"Report of a Formal Investigation into the Sinking of the HMHS Britannic"

Remco Hillen

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Jan 6, 2001
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Hello Michail,

According to "Last Titan", the Breamar Castle 'struck a mine in the Mykoni Channel two days after the Britannic was sunk. She was succesfully beached and later returned to service.'

Nice shots of the machinery there, most of them are in 'Sisters'.
Some were unknown to me though.
Nice find.

Regards,
Remco
 
Jan 14, 2001
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Hi,

Mark:your image is on-line.I didn't put the caption because I won't use any with the drawings(except in special cases were comment is really necessary-like a couple of Remco's designs).I think that keeping the pages "lighter" is better for the visitors.

Remco:I don't have 'Sisters' unfortunately.The photos are really good.Everything was HUGE in comparison to other ships.

I may have some suprises for the website quite soon.More details will follow.


Regards,
Michail
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Michail,

Thanks for the on-line display.

I must apologise for my recent absense from this discussion.

Best regards,

Mark.
 
Dec 4, 2000
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My sense of the thing is that Britannic's "dry" double sides would have contributed to the problem if one side flooded and the other did not. I have never thought that the entire list/capsize resulted from any flooding of the double sides. However, which straw was it that broke the camel's back?

There is one other very real possibility that I will not discuss until Captain Erik can rejoin our ranks. He has a theory about Titanic that would encompass the list of Britannic as well. But, as this concept is his original creation, I will await his return. Suffice to say that the description by the survivor fits exactly into Erik's theory.

-- David G. Brown
 
Jan 5, 2001
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I await Erik's return, he's in my prayers as is everyone effected by recent events.

The 'double hull theory' about Britannic keeps being repeated in many forums, but although I have asked about it several times to people nobody has been able to give clear evidence. Earlier in this thread Parks Stephenson wrote the following and I asked about it, but I think he went off the board at that time. I am very interested in the possibility, but no one seems to have any solid evidence of the skin being flooded.

<FONT COLOR="119911">...I think not only that the double hull (as applied to Olympic and Britannic) was a bad idea, but that the double hull was one of the largest contributors to Britannic's demise. Water entering the space within the outer skin created a free surface effect that helped pull the ship (and the multitude of openings) over on her starboard side.

Best regards,

Mark.
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Michail & Remco,

I've still not heard from Nancy. On the OBRC front, has the main page gone already? Please I hope not.

Best,

Mark.
 

Remco Hillen

Member
Jan 6, 2001
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Mark,

NBCi stopped with it's free webhosting service, but Russell, and others, weren't notified of it.
I don't know what the current plans are, I've emailed Russ about that yesterday.
I'll let you know what comes out.

Another thing here, since I've started working on the bridge of RMS Britannic.
Is there any record of things that might have been changed there?
The tiling in the wheelhouse changed, so perhaps more things were changed around there.

Regards,
Remco
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Remco,

I think that there was some record of changes to the bridge, yes. The watertight door indicator was improved:

[hr]
Quote:

'On the bridge there will be fitted indicators showing each bulkhead door, and a pointer in the aperture corresponding to each door, so that the captain can see not only the position of the door, but the actual closing of the door, the pointer having a travel of about 6 in. This pointer is actuated by electrical means, and its position shows at all times the vertical position of the bottom of the door in the bulkhead.'

Engineering, February 27th 1914.
[hr]​

There are some more sources. I'll be sending an e-mail privately which details some differences that I dealt with in my book (which is why I won't post that on this public forum).

On the wheelhouse tiles, there was a discussion at the TRMA message board (the old board, page number 3-5 somewhere) and there's some debate on the Olympic and Titanic's wheelhouse flooring: some sources state the usually-accepted <FONT COLOR="ff6000">wood, but others suggest tiles similar to Britannic's 'strawberrys' - strange name for them!

The following may help in dealing with new equipment:

[hr]
Quote:

'(referring to the vessel's bridge as a completely equipped control centre): From there orders can be given by telephone or telegraph to every working quarter of the ship, and instruments are provided to demonstrate that most of the important orders have been carried-out. Thus, there is an indicator to show the working of the main engines, the operation of the steering machinery, and the actual position of the bulkhead doors (description of indicator again...) Pneumatic tubes are provided for the receipt and dispatch of messages to the Marconi room. The angle of the rudder is electronically-recorded and the depth of the ocean is sounded by electric machinery, while the electric submarine bells indicate the proximity of lightships, etc... Telegraphs also indicate the necessary instructions to the men in charge of anchors and capstans.'

Shipbuilder, March 1914.
[hr]​

Do let me know Russell's plans for the future of OBRC - it is an old favourite website for me and I've visited it for more than a year so I hope some kind of rescue-package can be put together. Blake Kniffen's Official Olympic Centre has also gone; but both sites' forums are still active from the TRMA webpage.

Best regards,

Mark.
 

Remco Hillen

Member
Jan 6, 2001
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Hello Mark,

Holy smoke!
That was indeed a "completely equipped control centre"!
Apart from the pneumatic tubes and the WTD indicator, all the other things are new to me.

Hmm, so the telegraphs were also different.
Man, I'd like to know where Cousteau has hidden his raised one!

The bridges on Olympic and Titanic were quite bare, compared to Lusitania and Mauretania.
I don't know how well equiped these ships were, but I would imagine that Britannic got near there standard.

Thanks for the fascinating info Mark!

Regards,
Remco
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Remco,

On that telegraph that Cousteau raised, didn't Michail have some sources about it?

More information on the bridge:

[hr]
Quote:

‘The three telegraphs from the bridge to the engine room, made by Messrs. J. W. Ray and Co., Liverpool, are of their triple-dial all-brass reply and automatic reply transmitters, the clear glass of each dial measuring 20" in diameter. Two of these are connected to two 24" engine room indicators; the third is connected to two extra engine-room indicators through an entirely different route.<FONT COLOR="119911">The latter three instruments together form an entirely separate emergency control should the ordinary telegraphs be damaged. All the principle moving portions of the gear have an enclosed type of ball bearing center, and all the sheaves in the leads are fitted with Ray’s patent phosphor bronze ball bearing pulleys, 6" in diameter, the result being that, although there are no fewer than 312 of these sheaves fitted at the various bends, the friction is so reduced that the levers can be put over from full speed ahead, say, to full speed astern by the easy effort of two fingers on the lever, and the time occupied in moving over the complete range of orders need not be any more than two seconds. The patent automatic direction-indicator, which indicates the first stroke of any change in the direction of the running of engines on the separate third athwartship dial of all three bridge instruments, does not take even this time, and the officers on the bridge are practically aware of everything done in completing the orders which they have transmitted. For the handling of the ship Messrs. Ray have fitted between the forward bridge and the after docking-bridge four 20" clear double-dial all-brass instruments and one flange-back helm-indicator. Two of these instruments enable any possible order to be given to the engine room to control the engines via the bridge; the others enable a complete set of docking and steering orders to be transmitted and replied to between fore and aft. These instruments are connected by the same 6" ball-bearing pulleys; delta metal chain of heavy description is used instead of the usual copper sash-chain.’

Engineering, February 27th 1914.
[hr]​

Best regards,

Mark.
 

Remco Hillen

Member
Jan 6, 2001
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Hello Mark,

Yes, Michail seached for it and some other items in the Greek Naval Museum if I remember correctly.
Didn't find anything
sad.gif


A couple of items were brought up by Cousteau including a sextant, some pipes from the pipeorgan and the base of a engine room telegraph.
The telegraph base is said to be in a museum in Monaco.
Michail self knows more about the above things.


How many telegraphs would be present at Britannic's bridge?
I have very little knowledge of this on the other ships, but it seems to me that Britannic had more telegraphs the the sisters.

"For the handling of the ship Messrs. Ray have fitted between the forward bridge and the after docking-bridge four 20" clear double-dial all-brass instruments and one flange-back helm-indicator.."

What's a flange-back helmindicator?
So 4 telegraphs on the docking bridge, the sisters had only 2 IIRC.
Pitty the canvas cover around the docking bridge obscures the view.


Just something interesting from Michail's site:

http://members.tripod.com/michailakis/images/tgraph5-98.jp g


Still awaiting news about the OBRC.

Regards,
Remco
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Remco,

[hr]
Quote:

"For the handling of the ship Messrs. Ray have fitted between the forward bridge and the after docking-bridge four 20" clear double-dial all-brass instruments and one flange-back helm-indicator.."

Engineering, February 27th 1914.

<FONT COLOR="119911">What's a flange-back helm indicator?
[hr]​

To be honest, I am not sure. Other than the obvious fact that it's a helm indicator of some sort, but perhaps 'flange-back' has something to do with the mechanism between the steering equipment at the stern and the bridge?

I guess someone at the TRMA may know.

On the telegraph front, I seem to recall a source for Cousteau's telegraph now I'm thinking carefully. I'll report back if I remember.

Olympic did receive extra telegraphs during the 1920s (and possibly the 1933 refit) but even if we know about those they may well be different to Britannic's. Another example of Britannic being the 'ship of mystery,' as the telegraphs on the after docking bridge of the wreck have gone, although some forward bridge ones remain intact.

Best regards,

Mark.
 

Remco Hillen

Member
Jan 6, 2001
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Hello Mark,

I'll post a message on the TRMA board tomorrow to see if any of the guys there might know something more.


Reading the information some message above, the telegraphs certainly seem to be different yes.


"as the telegraphs on the after docking bridge of the wreck have gone, although some forward bridge ones remain intact."

I don't know about the aft ones, but most of the forward ones are still there.
2 years ago most were hanging by some sort of chain, I suppose some have fallen down since.

Regards,
Remco
 
Jan 14, 2001
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Hello,

Mark:Great infos regarding the bridge.Could you send me some more details about the improved watertight door indicator?
-This probably means that the bridge had an accurate view of the functionality of the bulkheads after the explosion.So if nobody spoke of a problem regarding the door between boiler rooms 5 and 4 that probably means that this door was OK.Unless there was an unknown damage to the same bulkhead (unprobable considering its distance from the explosion),that leads us -once again- to the "open portholes" theory as the main cause of the sinking (most likely the "double skin" structure did its part too).Opinions about this?

-The wheelhouse tiles can be seen at:

http://members.tripod.com/michailakis/images/gm_flloor-98.jpg

-Regarding the telegraphs.According to the "Sea Classics" article,Cousteau tried to raise a telegraph from the docking bridge near the stern.The telegraph broke and only its base make it up to the Calypso.According to the same article ,the item is at Monaco(Musee' Oceanographique).The other telegraphs from the same area were not found by the divers,but I don't think that Cousteau took them (diver Peter Nicolaides,from the Cousteau team,spoke clearly of 1 telegraph only).

As Remco said,the ones on the bridge are still there and they are hanging from their chains.


Remco:Great work on the model.Looks really cool!

Best regards,
Michail
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Michail,

I am afraid that's about all the information on the watertight door indicator. I've always believed the door between boiler rooms 4 and 5 was intact, as the enquiry did, but on the door between boiler room 5 and boiler room 6 we have evidence that it nearly closed (partly) and the same goes for the door(s) between boiler room 6 and the firemen's tunnel. Therefore we also may have explosion damage, loosing the indicators so they couldn't see the doors. Captain Bartlett was surprised that water reached the two forward boiler rooms. However, even then he still knew the ship should have been able to float.

On the portholes, E-deck ports - perhaps F-deck, can't remember - were some 513 square inches (27 by 19 inches). I don't know what this works out to in square feet, but some mathematician can help? I did a calculation some months ago, but it wouldn't take many portholes to produce twelve square feet of flooding on E/F-decks between and above boilers 6 to 1, enough to sink Titanic.

Only twenty-five portholes would open 12,825 square inches to the sea. That must be a lot in square feet. That's the key: if we can work that out we'll have a much better idea of the flooding.

Especially on the starboard side ports, water accumulation there (IMO) accounts for the increasing heavy starboard list. (I think I explained that further up the thread.) Gradually, this water may have seeped down through decks and eventually flooded the boilers in the later stages of sinking; but surely many boiler rooms were dry/operational as the ship kept some speed up until nearly the end. (I explained this theory somewhere else on this thread.)

Personally, I don't think the double skin had much to do with the list and/or sinking at all: many people have put the theory forward, but I've never managed to get a good explanation of it. The skin was sub-divided and so even if it was pierced forward, only small amounts of water would get in, not enough to create a real list.

This will be an enjoyable discussion, but I am having to be off the Board for the next two days so I'll post replies when I return.

Best regards,

Mark.
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Hang on: I should have said the E-deck portholes generally were eighteen inches diameter. They were smaller at the bow and stern in case of damage in heavy seas, where the ports were most exposed.
 

Remco Hillen

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Jan 6, 2001
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Bartlett must have had an 'excellent' view on how the situation was.
-He could see which WTD's were closed(if some were not, he could see how far)

Side note; I think that most of the indicators survived the explosion. Perhaps the indicator(s) nearest by the explosion didn't survive.
But they were build to work during a sinking, so they must have been sealed off quite well.(also to prevent damage by men working there, heat produced by boilers etc.)

-He could see how far the rudder was turned
-The situation of the steering gear was visible to him.
-He was able to see how the engines were functioning and how far the engineers were with his orders.
-He might have been able to see the depth, but there is a change that the equipment for this was destroyed in the explosion.
-He could hear air coming out the ship, indication water rushing in.
-He could feel a list developing.

Capt. Bartlett probably knew his command better then anyone else, and he knew the situation his crippled ship was in.
And he still decided to try and beach Britannic.
Would he do this when he knew the ship was going to sink so fast?
This could indicate that he was surprised by something(the open portholes) which accelerated the flooding rapidly.
Any thoughts on this?


On the porthole flooding, here's a post I saved some years ago, made by Scott Andrews:

[hr]
Quote:

The calculations performed on the flooding which sank the Titanic prove out that if all of her damage were condensed into a single opening, that opening would be only twelve square feet. As a comparison, the average interior door in a house has an opening of approximately 16.6 square feet. A 10 inch diameter port hole has an opening of 4.9 square feet. It would only take 3 submerged open port holes to produce flooding equivalent to that which sank the Titanic - over seven tons of water per SECOND!
[hr]​

I haven't calculated it again, but Scott is a very knowledgable person so this should be correct.
And there were a couple more portholes, even larger ones, open on Britannic..


Just something related somewhat, here's a link to a site which contains some artwork from 'Titanic at Two'.
The 2nd picture could easily be Britannic...
http://www.fantail.com/fantail7.htm


Thanks for the compliment on the model Michail!
It's starting to look better and better now.

Regards,
Remco

BTW, Mark, you did receive the reply on the last mail you sended didn't you?
 

Remco Hillen

Member
Jan 6, 2001
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Let me rewrite this piece:

"Capt. Bartlett probably knew his command better then anyone else, and he knew the situation his crippled ship was in.
And he still decided to try and beach Britannic.
Would he do this when he knew the ship was going to sink so fast?
This could indicate that he was surprised by something(the open portholes) which accelerated the flooding rapidly."


Capt. Bartlett probably knew his command better then anyone else, and he knew the situation his crippled ship was in.
He stopped the engines shortly after the explosion.
That could mean 2 things:

1.He was thinking she would sink fast, and was trying to get everyone off save. But why didn't he gave the order to abandon ship earlier then.
And why restart the engines if you know she going to sink anyway.

2.He was thinking she would be safe at first. Now he had time to check out the damage and then decide what to do. And sailing on could cause extra damage.

Shortly after the engines were restarted, and he decided to try and beach her.
So he knew she was going to sink if no action was taken.
He would have made that decision by the information he was given by his instruments, people from below and the nearby isle of Kea.
He must have seen a good change to beach her, otherwise he would risk the lives of the 1000+ aboard.

After a while he must have been surprised on how fast Britannic was sinking beneath him(due to the portholes, which he didn't take into account); Kea kept coming coming closer and closer.

Then he heared the news that people got killed by the turning propellers.
He had a choice; stop the engines to prevent any further loss of life and get the rest of the people of safely or continue to try and beach her.

If he saw a large change of beaching her, he would have undoubtly have done so.
But Kea still was far away.
He knew that there was a larger change that his ship was going to founder; so he decided to save the people onboard and stopped the engines.


Any thoughts on the above piece?

Regards,
Remco

Just wondering, did Bartlett speak about Britannic sinking afterwards?
I don't think I've ever such a thing of him.