Article from the Archives: ‘Britannic: The Length and Breadth of The Ship’
Even today, precisely 107 years after Britannic‘s loss, her history is often misunderstood. Many popular beliefs about her are demonstrably false. Among them are two basic points about her dimensions:
- The belief that she was 903 feet long (overall length), whereas she was exactly the same length as her older sisters.
- The belief that her beam (breadth) was increased following the Titanic disaster in order to make room for the ‘inner skin’ which was fitted along the length of her boiler and engine rooms. In reality, the decision to increase her beam had been taken already prior to the keel being laid.
This detailed article provides an analysis of the evidence about her length and discusses the reasons her breadth was increased. It was first published in the Titanic Historical Society’s Titanic Commutator February 2020: Pages 171-76.
Above: The sea above Britannic‘s wreck is a beautiful, deep blue (photographed in 2016). (Author’s collection)
Article from the Archives: ‘Lusitania and Mauretania: Perceptions of Popularity’
One of the common problems with research into Titanic history in particular, and ocean liner history more generally, is the repetition of claims in secondary sources (such as articles, books and television programmes) which do not match up to the available evidence. One such claim is that Cunard’s Lusitania was more popular with the travelling public than her sister Mauretania. Perhaps her tragic loss in May 1915 has distorted perception and memory as the years passed, because the available data on the number of passengers carried by both ships in the 1907-14 period is clear that Mauretania carried more passengers in total and a higher average passenger list.
My article, ‘Lusitania and Mauretania– Perceptions of Popularity‘, was published in the Titanic Historical Society’s Titanic Commutator 2008 : Volume 32 Number 184: Pages 196-200. It examined the number of passengers carried by each ship year by year and even included selected break downs by each class (first, second and third) and direction (westbound and eastbound). Although Lusitania carried slightly higher numbers of passengers initially, they drew level by 1909 and, from that point on, Mauretania was clearly in the lead.
It was great to be able to present my lecture about Thomas Andrews and the observations he made during Olympic‘s maiden voyage in June 1911. I spoke at PRONI, in a lecture jointly supported by PRONI and the Belfast Titanic Society:
‘Olympic: Thomas Andrews’ Notes from a Successful Maiden Voyage”’
In June 1911, Thomas Andrews was onboard Olympic during her maiden voyage to observe how she performed under normal operating conditions at sea; to monitor her progress; and make all sorts of notes. His comments were wide ranging and went beyond matters of shipbuilding in a number of cases. These included recommendations for changing particular operating procedures or improving the working practices of the ship’s crew; improving aspects of the ship’s passenger accommodation and increasing her earning power, such as by adding additional staterooms; or in making economies (he saw no need to provide both linoleum tiles and carpeting in the captain’s sitting room). He made a particular recommendation to try and help keep third class female passengers safe from unwanted attention. Andrews’ notes included many aspects where Titanic‘s design was improved compared to Olympic‘s. They show a remarkable attention to detail, demonstrating the concerns of a knowledgeable professional who was intent on improving her design in even the slightest way.
RMS Majestic: The ‘Magic Stick’ second edition
RMS Majestic: The ‘Magic Stick’ was published by Tempus Publishing in November 2006. Unfortunately, the initial print run soon sold out and, following a change of ownership of the publisher, it was never reprinted. For years, it has been rare to come across a second hand copy. One was even advertised on Amazon UK for the grand total of £3,827.24 (plus postage) in 2014!
The good news is that this much sought after book is being released as a revised and expanded edition by the History Press. The original book consisted of 96 pages and this has been increased to 144 pages, with new information and rare illustrations (particularly relating to her time as the naval training ship HMS Caledonia). There is an extensive colour section with previously unpublished images and deck plans. It is anticipated that the new edition will be available in spring 2024.
We will keep you posted. This blog will be updated as soon as signed copies are directly available, so stay tuned.
Article from the Archives: ‘Whatever Happened to Germanic/Homeric?’
It’s sometimes said that the White Star Line’s Germanic, laid down in July 1914, was intended as a replacement for Titanic on the Southampton to New York express service. In fact, she was designed to serve their secondary service from Liverpool to New York. The fortunes of war meant she was never completed. My article ‘Whatever Happened to Germanic/Homeric?‘, published in the Titanic Historical Society’s Titanic Commutator 2013: Volume 38 Number 201, examined her history and I’m highlighting it for those who might have missed it when it was first published.
Titanic Talkline Podcast
My Titanic Talkline podcast (Season 1, Episode 17) is available online: ‘Mark Chirnside comes aboard this week for a great chat about the Titanic and her sister ships, Olympic and Britannic, as well as the Harland and Wolff shipyards!’ Thanks to Alexia Thirumalai for inviting me and hosting.
New Article: ‘”The Old Rules…Are Entirely Obsolete”: British Lifeboat Regulation in the 1880s’
A new article, ‘”The Old Rules…Are Entirely Obsolete”: British Lifeboat Regulation in the 1880s’, explores lifeboat regulations in the 1880s. They were comparatively worse than the rules in force when Titanic foundered in 1912, but a senior official argued ‘you can make ships perfectly safe by [watertight] subdivision’.
Mark Chirnside’s Reception Room has been overhauled to improve the user experience on mobile devices, make it easier to order books and generally refresh it for the 2020s. All credit for the work goes to TMB Studios!
Oceanic: White Star’s ‘Ship of the Century‘ is now available for pre-order prior to its 1 November 2018 release.
The ‘Big Four’ of the White Star Fleet: Celtic, Cedric, Baltic & Adriatic is released as a cheaper softcover edition from May 2018.