WHATEVER HAPPENED TO GERMANIC/HOMERIC?
The first White Star liner Germanic (1875) had left the company’s fleet by the time Titanic was completed, and so the name was available to use for another liner once again: in the same way that the company had reused the name Oceanic for their beautiful liner of 1899. It is asserted sometimes that the second Germanic was intended as a replacement for Titanic, but this was not the case. What we do know is that she was intended, instead, as a new vessel for the company’s secondary Liverpool to New York service, as the IMM annual report for 1913 explained:
Further confirmation came from Harold Sanderson in June 1914. Sanderson, by that time the company’s chairman and managing director, explained that the new steamer would be about 746 feet in overall length: a ‘larger ship than Adriatic but would be smaller than the Olympic’. We also know that the vessel was assigned the yard number 470 by Harland & Wolff, indicating she was ordered after Britannic (yard number 433), and with: a length between perpendiculars of 720 feet; a breadth of 88 feet; and propelling machinery consisting of triple expansion reciprocating engines working in conjunction with a low pressure steam turbine driving the central propeller.
While significantly smaller than the ‘Olympic’ class ships, she was nonetheless expected to have a greater gross tonnage than Lusitania and Mauretania. Adriatic was already an enlarged and improved version of her sister ships, introducing features such as a gymnasium, plunge bath and Turkish Bath establishment, and Germanic would undoubtedly have seen further improvements to her accommodation. It would be logical to suppose that her first class accommodation would have included greater private bathrooms in first class and even finer staterooms, as well as a larger swimming pool than Adriatic’s mere ‘plunge bath’ – perhaps like that on board Britannic.
The ship’s keel was laid on 9 July 1914 but, with the outbreak of war, the name Germanic was hardly suitable. The indications are that she was renamed Homeric and she was among a number of steamers listed as ‘under construction’ as at 31 December 1915. Payments against her account of £103,041 14s 5d were listed – quite substantial and amounting to more than a sixth of the entire cost of Celtic (1901).
Figure 1 (above) and Figure 2 (below). Two images, among those submitted by Harland & Wolff, with ‘SS no. 470 on No. 1 slip, 19/9/1917’ written on the reverse. There is a problem with that caption, because Germanic/Homeric was not laid down on that slipway at all; it is known that she was laid down, on both occasions, on slipway number 3. Her keel was laid on 9 July 1914, then subsequently dismantled; it was re-laid on 27 May 1916; work was stopped on 3 April 1917; and dismantling began on 30 August 1917. Another image in the file bears the familiar designation of Robert Welch (1859-1936): ‘H2123. R. W.’ When we look at the numerical sequences, we know that photo ‘H2149. R. W.’ was taken on 3 July 1914 and showed one of Britannic’s funnels ‘leaving shop on rail buggies towed by steam crane’. Although that particular photo was taken a few days before Germanic/Homeric’s keel was laid the first time, even though it was twenty-six numbers later, it does tend to raise the possibility that the other images were actually from 1914 and not 1917. (Courtesy the National Archives of the United Kingdom)
Following the war, IMM, the White Star Line, and Harland & Wolff went to the War Compensation Court:
The two ships were being built under the usual understanding with Harland & Wolff, including a ‘commission on the whole as the builders’ profit’ which was ‘to be reckoned at five per cent’ on the ships and their machinery:
Plates – marked with each ship’s yard number – were ‘delivered from the rolling mills’. ‘All materials were procured and purchased and paid for by Messrs. Harland & Wolff from outside, except the rivets which were supplied out of their own stores’, and immediately charged to the White Star Line’s account. The understanding with Harland & Wolff ensured that the builder had ‘no motive to resort to cheap or inferior materials or work. They were given carte blanche, within the limits of reason and of bona fides, to procure the best materials and workmanship; and the purchasers, who were closely allied in business with the builders, seem to have been justified in regarding themselves as safe in dispensing with supervision or tests’. The claim for compensation succeeded, with compensation being paid for both vessels in the mid 1920s.
The company did eventually have a liner called Homeric, but she was not the ship conceived before the war and ordered for the Liverpool to New York service. Instead, she was a German vessel, transferred as war reparations, renamed and employed on the Southampton to New York express service from February 1922. Ironically, her size and speed were similar to the plans for Germanic/Homeric in 1913, and she was arguably more suited to the Liverpool service. The war disrupted the company’s longer term planning, but it is interesting to ponder the career of ‘Yard Number 470’ if she had been completed.
I am grateful to Scott Andrews for his valuable insights and assistance; Paul Johnson and the staff of the National Archives of the United Kingdom for permission to reproduce the photographs.
Any errors are entirely my own responsibility.
* Yard Number 469 was the steamer Nederland, being constructed for the Red Star Line. Although she was not a White Star liner, nonetheless she was intended for the wider IMM fleet.
 See ‘Appendix Nine – Germanic: Titanic’s Replacement?’ in: Chirnside, Mark. The ‘Olympic’ Class Ships: Olympic, Titanic & Britannic (History Press; 2011). Pages 353-54. The appendix examines in detail the issue of whether the new ship was intended as a replacement for Titanic, concluding that she was not, and includes much of the direct source material upon which this article is based.
 ‘Eleventh Annual Report of the International Mercantile Marine Company, for the Fiscal Year Ended December 31st 1913’. Office of the International Mercantile Marine Co., 51 Newark Street, Hoboken, N.J. [New Jersey]; June 1913. New York Public Library. The document, which has been referenced by researchers such as Mark Baber, is very clear on this point. It is unfortunate that this documentation is sometimes overlooked.