uilt for the White Star Line, which also included Titanic and Britannic. In April 1908, during finalising of the ambitious design, the Olympic Games had been held in London, England and this gave natural impetus to the choice of name for the new ship,conveniently following a long White Star Line tradition of choosing names with an 'ic' ending. Unlike her ill-fated younger sisters, Olympic served a long and illustrious career (1911 - 1935), including service as a troopship during World War I, earning the nickname "Old Reliable." For a short time she was the largest ocean liner in the world.
J. Bruce Ismay, the chairman of White Star Line, and William Pirrie, the chairman of Harland and Wolff shipyard, intended the Olympic-class ships to surpass rival Cunard's largest ships, Lusitania and Mauretania, in size and luxury. Construction of the Olympic began three months before Titanic to ease pressures on the shipyard. Several years would pass before Gigantic (renamed Britannic after Titanic's sinking) was constructed with post-Titanic modifications.
In order to accommodate the construction of the class, Harland and Wolff upgraded their facility in Belfast; the most dramatic change was the combining of three slipways into two larger ones. Olympic's keel was laid in December 1908 and she was launched on 20 October 1910. For her launch, the hull was painted in a light grey colour for photographic purposes (a common practice of the day for the first ship in a new class, as it made the lines of the ship clearer in the black and white photographs). Her hull was repainted following the launch.
Her maiden voyage commenced on 14 June 1911. Designer Thomas Andrews was present for the passage to New York and return, along with a number of engineers, as part of Harland and Wolff's "Guarantee Group" to spot areas for improvement. Olympic had a cleaner, sleeker look than other ships of the day: rather than fitting her with bulky exterior air vents, Harland and Wolff used smaller air vents with electric fans, with a "dummy" fourth funnel used for additional ventilation. For the powerplant Harland and Wolff employed a combination of reciprocating engines with a centre low-pressure turbine, as opposed to the steam turbines used on Cunard's Lusitania and Mauretania. White Star claimed the Olympic class's engine set-up to be more economical than expansion engines or turbines alone. Olympic consumed 650 tons of coal per twenty four hours with an average speed of 21.7 knots on her maiden voyage, compared to 1000 tons of coal per twenty four hours for both the Lusitania and Mauretania.
Olympic's first major mishap occurred on 20 September 1911, when she collided with a British warship, HMS Hawke off the Isle of Wight. Although the incident resulted in the flooding of two of her compartments and a twisted propeller shaft, Olympic was able to return to Southampton under her own power.
At the subsequent inquiry the Royal Navy blamed Olympic for the incident, alleging that her large displacement generated a suction that pulled Hawke into her side. In command during this incident was Captain Edward Smith, who was lost at sea a year later onboard Titanic. One crew member, Violet Jessop, survived not only the collision with the Hawke but also the later sinking of Titanic and the 1916 sinking of Britannic, the third ship of the class. The Hawke incident was a financial disaster for Olympics operator, and keeping her out of revenue service made matters worse. Olympic returned to Belfast, and to speed up her repair, Harland and Wolff was forced to delay Titanics completion in order to use her propeller shaft for Olympic. In February 1912, Olympic lost a propeller blade, and once again returned to her builder for repairs. To get her back to service as soon as possible, Harland & Wolff again had to pull resources from Titanic, delaying her maiden voyage from 20 March 1912 to 10 April 1912.
On 14 April 1912, Olympic, now under the command of Herbert James Haddock, received the distress call from her sister Titanic, headed for rescue. But when about 100 miles away from Titanic's last known position, received a message from Cunard Liner RMS Carpathia,the message reads: 'Fear absolutely no hope searching Titanic's position. Left Leyland S.S. Californian searching around. All boats accounted for. About 675 souls saved, crew and passengers, latter nearly all women and children. Titanic foundered about 2.20 a.m., 5.47. GMT in 41.16 north, 50.14 west; not certain of having got through. Please forward to White Star—also to Cunard. Liverpool and New York—that I am returning to New York. Consider this most advisable for many considerations.' "ROSTRON"