News from 1918 Olympics's War Service

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Mark Baber

Staff member
The New York Times, 26 December 1918

White Star Liner Carried More Than 300,000 Persons During Her War
Encountered Craft in Darkness in the Channel and Cut It Down by Quick
Correspondence of THE NEW YORK TIMES
LONDON, Dec. 3---An interesting account of the career of the great White
Star liner Olympic during her war service has been forwarded to The
Daily News by a member of her crew, who signs himself "G. C."

"Her work during the Gallipoli campaign," he writes, "when she carried
about 8,000 troops---at that time the greatest number ever carried by
any ship---following upon her gallant attempt off the North of Ireland
to tow the waterlogged dreadnought H. M. S. Audacious, was sufficient to
put her in the first rank of transports, but her subsequent work in
bringing Canadian troops and Chinese labor battalions, and then her
wonderful career since Christmas, 1917, when she arrived in New York for
her first load of American troops, must put her in a class by herself as
a 'trooper.'

"She has carried well over 300,000 people while on war service,
including hundreds of women and children, wives and families of Canadian
soldiers returning to Canada, and she has also been the favorite ship
for most of the notable people who have crossed the Atlantic on national
business during the war.

"Since she became a troopship the Olympic has been under the command of
Captain Hayes and her crew swear by the skill and luck of their
commander, who is probably the most popular Captain, among his own men,
who has ever had charge of a great liner.

"It would not be correct to say that Captain Hayes has brought her
through without a scratch but her scars are marks of honor. She bent and
fractured some of her plates when, in the darkness early one morning,
she 'strafed' one of Germany's finest U-boats. Perhaps some of the
twenty-eight survivors will give their experiences when they are
released. At any rate, they can boast that it took the biggest ship in
the British Navy to defeat them.

"In the Mediterranean the Olympic was fired at on one occasion, but the
torpedo arrived just in time to get into the back wash thrown up by her
great propellers just after her ladyship had turned and had begun to
travel at right angles to her former course. That seems to have been the
only occasion on which the ship was actually fired at.

"The Olympic had her adventures while she was carrying American troops.
During March, April, and May this year the German submarine commanders
made at least seven attacks on her. Not once did the enemy have time to
launch a torpedo, for in every case he was either greeted by a six-inch
shell or one of the destroyers was on his track with her depth charges.
Perhaps some of Germany's missing submarines are now lying below the
track of the Olympic.

"The most thrilling experience which the Olympic had took place in the
darkness of early morning last May, near the entrance to the English
Channel. It was just about 4 o'clock when look-out man Bennett (who
afterward received the D. S. M.) picked out of the darkness the outline
of a lurking submarine which was lying on the surface. Immediately
after his warning shout one of the ship's forward guns blazed out, and
the ship, with her helm hard over, spun around like a great racing yacht
and crashed into the enemy.

"The blow was, of course, not a clean one, or there would have been few
survivors from the submarine which would have been cut in two and
smashed and rolled under the great mass of the Olympic. Judging from the
damage on the bows of the ship when dry docked a few days later the blow
cut off one end of the submarine. The rest drifted past the stern of the
Olympic, and one of the gun crews on the poop planted a shell squarely
into it. One of the destroyers in the escort dropped behind, and by the
light of star shells picked up thirty-one survivors (four officers and
twenty-seven men) three of whom died on the way to port. The total crew
of the submarine was over sixty.

"The excitement for that day was not over even then, for three hours
later another periscope was sighted and fired at, and depth charges were
also dropped by one of the destroyers. Captain Hayes, who was in
personal charge at the time of the sinking of the submarine, received
the D. S. O."

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