GIGANTIC: WHAT'S IN A NAME
by Jonathan Smith (TRMA)

   Fate 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 obvious choice.



H.M.H.S. Britannic seen here in her Hospital ship colours while leaving Southampton- TRMA

Over 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.


Britannic's anchor 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

Jonathan 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 for Britannic.


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Three views of the August 1911 to June 1914 Hingleys 'Chain & Anchor Book'
with the Gigantic entry - Jonathan Smith Collection

The 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.


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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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