News from 1914: The Launch of Britannic II

Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
The New York Times, 27 February 1914

Claim Made for White Star Liner Britannic, Launched Yesterday
BELFASH, [sic] Feb. 26---The launching to-day of the Britannic, the 50,000-ton White Star liner, marks an important development in constructional safety, so far as engineering ingenuity can insure it.

The Britannic, which is intended for the transatlantice [sic] service, had just been laid down when the Titanic disaster occurred, and as a result, the plans of the new liner were almost completely remodeled, which accounts for her long stay on the stocks.

She is a triple-screw steamer, 900 feet in length, and there has been introduced into her construction every device possible to prevent a recurrence of such a disaster as overtook the Titanic. A complete inner skin extends to a considerable height above the load line, the most vulnerable portion of the vessel, and the height and number of the bulkheads have been increased. It is said for the Britannic that she will be able to float with any six compartments flooded.

The inner skin consists of heavy plating, which extends for more than half the length of the vessel, from the watertight bulkhead in front of the forward boiler room to the after-end of the turbine engine room. It is connected to the outer shell by longitudinal tubes and angles, with especially strong connections at bulkheads and watertight divisions. In addition, an extra watertight bulkhead has been introduced, and the existing bulkheads have been carried right up to the bridge deck.


Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
The Times, 26 February 1914


The new triple-screw steamer Britannic, which has been built by Messrs.
Harland and Wolff for the White Star Line, is to be launched to-day at
Belfast. The Britannic is only of slightly greater tonnage than the
Olympic, being about the same length but rather more beam. It would
seem, therefore, that the owners have come to the conclusion that for
the present the travelling public are satisfied with the Olympic type of

The following are the leading particulars of the ship:-

Length, overall, about 900t.; breadth, extreme, about 94ft.; depth,
moulded, 64ft. 3in.; total height from keel to navigating bridge, 104ft.
6in.; gross tonnage, about 50.000; load draft, 34ft. 7in. ; displacement
at load draft, over 53,000 tons; i.h.p. of reciprocating engines,
32,000; s.h.p. of turbine, 18,000; passenger accommodation for over
2,500; crew accommodation for over 950.

As in the Olympic, the double system of construction is carried up the
sides of the ship to a considerable distance above the loadwater line.
The framing throughout is exceptionally heavy, and extends from the
bottom of the ship to the shelter deck---a height of 66ft. Hydraulic
riveting has been introduced to a larger extent than formerly,
particularly in the top shell plating, and there extend right, fore, and
aft, at the level of every deck, four lines of heavy girders, and at
frequent intervals, extending from the bottom of the ship right to the
shelter deck, stanchions and heavy columns, thus ensuring great
longitudinal and vertical stiffening to the whole structure. There are
16 transverse bulkheads, five of which extend to a height of over 40ft.
above the deepest loadline, while all the others are carried to a height
of over 21ft. above the waterline.


There are nine decks in the ship, on six of which accommodation is
provided for about 2,600 passengers, including 790 in the first class
and 830 in the second class. A feature of the accommodation is that a
large number of the first-class state-rooms are single-berth rooms. In
practically every case there is in connexion with each a bath-room or a
shower-bath and lavatory. There are a large number of special suites on
the bridge and shelter decks, and also two special suites, including a
sitting-room, two bed-rooms, servants' rooms, bath-rooms, &c., with an
isolated verandah about 25ft. long on the starboard side and on the port
side an isolated deck promenade about 50ft. long. There are several
electric elevators, and the public rooms include a large gymnasium and a
children's play-room, reading and writing rooms, a first-class lounge, a
first-class smoking-room, with verandah café and palm court, and an a
la carte
restaurant. On one of the lower decks there are Turkish and
electric baths, a racket court, and a swimming bath. The second-class
accommodation, which is little inferior to the first-class, is arranged
immediately abaft the first-class quarters, and the third-class public
rooms are in the stern of the ship except the dining saloon, which is on
the middle deck amidships. New features, too, have been introduced in
connexion with sanitation and ventilation. Electricity is very
extensively utilized throughout the ship, the power-station being as
great as that in many provincial towns; and there is what is termed an
emergency electric power-station on one of the decks far above the

Forty-eight of the largest size of lifeboat yet made are being fitted,
and two of these have powerful engines. The system of davits used
differs from that in any other preceding ship. They are of
lattice-girder construction with swan-necked tops turned towards each
other in each pair. They are pivoted at their base and move from the
vertical position to a considerable angle inboard or outboard, and the
arrangement is such that all the boats may be lowered on one side of the
ship, and can be lowered on an even keel even in the event of the ship
being down by the head or the stern. A further advantage of the Harland
and Wolff davit is that the boats can be all open lifeboats of good
type, thus dispensing with the troublesome collapsible type.


Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
The Times, 27 February 1914



Punctually at the appointed time the new White Star liner Britannic,
of which a description appeared in The Times to-day, was launched from
the yard of Messrs. Harland and Wolff at Belfast this morning. A heavy
drizzle rendered the weather disagreeable in the extreme from the
spectators' point of view, but the shipbuilder regarded it with
equanimity, for there was no wind to interfere with his operations and
the temperature was such that there was no likelihood of the tallow
being congealed on the launching ways.

The launching of a large ship is always an anxious task for all
concerned, and Lord Pirrie, the chairman of Messrs. Harland and Wolff,
was himself in the yard at 5 o'clock in the morning superintending the
final preparations. These consisted in removing the keel blocks so as to
permit the weight of the vessel to come gradually upon the sliding ways.
The launch was fixed for 11.15, and rockets announced the final stage 10
minutes past the hour, when a loud noise of hammering arose, indicating
that workmen were knocking away the remaining keel blocks. The whole
weight of the vessel was then carried on the sliding ways, which were
prevented from moving down the fixed ways only by a pair of steel
triggers held in place by hydraulic pressure. By this time the ship had
already crept down over an inch towards the sea, and the gauge showed
that the pressure which the rams attached to the triggers had to sustain
in order to prevent further movement amounted to 560 tons.


Almost exactly at 11.15 a valve was opened which allowed the water to
flow out from the ram cylinders, thus relieving the pressure and
permitting the restraining triggers to fall back and release the ship,
which was then free to slide down the sloping ways under the influence
of gravity. Hydraulic rams had been provided at the bows to give her an
initial push had she failed to start of her own accord, but these were
not brought into requisition. Slowly the huge mass, which by subsequent
measurement of the amount of water displaced was found to weigh 24,800
tons, began to move, and slowly she continued her majestic course until,
in 81 seconds, her bow dropped from the ways and she was entirely
water-borne. A launch is always an impressive sight, but the present one
was even more impressive than usual, because of the slowness with which
the ship travelled throughout. The maximum speed was only 9 1/2 knots,
whereas in the case of the Olympic, which had a launching weight of 200
tons less, the maximum speed was 12 1/2 knots and the time only 62

The arrangements for bringing the vessel to rest after she was afloat
were like those adopted for the Olympic, and, indeed, the conditions
were practically identical. The length of the Britannic, like that of the
Olympic, is about 900ft., the increase of about 4,000 tons in her gross
tonnage being obtained by a slight increase in her beam, which is about
94ft., and there was little difference in the launching weights. On each
side, there were three anchors, ranging in weight from 5 1/2 to eight
tons, and a drag, consisting of a mass of chain weighing 80 tons. These
checks were laid in the water and were connected to wire ropes attached
to the eye-pieces riveted to the hull, the length of the ropes being so
calculated that the various checks all came into action when the bows
had travelled about 100ft. from the end of the ways. Their arrangements
were so effective that the vessel was brought to a standstill in
considerably less than her own length.


Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
The Sun, New York, 27 February 1914
Original article digitized by the New York Public Library
Retrieved from the Library of Congress' Chronicling America web site,

New White Star Steamer, It Is Said, Is an Unsinkable Ship

BELFAST, Feb. 26---The Britannic of the White Star Line, 900 feet long, of
50,000 tons and triple screw, the largest British steamship afloat, was
launched successfully at the Harland & Wolff shipyards here this morning. A
great crowd lined both banks of the River Lagan and cheered enthusiastically
when the vessel floated clear.
The Britannic represents the supreme efforts of the White Star Line to
construct the "unsinkable ship"---the Ideal liner. As originally designed
she resembled in hull the luckless Titanic, but her plans were changed
completely and her builders believe she will be the safest merchantman on
the seas. She will be able to float, as has been demonstrated by experiments
with models, even should six of her compartments be flooded. As the line's
own description of her says, "not only does the heavily riveted double
bottom extend the entire length of the steamship, but massive beams and
close framing of the outer hull are supplemented by a heavy steel plating
forming an inner hull, such as was placed in the Olympic."

The consideration of safety has been the main one in the building of the
Britannic. The ship has on her bridge six pairs of huge steel cranes,
operated by independent dynamos, which can take a lifeboat from any part of
the ship and put it overboard swiftly and safely. It is asserted that even
if the steamship were so damaged as to be listed heavily every one of the
lifeboats could be lowered without danger of smashing against the ship's


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