Thanks to James Cameron, Leo DiCaprio and a naked Kate Winslet, the name “Titanic” is known to most people around the world. However, even if the movie had never been made, the original tragedy which was the sinking of the “unsinkable” RMS Titanic made headline news worldwide. It was the largest ship in history when it was launched and it took more than 1,500 lives when it sunk. However, what most people tend to look over is the fact that the Titanic had an even bigger sister ship that also went down to a watery grave.
So how is this possible? Well, first things first. Who made the Titanic? It was the White Star Line, a huge name in shipping at the time. Their RMS Oceanic created a lot of sensation in its time for the large number of innovations it presented over its counterparts of the day.
However, in the 20th century, the company decided it was time to step up its game considerably. It announced the creation of a new Olympic-class of ocean liners, ships that would simply blow out of the water any other vessel made up until that point. First came the rather blandly named RMS Olympic. Launched in 1911, this would be the only one of the three Olympic-class ships that would have a long and prosperous 24-year career until 1935. Afterwards came the RMS Titanic, a ship we are all acquainted with, that sunk in 1912 during its maiden voyage after a collision with an iceberg.
Obviously, the Titanic tragedy forced the White Star Line to make some changes in regards to their new ship. When it was launched in 1914, the HMHS Britannic had significantly more lifeboats sufficient for all passengers, as well as a stronger double hull along key areas like the boiler and engine rooms. It was bigger than the Titanic and, at the time, the largest ship in the world. It could have made an excellent luxury cruise liner if not for one little thing – World War I.
The war started soon after the launch of the ship and the Britannic was requisitioned by the British government. It served as a hospital ship which went around various ports and transported injured British soldiers. It managed to complete five successful trips until it reached the same fate as its sister ship. On November 21 1926, the ship hit an underwater mine in the Gulf of Athens and sank in less than an hour. However, the number of casualties was nowhere near that of the Titanic. Out of 1,066 people aboard the HMHS Britannic, over 1,000 survived. This, compounded with the fact that the ship was lost during wartime, is probably the main reason why the sinking of the HMHS Britannic is relatively unknown today.
Bonus Fact: Violet Jessop was first a stewardess and then a nurse onboard the Titanic and the Britannic when they sank and survived both times. She was also aboard the Olympic when it had a less serious collision with the HMS Hawke cruiser, thus earning her the nickname “Miss Unsinkable”.
Don’t feel like reading? Here’s the TL;DR version:
- The White Star Line created a giant class of ships which comprised three ships: RMS Olympic, RMS Titanic and HMHS Britannic
- Olympic was launched in 1911 and lasted for 24 years
- Titanic sunk in 1912 during its maiden voyage, becoming headline news and one of the biggest movies of all time
- Britannic was launched in 1914 and sunk in 1916 during WWI but most people don’t remember it because the majority of its passengers survived
- Violet Jessop was a woman aboard all three during their collisions and survived all of them