly off-course by three points (33.75 degrees), whist her bow rose noticeably and then came back down rapidly. During this, she suffered severe shaking and vibrations along her hull. The actual cause was as yet unknown, was it a torpedo from an enemy submarine or a mine. However as it turned out, the ship had apparently hit a mine that had been laid that same week by the U-Boat - U-73.

The reaction on board and those who were having breakfast in the dining room was obviously immediate; doctors and nurses departed for their posts. But as human nature is, not everyone reacted in the same manner. Obviously further aft the power of the explosion was far less and most thought the ship had hit an object, or even a smaller boat.

Captain Bartlett and Chief Officer Hume were on the bridge at the time and the gravity of the situation very evident to them. The explosion was on the starboard side, between holds two and three. The force of the explosion damaged the watertight bulkhead between hold one and the forepeak, thus the first four watertight compartments were filling rapidly with water. In addition, the firemen’s tunnel that connected the firemen’s quarters in the bow to boiler room number six was seriously damaged, and therefore water would be flowing right into that boiler room.

Captain Bartlett ordered the watertight doors closed immediately, sent a distress signal and ordered the crew to prepare the lifeboats. Thankfully aboard Britannic there were sufficient lifeboats for all on board, and even more if needed! Along with the damaged watertight door of the firemen's tunnel, for some reason the watertight door between boiler rooms six and five failed to close properly. Water was flowing further aft into boiler room five and thus the great ship Britannic was quickly reaching her flooding limit. She could stay afloat whilst motionless with her first six watertight compartments flooded. There were five watertight bulkheads rising all the way up to B-deck. Those measures had been taken after the Titanic disaster. The next crucial bulkhead between boiler rooms five and four and its door were undamaged and should have guaranteed the survival of the ship. However, there were open portholes along the lower decks, which tilted underwater within minutes of the explosion. The nurses had opened most of those portholes to ventilate the wards. As the ship's list increased, water reached this level and began to enter aft from the bulkhead between boiler rooms five and four. With more than six compartments flooded, the Britannic would not be able to stay afloat.

At 8.24 am the Captain decided on a desperate measure and he ordered to restart the engines and make an attempt to beach the ship.

At 8:25 am lifeboats are still being filled but they are not allowed to leave. Yet without authority some boats leave the ship from the portside and because of the list, they are scraping along the ship's side. In addition as the ship is underway again heading for the beach, the propellers are turning fast, and they are breaking the surface by now.

At 8:35 am things had increasingly become much worse and Captain Bartlett decided that there was little time left, thus he brought the ship to a full halt and orders “abandon ship” and all lifeboats to be lowered and sent away. However, he is unaware that just a few minutes prior to his order that two unauthorised lifeboats left the ship and were drawn into the portside propeller killing most of the occupants, while a third one has a narrow escape as the propeller stops seconds before impact. It is now

8:50 am whilst laying idle the Britannic is settling more slowly and most of the lifeboats manage to escape without further problems. Bartlett decides to try again to beach the ship and restarts the engines. Britannic's sinking rate increases again and water is soon reported forward on D-Deck.

9:00 am - Captain Bartlett is informed of the water on D-Deck he gives the order to abandon ship and Britannic’s horn is blown for the last time. Water has by now reached the bridge and Assistant Commander Dyke informs his Captain that all have left the ship. Dyke, Chief Engineer Fleming and Bartlett simply walk towards the sea near the forward gantry davits. Shortly after their escape funnel No.3 collapses.

9:04 am - as the water is now 119 meters deep, Britannic's bow hits the bottom whilst the stern is still above the surface. The last few men who were below decks not seen by Assistant Commander Dyke have by now left the ship. Fifth Officer Fielding estimates the stern rising some 150 feet into the air.

9:06 am - with all her funnels detached, Britannic finally completes her starboard roll, causing heavy damage to the forward bow area.

9:07 am – The once majestic RMS – HMHS Britannic slips beneath the surface of the clam sea landing goes down to her final resting place!

Image above is © Copyright by Ken Marschall Visit Ken’s Web Site at: www.trans-atlanticdesigns.com

Miss Violet Jessop who amazingly was also one of the survivors of the RMS Titanic, as well as HMT Olympic, when the HMS Hawke collided with her, described Britannic’s last seconds as follows:

“She dipped her head a little, then a little lower and still lower. All the deck machinery fell into the sea like a child's toys. Then she took a fearful plunge, her stern rearing hundreds of feet into the air until with a final roar, she disappeared into the depths, the noise of her going resounding through the water with undreamt-of violence....”

What is so amazing is that all this occurred in calm weather and within sight of land and she sunk in just 55 minutes, and having 1,066 crew and medical staff aboard, there were only 30 deaths, and then these deaths were sadly related to those who were in the two unauthorised lifeboats!

As I already indicated, the main cause of deaths in this tragedy was, in fact, the premature lowering of two lifeboats, which was done whilst the ship was moving in an attempt to beach her, these two lifeboats were lowered before the official “abandon ship” order was given and they were tragically dragged in by the powerful propellers and destroyed causing deaths and injury to others. Eventually, the beaching attempt was abandoned and the rest of the crew escaped to the lifeboats and to shore. Fortunately, the ship was carrying no patients at the time of the sinking, and thus the evacuation was made a great deal easier!

Today the cause of the sinking of the Britannic is universally attributed to a German mine. However over the years, there have been various theories, 1: that it was a torpedo, or 2: that it was indeed a mine. Many somehow preferred the idea that it was hit by a torpedo, because it would have been in violation of the Geneva Convention. But, there is very little evidence to support the torpedo theory. In addition it became soon known that German U-Boat U-73 had mined the channel that the Britannic passed only a few weeks prior the sinking.

In addition, after a period of speculation the mine theory was confirmed by U-73's commander Captain Siess’ log, that he had only laid mines. And then there is the fact that the Union Castle Line’s Breamar Castle, also struck a mine in the same region just two days later!

7… The Rescue of those on board Britannic:

The first vessel to arrive on the scene had some Greek fishermen from Kea on their Caïque, who picked up many men from the water. One of them, Francesco Psilas, was later paid £4 by the Admiralty for his services.

At 10.00 am – the HMS Scourge sighted the first lifeboats and ten minutes later stopped and picked up 339 survivors.

HMS Heroic had arrived some minutes earlier and picked up 494. Some 150 had made it to Korissia, being a community on Kea, where surviving doctors and nurses from the Britannic were trying to save the horribly mutilated men, using aprons and pieces of lifebelts to make dressings. A little barren quayside served as their operating room. Although the motor launches were quick to transport the wounded to Korissia, the first lifeboat arrived there some two hours later because of the strong current and their heavy load. It was the lifeboat of Sixth Officer Welch and the unknown Officer. The latter was able to speak some French and managed to talk with one of the local villagers, obtaining some bottles of brandy and some bread for the injured.

Here we see some of the rescued crew on board the HMS Heroic

The inhabitants of Korissia were deeply moved by the suffering of the wounded. They offered all possible assistance to the survivors and hosted many of them in their houses while waiting for the rescue ships. The HMS Scourge and HMS Heroic had no more deck space to take further survivors and thus they soon departed for Piraeus signalling the presence of those left at Korissia.

Violet Jessop approached one of the wounded. “An elderly man, in an RAMC uniform with a row of ribbons on his breast, lay motionless on the ground. Part of his thigh was gone and one foot missing; the grey-green hue of his face contrasted with his fine physique. I took his hand and looked at him. After a long time, he opened his eyes and said: 'I'm dying'. There seemed nothing to disprove him yet I involuntarily replied: 'No, you are not going to die, because I've just been praying for you to live'. He gave me a beautiful smile - That man lived and sang jolly songs for us on Christmas Day.”

11.45 am HMS Foxhound arrived and after sweeping the area she anchored in the small port at 1.00 pm to offer medical assistance and take onboard the remaining survivors.

2.00 pm HMS Foresight a light cruiser arrived. The HMS Foxhound departed for Piraeus at 2.15 pm with more survivors. The Foresight remained to arrange the burial on Kea of Sergeant W. Sharpe, who had died of his injuries. Another two men died on the Heroic and one on the French tug Goliath. The three were buried with military honours in the British cemetery at Piraeus. The last fatality was G. Honeycott, who died at the Russian Hospital at Piraeus shortly after the funerals.

Thankfully out of the 1,066 souls on board. 1,036 people were saved, whilst some thirty men lost their lives in the disaster, but only five were buried. The others were left in the water and their memory is honoured in memorials in Thessaloniki and London. Another twenty-four men were injured. The ship carried no patients. The survivors were hosted in the warships that were anchored at the port of Piraeus. However, the nurses and the officers were hosted in separate hotels at Phaleron. Many Greek citizens and officials were kind enough to attend the funerals.

8… Britannic’s Wreck Site:

The wreck of HMHS Britannic is in Aegean Sea, some 2 miles northwest of Kea Island, Greece (37.42N - 24.17E) in about 400 ft (120 m) of water. It was first discovered and explored by Jacques Cousteau in 1975. The giant liner lies on her starboard side hiding the impact with the mine. There is a huge hole just beneath the forward well deck. The bow is attached to the rest of the hull only by some pieces of the B-deck. This is the result of the massive explosion that destroyed the entire part of the keel between bulkheads two and three and of the force of impact with the seabed. The bow is heavily deformed as the ship hit the seabed before the total length of the 882 feet 9 inches (269 m) liner was completely submerged, as she sank in a depth of only 400 feet (120 m) of water. Despite this, the crew's quarters in the forecastle were found to be in good shape with many details still visible.

The Britannic seen on the floor of the ocean

Image above is © Copyright by Ken Marschall Visit Ken’s Web Site at: www.trans-atlanticdesigns.com

The holds were found empty. The forecastle machinery and the two cargo cranes in the forward well deck are still there and are well preserved. The foremast is bent and lies on the sea floor near the wreck with the crow's nest still attached on it. The bell was not found. Funnel #1 was found a few metres from the Boat Deck. The other three funnels were found in the debris field (located off the stern). The wreck lies in shallow enough water that scuba divers trained in technical diving can explore it, but it is listed as a British war grave and any expedition must be approved by both the British and Greek governments.

RMS Britannic Specifications as a Passenger Liner:

 

Built by:                 Harland & Wolff, Belfast.

Yard:                      401.

Laid down:              November 30, 1911.

Launched:               February 26, 1914.

During fit-out:         Converted as a Hospital Ship.

Completed:             December 8, 1915.

Maiden Voyage:       December 23, 1915 for the British Admiralty.

Tonnage:                48,158 GRT (Gross Registered Tons).

Displacement:         52,310 tons at 34.7ft.

Length:                   259.7m - 903ft.

Width:                    28.65m - 94ft.

Draught:                 34.6ft – 10.54.

Engines:                 2 four cylinder triple expansion (outside props).

                             1 Parsons low pressure steam turbine (center prop)

Boilers:                  24 Double ended – 5 Single ended – coal fired.

Funnels:                 4.

Masts:                    2.

Screws:                  Triple - 51,000 IHP.

Shafts:                   3

Speed:                   21 knots service speed – 22.5 knots max.

Passengers:             790 First Class. 836 Second Class. 953 Third Class.

Officers & Crew:      930.

 

As HMHS Britannic – Hospital Ship:

 

Wounded:               3,300.

Medical staff:           437.

Officers & Crew:      724.

Final Voyage:          1,066 persons on board.

 

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Let us Remember the Britannic and NEVER Forget Her!

 

This is how we should really remember this truly great ship as she would have looked like had she sailed the Atlantic!

RMS Britannic was a superbly built liner and she would have been great if she would have been allowed to sail on for many more years, like her successful sister the RMS Olympic for many years, but instead the elegant HMHS Britannic sailed and cared for tens of thousands of wounded soldiers for just under eleven months and then she fell victim to a German laid mine.

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Also read my two page feature on the RMS Olympic - “Old Reliable” & the RMS Titanic!

RMS Olympic            Olympics’ History Page & Interior Photographs - in service 1911 to 1935.

RMS Titanic               Two Page Titanic feature with photographs.

HMHS Britannic          The Britannic story - in service 1915 to 1916 - (This Page).

 

“Blue Water Liners sailing to the distant shores.
I watched them come, I watched them go and I watched them die.”

 

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