In 1908 the White Star Line began the construction of 3 giant Olympic Class Ocean Liners that would be the three biggest ships ever built. In 1911 the first, RMS Olympic was completed, followed by RMS Titanic in 1912 and RMS Brittanic in 1915. While the Titanic’s story has become legend, the fact the other two ships had major disasters too remains more obscure.
Enter Violet Jessop born in Argentina in 1887 to Irish parents Violet had her first encounter with death at a young age as she survived tuberculosis. In 1911 Violet got a job on the newly completed RMS Olympic, the largest ship in the world and considered unsinkable. As the ship steamed out of Southampton on an ill-fated journey to New York the Olympic was hit by the aging Royal Navy ship HMS Hawk which was fitted with a ram. The ram tore deeply into the Olympic's hull, flooding three of her sixteen water tight compartments (it would take five to flood to sink her as happened to Titanic) and Olympic was able to safely limp back to Southampton.
With the Olympic laid up for major repairs Violet was transferred to the Titanic and set sail on her maiden voyage 6 months later. On the fateful night Violet recalls being ushered onto a life boat pretty early so had a rather easy time of the most famous disaster, but not so of the next one. During WWI Violet volunteered for the Red Cross and was crazily posted on the third sister ship, Brittanic, which was serving as a hospital ship. In 1916 in the Aegean the Brittanic struck a mine and went down in 30mins, unlike the Titanic’s 2 hours. Violet made it to a lifeboat again but this time the lifeboat didn't make it clear of the Britannic's huge propellers and was sucked in, violet was forced to leap from the life boat amongst the dismembered limbs of the propeller's victims expecting to be killed to but instead was sucked underwater by the disappearing hull. As she was sucked under the water as the ship went down she banged her head against the keel fracturing her skull.
You would think this third disaster would be enough and she wouldn’t want to go near the water let alone another Olympic class ship. But after the war Violet returned to work on the now repaired Olympic for another five years and continued sailing until 1950 when she retired at the age of 63.