Olympic/Hawke Collision

Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
HMS Hawke was sunk in a torpedo attack by U-9 in the North Sea on 15 October 1914.

Source: The New York Times, 26 October 1914.


Chris Nicholson

I heared that when the olympic rammed the hawke 2 of the wt compartments flooded. Did any of the passenger arreas expirience flooding. Say like the aft G deck cabins?
Jan 31, 2001
I believe some of the crew quarters flooded, and the damage did reach some of the passenger compartments, including that of one of the band members who would later serve and die on board Titanic. As to whether his room actually flooded or not, I do not know, but his and some other cabins recieved damage.


Jan 5, 2001
Judging from damage reports that I saw in the enquiry report and testimony, the damage was not sufficient to flood the after passenger quarters.

Following the collision Olympic's draught went down to 35 feet 6 inches aft, which is hardly high considering the amount of water she took on; as the water level inside her hull in the damaged watertight compartments would be lower still than the ship's draught, it seems unlikely to me that significant water reached G-deck, although there was some water damage to electric insulation.

Best regards,


Philip Hind

Staff member
Sep 1, 1996
About a quarter of the way through Vol 3 of the Churchill biography (only about six volumes at 900 pages each to go). Anyway it mentions a cruiser called Hawke torpedoed in the North sea on 15 October 1914 with the loss of 500 lives. Was this the same vessel?
Jan 5, 2001
Hi Phil!

Anyway it mentions a cruiser called Hawke torpedoed in the North sea on 15 October 1914 with the loss of 500 lives. Was this the same vessel?

Someone else who's read Churchill! In my case, the six volume history of World War II.

I've got the Admiralty report around here somewhere of the same Hawke sinking in 1914. It's either under my new carpet or in the new wardrobe. The death toll was high, from what I remember she listed badly and then went under.

Best regards,


David Smith

Apr 21, 1998
i have a post card of the Olympic/ Hawke collision, plus several others including its launch at Harland and Wolfe.... are these of any value?

Jason D. Tiller

Aug 20, 2000
Niagara Falls, Ontario
Hi David,

Your postcards most likely have some value attached to them, but it really depends on the condition of them and if they are rare or not.

Once those are established, then an approximate value can be provided.

Bill West

Dec 14, 2005
Two Period news items-
A new online posting has a period journal called Marine Engineer.

Vol 34 Aug 1911-Jul 1912 carries some interesting news.

pg 76-77- Reports the collision and then mentions a legal point about the crew wages. The contract calls for pay to end if the ship is wrecked but to otherwise be a minimum of one month per voyage. Well as the ship couldn’t continue because of the accident the Company offered pay until work wrapped up after 3 days but... this wasn’t a total wreck incident. The Unions of course weren’t satisfied and so co-operatively with the Company they decided to give the Courts the work of figuring out this gap in the contract. The question continues on pg 106-107. Collision coverage continued on pages 188-189 and 251-252.

pg 289 -Reports the recovery of the Hawke’s stem and observes that the location will be of interest to analyzing the accident. But what caught my eye was the editor’s last sentence: “If only the divers could discover also that little book, which so unfortunately fell into the sea when the shock of the collision was felt by the officer of the Hawke, that might help to elucidate matters too.”

What??? has anybody else heard of this speculation?

Jan 5, 2001
Hi Bill.

what caught my eye was the editor’s last sentence: “If only the divers could discover also that little book, which so unfortunately fell into the sea when the shock of the collision was felt by the officer of the Hawke, that might help to elucidate matters too.” What??? has anybody else heard of this speculation?

The reporter is most probably referring to Lieutenant Aylen's notebook. The force of the collision with Olympic knocked his notebook overboard. As a result, the 'fix' he had taken prior to the collision was lost and he was unable to provide that data. It is interesting to note that his compass was 'spinning right round' prior to the collision, owing to Olympic's close proximity.

Best wishes,


Bill West

Dec 14, 2005
The other wonder of the digital age, instant answers. I had been curious if the Editor was hinting at the book’s loss as being “convenient”. Thanks for clearing this up.

Jan 5, 2001

Goodness, that was a quick reply. You have touched upon one of the many particularly interesting issues surrounding the collision.

Aylen was acting as navigating lieutenant, as he was only onboard Hawke for her power trials earlier that day. As such, his notebook kept a record of ‘everything affecting navigation.’ It was knocked overboard — in fact, it fell out of his hand — when he was standing on the platform at the end of the forebridge.

Whether it was convenient for Aylen, and Hawke’s case, is another question, since we do not know what was in the book. I suppose the reporter may have been implying that. We know it was a navigational record, but nothing beyond that as regards specifics. Navigational data was written in the notebook, but not in the rough log, so it is not recorded at all. As far as I recall, Aylen was never confronted about the loss of the notebook, beyond being questioned as to its contents and how it had been lost.

However, there is an interesting exchange when he was cross-examined for the White Star Line. After conceding it was ‘a very important document,’ he was asked:

Q. Did it occur to you or Commander Blunt as far as you knew to say something of this sort, “This thing is unfortunately missing, it is fresh in my memory, I will do my best to reproduce the book.”
A. No.

Best wishes,

Jun 17, 2010

Do you know where I might find more about the Hawke, please? I've been reading here and in my various Titanic books about the collision with Olympic but I want to know more about what the Hawke was doing, what it had been doing before all that.

Thanks for any help, it's much appreciated

[Moderator's Note: This message, originally a separate thread in a different topic, has been moved to this pre-existing thread about R.M.S. Hawke. MAB]
Jun 17, 2010
Folks, thank you so much for you all your help and my apologies for vanishing as soon as I'd asked the question!

I'm off to read all this in detail. So pleased to come back to such great responses.


Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
MAB note: This trial court ruling was upheld by the Court of Appeal in March

The Times, London, 2 April 1912



Judgment in this test case, referred to the Admiralty Court by the Justices
of Southampton, was given to-day. The claim arose out of the collision
between the White Star liner Olympic and his Majesty's ship Hawke on
September 20 last.

The facts and arguments were fully reported in The Times of March 6 and 7,
and appear sufficiently in the judgment.

Mr. Emanuel appeared for the plaintiffs; and Mr. Laing, K.C., and Mr. W.
Norman Raeburn for the defendants.


MR. JUSTICE BARGRAVE DEANE said that in this case two members of the crew of
the Olympic, one of the White Star liners, brought a claim before the
magistrates at Southampton claiming wages as fireman and seaman respectively
in the Olympic on an agreement in the ship's articles for a voyage "from
Southampton to New York (via Cherbourg and Queenstown) and/or, if required,
to any port or ports within the North Atlantic and South Atlantic oceans,
trading as may be required until the ship returns to a final port of
discharge in the United Kingdom for any period not exceeding 12 months."

The plaintiffs joined the Olympic on September 20 of last year, and the
vessel proceeded from Southampton, but, as was well known, she came into
collision with his Majesty's ship Hawke and received such heavy damage that
she had to go back to Southampton, where she discharged her cargo and
passengers, and after being patched up proceeded to Belfast, where alone she
could be dry-docked, for her repairs, and she did not sail again until
November 29.

The crew claimed wages under the provisions of section 162 of the Merchant
Shipping Act, 1894, which provided that:---"If a seaman, having signed an
agreement, is discharged otherwise than in accordance with the terms thereof
before the commencement of the voyage, or before one month's wages are
earned, without fault on his part justifying that discharge, and without his
consent, he shall be entitled to receive from the master or owner, in
addition to any wages he may have earned, due compensation for the damage
caused to him by the discharge, not exceeding one month's wages, and may
recover that compensation as if it were wages duly earned." These two men's
wages were £6 and £5, a month, and they claimed these sums for being
discharged without their fault.

The defendants' answer to the claim was contained in section 158 of the
Act:---"Where the service of a seaman terminates before the date
contemplated in the agreement by reason of the wreck or loss of the ship ...
he shall be entitled to wages up to the time of such termination, but not
for any longer period."


The whole question therefore turned on the meaning of the words in section
158 "wreck or loss of the vessel." There was no definition in any of the
Acts as to what a "wreck" was, and it was agreed that his Lordship had to
base his decision on the meaning of that word. Was the Olympic a wreck
within the meaning of that section? A good many cases had been cited to him
on one side and the other, but counsel for the claimants had been unable to
find any case in which it had been held that a vessel was or was not a
wreck, and he had cited cases with reference to goods---Legge v. Boyd (14
L.J., C.P., 183), The King v. The Forty-nine Casks of Brandy (3 Hagg [Ad.],
257), The King v. Two Casks of Tallow (3 Hagg [Ad.], 294). These were cases
as to whether goods were "wraccum," a very odd word, which his Lordship
believed came from the old Anglo-Saxon. They were disputes as to whether
goods washed ashore out of vessels belonged to the owner of the foreshore or
to some other person, and depended on whether they were wraccum maris or
not---they did not touch the meaning of wreck in section 158.

In his Lordship's opinion the Olympic was a wreck within the meaning of
section 158. The words were "wreck or loss," and wreck was something short
of loss. If the vessel foundered she would be a loss and not a wreck. He
thought that in The Elizabeth (2 Dodson, 403) Sir William Scott used the
word "semi-naufragium," and we now used the expressions "a partial wreck," a
"constructive wreck," a "constructive total loss," and we recognized
qualifications of losses and wrecks. The whole question was whether the
vessel was sufficiently injured and damaged that she ceased to be a ship of
a serviceable character to her owners.

His Lordship thought the nearest approach to the present ease was that of
The Elizabeth (supra). That vessel was damaged and burnt, but eventually she
was repaired and the master in the exercise of his discretion discharged the
crew in a foreign port, and they were sent home, and everything was done to
mitigate the damage. In a claim by the crew for wages---it was long before
the Merchant Shipping Act---Sir William Scott said the question was whether
the master had a right to dismiss the mariners, and that the circumstances
in which the vessel was placed did vest him with authority to do so:---"Here
was a ship that had encountered what the law might call a 'semi naufragium'
--- full of water so that they could not live on board. She is put in the
hands of foreign carpenters for a protracted course of necessary repairs.
... Is it clear law that the master, acting for his owners, could not, in
such circumstances dismiss the mariners on any terms whatever? If so, then
he was bound to keep this crew in an unemployed state, living on shore, and
keeping holiday all the winter at the expense of his owners. ... I know and
feel the partiality which the maritime law entertains for this class of men,
but it must not overrule all consideration of justice to other classes,
particularly to merchants, their employers; for what is oppressive to the
merchant cannot but be injurious to the mariner." That to his (Mr. Justice
Deane's) mind, properly stated what the principles were.


Now, the Olympic was so seriously damaged that she ceased to be a navigable
ship. She went back under her own steam to Southampton, and on the 22nd the
men were discharged. The crew were offered wages up to that time, but
they --- or so far as this action was concerned, these two plaintiffs ---
claimed wages for a month. Was the master of the Olympic justified in
discharging them? In his Lordship's opinion he was. Both the plaintiffs
agreed that it was impossible to have gone on serving in the ship---and what
stronger evidence could there be of her state, and that she was in their
opinion a wreck?

Beyond that, on September 22 there was a letter from the officials of the
Board of Trade handed to the manager of the White Star Line at Southampton,
requiring the return of the Olympic's passenger and freeboard certificate,
because she was not in a seaworthy condition, and the certificate was duly
returned. The vessel then could not proceed as a passenger ship, she was
under the embargo of the Board of Trade, and she was only patched up
sufficiently to get a certificate to enable her to proceed to Belfast and no
further. The voyage was thus brought to a summary end. His Lordship held
therefore that the plaintiffs were not entitled to wages beyond the date to
which they had been tendered, and he gave judgment for the defendants on the
claim with costs.

Stay of execution was granted.

Solicitors.-P. J. Nicholls for Emanuel and Emanuel; Thomas Cooper and Co.
for Hill, Dickinson and Co.


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