1923 - 1956
after the First World War, the shipping lines of the world found themselves
in a most difficult situation. All too many vessels had been requested
by admiralties and as a consequence been destroyed during the hostilities.
The British Cunard Line was one of the companies that had been very badly
affected – after the war they had lost eleven passenger ships: The Lusitania,
Carpathia, Franconia, Laconia, Ivernia, Ultonia,
Alaunia, Andania, Aurania, Ausonia and the
Asconia had all been victims of the enemy. The remaining Cunard
fleet was not too impressive for the time, in all seven ships including
the Aquitania and Mauretania.
of the fleet started with receiving war-prizes from the war’s losers. The
Germans had to give up their entire big trio that the Hamburg Amerika Linie’s
director Albert Ballin had created. The first of the trio – the Imperator
– went to Cunard as replacement for the grand Lusitania, the second
went to the Americans and the last and largest went to the White Star Line.
Imperator was renamed
Berengaria and started to serve alongside Aquitania and Mauretania.
- one of Cunard's newbuilds during the Twenties.
Cunard realised that there were not enough ships to fetch from the Germans
to update the reduced fleet. They had to build more ships, many more ships.
In the late 1910s, the directors and design team of the Cunard
Line presented their plans of replacement tonnage – in all fourteen new
ships. These ships were to be small ones; there was no money for a ship
to match the ‘Big Three’.
of these fourteen ships came in 1920. She was the Albania, and she
was followed by three almost identical sisters – the Scythia, Samaria
and Laconia. After these ships Cunard wanted to further perfect
these small single stackers with two liners similar to the former four.
of these two ships was built by John Brown & Co., and designed by Leslie
Peskett, head designer for Cunard, the same man that had designed the Aquitania
– ‘The Ship Beautiful’. To honour the first Franconia that had been
sunk during the war, Cunard decided to give this new ship that name. On
October 21, 1922, Lady Royden, wife of Sir Thomas Royden, chairman of Cunard,
launched the Franconia into the River Clyde. On June 23, 1923, the
Franconia successfully carried through her maiden voyage between
Liverpool and New York.
now evident that the Franconia was by far superior to the four previous
single stackers that had set her pattern. She was more luxurious, better
decorated and had differences in design that the passengers seemed to favour.
The interiors of the Franconia were fabulous. She had two garden
lounges, a fifteenth-century styled smoking room, a health centre and a
the Twenties, the Franconia was much used for cruising – something
the shipping companies more and more had to rely on. Loyal passengers on
board the Franconia were celebrities such as Cole Porter, Noël
Coward, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein.
seemed to be every inch a ship for people who wanted to leave their troubles
behind and relax for some time, but she ship was certainly not immune to
accidents. On April 10th, 1926, the Franconia was involved
in a collision between her,
an Italian gunboat and a Japanese vessel in
Shanghai harbour. The Franconia had intended to leave her wharf,
but run aground with her bow, making her stern swing around into the two
smaller vessels. To make matters worse, a buoy became tangled in the Franconia’s
propellers. This resulted in the sinking of a small lighter and the killing
of four of its crewmembers.
|The grey-painted Franconia
during her World War II duties.
this tragic accident, the Franconia remained a very popular ship
who continued on the Liverpool-New York route on the summers and as a cruise
ship in the winter months. She continued this scheduled service until the
outbreak of World War II in 1939.
The same September in 1939 as Adolf Hitler marched into
Poland, the Franconia
was repainted grey and turned into a troopship capable of carrying 3,000
soldiers. She was immediately employed in the Mediterranean. On October
5 the same year she collided with the Royal Mail Line’s Alcantra
who was serving as a troopship for the British as well. This event did
not go of well, as Franconia suffered serious damage and had to
go to Malta for extensive repairs. The following June, the Franconia
was hit by Axis bombers while in service west of France when she was carrying
8,000 troops. The safety policy of Cunard paid off, as the Franconia
remained afloat and saved the lives of thousands of people.
remaining years of the war, the Franconia continued as a troop ship,
going to India and the Middle East via Cape Town and taking part of the
invasions in Madagascar, North Africa and Italy. During 1944 she carried
American troops to the Mediterranean.
a very sturdy and reliable ship, the Franconia was given a very
honourable task in 1945. Top secret orders from above ordered the Cunarder
to the Mediterranean after she had some of her luxury fittings taken from
storage and re-installed. When in the Mediterranean, the Franconia
was sent further on into the Black Sea where she would serve as the floating
headquarters for the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his staff
during the historical Yalta Conference. Prime Minister Churchill was given
a series of suites, while the staff; including secretaries, telegraphers,
typists, and security guards – in all over a hundred people –
joined him in less ornate environments.
Cunard knew how to treat Churchill and since he liked spending much time
in the bathtub, they installed a shelf just next to the tub, offering the
Prime Minister to work and enjoy the soaking at the same time.
the devastating war finally was over in 1945, the Franconia completed
some voyages across the Atlantic with refugee and emigrants. She had covered
319,784 miles in Government service carrying 189,239 military personnel
all together. In 1949, she was handed back to Cunard who fully restored
her into her pre-war glory. The notable thing about the emerging of the
post-war Franconia was the fact that her passenger capacity had
been considerably reduced – from 1,843 to 853. From now on she was put
on the Canadian service, from Liverpool to Québec via Greenock.
grounded a mile off Québec City in 1950.
major accident the Franconia suffered occurred on July 14, 1950.
While just a mile off Québec City the ageing ship’s steering gear
failed and she went aground. The vessel did not seem to move on its own
power, so all the passengers were taken off and sent to nearby hotels.
In order to lighten the ship, all excessive weight were removed. Eventually,
it took a team of tugs and four days to set the Franconia free.
She then set off back to Québec where temporary repairs were made,
and then crossed the Atlantic to Liverpool where complete repairs were
1956, Cunard employed Franconia as a passenger ship. Then, she was
considered too old and her last voyage was scheduled to that October. She
crossed to New York without major flaws, but on the return voyage she was
plagued with mechanical faults. Upon return to Britain, the Government
intended to employ the Franconia as a troopship going to Suez, but
when they learned about the fiasco return voyage, they abandoned this project.
Instead, Franconia was sold to the British Steel & Iron Corporation
who received the old vessel in late December 1956 and broke her up at Inverkeithing.
|The Franconia - Specifications:
||623 feet (192.8 m)
||73 feet (22.6 m)
||20,158 gross tons
powering two propellers.