RMS Mauretania (1938)

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RMS Mauretania, 1938
RMS Mauretania, 1938
Name: RMS Mauretania
Operator: Cunard White Star
Port of registry: British Red Ensign British
Route: London-New York
Builder: Cammell Laird, Birkenhead, England
Laid down: May 24, 1937
Launched: July 28, 1938
Christened: July 28, 1938
Maiden voyage: June 17, 1939
Fate: Broken up at Ward's shipbreaking yard in Inverkeithing, Scotland.
Status: Scrapped
General characteristics
Class and type: Ocean liner
Tonnage: 35,738 gross tons
Length: 772 ft (235 m)
Beam: 89 ft (27 m)
Installed power: two sets of Parsons single reduction-geared steam turbines giving 42,000 shaft horsepower turning twin propellers.
Speed: 23 knots
Capacity: Originally 1,360 people, reduced to 1,127 people during 1962 overhaul.
Crew: 802

RMS Mauretania was launched on 28 July 1938 at the Cammell Laird yard in Birkenhead, England and was completed in May 1939. A successor to RMS Mauretania (1906), the second Mauretania was the first ship built for the newly formed Cunard White Star company following the merger in April 1934 of the Cunard and White Star lines.

The new liner had a tonnage of 35,739 gross, an overall length of 772 feet (235 m) and a beam of 89 feet (27 m) and had a design similar to the Queen Elizabeth. The vessel was powered by two sets of Parsons single reduction-geared steam turbines giving 42,000 shaft horsepower and driving twin propellers. Her service speed was 23 knots (43 km/h).

Design and Construction (1937 - 1939)

The second Mauretania 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. Mauretania was laid down on 24 May 1937 as Yard Number 1029. This new medium sized Cunarder was launched on 28 July 1938 at the Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead by Lady Bates, wife of the Cunard White Star 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, the wife of Cunard White Star chairman Sir Percy Bates at the launch ceremony on 28 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 White Star Line.

The Second World War (1939 - 1947)

File:SS Mauretania II.jpg
Mauretania on her grey paint scheme
File:AT Brown Mauretania.jpg
Maiden Voayge Cover

Mauretania sailed on her maiden voyage from Liverpool to New York on 17 June 1939 under the command of Captain A T Brown (who had delivered the previous Mauretania to the shipbreakers), after remaining in New York for a week she returned to Southampton via Cherbourg on Friday, June 30, 1939. Like Aquitania, 25 years before, Mauretania was to experience only the briefest period of commercial operation before the outbreak of hostilities halted this work for over six years. Returning from the next voyage, Mauretania called at Southampton, Le Havre and finally London where she berthed in the King George V Dock. From August she was switched to the London- New York service for which she was intended. Here she supplemented the Britannic and Georgic on the London to New York service[1].

On 11 August 1939 she left on her final prewar voyage to New York. On her return she was requisitioned by the Government. Mauretania was armed with two 6-inch (150 mm) guns and some smaller weapons, painted in battle grey, and then despatched to America at the end of December 1939.

For three months the ship lay idle in New York, docked alongside the Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary, and the French Line's Normandie, 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 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 Empress of Britain, Empress of Canada, Empress of Asia, and Nieuw Amsterdam. During the early stages of the war the ship transported Australian troops to Suez, India and Singapore but later she mainly served in the North Atlantic. Like Aquitania, she amassed over 50,000 sea miles over the course of her war duties, first crossing of 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 (53,082 km) 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 4,000-mile (6,400 km) distance was covered in 8 days and 19 hours at an average speed of 21.06 knots (39.00 km/h). Another wartime troop transport voyage began in New York on May 10, 1943 and ended in Bombay on June 24, 1943, with calls enroute at Trinidad, Rio de Janeiro, Capetown and Diego Suarez. On 8 January 1941 she was involved in a minor collision with the American tanker Hat Creek in New York harbour.

After the war's end, Mauretania made several further voyages for the Government repatriating troops. This mainly took the ship to Canada and Singapore. Mauretania took the first dedicated sailing of English war brides and their children being patriated to Canada to join their husbands, landing at Pier 21 at Halifax in February 1946.

During the Second World War she travelled 540,000 miles (870,000 km) and carried over 340,000 troops. the Mauretania was not designed to be an exceptionally fast ship and during her war duty her engines had received little attention for six long years of service as a troopship, she achieved a turn of speed in 1945 making the passage from Bombay to the UK via the Cape at an average speed of 23.4 knots (43.3 km/h). On 2 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 White Star service.

The Postwar Heyday (1947 - 1962)

After a complete overhaul and refurbishment of the interior, Mauretania made her first post-war Atlantic crossing to New York, departing on 26 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 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 Georgic, with which she had operated the service was in no fit state to resume passenger duties, while the other partner, 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 ten 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 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)

File:Mauretania 2 at the breakers yard.jpg
The Mauretania at the breaker yard.

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 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 28 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.

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


Further reading

  • Fricker, Philip J. Ocean Liners, Reed's Nautical Books, 1992
  • Cruising Ships, W.H. Mitchell and L.A. Sawyer, Doubleday, 1967

External links

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