Special for THS Members $39.95
The Dramatic Story of the Last Olympian – HMHS Britannic
by Simon Mills
Published by Wordsmith Publications, UK
Cat List HTF1218 $49.95 (Special to THS $39.95)
The first and original story of the last Olympic Class liner, Britannic.
Simon Mills’ authoritative book tells how Britannic was a masterpiece of marine technology but was never designed for the stage that sealed her fate.
Eclipsed at birth in life and at her passing by circumstances beyond her control, Britannic was very much a hostage to the events of her time. She would never escape from the shadow of her more notorious sister, Titanic, and the destiny of Great Britain’s largest ship of her era would be played out on an altogether different arena. Nevertheless her story has a powerful drama of its own and it is only now that previous forgotten personal papers and diaries shed a new light on the human story of the last Olympian.
Foreword by Dr. Robert Ballard. Includes a large fold-out rigging plan showing her original design. A longitudinal section deck plans A, B, C, D,E, F, G and tank top. 224 pages. Highly illustrated in color and black and white. Hardcover with dust jacket.
Simon Mills’ latest work on Britannic is very impressive in its coverage of the social history of White Star’s tragic liner. Where his previous book, “¬HMS Britannic: The Last Titan’s” treatment was with more of the ship’s technical aspects and was satisfying to people who classify themselves as “rivet counters”, this book should please those interested in an authentic narrative of the ship’s abbreviated career. Although “rivet counters” can take heart since the book has two copies of rigging plans; the first represents the ship as she was originally intended as a passenger liner and the second plan illustrates her as a hospital ship. They are very nice additions .
The book is 10.75 X 8, slightly smaller than “Last Titan” and the print is less crisp, although I think that is rather my own nitpicking. Whereas his first book’s pages were glossy paper, this one has a matte finish, matters of personal taste.
“Hostage” has a section of underwater color images of the wreck that more than make up for any fault finding with some of the black and white and there are a few new photographs of the ship which also was welcome.
There is a vast increase of material for Britannic and White Star Line aficionados will find it fascinating. I’ve read reviews by some who thought the text went into too much detail, and those that thought it had too little but this reviewer found the book to be nicely balanced. One point that Mills discusses in his first chapter is the controversy of the name “Gigantic” and I think he does a very good job of laying this myth to rest along with assorted other folklore.
Excellent accounts of previous expeditions in 1997, 1998 and 1999 are provided and new information was discovered at the wrecksite . Mr. Mills being the owner of the wreck, is in a unique position to have access to data from the most recent dives which he discusses in the book.
The author has gone through various personal accounts and actually met a survivor of the sinking to round out the human side of the story, and he has found new statistics that correct some material in his first book. For example, a photograph in Sheila Macbeth’s scrapbook of a pipe-smoking officer that often was identified as the ship’s Captain is actually the First Engineer. This is but one new tidbit of many gathered by the author and I will leave it at that. This reviewer doesn’t want to give away any of the many important new findings.
“HMHS Britannic: The Last Titan” and “Hostage to Fortune” make excellent companions and I would recommend both books because they are so complimentary to each other.
I read a recent interview by Mills who said when the next edition of his first book comes out it will incorporate the latest findings. Hopefully, “Hostage” will help Britannic to come out from underneath the shadow of her younger sister and find the recognition she deserves.
As Mills states in the Epilogue, “It should now, therefore be possible to lay to rest the rather demeaning sobriquet attached to Britannic as Titanic’s forgotten sister. Britannic has a special place in history and it is hoped that this book will help restore the esteem in which she was held by all those associated with her during her short life….”
The author’s efforts more than do the job. …Ray Lepien