1930 - 1960
White Star Line’s history had never seemed to recover since the terrible
tragic of the Titanic in 1912. Only four years later, the third
of the Olympic-class vessels - the second Britannic - went
to the bottom in the Mediterranean as a casualty of World War I. The war
itself meant bad times for the White Star Line. Not until 1927 did the
company put in service a ship of distinction, if you do not count the German
war-prizes from the beginning of the decade. She was the Laurentic,
and started a modernisation inside the White Star Line. The Laurentic
sported the new spoon-shaped stern, which would later be seen on the Queens
and other famous vessels. However, the ship was yet somewhat of a throwback
with its pencil funnels and blunt bow. To receive a reputation of being
a modern company, the White Star Line had to take one more step away from
|The Britannic on the stocks,
shortly before her launch.
the Cunard Line and the French Line started off with their projects of
building the Queen Mary and the Normandie, the White Star
Line too wanted to compete. They presented plans of a ship with a thousand
feet in length, and a speed to rival the ship’s two competitors. The ship was supposed
to be named Oceanic after the first steam vessel in White Star possession.
But as timed hardened and the Depression drew closer, White Star had to
cancel their ship. Cunard put all work on their ship on hold. Only the
French managed to continue their work.
the building of the Oceanic already had begun in 1928, lots of steel
now lay unusable. Instead of throwing it away, White Star decided to have
it put in another vessel, a vessel similar to the Oceanic’s planned
proportions. Just as with the Queen Mary and the Normandie,
the Oceanic was supposed to bear three squat funnels. The new and
smaller ship would only sport two of them, but otherwise be a copy of the
thousand-footer. The name of the vessel that would bring the White Star
Line into the modern world of shipbuilding, was Britannic.
6, 1929, the Britannic was launched. The world was interested in
White Star’s new notion of external design. One interesting feature was
that the ship’s forward funnel - not the aft one - was a dummy. This dummy
was not used for ventilation as ordinary dummy-funnels used to; it housed
the radio cabin and the engineering officer’s smoking room. In June, the
next year, the world’s heart would beat one extra beat, when the inside
of the ship was revealed upon delivery. It was obvious that the new ‘Art
Deco’ style had influenced the ship. Much light wood and other artistic
novelties were shown inside the ship. The Île de France from 1927
had set the pattern. The Britannic’s maiden voyage started off from
Liverpool on June 28, 1930, and continued to Belfast and Glasgow, before
heading for New York. The passengers could choose to travel in three classes:
Cabin, Tourist and Third. This dividing (instead of First, Second and Third)
meant that the ship’s lower class had been given less space, and so had
the higher class. All about the liner circulated around equality and this
lead to that the Britannic became a very popular ship.
not only in appearance the Britannic was a novelty. The ship’s machinery
was of an entirely new breed. She was the first major British motor-vessel on
the seas, and her two Diesel engines - developing 13,000 horse power each
- only consumed half of the amount of fuel an ordinary steam vessel did.
This made the Britannic an interesting point of view when ship builders
in the future decided upon Diesel machinery instead of the classic steam
engine. But it would take time before the Diesel would rule the market.
The Queen Elizabeth
2 of 1969 had her engines remade from steam to diesel-drive in 1987!
The efficiency of the Britannic’s Diesel engines could easily be
proved by showing the radiators in the engine-room, used to heat the cold
|A lovely colour aerial photograph
of the third Britannic. (Picture courtesy of Kevin R. Tam)
both the White Star Line and the Cunard Line had suffered so terribly from
the Depression that the two former rivals had to merge in May that year.
It was the British Government that forced the two companies together when
Cunard needed a loan for the still unfinished Queen Mary. Thus did
the Queen partly become a White Star ship. One can only assume that
the ship’s dated white forecastle was a White Star brainchild, since Cunard’s
ships had never used a raised white forecastle - that was something of
a White Star ‘logo’. This raised forecastle also appeared on the Britannic,
but it was connected with the ship’s middle superstructure, just as the
second Britannic sported.
the merger was completed, both shipping companies remained with its own
identity. The former White Star vessels continued to sail in their old
livery, with buff funnels and yellow stripe along the hull. The first years
of the new company became disastrous for the bereaved old White Star fleet.
Ship after ship went to the scrappers, even the magnificent Olympic
was cut up before the age of thirty. By 1936, the only ships in service
that had once been in the White Star Line was the Britannic and
her two years younger sister Georgic. These two vessels were the
only ones that the new Cunard White Star spent any money on. The grand
old Adriatic only served in the new company for a few months before
a few prosperous years in the twenties, the world faced the Depression.
This meant weak human fates, and that was what the German Führer Adolf
Hitler took advantage of when he double-crossed his countrymen to vote
on the Nazi Party. When Hitler was in power-position, he wanted to remedy
the pride Germany had lost after the First World War. He wanted to expand
his Reich, and started off by invading his eastern neighbour Poland on
September 1, 1939. Britain and her allies could not tolerate this, and
declared to Hitler that if his military power in Poland was not removed
until 11.00 a.m. on September 3, Britain would declare war on Germany.
Hitler had assumed this, and at 11.00 a.m., on September 3, 1939, the Second
World War begun.
|The Cabin Class Dining Room.
required means of transportation. The Queen Mary and her new sister
Queen Elizabeth were both called in as troop-ships. The Britannic
had been called in before the war started, on August 29. The soldier accommodation
was first decided to be around 3,000, but later it was increased to 5,000.
Britannic soon went through her first war duties
when she shipped soldiers between Clyde and Bombay. By
1943, she was employed carrying troops between the Americas and Algiers
in the so-called ‘Operation Husky’. When the war ended in 1945, the Britannic
had carried over 180,000 troops and steamed 376,000 miles.
a year of repatriation work between Britain and the Far East, the Britannic
was returned to Cunard White Star in March 1947. The ship was converted
back into a passenger liner at Liverpool, and when she reappeared in service
in 1948, the ship had had her tonnage increased to 27,650 tons due to the
improvements that had been done. One of the novelties was that the promenade
deck had been glassed in - a common improvement on liners. To further make
money for her company, the Britannic made cruises from New York
to the Caribbean during wintertime.
1950, the Cunard part of the Cunard White Star Line had become so dominating
that it swallowed the White Star part, and after this the Cunard Line was
back in business, and the White Star Line had vanished forever. In spite
of this, both Britannic and Georgic continued to sport their
lovely White Star livery until their withdrawals.
|A semi-profile view of the Britannic, clearly
showing the classic White Star appearance.
year, in June, the Britannic collided with the United States Liner
Pioneer Land in the Ambrose Channel, New York. After a thorough
inspection, the Britannic was declared seaworthy, and continued
her voyage. Even though a sturdy ship, the Britannic suffered of
the declining number of passengers on the North Atlantic. In order to keep
herself alive, every winter was now booked for long cruisings to temperate
areas. More and more people seemed to enjoy this new way of spending time.
Star Line definitely left history on November 11, 1960, when the Britannic
set out on her last voyage from Liverpool to New York. The last year had
consisted of endless engine-problems and this was certainly one of the
reasons of the ship’s withdrawal. The Britannic’s younger sister
Georgic had disappeared already in 1956. Perhaps she would have
lived longer if it were not for the terrible injuries she received during
the war. On December 2, the Britannic was back in Liverpool and
two days later she was sold to British Iron & Steel Co. The scrapping
was made by Thos. W. Ward at Inverkeithing in the year of 1961.
|The Britannic - Specifications:
||712 feet (217.5 m)
||82 feet (25 m)
||26,943 gross tons
||Burmeister & Wein
diesels powering two propellers.