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posticon The Olympic Class Ships: Olympic, Titanic & Britannic


Do forgive the plug -- I've got to do something, as the saying goes. emoticon

By the way, has the forum been down lately? I've had trouble accessing it on several occasions. Has anyone else had that problem?

Best regards,


Mark Chirnside,
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Re: The Olympic Class Ships: Olympic, Titanic & Britannic

Good luck with your book,I will definately be buying it.emoticon

The Forum has been down lately because Akheva have been replacing codes or something.emoticon

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Re: The Olympic Class Ships: Olympic, Titanic & Britannic

Yes, Mark. Good luck with your book. I will most certainly be buying one!!!!!!!!! emoticon

Please take a moment to register and become a member. We would love to have you!
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Re: The Olympic Class Ships: Olympic, Titanic & Britannic

Hi Thomas, Jade!

Thanks for your support.


Mark. emoticon

Mark Chirnside,
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Re: The Olympic Class Ships: Olympic, Titanic & Britannic

All the very best with your book Mark. emoticon
Best Wishes
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Re: The Olympic Class Ships: Olympic, Titanic & Britannic

I'll be getting one as well - and everyone else, good addition for the Christmas list.
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Re: The Olympic Class Ships: Olympic, Titanic & Britannic


Thanks Liam and teamtunafish for your kind words! I appreciate your support.

Re.: 'The Olympic Class Ships - Olympic, Titanic & Britannic.'

I thought it might be best to make this posting now…with publication
rapidly approaching – in just a few weeks. It's just a question of
relating a number of points surrounding the book project that might be
of interest. I say ‘might,' but on past experience they probably won't
be. I had been working on a lengthy document for my own information
(on research areas, some corrections, etc.) and some of that has been
used here:

It had long been accepted that Olympic's fastest crossing had been
completed in November 1921, Eastbound, in just over five days twelve
hours. However, her average speed for this crossing was *not* the
greatest average speed that she ever achieved on a Eastbound crossing
– and so the time of five days twelve hours was misleading. In
reality, in the summer of 1924 she completed her fastest crossing –
since she completed more miles on that one, her time was greater than
the crossing from 1921, yet her average speed was higher.
Interestingly, in 1924 as well as completing her fastest ever average
she also completed another crossing where she matched the average
speed of her 1921 record. While I had initially written that the
November 1921 crossing was indeed her fastest, based on a consensus
across a range of sources, I was only able to correct the
misconception that this had been the crossing on which she achieved
her fastest ever average speed when I saw a more complete listing of
Atlantic liners and their speeds, running from 1917 to 1926-27. Had I
not seen that, then I would have been doomed to repeat the mistake in
saying that Olympic's fastest crossing was in 1921. (Interestingly, in
1924 Leviathan was crossing at about the same time as Olympic; the
American liner – with her 100,000 horsepower and c.65,000 displacement
tons – averaged 22.65 knots all the way across while Olympic beat her
with an even greater average speed. Whether it can be regarded as a
race or not, it does seem to have been one of those events neglected
in liner histories. In 1923, Leviathan *beat* Olympic on, from memory,
two occasions, and these appear to have been better documented.)

While considering the topic of Olympic's performance, there was also
some interesting information with regard to her engines' revolutions.
Based on Ismay's testimony in 1912, it had long been held that the
reciprocating engines of the Olympic-Titanic were able to operate at a
maximum speed of eighty revolutions – yet Olympic achieved eighty-one
on one engine during her maiden voyage without her five auxiliary
boilers being lit at all. And, when examining her Chief Engineer's
testimony during the Hawke enquiry of 1911, and that from other
Engineers, a maximum figure of eighty-three revolutions was mentioned.
(Actually, this fits Lowe's American enquiry testimony when he wrote
that a slip table was in the process of being written for Titanic –
going up to eighty-five revolutions.) Although it is a relatively dull
technical piece of information in many respects, it is actually
historically important when we assess – to take one example –
Titanic's speed that Sunday evening. The unnamed witness's report of
eighty revolutions, in America, could be discounted easily by those
who felt Titanic was not up to her full speed yet. While agreeing that
she wasn't, the report becomes much more believable if we consider
that eighty revolutions was not the maximum that the engines were
capable of – and that they could go up to a potential 83-85 r.p.m. It
seems likely to me that someone may ‘come out of the woodwork' and say
that this information was already widely known, yet it certainly does
not seem to have been – unless I am demonstrating my ignorance.

When completing the listing for those who had lost their lives in the
sinking of the Britannic, the records held by the Commonwealth War
Graves Commission were of considerable assistance. In fact, much of
the data for each person comes from their records alone. While
accepting the casualty lists as presented back in 1916, the CWGC
records did have some errors in them – for instance, Cropper's grave
was not mentioned in some of their records. As a result, there was
information on some twenty-seven people – with several missing.
Fortunately when I shared my listing with Michail Michailakis back
near the beginning of 2002, he was able to point out the missing
people – it turns out that some of them were not mentioned in some
records, since the CWGC had their own information as to the names on
memorials, but the crew listing could be used to fill in the missing

The issue of Britannic's ‘two' Second Officers requires attention –
‘Brockehurst' and ‘Brocklebank.' While the two names are remarkably
similar, it had always been assumed that they were two different
people. However, when further Officer research revealed no trace
whatsoever of an Officer with one of those names, that brought into
question the possibility that they were the same person. Indeed, with
the names ‘Alfred' and the initial ‘A' the possibility became even
stronger. Research in this area is ongoing…but with no trace being
found for one of the names it seems increasingly likely that one is a
mistake and that they are indeed the same person, with the records
that do exist for the other name being those of Britannic's Second

One error that was corrected before publication concerned Britannic's
First and Sixth Officers on her final voyage. While I had correctly
identified the Officers after her lay-up in summer 1916, in fact the
First and Sixth Officers changed sometime after her first post-August
voyage. The fact apparently went unnoticed for years until Simon Mills
was going through the manifests again and corrected the names for her
final voyage…that became widely known in 2002, and as a result of his
assistance it was possible for me to briefly alter these two names in
my book – at about the last stage that any minor corrections were
possible. Apparently everyone who has ever looked at these manifests
had missed the changes after initially going through the listings.

With regard to the issue of the three ships and displacement –
although in a very early (re: first-ever and single chapter) draft I
had considered the 66,000 ton figure as accurate, it soon became clear
that it was excessive. In fact, I think I corrected it the first time
I checked through it in any detail. The more records examined…the more
absurd it becomes. So we're back to 52,000 odd tons for
Olympic/Titanic and ‘over 53,000' for the heavier Britannic. Since I
expect the figures of 77,000 tons displacement for Olympic/Titanic and
78,000 tons displacement for Britannic (as recorded in an appendix)
will receive some attention – and probably ridicule – I think it best
to explain that it is ‘registered displacement,' i.e. as recorded on
the British registry papers. While I have recorded that fact, it does
seem to be some sort of different measurement – clearly it's not the
ships' displacement when normally loaded, but looking at the registry
papers other ships' figures were also overstated. (Majestic's was
given as over 80,000, instead of 64,500 as detailed on her 1928
specifications.) So, whatever the term recorded (‘registered
displacement') indicates, it's not the term displacement as generally
understood. I asked around lots of people, but no-one seemed to
understand it properly either. The figure of 77,000 tons on Olympic's
registry, was – if I remember rightly – recorded by Simon Mills as
well in his Olympic history. Maybe he saw it from the same source.
Either way, while the higher figure is open to interpretation and
discussion, it has been reported accurately.

In general terms, a key point that I think is worthy of mention is the
completion of the vast bulk of the manuscript by the end of 2000 or
start of 2001. It is certainly true to say that by 2000-01 it was
broadly complete and simply undergoing minor drafting changes and
review, although I was able to correct a number of *minor* errors that
I found due to progress in my own research and new information
becoming available until 2002. (In that respect it was fortunate that
I was unable to find a publisher during my first year of trying, since
it enabled constant updates. I do not mean the following comment to be
taken in a detrimental fashion, yet I think it is only fair to state
that the text represents my attempt at telling of the ‘Olympic' class'
story as of my knowledge in 2001.)

Mark Chirnside,
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Re: The Olympic Class Ships: Olympic, Titanic & Britannic

Yet by that time some portions of the text, such as ending the chapter
on the Titanic's wreck with a description of the 2000 expedition,
could have already been considered a little outdated. Cameron's 2001
expedition and many of its findings, unless I am mistaken, did not
become widely known until 2003 – by which time any significant
additions or alterations to the text were out of the question.
Covering the ongoing exploration of both Britannic and Titanic is
really a mammoth task – using the latter ship as an example, surely
any work (in 2004) aiming to detail the expeditions to the wreck since
1985 should include Cameron's in 2001, the rumoured ‘pirate'
expedition in 2002, and ongoing developments (with RMS Titanic, Inc.
and others) in 2003-04? Under Tempus' original plans, publication
would have followed in 2003, although this was subsequently delayed
until spring 2004. I am sure it is something that many non-fiction
authors can sympathise with – the fact that your work is doomed to be
slightly out of date from the moment it is published, and the
perception that as new information is being learned all the time,
constant revision is vital. For instance, had I had Stoker Bert
Smith's account of the flooding in Britannic's boiler room 6 back in
2000, I am sure that I would have included it when detailing what
happened during Britannic's sinking – even if my account of the
sinking had to, due to the nature of the project, be summarised to a

Indeed, to cover Titanic's story alone from every angle can be
considered impossible in one volume, and summarising Titanic's story
while trying to comprehensively tell the story of her two sisters in a
single volume is not impossible – but difficult. You simply cannot
tell the entire story in a single book. By way of illustration, my
Olympic book is at least three or four times the length of my Olympic
chapter in the Olympic class book in terms of words – and even then,
I've missed the odd bit of information out due to necessity or else
the whole project would have become uneconomic. Would it not be
wonderful to see what could be achieved if every enthusiast pooled
together their resources for the common good? To see every private
collection of images/documents and material opened up for the common
enjoyment? To see differences, where they exist, put aside, opinions
shared and analysis undertaken. I am sure the result would astonish
us, if we were just to deal with Titanic's story alone. In Olympic's
case, her history can only be much greater in length than Titanic's –
if it was possible to recreate each of her voyages in up to half the
detail. So many people sailed on her over the years, and the number of
photos, diaries and other material in private collections, or
gathering dust because its owner might not realise its significance,
must be enormous. From a chronological point of view, Titanic was only
in service for a few days…Olympic for 8,700 days if my ‘quick sum in
my head' is correct. And, by that standard, with Britannic in service
for more than 300 days she also deserves a lengthier history than her
elder sister.

During writing the book, one snag I did hit with some archives and
institutions was the age limit that many of them have. In some cases,
no-one under 18 appeared to be allowed access to an archive, and it
took effort and ingenuity to find other ways to access material. Since
I was not eighteen until *after* I had delivered my final version of
the book to my publishers in January 2003, that was unfortunate.
Nevertheless, I owe a massive debt to all of the helpful archivists
and other researchers who have been so helpful, generous and kind to
me. The kindness and generosity that so many people have shown has
been astonishing and it seems hard to adequately express my gratitude
in words. I have endeavoured to acknowledge everyone, but in the event
that I have overlooked anyone who assisted me then you have my deepest
apologies and a promise that I will rectify my oversight in a later

I felt honoured to receive a number of kind comments from people who
were looking forward to my first book, and hope that much of the
optimism that people have expressed to me has been justified. The run
up to publication has been filled with enthusiasm and trepidation in
not-quite-equal measure. I think the latter must have taken the lion's
share of my time. As a new author, that made things even more
challenging. When I was searching for a publisher, I did wonder if I
had something new –I constantly came across the perception that the
Olympic class story had ‘all been done before.' (Usually when people
spoke of the period of enthusiasm post-the 1997 Cameron movie – which
had nothing to do with Olympic or Britannic!) In which case, why was
another history required from someone who had never even published a
book before? I felt that the answer lay in aspects of the three ships
that had not been recorded very prominently before. To my knowledge,
no book had previously quoted, for instance, the Fifth Officer's
testimony about the Olympic crewmen's desertion in 1912. Yet it makes
a fascinating read – you can imagine the frustrated examiner battling
to get answers out of him that were damaging to the White Star
Line…just as Scanlan was examining Lightoller a little afterwards with
regard to Titanic.

Mark Chirnside,
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Re: The Olympic Class Ships: Olympic, Titanic & Britannic

Again, I may be demonstrating my ignorance, but to my knowledge
nothing about the ‘Peskett report' (Cunard's Naval Architect reporting
about Olympic's voyages in August 1911) had ever previously been
published in book form. Yet the report was fascinating in terms of
life onboard Olympic at this early stage of her life. While I felt
that his analysis was rather biased in some respects – reflecting the
Cunard and White Star Line rivalry – and in some cases justifying his
professional opinion (for instance with regard to the superiority of
an all-turbine installation), it was also fascinating. His information
about Olympic's performance also contributes valuable data about her
propulsion system, and sheds some light on Titanic's maiden voyage
performance the following year. His comments about changes to the
Turkish baths, and swimming pool, might be considered to point to
possible changes made to Titanic – and which we might not otherwise
have heard about. That he took a sample of, I think, the Emdeca from
the cooling room, was a blessing – I was able to note the colours and
touch it, the 1911-sample now becoming flaky. And the ‘superior class'
of first class passengers who he noticed – those paying extra for the
á la Carte restaurant – was revealing. I had certainly not heard of
anything like that happening, and I don't think I had ever seen anyone
else mention it – or seen it in any of the liner books I'd read.
Indeed, when I confidentially shared the report with several
knowledgeable people, it seemed my feelings about it were correct…that
it contained a mass of new information relevant to Olympic, and – to
an extent – Titanic. No one who I shared it with had ever seen it
published. Several established experts had never heard of it. Why not,
I asked myself? Perhaps because few Olympic-Titanic researchers will
see any point in going through eighty dusty files/boxes of material
relating to the Aquitania's design and construction in 1910-14 – and
of which Peskett's report makes up just one. And few Aquitania
researchers would have found it of great interest, in the light of the
fascinating boxes of documents relating discussions about her décor,
design and specification. Yet it's quite logical Cunard would have
examined the ‘Olympic' class' design closely, since their new
Aquitania would have been at the forefront of their efforts to respond
to White Star's challenge…along with minor upgrades to Lusitania, for
instance, like the debate about upgrading her veranda café.*

Aside from the Peskett report, I found it strange that it did not seem
to be widely known that Cunard-White Star had considered selling the
Olympic to a consortium in 1935 for use as a floating hotel in the
South of France. Surely, that at least rates a footnote in Olympic's
history? (As does the possibility that she would have been sold to
become a floating casino…of which I know little.) When I did mention
it once online, a while back now, it prompted a reply along the lines
of ‘it was the Queen Mary that was considered for a floating hotel,
you fool…don't you know anything?' In the event that she had been used
as a floating hotel, that raises the interesting question: would she
have survived the war? The thought of her being bombed is worse than
her being scrapped…as is the thought of her as an Axis trooper,
recalling Mussolini's Rex and her sister ship. We might have ended up
with three ‘Olympic' class wrecks. (As an aside, wouldn't it be
interesting if Britannic had sank in World War II – then she could
have had a ‘normal' lifespan with the accompanying history…and we'd
still be able to explore her today underwater? That sort of
alternative history only leads to all sorts of wacky possibilities.)
The ‘floating hotel' possibility draws attention to the issue of
Olympic's condition in 1935 – a key research area of mine. So many
articles, histories of Olympic wrongly seem to relate it to the signs
of age that she showed in 1931-32. Yet by 1935, following earlier
repairs her hull condition was perfectly satisfactory to the Board of
Trade and as sound as could be expected from a ship of her age and
hard service…by the same measure, reports from 1933-35 show her
engines to be running as well as ever and very sound. It was not
Olympic's material condition that doomed her, I believe, contrary to
what seems to be popular belief…rather prejudice, a surplus of
tonnage, changing fashions and economic reality, even if I feel that
the latter is less relevant when considering some of her then-running
mates' condition and operating costs. There is considerable material
for debate.

To skip back a little randomly, I did want to add a note about the
Californian. I have always considered it more of a ‘sideshow' to
Titanic's story and it is not one of my prime interests. However, I
did feel that it at least needed to be summarised and some thoughts
offered, since if the issue was not covered in a book aiming to be a
relatively comprehensive narrative of the three sisters, including
Titanic, then it would be an unacceptable oversight. The appendix
presented is really an essay-length exploration of some of the issues
surrounding the liner, drawn from the 1912 enquiries, and with some
background information on Lord's later attempts to clear his name and
the 1992 reappraisal. I did want to comment briefly on the Mount
Temple…Quitzrau's account is interesting, even if much of it was
mistaken. I know it's a contentious issue, with lots of information,
argument and counter-argument that makes hard going…that said, I'll
try not to get into any drawn out debate on the topic. There's always
time to do that.

Mark Chirnside,
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Re: The Olympic Class Ships: Olympic, Titanic & Britannic

While there were some issues that I had hoped to explore and analyse
in more detail, such as the Smith-Ismay speed conversation, Titanic's
performance and other issues, they were simply beyond the scope of
this project. However, the common myth of a coal ‘shortage' is rather
easily debunked by doing some simple checking of coal loading and
consumption figures…and I did want to present the ‘coal essay'
appendix for variety. If the idea that there was a coal shortage is
laid to rest, then the debate about a ‘Tuesday night arrival' becomes
much more relevant. I hope to return to that issue sometime in the
future and present a detailed analysis. It won't surprise me if it's
simply ignored, but it is a point that merits debate.

Thanks partly to the delay in publication from 2003 to 2004, it was
possible to include a greater number of rare photos. After
typesetting, the photos tend to be done last in a book publishing
project. Thus images can be added or altered much later than any
changes are made to the text…up to the final weeks, in fact. There are
a number of rare, hitherto unknown and unpublished images that appear
in print here for the first time. These include several Britannic
images, as well as ones of the other two sisters. Jim Kalafus, who has
so kindly shared two images of Olympic and Britannic taken in 1916,
was most generous in giving me permission to add those to the photos
being included at a pretty late stage in the publication process. And
my publisher's acquisition of a rare but quality Britannic photo made
a grand addition to the rear cover. I believe that the photos are of
great importance and add to the text in a number of important ways.
The use of rare images was really good. My editor Campbell McCutcheon
has an excellent collection of images and they were really tailor-made
for the project in many respects.

…I may have wandered too far in my long-winded and in places rather
random explanation of the project. I hope that my small contribution
to the history of the three sisters, in the form of The Olympic Class
Ships – Olympic, Titanic & Britannic will provide some new information
and be enjoyed by people. I feel that I have unearthed a number of new
details, although I am all too well aware of the errors that creep
into a project of this size and would love to hear from anyone with
corrections and documentation for those corrections. They would be
thankfully acknowledged. I just hope I will find time to do them
justice. Once again, my sincere apologies to anyone who I may have
inadvertently missed out. I will be pleased to correct any oversights
like that as soon as possible.

Indeed, let's hope that interest in the Olympic and Britannic, as well
as their famous sister, will continue. Interest in Britannic, in
particular, seems likely to increase – for it seems likely that her
wreck will remain in good condition for some time to come, even after
Titanic's may begin to collapse further. The after end of A-deck on
the bow section is moving forward…holes are appearing in the ship's
decks… so let's hope that the stronger hull structure below the
strength deck will hold up for longer. Britannic, by contrast, has
varied little between 1976 and 2003 compared to the changes Titanic
has seen between 1985 and 2001. As of recent weeks, I have heard
rumours and statements about another three possible Olympic class
books in the works…so it does look like interest is picking up.

As for myself, I think and hope that I'll be writing about this sort
of thing for a while yet. As it is, my second book – my detailed
Olympic history – is finished and a third as yet unannounced book is
complete too. I've plenty of ideas for future writings, as well as my
finished collection of poetry, quotations and philosophical musings.
There is so much more left to learn. It's been wonderful to meet so
many great people during the course of my research. At the same time,
I was also surprised to find that I was able to help a number of
people with their own research…hence to date I have been honoured to
be able to help out, in however small a way, on three upcoming (and
rather different) book projects. It's wonderful to help, and be

I guess that with this posting I have intended to explain much of the
context surrounding the book. I do not want to claim that it is
something that it isn't, but I do want to claim that I have put my
heart into it. As an author, I have to take some of the credit for the
accurate bits, and all of the criticism for any mistakes. Here it is –
‘warts and all' – and ready to be savaged.

Best regards,

* I must confess that my examination of the Aquitania records was not
just for any possible Olympic content…at one point in 2001 I was
seriously considering researching her for some sort of research
article or history of this wonderful ship. I soon gave up the idea and
from September 2001 began my detailed Olympic history. (Though it
would be wonderful to see a really detailed account of Aquitania's
career from someone, as there's mountains of information in the Cunard
archives, IWM, NMM at Greenwich, John Brown's records, Merseyside
Maritime Museum, the Transatlantic passenger conference records, and a
host of newspaper sources and articles from 1909-51, not to mention
several books written with a great deal of Aquitania content…such as
Speddings'. How I wish some of those same resources were available for
Olympic…pity White Star's archive was decimated.)

Mark Chirnside,
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