1874 - 1903
the mid-1870s, the White Star Line had grown considerably since
the company was first founded 30 years earlier. The company was one of
the most popular and respected of all operating on the North Atlantic.
In 1871, the first Oceanic had made her maiden voyage from Liverpool
to New York and she had soon been followed by three sisters - Atlantic,
Baltic and Republic.
the competition was hard and other companies were soon building ships to
match White Star Line's quartet. To keep up with the pace, the company
ordered two new ships from the Belfast-shipyard of Harland & Wolff.
They were to become the sisters Britannic and Germanic. The
Britannic was first intended to have the name Hellenic, but
the name was changed before her launch. One can suspect that the two names
given were thought to symbolise the friendship between Britain and Germany.
to be launched was the Britannic, on February 3rd 1874.
The two new sisters represented the very latest in ship design, yet they
still bore much resemblance to the old sailing vessels. Sir E.J. Harland,
the ship's designer, had based the two ships on a barque's design, with
four masts of which three were square-rigged.
Britannic and her sister had many modern features as well. Fitted
with eight bulkheads, their iron hulls were divided
into nine separate compartments,
making them very safe ships. The Britannic was also equipped with
an adjustable propeller shaft, so that the propeller could be lowered deeper
on the open sea, thereby bettering its thrust. Although not the largest
ship in the world, she was still the largest so far built by Harland &
Wolff, with a gross tonnage of 5,004. To meet the competition, these two
new ships were to be about 1.5 knots faster than White Star's first quartet.
|White Star Line's first Britannic,
here depicted with sails set.
more than four months after her launch, the Britannic was ready
for her maiden voyage. On June 25th 1874, she left Liverpool
with New York as destination. However, the adjustable propeller didn't
work as planned, and after nine voyages the Britannic was taken
in to have it removed. On June 9th 1876, she was returned to
service, and the modification of her propulsion system had certainly brought
improvements. During that year, she captured the Blue Riband, both westbound
and eastbound, by averaging almost 16 knots.
and her sister continued to serve the White Star Line with a remarkable
reliability into the 1880s. But in 1881, the Britannic had her
first taste of bad luck when she collided with the sailing vessel Julia
near Belfast. Then, in July that year, she went aground while travelling
through fog along the Irish coast. This incident caused some damage to
the ship's engine room, which sprung a leak. The Britannic was patched
up and then towed to Liverpool for repairs. Because of this mishap, the
company had to cancel her following voyage. As soon as the repairs had
been made, the Britannic returned to service.
a half years later, the Britannic came to the assistance when her
fleetmate Celtic (I) found herself in a predicament in the waters
leading to New York. Celtic's propeller shaft had snapped, and she
had continued to Liverpool under sail. However, when the two ships met
in mid-ocean, the Britannic took the Celtic in tow all the
way back to Liverpool.
the Britannic left Liverpool after the 'rescue', a strange sound
was discovered. After some investigation it was found that there was a
crack in her propeller shaft, and the voyage had to be cancelled. Repairs
were made, and the Britannic could set sail again. But her relationship
with the Celtic was not over yet.
years later, in 1887, the Britannic was travelling at some 15 knots
through foggy waters 300 miles from New York. Suddenly, her older fleetmate
Celtic materialised from the heavy fog. To avoid collision, the
officer commanding the Britannic ordered full speed ahead. But it
was too late, and the Celtic rammed Britannic at right angles,
thereby damaging her at waterline level, just aft of the superstructure.
On board the Britannic, three steerage passengers were killed and
another two were injured. In these days before wireless no help could be
summoned, so the Britannic headed back towards New York, escorted
by Celtic. At the following enquiry, both ships were censured for
travelling through fog at too great speed.
later, the Britannic suffered another accident when she collided
with the brig Czarowitz in Liverpool Bay. The
brig was sliced in half
by the Britannic's iron hull.
|The man behind Britannic's
barque-like design was Sir E. J. Harland.
year, 1890, became a much happier one for the Britannic. Ever since
her maiden voyage, her engines had performed better every year, and this
year she made what was to become her fastest crossing ever - 7 days, 6
hours and 55 minutes with an average speed of 16.1 knots.
years later, when the Britannic had reached 21 years of age, she
was taken in for a refit. Her funnels were heightened and she was given
two extra lifeboats. Her sister Germanic was refitted with triple-expansion
engines at the same time. This could have been done also to the Britannic,
but work on the new Georgic was given higher priority.
1899, the Britannic was requisitioned by the government to serve
as a troopship in the Boer War. With her hull painted white and funnels
all buff-coloured, she was turned into His Majesty's Transport No. 62.
In this guise, she made ten voyages.
of 1900, the Britannic was given the honourable task of representing
Great Britain at the review in Sydney harbour that marked the inauguration
of the Commonwealth of Australia. On that voyage, the Britannic
transported the honour guard. However, the trip became a small embarrassment
when the ship grounded in the Suez Canal. Yet the voyage could be completed
once she had been floated off.
to White Star, the Britannic was sent to Belfast in October 1902.
There she was to be fitted with triple-expansion engines, like her sister
had been seven years earlier. However, the investigations of the ship showed
that she was not in a very favourable condition. The Britannic was
now rather old, and if she could not be fitted with new engines, she would
be a hopelessly out-dated ship. So, it was instead decided to sell her
1903 she was sold to German scrappers for £11,500. The following month
she was towed to Hamburg where she was to spend her dying days.
|The Britannic - Specifications:
||455 feet (139 m)
||45.2 feet (13.8 m)
||5,004 gross tons
||2 x 2 cylinder tandem
compound engine turning a single propeller.