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Repeated without question for nearly 100 years, many have accepted the old fable that the Britannic was to have originally been called Gigantic, this name being quietly discarded after the Titanic disaster as it felt like it was tempting fate too much, or that the name was too pompous. But is this true?
Some historians and maritime buffs, such as Dave Gittins and the Britannic's owner, Simon Mills, dispute this and claim that the ship was never to have been called Gigantic. Who is right?
In an effort to confirm or refute this story, this author instigated a long and arduous trawl
through contemporary newspapers, and attempted to contact as many companies involved in the
constructions of the three Olympic class vessels as possible to see if they
had any evidence that would illuminate the whole name change hypothesis. It was not easy.
Many of the companies no longer existed, and surviving archives were either missing (the Darlington Forge Company's), destroyed (the Citroen company's, lost in World War 2), incomplete
(Stohert and Pitt Ltd, who made the electrically powered cargo cranes) or unavailable (Utley's, who supplied the
ports for the ships. They initially responded that they had records from 1908, but this it
would not be possible to view their detailed records. They had been only too co-operative
a few years previously to someone else though!).
Napier Brothers presented a mystery. The Titanic's bronze topped capstans are embossed with the name of this Glasgow firm, but they claim to have only been in existence since 1920. Many companies, such as the descendants of the Welin lifeboat company, did not reply.
Correspondence with author Michael Moss suggested that the archives of the Bank of England possessed files which corroborated the Gigantic/Britannic story in its accouting of the mismanagement of the White Star company during the Lord Kylsant days. Although a search of their records did not yield anything, fascinating material relating to the Titanic was found
The old records of Harland and Wolff seem to be unavailable and incomplete; long ago donated to the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, the collection is (still) reported to be uncatalogued and accessing them is very difficult. Simon Mills has accessed the order book and found, contrary to many people's expectations (and Tom McCluskie's errant memory), the entry for ship no. 433 does not have the name Gigantic crossed out and then replaced with Britannic. And as Mark Chirnside remarks in our joint paper (see below), David Gittins provides more contrary evidence in his recommended ebook, where he reproduces portions of a register kept by Charles Payne, a director of Harland and Wolff (see below); as Gittins says, there is no sign of the name of the Britannic being changed; it only mentions her change of tonnage on being converted to a hospital ship, and her foundering.
The only fruitful source of information was from Dudley Archives, near Birmingham. In July 2007, they provided copies of some documentation from the nearby firm of Noah Hingley's, who had constructed the anchors for the three ships. Copies of the documentation relating to the Gigantic are below. This is the first documented proof ever found, outside of newspaper reports, that the name Gigantic was ever considered and used. The mention in their "Chain & Anchor Book" of the ship (see Mark Chirnside and myself's joint paper below) lists the name "Gigantic" under "No.433"; the name was crossed out and replaced with "Britannic" at some point. The date for the original listing was February 20th, 1912; this is some months before the name Britannic was reserved and officially announced. This would seemingly prove that the name "Gigantic" was considered and used before the Titanic disaster. For some reason, Harland and Wolff were more reluctant to enter the name in their own registers; odd, given that by February 1912, the Gigantic/Britannic had been building for some three months already.
The dates in these documents are significant, as they detail correspondence well after the Titanic had foundered. Obviously, Hingley's had not kept apace with developments in the shipping world; if they had, then they would not have made the mistake of referring to the Gigantic. Hingley's do not seem to have been a firm that relied on rumours and stories within the press to refer to ship's names.
This evidence would seem to indicate that the name was at least considered, and then abandoned at some point but some people are not convinced. For instance, Simon Mills calls the references in Hingley's paperwork "vague" and with a metaphorical wave of the hand dismisses them. It is up to the reader to decide whether the repeated and consistent mentions of the name are indeed "vague." To disregard such evidence is not the sign of an historian, but a cherry picker; one who ignores facts that don't agree with a conclusion. And readers can hardly expect an informed opinion, based on a discussion of all the evidence when troublesome evidence is conveniently ignored or relegated with the status of "unreliable" (rather like the Californian saga). Unfortunately, Mr.Mills opinion carries some weight as he owns the Britannic wreck.
This evidence forces me to conclude that the name Gigantic was indeed considered by the White Star Line and Harland and Wolff, but dispensed with before it became official. I believe Hingley's may have been given an unofficial name, or have been told informally. Why did not the White Star Line announce the name of the third in the Olympic class vessels? They had announced to the world that there would be a third ship while the Olympic had its inaugural visit to Southampton prior to her maiden voyage. Why was no name mentioned there?
Rival shipping firms may have provoked this (lack of) announcement. The HAPAG liner
Imperator's keel had been laid down in 1910, a year before the Olympic's
maiden voyage, and before the announcement of the "third ship." The Imperator
was well in excess of the length of the Olympic and the Titanic, then fitting
out. The name Gigantic may not have seemed appropriate for a vessel that was not
going to be the largest in the world, even after completion. The name Olympic
does not imply size, but Titanic and Gigantic certainly do...but it was too late
to change the name of the second vessel in the class...the name of the third could certainly
be changed, as it was ordered significantly after the first two...
So, the name was quietly dispensed with. Why the Harland and Wolff papers do not mention the Gigantic is a mystery; Hingley's prove that the name was certainly mentioned, but perhaps it was never adopted officially?
Mark Chirnside and I collaborated on an article for the Titanic Historical Society Commutator; part 1 can be read here and part 2, here. His website can be found here. Incidentally, as a matter of historical curiosity, "The Northern Echo" of May 29th, 1897 announced the Darlington Forge's first supersize contract; the ship was due to be called Gigantic originally but was eventually dubbed Oceanic, eventually launched on 14th January 1899.
Since the above was written, more evidence has come to light, some of which is discussed here: in particular, the testimony by Edward Wilding that no name was given for the ships for 12 months after a contract had been drawn up.
The first public intimation in the press was on September 12th, 1907, where various newspapers (such as "The Manchester Guardian") reported that, the previous day, a Belfast correspondent were engaged in plans for the construction of a mammoth ocean liner for the White Star Line. Optimistically, the keel was expected to be laid "within a few months". Other papers (eg "The Aberdeen Journal" on 13th September) included the details that the correspondent was the "Daily Telegraph" and that a contract did exist, and that the ship would be 840 feet long and 86 feet in beam, and would boast turbines in addition to reciprocating engines. The New York Tribune (12/9/07) said that another source declared that the ship would be 40,000 tons register. The New York Times of the same day speculated that, " It is probable that her speed will be only twenty-two knots, the cost of every extra knot after twenty knots being so excessive that the steamship companies are averse to high speeds," but ten days later its tone was more pessimistic, noting that the story of an 840 foot long liner was "premature."
The Lusitania docked in New York on her maiden voyage on 13th September; was this the White Star's attempt to divert some of the glory away from the new Cunarder? The press made a great play on the fact that the new ship would be bigger than the Lusitania. The New York Tribune on the day of the arrival of the Cunarder cynically reported that, "Before the Lusitania has completed her maiden voyage the cables outstrip her with the news that the White Star Line is going its rival one better with a still huger leviathan. If this rivalry does not cease before long the North Atlantic route will be indistinguishable from a pontoon bridge"!
We know that the contract letter for two ships, which were destined to be the Olympic and the Titanic, was signed on 31st July 1908, and as Mark points out, the New York Times announced the names of the two vessels on April 23rd of that year. While it is true that the Hawaiian Star of April 6th mentions that two new ships had been announced, no names were given. But just 11 days later, the New York Tribune and others revealed the name of the Olympic, albeit with the incorrect information that she would be 1000 feet long. The names of the ships, regardless of provenance, filtered through the press (eg the Salt Lake Tribune of 8/8/8 mentioned them by name in an article about the negotiations to construct a huge drydock at Southampton).
In England, the news of the naming of the two ships seems laggard, possibly with a nod to caution. The Manchester Guardian on April 17th stated that, in reply to a query that they were going to build two steamers of 1000 feet long, the White Star Line replied that it was "certainly true that they were going to build, at all events, one immense steamer." The name of the vessel would "probably" be the Olympic. It is not clear if the name came from the White Star Line or from another source. This seems to have been the source of the information in the New York Tribune etc. Further elucidation came soon; the Western Times of April 24th said that the first vessel would be called the Olympic and the second "possibly" Titanic. On the same day, the Aberdeen Journal only reports the two designations as "expected" names. The Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser only added to the confusion over the names. On May 2nd, the White Star issued an official statement, confirming two steamships, the first being the Olympic but the second name had not yet been decided and correcting reports on the anticipated dimensions by saying that the vessels would not be 1000 feet long. On the 13th June, that same paper could only say that the first ship would probably be called Olympic (this is in spite of the official White Star announcement the previous month!) Month passed, but on September 1st, 1908, The Times stated that preliminaries for the building of two great steamers had been settled, but that "the name of the second ship had not yet been decided upon, but that it will probably be the Titanic." Finally, on the 16th of that month, the Manchester Guardian finally announced that the White Star Line had announced the name of the second ship. This was also picked up by the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser that same day.
Whether the British press were just slow or whatever, the names of both the Olympic and Titanic were announced well before their keels had been laid. This would seemingly make a mockery of Wilding's testimony. But it would also seem that contemporary vessels being constructed at Harland and Wolff but for lines other than the White Star Line had their names officially revealed well after construction had commenced. The London Times referred to the steamship Arlanza being named on May 13th, 1911 - just 6 months before her launch. And the moniker of the SS Statendam, according to the New York Times, was bestowed on September 25th, 1912, probably two months after her keel was laid. Research may uncover more examples. Edward Wilding may have been referring to the practise in fashion when he gave testimony (1915), and not when the Olympic and Titanic were announced. Did the "no name for 12 month" policy come into use because of the Gigantic/Britannic naming controversy? It is an interesting possibility. There is one more piece of evidence to consider. As we have discussed above, the first mention of the name "Olympic" was in April 1908 and while this is before the contract was signed, it is almost twelve months after the order for ships 400 and 401 (Olympic and Titanic) was made, which was April 30th, 1907. Perhaps we should not be so dismissive of Wilding's assertion on deferred naming?
The excellent "Titanic in Photographs" book revealed another mention of the third Olympic class ship. About February 8th, 1912, Winston Churchill, the First Lord of the Admiralty, was scheduled to have visited Harland and Wolff, but due to the turmoil at the time because of the Home Rule debate, he sent along a representative who reported that "A ship even larger than the Titanic is now being built. It is to be called Gigantic, and I walked under her keel..." Who told the representative this news about the Gigantic is not reported.
|The mention of the name of the third ship being "A Gigantic Joke" in the Southampton Times and Lawrence Beesley's reference in "The Loss of the SS Titanic" (viz. "Correspondence is published with an official of the White Star Line from some one imploring them not to name the new ship "Gigantic," because it seems like "tempting fate" when the Titanic has been sunk. It would seem almost as if we were back in the Middle Ages when witches were burned because they kept black cats.) prompted a search for other references; the article in the New York Sun newspaper (see left) of May 16th, 1912 confirms that Ismay et al wanted to distance themselves from such a "bombastic" name.|
It is possible that other uses of the name can be found in the literature of the period. The National Library of Australia is an invaluable tool and mentions "Gigantic" a great many times. "The Advertiser" (Adelaide) of November 25th, 1911 mentions that the "Gigantic" will contain a cricket field and golf links for the entertainment of passengers (The Washington Herald (US) of the same day also reported this). The Brisbane Courier on the same day reiterated these details and included the now seemingly obligatory "1000 feet long" dimension. These reports were picked up and repeated in many Australian newspapers, some adding that her beam would be between 111 and 112 feet. Typical reports from the era can be found in the Warwick Examiner and Times (24/1/12)
and The Cairns Post (26/2/12). As is evident, many of the anticipated features border on fantasy! After the disaster to her sister, it was widely stated that the plans for the Gigantic
had been altered so at provide for cellular sides to the engine room and stokehold, and also for cellular sides above the
waterline for the other holds. But still the fantasies persisted, as can be seen in The Sydney Morning Herald of 3/5/12, where football and baseball fields were now added to the repertoire. The only sign of dissent was in The Register (Adelaide, 27/6/12): "A Nottingham Correspondent wrote to the White Star Company
imploring it not to name the new vessel the Gigantic in case it might, like the Titanic, seem to be "a challenge to the gods." He hoped the new boat would not be allowed to sail away with such a bombastic name as Gigantic. Mr.Bruce Ismay replied that the
managers had never any intention of applying this name to the new ship." Following this declaration, the certainties became muted and articles now merely said that the ship would "probably" be named the Gigantic.
Regardless, the ill informed statements cemented the notion in many people's minds that the third ship was going to be bigger, and this misconception was not helped by pronouncements in the press that the Arrol Gantry was being extended; the day of the Titanic's launch, the Dundee Evening Telegraph announced a 970 feet long liner and that preparations had been in progress for some time to extend the gantry, and that the work would be pushed forward as soon as the Titanic was launched. The same news story also appeared in the Manchester Guardian five days later, the reporter attributing it to someone of "sound authority." Again, reference was made to the rumoured 970 foot long White Star Line vessel.
Another typical mention was in "The Southampton Times and Hampshire Express" of 2nd December 1911 under the tagline: "Improvements at Belfast" : "..In addition, the preliminary steps have been taken to add 100 ft to the huge gantry under which the Olympic was built, the extension being necessary in view of the much greater length of at least one vessel, for which Messrs Harland and Wolff have received the contract." A week later, the same paper said that, "[it is] anticipated [that the new ship is] to be between 990 and 1000 feet in length, with a breadth of 94 or 96 feet. The keel is said to be 19 feet broad and 3 inches thick and it has been laid on the slip on which the Olympic was built...the company [White Star] refuses to confirm or deny this." But the Liverpool Echo of May 31st gives more information for the lengthening of the gantry; the rumour was that an order had been received from the Hamburg American Line " ... and it is expected that the keel of the Hamburg America ship will be laid on the slip to be vacated tomorrow by the Titanic." As early as Autumn of 1907, "The Shipbuilder" magazine said that a Hamburg America Liner would be built next door to the Olympic, and the Harland and Wolff records lists ship no.391 as the HAL "Europa" (subsequently cancelled). It should be noted that some newspapers did not fall for the story of a 900+ foot long steamer; take The Western Times (2/1/12). They mentioned that the dimensions of the third ship would be 882 ft 6 inches, 93 feet 6 inches, and gross tonnage of about 47,000 tons, noting that the beam would be 1 foot longer and the ship would be about 2000 tons heavier (the ship was eventually two feet wider). Did the reporters on this paper take the trouble to inquire directly about the ship from the White Star Line and/or Harland and Woff, rather than rely on rumour or tittle-tattle? If this is the case, they did not manage to elicit the name of the ship, for it is not mentioned.
For the most part, why did the White Star Line keep quiet about the dimensions of the 3rd ship rather than confirming that it would be more-or-less the same as for the first two ships? The plans had been finalised and keel was being laid when the words in "The Southampton Times" were written. Was the lack of denial or confirmation simply because the White Star Line did not want to publicly admit to the paper that their newest ship would not be the largest ship when launched? Was it simply to claw back some of the publicity from the even larger Imperator (due to be launched in six months time), in the same way that the White Star had done with the Lusitania's maiden crossing? Were they happy to bask in the (possibly) false reporting (as can be seen in the Liverpool Echo story)?
The notion that the White Star and/or Harland and Wolff had exaggerated the length of the 3rd Olympic class steamer to sustain interest in a ship that was no longer going to be "the largest in the world" has gained some favour during further research.
The Cunard Liner Aquitania was commissioned on 9th December 1910 and her keel laid on June 5th, 1911, just five days after the Titanic's launch and the hand-over of the Olympic to the White Star. But the Aquitania's details were not readily available. According to some papers (eg. the Gloucester Journal, the London Times and the Liverpool Daily Post to name but two), the official dimensions of the new ship were not given; indeed, the Times had said on 12th April that the details of the design and dimensions of the casting "are not fully settled" - an odd admission with building due to start in less than two months.
Over the next few months, comments, seemingly official, amounted to the "the plans are secret" (Western Gazette, 22/9/11 and Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser, 27/9/11) but by July 25th and for the next few weeks afterwards, the word was that Cunard directors had finally extended the Aquitania's proposed length "to over 900 feet thus making her 10 feet longer than the Imperator"; previously the Gloucester Citizen had said on the day after the keel laying that the new Cunard ship would be 885 feet long - just long enough to beat the Olympic and Titanic but not enough to exceed the Imperator at 909 feet (excluding the heraldic eagle at the front). However, when the Aquitania finally sailed, she was just 901.5 feet long. Wikipedia suggests that the inclusion of the eagle at the prow was because the Aquitania was announced to be one foot longer than the Imperator, and the figurehead was a way to regain prestige; but, no source is provided for this claim so I am unable to verify this claim.
Finally, one more point: the decision to lay the Aquitania's keel only days after the Titanic's launch and not long before the Olympic's maiden voyage cannot be coincidence. Was Cunard trying to grab some publicity, like the White Star had done with the Lusitania's maiden crossing four years previously (see above)? If this is the case, this is an interesting case of tit-for-tat as the rumours of another Olympic class vessel, but bigger than the first two started at about this time.
A further example of one-upmanship can be found in the antics of other shipping lines. Various papers (for instance, the New York "Evening World" of April 12th) reported that the North German Lloyd Line awarded a $10 million contract for the building of the largest steamship in the world, to be 950 feet long and of some 50,000 tons. The ship was to be completed by August 1914 and was to be bear "one of the great names in American history", believed to be Lincoln. This would dwarf the Imperator, Aquitania and the Olympic class vessels in service. The date? April 11th, 1912. The date is too coincidental to be anything other than an attempt to grab some publicity from the Titanic's maiden voyage. Ultimately, no such ship was built by the German company. British newspapers were, however, more conservative in their descriptions of the new North German Lloyd ship, saying simply that it would be "an improved and enlarged George Washington type [steamship]", which weighed 25,570 gross tons, and was 669 feet long. It would seem, from a cursory inspection of the NDL fleet, that this ship could be the "Columbus", launched on December 17th, 1913. She would be unfinished during the First World War and would eventually enter service in February 1922 as war reparations, eventually being given the name "RMS Homeric" - for the White Star Line ironically! Her statistics would be 774 ft in length and 35,000 GRT, so more akin to the descriptions in the British Press rather than a massive superliner given in the US newspapers.
Research that this author performed years ago, but which did not make the "final cut" of Mark and mine's paper are reproduced below, with my notes in square brackets:
The Liverpool "Journal of Commerce"
Wednesday June 7th 1911
Rumoured New White Star Liner
"A report was circulated yesterday that the White Star Line had ordered a steamer from Messrs Harland and Wolff of Belfast which was to be larger than the Olympic or Titanic and that arrangements were in progress for laying the keel on the slip just vacated by the Titanic. Seen by a "Journal of Commerce" representative yesterday respecting this report, one of the White Star managers at the head office in Liverpool said there was no truth in the report"
December 6th, 1911
"Rumoured New White Star Liner"
The "Belfast Telegraph" of last night says: "A report in several cross-channel newspapers to-day to the effect that Messrs Harland and Wolff of Belfast have laid the keel of a new White Star liner, 992 feet long and 94 feet broad", is officially and emphatically denied. Our correspondent adds that the denial is absolutely authoritative, The firm to-night positively states no order for any vessel larger than the Olympic or Titanic have been placed with them. As a matter of fact, the White Star company do not, for obvious reasons, prepare to order any very large vessel at present.
[If the first of these two reports is true, that the decision for a third
ship had not been made. But within a few weeks, Sanderson had admitted there would be a third vessel of the class. He did not
give a timescale for when this would be, however.
Technically speaking, the denial in the second report is accurate; while the keel for the third Olympic class vessel had just been laid, the dimensions are inaccurate (though the Britannic's beam was two feet wider than her elder sisters). We can only assume that the White Star Line was being pedantic. This was a few weeks after the same paper (16th November) reported "[News from] Belfast - The White Star Line's new leviathan" stating that "interesting reports have been circulating", about a ship whose tonnage would be "20,000" in excess of existing White Star ships. It would be 992 feet long, 960 between perpendiculars but then the report becomes confused as it said that it would be "beam and not length that the great increase will be made" (presumably in tonnage), and then goes on to say later that the ship would be 900 feet b.p!"]
"The Scientific American"
December 2nd, 1911
The 1000-foot Vessel
A dispatch from London says that the White Star Line has ordered from Harland and Wolff a liner which will exceed the "Olympic" by one hundred feet in length. As this ship measures 882 1/2 feet, it will be seen that the new vessel will be approximately one thousand feet long. Although the report lacks verification, it may well be true, although the question may be asked on this saide of the Atlantic, "Where will she dock?" Even the White Star docks with their temporary lengthening of one hundred feet would not accommodate such as ship whose stern would project over 80 feet into the North River.
December 30th, 1911 [in an article which discusses how ships have grown in size]
"... and, in answer to our inquiry, the leading officials of the White Star Company inform us that an order has been placed with the Belfast firm for the construction of an 18 knot ship, 1000 feet long, 100 feet wide to be driven by combined turbines and reciprocating engines of 55,000 horse-power"
18th January 1912
One thousand feet ship is ordered We are informed by a high official of the White Star Company that an order has been definitely placed with Harland and Wolff, Belfast, for the construction of a ship of the "Adriatic" type, which will be one thousand feet in length. The vessel will be driven at 18 knots by a combination of reciprocating engines and turbines. She will have a ratio of beam to length of one to ten, and therefore her breadth will be 100 feet. If the ship sails to this port she must dock at South Brooklyn, where done are piers of sufficient length to accommodate her
24th August 1912
"According to cable dispatches, the company [White Star] is making radical changes in the underwater construction of its two largest vessesl, the "Gigantic" and the "Olympic" ... The changes in the "Gigantic", a slightly larger vessel than the "Titanic", were foreshadowed by Mr.Ismay in his testimony before the Senate Investigating Committee. The "Gigantic" is now under construction at the Belfast yards ..."
[As a matter of note, Ismay did not mention the name of the third ship in the US Senate Inquiry. The Olympic did indeed return to Belfast in late 1912 for major alterations to her structure. The last article on the naming controversy in the magazine, which I didn't bother transcribing as it didn't say anything new was the announcement on October 12th, that the new transatlantic liner was officially named the Britannic. No mention of "Gigantic" at all.]
To consolidate this confusing array of information, it may help to place it all in some chronological order. Alas this only serves to reinforce the notion that aberrant information was commonplace.
30/4/1907 - The order for ships "400" and "401" is entered in the Harland and Wolff books.
9/9/1907 - "The Daily Graphic" announces that a White Star Liner, 840 feet long and 86 feet broad is to be built. This announcement coincides with the "Lusitania's" maiden voyage.
12/9/1907 - Various newspapers report that a mammoth liner for the White Star Line was to be built.
Autumn 1907 - The Autumn 1907 edition of "The Shipbuilder" says that in addition to the 840 foot long White Star liner, the slip next door will house a Hamburg America Liner, longer and broader than the Lusitania and Mauretania, though of less speed. This may be connected to the cancelled "Europa" ship (see 23rd June 1910).
6/4/1908 - "The Hawaiian Star" mentions that two ships were to be built. No names were given, and there exists a state of confusion in the press about the number and names of the vessels.
17/4/1908 - Various newspapers reveal that the name of one of the ships is "Olympic." The announcement came the previous day but it is not clear if it as official White Star announcement, simply noted as coming from "Liverpool". Details are hazy: The Boston Post, for instance, says that the Olympic is to be 1000 feet long and says two leviathans of this kind "may" be built.
23/04/1908 - "The Los Angeles Herald" says, 'Two new White Star liners which will be the largest vessels yet projected will be laid down at Belfast next June. The exact measurements of the steamers have not been given out, but they will be over 840 feet in length, 78 feet in breadth and with a gross tonnage of 45,000 or 50,000. The ships are to be fitted with combination turbines and reciprocating engines guaranteed to maintain a speed of twenty-one knots. The names of the vessels are to be Olympic and Titanic.'
24/04/1908 - "The New York Times" also announces the names of two new ships: "Olympic" and "Titanic". White Star issues an official statement on May 2nd, but only confirms the name "Olympic."
31/07/1908 - Contract letter for two ships signed. "The Times" the following day reports that the name of the second ship has not been decided upon but would probably be "Titanic."
9/9/1908 - "The Dublin Daily Express" said that on this date shortly after midday, and with no fuss, the keel blocks for the Olympic were laid.
16/09/1908 - "The Manchester Guardian" confirms the name "Titanic." The previous day, the New York Times and others reveals in a press release dated the same day the names "Titanic" and "Olympic"; this is an official announcement from the White Star Line.
28/11/1908 - "The North Star" reports that the Darlington Forge had secured a contract for large scale castings and forgings for 2 new White Star ships. The ships are not named, just described as "the two new White Star boats which are being built at Belfast. These ships will be larger than the Mauretania and Lusitania, though not so fast". The London "Times" does mention the name of the two steamers.
16/12/1908 - The "Olympic's" keel is laid.
10/3/1909 - "The Journal of Commerce" gives this date as the one where the Olympic's double bottom is "all bolted up."
31/3/1909 - The "Titanic's" keel is laid
20/11/1909 - "The Journal of Commerce" gives this date as the one where the Olympic's side plating is finished
12/12/1909 - The "Nottingham Eveing Post" the next day says that the "steam frame" special carrying castings for the Titanic left at 8am yesterday reaching West Hartlepool docks (about 25 miles) shortly before dusk. The Dundee Courier puts the speed of the consignment at 4mph.
15/4/1909 - "The Journal of Commerce" says that, by this date, the plating had been entirely rivetted
23/6/1910 - The "New York Times" reports that the Kaiser had seen plans for a HAPAG liner which was to be 876 ft between perpendiculars (on 25th February, the same paper noted that the ship, originally called "Europa" was to be 785 feet long and had originally been placed three years earlier at Harland and Wolff. "The New York Times" stated (18/9/1910) that "Europa" was to be over 900 feet long and that work had begun). The list of ships built by Harland and Wolff lists "Europa" with a yard number of 391 but indicates that it was "cancelled", probably in January 1908. The "Europa" would eventually be built, but renamed "Imperator".
9/12/1910 - On this date, according to "The Shipbuilder", John Brown and Co. were commissioned by Cunard to built what will become the largest vessel in the world. Her name is not given in the article, and the exact length was still being discussed, but speculates that she would be 885 feet in length, 95.5 feet in breadth, 50,000 tons displacement and 40,000 tons gross. (See above for a discussion on the Aquitania and the one-upmanship in evidence at the shipyards).
31/05/1911 - "The Dundee Evening Telegraph" reports on a 970 foot long vessel and that the Arrol gantry would be extended to accomodate it. This story also ran in other papers, appearing until December of that year.
7/6/1911 - The Liverpool "Journal of Commerce" reports on the rumour of a new White Star Line ship but the company said that there was no truth in the report. "The Shipping Gazette and Lloyd's List" two days later revealed information from Harold Sanderson that there would be a third "Olympic" class ship.
28/6/1911 - The order for Harland and Wolff to proceed with "433" is given. The Harland and Wolff order book records the name "Britannic" and there is no evidence that the name had been included at a later date.
24/7/1911 - "The New York Times" states that the third ship, to enter service in 1913 will be called the "Gigantic." This story reportedly came from the men on the SS "Baltic".
19/8/1911 - "The Southampton Times and Hampshire Express" refers to the story above given out by the "Baltic's" crew, but dismisses it.
23/10/1911 - The contract to build "433" is given.
8/11/11 - "The Daily Telegraph and Courier" says that no official confirmation cannot be obtained on the order but that a vessel much larger than the Olympic and Titanic will be laid at the end of the present month. The new vessel will be 960 feet between perpendiculars and a few feet broader than the latest additions. "Elaborate preparation[s]" are being made for the construction at Queen's Island. At a meeting of the Belfast Harbour Commissioners yesterday "it was decided to instruct their engineer to report on the alteration of the new graving dock entrance and length, so as to provide, if necessary for the accommodation of vessels of larger build than the Olympic and Titanic."
14/11/11 - "The Shipping Gazette and Lloyd's List" report on an unofficial scrap of news that a new ship was to be laid down with an overall length of 992 feet. Two weeks later, the same journal dismissed the numbers as an exaggeration from American sources.
21/11/11 - There is a mention of the new steamer, the Gigantic. Reference is made of the July 27th report.
25/11/1911 - Various newspapers, including "The New York Times" reports fanciful details (such as a golf course) of the new steamship "Gigantic". These fantasies would persist well after the "Titanic" had sunk.
30/11/1911 - The keel for "433" is laid.
2/12/1911 - "The Scientific American" mentions the new ship will be one hundred feet longer than the Olympic. 28 days later the same journal reports confirmation of this story from "leading officials" of the company. This would be later reiterated on the 18th January.
9/12/1911 - "The Southampton Times and Hampshire Express" note that the new ship is to be between 990 and 1000 feet in length, but the White Star Line refuses to confirm or deny this. The Liverpool "Journal of Commerce" three days previously reported that no order for a vessel larger than the "Olympic" or "Titanic" had been made. On December 16th, the "Belfast Telegraph" states in a confusing mish-mash of information that the new ship would be larger than the first two "Olympics".
12/12/1911 - "The Galveston Daily News" mentions that the new steamship would only be larger in beam and not length. The source of this story, "a well known shipping authority" also refers to the gantry being extended. No name for the new ship is given.
1/1/1912 - "The Belfast Newsletter" reports accurately on the length of the new ship. The next day, "The Western Times" also runs this story.
2/2/1912 - The journal "Engineering" mentions that Andre Citroen and Co. had received a contract to build the gearing mechanism for the steering engines for five ships, one of which is the "Gigantic", the largest liner in the world.
8/2/1912 (approx) - Winston Churchill's representative reports that the new ship under construction is to be called "Gigantic."
20/2/1912 - Anchor and chain manufacturer Hingley's order book mentions the name "Gigantic"; this is later crossed out and replaced with "Britannic".
c. 10/4/12 - "The Shipbuilder" remarks that the third ship had not yet been named.
11/4/12 - Norrdeutscher Lloyd indicates that they plan to build the largest ship in the world.
16/4/1912 - The UK "Daily Mirror" refers to the 924 feet long ship "Gigantic" "which was laid in the past week" [sic].
22/4/1912 - "The New York Times" reports on modifications to the 1000 feet long "Gigantic" in the wake of the "Titanic" disaster. This news is also used in "The Shipping Gazette and Lloyd's List" the next day.
27/4/12 - "The Illustrated Western Weekly News" reports that the Darlington Forge Company is making a stern frame and rudder post for a ship almost identical to the Titanic, the Gigantic. Click here to see the picture.
9/5/1912 - "The Journal of Commerce" reports on the Gigantic, saying that is what she is known as in Belfast. It also says that she will be very little, if at all longer than the Olympic and the Titanic but will be at least one foot more broad (which was accurate).
11/5/1912 - "The Southampton Times and Hampshire Express" publish an article dismissing the name "Gigantic."
16/5/1912 - "The New York Sun" quotes Ismay as saying that the White Star Line never intended that the third ship be called "Gigantic." Two days later, "The Southampton Times and Hampshire Express" repeats this news, with the postscript that "it was all a gigantic joke."
17/5/1912 - In testimony to the UK Inquiry, Francis Carruthers only refers to a vessel then being built for the White Star Line that was "larger than the Titanic." He does not give a name.
30/5/1912 - Ismay et al, write to the Board of Trade requesting that the name "Britannic" be reserved for the new liner. The name "Britannic" for the third liner is publicly announced.
22/6/1912 - "The Southampton Times and Hampshire Express" notes that the third ship's name has not yet been decided upon.
6/8/1912 - The New York "Sun" reports that "the decision of the White Star Company to put an inner shell in the Gigantic, the new sister ship of the Olympic, will involve an additional expense of $350,000 in the construction of the vessel."
24/8/1912 - "The Scientific American" reports that the name of the third ship is "Gigantic."
15/9/1912 - Reported in the "Nottingham Evening Post" the next day, shortly after 10am, stern frame of Britannic removed from Darlington Forge to West Hartlepool for shipment to Belfast. The "Manchester Guardian" notes that the stern frame took four months to make, was divided into two parts, together weighing 70 tons. Four large brakctes, each weighing about 20 tons are to be despatched later
14/12/1912 - "The Weekly Irish Times" refers to the "Gigantic" which was being built in Belfast, and that she would be the largest vessel in the world.
1/6/1913 - Application to use the name "Britannic" is renewed.
12/11/1913 - Hingley's refer to "Gigantic" in paperwork relating to the transporting of the anchor to Belfast.
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