Titanic Gigantic

107 #4: Titanic was originally to have been named Gigantic

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FALSE. But her younger sister, Britannic, may have been initially intended to have that name. Press speculation about a White Star liner with the name Gigantic extended as far back as the late 19th Century and the name continued to crop up from time to time, even as late as 1913, but there is no hard evidence that the name Gigantic was ever officially used.

It has often been suggested that the Britannic, the third sister in the Olympic class, was originally intended to be named Gigantic but that this name was changed following the Titanic disaster; and White Star’s knowledge of the forthcoming new large German liners such as the Imperator, which would take the title of world’s largest liner from Olympic a few months after the Titanic sank. Indeed, several newspaper reports, the trade journal The Engineer and Yard No. 433’s anchor supplier, all refer to the third ship in the Olympic Class as Gigantic. However, Harland and Wolff’s own order book refers to Yard No. 433 only, although the name Britannic has been written in next to it, for which they had received a formal order to proceed on 28th June, 1911. Although the date that the name Britannic was entered into the order book is difficult to prove, its existence next to the June 1911 entry tends to indicate that, if the third sister was ever to have been named Gigantic, then this idea was abandoned in favour of Britannic long before the Titanic sank.

The name Gigantic would of course have fitted better with the names of the first two ships of the Class, which were named after the Greek immortal races, the Olympians and the Titans, with the addition of White Star’s suffix ‘–ic’, used on all their ships (had they been Cunard ships they would have been the Olympia and the Titania, as Cunard used the suffix ‘-ia’). The name Gigantic is derived from the Giants, who like the Titans were defeated in battle by the Olympian gods. This coincidentally echoes the careers of the three ships, as Britannic sank during the First World War and therefore only the Olympic survived, eventually being scrapped in 1935. As early as 1st June, 1911, the morning after Titanic’s launch, the editor of the Irish News and Belfast Morning News questioned the choice of her name, pointing out that Zeus ‘…smote the strong and daring Titans with thunderbolts; and their final abiding place was in some limbo beneath the lowest depths of the Tartarus.’

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