1922 - 1940
since the Cunard Line and the White Star Line had launched their giant
ships, from the Lusitania in 1906 to the Titanic in 1911,
Germany had been in the background. The Hamburg-Amerika Line had not owned
a prestige-vessel since the very first years of the century. The company’s
managing director Albert Ballin wanted to show the world how splendid German
shipbuilding still was. He placed an order to the Blohm and Voss shipyard
in Hamburg, consisting of the request to receive three large ocean liners,
all above 50,000 tons. The first of these ships was to become the Imperator
(52,226 tons) which was launched in May 1912. After that came the Vaterland (54,282
tons) in 1914.
|The launch of the German
had only been in service for the Hamburg-Amerika Line for a very short
time when she was ceded in New York’s harbour by the Americans when the
great war began in 1914. Also the Imperator was taken over by the
Americans. She sailed as the U.S.S. Imperator as a troop transporter
during the war. It is ironic that these ships, built for Germany’s pride,
carried American troops to Europe in order to fight the Germans.
ship, decided to be named Bismarck was still unfinished when World
War 1 broke out. She had been launched on June 20, 1914, but all work on
her was suspended and the hull was left to rust in the shipyard. Both the
Imperator and the Vaterland played important roles in the
war as troopers for the Americans, but the Bismarck remained where
she was with no war tasks whatsoever. Germany was confident they would
win the war, and the next plan for the Bismarck was to sail a world
cruise with the German emperor on board, to receive the world’s congratulations.
would have it, Germany did not win the war. All of Ballin’s three giant
vessels were handed over to Great Britain and the United States. Imperator
was given to Cunard, and renamed Berengaria she became the company’s
flagship. Vaterland was given to the Americans and was renamed Leviathan.
She too received the rank of flagship. The unfinished Bismarck,
which would have – when completed – a gross tonnage
of over 56,000 tons, would become the largest ship in the world. As a replacement
for the lost Britannic, the White Star Line was given this mighty
the Bismarck remained in Germany, incomplete, Britain demanded that
the ship’s completion would be made at Blohm and Voss, but under White
Star Line’s shipbuilding company Harland and Wolff’s supervision. In 1920,
during the Bismarck’s completion, the ship caught fire and was badly
damaged. Of course, sabotage was suspected, since quite naturally, the
Germans did not wish to part with ‘their’ ship. However, the Bismarck
was not mortally wounded and the work continued until 1922 when the ship
was finished. Painted in White Star Line’s company colours, she sailed
immediately to Liverpool where she begun her sea trials. After these had
been carried through her new company changed the ship’s name on April 12
to the suitable Majestic. Her running mates were to be the Olympic
and another ex-German ship, the Homeric (formerly the Columbus).
|Not yet renamed, the
Bismarck proudly sports her HAPAG-colours.
12, 1922 the Majestic steamed out on her maiden voyage from Southampton
to New York. Her captain was White Star Line’s commodore Captain Bertram
Hayes, who had been transferred from the Olympic. The ship was a
magnificent sight with her three buff funnels and long black hull. You
could easily see the resemblance between the Olympic-class liners,
which now was very suitable because of her 45,000-ton
running mate. Of the Majestic’s three funnels, only two worked.
The third held the ventilation plant. The two working funnel’s smoke went
through the sides of the ship, so that the area below the funnels could
be used for staterooms. This mid-ship area was occupied only by first class
staterooms. Second class was located aft on the superstructure, and steerage
at the two ends of the ship. Just as the Olympic, the Majestic
had her promenade deck opened up for the entire length of the superstructure.
|When the Majestic
had been handed over to White Star, she immediately became the new company
the Majestic proved her fastness with an average Atlantic crossing
speed of 24.75 knots. That made her the second fastest passenger ship in
the world. The fastest was, of course, the Mauretania with her record
speed of 26.06 knots across the Atlantic. On that same year, the Majestic
carried 2,625 passengers; the highest carried on a White Star ship ever.
year showed that the Majestic actually was an old ship, launched
in 1914. Alongside her hull she developed a crack large enough to take
her to Belfast for reparation. The hull plates were strengthened, but her
hull was always thereafter, rather suspected. But the ship carried on with
her work, and in 1925 she made her best crossing ever, averaging 25 knots
over the Atlantic.
the ship was taken in for a major overhaul at Boston and the forward end
of the promenade deck was enclosed with glass. Sooner or later all ships
with their entire promenade decks open seemed to have them glassed in.
Other examples are Adriatic and Titanic. The Boston Navy
Dockyard was chosen because there was no graving dock large enough in Britain
to accommodate the now 56,620-ton Majestic.
In late February the ship resumed service.
|The spacious First Class
Lounge on board the Majestic.
later, the situation for the shipping companies was precarious. The crash
on Wall Street had occurred in 1929, and everything seemed to point downwards.
No one could afford an expensive crossing, so the White Star Line decided
to let their big ships cruise on three and a half days to Halifax in the
seven-day stay at New York. This brought some extra money for the company,
but the great hey-day of the Atlantic liners was definitely over.
as a result of the Depression, Cunard and White Star agreed on a merger
between the two companies. A new one was formed, and in July, the Majestic
was taken over by the Cunard-White Star Line. In this new company, she
replaced the ageing Mauretania. The same year she ran aground at
Calshot but managed to get off with the tide. In October, during a heavy
storm, a giant wave crushed her bridge windows and injured the First officer
and the captain, Commodore Edgar J. Trant. The captain, who would turn
out to be White Star’s last commodore, was taken to the Majestic’s
hospital, where he remained for the rest of the voyage. Commodore Trant never sailed
again after this accident.
the French’s Normandie entered service in 1935, the Majestic
was finally replaced as the largest ship in the world. Even though younger
than Berengaria and Aquitania, the Majestic was taken
out of service before them in 1936 and replaced by Britain’s 81,000-ton
Normandie rival Queen Mary. The Majestic had completed
207 successful voyages to New York, but had only seen 14 years of actual
service. But as her hull was from 1913, she showed evidence of being old.
On May 15, she was sold for £115,000 to Thos. W. Ward for demolition.
In July the Majestic was saved though, by the Admiralty, which purchased
the ship. They needed her as a cadet’s training ship, and after a £472,000
conversion by Thornycroft at Southampton, which included a removal of the
black funnel-tops (so that the ship could pass under the Fourth Bridge),
the ship was handed over to the Admiralty. Still in White Star colours,
the ship was renamed H.M.S. Caledonia. As a training ship, she remained
at shore and her sewage systems were connected to land. In 1937, the ship
left Southampton for her new base at Rosyth, Scotland.
|The former Majestic
with her funnels and masts cut down.
World War 2 begun in September 1939, all the cadets on board the old Majestic
were withdrawn to shore duties. As the ship’s berth was taken by another
ship, Caledonia was anchored in the Firth of Forth, still in the
Navy base area.
came on September 29, when the ship caught fire and sank. She was completely
destroyed, and in March 1940, the vessel, once again, was sold to Thos.
W. Ward for demolition. They cut the ship down to the waterline (except
for the forepeak to assist towage), and three years later the remains of
the third largest vessel in the world were towed to the scrap yard. And
so ended the days for the greatest ship ever owned by the White Star Line.
|The Bismarck/Majestic -
||955.8 feet (291.9
||100.1 feet (30.6
||56,551 gross tons
||Four Parson-B & V
direct drive steam turbines powering four propellers.