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bar The Sister Ship to the Titanic
 

 

The

Improved

Britannic


The HMHS 'Britannic' was to become the largest of the three Olympic Class vessels (Olympic, Titanic and Britannic) that were created. She had a double skin, giant sized lifeboat davits, and water tight bulkheads that extended as high as the B-Deck. Originally called the 'Gigantic', the 'Britannic' had a gross tonnage of 48,158 Tones! Launched on February 26th, 1914, she was to begin her commercial life servicing the Southampton to New York route in the spring of 1915. However, the 'Britannic' was requisitioned by the admiralty to be converted into a hospital ship in November 13th, 1915, because of the outbreak of World War I. She was officially ready for war service on December 12th, 1915 and was commissioned by His Majesty's Hospital Ship 'Britannic'.

'Britannic's' nearly completed interiors were removed and put into storage. Her large public rooms were converted into dormitories and operating rooms. She was fitted with 2,034 berths and 1,035 cots for casualties. Accommodations for the wounded were on the upper decks, close to the lifeboats in case of an evacuation.

The enclosed A-Deck promenade made for a well ventilated ward while the First-Class dining room became the intensive-care unit. The First-Class reception room became the operating theatre.

Wounded soldiers aboard the 'Britannic'

His Majesty's Hospital Ship 'Britannic

'Britannic's' A-Deck First-Class promenade became an open air ward

Under the command of Captain Charles A. Bartlett, the 'Britannic' took on a medical staff of 101 nurses, 336 orderlies, 52 officers, and a crew of 675 people in Liverpool on December 12th, 1915.

The 'Britannic' began her maiden voyage on December 23rd, 1915 where she teamed up with the 'Aquitania', 'Maurentania' and her sister ship 'Olympic' in Mudros on the isle of Lemnos in what was called the Dardanelles Service. These four ships were later joined by the 'Statendam' from the Netherlands to form a team of ships that could transport 33,000 troops and 17,000 sick and wounded. Since these ships were so large, smaller ships were required to ferry wounded from the battlefront docks.

Captain Charles A. Bartlett

Some of 'Britannic's' rescued crew aboard the HMS 'Heroic'

'Britannic's' final resting place

To this day the 'Britannic' is the largest liner to be found on the ocean floor. She can be found lying on her side in only 350 feet of water.

It is still unknown how the 'Britannic' met her doom, perhaps a torpedo from an U-boat or a floating mine (the latter being the most probable cause). Unlike her two sisters, the 'Britannic' was never to serve her real purpose as a Royal Mailing Ship and she never carried a fare paying passenger.

 

After a year of uneventful service, she returned to Belfast on June 6th, 1916, and was released from war service. However, after only two months she was recalled back into service again on August 28th, 1916 and began her fourth voyage on September 24th, 1916. Onboard she carried the members of the Voluntary Aid Detachment. Following a coaling stop at Naples, the ship arrived at it's destination in Mudros where officials detained the 'Britannic' to investigate the possible cause of food poisioning which had affected some of the staff members. She then resumed her service and returned to Southhampton on October 11th, 1916.

November 21st, 1916, a calm day, found the 'Britannic' steaming through the Kea Channel in the Aegean Sea. Just after 8.00 a.m. she was rocked by a tremendous explosion and quickly began to sink by the bow. She allegedly struck a mine at 8.12 a.m. on the starboard side finally foundering at 9.07 a.m. The 'Britannic' at 48,158 tons was the then the largest steamer in the world. Despite all the extra safety bulkheads and double skin it took just 55 minutes for the huge ship to sink and Captain Bartlett, being a true captain, was the last to leave his ship.

November 21st, 1916, a calm day, found the 'Britannic' steaming through the Kea Channel in the Aegean Sea. Just after 8.00 a.m. she was rocked by a tremendous explosion and quickly began to sink by the bow. She allegedly struck a mine at 8.12 a.m. on the starboard side finally foundering at 9.07 a.m. The 'Britannic' at 48,158 tons was the then the largest steamer in the world. Despite all the extra safety bulkheads and double skin it took just 55 minutes for the huge ship to sink and Captain Bartlett, being a true captain, was the last to leave his ship.


Even with all her modifications the 'Britannic' still sank. The first five watertight compartments were flooded. The sixth one was also flooded because the watertight door separating the fifth and sixth compartments didn't close all the way. The ship was capable of staying afloat with her first six compartments damaged. However, most of the ship's portholes were open because the nurses where airing the ship for the wounded soldiers that were going to board her in a few hours. This allowed the sea water to enter the ship. Had the portholes been shut, the 'Britannic' probably wouldn't have sunk. Amazingly, only 30 people were killed out of the 1,100 that were on board at the time. Most of these deaths occurred when two lifeboats were launched prematurely and were sucked into the churning screws of the still moving 'Britannic'.


Many ships in the vicinity had heard the 'Britannic's' distress call. The first ship to come to rescue was the British cruiser, HMS 'Heroic', followed by a local fishing boat. The two ships began taking on survivors. Shortly after that, the G-class destroyer, HMS 'Srourge' arrived. About two hours later, another G-class destroyer, the HMS 'Foxhound', arrived at the scene to rescue the remaining survivors. From these ships, the women and commanding officers were put on a boat to the island of Malta. There they remained until another hospital ship took them back to Britain. The remainder of the crew was transported to Marseilles, France. From there they traveled on trains to Le Havre, and crossed the English Channel to England.

 

 

 

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