Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Olympic "Mutiny"

The RMS Olympic was ordered to be outfitted with additional lifeboats after her sister Titanic sank on April 15, 1912. The White Star Line's chairman, J. Bruce Ismay, gave specific instructions that the ship was not to sail again until accommodations were made for all persons aboard.

The Olympic first received 16 lifeboats...then 40. Ten of them came from the HMS Soudan and looked to be in rather poor shape and downright unseaworthy - especially the 10 taken off the warship. The appearance of these lifeboats (which were scruffy to say the best) alarmed several members of the Olympic's crew. A total of 276 firemen, trimmers and greasers subsequently refused to sail aboard the ship and were arrested for mutiny.

The Olypmic "mutineers" stood trial at Portsmouth Magistrates' Court. All were found guilty after a three day hearing but were not punished for their actions. The court found found that the men did have a justifiable cause for refusing to sail aboard the ship: they simply did not feel safe. So they were set free afterwards. They rejoined the ship's company after several of the lifeboats had successfully been tested.

The Olympic was ready to resume her sailings, and arrived in New York on May 22, 1912.

References: Robin Gardiner, The History of the White Star Line (Surrey: Ian Allan Publishing, 2001), 152.

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