On This Day

21 November

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1916 The loss of Britannic


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HMHS Britannic (Yard No. 433) the former White Star liner, under the command of Captain Charles Bartlett, struck a submerged mine laid by a German U-boat U-73 and sank today off Port St. Nikolo in the Kea Channel with the loss of thirty lives.

Launched in February 1914, like her sisters Olympic and Titanic, Britannic was intended for the North Atlantic passenger trade. Following the outbreak of war in August 1914 the vessel was requisitioned by the British Government and converted for use as a hospital ship.

Britannic holds the record as the largest merchant vessel lost in both world wars. Remarkably two members of Britannic’s crew also served onboard Olympic, at the time of her collision with HMS Hawke, and were both onboard Titanic; fireman John Priest and stewardess Violet Jessop.
(See: Ship Fact Files - Britannic)

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1903 White Star's Baltic


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The 23,875-ton passenger ship Baltic (Yard No. 352) was launched at 11am today for the Oceanic Steam Navigation Co. Ltd. (White Star Line). Not withstanding a severe gale which at one time was feared would cause the postponement of the launch, the largest steamer in the world, left the ways from Harland & Wolff’s North Yard ‘and gracefully entered the river.’

There were about 40,000 people present, both sides of the Victoria Channel being lined with spectators, while the decks of neighbouring vessels were crowded with sightseers. Amongst those present were G. W. Wolff, MP, the Right Hon. W. J. Pirrie and other members of the shipbuilding firm.

Special trains were run on different railways and were well patronised while a general holiday was granted in the Island works. The huge gangways provided excellent accommodation for the large assemblage of the ‘fair sex present.’

Sharp to 11am, Miss Julia Neilson, a well-known actress, gently touched the operating lever and the huge vessel slowly entered the water amid cheers from the thousands of spectators. There was an enormous displacement of water but fortunately no accident marred the launch. The deadweight of the vessel entering the water was recorded at 14,810 tons and she was pulled up 50 seconds after the start.

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1896 Arabia

The 5,550-ton cargo and passenger ship Arabia (Yard No. 307) was launched this morning from the southern end of the yard for the Hamburg-Amerika Linie (HAPAG). The owners were represented at the launching by Inspector Van der Smissen and Captain Kopff.

The new steamer, intended for the Company’s North Atlantic cargo trade, was also fitted with accommodation for about 300 Steerage Class passengers. Her sister ship Arcadia (Yard No. 308) had been launched the previous October. Both vessels were constructed to the highest classification class of Germanischer Lloyd’s.

Principally cargo vessels, each was fitted with ‘every mechanical facility for the rapid loading and discharge of cargo, as also with refrigerating machinery of the most approved kind, and a complete installation of the electric light. The propelling machinery for the vessel, which has been constructed in the engine works of the builders, consists of a set of quadruple expansion engines, specially designed to avoid vibration, and similar to those of the s.s., Pennsylvania, recently launched for the same owners.’

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1942 Darro

The 9,733-ton refrigerated cargo ship Darro (Yard No. 1148) was launched today for Royal Mail Lines Ltd.

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1956 Port Launceston


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The 8,957-ton refrigerated cargo ship Port Launceston (Yard No. 1534) was launched today for Port Line Ltd., London.

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1877 Star of France


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The 1,663-ton iron sailing ship Star of France (Yard No. 114) was launched today shortly after 10am for J. P. Corry & Company. The launch was, despite very bad weather, witnessed by a considerable number of spectators who lined the banks for the Victoria Channel.

The clipper ship was a further addition to Corry’s well-known ‘Star Line and the twelfth built for their service between London and Calcutta.

‘As the large vessel glided, amid the cheers of the assembled workmen, into her native element, the ceremony of “baptizing” her was gracefully performed by Miss Corry.’

Her dimensions were: length, 257 feet; Breadth of beam, 83 feet; Depth in the hold, 22 feet 9 inches.

Star of France was a very fine specimen of naval architecture and despite the inroads that steamship were making on world trade still reflected a great deal of credit upon her designers and builders. Her sister ship Star of Italy (Yard No. 113), was launched on 25 July, when their Graces the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough were present. After the launch, the new vessel was berthed in the Abercorn Basin, where she was completely outfitted by Morrow, Lemon, & Co. She was commanded by Captain Hughes, and when ready for sea she took out a cargo of salt direct from Belfast to Calcutta.