By Remco Hillen
Time of the explosion. Britannic is thrown instantly off-course by three points (33.75 degrees), while her bow rises noticeably and then falls back down. Severe shaking and vibrations along the hull. The engines are stopped and the lifeboats are made ready to be lowered. After less than 2 minutes Boiler Room 6 is already flooded and inoperable. Advancing flooding into Boiler Room 5. The water is about 180 meters deep.
Captain Bartlett is soon informed that the forward holds are rapidly flooding. The forward E-Deck portholes are already underwater and the ship is taking a starboard list. Soon after the Captain will restart the engines in a desperate attempt to beach the ship.
The lifeboats are still being filled but they're not allowed to leave. Still, some boats leave the ship -from the portside- without authorization. Because of the list, they are scraping along the ship's side. The propellers are breaking the surface by now.
Due to the increasingly bad situation, Bartlett decides to stop the ship and orders all boats to be sent away. He's unaware that just minutes before his order two lifeboats have been drawn into the portside propeller (killing most of their occupants), while a third one has a narrow escape as the propeller stops seconds before impact.
While laying idle, the Britannic is settling more slowly and most of the lifeboats manage to escape without further problems. Bartlett decides to try again to beach the ship and restarts the engines. Britannic's sinking rate increases again and water is soon reported forward on D-Deck.
When Bartlett is informed of the water on D-Deck he gives the order to abandon ship and Britannic's whistle is blown for the last time. Water has by now reached the bridge and Assistant Commander Dyke informs his Captain that all have left the ship. Dyke, Chief Engineer Fleming and Bartlett simply walk into the sea near the forward gantry davits. Shortly after their escape funnel No.3 collapses.
As the water is now 119 meters deep, Britannic's bow hits the bottom whilst the stern is still above the surface. The last few men who were below decks -so not seen by Assistant Commander Dyke- have by now left the ship. Fifth Officer Fielding estimates the stern rising some 150 feet into the air.
With all her funnels detached, Britannic finally completes her starboard roll -causing heavy damage to the bow area.
Britannic slips beneath the surface landing on her final resting place.
©2003 Remco Hillen for www.hospitalshipbritannic.com