The Long and Illustrious Career of RMS Olympic

On this day – 20th October 1910 – the RMS Olympic was launched.

RMS Olympic was the first of the three magnificent sisters built by the White Star Line. She would outlast her younger sisters, Titanic and Britannic by more than twenty years remaining in service from 1911 to 1935.


Ocean Legends RMS Olympic

RMS Olympic

Olympic and her famous sister Titanic were constructed side by side in the Belfast shipyards of Harland and Wolff. She was the first ship to exceed 800 feet in length and exceed 40,000 tonnage, she was also the biggest ocean liner in the world for two years (1911-1912), briefly losing the crown to her younger sister the Titanic.

On the 20th October 1910 the Olympic was launched. The following year on 14th June the ship’s maiden voyage set sail from Southampton, calling at Cherbourg and Queenstown (now Cobh) and on to New York, the same route her ill-fated sister would take in 1912. Notably her captain that day was Edward Smith the same man who would lose his life the following year as the captain of the Titanic. Also seeing off the ship was the ship’s designer Andrew Thomas who would also be on board the Titanic when it went down.

Ocean Legends RMS Olympic

HMS Liverpool and HMS Fury trying to tow HMS Audacious Image taken from the deck of Olympic

On the 27th Ocotber 1914 the Olympic was returning from New York and was nearing Lough Swilly, Ireland when she received a distress signal from the HMS Audacious, a battleship of the Royal Navy. She had been hit by a German naval mine off the northern coast of Tory island. She began to list and water spread throughout the engine’s compartments and as she headed for land the engines failed. RMS Olympic, came to her aid to tow the vessel but their efforts were in vain and the tow parted. By nightfall the Audacious had capsized and sank.

Ocean Legends RMS Olympic

Olympic in dazzle camouflage

The Olympic was later requisitioned by the Admiralty, to be used as a troop transport during the First World War. She was painted in dazzle camouflage and armed with 12-pounders and 4.7-inch guns.

After the war she returned to service as a successful ocean liner throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s. In 1935 she made her last voyage and eventually was dismantled. By the time of her retirement, Olympic had completed 257 round trips across the Atlantic, transporting 430,000 passengers on her commercial voyages and travelling 1.8 million miles.

About the Author

Ann Robinson
Has a passion for coastal heritage and maritime history. Loves sharing the best of the Irish coast online. Contact me or follow me on Twitter @AnnRobinson22