The Sting of the Hawke: Collision in the Solent

The Sting of The Hawke: Collision In The Solent – The Full Story Behind The Collision Between HMS Hawke And RMS Olympic On 20 September 1911

The Sting of the Hawke book cover.

‘The Sting of the Hawke will be the definitive book on the subject.’


Halpern, Sam, and Chirnside, Mark. The Sting of the Hawke: Collision in the Solent – The Full Story Behind the Collision Between HMS Hawke and RMS Olympic on 20 September 1911. Self-published, printed by CreateSpace, an company; January 2015. 122 pages.

Click here to see a selection of reviews.


On the 20th of September 1911 the White Star Liner RMS Olympic, coming out of Southampton Water, was making a turn to port around the West Bramble buoy in the Solent. At the same time, HMS Hawke, a protected cruiser of the Royal Navy, was making a turn to starboard around Egypt Point, a prominent landmark on the north end of the Isle of Wight. As the two vessels completed their respective turns they steadied on what appeared to be almost parallel courses with Olympic accelerating rapidly towards her full ahead speed for restricted waters. As Olympic drew ahead of Hawke, the much smaller cruiser unexpectedly veered sharply to port, as if her helm was starboarded, and struck the massive White Star Liner in her starboard quarter.

What really happened that September day in 1911 in the Solent? Was it a case of suction or negligent navigation on part of one or both vessels? For the first time, the events leading up to this collision is examined in great detail, with the claims of both sides thoroughly analyzed to see what was possible and what was not. Based on all the evidence presented, a most likely scenario of what really happened in the Solent that day is presented showing the minute-by-minute movements of each vessel before and after the collision. Finally, the question of could the collision have been prevented is critically analyzed.

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‘The Hawke/Olympic collision has been one of the big stories of the “Olympic” class liners – still causes debate – I think this book will finally let the circumstances come to light – the book is quite technical – but the authors fully explain the events so all can understand what is going on – the only problem I had with this book was the title – a “Hawk” doesn’t sting – a wasp, bee, hornet, etc. sting – but Hawks dive – and grab their victim – and fly off – with the damage that was suffered on both sides of this collision – nobody was going anywhere.

Peter Padfield years ago wrote a book called The Agony of Collisions – and a chapter in this book covered this collision – nice book – but I think The Sting of the Hawke will be the definitive book on the subject.’ – Ray Lepien. February 8th 2015.

‘The Sting of the Hawke: Collision in the Solent is an in-depth look at the 1911 collision between the RMS Olympic (sister ship to RMS Titanic) and the HMS Hawke, a smaller cruiser of the Royal Navy.

‘The book goes over all aspects of the collision itself, and the following Enquiries. Some of the arguments are fairly technical, but the authors go into great detail to explain the issues for those of us without the scientific background.

‘There is a chapter at the end of the book explaining the near collision between the Titanic and the New York at the start of the maiden voyage, and how it compares to the collision between Olympic and Hawke. As it turns out, the people in command of the Olympic during the collision (Capt. E. J. Smith and pilot George Bowyer) are the same ones commanding Titanic on the near miss with the New York.’ – Bill Wormstedt. February 10th 2015.

‘Being very familiar with Sam Halpern and Mark Chirnside’s research and work, I was caught off guard by this book. The collision between the HMS Hawke and RMS Olympic in September 1911 has generated much controversy over the years, and the specifics of the accident have been shrouded in mystery and by often repeated speculation masquerading as fact. I knew that the authors were conducting research into this incident, but did not know the details, or that it would become a book. The Sting of the Hawke is a small but weighty volume. Halpern and Chirnside put on their sleuthing hats and closely investigate the evidence of what the circumstances of the collision were, and why it happened. Rather than assuming often repeated details are true, or trying to assign blame, the authors return to the raw evidence, including information disclosed during the investigation into the sinking. They allow the evidence to guide their conclusions, and some surprising details are revealed. The Sting of the Hawke is a technically-heavy volume, but is easy to understand, particularly with salient points being illustrated by graphics or other visuals. While it isn’t a book for someone with just a passing interest in maritime history, it is absolute gold for liner or maritime researchers and buffs, and I highly recommend it. Hats off to the authors for an excellent investigation, and for setting the record straight. It is hard to imagine coming any closer to the truth of the accident, at least not without newly discovered evidence or a time machine.’ – Tad Fitch. March 11th 2015.

‘In a series of bylined chapters, author Chirnside, the historian, reports on the court proceedings, while Halpern, the systems engineer, pens more than half the chapters, dealing with the ships’ navigation; the authors jointly write one chapter.
‘After careful assessment of all available evidence – some of it not previously published – the authors find that an “adverse hydrodynamic reaction” between the ships, created by each’s relatively high speeds in narrow and shallow waters, and their initially converging courses caused the collision.
‘The Sting of the Hawke sheds a clear spotlight on an event which made the headlines and posed the question whether ships were becoming too large to manoeuvre safely…’ – Charles A. Haas. ‘Book Looks.’ Voyage 2015; Issue 91: Page 125.