Friday, March 9, 2012

Review: The Olympic Class Ships by Mark Chirnside

The Olympic Class Ships by Mark Chirnside is full of all kinds of information on all three ships. The material is both interesting and presented in an engaging fashion. In the following review, I'll briefly touch base on what exactly is covered in the book's various sections. The Titanic portions will be skimmed because the real draw is the information on her two sister ships. My thoughts will follow in conclusion along with a rating.
The author starts out by discussing the origins of the Olympic class. In other words, the birth of the White Star Line and the competition in the form of Cunard's greyhounds. The short introductory phase of the book sets the stage perfectly as to the circumstances upon which the three White Star giants were constructed. The book also hits on the construction of the first two sisters. This whole scene setting is accomplished before page fifty.
The section on the Olympic is both long and informative. Famous incidents, such as the Hawke collision, the u-boat sinking, and the dud torpedo are discussed, as well as many other details of the liner's illustrious life. These include:
  • The liner's chain of commanders is laid out after E.J. Smith.
  • The ship's location and actions during the night of April 14/15, 1912.
  • The troop transported during WWI.
  • Her numerous refits: post-titanic, post WWI, etc.
  • Cracking hull plates
  • Collision with the lightship in the fog during the later years of her life.
This is but a small sampler. Other aspects of the ship are also covered in great detail.
The section on the Titanic picks up with the delays caused by Olympic's accidents. It proceeds to unfold the story of the legendary maiden voyage, her survivors rescue, and the subsequent official business of insurance claims and inquiries.
The Britannic's brief life is covered beginning with her alterations in design post Titanic. Her six voyages as a hospital ship during WWI are covered in great detail, particularly the disastrous ending to the last. Comparisons are drawn to other British ships serving as hospital transports, i.e. Aquitania and Mauretania.
The last two chapters cover the wrecks of the two lost ships, starting with Britannic as it was discovered first. These chapters list out the various diving operations to each wreck site. The Titanic chapter describes the salvage operations, while the Britannic's discusses the transference of ownership. This is also one of the few books that I've read that presents all three main theories of Titanic's break up: Traditionalist, Shallow-angle, and bottom-up.
The Appendices provide a wealth of additional information, from raw data to notes taken on board the Lusitania by White Star officials, to the Californian incident. This information is also valuable, and interesting.
This book reads like a narrative, where the three great ships are characters in an unfolding tragedy. There are plenty of pictures that supplement the information as well. At 318 pages, without the Appendices, the book isn't too long and engages the reader more than enough to work toward the finish.
Overall, this is a book that I would recommend to anyone interested in either ships in general or all three of these in particular. If the potential reader is only interested in Titanic, then there are other books that are better suited for those individuals. Titanic is only discussed in about a third of this book, and people who don't have the faintest interest in all three ships would find more for their money elsewhere. (Yes, I'm looking forwards to reviewing some of those other books eventually.)
In closing, Mark Chirnside has written a wonderful book about one of the most famous classes of ocean liners in history. Odds are, if you're reading this blog, then this book is something you'll enjoy. If you do decide to purchase it, then I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
Rating: 9/10.
Note: A perfect rating is one that I won't give out that often. A nine is outstanding.

As always, thanks for reading.

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