Ship History

  

RETURN TO THE HOMEPAGE                                                                                                                                                                                                                     RMS MAURETANIA 2 1938


The new Mauretania, second to bear the illustrious name under the Cunard flag, carried on Cunard Line’s tradition of unparalleled service. The new Mauretania offered the same first class service, though on a much smaller scale than famous Cunard Queens, the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. The Mauretania enjoyed immense popularity in the transatlantic trade among those passengers who preferred the atmosphere of a smaller ship. 

Cunard Line’s advertising slogan for the new Mauretania was:

"Europe bound - the magnificent Mauretania, proud successor to one of the most famous names in transatlantic travel . . . preferred by those who seek the luxury of the world's largest liners on a more intimate scale . . . and who treasure an extra day at sea to enjoy Cunard's wonderful food and service . . . to join in the sparkling round of happy shipboard diversions . . . or simply to relax in the contented conviction that "Getting There is Half the Fun!" "

Design and Construction (1937 – 1939):

The Mauretania (2) was built by Cammell Laird of Birkenhead and was the largest ship built in England at that time. She was also the first new ship delivered to the combined Cunard-White Star Line. The new Mauretania was laid down on the 24th May 1937 as Yard Number 1029. This new medium sized Cunarder was launched on the 28th July 1938 at the Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead by Lady Bates, wife of the Cunard Line chairman. She was named Mauretania to honour the previous record breaking Mauretania which had recently been retired in 1935. The ship was designed for the London to New York service and was the largest vessel ever to navigate the River Thames and use the Royal Docks. She was also intended to stand in for one of the Cunard Queens when they were undergoing maintenance.

"This is a red letter day, not only for me but for Merseyside. The launch of the largest ship that has ever been built in England. I hope that like her namesake she may work her way into the affections of all who have to do with her on both sides of the Atlantic. To the ship and all who serve or sail in her I wish all good fortune. I name you Mauretania."

Words of Lady Bates at the Launch Ceremony, 28th July 1938.

The new Mauretania's smart and stylish accommodation marked a further enhancement to the standards of cabins, public rooms and general facilities provided for passengers of all grades by Cunard Line.

The Second World War (1939 – 1947):

The new Mauretania sailed on her maiden voyage from Liverpool to New York on the 17th June 1939, after remaining in New York for a week she returned to Southampton via Cherbourg. Like the Aquitania, 25 years before, the new Mauretania was to experience only the briefest period of commercial operation before the outbreak of hostilities halted this work for over 6 years. Returning from the next voyage the Mauretania called at Southampton, Le Havre and finally to London where she berthed in the King George V Dock. From August she was switched to the London to New York service she was intended for.  Here she supplemented the Britannic and Georgic on the London to New York service.

On the 11th August 1939 she left on her final prewar voyage to New York and then was requisitioned by the Government.  The Mauretania was then defensively armed with two 6 inch guns and some smaller weapons, painted in battle grey and was then despatched to America at the end of December 1939.

For three months the ship lay idle in New York until it was decided to use her as a troopship. On 20 March 1940 she sailed from New York to Sydney, via Panama to be converted for her new role. She had an exciting voyage out to Australia via Bilbao, San Francisco and Honolulu, tracked for much of the way by the enemy and having to evade concentrations of U-boats that were known to be lying in wait for her. This conversion work was carried out in April and in May she left Sydney as part of one of the greatest convoys ever mustered for the transport of troops. With her were the Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, and Aquitania,  with 2,000 troops, bound for the River Clyde via South Africa. Other notable liners in this great convoy were the Empress of Britain, Empress of Canada, Empress of Asia and the Nieuw Amsterdam. During the early stages of the war the ship transported Australian troops to Suez, India and Singapore but later she mainly served on the North Atlantic. Like the Aquitania, she amassed over 50,000 sea miles over the course of her war duties, first criss-crossing the Indian Ocean, then working the Atlantic with American and Canadian troops and finally serving in the Pacific. One of her wartime voyages, of 28,662 nautical miles duration, took her right around the world, taking 82 days to complete. During this epic voyage she established a speed record for the crossing time from Fremantle, Australia to Durban, South Africa. The 4000 mile distance was covered in 8 days and 19 hours at an average speed of 21.06 knots. On the 8th January 1941 she was involved in a minor collision with the American tanker Hat Creek in New York harbour. After the war had ended the Mauretania made several further voyages for the Government repatriating troops. This mainly took the ship to Canada and Singapore. During the Second World War she travelled 540,000 miles and carried over 340,000 troops. She was never intended to be an exceptionally fast ship. Despite this and the fact that her engines had received little attention for six long years on war service, she achieved an impressive turn of speed in 1945 making the passage from Bombay to the UK via the Cape at an average speed of 23.4 knots! On the 2nd September 1946 she returned to Liverpool, was released from Government service and immediately went into Gladstone Dock to be reconditioned by Cammell Laird & Co. for return to Cunard Line service.

The Postwar Heyday (1947 - 1962):

After a complete overhaul and refurbishment of the interior the Mauretania made her first post-war Atlantic crossing to New York on the 26th April 1947. After using Liverpool as her home port for the first two voyages she was thereafter based at Southampton. Here she acted as the relief ship for the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, standing in on the transatlantic service when one of them was undergoing maintenance.  By this time the London to New York service had been discontinued as the Georgic with which she had operated the service was in no fit state to resume passenger duties, while the other partner the Britannic had been transferred to a new Liverpool to New York service. Later that year she began to be used as a cruise ship during the winter months to the West Indies and the Caribbean. These so called 'dollar-earning cruises' assisted the shattered British economy. For the next 10 years she served on the Southampton to New York route during the summer months and operated on cruises from New York during the winter months. When the Mauretania was taken in for her annual overhaul at Liverpool in December 1957 the opportunity was taken to  fit air-conditioning throughout the ship.

Mauretania goes cruising and the Final Years (1962 - 1965):

By 1962, however, she was facing competition from much more modern ships and was beginning to lose money for Cunard Line. In October 1962 the ship was painted pale green, like the Caronia (the famed Green Goddess) and the passenger accommodation was adjusted to accommodate 406 First class, 364 Cabin class and 357 Tourist class passengers. On the 28th March 1963 she began a new Mediterranean service calling at New York, Cannes, Genoa and Naples. This, however, was a failure and by 1964 she was mainly employed cruising from New York to the West Indies.

The Mauretania’s final voyage was a Mediterranean cruise which left New York on the 15th September 1965. It was announced that on her return to Southampton the Mauretania would be withdrawn from service and sold. She arrived at Southampton on the 10th November 1965 and had already been sold to the British Iron & Steel Corporation. On the 23rd November she arrived at Ward's shipbreaking yard in Inverkeithing, Fife in Scotland. On her final voyage the Mauretania was commanded by Captain John Treasure-Jones, who navigated the mud straits of the Forth without tugs. It was a sad end to a fine ocean liner – the second Mauretania.



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