The fate of the Olympic


Neil McRae

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Apr 16, 2001
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About two or three years ago, a major department store chain in Canada named Eaton's (basically the Canadian equivalent of Macy's) went bankrupt. The downtown store in my city, a lovely old building at least eighty years old, sat vacant for all that time (except for one floor that was kept open because it was part of a skywalk) until finally plans were made to build a new stadium on the site and the Eaton's building was fated to be demolished.

There was quite a fuss for a while by people trying to get the building preserved. It was especially serious because the decision was made only months before a mayoral election. I was sympathetic but it was a lost cause. The top few floor are already cleared and the rest will all be gone by mid-January.

It makes me wonder though. Was there any attempt by ANYONE to save the Olympic from being scrapped? Was there any type of petition or appeal to the public or the press?

I've remarked many times what a spectacular museum piece she would have made, especially today. I'd just hate to think that no one even tried to save the old girl.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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As far as I know, there was no attempt to save the Olympic. Not surprising considering the Great Depession was in full swing. Preserving a ship takes a lot of money, to say nothing of time and labour. While the latter two were available, money was not.

Likely as not...and I could be wrong on this...interest was lacking as well. The idea of preserving historic ships wasn't exactly en vogue back in the 1930's
 
Jan 5, 2001
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It depends what you mean as 'attempt' to save the ship. Certainly we can qualify that by saying that a number of people opined that the Olympic should not be scrapped and disuaded (or tried to disuade) it from happening. In her last month of service passenger bookings rocketed by fifty percent. Aside from publicity in those instances, however, I've not been able to find much more progress.

As an economist (though not a good one), I'd have loved to have been at one of the company's Board Meetingss and driven the point home that there were other better candidates for scrapping.

Regarding WS itself, Bruce Ismay was recalled in autumn 1933 to try to put together a rescue plan, but it was far too late.

Yet as to Olympic there were schemes to turn her into something else without scrapping her -- schemes which everyone seems to have dutifully ignored for years. I am leaving the details to surface in July, but one included the South of France.

Best regards,

Mark.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Cruise ship IOW. I've heard of some of these schemes, but the Mauratania's failure in that couldn't have made anybody comfortable. When you get down to it, liners designed for the chilly North Atlantic were hardly well suited for the beastly heat of more tropical climes.
 
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IOW? What does IOW mean? (I am terrible with these abbreviations!)

I thought Olympic's future cruise ship operation was reasonably well known, although I can understand the problems involved. Seriously, I wasn't referring to those.

Best regards,

Mark.
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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Neil, in the hard world of the time, a lot of Scots and Geordies cheered the scrapping. It meant work and food on the table. No time for sentiment.
 
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In other words! It's clear when you know it.

I wouldn't say that Mauretania did too badly to be honest, although she was not designed for warmer climates. On her cruises she often carried 600 passengers. Assuming Olympic had received some modifications, perhaps in a refitting, she might have achieved some success. Ventilation is the main problem, but not the only one.

Whilst I appreciate that many unemployed were pleased that the ship was being scrapped to bring them work, I don't accept that -- as Dave *seems* to imply -- 'there was no time for sentiment.' Certainly, this was true for later in 1935, but during the earlier part of the year and summer, it was by no means certain that Olympic would be scrapped, even though she was idle at Southampton.

Best regards,

Mark.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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I don't know that there was no time for sentiment, but I don't think that the idea then of preserving the ship in any capacity would have occured to anybody either. Old ships going to the scrapheap was just one of those things one would have taken for granted as inevitable.

There would have been quite a few crocodile tears shed as the ship steamed off to the breakers, but it would have been forgotten soon enough.
 
Jan 5, 2001
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Hi Mike!

but I don't think that the idea then of preserving the ship in any capacity would have occured to anybody either

Yes, but my earlier point was that it did. I have the documentation to prove it. Normally I would post it, but I've shared much of my research with many people over the past two years, and having been ignored for eighty years, months will not make any difference.

Best regards,

Mark.
 

Mark Baber

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The New York Times, 31 March 1935

Olympic's Summer Schedule

The Cunard White Star liner Olympic, which has long been teamed with the Majestic and the Homeric as the "big three," will drop out of the transatlantic trade for the Summer season. She is scheduled to sail next Friday for Southampton and after a three months' absence will return to make a series of three cruises to Quebec, Saguenay, Murray Bay, Gaspe, Halifax and Bermuda; one cruise to Halifax and one to Curacao, LaGuayra, Colon and Nassau. The Olympic was built in 1911 and has a registered tonnage of 46,000.

-30-

[MAB Note: As things turned out, of course, Olympic never returned; her departure "next Friday", 5 April 1935, was to be her final appearance in New York.]
 
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Craig Thomas

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The 30's was the era of streamline art deco. At 24 years old in 1935 the Olympic was a relic of the old fashioned Edwardian Era. People were more interested in looking forward because the future was exciting.
In comparison, would anybody today care if a cruise ship built in 1978 was scrapped?
 
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Probably not Craig, but then were talking about a different age so this might not be a very safe comparision. Back then, certain liners were known to attract some very loyal customers and in that light, I think they would have cared a great deal if say the Olympic or Mauritania were going to the breakers.
 
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Hi!

I have to second Michael's well said comments. Those older pre-WWI liners were held in high esteem by many, even in 1935. Many still held them to be the finest vessels afloat -- mainly those who did not want to 'move on with the times,' or were at least slow in doing so.

Best regards,

Mark.
 

Jeremy Lee

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Jun 12, 2003
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If the Olympic and the Mauretania were sent to the breakers in 1935, why did the Aquitania managed to escape getting scrapped? (The Aquitania was only scrapped in 1950)
 
Apr 23, 2002
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WW2 gave the Aquitania an extended life as a trooper - she was intended to be scrapped before WW2 began (when the QE) came into service for Cunard's two ship service
 
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Brent Holt

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The Aquitania was the luckiest of them. She and the Berengaria operated with the Queen Mary from 1936 onwards. It was planned to retire Aquitania and Berengaria in 1940 when the Queen Elizabeth came out, but the war changed those plans. And, of course, the Berengaria did not last that long.
In some ways, I think it was poetic justice that Cunard had to scrap the Berengaria 2 years earlier than expected. They had kept her when Olympic had lower operating costs than the other comparable liners in the Cunard White Star fleet. I doubt Olympic would have become a fire hazard like the Berengaria since her wiring was less fire prone.
Unfortunately, it seems that the complaints of White Star personnel after the Cunard take-over were correct-the only thing wrong with the White Star ships were the colors of their funnels!
Brent
 

Mark Baber

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The New York Times, 5 August 1935

OLYMPIC TO BE KEPT FOR USE AS TROOPSHIP
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Admiralty Decides Not to Send Famous Old Liner to the Shipbreakers
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The Cunard White Star liner Olympic has been withdrawn from the printed list of the fleet of the merged companies, but it is not likely that she will be sold to the shipbreakers for some time to come.

According to word from London yesterday the British Government, which has a controlling voice in the disposal of the Olympic, has notified the management that the Admiralty wishes the famous liner to be kept ready at Southampton in case she may be needed as a troop ship. During the World War the Olympic carried 300,000 troops.

Captain James L. Thompson, assistant marine superintendent of the Cunard White Star Line, said yesterday that the Admiralty could not have a finer ship for the purpose.

"The Olympic is the best ship that Harland & Wolff ever turned out of their famous yard at Belfast, and she is the last hand-rivetted [sic] big vessel afloat," he said. "She is in A1 condition and can maintain 22 1/2 knots under ordinary weather conditions if she has the fuel. I should be very sorry to hear of her going to the shipbreakers."

-30-
 
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Brent Holt

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It's a shame this plan did not go through. Olympic would have been invaluable during WWII. I wonder what heppened? Perhaps the whole report was false?
Brent
 

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