Gigantic

Bob Read

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Mar 3, 2002
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There are those who would say that it never was intended to be named Gigantic. There are however a number of other pieces of evidence that seem convincing that it was. I personally believe it was intended to be Gigantic. The names of this class were supposed to convey massive size. After the sinking of Titanic it was clear that size alone did not necessarily mean safety which became a more important factor.
Originally it was thought that the larger vessel was necessarily safer. Titanic changed that. White Star now did not want to emphasize size and especially with a name like Gigantic. They emphasized safety and went to a more stately name like Britannic which had no negative connotations. Whether one agrees with that theory or not, it is the conventional "wisdom" at this time.
 

Mark Baber

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Hello, Ryan---

1. We're quite aware of the Greek mythological origins of the names, and have discussed it many times. Look, for example, here, here and here.

2. It might not be a bad idea to search the prior posts before posting a message suggesting that "I know something that you don't know." That kind of message is probably not appropriate in any event, but particularly when it's something that's been discussed here before.
 

Phillip Ivey

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I think that White Star changed the name because after the Titanic disaster, White Star knew that it would lose public support. White Star therefore changed the name to Britannic because it had a patriotic ring to it, which would hopefully gain back some public support.
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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I think the Gigantic story should be quietly scuttled in deep water.

In my e-book, I have assembled good evidence against it, including a hand-written document from Harland and Wolff.

The claims about the name come from unauthoritative sources and look very like a media beatup.
 
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Bob Read

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Mar 3, 2002
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David:
I must disagree with you. I believe from the links given above where Greek mythology was referenced that very strong evidence would suggest the Olympians, the Titans and the Giants
were to be represented in these names.
In addition to that I would point to the advertisement which I have linked to below.
Idle scuttlebutt? I think not.
http://webpages.charter.net/bpread/photos/brit8.jpg

Regards,
Bob Read
 

Dave Gittins

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Sorry, Bob, but that poster is exactly what I mean about unauthoritative sources.

It has no indication that it was issued by White Star or H & W. Worse still, the ship is in an approximation of Cunard livery. Anybody could draw and issue a fantasy poster.
 

Steve Olguin

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Mar 31, 2005
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Thank you Bob. I find it utterly ridicules that people take the word of H and W on this matter when other evidence proves otherwise. Obviously they were envisioned as Olympic Titanic and Gigantic. Britannic just does not have the same "tone" as Gigantic. It is more than obvious that H and W as well as WSL would do anything to put themselves in a better light. Just my idea. I don't see why they would make an ad for Gigantic just for fun.
 

Dave Gittins

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"I don't see why they would make an ad for Gigantic just for fun."

I do. Whoever made the poster made it for the same reason people make posters of all kinds of things today. Today it's imaginary space ships, fantasy racing cars, mythical monsters and goodness knows what else.

All the sources for Gigantic are of this kind. There's a particularly silly story in The New York Times of 25 November 1911.

I stick to my guns and my source.
 

Bob Read

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Dave:
I can't argue the authenticity of the poster. You would seem to have a larger problem. How do you discount the obvious incongruity of the name Britannic with the Greek mythological figures of the Olympians, the Titans, and the Giants? Unless I have forgotten my Greek mythology I don't remember the Britons. Stick by your guns but make sure they haven't been spiked.

Regards,
Bob Read
 

James Smith

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Dec 5, 2001
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Unless I have forgotten my Greek mythology I don't remember the Britons.

Perhaps White Star was indulging an extreme sense of "God is an Englishman" nationalism? ;-)

--Jim
 
Nov 26, 2005
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Forgive me if this post comes as pointless but both the 'Inside The Britannic' and the book 'Titanic Survivor Violet Jessop' both very briefly touch on the name change from Gigantic to Britannic and didn't say if it was anything related to Greek mythology, but did say that it was changed because the owners of White Star didn't want to tempt fate again with a name as suggestive as Gigantic. Doubt this is of any help, I just thought I'd throw it in.
 
Dec 7, 2000
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Dave,

In a small article published in The Nation titled "The Monster Ship" (May 9, 1912, vol.94, #2445, pp.454 - 455), which questions whether ships are getting too big, as a response to the Titanic disaster, the third ship from the Olympic class is referred to as "Gigantic". Someone obviously spread the word that the ship was going to be named "Gigantic". I have read the Britannic being referred to as Gigantic in many of the earlier sources. I thought this was perhaps even as late as August 1912, but I have no sources to confirm that. If the world was calling the third ship "Gigantic" incorrectly, wouldn't WSL would have wanted to do something about it?

Regards,

Daniel.

PS. This article also proves that the ship was still being referred to as "Gigantic" at least almost a month after the Titanic disaster, which dispoves the common belief that WSL changed the name in a hurry after the disaster.
 

Dave Gittins

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I agree that the name was being bandied about after 14 April 1912.

I keep coming back to the credibility of the sources.

We have the poster of unknown date and origin, showing a Cunard ship.

There's a silly tale in The New York Times about Gigantic, which will be 1,000 feet long and sport a cricket pitch and other unlikely amenities.

There are figures in Lloyd's Weekly News and also in The Deathless Story of the Titanic. Gigantic is listed as building. She's to be 1,000 feet long and 112 feet wide. She's to be 50,000 GRT, which is obviously stupid. Such a ship would have to be something at least 80,000 GRT. Some may not know that Lloyd's Weekly News had no connection to Lloyd's of London. Its publisher probably would have liked to give that impression, but the publication can't be regarded as an accurate source.

Anybody who knew anything about H & W would have known that 1,000 foot ships could not be built in its facilities. Another sign of fantasy!

I see no real reason why the sequence of Greek names should have been followed. There was a big gap between the orders for the ships. The first two were ordered on 31 July 1908. The order for Britannic followed on 20 June 1911.

The first intelligent and accurate reference to the third ship that I can find dates from 11 December 1911. She's described as being much like the earlier two, but a little wider. No name is given.

The earliest reference to Britannic seems to be on 31 May 1912 in The New York Times. This may have given the impression of a hasty change of name following the sinking.

I have an important document on this but I was allowed to use it in my e-book under strict conditions. It's good evidence that the name was never going to be Gigantic.

If any more light can be found on the subject, it may be in old Belfast newspapers. According to a Southampton paper, the name was invented by an Olympic crewman to fool American reporters. That's as may be!
 
Dec 7, 2000
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Dave,

You have some valid points. When Olympic and Titanic were ordered, weren't their names for the July 1908 order actually entered as "Olympic" and "Titanic"? The best way to check if Britannic's name was ever going to be Gigantic, is to see whether or not the June 1911 order was placed for "Gigantic"? As I haven't seen the latter source I can't comment on that. I assume you have perhaps Dave?

Furthermore, I remember reading another article, probably shortly after the disaster where the third ship is mentioned. The article admits the ship had no name and was "probably" going to be called Gigantic. Someone obviously invented that name, and everyone else ran with it!

Daniel.
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Hello,

Forgive me for a relatively short reply, but I did just want to contribute a little. I haven’t been following Britannic as I should in recent months:

I agree that the name was being bandied about after 14 April 1912.
You mean the name Gigantic? If so, are you aware of any pre-April 1912 sources that refer to the ship as Britannic?

FWIW, there are plenty of pre-spring 1909 reports as to Olympic being called Olympic — in fact it was announced well before the ship was laid down. That’s a similar construction period for the lead ship of the class.

We have the poster of unknown date and origin, showing a Cunard ship.
It’s fair enough to consider the poster dodgy, especially in light of the lack of knowledge as to it’s background. Maybe sometime someone will shed light on that poster — such as it’s publisher, date, and so forth.

There's a silly tale in The New York Times about Gigantic, which will be 1,000 feet long and sport a cricket pitch and other unlikely amenities.
Which hardly argues against the name Gigantic, in my opinion! Articles about the Olympic right from 1908 were exaggerated, saying she would be 1,000 feet long and other things. It’s not uncommon for ‘golf links’ and such to be erroneously referred to.

There are figures in Lloyd's Weekly News and also in The Deathless Story of the Titanic. Gigantic is listed as building. She's to be 1,000 feet long and 112 feet wide. She's to be 50,000 GRT, which is obviously stupid. Such a ship would have to be something at least 80,000 GRT.
Again, fantasy dimensions. However, inaccuracies are hardly new. There are any number of ships whose size has been exaggerated — such as that North German Lloyd vessel (around 1913?)…maybe Mark Baber knows more.

Anybody who knew anything about H & W would have known that 1,000 foot ships could not be built in its facilities. Another sign of fantasy!
For those dimensions, yes it’s fantasy; but for the name Gigantic? They seem to be two different things in my view — one, the name of the ship; and two, the ship’s specifications. You can get one right without the other one being wrong.

I see no real reason why the sequence of Greek names should have been followed. There was a big gap between the orders for the ships. The first two were ordered on 31 July 1908. The order for Britannic followed on 20 June 1911.
Originally, I would believe it was expected that the sequence would be followed. I would have thought that by 1911-12, one key reason to reconsider the name Gigantic would have been the new enormous German liners on the horizon. Gigantic she may have been…but the Germans would have been longer, and unlike Olympic the third liner would not have been uniquely enormous when she entered service. And then the Titanic disaster…

The first intelligent and accurate reference to the third ship that I can find dates from 11 December 1911. She's described as being much like the earlier two, but a little wider. No name is given.
I think that’s the rub: I’ll readily admit that the Gigantic/Britannic name change is very entrenched in the history of the Olympic class, yet I think you’d have to find a pre-Titanic source referring to her as Britannic. It’s not fair simply to dismiss it as, in large part, a ‘myth’ that people have uncritically accepted.

The earliest reference to Britannic seems to be on 31 May 1912 in The New York Times. This may have given the impression of a hasty change of name following the sinking.
I have an incomplete research paper lying about somewhere on the topic. From memory, however, that mention is correct.

There are other, apparently little-mentioned points as to the name Gigantic. There’s a registry of White Star Liners’ names, dates, from around the period that the Olympics were coming into service. According to this, the name Britannic was ‘registered’ in May 1912 (whatever that means); and in June 1913 the application for the name Britannic was renewed. Now, that doesn’t prove anything one way or the other — although it’s interesting that the name Britannic didn’t appear until May. I’d like to research more into this and write it in my paper, rather than do an injustice to my as-yet-incomplete argument. FWIW, I haven’t found the equivalent dates for Olympic or Titanic.

I have an important document on this but I was allowed to use it in my e-book under strict conditions. It's good evidence that the name was never going to be Gigantic.
You caption the register as: ‘A register kept by Charles Payne, a director of Harland and Wolff, shows no sign of the name of Britannic being changed. It records her change of tonnage on being converted to a hospital ship, and her sinking. Courtesy of Charles Payne, grandson of Charles Payne.’ There isn’t actually a date given, but it’s only natural that the changes to the ship’s tonnage and intended service would be recorded as they changed in 1915-16. Do we know for a fact that this register was first written up prior to the Titanic disaster? It would seem that the document's authority would rise or fall with that knowledge.

Best wishes,

Mark.
 

Bob Read

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Mar 3, 2002
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Mark:
Your rebuttal was a tour de force. Britannic's keel was laid on November 30,1911. I think it is reasonable to assume that they had a name in mind at the start of construction which was pre-Titanic disaster. Therefore the events of the Titanic disaster would have had no influence at that time. It would be interesting if there were an early construction photo with a name board at the forward end of the gantry as Olympic and Titanic had but I don't recall ever seeing one.

Regards,
Bob Read