will long be remembered as a legend. Indeed a legend among those who
renown and acclaim as the largest, the fastest, and the most opulent
her time, but history will record the Mauretania as one of the most
symbols of reliability on the North Atlantic.
From her launch to the end of her service career, the Mauretania
was the comparison to which all contemporary liners of the day were
and Construction (1904 – 1907):
Lloyd ship Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse took the Blue Riband from Cunard's
Thereafter German ships held the trophy without challenge. It was not
1902 that negotiations began between the Government and Cunard Line
with a view
to building two superliners, the Lusitania
Mauretania, capable of winning back and holding the Blue Riband for Britain.
1903 an agreement had been reached whereby the Goverment would lend
to Cunard Line to build two ships capable of 24 to 25 knots. In
agreed to make an annual payment to Cunard Line on the condition that
ships were capable of being armed and that the Government would have a
their services in times of national emergency.
Tyneside firm Swan,
Hunter and Wigham Richardson Ltd. won the contract build the new
keel of the Mauretania was laid down
at the Wallsend Shipyard on the River Tyne. Over the next two years,
efforts of countless shipwrights would shape the hull and structure of
vessel so that on the 20th September 1906, the Mauretania
was ready for launching. The ceremonies were presided over by Her Grace
Duchess of Roxburghe and in attendance it would seem, was all of
was on a fair September day in 1906 that the Mauretania
was launched into the River Tyne, amid the cheer and jubilation of the
craftsmen whose skill and labour were borne into what was then the
most modern passenger vessel in the world. The Mauretania
was, in fact as well as fancy, to be revolutionary in that it would be
the very first passenger vessels to be fitted with the new steam
engine, developed by engineering genius Charles Parsons.
was a quadruple screw ship driven by direct-drive steam turbines.
propulsion machinery was identical to that of the Lusitania
two modifications gave the Mauretania
edge over her sister. The diameter of the propeller blades was slightly
and the turbines were fitted with more rows of blades.
Mauretania left the
Ways and slipped into the waters of the Tyne,
she was guided by six tugs to the nearby fitting-out basin where work
commence on the erection of her superstructure, funnels, and
fitting-out of her
luxurious interiors. The work would span a period of just over one
year. On the
22nd October 1907 the Mauretania departed the Tyne and
headed for Liverpool for delivery to
the Cunard Line and for
official Sea Trials. The delivery voyage took the Mauretania around Scotland
the ship averaged a speed of 22 knots. Her Sea Trials were commenced in
November and on the measured mile off Skermorlie in the Firth of Clyde,
the Mauretania reached a speed
upwards of 26.75 knots,
conclusively meeting the requirement of speed set forth in Cunard's
Cunard Years (1907 – 1914):
flawless Sea Trials,
the Mauretania left Liverpool on her
voyage on the 16th November 1907 under the command of
Pritchard. With an inaugural send-off uninhibited by the damp weather,
Mauretania sailed for New
to the sound of more than 50,000 cheering spectators. Celebrations for
crossing were unfortunately put off by fog which delayed the liner off Sandy Hook. The Mauretania made the trip between
Liverpool and New York
in five days, 18 hours and 17 minutes and averaged a speed between 21
On the 30th
the Mauretania would again encounter
time off of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, but with men and machinery
to achieve a record, the ship managed to capture the eastbound record
average speed of 23.69 knots.
On the 2nd
1908 the ship had left Liverpool when
thought to have hit a submerged object. Despite the propeller blades
damaged, Cunard Line took advantage of the situation and took the
to replace both inner shafts with four bladed propellers. A refit was
carried out at Canada Graving Dock in Liverpool
later that year. The subsequent voyage left Liverpool
on the 23rd January 1909.
It was not
of 1909 that the Mauretania would
record for the fastest westbound crossing, a record she would retain
20 years until July 1929. This figure is indeed a tribute to the
feat which was Mauretania. During
of constant service, the Mauretania
a reputation for reliability and consistent on-time performance. It
would be a
reputation she would own until the end of her career.
the public was
looking for faster crossings and once at their destination, a speedy
journey. As a result it was inevitable that ports closer to London
than Liverpool were required, and
Fishguard was developed as a port of call for Atlantic liners. The Mauretania was the first Cunard liner to use
on the 30th August 1909. At the end of 1909 the ships first
John T. Pritchard, retired and Captain William Turner assumed command.
reputation of the ship attracted several prominent passengers. On a
during December 1910 HRH Prince Albert and HRH Prince Radziwell were
the passengers, along with Mr. Carlisle, the managing director of
Wolff. In June 1911 the ship brought thousands of visitors to Britain
Coronation of HM King George V.
December 1913 the Mauretania
returned to Liverpool for its annual
part of which involved work on the main propulsion turbines. On the 26th
January 1914, whilst men were working on the turbine blades, one of the
cylinders exploded. Four men were killed and six were injured. The
fire was extinguished and the main damage was confined to the blades in
starboard turbine. The ship was not ready to rejoin the Atlantic
First World War (1914 – 1919):
When Britain declared war on Germany, on the 4th August
ship was on its way to New
At the last minute the ship was diverted to Halifax
and the Admiralty sent out an order requisitioning the ship as an armed
merchant cruiser, as soon as it returned to Liverpool.
On the 11th August, however, the Mauretania and the Lusitania were
from Government duties.
reduced demand for
transatlantic passages meant that the ship was laid up at Liverpool
on the 26th August. After the loss of the Lusitania
in May 1915 the Mauretania was
return to service. Before it did, however, the Admiralty requisitioned
to transport troops during the Gallipoli campaign, later in May. During
period the ship made several voyages to Mudros
Bay island of Lemnos,
the Allied base for operations in the area. On one of these voyages the
Mauretania was attacked by a
submarine but managed to
avoid the torpedo, largely due the ship's high speed. At the end of
returned to Liverpool and was fitted
out as a
hospital ship. It then left Liverpool
on the 21st
October to assist with the evacuation of the wounded from Gallipoli.
The Mauretania made several further
voyages as a hospital
ship and completed its last voyage on the 25th January 1916.
however, was not the
end of the ship's war service. On the 29th September 1916
requisitioned again to carry Canadian troops. In October-November 1916
two voyages from Liverpool to Halifax
Canadian troops bound for France.
After this she was laid up on the Clyde
1918. In March 1918 she was again used as a troopship carrying over
American troops before the Armstice in November. After the end of the
ship was used in the repatriation of American and Canadian troops. From
December it was decided that the Mauretania would now sail from
call at Cherbourg on its way to New York. She
final trooping voyage on the 28th June 1919 and was then
refitted at Southampton.
Final Years (1919 – 1935):
On the 21st
1919 she sailed from Southampton on
commercial voyage since World War I began. Cunard Line had altered its
transatlantic route to sail from Southampton to New
via Cherbourg instead of the previous Liverpool route. An overhaul, planned for 1920,
delayed as the demand for passenger services to Europe from America
great. Whilst docked at Southampton,
on the 22nd
July 1921, a fire broke out on board. The fire spread quickly and
efforts of both the fire brigade and crew to extinguish it. The damage
was confined to the first class cabin area. It was decided to send the
back to the builder's yard for an overhaul and the opportunity would be
to convert from coal to oil burning. By March 1922 the Mauretania
had resumed her usual service.
On the 25th
1922 the ship broke its pre-war Atlantic speed record. The ships
was now above 26 knots. In January 1923 the ship was chartered by an
travel company and made a Mediterranean cruise. Another overhaul was
in November but due to industrial disputes it was decided to complete
Despite a difficult journey, being towed by tugs, the ship reached Cherbourg and the
the Cowes Harbour
Commission complained about the Mauretania’s speed as she left the Solent. The heavy wash created had flooded Cowes main
caused considerable disruption. The Government decided that the pilot
blame. A refit in 1928 saw the ship's furniture and decor modernized.
built for the Nordeutscher Lloyd line, however, were now posing a
threat to the
Mauretania’s domination of the Atlantic.
ships Europa and Bremen
were launched in August 1928. The Bremen
soon broke the Atlantic speed record but the margin of time was quite
On the 27th
1929 the Mauretania collided with a train ferry near Robbins Reef,
leaving New York.
Luckily no one was injured but the ships bows were damaged. The hole in
bows, however, was repaired within 24 hours.
1930s in the final
years of Mauretania's service, the liner would be increasingly deployed
cruises in the Mediterranean, the West Indies, and the Bahamas.
While these were popular
with Americans who wanted to escape prohibition, the liner was by
ill-equipped for such environments. To reduce the effects of heat, the
painted a stark reflective white. Age and the relentless movement
things modern were slowly relegating the Mauretania
to the dangers of becoming hopelessly outdated. So
after a winter overhaul it returned to
service in February 1930 and during the following years concentrated
decision which could
not have been arrived at easily, Cunard withdrew the Mauretania from
following her final passenger sailing from Southampton
on 30 June 1934, (the day Cunard and White Star Lines merged). During
final voyage she averaged a speed of 24 knots, a remarkable speed for a
now in her final years. After two cruises to the West Indies it
returned to Southampton on 2 October.
The completion of the RMS Queen
Mary and the merger with White Star meant that the fleet had to be
reduced. Also Mauretania’s
replaced by the new Queen Mary that entered service in 1936.
Mauretania was now outdated and the ship would be laid up in Southampton
until the following summer when it was decided to sell the ship. The
ship was purchased
on the 3rd April 1935 by Metal Industries Ltd of Glasgow for
scrap. All her fixtures and
fittings were auctioned off in Southampton Docks on the 14th
1935 and on the 1st July 1935 the Mauretania made her final
departure from Southampton and left for the Tyne.
Here she made a final visit to the river of her birth and was given a
rousing reception by the people of Tyneside. On the 3rd July
reached the Firth of Forth and passed under the Forth Rail
moved to Rosyth for final dismantling.
This journey was immortalised in a painting “The Mauretania” that hung
First Class Lounge on board the Queen Mary.
Among the great admirers of the Mauretania was President Franklin D.
Roosevelt (US President) who said of her:
"Every ship has a soul. But the Mauretania
had one you could talk to. At times she could be wayward and contrary
as a thoroughbred."
One of her
Captain's on the ship's retirement, gave her the most fitting epitaph
of them all. Captain Sir Arthur Rostron said:
gave of her best, served Cunard well, was an honour and a credit to her
builders, to her owners and to Britain, was loved by all who ever
served in her and admired by all who crossed in her."
active service retained the affections lavished upon Mauretania
by her loyal passengers. It was not without regret that the Mauretania
disappeared from the Cunard roster. Those who had travelled aboard her
and those who emigrated in steerage would find like ground on which to
nostalgic sentiment befitting the passing of a legend. Sadly after her
illustrious career it was time to say farewell to the RMS Mauretania –
Grand Lady of the Seas.