Synopsis of "Dutch Titanic"
transatlantic passenger transport means the Holland-America Line
based in Rotterdam. The quality of the company's services is
characterized by the fact that its vessels known as "the
spotless fleet". The most prestigious ocean liner of this fleet
was the s.s. Statendam.
Her building was started in 1914 and finished in 1917. She is still
the largest Dutch passenger vessel, the "Dutch Titanic".
And not just because of her size. Her story linked with the fate of
the unfortunate British liner, and had the same tragic end.
Her plans were inspired by the plans of the Titanic's older sistership, the Olympic, and her hull built exactly on the same slipway - at Harland & Wolff Shipyard in Belfast - where the Titanic was built a year earlier, while shipbuilders were working on Titanic's younger sister, Gigantic (later renamed Britannic) on the neighboring slipway. First disturbing event of the ship's story occurred almost immediately after the order of her building - in 1912 - when his "father", the director of Holland-America Line, Johan Georg Reuchlin, lost his life on board of the Titanic. The disquieting circumstances, however, have grown since the first World War broke out just nine days after the liner was launched. The outfit of the liner slowed down and temporarily stopped as the shipbuilder started to complete naval orders, and completed, just after the sinking of the Lusitania, in order to replace the lost cargo capacity. The British government then hired the Dutch giant on condition that she would return to her original owners at the end of the war or, if this was not possible due to the devastation of the ship, another vessel would build for Holland-America Line in same dimensions.
Statendam - now called Justicia - has become one of the protagonists of the military service from America to Europe. On its four transatlantic routes, she delivered around 20,000 soldiers, 12,000 civilian personnel and thousands of tonnes of military equipment. In December 1917, she overthrew the record of the wartime naval tansport, when she transported 30,000 tonnes of munitions on a single journey. Just four months before the end of the war, the end came when one of the torpedoes of the U 64 submarine hit her side on 19th of July, 1918. However, the oceanliner did not sink, using the navy's tugboat to reach a coast in Ireland. Twenty-four hours long and epic fight began with the flooding water and the enemy, in which the ship's gunners made several torpedoes exploded or hijacked by some ecxellent shots. Finally the U 54 and U 124 submarines - alerted by the U 64 - finished ont he next day what the U 64 started earlier. It was the longest-running duell between a liner and submarines during the entire war, and Justicia was the second largest merchant ship sinking in the First World War, followed by Britannic which was hit by a German mine in 1916.
The special story does not end there! The British Government has fulfilled its contractual obligations and provided 60 000 tonnes of steel to Holland-America Line in 1919 to compensate the company for the loss. By this compensation, the company ordered a new ocean liner at Harland & Wolff Shipyard, which was completed in 1929. This new ship was also named Statendam and her general appearance was generally similar to her predecessor. It seemed that Holland-America Line's development - which interrupted during the First World War - could be continued, as the new vessel had redeemed her hopes and became one of the most popular vessel in the North-Atlantic. Her destiny came with the World War II when she was burned out in 1940 during the siege of Rotterdam. Her remains were dismantled shortly afterwards. The service of the two Statendam is essentially a single 30-years long story in which the excellence and the persistence gave enough power to the Holland-America Line for trying to come true it's dreams.
Today, the wrecks of the first Statendam lies on the ocean floor - swept by waves of the Atlantic Ocean - reminds us of this story, and this book, which collected it's memories for the first time in the last hundred years.
The book contains 160 pages, 150 132 characters (without spaces), 8 chapters and 210 images. Four famous private collectors of those two countries (the Netherlands and Ireland), which has strong connection to the liner's story supported the work with a number of photographs that had never been published before. They trusted a maritime historian came from a small landlocked coutry and decided to show this unique story for the first time on the centenary of the events in an independent volume. Divers who searched the wrekcs provided their underwater photographs for the volume, which provided a unique opportunity to present a detailed picture of the ship's remnants.
This volume represents a story of a famous ocean liner which has not yet been fully and deservingly presented until now:
"Splendid book. This is the first time I see an owerview of her ... I'm pleased to give this forgotten ship finally some attention. "- Peter Meersman, the largest collector of photographs on the ship.
"Brilliant. The ship had an international appeal and an obvious interest among enthusiasts."- Campbell McCutcheon, maritime publisher at the History Press until 2008.
According to the author's
intentions the volume will be presented on 19th of July, 2018 at the centenary
of the ship's sinking.