Britannics life was all too short, and consequently researchers have access to far fewer photographs than they would like. As an added difficulty, during wartime the issue of security was very much at the forefront of the British authorities concerns. Nurses and Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) personnel were warned that the use of cameras was forbidden at the docks, and it was technically illegal to photograph His Majestys vessels after 1914. Nevertheless, private photographs have survived and occasionally another photograph is discovered which adds to our knowledge of the ship.
Private John Riddell, of the RAMC, served onboard HMHS Panama during the war, and kept a photograph album that has survived to this day. The album has been identified by his own RAMC card, and a National Identity card issued during World War II which survived with the album. In early January 2008, the album was purchased by the present authors: Michail Michailakis and Mark Chirnside. It is a true gem, as it contains several rare Britannic photographs. We feel that these remarkable photographs including four unique and apparently hitherto-unpublished images of Britannic deserve a wider audience. Intriguingly, additional photographs of Mauretania and Aquitania have survived in the album, although rather disappointingly for the Britannic researcher two photographs that are captioned as HMHS Britannic actually depict the smaller Mauretania.
We know that four of them were taken when Britannic was preparing to leave, and then leaving, Naples (see Figures 1, 5, 6 and 7). Riddell captioned them specifically and there is nothing in the photographs to suggest that Riddells captions were mistaken. It is possible to identify when they were taken, right down to the hour, by examining several aspects of the historical record:
December 29th 1915: 36 feet 1 inch.
February 4th 1916: 34 feet 8 inches.
March 27th 1916: 36 feet 6 inches.
October 1st 1916: 36 feet 3 inches.
October 26th 1916: 36 feet 8 inches.
November 19th 1916: 36 feet 5 inches.
the differences were merely a matter of inches, then this data would
not be very helpful, but fortunately it is more than a foot. Britannic
does not appear to be drawing any more than 35 feet, and so this
narrows the date down to her February 4th 1916 departure.