RMS Campania

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RMS Campania, c. 1895
Name: RMS Campania
Owner: Cunard Line
Port of registry: Liverpool, United Kingdom
Builder: Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, yard in Govan, Scotland
Laid down: 22 September 1891
Launched: 8 September 1892
Christened: Lady Burns
Maiden voyage: 22 April 1893
Fate: Sunk in a collision with HMS Glorious 5 November 1918
Status: Wreckage at 56°02′N 03°13′W / 56.033°N 3.217°W / 56.033; -3.217Coordinates: 56°02′N 03°13′W / 56.033°N 3.217°W / 56.033; -3.217
General characteristics
Tonnage: Gross 12,950; net 4973
Displacement: 18,450 tons
Length: 622ft (204m)
Beam: 65 ft 3 in (21.5m)
Draft: 29.9 feet
Depth: 41 ft 10 in (13.7m)
Installed power: 12 double-ended Scotch boilers, 102 furnaces. Two five-cylinder triple expansion engines producing 31000shp direct to twin screws
Propulsion: Two triple blade propellers
Speed: Service speed 22 knots (40.5 km/h / 25.3 mph); top speed 23.5 knots (43.3 km/h / 27 mph)
Capacity: 600 first class, 400 second class, 1000 third class. 2000 total
Crew: 424

RMS Campania was a British ocean liner owned by the Cunard Steamship Line Shipping Company, built by Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company of Govan, Scotland, and launched on Thursday, 8 September 1891.

Identical in dimensions and specifications to her sister ship RMS Lucania, Campania was the largest and fastest passenger liner afloat when she entered service in 1893. She crossed the Atlantic in less than six days; and on her second voyage in 1893, she won the prestigious Blue Riband, previously held by the Inman Liner SS City of Paris. The following year, Lucania won the Blue Riband and kept the title until 1898 - Campania being the marginally slower of the two sisters.

Power plant and construction

File:Lucania Log Book.jpg
Handbook issued to passengers on Campania

Campania and Lucania were partly financed by the British Admiralty. The deal was that Cunard would receive money from the Government in return for constructing vessels to admiralty specifications and also on condition that the vessels go on the naval reserve list to serve as armed merchant cruisers when required by the government. The contracts were awarded to the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, which at the time was one of Britain’s biggest producers of warships. Plans were soon drawn up for a large, twin-screw steamer powered by triple expansion engines, and construction began in 1891, just 43 days after Cunards' order.

Campania had the largest triple expansion engines ever fitted to a Cunard ship. These engines were also the largest in the world at the time, and still rank today amongst the largest of the type ever constructed. They represent the limits of development for this kind of technology, which was superseded a few years later by turbine technology. In height, the engines reached from the double-bottom floor of the engine room to the top of the superstructure - almost three stories. Each engine had five cylinders. The two low pressure cylinders on each engine each measured 8´2" (2.48 m) in diameter, and the engines operated with a stoke of 5' 9" (1.75 m). Together, the engines could generate a massive 31,000 ihp (23,000 kW), which produced an average of speed of 22 knots (41 km/h), and a record speed of 23½ knots.

Each of the engines was placed in separate watertight engine compartments, in case of a hull breach in that area, for only one engine room would then be flooded, and the ship would still have power to limp home with the adjacent engine. In addition to this Campania had 16 transverse watertight compartments, which meant that she could remain afloat with any two compartments flooded.

Passenger accommodation

In their day, Campania and her sister offered the most luxurious first class passenger accommodation available. It was Victorian opulence at its peak - an expression of a highly confident and prosperous age that would never be quite repeated on any other ship. All the first class public rooms, and the en suite staterooms of the upper deck, were generally heavily panelled, in oak, satinwood or mahogany; and thickly carpeted. Velvet curtains hung aside the windows and portholes, while the furniture was richly upholstered in matching design. The predominant style was Art Nouveau, although other styles were also in use, such as "French Renaissance" which was applied to the forward first class entrance hall, whilst the 1st class smoking room was in "Elizabethan style", comprising heavy oak panels surrounding the first open fireplace ever to be used aboard a passenger liner.

Perhaps the finest room in the vessels was the first class dining saloon measuring 20 by 30 m (66 by 98 ft) with a more than 10 m (33 ft) ceiling. Over the central part of the room was a well that rose through three decks to a skylight. It was done in a style described as "modified Italian style", with a coffered ceiling in white and gold, supported by ionic pillars. The panelled walls were done in Spanish mahogany, in-laid with ivory and richly carved with pilasters and decorations.

Maritime historian Basil Greenhill described the interiors of Campania and Lucania as representing the ultimate expression of the Victorian age, and remarked that later vessels' interiors had degenerated into "grandiose vulgarity, the classical syntax debased to mere jargon".[1]

Wireless history

In 1901, her sister Lucania became the first Cunard liner to be fitted with a Marconi wireless system, followed a few months later by Campania. Shortly after these installations, the two ships made history by exchanging the first wireless-transmitted ice bulletin; and two years after that, Lucania made history again, this time by publishing on board newspaper based on information received by wireless telegraphy whilst at sea. The newspaper was called Cunard Daily Bulletin and quickly became a success. Campania earned one more distinction in the history of wireless communication in 1905, when she became the first liner to have permanent radio connection to coastal stations around the world. From that time on, a ship crossing the Atlantic would never be isolated from the rest of the world in the same way again.

Final days

File:Campania at Cunard Pier.jpg
Campania at the Cunard Pier in New York.

Campania and Lucania served as Cunard's major passenger liners for 14 years, during which time they were superseded in both speed and size by a succession of four-funnelled German liners, starting with the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse in 1897. The German competition necessitated the construction of replacements for the two Cunarders, which came to fruition in 1907 with the appearance of the RMS Lusitania and RMS Mauretania. It was soon decided that Lucania was no longer needed, and her last voyage was on July 7th 1909, after which she was laid up at the Huskisson Dock in Liverpool. Shortly afterwards she was badly damaged by a fire and sold for scrap. With the appearance of a third Cunard giant in 1914, RMS Aquitania, Campania was also no longer required. Her last planned voyage for Cunard was her 250th, and commenced on April 25th, 1914. On her return to Liverpool, she was chartered to the Anchor Line to do voyages from Glasgow to New York. However, the First World War broke out and Aquitania, having completed only three voyages, was immediately commandeered by the Navy and converted into a fully-armed merchant cruiser. Campania was therefore recalled to take her place but unfortunately, she was too old and managed only three voyages before being sold for scrap. Her last voyage as a passenger liner was on 26 September, 1914. However, Campania was to have a last-minute reprieve.

HMS Campania

File:Campania sinking.jpg
The sinking of Campania

Whilst awaiting demolition, the Admiralty stepped in at the last minute and bought Campania with a view of converting her to an armed merchant cruiser that could carry seaplanes. The original idea was to use float-planes which would be lowered into and retrieved from the water by a crane. The conversion was carried out at the Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead. Her interior was completely gutted, and room made inside to store up to 14 aircraft. She was also equipped with eight 4.7" guns.

The conversion was completed in 1915, and trials took place under Captain Oliver Swan of the Royal Navy, with Charles H. Lightoller as the first Officer (formerly second officer of Titanic). Two weeks later she joined the fleet at Scapa Flow as HMS Campania, and subsequently began manoeuvres in the North Sea. Her job was to send aeroplanes ahead to scout for the German fleet.

After a short period, it was decided to add 160 ft (49 m) flight deck at the front of the ship, to enable aircraft to take off directly from the ship without being lowered into the water. Trials following this conversion indicated that the deck was too short, so it was extended to 220 ft (67 m). The alterations required the removal of the forward part of the superstructure, and the first funnel (which was replaced by two narrower funnels on each side). The aft deck was cleared and the aft mast removed, so that she could also serve as an Observation Balloon Ship. Campania now bore little resemblance to her original configuration.

HMS Campania served with the Admiralty right up until 5 November, 1918—just six days before the armistice was signed, when she was involved in an accident in the Firth of Forth during high winds. Campania dragged her anchor in a sudden squall, and at 03:45 struck the bow of the battleship Royal Oak and then dragged along the side of the battle cruiser Glorious. She began to sink stern first. A few hours later an explosion—presumed to be a boiler—sent her to the bottom. Because of the shallowness of the water, she was considered a danger to shipping and destroyed by explosives in 1923. The wreck site today remains one of historical importance, and came under the jurisdiction of the Protection of Wrecks Act on 1 December 2001.


  1. Greenhill, Basil; Ann Griffard (1979). Victorian and Edwardian Merchant Ships from Old Photographs. London: Batsford. ISBN 0713405929. 
  • Warren, Mark D. (1991). The Cunard Royal Mail Twin-Screw Steamers Campania and Lucania. Sparkford: Patrick Stephens Limited. ISBN 1852601485. 
  • Cunard Steam-ship Co Ltd. (1894). The Cunard Passenger Log Book: Campania & Lucania. Glasgow: David Bryce and Son. OCLC 311815977. 
  • Griffiths, Denis (1990). Power of the Great Liners. Patrick Stephens Limited. 

External links

Preceded by
City of New York
Atlantic Eastbound Record
1893 – 1894
Succeeded by
Preceded by
City of Paris
Holder of the Blue Riband (westbound)
1893 – 1894

de:RMS Campania (1892) pl:RMS Campania