April 1912: Olympic's Canceled Sailing

The New York Times, 25 April 1912

Part of Crew Leave Vessel as She Is About to Sail from Southampton with 1,400 Passengers
Men Declare the Collapsibles Taken from Troopships Are Old and Unseaworthy
But Union Officials Decline to Advise Them, Fearing Prosecution---Liner Now Off Spithead
Special Cable to THE NEW YORK TIMES
LONDON, April 24---The White Star liner Olympic, which was to sail from Southampton to New York at noon to-day, still lies off Spithead owing to a strike of firemen because of fears that the new collapsible boats are unseaworthy.

Although grumbling was heard among the men last night, to-day's action was a complete surprise. Everything appeared to be going on as usual until 20 minutes to 12, just as the liner was about to sail, when several firemen declared that the forty collapsible boats taken from troopships in the harbor were rotten and unseaworthy and would not open.

The alarm quickly spread through the stokehold, and a request was sent to Mr. Curry, the Southampton manager of the White Star Line, that all the collapsible boats be replaced by wooden lifeboats. Mr. Curry replied that this was impossible and told the men the boats had been passed by a Board of Trade Inspector. Some, he added, had been tried in the water and found entirely seaworthy.

The men were not satisfied and the entire staff of firemen, greasers, and trimmers, with but three exceptions, ceased work, collected their kits, and left the ship, singing, "We're All Going the Same Way Home."

There are three watches in the Olympic. Each watch consists of fifty-five firemen, 24 trimmers, 8 greasers, and 5 leading firemen, so that altogether 276 men deserted their posts. The three men who remained were a storekeeper, an electric light man, and the man in charge of the refrigerating machinery.

When the firemen had gone the seamen became discontented and refused to handle the ropes, this duty being performed by stewards and officials of the line, who were in the ship.

Mr. Curry pointed out that the men's refusal to obey orders was rank mutiny and that Capt. Haddock, if he pleased, could order the police to place every deserting fireman aboard the ship.

For the best part of an hour there was pandemonium on the quay. Many firemen appeared intoxicated and rushed about preventing other stokers from joining the ship. They still sang, "We're All Going the Same Way Home," being accompanied by a tin whistle band under the direction of a self-appointed conductor.

A meeting of the strikers was hastily formed o nthe [sic] quay and addressed by Mr. Cannon, Secretary of the Seafarers' Union, to which most of the men belong. Mr. Cannon told the men he would not take any responsibility himself, but would leave the matter entirely to them. His position would be directed by their vote.

Scores of hands went up in favor of a strike. There was not a single man who voted to rejoin the ship.

Just before the Olympic steamed away a stoker who had been left behind slid down one of the ropes at the bow on to the quay and joined his cheering comrades, who were holding another meeting at the entrance to the docks. An official of the Seafarers' Union, addressing the crowd, asserted that the firemen had left the Olympic because the White Star Line would not take proper precautions to save the lives of those aboard the vessel.

Mr. Walls, chief engineer of the Philadelphia, promptly contradicted the statement. "Don't you men be fools," he said. "You know what distress there is in town through the Titanic. Don't add to it. Be reasonable. The collapsible boats are all right in every way. If you will come to the Philadelphia I will put you aboard."

The Olympic strikers only jeered.

There is a decided conflict of opinion about the conditions of the collapsible boats. Capt. Clarke, the Board of Trade inspector, states that he personally tested the boats and found them all right. They had been previously passed by the Admiralty, he told the men, and he said he was prepared to accompany the Olympic to Cowes and there test any of the boats that they should select.

The strikers' side of the story, as told by Mr. Cannon, is:

"The men inspected the boats when they were mustered this morning and found many of them in a rotten condition. One man is alleged to have put his hand through the canvas of one boat. All the boats are from six to ten years old, and when the men tried to open them they could not do so. Further, only four extra men had been signed on to man the boats."

Mr. Curry, who accompanied the Olympic as far as the bar, said to-night: "We shall get a substitute crew at Spithead."

The sailors aboard the Olympic this evening sent the following Marconigram to Mr. Cannon:

"Shall the crew proceed in the Olympic? The sailors wait your decision."

Mr. Cannon said he was unable to advise the sailors, as such advice might be interpreted as incitement to mutiny, for which for which there was a heavy penalty. His reply was:

"You are aboard. They key of the situation is in your hands."

Twenty men were waiting in the White Star offices this evening ready to be signed on the Olympic, while the strikers were meeting in a neighboring school and expressing their determination to maintain their attitude.

An official of the company states that it is possible that the Olympic will sail to-morrow morning at 9 o'clock. To-night a tug left Southampton with forty firemen for her.

A Belfast telegram state that it is learned from a trustworthy source that thirty-two lifeboats, each accommodating sixty-five persons, have been forwarded by Harland & Wolff to Liverpool for the Olympic, which, it was understood, will proceed to Liverpool to take them aboard.

It is stated that the White Star officials at Southampton are confident of being able to replace the strikers. A hundred substitutes have already been taken aboard. but the strikers are picketing the offices of the company as well as the dock entrances and pier, and they declare that they will prevent the Olympic from sailing until the collapsible boats are replaced by wooden ones.

The White Star officials say the rumor that a number of passengers asked to be put ashore because they objected to sailing with a scratch crew is pure fiction.
SOUTHAMPTON, Thursday, April 25---The Olympic is lying off the Isle of Wight with 1,400 passengers aboard and no possibility of sailing before noon to-day, even if then. The White Star Company has succeeded in scraping together only sixty firemen.

There have been reports that some of the passengers refuse to sail, but they remain aboard the steamer.

The revolt of the firemen and greasers of the Olympic yesterday aroused immense excitement at the dockside, where great throngs had gathered to see the liner depart for America. All the passengers were on board, and the gangways from the dock to the ship, with the exception of one, had been withdrawn. As eight bells struck a perfect rain of firemen's kits suddenly dropped over the ship's forecastle onto the quay, and a few moments later the firemen and greasers filed down the single gangway.

By pressing into service all the available engine room hands on the other White Star and American liners in port the Olympic was able to leave dock just before 2 P.M. and to proceed down Southampton Water.

Commander Clarke of the Board of Trade says that there are forty-four lifeboats aboard the Olympic, including the collapsible boats, and that their total seating capacity is 2,500, which is largely in excess of the total of the passengers and crew. While he considers wooden lifeboats superior, he is satisfied with all the boats on board.

One of the leading stokers of the Olympic said: "What we demand is that every one of the lifeboats shall be a wooden one. Personally, I do not care, as I am unmarried, but many of the men have wives and families, and their lives are as valuable as those of the first-class passengers."

The crew of the Olympic was kept closely at boat drill after the arrival here of the liner, and the men are now expert in the management of collapsible boats.
BELFAST, April 24---Harland & Wolff have dispatched thirty-two lifeboats, each with a capacity of sixty-five persons, to Liverpool.

It is reported that the boats are for the Olympic, which is to proceed to the Mersey to receive them.
CHERBOURG, April 24---Three hundred and ten passengers of the Olympic arrived here this evening. They were already aboard the tenders when word was received that the Olympic would not reach Cherbourg to-night. They went ashore again and proceeded to hotels. The real cause of the delay was not known to the passengers, and there was considerable alarm in the fear that the steamer had met with an accident.

The New York Times, 26 April 1912

Now Satisfied with the Collapsible Boats, but Want Non-Strikers Dismissed
It Is Believed That the Liner Will Sail Early This Morning---Passengers Take to Kite Flying
Special Cable to THE NEW YORK TIMES
LONDON, April 25---The objections of the firemen of the White Star liner Olympic to the newly acquired collapsible lifeboats were arranged this evening, but the strikers made a new demand---the discharge of the firemen who yesterday remained loyal. This the company refused. It is recruiting firemen at Portsmouth, and it is stated to-night that the great liner will start on her voyage to New York with a new crew at 4 o'clock to-morrow morning.

The collapsible boats were this morning tested in the sea off Spithead. Officials of the Seafarers' Union and a deputation of nine firemen were special witnesses of the official tests.

"We agreed to test four of the collapsible boats selected by us," said the President of the Union to-night. "We tested the boats in water for three hours and passed three as seaworthy, though one of the three was leaking slightly. The fourth boat had a hole in her and was leaking badly. We agreed that she was unseaworthy, and afterward told Mr. Curry, the Southampton Manager of the White Star Line, and Capt. Haddock, the Commander of the Olympic, that we were prepared to recommend the men to return if the unseaworthy boat were replaced. These terms were accepted."

Mr. Curry's explanation was that the boat which is to be replaced was "leaking a little, presumably having been slightly damaged while being launched."

When the delegates arrived back in Southampton they discovered that the men had all gone home, but before dispersing the firemen had said they would not sail unless the men who remained in the ship yesterday were taken out. This demand the White Star Company refused to comply with. The officials said the line would abandon sailing rather than dismiss loyal men.

The officials of the Seafarers' Union are busy to-night rounding up the strikers, but the White Star Company is now obtaining firemen elsewhere. It has already recruited 100 from Portsmouth, while another 200, recruited in Liverpool, are expected to reach the Olympic at about 4 o'clock to-morrow morning.
SOUTHAMPTON, April 25---The White Star steamship Olympic, 300 firemen and oilers of which went on strike yesterday, has been obliged to spend another day and night off Rye, Isle of Wight, the passengers aboard amusing themselves with kite flying and other pastimes.

A deputation of union firemen, after exhaustive tests to-day in lowering, manning, and rowing the collapsible boats, returned to shore and reported all satisfactory with the exception of one, which, after being in the water for two hours, leaked. The deputation came back with the intention of recommending the strikers to return to duty. The strikers, however, had already dispersed.

Hundreds of small boats crowded with sightseers surrounded the Olympic as she lay in the Roads to-day. A number of officials of the Board of Trade went aboard the liner this morning, and the vessel's enforced stay was utilized for the carrying out of lifeboat drills. All the wooden boats were lowered and the crew also practiced with the collapsible craft.

The New York Times, 27 April 1912

Other Passengers Agreed to Stoke, but Services Were Refused and Trip Abandoned
Fifty-three Are Arrested and Face Mutiny Charge---Passengers Scurry for Other Ships
Special Cable to THE NEW YORK TIMES
LONDON, April 26---The Olympic to-day abandoned her scheduled trip to New York owing to the desertion of her seamen when the officials of the line attempted to put non-union men in the places of the striking firemen. The steamship, which has been delayed in the Solent since Wednesday, returned this evening to Southampton, where the passengers disembarked about 8 o'clock.

The trouble on the Olympic began Wednesday, when some firemen alleged that the collapsible boats obtained to supplement the former lifesaving apparatus were unseaworthy and refused to sail, leaving the ship. The company hastily recruited 100 men in Portsmouth and brought about 150 more by a special train from Liverpool and Sheffield.

These men reached the Olympic by tug late last night, but the seamen aboard made objection to the newcomers on the ground that they were non-unionists and not fit for the work.

The seamen then began to climb from the Olympic into the tug which had brought the strikebreakers. Capt. Haddock of the Olympic ordered them to return, but without effect. He then signaled by lamp to the cruiser Cochrane, whose Captain came aboard and warned the men that they were guilty of mutinous behavior and liable to heavy punishment. The men refused to return.

This morning the tug returned to Southampton with the deserters, and fifty-three seamen were arrested as they stepped ashore. They were brought before a magistrate on the charge of mutiny and were remanded till Tuesday.

Seventy-two of the passengers volunteered to work in the stokehold, but their offer was refused. The Duke of Sutherland tried to raise a crew of volunteer yachtsmen, but it was impossible to fill the places of all the deserters.

H. Rawitson of New York presided at a meeting of the first-class passengers held in the Olympic's smoking room.

"We were all on the side of the company," he said, "but we thought we were not getting sufficient information about what was happening. The feeling among the passengers was that we ought to know right there whether the ship was going to sail or not. We called in the chief purser and put the question to him. He told us that they were still waiting for instructions and would let us know as soon as possible."

Ralph A. Sweet was one of the seventeen first-class passengers who volunteered to act as stokers.

"Our idea," he said, "was that we should stoke the boat to Queenstown, where the Captain would have been able to get fresh men. About a hundred passengers volunteered altogether, and we would have been able to work in short watches. Capt. Haddock thanked us very nicely, and I thought he was going to put us to work right away, but he told us afterward that he would not call on our services."

The Duke of Sutherland expressed his complete satisfaction with everything that Capt. Haddock had done.

"I think all the passengers," he said, "will be sorry that they are not sailing under Capt. Haddock's care. As for the complaint that he did not give the passengers sufficient, I do not know what more he could have given them. Certainly he told them everything he knew. He got the firemen, and I have no doubt that if he had had more time he would have got the rest of the crew together.

"As for the boat which the firemen said was leaky, I should say there was about a teacupful of water in it after a long trial.

"I intend to sail Sunday from Southampton in the North German Lloyd liner Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm."

The Olympic will be laid up until May 15, the passage money being refunded.

Some of the passengers are making efforts to catch the Lusitania at Liverpool to-morrow. Others are taking German liners at Havre or Southampton.

Passengers awaiting the Olympic at Queenstown have been given the opportunity of sailing on the Baltic, and over 100 will leave aboard of her.
SOUTHAMPTON, April 26---The strike of the Olympic's seamen has a serious aspect beyond inconvenience to transatlantic travel, as the seamen, having signed for the voyage, laid themselves open to selves open to the charge of mutiny. Immediately following the walkout the White Star officials appealed to the authorities with the result that all the Olympic seamen, numbering fifty-four, were arrested when they came ashore.

The White Star officials have asked the Government to support them in their effort to obtain adequate punishment for the mutinous crew, adding that unless firmness is shown now the company would despair of being able to restore discipline and maintain its sailing schedules.

The latest development in the Olympic troubles caused a sensation in shipping circles here. Crowds of seamen and firemen thronged the docks throughout the day and many condemned the action of the strikers. The distress in this port is already great, in consequence of the loss of so many heads of families with the Titanic, and to-day's events will add to the hardship.

According to a report current here to-night, an arrangement is in prospect by which the Olympic will take the place of the Titanic in the sailing list next Wednesday. It is also rumored that the Olympic's strikers will be remanded, to enable the effecting of a conciliatory arrangement by which they will return to their steamer by that date.
LONDON, April 26---The National Sailors and Firemen's Union in this city to-day repudiated the action of the malcontents in the Olympic's crew. An official stated that the Seafarers' Union, an organization which recently broke away from the National Union, was responsible for the strike. He said:

"We are afraid that the men have been badly advised and regret their action because it will leave a bad impression and bring firemen generally into disrepute.

Some of the passengers who were booked to sail on the Olympic regard the action of the firemen and seamen in striking as utterly unwarranted, but many feel also that they were badly treated by the steamship company because they were kept on board the vessel two and a half days without being informed of the actual state of affairs.

While some of the first and second class passengers went to Liverpool to take the Lusitania, about 100 returned to LONDON to make such arrangements as suited them. Most of the second and third class passengers will take passage on the Philadelphia, leaving Southampton Wednesday.
******************** *****
They Will Be Distributed Among Many Other Steamships
Special Cable to THE NEW YORK TIMES
CHERBOURG, April 26---The canceling of the Olympic's trip left numerous prospective passengers stranded here. One special train alone brought 310 intending passengers from Paris on Wednesday.

They have become weary awaiting the arrival of the boat and besieged the company's office, making anxious inquiries. The officials were unable to say anything definite until this afternoon, when it was announced that the voyage had been abandoned.

Before this, however, many passengers had already lost patience and returned to Paris with the idea of sailing aboard the Provence, the President Grant, or the next vessel of the Holland-American Line.

Most of the first-class passengers remaining at Cherbourg will sail Sunday aboard the Friedrich Wilhelm or Wednesday aboard the Kronprinzessin Cecilie.

The third-class passengers and the majority of the second-class will remain at Cherbourg at the company's expense until the arrival of the Philadelphia.

One of the passengers, Miss G. T. Perkins, is in a particular hurry to reach New York, as she has learned by cable that her house has just been burned down.


[MAB note: The first dateline in this article, which originally read "April 28," has been corrected to "April 26." Sorry for any confusion.]
The New York Times, 1 May 1912

Appear in Police Court on Mutiny Charge---Case is Remanded
PORTSMOUTH, April 30---The seamen of the White Star liner Olympic, who
left that vessel after the strike of the firemen last week, were brought
to the police court here to-day on a charge of mutiny.

The testimony given was merely a statement of the events connected with
the trouble that occurred when the vessel was leaving Southampton.

The hearing was adjourned until May 4.

The New York Times, 2 May 1912

Will Sail May 15---The Philadelphia Bringing 200 of Her Passengers
By Marconi Transatlantic Wireless Telegraph to The New York Times
SOUTHAMPTON, MAY 1---No untoward incident marked the departure of the Philadelphia at noon to-day. She takes 200 second and third class passengers of the Olympic.

The passengers before sailing handed to the local manager of the White Star Line a resolution expressing gratitude for the generous treatment they had received during their detention in port owing to the defection of the Olympic's crew.

The White Star Company has decided that the Olympic shall miss altogether the trip to and from New York that was to commence last Wednesday. She will sail from Southampton on May 15. Passengers are now being booked.

The New York Times, 5 May 1912

Magistrates Find Charges Proved, but Forego Jailing or Fining Seamen
PORTSMOUTH, May 4---The seamen of the White Star liner Olympic, who quit that vessel after the strike of the firemen were allowed to go to-day by the magistrates sitting in the police court here, where the men were tried on a charge of mutiny. The magistrates decided that the charges were proved against the fifty-four mutineers, but expressed the opinion that it would be inexpedient to imprison or fine the defendants under the circumstances which had arisen prior to their refusal to obey orders.

The magistrates discharged the defendants and hoped they would return to duty.

The New York Times, 16 May 1912

Liner Sails for This Port---Special Staff to Look After Lifeboats
Special Cable to THE NEW YORK TIMES

LONDON, May 15---No untoward incident marred the departure of the
Olympic from Southampton to-day. Most of the men concerned in the
recent dispute had rejoined the ship.

The leading fireman is Barret, a Titanic survivor, who told the Wreck
Commissioner a vivid story of the engineers' experience after the
collision with the iceberg.

When the Olympic's men signed on Friday each man was told the number of
the lifeboat he would have to stand by in case of emergency, while four
men were engaged for the special purpose of looking after the lifeboats
during the voyage.


Note: With Olympic now back in regular service, this series of articles is at an end.
Mark, This was an amazing story and answers what I had been asking on another thread- I too found an article about this episode in a New England paper yesterday- it states 53 men were found guilty of mutiny. I wonder if there have been other like-type cases over the years? I remember the crew up in arms when word came the FRANCE was going to be taken out of service back in the 60's- it was a near-mutiny!
Hello, Shelly---

At least one other White Star "mutiny" is detailed on this board, a 1910 incident on Adriatic II; look here.

France, in fact, was essentially held hostage by her crew for a month after her final arrival at Le Havre; we have very barebones details on France's Great Ships page.
The Times, 25 April 1912


At Southampton Docks yesterday, five minutes before noon, the sailing
hour of the White Star liner Olympic, 300 firemen, carrying their kit,
marched down gangways and declared their intention not to sail. Their
grievance was the alleged unsatisfactory character of some additional
boats placed in the ship and the scarcity of seamen to look after the
boats. At a late hour last night the Olympic was anchored off Spithead
awaiting a crew of firemen.

The Olympic is the first Atlantic liner to leave the White Star berth in
the new dock since the departure of the Titanic, and in view of the
recent disaster seamen and firemen in the port have been discussing the
subject of boat accommodation. The company, on their part, have been
doing everything possible to meet all reasonable demands. They had
secured extra boats from transports lying in the river and from other
sources. Yesterday morning the Olympic had in the ship 44 boats capable
of carrying 2,500 persons. The passengers on board numbered 1,400; of
these, 200 were first, 375 second, and 825 were third class. The crew
numbered 900. The extra boat provision made by the company was
considered to be satisfactory to the men. The latter, however, further
stipulated that extra hands should be engaged to look after the boats
and see that they were in a fit condition at all times. The company
considered six men too many, but they agreed to engage four additional
able seamen. It was believe that everything had been arranged until
yesterday morning, when some of the firemen made a personal inspection
of the boats. They expressed themselves as dissatisfied with some of the
collapsible boats.


After the firemen had left the ship a consultation was held between the
local secretary of the British Seafarers' Union, the representatives of
the White Star Line, and the Board of Trade Surveyor. Mr. P. E. Curry,
manager of the White Star Line, questioned five leading firemen and five
greasers, and Commander Clarke, the Chief Emigration Officer, at the
invitation of Mr. Curry, explained what had been done in regard to
lifeboats. He said He had satisfied himself that the additional boats
placed on board the Olympic were fit for use. He was prepared to give
the men an undertaking, if they would take the Olympic down to Cowes,
that they would be allowed to choose any boats to which objection was
taken for a public demonstration in the water as to their fitness for
sea service. In reply, one of the men pointed out that, when once the
ship had left Southampton, there would be no possibility of their
returning, even if they did not want to go. The men were given five
minutes to decide whether they would or would not go in the ship. A
hurried meeting was held in an adjoining shed, when the secretary of the
men's union explained the company's offer, and asked the men to say
definitely whether they were prepared to go in the ship. The men, by a
very large majority, decided to remain out unless the company were
willing to provide wooden lifeboats instead of the collapsible boats. It
was pointed out that the company could not get the boats in time, but
the men adhered to their decision not to sail. It was stated that an
effort had been made to get the seamen to join the firemen. There was
some shouting from the ship that the seamen were coming ashore, but at
that time the gangways had been lowered.


After an hour's delay the vessel began to move slowly from her berth and
was soon swinging out into the deep channel. It was understood that the
engineers were doing duty in the stokeholds, assisted by engineers
attached to other ships of the company at present in port. It was the
intention to anchor the ship off Spithead to await a fresh crew of
hiremen. About 20 volunteers were engaged at the dockhead.

A leading fireman, who was chosen as one of the spokesmen to put the
men's case before the company's representatives, stated later that some
of the additional boats first supplied to the company were subsequently
condemned, and the men were afraid that others remaining on board were
not in a fit condition. The lives of the crew were, he urged, quite as
valuable as the lives of passengers. Most of their fellows had wives and
families, and should be considered. The company said it would take some
days to procure wooden lifeboats, and he replied that they had better
let the Olympic stay in dock until they had obtained them. As to a
demonstration off Cowes, the leading fireman pointed out that there was
no back door to an ocean liner at sea, and there was no means of getting
An official statement was issued yesterday in Liverpool by the White
Star Company.

They pointed out that the collapsible boats supplied to the Olympic were
of a type approved by the Board of Trade, and it was not practicable to
place sufficient boats of the ordinary kind in the ship.

As no notice of the men's intention was given until they deserted the
ship, the White Star Line could only interpret this action as
attributable to malicious persecution on the part of the men's leaders,
and the company felt it to be a cruel and cowardly attack upon them.

Mr. P. E. Curry, the Southampton manager of the White Star Line, last
night repudiated the suggestion of the men that the collapsible boats
had not been placed in the water. The boats had, he said, been
thoroughly overhauled and tested and officially passed as seaworthy.
A meeting of the firemen was held last night. COUNCILLOR T. LEWIS,
president of the British Seafarers' Union, said that the Board of Trade
might pass a boat as seaworthy and the lifeboat accommodation as fit,
but that fact did not prove that a ship had sufficient lifeboats to save
everybody on board. He asked the men if they were determined to continue
the stand they had taken, and in response there were loud cries of

After the meeting pickets were posted at the dock gates and outside the
White Star Office.

In reply to a message from the seamen on board the Olympic---"Shall crew
proceed on Olympic? Sailors await your decision"---the Southampton
officials of the British Seafarers' Union telegraphed last night, "No.
Union will support you."
The Sailors' and Firemen's Union in Liverpool last night received a
telegram from the Southampton branch reporting the trouble in the
Olympic, and adding, "Warn all branches to stop blacklegs."

Amongst the Olympic's passengers is the Duke of Sutherland, who is
proceeding to Alberta, Canada.

The Times, 26 April 1912


The Olympic this evening was still anchored off Ryde. About one-quarter
of the necessary complement of firemen were on board, including a few
of the old hands who remained loyal and a few who had returned, the
residue being new recruits from Southampton. At noon hope was aroused in
the passengers' minds by the announcement that the company expected to
be able to communicate some definite news on the situation shortly after
1; but there was no indication of progress till a quarter past 2, when
a number of delegates of the men's union were taken up to the captain's
room. Demonstrations were then given for their benefit of the launching
and manipulation of the collapsible boats to which they took exception.
Finally, about 5 o'clock, they agreed to recommend the resumption of
work on the condition that one of the boats, which, after being two
hours in the water, showed a little leakage, was substituted by another
before the vessel sailed. This condition was promptly agreed to by the
company, and steps were at once taken to bring a new boat from
Southampton and the remainder of the crew of firemen.


As previously stated, the Olympic, in the short time which has elapsed
since she reached Southampton on Saturday evening, has been provided
with 24 extra boats, bringing up her total boat accommodation to 2,514
persons, or 200 more than she is carrying on her present voyage. The
original equipment consisted of 14 wooden lifeboats, 30ft. long, and two
25ft. long, of the Board of Trade regulation pattern, with four
Englehart boats. The wooden boats are carried under davits along the
edges of the topmost, or boat, deck, there being four on each side of
the forward portion and four on each side of the aft portion. Of the
Englehart boats, two are arranged on the forward end of the deck, one
under each of the two smaller lifeboats, while two more are mounted on
top of the navigating house. The 24 new boats are of the Berthon
collapsible pattern, which is approved by the Admiralty and the Board of
Trade. They are placed on the deck in pairs, alongside the wooden boats,
supported on specially constructed chocks.

The boats, therefore, now stand three deep along the decks, but the
arrangement entails only a slight curtailment of the promenade. In the
Olympic the boat deck, contrary to the practice that obtains in many
ships, is open to passengers. The largest portion in the centre is for
those of the first class and the aft portion is for those of the second
class. Between these two portions is a smaller space for the engineers,
and the forward portion is reserved for the navigating officers. The
second-class space is that most interfered with, for it now contains 12
new boats, making, with eight old ones, 20 in all out of the total of
44. On the navigating officers' part of the deck there are now 16 boats,
but the engineers' space is not affected, and that of the first-class
passengers only to a small extent. The last still enjoy a piece of deck
200ft. long which contains no boats at all, and even if it should be
found necessary to fill this with boats it would not make a very serious
difference, as in the centre of the deck there is a raised platform high
enough to give a clear view over the boats if they were there.


After all, there is no chance of the vessel's leaving to-night. When the
tender reached Southampton it was found that the firemen had scattered.
to their homes. Moreover, they declared that they would not return to
work unless the White Star Company dismissed the seventeen men who
remained loyal yesterday. This the company absolutely refused to do.
Our Sheffield correspondent, telegraphing last night, stated that the
White Star Company had representatives there yesterday seeking men to
act as stokers in their liners. Between 500 and 600 men attended at the
Great Central Railway Station, and from these the best were selected:
228 of them travelled by special train last night from Sheffield to

A Portsmouth correspondent states that the White Star Line agent signed
on firemen in that town last night for the Olympic. These, with others,
who are expected from Liverpool at 2 a.m., will embark from the harbour
station. The Olympic is, he adds, expected to leave at 8 o'clock this
The tugboat Albert Edward, with the deputation of the Seafarers' Union
officials and men, returned to Southampton in the evening, and it was
then discovered that the firemen had been, owing to misunderstanding,
sent to their homes earlier in the day. Mr. Lewis, the president of the
union, afterwards stated that the deputation put the views of the men
before Captain Haddock, the commander of the Olympic, and Mr. P. Curry,
the local manager of the White Star Line, and added:---

It was agreed that the men should inspect any four collapsible lifeboats
they might choose to select. Fully three hours were spent inspecting
these boats; they found three to be seaworthy, but the fourth had a hole
in her. The boat was taken out and the water baled out.. Mr. Cannon and
myself consulted the sailors and decided that this boat was unseaworthy.
We then returned to the captain's room and said we should be prepared to
recommend the men to return to work subject to the unseaworthy boat
being changed.
Mr. P. Curry also described the demonstration. He stated that the
Berthon boats were lowered into the water, manned and rowed round the
ship entirely to the satisfaction of the union officials and delegates,
with the exception of one boat, which, after it had been in the water
for two hours, leaked a little. It had presumably been a little damaged
in the course of being launched. He proceeded:---

Arrangements were made with the union officials and delegates that they
should immediately return to Southampton and urge the men who left the
ship on Wednesday, and were standing by for orders from the union, to
return immediately to the ship provided the company put on board one
other boat in the place of that damaged. This they agreed to do. The tug
returned to Southampton for the purpose. On arrival it was found that
the men had all gone away and before leaving had said that they would
not sail in the ship, no matter what the result of the boat
demonstrations might be, unless the men who had remained in the ship on
Wednesday were taken out of her. This the White Star Line did not see
their way to comply with. I am informed that the union officials find it
impossible to get the men together to-night as they live in various
outdistricts, but a meeting has been called for 7 o'clock to-morrow
morning. A telegram has been sent to each man, explaining the
situation, and it is more than probable that the men will be advised by
the leaders to return to the ship to-morrow.

The Times, 27 April 1912


The voyage of the White Star Liner Olympic from Southampton to New York,
which was interrupted on Wednesday in consequence of the refusal of the
firemen to remain on board, was abandoned yesterday because the seamen
decided not to sail with the new firemen, who had been recruited from
Portsmouth and Sheffield, and the vessel, which has been lying off Ryde,
was ordered back to Southampton.

The managers of the Line yesterday sent a telegram to the
Postmaster-General stating the circumstances in which they had been
compelled to abandon the voyage of the Olympic and expressing the
earnest hope that official support would be accorded to them in the
efforts they intended making to secure proper punishment of the crew's
"mutinous behaviour."

Fifty-three seamen who left the vessel on the previous night were
arrested yesterday and brought before the magistrates at Portsmouth and
charged with wilfully disobeying the command of the captain. After some
evidence had been taken the cases were remanded until Tuesday.

A considerable number of the passengers of the Olympic returned to
Southampton last evening, and some of them proceeded to London.
In the small hours of yesterday morning events in the Olympic underwent
a rather serious development, and in consequence, a dramatic little
scene was enacted in the presence of a mere handful of spectators on one
of the lower decks forward.

After the first batch of new firemen from Portsmouth had completed their
disembarcation, most of the seamen left the ship and retired with their
kits to a tender lying alongside. Standing on the edge of a doorway in
the side of the Olympic, the captain solemnly warned these offenders
against the course they were pursuing, and ordered them to return to the
ship. But his exhortations proving of no avail signals were sent, first
by wireless, and when no attention was attracted, then by Morse flash
lights, to the Cochrane, which was the nearest warship, intimating that
part of the crew had deserted, and asking for assistance.


In response, Captain Goodenough, of the Cochrane, came over to the
Olympic in a cutter, and after a long consultation with the Olympic's
captain, addressed the strikers. In reply to his questions one of their
spokesmen gave three reasons for their defection---namely, the class of
men who had just been taken on as firemen, the fact that the latter were
not unionists, and the unseaworthiness of the boats. Captain
Goodenough's answer was to point out that there are authorities
appointed to see that the boats and other equipment are serviceable, and
that nothing was said in the articles they had signed as to the kind of
men with whom they had to work. The rejoinder of the men was to the
effect that the situation had changed since they signed the articles,
because an unsuitable crew had been shipped.

Captain Goodenough then urged that to leave their ship was unseamanlike,
and he warned them that combination to do so in an open roadstead was an
act of mutiny. When he asked whether their complaint was that the new
men who had been shipped were not firemen at all and whether that was
the reason why they were refusing to do their duty, he was greeted with
a chorus of affirmation, but the noes were equally vigorous when he
directed them to return to their ship. Finally he gave up the attempt to
move them and went back to his own ship to ask for instructions from
higher authority.

In the absence of another message the captain of the Olympic
communicated again with the Cochrane two hours later, pointing out that
his crew of stokers was complete, and that he was only awaiting the
return of the seamen to duty to proceed on his voyage. But no reply was
given, and at 8 a.m. the Cochrane was seen getting under way without
having made any further communication.

When the second batch of stokers, those who had travelled by special
train from Sheffield, came off from Portsmouth, they were
accompanied---not at the request of the Olympic's captain---by a large
body of policemen, and these about 10 o'clock escorted the strikers, who
had meantime been kept on board the tender by themselves, to Portsmouth,
to be charged.


Strenuous efforts were made during the day to secure the number of
qualified seamen necessary to enable the Olympic to continue her voyage,
and her officers were ashore at dawn scouring the neighbouring coasts
for recruits. But trade union activity was too strong for the White
Star, and at 3.20 yesterday afternoon, when rather more than a score of
seamen were still wanting to fulfil the Board of Trade requirements, the
announcement was reluctantly made by the company that the voyage must be
Owing to the action taken by the men on board the Olympic the White Star
Company have sent the following telegram to the Postmaster-General:---

"Regret to inform you that after shipping satisfactory engine-room crew,
the deck, and hitherto loyal men in engine room, refused duty, asserting
they would not sail with substitute men." Under these circumstances, we
have been compelled to order Olympic back to Southampton, and abandon
voyage. Earnestly hope you will secure for us official support in
efforts we intend making to secure proper punishment of crew's mutinous
behaviour, as, unless firmness is shown now, we despair of restoring
discipline and maintaining sailings."

The officials of the Post Office, while confirming the receipt of this
message, were not prepared to discuss the question which it raises. They
have arranged for the transference of the mails in the Olympic to the
Lusitania, which sails from Liverpool to-day. The Lusitania will also
take on board 1,400 sacks of mails which have been lying at Queenstown
awaiting the Olympic.
Nearly all the 100 first-class and a few of the 371 second-class
passengers of the Olympic came ashore by tender yesterday afternoon. The
White Star Company had arranged for a special train for those who
desired to come up to London, and about 60 arrived at Waterloo at 9.30
last evening.

The Duke of Sutherland, who remained on board last night, stated he
intended to leave in the Norddeutscher Lloyd steamer Prinz Friedrich
Wilhelm, which calls at Southampton to-morrow. He added:---

They had been very well treated on board and the passengers were only
sorry to have to leave the ship so soon. The captain could not possibly
have done more than he had done. The company had succeeded in getting
sufficient firemen, and no doubt if they had had more time they would
have got the crew together. The water in the collapsible boat which the
deputation complained of would just about have filled a tea-cup. There
was really nothing the matter with the boat, and the men only raised the
objection to it as an excuse. He had telegraphed to the Royal Yacht
Squadron for seamen and believed they could have got plenty of men had
the voyage not been abandoned.

The passengers who have been waiting at Queenstown were given the
opportunity of proceeding to New York by the White Star S.S. Baltic, and
over 100 left on board that vessel yesterday.
The 53 members of the Olympic's crew arrested yesterday were landed at
Portsmouth Harbour and given into the custody of the borough police, who
marched them to the Town Hall under a strong escort of constables. The
men appeared to be in the best of spirits, and spent the time which
elapsed between landing and waiting to appear before the magistrates in
smoking and singing. They were brought up at the Police Court at 3 p.m.,
the magistrates being Messrs. J. J. Sapp, H. Kirnber, H. I. Evans, and
A. Grigsby. Among the defendants were six quartermasters, the remainder
being practically all seamen.

The charge preferred against them was that they jointly, being seamen
engaged in the steamship Olympic, lying off Stokes Bay, did wilfully
disobey the lawful commands of the captain on the 26th inst.

Mr. C. F. Hiscock, of Southampton, prosecuted on behalf of the White
Star Line; Mr. C. A. Emanuel, Southampton, and Mr. G. Hall King,
Portsmouth, defended, acting on the instructions of the National Seamen
and Firemen's Union, which was represented by Mr. Loader, the local
secretary. The prisoners, being far too numerous for the dock to hold,
were placed in the well of the Court in seats ordinarily allotted to the


Mr. Hiscock said that the 53 defendants were charged under section 225
of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, the effect of the charge being that
they as seamen were guilty of wilful disobedience and were liable to
imprisonment for a period not exceeding four weeks and to forfeit
certain wages. In dealing with the circumstances which led to the charge
Mr. Hiscock said that efforts were made by the White Star Line to obtain
substitutes for the men who left the ship at Southampton. About
half-past 10 on the previous night a number of men were taken by a
tender from Portsmouth to the Olympic to fill vacancies. Shortly after
the men were aboard the defendants found out that they were
non-unionists, and the defendants refused to remain aboard the Olympic
unless the non-union men were sent away. Subsequently another lot of men
arrived to fill the ship's complement. The defendants then packed up
their traps, put them under their arms, walked aboard the tender, and
refused to return to the Olympic again. They remained aboard the tender
all night. Captain Haddock, the chief officer, and Mr. Withers asked the
men to return to the Olympic, but they refused to sail with
non-unionists. They were logged at 12.15 midnight, and yesterday
morning, at 9 a.m., Captain Haddock read over to each man the entry in
the log, a certified copy of which was put in. The defendants again
refused to go on board, and as a result they were taken ashore and given
into custody.


Mr. John Edwin Jared Withers, fifth officer of the Olympic, detailed the
circumstances which led up to the events which formed the subject of the
charge. He said that after the non-unionists went aboard the Olympic the
defendants went aboard the tender. He heard the captain ask the men to
return to the Olympic, but they refused to do so while there were
non-unionist men on board the ship.

Mr. Emanuel (cross-examining)--.-Did they say the men engaged knew
nothing about their work?---I only heard the rumour.

Did you hear them say that there were not 25 of the men who had been
engaged who were firemen, and that the men did not know how to do the
work?---I did not hear that.

Did they also say that the men who had been engaged knew nothing about
boats or how to lower one?---Not to my knowledge.

So far as the seamen were concerned did they object to go to sea with a
scratch crew of firemen who did not know how to handle a boat?---The
only thing that I heard was that they would not go with non-union men.

Did the firemen say they were not going to risk their lives with people
who could not stoke, and that unless you could get proper firemen they
objected to go to sea?---Not in my hearing.

Did they complain about the boats and that you had not got the right
tackle for lowering Berthon boats?---I heard nothing about it.

As a matter of fact you have not got this tackle.---It is a question of
what is proper tackle.

Mr. G. Hall King (cross-examining):---Was there not a long argument on
these matters between the captain and the defendants?-I do not know of

As a matter of fact 284 men went ashore at Southampton?---I do not know
the number.

Don't you want to answer my question?---I am answering it to the best of
my ability. I saw a quantity of men go down the gangway but I cannot say
how many.

I suggest you started from Southampton short of 284 of the crew?---The
crew was short, and these men strongly objected to that.

I suggest you were so short that the officers had to help cast off the
ship and had to send stewards to the stokeholds to help stoke?---I heard

And you picked up anything wearing a suit of clothes that you
could?-Hardly that.

Mr. Hiscock objected to Mr. King's questions.

The Bench said they saw no harm in the questions.

Mr. King---Is it not a fact that the men complained to you and other
officers about the badly manned state of the ship?---I heard nothing
previously only what passed
in conversation.


Mr. King.---I suggest that many of the boats put aboard were
unseaworthy, that three out of four tested proved unseaworthy, and it
took half an hour to get a boat into the water?---No, Sir.

Were the Berthon boats all stuck together with paint half an inch thick
and would not open so that it took three hours and a half to lower four
boats?---I did not take the time.

Is it not true that the moment one of the boats went into the water it
was flooded over the floor boards?---I can only speak of the boat I
launched; it came back perfectly dry.

It was a very scratch crew you took on. Is it true that only three of
the men were able to show discharge papers?---I do not know.

Only three out of the 200 men had ever been to sea before as
stokers?---I do not know.

If you were taking over 200 stokers absolutely inexperienced you might
naturally expect some difficulty. If any arose would not the defendants
be the ones sent below to do these men's work for them?---Probably.

Was it your intention to take on French stokers at Cherbourg?---It is
the first I have heard of it.

Had not the captain instructions to take as many French stokers as he
could get at Cherbourg and take on the rest at Queenstown?---I heard we
were to take some seamen aboard at Queenstown.

Do you consider the boats supplied to the ship were seaworthy?---Yes.

I suggest they were a lot of boats off old troopers stuck together with
paint for years and to a great extent rotten?---I would be content to go
into any sea with the boat I was in.

Chief Inspector Moore, of the Portsmouth Police, said he heard the
captain order the defendants to return to the ship. Some one made the
reply, '"Not with non-unionists." The defendants were given into the
witness's custody on Portsmouth Harbour Pier. He read over the warrant
to them and they made no reply.


Mr. Hiscock upon this evidence asked for a remand until next Tuesday.

Mr. Emanuel, in applying for bail, said there was a lot to be said on
behalf of the defendants.

Mr. Hall King also applied for bail for the defendants.

The Bench remanded the defendants until next Tuesday and granted bail
each on his own recognizance in the sum of £10.

It was intimated that at the next hearing counsel would probably be
employed on each side and important evidence would be given. It was also
stated that many of the defendants had been for a considerable time in
the White Star Company's employ.

Chalkie what exactly is the purpose of these posts ?

They contain a lot of old information that most of us are already familiar with and often state the obvious.
Adriatic, Oceanic, Olympic. WSL ships that had muntines aboard them. Although today they probably would have been considered a strike or walkout more than mutiny. Does anyone know if there were any other WSL ships that recorded a mutiny? I looked but didn't find anything. Cheers