If the Britannic had lived to sail the seas in commerical service What would it be like

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Nigel Bryant

Jan 14, 2001
Wellington, New Zealand
I know this is a major "what if" but If the Britannic had not been attacked by the mine and she returned to White Star for commercial sailings can anyone imagine what it would be like? White Star will be back in the profits with the largest luxurious liner. White Star would have a very strong passenger fleet which would include the Majestic,Olympic and Britannic. What would it be like travelling in Britannic's luxurious first-class spaces and how would they compare to the Olympic and Titanic's interior spaces?

Regards Nigel

Remco Hillen

Dec 13, 1999
Hello Nigel,

Question also is, would White Star have been 'given' Majestic, if Britannic would have survived.

But that aside, I'm quite sure that Britannic would have been one of the most popular ships afloat.
During her trips as a Hospital ship she proved to be very stable, even in very bad weather.
She also was more luxurious(the pipe organ in the Grand Staircase says enough
)and had, in theory, a very good safety system.
Things people would like to see those days.

Mark Chirnside might have some interesting things/quotes about this, but I think he is on holiday now.

I'll try to make a large post later, I'm in a bit of a rush right now.


Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
>White Star will be back in the profits with the largest luxurious liner.

White Star was never "out of the profits"; the line was consistently profitable until 1930, when the triple whammy of the Depression, U.S. immigration restrictions and the financial manipulations of the Royal Mail Group (which sucked up White Star's profits to pay dividends to other constituent companies and to make needlessly expensive acquisitions of other lines) pushed it into the red.

True, its front line service of Majestic/Olympic/Homeric may not have been quite the equal of Cunard's Mauretania/Aquitania/Berengaria trio due in large part to Homeric's substandard performance. But remember that the German lines were wiped out by the Treaty of Versailles; as a result, of the major prewar players, Cunard and White Star had the Europe-US trade virtually to themselves until NDL and Hapag regrouped, and remained among the top three (with Canadian Pacific) in the Canada trade. Plus which, White Star's Australia and New Zealand services (the latter operated jointly with Shaw, Savill and Albion) remained strong.

By the time the War ended, though, IMM was looking to cut expenses as much as possible, since Morgan's shipping empire as a whole had never been as profitable as he had expected, even with White Star's success. One result is that only one ship---Doric---was built for White Star from the end of the War until the Royal Mail acquisition. (A second, Laurentic, was ordered before the sale but didn't enter service until late 1927.) Most of the additions to the fleet were German war reparations (Majestic, Homeric and Arabic), British War Standard vessels purchased from the government (Gallic, Bardic and Delphic), or transfers from other IMM lines (Vedic, Regina, Pittsburgh and Haverford). And yet, throughout the decade, White Star remained profitable even without two of the planned three ships of the Olympic class.

White Star's fate was not sealed until the late 1920's, after IMM sold the line to Royal Mail in 1926. By the early 30's, the combination of the Depression and US immigration restrictions had badly hurt numerous lines, including White Star and Cunard. In White Star's case, this was compounded by the Royal Mail fiasco, so that by 1934 White Star was clearly the weaker of the two partners in the Cunard-White Star merger. But that was a late-breaking development that had nothing to do with the loss of Titanic or Britannic.

Although the thought is often expressed that White Star was not profitable after Titanic's sinking, I've never seen any meaningful support for that thought. Ten years of postwar profitability, it seems to me, are to the contrary.

Sources: Anderson's White Star; de Kerbrech & Williams' Cunard White Star Liners of the 1930s; Green and Moss' A Business of National Importance: The Royal Mail Shipping Group, 1902-1937; Haws' Merchant Fleets; Mallett and Hall's The Pirrie-Kylsant Motorships; Moss and Hume's Shipbuilders to the World: 125 Years of Harland and Wolff, Belfast, 1861-1986; The New York Times for various dates in 1926, 1927, 1933 and 1934; Oldham's The Ismay Line.

>Question also is, would White Star have been 'given' Majestic, if Britannic would have survived.

My guess would be that White Star would have bought Bismarck (Majestic), anyway, but might well have passed on Columbus (Homeric). Bismarck and Imperator were jointly purchased from (not given by) the British government by Cunard and White Star, and were jointly owned by the two lines from 1921 to 1931. Cunard, of course, operated Imperator as Berengaria, and Bismarck became White Star's Majestic. A first line service of Majestic, Britannic and Olympic would certainly have been keenly competitive with Berengaria/Aquitania/Mauretania.

Columbus would have been the odd man out, I think. Bismarck was a much better ship for the Southamton service than Columbus, especially if Olympic and Britannic were to be her running mates. (She was also much closer in nature to the proposed, but never built, 60,000 ton Homeric than Columbus was.) White Star wouldn't have needed a ship like Columbus for the Southampton service if it had the three big ships. Nor would there have been a spot for her on the secondary New York service out of Liverpool, with all of the Big Four surviving the war. And she was simply too big to be a realistic choice for any of White Star's other services---Boston, Canada, New Zealand or Australia.

Sources: Bonsor's North Atlantic Seaway; Haws' Merchant Fleets; Miller's Pictorial Encyclopedia of Ocean Liners, 1860-1994; Braynard's Classic Ocean Liners.


Dave Hudson

Apr 25, 2001
What would have become of the Columbus? I think she would have been bought by the US in order to be a running mate for the Leviathan. Possibly the SS Behemoth? j/k



Thomas Ford

Nov 30, 2000
hi all, speaking of Britannic does anyone have any pics of the smoking room I tired the official Britannic research site but the pics aren't coming up at all, I do have one of the grand staircase and I don't know if anyone noticed but on the wall facing the staircase below the organ pipes is what I thought to be the clock anyone notice that object?

Brent Holt

Jun 23, 2002
I doubt if Britannic's survival after the war would have changed things much. She would probably have gone to the scrappers in 1936, shortly after Olympic. One ship would not have made much difference in White Star's financial situation.
Although she might have been bought by the Royal Navy and used as the Majestic/Caledonia was. Unlike Caledonia, however, she might not have burned up and could have been used as a troop transport.

Daniel Odysseus

Perhaps Britannic's survival wouldn't have mattered after the Cunard-WSL merger, but I think that it would've mattered after the war, in the 20's.

Olympic and Majestic were both pretty successful in the twenties, as were Mauretania, Aquitania and Berengaria. But Homeric, though of similar size as Mauretania, had a crusing speed of less than 20 knots. If, instead of Homeric, Britannic was on the service, White Star would have more profits. It may not save them from being the weaker merger, but it certainly would've helped WSL while they were independent...
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