Timeline Article: The Olympic-Hawke Incident

Wednesday, September 20, 1911

As Olympic leaves Southampton on her 5th voyage, the navy cruiser HMS Hawke suddenly rams her on the starboard side just beneath the aft well deck close to the stern. Hawke thrusts 8 feet into Olympic's hull, tearing a 40 foot gash below the water line. This caused 2 of her compartments to flood and twisted the starboard propeller shaft. Despite the damage, Olympic returned to Southampton under her own power. 

Damage to Olympic's hull just after the collision.

After remedial repairs were carried out at Southampton, Olympic was then towed to Belfast, arriving on October 6th. The following day, Titanic was moved from the Thompson fitting-out wharf to the Alexandra fitting-out wharf to make way for her damaged sister. Due to the flooding of her aft compartments, Olympic was down at the stern and spent several days at the fitting-out wharf while being lightened.

On October 11th, Olympic was moved into the Thompson dry dock. As the water was pumped out, the extent of the damage to Olympic's hull became clear.

This rare photo taken October 11, 1911, shows
Olympic in the background being placed in the
drydock at Harland and Wolff  for repairs.
Titanic is in the foreground moored to the
Alexandra fitting-out wharf as construction
slowly continues.

Even though resources were pulled from Titanic to speed up the efforts so that Olympic could return to service as soon as possible, the extensive repairs still took six weeks to complete. Construction on Titanic was slowed as workers were diverted over to Olympic. Borrowing one of Titanic's propeller shafts along with other materials, this caused Titanic's completion schedule to be delayed. With Olympic temporarily out of service and Titanic construction delayed, this incident was a major financial set back for the White Star Line.

The Royal Navy blamed Olympic for the incident. Stating that water displacement from the huge ship pulled the much smaller ship into it's wake.

HMS Hawke's crushed bow after the incident.

Because of the Hawke incident, public opinion suggests that the new ships are just too big. However, the Olympic-Hawke incident proved that Olympic's safety systems worked, and since Olympic did not sink, this created a stronger foundation for the "Unsinkable Ship" theory that would continue on to the next ship of the class, Titanic.