Sister ship to Titanic, White Star Liner RMS Olympic 1911-1935
Olympic's keel was first laid at Harland and Wollf Shipbuilders, Belfast Ireland in 1908. Olympic was the first of a new class of liners. "Oly" as she was affectionately nicknamed, had the most successful career of the 3 sisters (Olympic, Titanic and Britannic) the other two sinking in peacetime and wartime. Her first taste of wartime service (WWI) came while still making commercial voyages. In October of 1914, Olympic happened upon the sinking British battleship Audacious and conducted a daring at-sea rescue. Olympic later served as a troop ship carrying Canadians to the war front. It was during this service that Olympic obtained her nickname "Old Reliable," for her trustworthy service on these troop carrying voyages.
Olympic’s most notable achievement during the war was the ramming and sinking of of the German submarine U-103 on May 12, 1918. Olympic was the only merchant ship to sink an enemy warship during the war. Korvettenkapitän Claus Rücker, commander of the 9-month old U-103, had unsuccessfully fired two torpedo's at Olympic just missing her port bow. In what some historians consider a foolish maneuver, Olympic turned around and rammed the u-boat sinking her and killing the crew. It is believed that Olympic could have easily outrun the u-boat on a zigzag course and not have risked the lives of the thousands on board.
Refitted and converted to oil fuel, Olympic returned to service in July of 1920, . With Britannic's sinking during the war, Olympic became the last remaining ship of the original Olympic Class trio of liners envisioned by WSL chairman Bruce Ismay. She was a favorite among the passengers in her own right as well as for the fact that she was about identical in appearance to lost sister Titanic. Interestingly, Olympic was the first White Star liner to sell out passage booking after Titanic sank, until Majestic ( "The Magic Stick") came along.
The Olympic passing by very closely in this 1932 photo taken by a crew member of Nantucket Lightship LV-117. From the looks of the wake, she's moving along at a pretty good clip. If you look at the smoke coming from her funnels it would appear that most of her boilers are lit.
Two years after this photo was taken, Olympic accidentally rammed this lightship sending her to the bottom of the sea in a matter of minutes. Three crew members aboard the lightship died as a result. And, yes, it was the same captain of Olympic in the above photo that sank the lightship.
Image credit: US Coast Guard
Lightship LV-117, sunk by the Olympic in 1934. Olympic, having become old and barely able to pass her seaworthiness inspections was scrapped the following year. The lightship sinking was a sad ending to Olympic's amazing years of service at sea.
Image credit: US Coast Guard
After 24 years of incredible service, Olympic was sold in 1935 for $500,000 for scrapping and salvage. Her luxurious fittings were removed and sold and can be found today in various hotels, pubs and restaurants around the world. A few Olympic pieces can be found occasionally on the Internet at auction on eBay®, at pretty healthy prices I must add. (Believe me, I know. I'm a sucker for the WSL collectibles myself - see below)
Identical floor tile recovered from Titanic's debris field.
Image Credit: RMS Titanic Inc.
Windows from the RMS Olympic at the White Swan Hotel, Alnwick, England
Photo © Phil Ottewell - www.pottsoft.com/home/titanic/white_swan.html
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