1898 - 1916
1895, the largest, fastest and most popular ocean liners were British.
The largest ship ever built was the scrapped 19,000 gross ton large Great
Eastern, while the fastest ships were the Cunard Line’s Campania
and Lucania. These two ships were also the largest ships in existence.
With Britain stealing all the glory, the newly formed German state wanted
to create a fleet of merchant ships to rival the dominating British.
first step to gain popularity on the North Atlantic came when Norddeutscher
Lloyd commissioned the 14,000 gross ton Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse
in 1897. The success was immediate. The new liner not only eclipsed the
Campania and Lucania’s size;
she also beat their best average
crossing over the Atlantic, thereby receiving the Blue Riband. It was the
first time a German ship ever received this honour. The Kaiser Wilhelm
der Grosse was also the most luxurious vessel on the oceans, quickly
making her into one of the most popular ocean liners on the North Atlantic.
Her four funnels had set the pattern for many future ships to come, and
within short a running mate was planned.
|Although built for speed,
the Kaiser Friedrich never managed to live up to Norddeutscher Lloyd's
5, 1897, only a little bit more than two weeks after the Kaiser Wilhelm
der Grosse’s maiden voyage across the Atlantic, the fleet mate was
launched from the Schichau shipbuilding company in Danzig. She was to be
called Kaiser Friedrich, and she would be approximately 12,300 gross
tons large – some 2,000 gross tons smaller than the Kaiser Wilhelm der
Grosse. The engines were quadruple expansion ones compared to the older
running mates’ triple expansion engines. The machinery would give the Kaiser
Friedrich 28,000 Indicated Horse Power. The Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse
had 31,000, in comparison. The Kaiser Friedrich was supposed to
have a service speed of 22 knots to blend in as part of the team of the
world’s largest liners.
of the Kaiser Friedrich continued until May 12, 1898, when she was
completed. During the trials of the ship, it was discovered that she was
far from able to maintain the required 22-knot service speed. At best,
she reached 20 knots. Norddeutscher Lloyd refused to accept her from the
shipyard. However, Schichau guaranteed success anyway and NDL put her into
service at last. The Kaiser Friedrich’s maiden voyage started from
Bremerhaven on June 7, 1898. Her goal was New York. But as the liner performed
very poorly – she never exceeded 20 knots during the entire round trip
– she was sent back to her builders after she had returned to Bremerhaven.
three months of reconstruction, the Kaiser Friedrich was once again
delivered to Norddeutscher Lloyd on September 4. She
made three voyages to New York
for them, but as the speed had not improved noticeably, she was sent back
to the shipyard again. After several months of further reconstruction –
including the lengthening of each of the three funnels by 14½ feet
– the Kaiser Friedrich was taken back on trials for NDL. But the
shipyard’s efforts did not pay off; the liner only managed 20 knots, and
no more. In June 1899, Norddeutscher Lloyd finally returned the ship to
Schichau. This affair became an internationally observed scandal, and the
two parts went to court, ending up with the defeat of Norddeutscher Lloyd.
|A nice port-side view
of the Kaiser Friedrich, taken before her funnels were lengthened.
Lloyd’s German rivals, the Hamburg Amerika Linie, had observed the proceedings,
and decided they wanted to charter the Kaiser Friedrich to see if
she was worth sailing. On October 1, 1899, she made her first sailing for
HAPAG from Hamburg to New York. Twelve months later, the Kaiser Friedrich
was returned to Schichau after ten completed round trips for the Hamburg
Amerika Linie. The vessel was then laid up in Hamburg.
Lloyd had failed in creating a worthy running mate to the Kaiser Wilhelm
der Grosse. After they had realised that the Kaiser Friedrich
was not going to follow in her older fleet mate’s wake, the company ordered
another vessel to match the first Kaiser with. After several delays,
in 1901, the Vulcan Shipyard in Stettin delivered the Kronprinz Wilhelm.
But since the order had taken such a long time, the rival HAPAG had managed
to build a record breaker of their own. Before the Kronprinz Wilhelm
entered service in the autumn of 1901, the Hamburg Amerika liner Deutschland
had already snatched the Blue Riband from the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse.
Norddeutscher Lloyd saw no apparent use for the Kaiser Friedrich,
she remained laid up where she was for many years. Not until 1912 did someone
express interest of her. The newly formed French Compagnie Sudatlantique
in Bordeaux wished to buy
her and did so on May 1, the
same year. Before the actual take-over, she was sent to Blohm & Voss
where she would go through a thorough refit, which included the installation
of new boilers. After the refit, the ship was renamed Burdigala.
Her first voyage from Bordeaux to South America started on October 5, that
year. She continued for little more than a year on this route, when she
was laid up in Bordeaux.
|Rebuilt as the French
liner Burdigala, the ex-Kaiser Friedrich re-entered service
World War I started in 1914, the Burdigala remained laid up for
the rest of the year. In March 1915, she entered war-service as an armed
transport for the French Navy. On November 14, the following year, the
Burdigala was in service in the Mediterranean, in the Aegean Sea
between Mykonos and Tenos. Unfortunately, the German U-boat U-73
had laid mines in this area, and the Burdigala hit them and went
to the bottom.
Friedrich had been in actual service for less than five years, including
her war service. Indeed a fascinating, and very sad, story for a ship that
could have been written into history together with ships like the famous
Blue Riband holder Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse – once her near-sister.
|The Kaiser Friedrich/Burdigala
||600 feet (183.3 m)
||63.9 feet (19.5 m)
||12,481 gross tons
||Quadruple expansion engines
powering two propellers.