1939 - 1965
decades of prosperous transatlantic business, the shipping companies were
faced with great financial troubles when The Great Crash occurred in 1929.
Times became so bad that the two former rivals Cunard and White Star Line
were forced to merger in 1934, forming the Cunard White Star Line. Thereby
they were granted with much needed government subsidies to finish the ship
Cunard had started to build back in 1930. So far only known as 'Hull 534',
this great ship would eventually become the legendary Queen Mary.
the Queen Mary could now be finished, it did not mean that the hard
times were over. Cunard White Star did not have the money to build more
new ships, and were forced to rely on their old vessels. It would not be
until 1937 before a new ship could be built for the company.
|The Mauretania at the day of
economics recuperating, Cunard White Star ordered their first new ship
from the English shipbuilding firm of Cammel, Laird & Co. Ltd. The
keel of the new ship was laid down on May 24th, 1937 and was
at the time the largest ship so far to be constructed in England at a projected
gross tonnage of over 35,000. It is true that bigger ships had been built
before in the United Kingdom, but then either in Scotland or Ireland.
a little more than a year of work, the first Cunard White Star vessel was
ready for its launch. The honour of christening the new ship was given
to Lady Bates, wife of the company's chairman. On July 28th
1938, she named the ship Mauretania, a name that naturally brought
the legendary Blue Riband-holder to everybody's mind.
Mauretania made her maiden voyage from Liverpool to New York on
June 17th, 1939. After a weeks turnaround in The Big Apple,
the Mauretania returned with Southampton as final destination. Following
her next westbound crossing, she called at Southampton,
Le Havre and finally London on her return trip. The Mauretania was
the largest ship ever to navigate the Thames and use the Royal Docks. But
after only a mere two months of commercial service, Hitler's German Reich
invaded Poland and set off what would become the Second World War.
was requisitioned by the British government and painted in war-time grey.
She was also armed with two six-inch guns and then sent to America before
the first year of war was over. During the first three months of 1940,
the Mauretania lay in New York, for a short time accompanied by
the three largest ships in the world - The Queen Mary, the Normandie
and the new Queen Elizabeth who had just made her secret maiden
voyage dash across the North Atlantic.
|The second Mauretania had
a profile similar to that of the larger Queen Elizabeth.
20th 1940, the Mauretania left New York for Sydney, Australia
via Panama. There she would be converted into a trooper. The following
day Queen Mary left New York for the same purpose, and the two ships
were ready for war duties two months later together with the World War
I veteran Aquitania. At first the Mauretania would be used
for shipping troops from Australia to Suez, India and Singapore. But as
the war raged on in Europe, the Mauretania would later transport
soldiers across the North Atlantic, along with the two mighty Queens.
of war went more or less uneventful for the Mauretania, not counting
a minor collision with the tanker Hat Creek. In 1945 the war ended,
but the Mauretania was kept on to transport soldiers back to their home
nations. But on October 2nd 1946, she was released from government
service and returned to Liverpool, where she would be reconditioned by
her builders, Cammel, Laird & Co.
was given a complete overhaul and was returned to commercial service in
1947, making her first post-war crossing on April 26th.
The two first roundtrips were from Liverpool to New York, and the ships
route was then changed to Southampton-New York instead.
Elizabeth, which had only made wartime crossings since her completion
in 1940, had by now commenced her passenger service alongside the Queen
Mary, thereby fulfilling Cunard's dream of a two-ship weekly express
service across the North Atlantic. Observers with a keen eye could see
that the Mauretania was more or less a smaller replica of the second
Queen. It was not only her two-funnel exterior that made them alike,
it was also the late Art Deco-style interiors that brought them together.
The Mauretania was often rightfully called the Queen Elizabeth's
interiors were, like the Queen Elizabeth's, done in a late Art Deco-style.
This photo shows the ship's first class restaurant.
Queens maintained Cunard White Star's transatlantic express service,
with the Mauretania operating as a relief ship, making transatlantic
crossing when she was needed. Otherwise she sailed every three weeks calling
at Southampton, Le Havre, Cobh and New York. Beginning in 1947, the Mauretania
was also used as a part-time cruise ship in the winter season, making voyages
to the West Indies and the Caribbean. Such 'dollar-earning cruises' became
an important part in rebuilding the British economy.
so many others of the great liners, the Mauretania was faced with
bad times when the airlines introduced themselves on the North Atlantic
in the late 1950s. The ships atmosphere was improved in December
1957, when she was fitted with complete air-conditioning during her annual
overhaul in Liverpool. But her services on the transatlantic run were soon becoming surplus, with
her often carrying no more than a third of her total capacity.
the Mauretania made no profits for her owners, and so it was decided
that she would be used almost only for cruising. She was painted in light
green, like the Caronia, giving her a more leisure look. Her passenger
capacity was reduced a little to make her more suitable as a cruise ship.
The following year, on March 28th 1963, she started her new
Mediterranean service between New York, Cannes, Genoa and Naples. But this
was a new route for Cunard and the competition was hard. The Italian Line's
Leonardo da Vinci and Cristoforo Colombo stole almost the
whole clientele, and Cunard soon returned the Mauretania to her
old service in the Caribbean. She made periodic appearances on the transatlantic
run, but spent the most of her time cruising in warmer waters.
|A photo of the Mauretania
during her later years, painted in a green-hull cruising livery similar
to that of the Caronia.
were hard times for Cunard, and they saw almost there whole fleet disappear;
even the legendary Queen Mary was retired in 1967. The Mauretania
was no exception. Her final voyage was a Mediterranean cruise from New
York on September 15th, 1965. While away, Cunard announced that
she was to be decommissioned and sold to the highest bidder. Before Mauretania
arrived in Southampton on November 10th, a company had already
made the highest bid. Her buyer was the British Iron and Steel Corporation.
A few items were removed while the ship was in Southampton, and she was
then taken away. On November 23rd the Mauretania arrived
at Ward's shipbreaking yard in Inverkeithing, Scotland. There she was cut
up during the years of 1965 and 1966.
|The Mauretania - Specifications:
||772 feet (235.8 m)
||89 feet (27.2 m)
||35,738 gross tons
||Steam turbines turning
||Originally 1,360 people,
reduced to 1,127 people during 1962 overhaul.