The Bower & Collier Family History

Research by Colin Bower

Sinking of the SS Britannia

Introduction

One of the slightly unsatisfactory and annoying outcomes of my research is that I have not been able to establish:
- how many passengers and crew there were on the Britannia
- how many survived

I accept that there are official records at the National Archives etc which should resolve things but I have not attempted this.

Main Sources

I am going to list 3 main sources that I have used and then a range of Other Sources:

Earliest Record - War Loss Record 1941

The earliest record I found was the War Loss Record Card for 1941 at London's Guildhall in 2004:

"Crew 203.................122 Missing
Passengers 281...........127 Missing
Receiver of Wreck: .....118 Crew
....................................123 Pasengers Lost"

This appeared to suggest:

Passengers 281 (127 Missing)
Crew 203 (122 Missing)
Total 484 (249 Missing)

235 Survived.

These figures have been adopted in Other Sources (see below)

Other Main Source - book, German Raiders of World War II, published 1968

In his book, German Raiders of World War II, the author had access to survivors' accounts.

He plumped for:

327 Passengers
about 200 Crew
Total approx. 527

of which he quotes:

229 Survived
298 Perished

Most Recent Record - book, A Voyage Around My Mother published 2016

The author has come up with a quite different list:

About 285 were rescued
Over 200 Perished
Total 485

Conclusions - Main Sources

The book about the German Raiders has about the same number of crew and survivors as the War Record Card but quite different numbers for passengers on board and those lost.

The book about Mrs Mary Stewart has virtually the same total of Passengers and Crew as the War Record Card but quite different numbers for survivors and those lost.

Other Sources

There are a number of other sources that give details of how many people people were on board the Britannia and how many survived the sinking.

Unfortunately the sources do not always agree!

Examples

Ian McIntosh

Passengers 327

The book, The Secret Raiders

Passengers 300
Crew 200
Total 500

Wikipedia

Passengers & Crew 484
Survived 235
loss of 249

Same as War Record Card

Wrecksite.eu

Passengers 281
Crew 203
Total 484

Survived 235
loss of 249 (127 Passengers, 122 Crew)

Same as War Record Card

World War II Day by Day

Passengers 281
Crew 203
Total 484 (229 survived)

Virtually same as War Record Card

WWI & WWII Ships sunk with Civilians Aboard

Passengers & Crew 492
Survived 243
loss of 249

Virtually same as War Record Card

Book, A Voyage Around My Mother

Preface to book - BBC Announcement

Britannia

Crew 100
Passengers 300
Total 400 of which about 200 were saved

Lifeboat No. 7 that sailed to Brazil

26 Survivors reached New York
44 Died in the lifeboat

In a prologue to the book, the author adds her own summary:

Britannia

285 survived
over 200 perished
485 Total

The total is virtually the same as the War Record Card but not the breakdown.

Conclusions (Other Sources)

Four of the Other Sources agreed or virtually agreed with the War Record Card:

Passengers 281
Crew 203
Total 484

Survivors 235
Loss of 249

A number of other websites agreed a slightly different summary:

Either:

492 Passengers& Crew
249 Lost
243 Survived

and/or the detail from the War Record Card:

122 Crew
127 Passengers
249 Total Lost

Final Countdown

Crew of the Britannia that were lost

Sources give the number of crew lost as 122, which I have wanted to prove.

I came across a list on the website, Ancestry, with 121 names including Mary Bernadine Hind, Supernumerary Stewardess and Salvador Carneiro, Steward. (There is a pencil note that there is one name on the list that was a passenger).

The list has been badly transcribed so I have not typed it up.

I have been able to reconcile the list to the list of 127 Memorials:

that I had obtained previously.

The reconciliation is 127 less 8 people (including 2 Priests) who were not crew plus Mary Hind and Salvadore Carneiro, equals 121.

So I am happy to accept the figure of 121 or 122.

Passengers Lost

Somewhere there is the calculation of 127 passengers who were lost.

I have the list of 54 who died:

and another with 69 services personnel (mainly Navy) who died:

There may be a few more individuals to identify but currently the total I have is:

54 Civilians
69 Services Personnel
2 Priests
125 Total

So I am happy to accept the figure of 125 or 127 and move on!

Colin Bower
29 October 2020

Link to:
Britannia Index

 
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