WHAT'S IN A NAME
by Jonathan Smith
dealt another horrific blow to the White Star Line when the
third Olympic-class sister Britannic went into service during
the first world war to be lost to a German mine in November
1916. She was to be more luxurious than her previous sister's
Olympic and Titanic.
And with her luxury came size. Before disaster befell the unsinkable
Titanic in April 1912, names were to be given for the three
sister's; Olympic, Titanic and Gigantic. But why the change
for the latter ship? It has been widely believed that the name
change, if it were true, was largely down to the loss of Titanic,
tempting fate as it would seem. The mythological gods such as
the Olympians, the Titans and the Giants seemed a fitting attribute
for this new breed of mammoth liner. So Gigantic would be the
H.M.H.S. Britannic seen here in her Hospital ship colours while
leaving Southampton- TRMA
the decades the Titanic community have delved into the story of
the last Titan, trying to find that one shred of evidence that
suggests the name Gigantic was ever going to be used. Newspapers
printed at the time of the ships construction hinted to this name
on numerous occasions. Many files at Harland & Wolff have
been viewed with nothing to suggest the name Gigantic. But not
all of these have been seen by the public. Even an unfinished
trade advertisement for the liner appeared with her name in bold.
So her name tantalisingly appeared to be that of a myth, a clever
title by the press. But new evidence has come to light on the
use of that very name.
photographed for Hingleys outside of the Hingleys works in early
November 1914. This particular image of the anchor would appear
odd to some, but this is one of Hingelys plates used for advertising.
The image was airbrushed 'around' to which the image would be
cut and placed into an advertisement - Jonathan Smith Collection
Smith; the british researcher and trustee for the Titanic Research
& Modeling Association (TRMA) looks into the name that was
soon to change. The first piece of evidence that the White Star
Line and Harland & Wolff were using the name Gigantic.
Once based in the often bleak settings of the industrial West
Midlands, Messrs. 'Noah Hingleys & Sons Ltd' were one of England's
giants in manufacturing and supplying anchors, chains and cables
for ships all over the world. First founded in 1846 and setting
up their business in the very heart of the 'Black Country,' Hingleys
made and supplied Hall's Patent anchors between 1886 to 1955.
Having supplied these for a number of famous vessels including
Olympic, Titanic, Lusitania, Aquitania and the German battleship
Bismarck. Hingleys also went on to supply the anchors and chains
Three views of the
August 1911 to June 1914 Hingleys 'Chain & Anchor Book'
with the Gigantic entry - Jonathan Smith Collection
order was registered in Hingleys August 1911 to June 1914 'Chain
& Anchor' book on the date of February 20th 1912. Written
in black fountain pen on page 97 of this book, the Gigantic entry
is clearly visible and goes into considerable detail regarding
the components for the liner. Complete with the yard build number
of 433, the name Gigantic was included in red ink along with other
amendments on that page. It would appear at that time, that was
the name assigned to that vessel.
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Noah Hingleys &
Sons Ltd, once based in Netherton (near Dudley),
West Midlands, United Kingdom - Jonathan Smith Collection
However, this is not
the only recorded entry into the Hingleys records for Gigantic.
Also within the archives are a small number of letters sent between
the 'London & North Western Railway' (LNWR) and Noah Hingleys
& Sons Ltd. One particular letter sent from LNWR dated November
3rd 1913 confirmed their unsuccessful quote in sending the Gigantic's
anchors by rail to Fleetwood in Liverpool then over to Belfast.
The letter even goes on to say that LNWR had been undercharged
by the "Cross Channel Steamers people" while ferrying
Titanic's anchors overseas to Belfast in 1911. With just only
a few months before Britannic's launch, the name Gigantic was
still being used.
Four of the letters
sent to Hingleys from LNWR during the shipping process
of the Gigantic/Britannic anchors - Jonathan Smith Collection
The press "rumours"
of the time did report on the name Gigantic, and with these finds,
it does appear that Britannic had a first name after all.
Jonathan Smith (TRMA)
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