1907 - 1940
British engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel had started the era of the true
ocean liner in 1860 when his magnificent 19,000-tonner Great Eastern
entered the waves as the largest man-made object ever built. In fact, the
ship was six times larger than any previous vessel. It took about forty
years before any liner caught up with the Great Eastern. The way
towards this goal contained many distinguished ships. The White Star Line’s
9,000-tonners Teutonic and Majestic were launched in the
1880s, and the Cunard Line’s Campania and Lucania
in the 1890s. All four of these liners held the Blue Riband
of the Atlantic for some time. But these ships would be remembered for
their speed - not their size. The ship that finally took the honour of
being the largest vessel ever constructed was the White Star liner Celtic
in 1901. This ship was the largest in the world, but certainly not the
fastest. Speed had been left for the new German liners that emerged in
the late 1890s, beginning with the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse
Wilhelm der Grosse was run by the Bremen-based shipping line Norddeutscher
Lloyd. The Norddeutscher Lloyd did not only have the British to compete
with; at Hamburg, another German shipping line was based - the Hamburg-Amerika
latter company took the Blue
Riband from the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse in 1900, and would keep
it for almost the next full six years. However, the Norddeutscher Lloyd
took back the prize for a year on the westbound run with the new Kronprinz
Wilhelm. This ship was the second of the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse-class.
The third came in 1903 and was named Kaiser Wilhelm II to honour
the present German Kaiser. The Kaiser Wilhelm II was the first German
ship to exceed the size of the Great Eastern.
|A colourful poster advertising
Norddeutscher Lloyd's four express sisters.
Lloyd was not entirely satisfied, though. They had lost the Blue Riband
to Hamburg-Amerika and wanted to compensate this somehow. Finally, it was
decided to expand the existing ‘Kaiser-trio’ into a quartet. The
Kaiser Wilhelm II was to have a sister.
of the fourth sister were the Vulcan Shipyards in Stettin, Northern Germany.
In July 1907, the dashing new Kronprinzessin Cecilie was planned
to leave Bremerhaven on her maiden voyage. However, that would not be the
case. Before the maiden voyage could take place, the ship sank in Bremerhaven
harbour. Not until the next month on the 6th, had the ship been
pumped out and repaired, and could finally set out on her maiden voyage.
Cecilie was a virtual copy of the Kaiser Wilhelm II, having
almost the same figure of tonnage. At last had the Germans an awaited four-ship
express run over the Atlantic, and the Kronprinzessin Cecilie along
with her sisters became very popular. Each of the ships had a service speed
of between 22 and 23 knots, a very high figure when considering that the
rate for achieving the Blue Riband was just above 23 knots. But the speed
was not all that attracted passengers. The interiors of the four Norddeutscher
Lloyd-sisters were something special. For example, the Kronprinzessin
Cecilie had some of her first class suites fitted with private dining
rooms for the reserved passenger. Also, a fish tank was placed in the kitchen,
providing first class passengers with the freshest of fish. Added to this
the entire ship was fitted with the best of craftsmanship Germany could
offer; the salons were full of ornamented wood and gilded mirrors. The
four sisters became the favourite ships for many distinguished passengers
- especially American millionaires. Not only popular among the rich, the
Kronprinzessin Cecilie earned popularity among the many emigrants
also. Her four funnels represented safety, which was an important feature
among the many European fortune-seekers. In comparison with a $2,500-first
class suite ticket, the emigrant could sail on the Kronprinzessin Cecilie
for a mere $25 - one hundred times cheaper.
Linie’s Deutschland lost the Blue Riband in 1907 to the Cunard Line’s
Lusitania who managed over 25 knots as an average speed across the
Atlantic. Within the year she had lost it to her sister Mauretania
who would keep it for almost
three decades. At 32,000
tons the Cunard sisters had totally outmatched the prime German ships.
By 1911, the White Star liner Olympic at 45,000 tons carried through
her maiden voyage and this marked the final surpassing of the pre-1910
|The last German four
stacker - the luxurious Kronprinzessin Cecilie.
rivalry between Britain and Germany in the old days developed into full-scale
war in 1914. This required large troop-ships to transport soldiers to far
away battle-scenes. Almost all of the large liners in the world were first
ordered to be converted into giant armed cruisers. But having the liners
patrolling almost 24 hours a day made the coal-supplies shrink rapidly.
It was decided to convert the ships into troop-ships - a task they were
more suited for. However, some liners remained in passenger service, which
in some cases ended up in disaster. The Lusitania was sunk by a
German torpedo in 1915 with a loss of 1,200 lives.
Cecilie’s fate never reached German decision. When the war broke out
she was in the middle of the Atlantic heading for Germany. By accident,
the ship carried a load of gold and silver at an immense value. The commanding
officer, Captain Pollack, realised what danger of confiscation his ship
would encounter if he was to trick his way into the Baltic Sea. In mid-ocean
he decided to turn his ship back towards the still neutral United States.
In order not to expose the vessel to any risks he asked for volunteers
to better his all-buff funnels with a black top. If a British ship would
spot a four-stacker with buff black-topped funnels, he might mistake the
Kronprinzessin Cecilie for the British White Star Line’s Olympic.
Some of the passengers were furious about going back to America, and a
couple of American millionaires even offered to buy the ship so she could
hoist the American flag and safely enter delicate European waters. Others
were pleased with participating in this ‘adventure’. The cunning Pollack
reached the American coast without any problems and docked in safe Bar
Harbor, Maine. If no Englishman had had the opportunity of being fooled
by the Kronprinzessin Cecilie’s new colours, the residents of Bar
Harbor was astonished to see ‘the Olympic’ be anchored outside the
knew about the Kronprinzessin Cecilie’s load and now wondered where
she had gone. The inhabitants of Bar Harbor had telegraphed New York and
asked about the Olympic. They were told that she was safely berthed
at her ordinary Pier 59, and when the British authorities received the
news they realised that the ‘second Olympic’ was none other than
the Kronprinzessin Cecilie - now out of their reach. A week after
her arrival in Bar Harbor, the ship was escorted to Boston where she and
the crew were interned. The Kronprinzessin Cecilie remained in the
United States since the Germans thought it was a safe place for one of
their latest merchant achievements.
for the Germans, they were wrong. In 1917, the Americans entered the war
on the British side. All German ships in American harbours were confiscated.
This included the enormous 54,000-tonner Vaterland, the Kaiser
Wilhelm II, the Kronprinz Wilhelm - and the Kronprinzessin
Cecilie. The only of the four sisters not seized by the Americans was
the Kaiser Wilhelm der
Grosse - she had been
sunk in 1914.
|For 21 years, the Kronprinzessin
Cecilie and her sister Kaiser Wilhelm II lay rusting together
in the American port of Chesapeake Bay.
Cecilie was renamed Mount Vernon for military purposes. When
the Americans got hold of the ship, several war-time changes were made.
The most visible was the addition of extra guns for defence, modification
of the bridge and an added crow’s nest on the main mast. The entire ship
was repainted in dazzle paint camouflage. The pattern had been designed
by the American Everett Warner.
Cecilie started to serve the Allies as a troop-ship, and on one occasion
in September 1918, when the steamer was loaded with wounded U.S.- soldiers
and returning to the Americas, not half way across the Atlantic, she was
torpedoed by a German U-boat in her aft engine room. The explosion killed
37 men, but due to the vessel’s thorough safety equipment she managed to
stay afloat and even steam back to Brest, France at 15 knots!
the war finally ended later that year, the ex-Kronprinzessin Cecilie
remained under American authority. She made one voyage to Vladivostok through
the Panama Canal in order to evacuate refuges and soldiers. After that
the ship headed for Chesapeake Bay in 1919. The ship was never taken any
advantage of, and when World War II was about to become a fact in 1939,
the Americans offered the former Kronprinzessin Cecilie to the British
as a troop-transport, but they considered her too old. The steamer remained
in Chesapeake Bay and lay there rusting until 1940, when she was finally
towed away and scrapped at Baltimore.
|The Kronprinzessin Cecilie
||707 feet (216 m)
||72 feet (22 m)
||19,360 gross tons
||Steam quadruple expansion
machinery powering two propellers.