Page last modified: September 26, 2004

RMS Olympic
RMS Olympic, circa 1911 (click for large image)

RMS Olympic
"Old Reliable"
Sister ship of RMS Titanic


(image courtesy of S Terry Jette)

(Note: all images on this page come from Postcards, or Passenger lists that are in my White Star/Cunard Collection
or have been sent to me by readers of this page)
The Olympic and Britannic were the sister ships of the RMS Titanic. The Olympic was launched before the Titanic, and unlike her unlucky sister Titanic, which sank on April 14/15, 1912,She has a long and illustrious career, earning herself the nickname "Old Reliable". The third sister, Britannic, was not so lucky, and sank while serving as a hospital ship!

The following statistics and short history is taken from the book "The Atlantic Liners" by Frederick Emmons, (1972) Drake Publishers or (1984) Bonanaza Books:

"RMS Olympic - Built: 1911 -:- In service: 1911-1935
Gross Registered Tonnage: 45,324 (46,439 after 1912/13 alterations)
Length and Breadth: 883ft x 92ft -:- Number of Screws: Triple screw
Type of Engines: combination triple expansion engines and turbine -:- Service speed: 23 knots
Built by Harland and Wolff -:- Maiden Voyage: Southampton - New York, 14 June 1911.

 
History:
  • Badly damaged in collision with cruiser H M S Hawke off Portsmouth, 20 September 1911. 
  • Extensively rebuilt after loss of sister Titanic in 1912. 
  • Converted to troopship September 1915. 
  • Rammed and sank the German submarine U-103, 12 May 1918. 
  • Resumed passenger service July 1920. 
  • Transferred to Cunard - White Star Line 1934. 
  • Rammed and sank the Nantucket Lightship with all hands during thick fog, 16 May 1934. (7 killed, or 7 of 11 depending on the source!) 
  • Withdrawn from service and partially broken up at Jarrow 1935 
  • Towed to Inverkeithing for final demolition/scrapping 1937. 
 
I collect Postcards of Ocean Liners, and these are 2 of my cards of the Olympic that I can reproduce here because they should be free of copyright. (They are photo postcards, which seem to be created from an individuals photo as opposed to being mass produced)

The back of both cards indicate they were made in Canada, so it is possible both pictures show the Olympic while in or near Halifax.

Photo Postcard - Stern View
Stern View of Olympic
(link to 68k jpg)
This postcard stern view of the Olympic is an interesting angle. Because of the number of lifeboats, this is a post Titanic disaster picture. This picture shows that the Olympic and Titanic were certainly impressive Ships. 
Photo Postcard Troopship
Olympic Dazzle Paint peeling and fading
(link to 87k jpg)
Photo Postcard
HMS Olympic - Viewed from a Sea-plane on War Service
Copyright White Star Line - W. E. Axten, Publisher, Southamton

This is a common image, shown in many books

(image courtesy of S Terry Jette)

Postcard given to troops
on board the troopship1919 Canadian Expeditionary Force
(link to 102k jpg)
Postcard given to troops returning to Canada, 1919

(image courtesy of S Terry Jette)

Photo Postcard Dazzle Paint
Olympic Dazzle Paint peeling and fading
(link to 88k jpg)
This picture may have been taken in Halifax harbour, and is a great picture of the Dazzle Paint scheme beginning to peel and fade. She is probably still acting as a troopship in this photo as there are a large number of men lining the rails, and they appear to be wearing long army style trench coats. 
As a troopship, New York, Halifax, Liverpool and Southampton were her ports of call! 
Arthur Lismer Painting
of Dazzle PaintArthur Lismer painting
(link to 44k jpg)
Canadian Artist, Arthur Lismer (a member of the Group of Seven), created this painting entitled: 
"The 'Olympic' with Returned Soldiers". 
This painting is in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. 
Image copyright "National Gallery, Ottawa 1998" (image taken from a postcard!)
Silk Postcard
Arthur Lismer painting
(link to 92k jpg)
Woven Silk Postcard with ship details
R.M.S. Olympic
Length 883 ft, Breadth 92 1/2 ft, Tonnage 46359, Speed 22 1/2 Knots

(image courtesy of S Terry Jette)

 
H.M.T Olympic / H.M.S. Olympic
Wartime Service Record
I have been able to figure out the following war-time activities of the "HMT Olympic".
First of all, it seems her designation during WWI was "HMT" or "His Majesty's Transport". I found this information in "Olympic&Titanic: Ocean Liners of the Past", and more specifically in the epilogue written by John Maxtone-Graham. One postcard (shown above) also gives the designation "HMS" or "His Majesty's Ship"

Note: "RMS" means "Royal Mail Ship"

(The following war-time activity information comes from books, and personal messages sent to me:

  • Falling Star: Misadventures of White Star Line Ships" by John P. Eaton & Charles A. Haas
  • Duncan McLean (whose Grandparents and Mother sailed on Olympic in 1918)
  • Douglas K. Howard (whose Grandfather sailed on Olympic in 1918)
  • Brett Payne (whose grandfather sailed on Olympic in 1919)
  • Ms. Jamie Cummins (whose Great Grandfather sailed on the Olympic in 1918)
  • S Terry Jette - who owns the Canadian Expeditionary Force Postcard
1914 Saturday August 8 after the declaration of war, The Olympic sailed, with no passengers, no mail and no cargo from New York to Liverpool. She was escorted part way by british cruiser HMS Essex, and was met by cruiser HMS Drake off the Irish coast.
  Her next 2 passenger trans-Atlantic crossings were between New York and Liverpool (instead of Southampton)
October 21 departs New York, 1600 passsengers. Oct 27, she was alerted by wireless that the battleship HMS Audacious had struck a mine. 250 of the 900 seamen were rescued by Olympic, with other british warships picking up the remaining crew (only 2 crew perished). Although the HMS Audacious was wallowing helplessly, with her stern awash, the Olympic attempted to take the Audacious in tow but the battleship could not be saved. 

See:
http://www.deepimage.co.uk/wrecks/audacious/audaciouswreckpage1.htm
and
http://www.deepimage.co.uk/wrecks/audacious/audacious990-article.htm

October 27 to
November 2
after the rescue and tow attempt, Olympic anchors in Lough Swilly, her passengers not permitted to disembark until sworn to secrecy about the sinking.
November 2 she sails to Belfast, where she is taken out of service for conversion to a troopship. This takes 10 months, during which she is fitted with a 12 pound gun forward, and a 4.7 inch gun aft.
1915 September sails from England to the Eastern Mediterranean with 6000 troops. En-route, off Malta, rescues French sailors from a drifting lifeboat from the torpedoed French steamship Provencia. (A search of the web has found no information on this ship!)
October 31 completes the above first troop voyage at Liverpool.
November troop voyage to the Mediterranean
?December? troop voyage to the Mediterranean
1916 January troop voyage to the Mediterranean
February troop voyage to the Mediterranean
March 23 departs on first of 10 round trips (20 crossings) to Halifax (from? Southampton or Liverpool?).
September 18
September 25
Embarked Halifax
Disembarked Liverpool
1917 January 12 returns to Belfast for maintenance and installation of 6 inch guns as added protection
late summer new dazzle paint
December 25 arrives in New York, for her first voyage to carry American troops
1918 January 12 departs from New York with US troops
April 24 departs Southampton for New York
May 12 on return voyage from New York, when approaching the English Channel, rams and sinks U-boat 103. (some info says this was the 22nd troop voyage
Late May departs Liverpool for Halifax as a Hospital ship
June 27 departs Southampton for Halifax with 935 "registered" passengers. The passenger manifest shows hundreds of civilians, women and children, along with a separate list of soldiers etc., being returned for various reasons including "medically unfit" etc. 
July 4 2:30pm arrives in Halifax. Between 3pm and 5pm, Dr Morton examines the Salon Passengers. Between 5pm and 7pm he examines the Steerage. Clean bill of Health, no Quarantine required!
July 12 departs New York City carrying US Army's 364th Infantry Division.
July 18 gains escort of 5 US Navy destroyers
July 19 arrives at Southampton.
Aug 8 Boarding of the Olympic at Pier #57, New York is allowed.
Aug 9 8 a.m. the Olympic sets sail for England
Aug 16 D.S. Cummins - Click image for larger viewOlympic enters the English Channel

Aug 8-16 information provided by Jamie Cummins, June 2002.
The details are in a letter written by her Great Grandfather, David Scott Cummins, to his sister in 1918.
Her grandfather was a private in Company E., 349th Infantry, A.E.F. (American Expeditionary Force)

D S Cummins
in Alsace France, 1918
(thank you Jamie)
Click image for larger view

1919 Jan 11 as troopship arrives in Halifax, Nova Scotia 
(from Charles Leslie Lionel Payne's Service Records, as submitted to me by grandson Brett Payne - bpayne@xtra.co.nz, Feb 19, 2001)
July 2 D.S. Cummins - Click image for larger view
(Click image for larger view)

Leave Southampton carrying soldiers from the "Canadian Expeditionary Force"

Details on the card (supplied onboard ship) list the "campains(?)" fought by this expeditionary force:

  • H.M.T. Olympic
    The Ship that brought me home
    Left Southampton, July 2nd; Arrived Halifax, July 8th, 1919
    1914 - Canadian Expeditionary Force - 1919
    Mons, St. Eloi, Neuve Chappele, Ypres 2, Festubert, Givenchy, La Basse, Loo, Plugstreet, St Julien, Ypres 3, The Somme, Courcelette, Vimy Ridge, Hill 70, Baschendale, Amiens, Arras, Cambrai, Valerciennes, Occupation of Mons Nov 11

2nd last trip as a troop ship!

July 8 Arrive Halifax carrying soldiers from the "Canadian Expeditiionary Force"
July 21 arrives in Liverpool after final voyage as troopship from Halifax
1920 June 25 return to passenger service, at Southampton.


Additional Links to the RMS Olympic:
RMS Olympic among other ships: AT  http://www.ocean-liners.com/
http://www.bytenet.net/rmscaronia
If anyone would like to pass along any thoughts or information they might have on
the Olympic, especially her wartime service please feel free to Email me at: anash@julesverne.ca

This Website managed by Andrew Nash.
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All Images copyright Andrew Nash 2004