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

Jan 14, 2001
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Hi,

Remco,I was about to send Scott's post to Mark but you made it first.I think his calculation was quite correct.

Regarding the above post,I would say that most probably Bartlett chose the second option:
"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".It should be common practice.

As you say,the fact that he restarted the engines indicates that he knew that the ship was going to sink for sure.It was a desparate move.We don't know on what kind of information based his decision.Perhaps he had early reports regarding open portholes.Are you sure that the engines were stopped after the incident with the lifeboats?V.Jessop wrote that when she reached the surface the ship was still steaming ahead.

Mark,I agree with you regarding the role of the double skin during the sinking.As you said,it was sub-divided in smaller compartments.Surely the ones near the explosion were badly damaged but I don't think that further aft their structure was also compromised.However,I would not exclude this possibility without further research.If their damage was more extensive,then the double skin would be one of the major causes of the list.


Regards,
Michail
 

Remco Hillen

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Jan 6, 2001
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Not too related with this thread, but interesting:
I'm reading 'Last Titan' now, but it's bit confusing.

Starting on page 41,
-Simon Mills says that Bartlett tries to beach Britannic, no words on what orders he gave before; if he gave orders in the meanwhile.
The ship was steering with it's propellors, the rudder didn't function anymore.
-The engines are ordered to be stopped(no word on what time), the order to man and lower the lifeboats is given.
-Some lifeboats are not yet lowered because the ship is still moving.
2 lifeboats are being sucked into the port propellor, killing several people.
This is interesting: Quote from 'Last Titan' ..word of the incident reached the bridge and the engines were stopped before a third boat was also pulled in
I thought the engines were already stopped?


Anyway, on with this thread now.

Michail,

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As you say,the fact that he restarted the engines indicates that he knew that the ship was going to sink for sure.It was a desparate move.We don't know on what kind of information based his decision.Perhaps he had early reports regarding open portholes.
[hr]​

Well, I think that he knew that the ship was going to sink if no action was taken.
If he knew that the ship would sink within 10 minutes(as example)he wouldn't have tried it.
He must have seen a real change to beach her.

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Quote:

Are you sure that the engines were stopped after the incident with the lifeboats?V.Jessop wrote that when she reached the surface the ship was still steaming ahead
[hr]​

They were even stopped twice ;)
Seriously, they must have been stopped yes.
But stopping the engines doesn't mean that the ship stops.


Mark,

I vagely remember a 'sinking-timeline' you wrote that was posted on the old OBRC board.
Knowing that you have quite a lot of interesting material, it would be interesting to read it again in this thread; if you still have it.

Do you know if an order to stop the ship directly after the explosion was given?
I use that 'fact' in the posts above, but somehow I have no idea where I got it from..

Regards,
Remco
 
Jan 5, 2001
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This will have to be quick. post. I haven’t checked my e-mail yet.

[hr]
Quote:

Remco: 'Starting on page 41,
-Simon Mills says that Bartlett tries to beach Britannic, no words on what orders he gave before; if he gave orders in the meanwhile.
The ship was steering with it's propellors, the rudder didn't function anymore.
-The engines are ordered to be stopped(no word on what time), the order to man and lower the lifeboats is given.
-Some lifeboats are not yet lowered because the ship is still moving.
2 lifeboats are being sucked into the port propellor, killing several people.
This is interesting: Quote from 'Last Titan' ..word of the incident reached the bridge and the engines were stopped before a third boat was also pulled in
I thought the engines were already stopped?'
[hr]​

On the engines, my old OBRC timeline stated (citing the evidence) that, roughly (I’m missing irrelevant details out) from Bartlett’s viewpoint:
(It interprets evidence from Captain Bartlett’s own words in a report he did to the Admiralty, but the timeline cuts out many words to give a better understanding)

1. (8.12 a.m.) Explosion. Engines stopped, w.t. doors closed, distress call, etc. (mostly precautions). Get boats ready for launch.
2. (anywhere near 8.20 a.m. — 8.30+ a.m.) After an interval, steering appeared to have failed. Used propellers to turn ship and start to head for shore. Forward holds had filled quickly and a heavy list developed. Otherwise ship’s okay.
3. (8.30/8.35 a.m.) Reports of water in forward boiler rooms 6 and 5. Flooding increasing. Maybe I should stop the engines and try other methods of maintaining watertight ness; ship may still float. Some lifeboats have been lowered already. I should stop the engines so more boats can be lowered: I give order to stop. Then someone says boats have been hit by propellers. Engines now come to a stop.
4. (8.45+ a.m.) Many boats gone. Few people remaining, but many people have jumped and are leaving. Only a few people left; others are safe. Ship’s in bad condition, but if most flooding is in forward six compartments I should be able to save ship. I order engines ‘full speed ahead’ to try and work towards the shore.
5. (9.05 a.m.) Everyone’s gone. Ship listing even more badly. Water flooding over bow. I signal to the engineers to abandon ship; blast the whistles. I walk to bridge wing into water.

I include evidence from nine or ten different sources in my book of the sinking and events, but the above pretty much gives Bartlett’s viewpoint and is mostly from his report.

On the portholes, I’ll post at the TRMA a question because it seems strange that a ten inch — or even nineteen by twenty-seven inch — could produce five square feet.

Sorry for this quick post.

Best,

Mark.
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Scott Andrews kindly answered my question:

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Quote:

'...the Utley's pivoting sidelights? They were 24" x 19", and had a glass area of 2.63 sq. ft. per the Andrews notebook.'
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Most E-deck portholes were eighteen inches, and F and G-deck ones even smaller. (see my article in the TRMA articles section about Olympic's ventilation, etc. which gives exact details).

So roughly the E-deck portholes might be 1.5 to 2 sqaure feet. If 2 square feet, we need six ports open to make twelve sqaure feet - 400 tons per minute, which will make Britannic get some inches lower as 150 tons pulls her down one inch. Yet there may have been even hundreds of portholes!

Best,

Mark.
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Assuming 16,000 tons of water came aboard in the first two or three minutes - perhaps longer - Britannic would have sunk by nine feet at the bow. Assuming she started at 32 feet, this would put her forward draught at 41 feet.

This would cover G-deck and partly F-deck. If ports were open, especially at the bow but perhaps even throughout the ship, additional flooding can occur. However, once the list developed (even a small list) then the E-deck portholes, normally 25 feet or so above the waterline but sixteen feet with the ship having 16,000 tons, could rapidly go under in ten minutes.

Twelve portholes at E-deck submerged will let in 800 tons per minute! After ten minutes of these being submerged at E-deck (say, 8.30 a.m.), 8,000 more tons are aboard - a total of 24,000 tons - making the ship sink another five feet; her mean draft is 46 feet.

It might not sound much, but this water is all coming from the starboard side; the water washes along the starboard E-deck corridor and seeps below to F-deck, while flooding from ports on F and G-decks increases the flooding. This increases the starboard list. And all the time we have flooding increasing in the forward six watertight compartments.

So we may have - even with a few portholes - 24,000 tons of water aboard in 20 minutes. 40,000 tons of water is enough to pull the ship under and occured by, say, 9 a.m. Britannic didn't stand a chance.

Thoughts?

Best regards,

Mark.
 
Jan 14, 2001
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Hi Mark,

Great work,as usual.

Sounds logical to me.And the timeline of the sinking corrisponds with the numbers.
One question:How did you assume that 16000tons entered during the first minutes?Did you use the dimensions of the hole caused by the explosion?
Violet Jessop was right after all.The ship was actually "steaming ahead" for some time after the accident

The Bartlett report was included into the official inquiry or not?

BTW,could you give me some more information regarding the condition and the whereabouts of the lifeboat plaque in Liverpool?Any photo available?


OBRC news.Russ did not find a free server.Most probable solution:"Britannic" will take the research section and "DF" the modelling section.Russ has done a great job and it must be preserved.More info soon.


Best regards,
Michail
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Michail,

If you read the formatting instructions on the message board, it explains it there.

BTW,could you give me some more information regarding the condition and the whereabouts of the lifeboat plaque in Liverpool? Any photo available?

The plaque is displayed in their 'Titanic and Lusitania' section and you can see Lusitania's propeller at the same museum. It is displayed in a glass cabinet with Olympic and Titanic, Leviathan/Aquitania artefacts and the Britannic builder's model that was originally Olympic in 1910 and is now looking like Titanic/Britannic. You can't take photos, but when I'm there next I can ask if they have any illustrations.

The Bartlett report was included into the official inquiry or not?

It wasn't in the inquiry report, but it may have been added to documentation later. To be honest, it's pretty much descriptive of the timeline.

OBRC news.Russ did not find a free server.Most probable solution:"Britannic" will take the research section and "DF" the modelling section.Russ has done a great job and it must be preserved.More info soon.

It's sad for OBRC's demise. At least if we can preserve the info in various sections. Will the forum remain accessible from the TRMA site? I've got it bookmarked.

How did you assume that 16,000 tons entered during the first minutes? Did you use the dimensions of the hole caused by the explosion?

It's a rough assumption and to be honest based more on estimates than anything else. There's just a great lack of information about the explosion damage - it may even (I think it did) have taken out a section of the double bottom.

Therefore, from all the information I have about the state of the ship, especially the inquiry report, I based the estimate on holds 3 and 2 almost totally flooded, hold 1 with quite a bit of water in, the forepeak leaking slightly, and enough water in boiler room #6 to cover much of the boilers' furnaces - we know this room was abandoned after two minutes, faster than Titanic's boiler room 6 in five minutes or about. Two minutes, 8.14 a.m., flooding was so advanced they just couldn't do anything in boiler room #6; at least, that's what I understand. Boiler room #5, I believe, flooded much more slowly through an only slightly open watertight door, and may have been essentially free of much water to late in the sinking, as this would have helped keep the bow above water; so would some buoyancy in the forepeak. Perhaps boiler room #5 was full by 8.55/9.00 a.m., but other flooding aft on E-deck, F-deck, etc. amidships countered the buoyancy in boiler room #5. It's only a rough explanation in this post, but 16,000 tons I felt was a reasonable estimate; like Titanic at 12.20/5 a.m., but Britannic was listing which made it worse.

Best regards,

Mark.
 

Remco Hillen

Member
Jan 6, 2001
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[hr]
Quote:

4. (8.45+ a.m.) Many boats gone. Few people remaining, but many people have jumped and are leaving. Only a few people left; others are safe. Ship’s in bad condition, but if most flooding is in forward six compartments I should be able to save ship. I order engines ‘full speed ahead’ to try and work towards the shore.
[hr]​

This piece of text indicates, at least to me, that Bartlett was not aware of the open portholes.
He knows that Britannic could stay afloat with the forward 6 compartments, he does not know that the water also enters the ship at other places.
Then again, he must have had doubts about Britannic's situation.
If he knew that she was going to stay afloat, he wouldn't have tried to beach her.

[hr]
Quote:

The plaque is displayed in their 'Titanic and Lusitania' section and you can see Lusitania's propeller at the same museum. It is displayed in a glass cabinet with Olympic and Titanic, Leviathan/Aquitania artefacts and the Britannic builder's model that was originally Olympic in 1910 and is now looking like Titanic/Britannic. You can't take photos, but when I'm there next I can ask if they have any illustrations.
[hr]​

David Cotgreave took some pictures there though!
Check out:
http://rivetcounter.txc.net.au/Titanic_Trip/Titanictrip.html

I'm having quite a busy week, so I won't be able to check often I'm afraid.

Regards,
Remco
 
Jan 5, 2001
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This quote is of interest, from someone at Salonika…

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‘The Warren Telegraphist reported to me that he had picked up a disconnected message, stating that a German submarine had wirelessed to friends in Athens announcing his intention of torpedoing the largest ship in the world, (afloat) the Hospital Ship Britannic, because she was known to be carrying troops…At the same time I was aware that the Germans were capable of sinking anything without an excuse.’
–– In Great Waters, Captain McNeil, New York, 1932.
[hr]​

This fits with the Keiler Zeitung quote: there's a reoccuring theme of torpedoing the ship because she 'was carrying troops.' Thoughts?

Best regards,

Mark.
 
Jan 14, 2001
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Great find Mark!It certainly fits with the 'Keiler Zeitung" quote.Another statement that indicates the torpedoing of the ship.

BTW,inside the 1917 booklet I brought recently from e-Bay I found the following announcement of the Admiralty (December 3,1916):

"...German wireless messages to the Embassy,Washington,are again promulgating mendacious reports,purporting to come from Rotterdam,that the hospital ship "Britannic",recently sunk,had troops on board..."

The Germans were convinced by their intelligence that "Britannic" was carrying troops,there is no doubt about that.

I would like to use this quote in the site.


Best regards,
Michail
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Michail,

There's even ANOTHER quote purporting to indicate the same thing. I'll e-mail you later (at college at the moment) and sent this source as well, as well as my source for the quote I've posted. There's another general Olympic e-mail I'm sending.

There's so much evidence in this line, I think we can conclude that:

A) The Germans believed that the hospital ship was carrying troops;
and B) There was a general feeling that hospital ships should not be immune from attack - as proved by the January 1917 'total war on shipping' declaration.

We know that many hospital vessels tragically went down, and I've completed an extensive list in my work.

Best regards,

Mark
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Here’s that quote, and more:

When Captain Bartlett was receiving damage reports, Mr. Coe (rank unknown to me) ‘came to the bridge and reported that a torpedo had entered number one R.A.M.C. barrack room.’

The Times picked up a story from an Athens correspondent, who stated:

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Quote:

‘…(according to all my enquiries) two submarines were lying in wait by the island of Kea with the express object of sending the Britannic to the bottom. She was attacked from both sides at once,* each of the submarines launching a torpedo against her. One of them missed its mark, the other inflicted a fatal blow on the ship.’
[hr]​

*You will recall that the original evidence conflicted, as witnesses reported torpedoes on both sides. This fits Reverend Fleming, who stated ‘one torpedo missed the rudder’ and another hit the bow.

I hope we can have an interesting debate. Recently this thread has pretty much been a 'three' or four person show, but hopefully other people will join in. (Hint:
smile.gif
.) It's great to have such a thread devoted to Britannic.

Best regards,

Mark.
 

Remco Hillen

Member
Jan 6, 2001
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I find it interesting to see that most of the reports directly after the disaster talk of torpedoes.
Nowadays most of the people say mine...suppose they just follow the formal investigation report.

I think it would be a good idea to compile a list with the known statements of people/reports etc and see what the outcome is.
There is no real hard evidence known to date to support the mine theorie which most of the authors talk about.(same goes for the torpedo theorie)

It would be a good idea for a new expedition...
Cousteau was the only one how really looked around for evidence, Ballard only searched for mine anchors.

Regards,
Remco
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Hi Remco!

Good idea about the list.

Talking about a new expedition, though, I've heard that on October 1st 2001 the Greek Government announced it would stop issuing permits to dive on the sunken vessel.

Do you know about this?

Best regards,

Mark.
 
Jan 14, 2001
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Welcome back (both of you!),

Mark:I'm a bit confused here.The first quote (Cow's report) is part of the Official Inquiry (it's not in the text) or Bartlett's testimony to someone?What about the "number one RAMC barrack room"?Where would that be?

The second quote from "Times" really fits the scenario presented by most of the survivors.Assuming that the information is valid,it seems quite strange the use of two submarines.Was that a common tactic with big ships?

Yes,you're right about the latest decision of the Greek government.I guess they had problems with the heavy commercial traffic of the area.


Remco:That kind of list is present in the "Enigma" page of "Britannic".It must be updated with the new quotes presented here by Mark.If he is OK of course(it's his work)...Mark?....
happy.gif


BTW,the H&W plans are already online.Your wish is my command.....
happy.gif
.
The 3D presentations of the forecastle will be uploaded later this week.I have a couple of your drawings which can be added in the "RMS Britannic section" and some stuff regarding the operation of the gantry davits.I must not forget the artistic impressions of the main public rooms(useful for your future articles).


Best regards
happy.gif
,
Michail
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Hi Michail,

Sorry, the quote on Coe is from James Vickers' account. His account is otherwise brief. As far as I can guess, number one barrack room would be somehwere around hold one? Any more thoughts?

It would be fine by me to present these quotes, the source for Captain McNeal's work is the THS Commutator, Britannic special, Winter 1978. Otherwise you know them.

Sorry for this brief post,

Mark.
 

Remco Hillen

Member
Jan 6, 2001
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Hard to tell where that barrack room would be.
Most of the cargo holds would have been reserved for medical cargo(Altough that's a question too..but that a different story
happy.gif
), perhaps they used the 'cargo or motor cars' hold or even a part of the mailroom at the orlop deck.
It would have to be either these rooms, or lower, otherwise the possible torpedo would have been flying..
A cargo hold would be easy to convert though, so it could vertially be any hold on the forward starboard side of the ship.

Then again, I wonder who told Mr. Coe, or how did he find out, that the torpedo had hit that room?
Wouldn't have been nice to stand in that room, the force of the explosion and the water would have been a *bit* of a problem.
Perhaps he was nearby and heard the explosion, and guessed it was there.

It is indeed interesting to see the amount of reports about the 2 torpedo tracks...


Michail,

Thanks for those plans
happy.gif

The 3D drawing and some of my drawings do contain a couple of mistakes now though, we'll have to point that out.

A point about the Enigma section:
"Evidence against the torpedo theory: The inquiry states that:"..there is no evidence of a column of water having been thrown up outside the ship...".This is a significant argument.In fact,this is a characteristic evidence of a torpedo hit."

A mine would also have thrown up a water column.
Perhaps even higher as mines can contain larger amounts of explosives(guessing there).

Regards,
Remco