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Category: Construction details
  1. Where was Britannic built?
  2. What was Britannic's official yard number?
  3. Was Britannic ever painted in civilian colours?
  4. What did Britannic weigh?
  5. How big was Britannic?
  6. How many lifeboats did Britannic have?
  7. What about Britannic's engines and boilers?
  8. Tell me about Britannic's compasses.
  9. How did the Britannic's water-tight doors work?
  10. On the deck plans I see something called the "Accumulator Room", on A-Deck. What is it?
  11. How many elevators did Britannic have?
  12. What is that gash in Britannic's port-side bow?
  13. I've heard that Britannic was actually going to be called Gigantic. Is this true?
  14. Who designed Britannic as a hospital ship?
  15. Which were the main differences between Britannic and Titanic?
  16. Was there a film taken of Britannic`s launch?In the film "Britannic" there is but I`ve heard that it could have been the German liner Bismark.
  17. I've noticed in some pictures of the Britannic (as a hospital ship) that there was a huge davit on the starboard side but their is one picture with this davit on her portside. Why is that?
  18. On the stern of the ship I can see the 3rd class Smoking Room, but further aft I see another structure. What is it?



  1. Where was Britannic built?
    Britannic was built at the Harland & Wolff shipyards, Queen's Island, Belfast, Northern Ireland. This is where her sisters (and most of White Star's other liners) were built.
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  2. What was Britannic's official yard number?
    Britannic's official yard number was 433. Olympic was assigned 400, and Titanic 401. This shows that Britannic was built some time after her sisters, as Harland & Wolff managed to complete 32 jobs between finishing Titanic and starting Britannic
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  3. Was Britannic ever painted in civilian colours?
    Britannic was never completely painted in civilian colours. The final paint scheme was normally applied after the rest of the ship had been completed, and as Britannic was never completed, the final scheme was never applied. She was, however, given the usual base coat of grey paint during her time in the gantry/fitting out basin. Photographs of the ship fitting out show that her funnels were still unpainted (or painted with primer) at this time. Whether they were ever painted in White Star buff is unclear
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  4. What did Britannic weigh?
    Britannic weighed approximately 48,000 GRT at her time of service, compared to 46,000 GRT for Titanic and approximately 45,000 GRT for Olympic. However, several factors have to be taken into consideration - a) She did not have her full complement of gantry davits or lifeboats and b) She was not fully fitted out with all the woodwork, furniture, machinery etc required for normal civilian operation. This means that had she been completed she would have been the heaviest of the three at approximately 50,000 GRT. A more accurate way of describing Britannic's weight is in terms of displacement. While Olympic and Titanic displaced approximately 52,250 tons, Britannic would have displaced over 53,000 tons.
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  5. How big was Britannic?
    Britannic was slightly larger than her sisters. Olympic and Titanic were 882 feet 6 inches long and 92 feet wide (at the widest point). By comparison, Britannic was 882 feet 9 inches long and 94 feet wide at her widest point. All three sisters had the same draft and overall height (34 feet draft, 175 feet from keel to funnel tops).
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  6. How many lifeboats did Britannic have?
    As a hospital ship, Britannic carried 42 open lifeboats and 16 collapsibles taking the total up to 56 liferboats.28 open lifeboats were held by the gantry davits (two of those lifeboats were motorized) and the rest 14 were held in normal Wellin davits. There was a collapsible boat under each Wellin-mounted boat. Had she been completed, she would have carried 48 open lifeboats(two motorized), all of which would have been held by gantry davits. During her war service, she had 5 sets of gantry davits fitted (1 on the starboard side of the bridge and 4 around the fourth funnel).As a passenger liner, she would have had 8 sets in total (2 around the bridge, 4 around the fourth funnel and 2 on the shade deck). There would have been no Wellin davits on the finished ship.
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  7. What about Britannic's engines and boilers?
    Britannic was equipped with exactly the same reciprocating engines as her sisters, and her boiler were practically identical in configuration and number, although they were each 1 foot longer. The turbine engine was also much larger; in fact it was the largest marnie turbine engine at that time, although it was by no means the most powerful. The reciprocating engines 16,000 IHP each with the turbine registering 18,000 IHP, giving a total output of 50,000 IHP. It is unlikely that this made the ship faster, as she was also considerably heavier than her sisters.
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  8. Tell me about Britannic's compasses.
    Britannic had three compasses. One was located on the bridge, with another one located above it on the bridge roof. This compass was enclosed in what appears to be a canvas windbreak. There was a standard compass on a raised platform amidships, on the 1st class lounge's raised roof.
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  9. How did the Britannic's water-tight doors work?
    Britannic's water-tight doors were closed by gravity, not hydraulic power. They had an electronic control for the clutch and a float to close the doors automatically if water entered the compartment. They also could be closed manually.
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  10. On the deck plans I see something called the "Accumulator Room", on A-Deck. What is it?
    The accumulator room contained batteries ("accumulator" is an old word for battery), which were always charged. They were used to power the ship's pumps, and could be used in an emergency
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  11. How many elevators did Britannic have?
    Britannic had 5 elevators, compared to 4 on Olympic/Titanic. The first three were located immediately forward of the forward Grand Staircase, as on her sister. A single elevator ran up the centre of the aft 2nd class staircase, just like it did on the sister ships. The final, and extra, elevator was located amidships, immediately aft of the #3 funnel casing. The elevators gear was manufactured by R. Waygood, a company which was later taken over by/absorbed by Otis (which survives to this day).
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  12. What is that gash in Britannic's port-side bow?
    The huge gash in Britannic's port-side bow is the most visible sign of damage on the wreck, although it wasn't actually the hold caused by the mine/torpedo. One of the most interesting things about the hole is that the plates around its edge are bent outwards, suggesting an explosion from within. This lends some credence to the idea that the ship was carrying secret munitions, which exploded on impact with the mine/torpedo. Dr. Robert D. Ballard, who did an extensive survey of the wreck during an expedition, suggests that the hole was simply caused by stress on that part of the hull during the sinking. At worst, he says that it might have been caused by exploding coal dust.
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  13. I've heard that Britannic was actually going to be called Gigantic. Is this true?
    No one knows for sure whether this rumour is true or not, but there is a strong argument for both cases. The story goes that "RMS Gigantic", being built at Belfast when Titanic sank, was swiftly renamed to "RMS Britannic". The reason stated for this change is that White Star thought "Gigantic" was too defiant after the Titanic disaster, and so they changed to the more humble and patriotic "Britannic". This would seem like a good idea also because White Star was, at that time, frequently being attacked for being an American company. By choosing "Britannic" they were strengthening there links with the British, which was no doubt a good publicity move. On the other hand, "Gigantic" might never have been seriously considered in the first place, Titanic disaster or no Titanic disaster. Looking back through White Star/Harland & Wolffs partnership, the name "Gigantic" had been used before as a provisional name for radical or yet-unnamed ships. For example, the first Oceanic was known in the ship yard as "Gigantic" before the name Oceanic was officially chosen. It is therefore possible that the name "Gigantic" was pinned to yard number 433 for want of something better; whether the name Britannic would have been chosen if Titanic hadn't have sunk, no one will ever know.
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  14. Who designed Britannic as a hospital ship?
    The 3 "Olympic" class vessels (Olympic,Titanic,Britannic) took life from the pencils of the designers of Harland & Wolff.The managing director of the Design Department was Thomas Andrews Jr. who reported directly to Alexander M. Carlisle,the shipyard managing director.Another key figure was Edward Wilding who was Andrews' deputy and responsible for design calculations.Eventually,it was Thomas Andrews who assumed the responsibility for the design improvements on Titanic and Britannic until his death during Titanic's maiden voyage in 1912.Edward Wilding was dismissed soon after the tragedy. These were the people responsible for the design of the Britannic.The Design Department made the appropriate changes based on their plans during the conversion of Britannic to a hospital ship.However,I don't have information on who was responsible of the Design Department during that period.
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  15. Which were the main differences between Britannic and Titanic?
    The two ships look quite similar but the truth is that they were quite different in many aspects.These were the most important differences: First of all Britannic was larger than both Titanic and Olympic(see the other FAQ questions for details). Externally,the Britannic had her aft well deck enclosed in order to create a covered area (Shelter Deck) for 3rd class passengers and more walking space for 2nd class passengers (the roof of the Shelter Deck).Many more changes were also made to the stern area.Take a very detailed look at his page of the website: http://www.hospitalshipbritannic.com/rms_3class.htm The forward well deck was also different on Britannic.Visit the following page of the website for more details: http://www.hospitalshipbritannic.com/rms_general.htm Another very visible difference was the presence of the huge gantry davits,instead of the smaller Wellin davits present on Titanic (some Wellin davits were also used in the HMHS version of Britannic,because only five of the eight gantry davits had been installed in time by Harland & Wolff).Each gantry davit on Britannic could handle more than one lifeboat and in two of the eight stations (those not near the funnels) could transfer a lifeboat from one side of the ship to the other, something useful in case of increased list. Other changes on Britannic include a new layout of the bridge areas,a pipe organ installed in the Grand Staircase area,a children's playroom,a tube connecting the wireless room with the bridge (in order to allow the Marconi operators to forward instantly all the messages relative to navigation without having to leave their posts),a third expansion joint (two on Titanic),a larger pool,a second gym (for 2nd class passengers),a new layout for the Tank room on the boat deck. Regarding the safety measures,we can consider Britannic a completely different vessel.That was the legacy of the Titanic disaster.The dimensions of the double skin were extended in order to protect better the boiler rooms,one watertight bulkhead was added and five of them were extended up to the B-Deck (on Titanic the higher bulkheads were arriving only up to E-Deck).That meant that Titanic was NOT trully divided into watertight compartments (since water could pass to the next compartent from the upper edges:the famous "domino effect" that doomed the ship).With the new layout,the Britannic could stay afloat with her six forward compartments flooded (five on Titanic).
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  16. Was there a film taken of Britannic`s launch?In the film "Britannic" there is but I`ve heard that it could have been the German liner Bismark.
    Yes,there's a film showing Britannic's launch.You can dowload a short clip in the "History" page of this website. In the movie "Britannic" the same film can be seen as background for the opening titles.However some segments were taken from the launch of the italian liner "Rex".
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  17. I've noticed in some pictures of the Britannic (as a hospital ship) that there was a huge davit on the starboard side but their is one picture with this davit on her portside. Why is that?
    Since there was no time to install all the huge gantry davits when the ship was requisitioned by the Admiralty, the ship builders chose to obtain the maximum lifeboat capacity using the more conventional Wellin davits (those also present on Titanic) and the original lifeboat configuration -with 4 pairs of gantry davits- remained incomplete.That's why you see a single gantry davit near the first funnel and no gantry davits near the stern. The single gantry davit was always on the starboard side.Perhaps the photo in question was reversed.
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  18. On the stern of the ship I can see the 3rd class Smoking Room, but further aft I see another structure. What is it?
    It's the ship's mortuary.
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