Sister in a Titan’s Shadow

HMHS Britannic – formerly RMS Britannic

RMS Britannic
Another White Star Line Sinking

This week has seen an extraordinary amount of film at home and in the theatre with the launch of James Cameron’s 3-D version of Titanic. Ceremonies have recognized the 100th anniversary of the loss of this titan on its maiden voyage, such as in Halifax, (the City of Sorrow) Nova Scotia where three cemeteries include the graves of this great ship’s victims. Museums and archives have clamored to assemble their presentations in this another great opportunity to study the impact of this mighty vessel’s loss. In effect there is a steady stream of Titanica, set upon the tide for us to investigate. In keeping with these offerings I provide a similar course but diverge slightly by taking us to one of Titanic’s, not often mentioned, kin RMS Britannic.

Like RMS Titanic, the Britannic was built by Harland and Wolff in Belfast and was launched February 26, 1914. During the Great War Britannic, which was larger than Titanic, became a hospital ship and renamed HMHS (His Majesty’s Hospital Ship) Britannic. Under the command of Captain Charles Alfred Bartlett CB, CBE, RD, of the Royal Naval Reserve, Bartlett first served with the White Star Line in 1894, and developed an uncanny reputation for “smelling ice” in the shipping lanes and was given the nickname “Iceberg Charlie”.

On November 21, 1916 at 8:12 AM Britannic struck a mine and sunk at 9:07 AM off the Greek island off Kea in the Kea Channel. It is amazing that nurse Violet Jessop was on board, not only did she survive the sinking of Britannic and the 1911 collision of Olympic with HMS Hawke, she was also a Titanic survivor.

Of the 1,134 individuals on board, thirty lives were lost. Britannic sank in about an hour, and it is thought that most of the fatalities did not occur due to the explosion of the mine but when some of the lifeboats were caught up in the vortex of the Britannic going down. Captain Bartlett who survived the Britannic’s sinking was, however, stuck by another vessel’s loss. On May 13, 1915 his only son, Charles Sydney Ellis Bartlett, was lost as a 15 year old Midshipman when HMS Goliath was hit and sunk by Turkish torpedoes in the Dardanelles. Midshipman Bartlett is commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial, Kent, England.

Of the 30 individuals lost in the Britannic’s sinking the following 15 souls have been confirmed as fatalities:

Piraeus Naval and Consular Cemetery, Greece
Fireman Joseph Brown, Southampton
Seaman G. Honeycott
Charles James David Phillips, Hants

Detail of the Tower Hill Memorial

Tower Hill Memorial, London, England
Fireman Frank Joseph Earley, Southampton
Steward Charles Claude Seymour Garland, Southampton
Scullion Leonard George, Southampton
Second Electrician Pownall Gillespie, Liscard, Cheshire
Fireman George William Godwin, Southampton
Assistant Cook Thomas McDonald, Liverpool
Fireman John George McFeat, Southampton
Steward Thomas Francis Tully, Bootle, Lancashire
Greaser George Sherin, Southampton
Trimmer Arthur Dennis, Southampton
Steward Henry James Toogood, Southampton
Fireman George Bradbury Philps, Southampton

Not Confirmed
Piraeus Naval and Consular Cemetery, Greece
Private Arthur Binks, M.M., Royal Army Medical Corps

Mikra Memorial, Greece
Private George James Bostock, Royal Army Medical Corps
Private Henry Freebury, Royal Army Medical Corps
Private Thomas Jones, Royal Army Medical Corps
Private Leonard Smith, Royal Army Medical Corps
Captain John Cropper, Royal Army Medical Corps
Sergeant William Sharpe, Royal Army Medical Corps (buried Syria New British Cemetery)
Private George William King, Royal Army Medical Corps
Private William Stone, Royal Army Medical Corps

Six individuals not identified

Did you know?

Famed French explorer, filmmaker and diver Jacques Cousteau discovered the wreck in 1975 at rest 400’ below the water’s surface. Robert Ballard the discoverer of Titanic also visited the Britannic wreck site in 1995.

Captain Charles Bartlett’s honours include the CB (Companion of the Order of the Bath), the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) and the RD (Royal Naval Reserve Decoration).

About The Author

Paul has worked with the Paradigm Motion Picture Company since 2009 as producer, historian and research specialist. Paul first met Casey and Ian WIlliams of Paradigm in April 2007 at Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul's sensitivity to film was developed at an early age seeing his first films at RCAF Zweibrucken, Germany and in Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was further amazed by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Film captivated Paul and with time he became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography and soundtracks. At the University of Victoria, Paul studied and compared Japanese and Australian film and became interested in Australian film maker Peter Weir and his film "Gallipoli" (1981). Paul was entranced when he learned Weir had visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. The film "Gallipoli" alone led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii and Gallipoli. It was, however, when Paul watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", that Paul understood how his own experience and insight could be effective and perhaps influential in film-making. Combining his knowledge of Museums and Archives, exhibitions and idea strategies with his film interests would be a natural progression. Paul thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm an eye (and ear) to the keen and sensitive interests of; content development, the understanding of successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Like Paul's favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, he believes in the adage “To deepen not broaden.” While on this path Paul always remembers his grandmother whose father did not return from the Great War and how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to guide him.


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