NEWS/UPDATES 2005

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DECEMBER 29th 2005

Some reviews were added to the book pages, while the RMS Olympic book is now available through the Titanic Historical Society (THS) and a link to their museum shop has been added. It is worthwhile supporting them.

A listing of the Britannic’s Officers and how they changed throughout her career was added in the articles section on the main page. This is, to my knowledge, the most accurate listing to date and reflects recent research not yet available in any of the books relating to Britannic.

Evan Meyerriecks has added a discussion forum about the Olympic to his wonderful website, which he hopes will grow into a substantial online presence: RMS Olympic Forums Index. Evan’s main site can be accessed through the forum, and the link is still in place on my main page. There have also been significant additions to sites such as the Debris Field, ET, Titanic-Titanic and TRMA (all accessible from the links section).

The RMS Olympic reprint went ahead as planned, and the reprinted edition of the book is already available from at least one sales outlet. Only a few minor changes have been made, including correcting a few small typographical and/or dating errors. Newer copies of the book can be most easily identified by the date: original copies only have the 2004 publication date, but the reprinted copies have the 2005 date as well.

Have an enjoyable and prosperous New Year!

OCTOBER 15th 2005

This website has logged 3,126 ‘hits’ and the number of unique visitors has shown a large increase to almost 1,700 people. A new record has been set, on July 7th 2005, with ninety-six ‘hits’ and fifty-four unique visitors (followed by July 8th 2005 with fifty-seven ‘hits’ and thirty unique visitors, which itself was only eight ‘hits’ below the April 8th 2005 record).

Today’s was a small update, with some new reviews added to the book pages.

With Christmas slowly approaching, I have had some good news for anyone who wants to obtain a copy of the RMS Olympic book. Several people had told me that they were having trouble finding any copies left, and it is currently scheduled for a reprint in November 2005, which should mean that there will be plenty of copies available in time for Christmas. As I understand the situation, there are still plentiful copies of The ‘Olympic’ Class Ships available (there certainly were as of May 2005).

In August 2005, my latest research article was uploaded to the TRMA website: Olympic & Titanic: ‘Straps’ and Other Changes. Perhaps it’s a rather uninspiring title, but if you’re a ‘rivet counter’ then you should find it interesting. It outlines several changes made to the Titanic’s hull design based on observing the Olympic in service, and particularly during very heavy storms in early 1912. To the best of my knowledge, these changes have never been mentioned before; and I can say for certain that they are not widely known. The kind of engineering that went into these ships was remarkable, and the changes made between the two ships would need to be accounted for by any ‘ship swap’ conspiracy theorist (since the observations made on the Olympic remained consistent both before and after the Titanic’s loss). As it stands, I see it as another nail in the coffin of the conspiracy theory – the coffin has probably had so many nails driven into it that the wood will have disintegrated. I don’t see any harm in using the cliché.

J. Kent Layton’s article, The Arrival That Never Took Place, is now online (and also accessible through the articles page on the TRMA website). I was honoured to be able to offer some assistance with the research, and he has done an excellent piece of work in discussing the possibility that Titanic would have arrived early in New York , on the Tuesday evening rather than the Wednesday morning, had she not sunk. My own view is that it is likely Titanic would have arrived early, and she was certainly performing better than the Olympic on her maiden voyage. J. Kent Layton’s article is a very accurate and creditable discussion of the topic, befitting a very versatile and talented author, and addresses a number of inaccuracies that have been published over the years. It has been discussed here. For anyone interested in the topic, George Behe’s book Titanic: Safety, Speed & Sacrifice is a ‘must have,’ and indeed was the first really detailed discussion and analysis of the topic when it was published in 1997. It is an outstanding piece of work from a very talented historian and puts forward a very strong case as to a potential early arrival. (For an alternative viewpoint, the Titanic Historical Society website hosts an excerpt from The White Star Line: An Illustrated History 1869-1934 by the well-known White Star Line author Paul Louden-Brown: ‘Ismay and the Titanic, which also covers in some detail the press’s treatment of Ismay.)

Another debate as to the Britannic’s hospital ship number has surfaced. Britannic historian Michail Michailakis acquired a rare photo of the ship taken later in her career than the McCutcheon photo in my The ‘Olympic’ Class Ships book (which was then the only known photo to show the ship’s number and clearly showed the number ‘G608’), yet rather than confirming the ‘G608’ number, Michail’s photo shows ‘G618’ (which was the number that had previously been recorded for the Britannic on most contemporary paperwork). Had Michail’s photo (taken in October 1916) shown ‘G608,’ then the photographic evidence of the number would appear to have been conclusive for both the early and later parts of Britannic’s career; as it is, all that can be said for now is that the ship carried two different numbers. When, why and where they were changed remains a mystery, although it does seem to me quite remarkable that the numbers are so similar and only differ by one digit – similarly, Captain Bartlett’s report about the ship’s sinking uses the number ‘G608’ which implies that he had been used to using it for a long time. (That said, in light of the fact that he had just experienced his ship sink from under him, it’s hardly an important mistake!) It’s another instance of Britannic being a ‘ship of mystery,’ since without the McCutcheon photo published in my first book then Captain Bartlett’s reference to ‘G608’ would have continued to have been written off as – understandably – a simple error.

JULY 22nd 2005

My research article, HMHS Britannic – A Question Of ‘Two’ Second Officers, is now online at Michail Michailakis’ Britannic website. Until recently, it had been believed that two men served as the Britannic’s Second Officer at the various stages of her career, yet at this time of writing it does seem conclusive that only one man – Alfred Brocklebank – served in that position all along. Any further information or comments would, as always, be appreciated.

Several people have asked me about the Britannic’s hospital ship number, shown to be ‘G608’ in the photograph on the back of my The ‘Olympic’ Class Ships book. This is the first photograph to come to light that is clear enough to show the ship’s number, and it contradicts the long-standing belief that Britannic’s number was ‘G618.’ (However, this conflict of sources is not mentioned in the book itself, since I did not see the detail on the photograph prior to the manuscript being sent to the publishers prior to January 2003.) Meanwhile, based on the information in this photograph, fellow author J. Kent Layton has written a short research article on his website: The Controversy - G608 Or G618? (If this direct link to the pdf. article does not work, it can be accessed via the Atlantic liners website’s Britannic page – accessible through the links provided on the main page.)

Additions to the website include some new book reviews added to the appropriate pages, and the article which presents Thomas Andrews’ notes written onboard the Olympic in 1911.

While organising some of my notes, I noticed that there was a minor discrepancy between the Cunard White Star records and the Transatlantic Passenger Conference records for the Olympic in 1935. Based on the Cunard White Star records, in my book about the Olympic I had recorded that she carried 3,128 passengers during her five round trips in 1935, yet the conference records put the total at a slightly higher 3,190 passengers. It is a trivial discrepancy, yet it helps explain the wide variety of figures that can be gleaned using separate, but apparently authoritative sources. By 1935, Olympic’s passenger lists westbound and eastbound did not show a dramatic variation, whereas in previous years before the depression her eastbound lists had tended to be significantly lower than her westbound lists. For instance, in 1923 Olympic averaged 1,004 passengers westbound and 630 passengers eastbound – one of the most significant variations.

JULY 4th 2005

Public Information Request: Thomas Andrews’ Olympic notes, 1911.

Since private enquiries have come to a dead end, I am making a public request here in an effort to solve a problem. In July 2004, I was fortunate enough to acquire part of a set of Thomas Andrews’ notes, written on the Olympic’s maiden voyage in 1911 and recommending improvements that could be made to the ship. These notes included input from others such as Captain Smith. All in all, three sets of copies of his notes were made: one for Andrews’ personal use; one for the White Star Line’s records; and one for Harland & Wolff’s files. As the third copy in carbon duplicate form, it’s my belief that the notes in my possession are from Andrews’ personal set. However, the only part of the third set of notes in my possession consists of Andrews’ recommendations, written down in paragraphs numbered from 9 to 14. As a result, at least eight recommendations are missing. Unless they no longer exist, someone will be in possession of them, and – like me – will be missing part of the set. While it was my intention to make the notes I have publicly available for the benefit of other researchers, there is little point in doing so unless I can also provide the missing notes that go with them. Similarly, someone else may be in possession of Andrews’ first eight recommendations, and be unaware of the content of the notes in my possession, which can be remedied by sharing this information. As a result of a lack of success with other enquiries, this note is posted here as a request for anyone with further information about these notes to contact me, in the hope that they can be made publicly available for the first time in their totality. It would be sincerely appreciated.

JULY 3rd 2005

Since going online on April 1st 2005 (there was no deliberate original intention to launch this website on April Fool’s Day!), Mark Chirnside’s Reception Room has logged 1,616 ‘hits’ – or page loads – by exactly 900 unique visitors. The busiest day was Friday April 8th 2005, with sixty-five ‘hits’ by forty unique visitors. It has been viewed by people all over the world, with users from Amsterdam to Beijing . Quite remarkable!

As part of the first significant update, the main page’s design has been tinkered with by dividing it up into sections; recent reviews have been added to The ‘Olympic’ Class Ships page (there are no new reviews for RMS Olympic printed since the previous update, that I am aware of); the existence of Mark’s third maritime book about the Royal Mail Steamship Majestic has been announced; and a section about ‘other books’ has been added, in addition to this page for news and updates. Hopefully in time, the gallery page will follow. Since I receive questions regarding various topics covered in my works, I do wonder if it would be helpful for a new section to be added to the website, whereby questions are posted and my answers presented? I would readily create such a section if I felt that there was sufficient interest. Any suggestions as to improvements or additions that could be made to the website in future updates would be welcome, although for the near future updates will probably be no more frequent than quarterly.


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