Reviewed by Geoff Whitfield
When I first saw the subject matter of Mark Chirnside's new book, Oceanic; White Star's Ship of the Century I was perhaps a little unsure as to how much material he could find to fill a book relating to what I had previously considered to be one of the line's lesser-known vessels.
I should have known better than to cast doubts upon this author's capability to unearth the most minute details relating to his chosen subject!
Having devoured Mark's earlier books, Aquitania, Olympic, Titanic, Britannic etc. I was prepared for an interesting read, but I consider that the author has surpassed the other books with this new one - probably because the subject has not been approached before, thereby making all of the information completely new to the reader.
A brief outline of the ship is that she was launched in 1899 when she was the World's largest ship and the final "Fast liner" built before Olympic and Titanic. During her fifteen year period of service, she gained a reputation for her luxurious first class accommodation and reliability.
She was commissioned into the Royal Navy within days of the outbreak of World War One and converted into an armed merchant cruiser. Within weeks, however, she ran aground on rocks near Foula in the Shetland Islands and became a total loss.
The author mentions details of her few mishaps during her career, and, like all ships, there were a few, yet this book impresses upon the reader just how popular a ship she was. Titanic's surviving Officer, Charles Lightoller who was aboard Oceanic during her final voyage, wrote in his memoirs many years later "I was never so fond of any ship as the Oceanic either before or since."
For those with a general maritime interest, this book is a "Must have" it contains a plethora of previously unpublished material including many fascinating photographs and drawings. The photographs of her first and second class passenger accommodations are breathtaking, whilst even her steerage quarters were good for the era.
In all, the author has managed to put together an easily readable and superb tribute to a much-loved ocean liner.
Oceanic; White Star's Ship of the Century
144 pages, Published by The History Press