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SS Britannic (1874)

SS Britannic
Name: Britannic
Owner: White Star Line
Port of registry:
Route: Atlantic crossing.
Builder: Harland & Wolff, Belfast, Ireland
Yard number: 83
Laid down: 3 February 1874
Completed: 6 June 1874
Maiden voyage: 25 June 1874
Honors and
Blue Riband winner
Fate: Sold, Scrapped 1903
General characteristics
Type: Steamship, Twin funnel
Tonnage: 5,004 tons
Length: 468 ft (142.65 m)
Depth: 45 ft (13.72 m)
Installed power: Steam
Propulsion: Single screw
Sail plan: 4 masts
Speed: 15 knots (28 km/h)
Capacity: 1,300
Crew: 150

SS Britannic was an ocean liner of the White Star Line. It was the first of three ships of the White Star Line to sail with Britannic name.

Britannic was a steamship equipped with sails. It was initially to be called Hellenic, but, just prior to her launch, her name was changed to Britannic. Its twin was Germanic. Britannic sailed for nearly thirty years, primarily carrying immigrant passengers on the highly trafficked Liverpool to New York route. In 1876 it received the Blue Riband, both westbound and eastbound, by averaging almost 16 knots (30 km/h).


  • Accommodations 1
  • Career 2
    • SS Celtic collision 2.1
    • Later career 2.2
  • See also 3
  • Gallery 4
  • References 5


The Britannic and her sister Germanic were both built to carry 266 Saloon Class Passengers (Title of First Class at that time) and 1,500 steerage passengers. As the ships were virtually larger versions of the "Oceanic" class ships built in the previous years, their accommodations were very similar, with some variances to give each ship its own character. Britannic '​s saloon accommodations, consisting of a large, spacious dining saloon and a large number of two and four berth cabins were located in the center of the ship on the main deck, being the upper of the two decks enclosed within the hull above the waterline. The steerage accommodations were divided into two main sections at either end of the ship, berths for single men in the bow and berths for single women, married couples and families in the stern.


On 25 June 1874 she made her maiden voyage, from Liverpool to New York. In the autumn of 1876, she captured the westbound Blue Riband and a month later set the eastbound record as well, becoming the only White Star ship ever to hold both records simultaneously. She lost the westbound record to her sister, Germanic, in April 1877 and the eastbound one to the Guion Line's Arizona in July 1879.[1]

On July 4 1881 Britannic ran aground in fog at Kilmore, County Wexford, Ireland, and remained stuck for two days. All the passengers were safely landed at Waterford. Britannic sprang a leak in her engine room after being re-floated and was beached at Wexford Bay. She had to be patched up and pumped before returning to Liverpool.[1][2]

SS Celtic collision

On 19 May 1887, at about 5:25pm, the White Star liner SS Celtic collided with Britannic in thick fog about 350 miles (560 km) east of Sandy Hook, New Jersey. Celtic, with 870 passengers, had been steaming westbound for New York City, while Britannic, carrying 450 passengers, was on the second day of her eastward journey to Liverpool. The two ships collided at almost right angles, with Celtic burying her prow 10 feet (3 m) in the aft port side of Britannic. Celtic rebounded and hit two more times, before sliding past behind Britannic.

Six steerage passengers were killed outright on board Britannic and another six were later found to be missing having been washed overboard. There were no deaths on board Celtic. Both ships were badly damaged, but Britannic more so, having a large hole below her waterline. Fearing that she would founder, the passengers on board began to panic and rushed the lifeboats. Britannic's captain, Hugh Hamilton Perry,[3] pistol in hand, was able to restore some semblance of order, and the boats were filled with women and children, although a few men forced their way on board. After the lifeboats had launched, it was realized that Britannic would be able to stay afloat, and the lifeboats within hailing distance were recalled. The rest made their way over to Celtic. The two ships remained together through the night and the next morning were joined by the Wilson Line's Marengo and British Queen of the Inman Line, and the four slowly made their way into New York Harbor. Britannic was repaired at New York and was out of service for nearly a month.[1]

Two and a half year old Eleanor Roosevelt was on board the Britannic at the time of the collision with her father Elliot, mother Anna and aunt Tissie. Eleanor was lowered into a lifeboat, screaming and protesting. She and her parents were taken to the Celtic and eventually returned to New York. Eleanor raised a huge protest at the prospect of going back on board a ship to continue the family's trip to Europe. Her parents went on to Europe, leaving the little girl with a maternal aunt. Eleanor had a lifelong fear of water and ships as a result of this incident.[4]

Later career

Britannic continued on the Liverpool-New York run, on one journey in August 1891, the 17 year-old ship recorded her fastest ever crossing from New York to Queenstown, making the journey in 7 days, 6 hours and 52 min.[2]

In August 1899 Britannic was requisitioned by the Royal Navy and converted for use as a troopship to transport soldiers to the Boer War in South Africa, becoming known as HMT #62 (Hired Military Transport). During this period, under the command of Bertram Fox Hayes, Britannic transported 37,000 troops to and from the conflict over three years.[5] She continued in this role until the war concluded in October 1902. On her return, Britannic '​s condition was such that she was condemned on inspection and sold for scrap for £11,500. She was towed to Hamburg and broken up during 1903. [2][1]

See also



  1. ^ a b c d
  2. ^ a b c
  3. ^
  4. ^ Lash, J. (1971). Eleanor and Franklin: The Story of Their Relationship, based on Eleanor Roosevelt's Private Papers. New York: W. W. Norton & Company
  5. ^ News from 1924/1941: Retirement/Death of Commodore Hayes -
  • reprint of an article from Illustrated London News, May 28, 1887 of the collision
  • S/S Britannic (1), White Star Line
  • Britannic (I)
Preceded by
City of Berlin
Holder of the Blue Riband (westbound)
1876 – 1877
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Atlantic Eastbound Record
1876 – 1879
Succeeded by

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