Source: John Malcolm Brinnin, Duncan Haws, Frank E. Dodman, Warren Tute, J.Johnson.

Research: Terry Robins and D. Innola.

Part Six


Built: 1907 by Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Newcastle.
Tonnage: 31,938 grt, 12,797 nt, 41,590 dwt.
Engines: Quadruple screw, 2 x HP turbines on the outer shafts, 2 x LP turbines on the inner, 4 x 4 bladed propellers, 180 rpm, 78,275 SHP, service speed 25 knots. Achieved 27.75 knots at trials off Wigtownshire.
Passengers: 563 1st Class, 474 2nd Class, 1,300 3rd Class.

Launched in September of 1906 she made her maiden voyage 16th of November 1907 Liverpool-Cobh-New York. Her engines were slightly more powerful than Lusitania’s and on the return trip, Sandy Hook-Cobh, of her maiden voyage she reduced the crossing time to 4 days, 22 hours and 53 minutes at an average speed of 23.69 knots. At the time of their building both Mauretania and her sister, Lusitania, represented the largest structures ever completed by man. Two years later she broke her own record approaching a speed of nearly twenty-six knots. Her fastest crossing was at an average speed of 27.65 knots and she only lost her record to the German ship Bremen in 1929 holding the record for an unprecedented twenty-two years, nailing the figurative ensign to her foremast, no other ship was to attain such figures whilst remaining in service.

Mauretania burnt 1,000 tons of coal a day and her fires were maintained by a stokehold ‘Black Gang’ of 324 firemen and trimmers. This crew was considerably reduced when she converted to fuel oil in 1921.




Mauretania’s main staircase was panelled in French walnut with carved pilasters and capitals. The library and writing rooms were designed in the style of Louis 16th with extensive use of grey sycamore highlighted with the use of gold leaf and ivory. The main lounge and ballroom were designed on sixteenth century France.



The first class smoking room was based on 15th century Italy whilst the Verandah Café was copied from the Old English Orangery at Hampton Court, however this eclectic mixture was still supposed to resemble an English stately home.



Cunard purposely situated the domes of its public rooms amidships thus protecting them from the worst of the weather unlike Inman’s City of New York and City of Paris that were situated for’d of the bridge, both ships domes were under continuous repair due to wave damage. Note the large marble fireplace in the lounge, never lit and no chimney but focal points that everyone clustered around, the whole rounded off by the use of logs and electric lights. In a Cunard brochure of the time the company declared, “When the ship is in evening dress, this dining room is as gay and brilliant as the Armenonville in Paris’s famous Bois, as socially correct as the Berkeley in London, as impressive for its notables as the Ambassador or the Ritz in New York. It offers a menu, which is as cosmopolitan as the people who chatter around its tables.


When constructed this room was open to the elements in the mode of the German liners but due to the heavy weather experienced during the winter on the Atlantic it wasn’t too long before Cunard made structural alterations. Note how the stanchions are shrouded in fretwork and at a later refit the skylights size was increased to accommodate much more glass.


For identification purposes the two sisters differed in the fact that Mauretania’s A-Deck promenade extended out over her hull directly below the fourth lifeboat that is easily observed by the overhang it produced. She also had much larger air funnels on either side of the pilothouse. Note the lookout on his way to the crows nest.

In August of 1914 she was first commissioned as a troop transport making three trips to the Dardanelles and then later converted for a further three trips as a hospital ship, never, as the German Imperial Government declared at the time as an armed merchant cruiser. She was laid up for a short period 1916/17 at Garelock and then in 1917 was utilised for the carriage of US troops to France.


During her restoration for her peacetime role after the armistice had been signed the work was halted due to an industrial dispute at the British yard where the work was being carried out. This action threatened her completion date so Cunard decided to move the ship to a more compliant yard in France and because her engines were part way through overhaul Mauretania had to be towed. During the passage a storm blew up and the lines parted leaving Mauretania drifting dangerously close to the shore, however due to the bravery of the tugs crew the lines were once more attached and she was able to continue the voyage.

During refit when the engines were being warmed through and rotated slowly the Chief Engineer called a halt to the proceedings and demanded that the turbine cover be lifted for inspection. After the inspection had been completed the Chiefs cause for concern turned out to be a collar stud, this was later put down to sabotage in an attempt to delay the ships completion. She re-entered service on 27th of June 1919 Southampton-New York.


On the 25th of July 1921 she was badly damaged by fire when in Southampton and had to undergo an extensive refit during which her boilers were converted from coal to oil and her accommodation was altered accordingly, 589 1st Class, 400 2nd Class and 767 3rd Class. Back in service Southampton-Cherbourg-New York on the 25th of March the following year. In 1929 she improved yet again her passage time steaming across at a speed of 27.65 knots but later in the year finally surrendered the record by a small margin to the German ship Bremen.

The thirties heralded the arrival of the ‘Booze Cruises”, instead of allowing their ships to be laid up between voyages, Cunard and others introduced low price round rips to the likes of Nassau, Palm Beach, Miami and Havana. Mauretania had her hull painted white and commenced full time cruising in 1931 and became known as the ‘Grand Old Lady’. On the day that one of Cunard’s most famous ships was launched, Queen Mary, Mauretania commenced her final voyage, New York-Plymouth-Cherbourg-Southampton on the 26th of September 1934. After a career that spanned twenty-seven years, steaming over three million miles she was sold for breaking to Metal Industries and left Southampton on the 1st of July 1935 for work to commence at Rosyth. To enable her to pass under the Forth Bridge her masts were reduced in height to that of her funnels.



Between 1907 to 1914 Cunard either built or acquired from other companies twelve ships. Oro purchased in 1909 from the Plate SS Co and renamed Phrygia actually sank a German U-Boat in 1915, Orono from the same company and renamed Thracia was sunk in 1917 and Oceano, again Plate SS and renamed Lycia was also sunk in 1917, all were general purpose cargo ships. Two other cargo ships were added, Clematis from Stag Line in 1911 becoming Caria was lost in 1915 and Consuelo, purchased in 1911 was deemed unsuitable and sold on to Andrew Weir and Co in 1912. Franconia and her sister Laconia, both Swan Hunter ships were completed in 1911/12, Ascania and Ausonia were both acquired from Thomson Line in 1911, Alaunia and Andania built by Scott’s SB in 1913 and finally the crème de la crème of the decade, Aquitania in 1914.


Alex Duncan Collection.

Built: 1911 by Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Newcastle.
Tonnage: 18,150 grt, 11,247 nt.
Engines: Twin screw, 2 x 4 Quadruple expansion, 2,170 NHP; 17 knots, by Wallsend Slipway Co, Newcastle.
Passengers: 300 1st Class, 350 2nd Class, 2,200 3rd Class.

Franconia made her maiden voyage on the 25th of February 1911 Liverpool-Queenstown- (Cobh)-Boston and during the winter reverted to the Mediterranean route. Requisitioned on the 15th of February 1915 becoming a troopship. Sunk with a loss of twelve lives on the 4th of October 1916, 200 miles north-east of Malta by UB 47, the submarine was commanded by Wolfgang Steinbauer and surrendered to France at wars end when seconded to the Austro-Hungarian Navy.

Cunard purchased Cairnrona from Thomson Line in 1911 for their Canadian service and renamed her Albania.


Built: 1900 by C.S. Swan & Hunter, Newcastle.
Tonnage: 7,682 grt, 5,012 nt.
Engines: Twin screw, triple expansion, 783 NHP, 11 knots.
Passengers: 50 1st Class, 800 3rd Class.

Originally built as Consuelo for the Wilson Line and served on their Hull-New York service. Sold to Thomson Line in 1909 and renamed Cairnrona serving on the UK-Canada route. Acquired by Cunard in 1911 but only served till the following year when she was sold out of the fleet being deemed unsuitable.


Arnold Kludas Collection.

Built: 1912 by Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Newcastle.
Tonnage: 18,099 grt, 11,226 nt.
Engines: Twin screw, 2 x 4 Quadruple expansion, 2,170 NHP, 17 knots, by Wallsend Slipway Co, Newcastle.
Passengers: 300 1st Class, 350 2nd Class, 2,200 3rd Class.

She made her maiden voyage on the 20th of January 1912 Liverpool-Queenstown (Cobh)-New York and was then placed on the Boston service. At the outbreak of war she was converted for use as an armed merchant cruiser and acted as headquarters ship in Tanganyika during operations against the German cruiser Konigsberg. Returned to her civilian role in 1916 and commenced her first voyage on the 9th of September. Sunk by U-50 on the 25th of 1917 when 160 miles from Fastnet, Ireland. Two torpedoes were required to sink her, the second exploding in the engine room, twelve lives were lost of which six were engine room ratings.

In 1911 Hamburg Amerika Line and White Star started to introduce their large liners onto the Atlantic service, they were Bismarck (her completion as Majestic was delayed by the war), Imperator and Vaterland for the former and Olympic and the ill fated Titanic for the latter. Not to be outdone France’s French Line completed their own competitor in the shape of France which was built at the yard of Chantiers de Penhoet of St Nazaire, she was however much smaller than the rest. Cunard’s response to these leviathans was to lay down their own, Aquitania, who some say was the finest and most beautiful ship the company ever built. The company purchased all the shares in the Glasgow based Anchor Line in 1912, which included an interchange of directors, and less significantly the white division line-separating hull from boot top began to appear on Anchor Line ships. Anchor Line ships not only traded out to the USA but to India as well which introduced a whole new direction for Cunard’s interests.

The directors of Cunard’s board decided after consultation with their designers to build a ship that would fulfil anyone’s dreams of opulence previously unseen anywhere in the world. She was to be named after a Roman province in southwest France, would have four funnels in the same manner as Lusitania and Mauretania but would not be capable of matching their speed. She was to be built by John Browns of Glasgow and amidst much fanfare was launched by the Countess of Derby in 1913. In the same year the company took delivery of Alaunia, the first ship to carry the name, she was also the first of a three ship build programme, Andania and Aurania, her sisters were also sunk during the war.


Built: 1913 by Scotts SB Co, Greenock.
Tonnage: 13,405 grt, 8,464 nt.
Engines: Twin screw, quadruple expansion by builder.
Passengers: 520 2nd Class, 1,540 3rd Class.

Alaunia was built with the Canadian trade in mind and sailed on her maiden voyage on the 3rd of December 1913 from Liverpool to Portland. Taken up for trooping duties at the outbreak of war and commencing the 27th of August transported Canadian troops for the following six months. Re-entered commercial trade in 1916 and sailed from London on the 11th of May bound for New York via Falmouth and Plymouth. On the 19th of October she struck a mine when two miles from the Royal Sovereign lightship and sank, two lives were lost.


Cunard Line Copyright.

Built: 1914 by John Brown & Co Ltd, Clydebank, Glasgow.
Tonnage: 45,647 grt, 21,998 nt. 53,000 dwt.
Engines: Quadruple screw, 4 x Parsons direct drive turbines, HP ahead turbine for pot wing shaft with HP astern turbine; inter, ahead turbine and HP. Astern turbine for starboard wing shaft. LP and astern turbines for each inner shaft, 62,000 SHP, 175 RPM, 23.5 knots service speed.
Passengers: 618 1st Class, 614 2nd Class, 1,998 3rd Class, Crew circa 1,000.

Aquitania was the final ship that was built with four funnels; she was also the last in service. She had sixteen traverse watertight bulkheads, eighty-four compartments, cellular double bottoms and was fitted with Frahm stabiliser tanks and thermo tank heating and ventilation. Her building cost was an unprecedented £2,000,000 but nothing was spared in either her building or her accommodation and when completed was considered to be the most elegant and comfortable ship in service. The first class dining room was decorated in the style of Louis XVI giving one the impression one was in a Chateau as opposed that of an ocean liner. The Jacobean smoking room situated for’d was copied from that at the Greenwich hospital and was two decks high in the centre and single deck on either side, an aft section served as a small lounge where passengers played cards or simply relaxed, there were in fact six rooms in all.


Another two-deck structure was the Palladian lounge with carved columns and high windows, again giving the impression one was ashore in some magnificent mansion, the room was categorised as the finest that ever put to sea. Without doubt she rightly earned her sobriquet of “Ship Beautiful”.


She made her maiden voyage on the 30th of May 1914 Liverpool-Queenstown (Cobh)-New York, this, unfortunately was overshadowed by the loss of Canadian Pacific’s Empress of Ireland in the St Lawrence Seaway with a loss of 1,023 lives. Due to events taking place in Sarajevo, Serbia, she was only to make three round trips before other duties beckoned.

At the outbreak of war Aquitania was immediately converted by the Admiralty into an armed merchant cruiser but within weeks they had second thoughts, considering that she made too large a target for German submarines, her coal consumption also left a lot to be desired. When one considers the amount of taxpayer’s money spent subsidising and converting such vessels one wonders who’s head rolled, if any! After a month of indecision it was decided to utilise her for use as a troopship in which role she served admirably from 1915 until being converted yet again in 1917 into a 4,200 berth hospital ship, the largest of her kind. With the arrival of America into the conflict she made nine round trips carrying 60,000 troops to Europe and at the end of the war carried most of them, and no doubt more besides, back home again.

After being returned to her owners Aquitania was refurbished to her former glory in Newcastle, she was also fitted with a gyro compass and converted to fuel oil thus laying off half of her engine room crew, some two hundred stokers and trimmers. She was also fitted with a permanent swimming pool below deck, the first to be so equipped. Unfortunately during this refit there occurred an explosion in the engine room resulting in the death of one crew member.


During the twenties and thirties Aquitania enjoyed a successful and highly profitable career running alongside her two illustrious stable companions, Mauretania and the ex German ship Berengaria sailing on the Southampton-Cherbourg-New York service, however all was not well on emigrant passenger numbers. Due to the Emergency Quota Act of 1921 more commonly referred to as “The Three Percent Act” the numbers travelling to America had fallen from a pre war total of over 700,000 a year to 470,000 in 1922 and numbers continued to fall to a mere trickle of their previous highs. As the wide-open spaces of steerage suddenly became eerily quiet so to did the numbers of first class passengers fall proportionately. Those that hankered for a return to the “Golden Age” were to be sorely disappointed; instead the nouvelle riche and flappers replaced those of the more gentrified class and what’s more they demanded to be entertained, noise being of course a prerequisite.

The first company to acknowledge the decline in the status of its passengers and the need to redress the situation in one form or another was White Star’s Chairman and he declared “the building of further steamships of the monster type in the near future is rendered problematical…special attention will be given to steamers of the cabin and third class type—increasingly popular in these democratic days.” And so it was that Aquitania could be heard rather than seen leaving New York for Europe to the strains of Dixieland bands, which, more often than not were accompanied in unison by the squeals and hurrahs of cloche hatted girls, and young men who sported blazers and flannels. Another innovation that her passengers clamoured for was entertainment by way of the “Movies”, the equipment was duly installed during the thirties.

Aquitania suffered two mishaps during the mid thirties, neither serious but both involved her running aground, once off Calshot Spit which took only a couple of hours to rectify and the other off Southampton when inbound from the Mediterranean. Her rescue this time took rather longer, twenty-six hours, and involved the assistance of eleven tugs, she’s seen here still stranded.


In 1939, two months after war had been declared Aquitania was requisitioned for use as an AMC and was fitted with six inch guns, alas this was not to be and after conversion to that of a troopship she carried troops to all theatres of the war, transporting over six hundred thousand men, covering half a million miles safely from countries as far afield as America, Pearl Harbour, Hawaii and Australia.

Royal Canadian Air Force Copyright.

At wars end she served for three years carrying American and Canadian troops home and in some cases their brides as well, though they voyaged separately, she also completed trips carrying settlers out to Canada. In 1948/9 having failed her passenger certification rather badly, which would have necessitated expenditure way and above her worth, Cunard decided to scrap her. Her illustrious career spanned two world wars, unprecedented, and she travelled over three million miles carrying 1,200,000 passengers making 475 Atlantic crossings in the process. Her final voyage was to Faslane, Gareloch for breaking by the British & Steel Corporation in February of 1950.


Cunard built no new large tonnage during the war but concentrated instead on the acquisition of freighters, some newly built, others purchased second-hand. Of the five second hand purchases three were sunk, Voloda, torpedoed on the 21st of August 1917 with a loss of ten crew, Vinovia, torpedoed on the 19th of December 1917 and Vandalia torpedoed on the 9th of June 1918. Valeria, another purchase burnt out on Taylor’s Bank in the Mersey on the 21st of March 1918 and was written off as a total loss. Valacia was the only second-hand ‘V’ class ship to survive the war.


Built: 1906 by Short Brothers, Sunderland.
Tonnage: 7,046 grt, 4,545 nt.
Engine: Single screw, Quadruple expansion, 539 NHP, 12 knots by North Eastern Marine Engine Co, Newcastle.

Completed as Anglo-Bolivian on the 5th of December 1906 for the Southern Steam Shipping Co Ltd with Lawther & Latta as managers. Transferred to Nitrate Producers S.S. Co Ltd in 1907, same managers. Purchased by Cunard in 1916 and renamed Vinovia, sunk when on passage New York-London on the 19th of December 1917 eight miles south of Wolf Rock by U-105.

Further company losses included Ultonia, Ivernia, Carpathia, Lusitania, Thracia, Lycia, Franconia, Caria, Veria, Laconia, Ascania, Ausonia, Alaunia, Andania, Aurania, Flavia, Feltria and Folia, a total of twenty-two ships. As the war came to a close Cunard ordered thirteen ships as part replacement for lost tonnage, it was to be the largest single order placed by a British shipping company. Cunard completed its new office building in Liverpool next to the Liver building in 1917.