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Titanic's Sister

By John G. Sayers

There is a reason that I don't collect postage stamps (Did once…) or cigarette cards (Did once…), because with postcards, you never know what's out there, and as with other ephemera each trip to a postcard fair is a new adventure. It was the same with my most recent Fair.

Most interesting was a Real Photo postcard of what was described on the back as fitting the third funnel on the HMS Olympic of the White Star Line. The description was correct visually, but not technically. The SS Olympic, sister ship to the Titanic, went into service in 1911. She would have had her funnels attached some time in 1910. But she did not receive a Royal Navy appellation until the First War, when she was requisitioned by His Majesty's Government to serve as a troopship - specifically His Majesty's Transport (HMT) Olympic.

So the caption dates to somewhere in the 1915-16 period, well after the picture had been taken. Or does it? The Olympic and the Titanic were followed by a third sister ship, the Britannic (originally to be named Gigantic, but this was changed after the Titanic disaster). The Britannic was completed in 1915, immediately requisitioned for war service, and spent her first year as a troopship. She was being employed as a Hospital Ship when she struck a mine and sank in the Mediterranean in 1916. So was this taken of the Britannic, much closer to the time of the First War? At this stage of construction it would be extremely difficult to tell the ships apart.

I have been looking through various publications in my collection to see whether this image was shown and captioned, but with no luck so far. The closest is the book Titanic & Her Sisters, which has some useful images of the arrival of the funnels for attaching to the ship, but none of the attaching in progress which this card shows.

One last thought on this topic. The individuals who write captions may not be aware of the technicalities of what they are captioning. If they didn't know the difference between the prefixes SS (Steamship), RMS (Royal Mail Ship) and HMS (His Majesty's Ship, which was used for ships of the British Navy), they may have inadvertently used the HMS caption when they purchased the postcard in the years 1910 or 1911 and wrote the caption on the back. More research is in order because at the present time, all I know is that Titanic's sister wasn't cheap!

Q Can anyone shed any further light on which ship this photograph depicts?

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Ephemera - minor transient documents of every day life