Mauretania (also known as "Maury"), sister ship of the
Lusitania, was an ocean liner built by Swan, Hunter & Wigham
Richardson at Wallsend, Tyne and Wear for the British Cunard Line,
and launched on 20 September 1906. At the time, she was the largest
and fastest ship in the world. Particularly notable was her steam
turbine propulsion, which was a revolutionary development in ocean
liner design. Mauretania became a favourite among the passengers,
attributable to her luxury, speed, and safety. After capturing
the Blue Riband for fastest transatlantic crossing during her
1907 inaugural season, Mauretania held the speed record for twenty-two
ship's name was taken from Mauretania, a ancient Roman province
on the northwest African coast, not related to the modern Mauritania
Similar nomenclature was also employed by Mauretania's sister
ship, the Lusitania, which was named after the Roman province
directly north of Mauretania, across the Strait of Gibraltar.
left Liverpool on her maiden voyage on 16 November 1907 under
the command of her first captain, John Pritchard and later that
month captured the record for the fastest eastbound crossing of
the Atlantic with an average speed of 23.69 knots (43.87 km/h).
In September 1909, the Mauretania captured the Blue Riband for
the fastest westbound crossing—a record that was to stand
for more than two decades. In December 1910 Mauretania broke loose
from her moorings while in the River Mersey and attained damage
that caused the cancellation of her special speedy Christmas voyage
to New York. In a quick change of events Cunard rescheduled Mauretania's
voyage for Lusitania under the command of James Charles (who was
future commodore of the line) which had just returned from New
York. Lusitania herself completed Christmas crossings for her
sister, carrying revellers back to New York. On 26 January 1914,
while Mauretania was in the middle of annual refit in Liverpool,
four men were killed and six were injured when a gas cylinder
exploded while they were working on one of her steam turbines.
The damage was minimal and she returned to service two months
after Great Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914,
Mauretania and Aquitania were requested by the British government
to become an armed merchant cruiser, but their huge size and massive
fuel consumption made them unsuitable for the duty; leading to
them resuming their civilian service on 11 August. Later, due
to lack of passengers crossing the Atlantic, Mauretania was laid
up in Liverpool until May 1915, when her sister ship Lusitania
was sunk by a German U-boat. Mauretania was about to fill the
void left by Lusitania, but she was ordered by the British government
to serve as a troopship to carry British troops during the Gallipoli
campaign. She avoided becoming prey for German U-boats because
of her high speed and the seamanship of her crew.
served as HMHS Mauretania when combined forces from the British
empire and France began to suffer heavy casualties, Mauretania
was ordered to serve as a hospital ship, along with her fellow
Cunarder Aquitania and White Star's Britannic, in order to treat
the wounded until 25 January 1916. Seven months later, Mauretania
once again became a troop ship when requisitioned by the Canadian
government to carry Canadian troops from Halifax to Liverpool.
Her war duty was not yet over when the United States declared
war on Germany in 1917, and she carried thousands of American
troops until the end of the war.
a troopship, Mauretania received dazzle camouflage, a form of
abstract color scheming, in an effort to confuse enemy ships.
The dazzle painting was not used when Mauretania served as a hospital
ship. In medical service the vessel was painted white with large
medical cross emblems surrounding the vessel.
returned to civilian service on 21 September 1919. Her busy sailing
schedule prevented her from having an extensive overhaul scheduled
in 1920. However, in 1921 Cunard Line removed her from service
when fire broke out on E-deck and decided to give her a much-needed
overhaul. She returned to the Tyne shipyard of her birth, where
her boilers were converted to oil-firing, and returned to service
in March 1922; however, it was also noticed by Cunard that Mauretania
was still struggling to maintain her service speeds and it was
apparent that her once-revolutionary turbines were in desperate
need of overhaul. In 1923, a major overhaul was begun in Southampton,
involving the dismantling of Mauretania's turbines. Halfway through
the overhaul, the shipyard workers went on strike and the work
was halted, so Cunard had the ship towed to Cherbourg, where the
work was completed at another shipyard. In May 1924, the ship
returned to Atlantic service.
1928 Mauretania was modernised with new interior design and in
the next year her speed record was broken by a German liner, the
Bremen, with a speed of 28 knots (52 km/h). On 27 August, Cunard
permitted the former ocean greyhound to have one final attempt
to recapture the record from the newer German liner. She was taken
out of service and her engines were modified to produce more power
to give a higher service speed; however, this was still not enough.
The Bremen simply represented a new generation of ocean liners
that were far more powerful and technologically advanced than
the aging Cunarder. Even though Mauretania could not outrace her
German rival, the ship did beat her own speed records both eastbound
and westbound. In 1929 Mauretania collided with a train ferry
near Robbins Reef Light; fortunately, no one was killed or injured
and her damage was quickly repaired. In 1930, with a combination
of the Great Depression and newer competitors on the Atlantic
run, Mauretania became a dedicated cruise ship. When Cunard Line
merged with White Star Line in 1934, Mauretania, along with Olympic,
Majestic and other aging ocean liners, were deemed surplus to
requirements and withdrawn from service.
withdrew Mauretania from service following a final eastward crossing
from New York to Southampton in September 1934. The final crossing
was made at an average speed of 24 knots (her original contractual
speed stipulation for her mail subsidy), and Mauretania was then
laid up at Southampton awaiting her fate next to the former one
time White Star Line flagship Olympic. Thus marked the end of
twenty-eight years of service with Cunard.
May 1935 her furnishings and fittings were put up for auction
and of the 1st of July that year she departed Southampton for
the last time to T.W Wards shipbreakers at Rosyth. One of her
former captains, the now retired commodore Sir Arthur Rostron
(captain of the RMS Carpathia during the Titanic rescue), came
to see her on her final departure from Southampton. Rostron refused
to go aboard Mauretania before her final journey, stating that
he preferred to remember the ship as when he commanded her.
route to the breakers, Mauretania stopped at her birthplace the
Tyne for half an hour, where she drew crowds of sightseers and
was boarded by the Lord Mayor of Newcastle. The mayor bid her
farewell from the people of Newcastle, and her last captain, A.T.
Brown, then resumed his course for Rosyth. The ship passed under
the Forth Bridge (for which her masts had to be cut down), and
was delivered to the shipbreakers.
RMS Mauretania (1906)