1905 - 1932
Germany broke the speed record across the North Atlantic with the Kaiser
Wilhelm der Grosse in 1897, Great Britain found them selves left behind.
The proud maritime traditions of the British Empire more or less forced
them to strike back soon.
Star had since long stepped out of the North Atlantic speed race, so the
only company left to defend Britain's maritime honour was the Cunard Line.
But they did not have the money to compete.
Cunard's chairman Lord Inverclyde soon found a solution. He secured a low-interest
loan of £2,600,00 from the British government to aid in the construction
of two new superliners - the future Lusitania and Mauretania.
made two conditions, though. First of all, these two new ships would have
to be fast enough to win back the Blue
Riband from the Germans. Second,
they would be constructed in a way so that they in the event of war could
be converted into armed merchant cruisers.
|The Carmania and
her sister represented a new style in ocean liner design.
the plans for these new liners began to form, it became clear that they
were to become both the largest and the fastest ships in the world. But
it was not yet clear how they would be able to reach the 24.5-knot average
speed required. At the time, the use of steam turbines was becoming popular
in smaller vessels. But they had never been used in ships of this size,
and so no one knew if it would be a good idea to fit the Lusitania
and Mauretania with turbines instead of traditional reciprocating
soon came up with a way to answer this tough question. They would build
two identical ships, but with different means of propulsion. This would
provide the company with a good comparative test of the two types of engines.
To make everything as equal as possible, the two ships would be built by
the same shipyard - John Brown & Co. Ltd.
of the two ships, the Caronia, was fitted with the traditional type
of reciprocating engines. She was launched on July 13th, 1904
and set out on her maiden voyage on February 25th 1905, four
days after her sister - Carmania - had been launched.
21st, 1905, was a day of great public interest. The Carmania
was reported to be the forerunner of a new class of giant liners designed
to retrieve the Blue Riband, and many had gathered to witness her launch.
having been fitted out, the Carmania was ready for her sea trials.
At this early stage of her life she gave clear evidence of the reliability
of steam turbines by exceeding her sister's top speed by over two knots.
sisters Caronia and Carmania represented a new stage in ship
design in the Cunard Fleet. Earlier, the funnels had been divided into
five equal parts where one fifth was painted black and the other four in
Cunard's familiar orange-red colour. But on the Caronia and Carmania
the ship's proportions had changed and so the funnels were instead divided
into four parts, with the top quarter painted black.
expectations high, the Carmania was ready for her awaited maiden
voyage between Liverpool and New York on December 2nd, 1905.
Several engineers were on board the new ship to supervise the performance
of her turbines during the crossing. Upon the Carmania's arrival
in New York a few days later, they were all pleased to report that the
engines had worked splendidly. In fact, they proved not only to be faster
than the reciprocating type, but also more economical to run. The question
of the Lusitania's and Mauretania's engines had once and
for all been answered - they would both be powered by turbines.
the following years, Caronia and Carmania maintained Cunard's
Liverpool-New York service and were joined by the new Lusitania
and Mauretania in 1907. As expected, their turbines gave them the
speed to beat the Germans. In 1910, the Carmania got her first taste
of bad luck when a fire broke out on board the ship while at its dock in
Liverpool. The fire brigade was soon on the job, but it took them some
time to fight the blaze. When finally extinguished, the fire had caused
great damage. Fortunately, the damage was only to the passenger accommodations
and not the ship's structure or machinery. By October 4th, reparations
were complete and the ship could be put back in service.
survived this accident, the Carmania showed signs of heroism three
years later, in October 1913. While en route from New York to Liverpool,
the Carmania intercepted an SOS call from the emigrant ship Volturno.
The Volturno, which was on its way from Rotterdam to America with
emigrants, was on fire caused by the ship's cargo of barium oxide. Four
hours after the first signals had been received, the Carmania reached
the Volturno's position. Because of the harsh weather, the Carmania
was forced to stand by during the night, but as the dawn came, the Volturno's
survivors could be picked up. 103 passengers and 30 crewmembers of the
Volturno were lost. Awards of gallantry were subsequently presented
to the Carmania's commanding officer Captain Barr and the rest
of her crew.
|The Carmania was
decorated in accordance with Cunard tradition, offering comforts and amenities
of high class.
the following year, World War I broke out. The Carmania was, like
so many other ships, requisitioned by the government and converted into
an armed merchant cruiser. This use of the great liners was soon to be
proven unsuitable, but the Carmania was one of the few ships that
made good use in this guise. In September of 1914, under the command of
Royal Navy Captain Noel Grant, the Carmania intercepted the Hamburg-Amerika
liner Cap Trafalgar, also converted and armed, in the waters off
Trinidad. A fierce battle took place and although the Carmania's
bridge caught fire, she managed to keep firing at the Cap Trafalgar.
After an hour of fighting, the Cap Trafalgar took on a list and
then went down at the head. The Carmania had received a total of
79 hits, and seven crewmembers were lost in the battle. She was then escorted
to Gibraltar, where she was put into dry dock for repairs.
was ready for service again on November 23rd. The ship patrolled
the coast of Portugal and the Atlantic Islands until May of 1915, when
she was called in to assist in the Gallipoli campaign in the Mediterranean.
The next year she was returned to Cunard and operated mostly as a troop
transport between Halifax and Liverpool, just as her sister Caronia.
When the Great War finally came to an end, the Carmania and Caronia
were kept on to return Canadian soldiers to their home country.
early months of 1920, the Carmania was given a major reconditioning
and returned to Cunard's Liverpool to New York run. In 1923 she again had
a refit during which her passenger accommodations were reduced to 1,440
people, mainly to make her suitable as a winter-month cruise ship. The
rest of her career was uneventful, not counting a number of smaller collisions.
was used, as many other older ships, for cruises in the winter throughout
the 1920s. But the Great Crash of 1929 made times worse for
the shipping companies. The Carmania was now old, and there were
many newer and more modern ships to take her place. And so, in March 1932,
she was sold to the shipbreaking firm of Hughes Bocklow & Co. She was
subsequently scrapped at Blyth.
|The Carmania - Specifications:
||675 feet (206.2 m)
||72 feet (22 m)
||19,524 gross tons
||Steam turbines turning
||Originally 2,650 people,
reduced to 1,440 people in 1923.