Third class areas

The stern area

By Remco Hillen

 Britannic’s stern area is one of the most recognizable parts of the ship, with it’s extra deckhouse and covered aft well deck. While it does little to enhance the profile of the ship, after closer examination it is of interesting benefit to, mostly, the 3rd class passengers. 

 When we look at Olympic, the 1st and 2nd classes have a considerable part of their promenade areas covered. For the 1st class this is the whole length of the A-deck promenade, while the 2nd class has two smaller covered areas near the aft end of the ship on B- and C-deck.The 3rd class has a lot less covered deckspace. While they have quite a large amount of open deckspace available, the forward and aft well decks plus the poopdeck, the covered deckspace is very limited. The only covered part is the overhang under the poopdeck, and this area also contains some venting units.

 Britannic is improved on this point, and the change goes hand in hand with something else; the repositioning of the ship’s hospital from D-deck to C-deck.The designers moved the hospital from a second class area, it was situated forward of the 2nd class dining saloon, to a third class area, next to the 3rd class General Room.At a first glance one would think this was done only out of ‘hygiene’, just another point that clarifies that the 3rd class was indeed the lowest class on the ship in those days.Closer examination shows that it was quite a good find from the designers, but one can wonder if they knew it would all work out as nicely as it did.The ship’s hospital, originally on D-deck, had to be moved because of a change one deck up. The C-deck 1st class cabins that were on the outside of the ship were made somewhat larger to accommodate the private bathrooms. This meant that there was no room for the Maids and Valets Saloon* on this deck.A new place for the Saloon was found on the place of the hospital, rather close to the original place which was important, only one deck lower.The hospital was moved to C-deck aft, next to the 3rd class General Room. It came on the place where Olympic had the 3rd class Smoking Room. This Smoking Room was moved one deck up onto the poopdeck. This has some very interesting advantages.

 

©2002 Remco Hillen

 The new Smoke Room wasn’t any bigger then the ones on Olympic and Titanic, but the advantage of this room were the windows. This room was fitted with a larger number of ‘normal’ windows, while its counterparts were fitted with portholes.On top of the new Smoke Room Harland & Wolff installed a new deck, which they named the Shade deck. The deck would have accommodated 2 sets of Gantry davits. Below it, the overhang gave the 3rd class passengers their part of covered deckspace(along with the now covered aft well deck).

 

©2002 Remco Hillen

 

 It is interesting to see that the 3rd class on Britannic now mostly had covered deckspace and a lot less uncovered space. One can speculate about this, if Titanic hadn’t sunk. Maybe they would have named the ‘Shade deck’ the ‘Sun deck’, as they wouldn’t have needed the Gantry davits.

 

*As the name somewhat says, this room was used by the Maids and Valets as a Dining Saloon. Many of the 1st class passengers had Maids and Valets, which traveled together with their employer. While these people walked through the 1st class areas, they were not allowed to eat together with the 1st class passengers and so they had there own Dining Saloon.

 

Britannic’s D, E, F and G-deck third class accommodation

By Mark Chirnside

 

 Before dealing with Britannic’s planned (1914) third class accommodation and the changes made to her design, it is worth recording that we are comparing it with Olympic’s third class accommodation as it was in 1911. It is always emphasized that Britannic’s accommodation for all three classes was intended to be the finest of the three sister-ships, but while the first class accommodation changes are well documented, there is little documentation for the accommodation in second and third class. In this article, we rely on Britannic’s deck plans recording her accommodation as planned for her entry to service.

 Here is a table which shows the ‘registered’ accommodation available on Olympic in 1911 and Britannic as intended in 1914-15:

 

 

Olympic 1911

Britannic 1914

First class

1,054

790

Second class

510

836

Third class

1,020

953

Total

2,584

2,579

 

It can be seen that Britannic’s second class accommodation was expanded considerably, while her first and third class accommodation catered for fewer passengers. Olympic’s 1911 figures assume that first class accommodation is maximised and second class minimised; and more accurate data from spring 1913 states that she accommodated 731 first class, 675 second class and 1,030 third class passengers. In comparison with this 1913 data Britannic’s first class accommodation was slightly expanded, her second class was significantly expanded, and her third class was reduced in size. Nevertheless, improvements were made in third class.

 On Olympic, D-deck forward was third class ‘open space’ – but on the Britannic this area was improved. On the port side was third class open space, but on the starboard side were a number of two and four berth cabins. New stairways led above to the new third class deckhouse entrance on the forward well deck, which allowed easier access in the event of any emergency. There was a new open third class promenade in this area. (When Britannic sank, it is possible that several crewmen used these stairs, and were among the crewmen that Sea Scout James Vickers saw running onto the foredecks after the explosion from his viewpoint on the bridge.) Aft on D-deck, Olympic’s third class consisted of permanent third class and second class cabins, but on Britannic there was an improvement. There remained some third class permanent cabins, but the second class cabins became interchangeable second or third class cabins and were of a better standard than ordinary third class; this feature allowed third or second class accommodation to be increased according to passenger demand.

 Forward on E-deck, both ships had a third class area, but on Britannic there was a minor alteration in that watertight doors, in the new (raised) watertight bulkhead forward of boiler room 6, separated this from the crew and first class corridors leading aft on this deck. There was a similar change to E-deck aft, as with D-deck. Rather than permanent third and second class cabins as on Olympic, Britannic’s accommodation was changed to alternative third and second class cabins, which could be varied according to demand and was a sensible economic idea.

 Britannic’s third class F-deck areas showed further changes compared to the Olympic’s. Forward, Olympic had three third class cabin sections made up of two, four, six and ten berth cabins. On Britannic, however, there were two slightly improved third class sections consisting of two, four, five, six and eight berth cabins, but there was also one section which was third class open berths. It seems strange that such an open berth section should have been planned in 1914, but we may speculate that had Britannic survived the war and entered passenger service with Olympic in 1920, these open berths would have been replaced with cabins. Aft on F-deck level, Olympic had two sections of third class cabins and several sections second class cabins; but on Britannic there was one section of third class cabins; two sections of interchangeable second and third class cabins (an improvement on ‘ordinary third class’ cabins); and two sections of second class cabins. Therefore although third class cabins were reduced aft on F-deck, the cabins that were there were an improvement over Olympic’s configuration.

 The G-deck was the lowest deck to have passenger accommodation. Forward on Olympic at this deck were permanent third class open berths, but on Britannic the accommodation here was improved and there were portable third class cabins, both four- and six-person rooms, replacing the open berths. (Therefore although Britannic had some open third class berths on F-deck which Olympic did not have, she had overall fewer third class open berths.) Aft on G-deck on Olympic, there were portable third class cabins (which could be removed for cargo storage) and permanent interchangeable second and third class cabins, along with a large storage area for food. On Britannic, the third class cabins were permanent – an improvement – and there were permanent interchangeable second and third class cabins, similar to Olympic’s. However, there was a slight reduction in the size of Britannic’s food storage space here and this allowed for a small increase in the amount of accommodation here.

 In general, Britannic’s third class accommodation was improved over Olympic’s by the smaller number of open berths; a smaller number of people in the third class cabins for passengers to share with; while there were more stairways and improved access. These may sound like small changes and improvements, but nevertheless they would have been noticeable for passengers who had travelled on other ships or the Olympic. Although attention is always given to the dazzling improvements in Britannic’s first (or even second) class accommodation, we should never forget that third class also saw improvements; certainly it is true that Britannic’s accommodation was improved in practically every way, and she would certainly have been formidable competition after the war, had she survived.