The Cunarders

Cunard is not the oldest active maritime company, as in 1835 the 206 tons steamer called William Fawcett, inaugurates an irregular service of 'Peninsular Steam' to Spain and Portugal. On the other hand, she is the most mythical, as a name was created around her name: a Cunarder is a vessel from the Cunard.
WFawcett.jpg (45891 octets)
P&O booklet
On the front cover: William Fawcett

Samuel Cunard submits on 11 February 1839 his offer for maritime transatlantic mail.
BRITANNIA is launched on 5 February by Napier yards on the Clyde: wooden vessel, 207 feet long on the keel, giving him a tonnage of about 1150.

BRITANNIA departed Liverpool July 4, 1840 with 63 passengers including Samuel Cunard and arrived at Halifax in 11 days, 4 hours at an average speed of 10 kn., completing her run to Boston in 14 days, 8 hours. .

CALEDONIA is built in 1840 by R.Wood at Port Glasgow : tonnage 1.138 GT, dimensions 63.09 x 10.36 m. Three masted barque, square stern and clipper bow. One funnel, wooden hull, side-lever engines, 440 nhp., manufactured by Robert Napier, Glasgow.
10 Sept. 1840 maiden voyage from Liverpool to Halifax and Boston.
10 Nov 1849 last voyage on this service. Early 1850 sold to the Spanish Navy and 1851 Wrecked at Havana, Cuba

Caledonia_C.jpg (32031 octets)

In November 1850, Cunard opens a steamer packet service from New York to St. Thomas, with call at Bermuda in both ways. The service is not a commercial success and is suspended in May 1854, and the service Halifax-Bermudes extended in place.

CURLEW is a a barquentine-rigged screw steamer (179x24x14) built by Denny's Shipyard, Dumbarton on the Clyde, purchased by the Cunard Line in July 1853. She inaugurated the Halifax-Bermuda-St. Thomas service in July 1854. During the next 20 months, she made 15 trips every four weeks to St. Thomas. On March 18, 1856, arriving from Halifax, she ran on the Bermuda reef and broke in two. The only lives lost were a few head of cattle.

DELTA 1853 Built at Liverpool, England; Barclay Curle & Co., Glasgow, England (Gt. 645, 205' x 29'2" x 15'9"), beam-geared 2 cyl engine, single screw 120nhp, 9 knots.
Used on Halifax-New York-Bermuda route, her register was later changed to Canadian. In Sept. 1899, she wrecked in St. Mary's Bay, Newfoundland.

In spite of South Carolina secession resolution on 9 January 1861, business goes on. SCOTIA is the largest and fastest paddle afloat (except GREAT EASTERN) This was Cunard's last paddle steamer on the North Atlantic.
Built in 1862 by Nappier at Glasgow, she captured the Blue Riband in 1862 and held it until 1867. Scotia is powered by two side lever engines of a 1000 hp and accepts 573 passengers in first class. Withdrawn from service in 1876, she was sold in 1879 to Telegraph Const. & Maint. Co. for conversion to a cable ship. New engines were fitted and the paddle wheels replaced with twin screws.

Cunard is no more alone and several competitors are installed ; among them Thomas Ismay's White Star appears in 1871.
Its ships, conceived designed and built in Northern Irish yards Harland & Wolff, outshone all others on North Atlantic. City of New York and City of Paris entered in service in 1888 and 1889. CITY of NEW YORK Great Britain 2004 Tonnage 10.499 grt, 5.573 net, dim. 170.7 x 19.25 x 12.75m., Length between perpendiculars 160.78. accommodation for 540 first, 200 second and 1.000 third class passengers.
July 1888 she ran trials, her maximum speed she reached was 20.1 knots.
22 February 1893 she was transferred to US register. She will sail until she was scrapped in Genoa in 1923,

The contract to built the CAMPANIA was signed in August 1891. Her maiden voyage was Liverpool-New York April 22, 1893. At that time, she was the largest and fastest ship afloat: Gt. 12,950; 620' overall x 65'2" x 37'8"; 2 funnels, 2 masts; 2 sets 5cyl triple-expansion engines' 2 screws 21kn; 600 1st class, 400 2nd class, 1,000 3rd class passengers; Crew 400.
She and her sister ship, LUCANIA, were the first Cunard liners with twin screws, and the first without auxiliary sails. On the return run of her Maiden Voyage, she gained the Blue Riband for a record voyage, Sandy Hook-Queenstown. Between Aug. 12 and 17, 1894, she made her fastest westbound crossing in five days 9 hours and 21 minutes -a distance between Queenstown and Sandy Hook of 2,776 miles with an average speed of 21.44 knts
In April 1914, she had completed 250 round voyages over the North Atlantic, thereafter chartered by Anchor Line for five voyages.
Converted as an auxiliary aircraft carrier, On Nov. 5, 1918, while in this service during a gale in the Firth of Forth, England, she collided with HMS GLORIOUS and HMS ROYAL OAK. The CAMPANIA was sunk, but all of her crew were saved.

CARPATHIA is designed by Swan & Hunter, Wallsend-on-Tyne, England primarily designed for the Hungarian emigrant service between Fiume and New York and made its maiden voyage from Liverpool to New York, via Queenstown on May 5, 1903. .The accommodation was far superior to anything previously offered to emigrants and the third class accommodation was of a good standard. The ship continued the Liverpool to New York service until November 1903 and then spent the winter carrying passengers from Trieste and Fiume.
In 1905, the passenger accommodation was altered to accommodate 100 first- class, 200 second-class and 2,250 third-class passengers. By 1909, she was spending all year on the Mediterranean service, only returning to Liverpool at the end of each year for an annual overhaul.
CARPATHIA enters in the history after her New York departure on 11 April 1912 when TITANIC is calling at Queenstown during her maiden voyage.
TITANIC send signals distress: CQD then SOS, simplest in Morse.
After receiving these signals Capt. Rostron, of the CARPATHIA, immediately set a course to the TITANIC's last known position, over 60 miles away, travelling at full speed thanks to her two screws. At 4 a.m., the CARPATHIA arrived at the scene and saves 703 people from the TITANIC.
CARPATHIA returned to its usual service until the outbreak of the First World War and is transferred to the New York and Boston run from Liverpool.
On July 17, 1918, the CARPATHIA was travelling in convoy, bound for Boston, when she was struck by two torpedoes some 120 miles west of Fastnet. A third torpedo hit the ship as the lifeboats were being manned. Five crewmembers were killed by the explosions. The remainder of the crew and 57 passengers on board were picked up by HMS SNOWDROP and safely brought to Liverpool. The CARPATHIA sank at 12.40 a.m.

Built by John Brown & Co., Clydebank, CARMANIA -Gt. 19524, nt. 9982; 650.4'pp x 72.2' x 33'3" draft; 3 turbines, 3 screws 20 knots - sailed on her maiden voyage from Liverpool on Dec. 2, 1905 for New York. At the outbreak of the First World War, she was requisitioned by the British Admiralty and converted to an armed cruiser.
On Sept. 14, 1914 she engaged the German armed cruiser CAP TRAFALGAR in a 90-minute battle and sank her while sustaining heavy damage herself, which was repaired at Gibraltar. Returned to Cunard in 1916, she was reconditioned in 1921 and converted to burning oil. After the war, she was on service from London to Le Havre, Southampton, and New York. Broken up in 1932.

Turbines are now the standard for all passenger ships in Cunard.

1907 saw the arrival of two giants : LUSITANIA, 31500 tons, delivered by John Brown, takes the Atlantic record on her second voyage with an average speed of 24 knots. MAURETANIA, delivered from the Tyne by Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson, beats LUSITANIA by 21 minutes, on her homeward run. MAURETANIA is the fastest vessel until the advent of BREMEN in 1929.
Dimensions - 232.31 x 26.82 m,
Powered by six Parsons geared turbines manufactured by the builder, 42.000 shp., connected to two shafts, speed 23 knots.
Passenger accommodation for 440 first, 450 tourist, 470 3rd class, crew 780.

Although the propulsion machinery was identical to that of the Lusitania two modifications gave the Mauretania a slight edge over its sister. The diameter of the propeller blades was slightly larger and the turbines were fitted with more rows of blades.
Requisitioned, the Mauretania avoids the torpedo of a submarine largely due her high speed. At the end of August it returned to Liverpool and was fitted out as a hospital ship. On 21 September 1919 it sailed from Southampton on its first commercial voyage since World War One began
The Mauretania made its final passenger sailing from Southampton on 30 June 1934, the day Cunard and White Star Lines merged. After two cruises to the West Indies it returned to Southampton on 2 October.

At the time when Hamburg America line and White Star introduce their super giants Imperator (52 000 tons) and Olympic (46 200 tons), Cunard replied with AQUITANIA, going on her maiden voyage on 31 May 1914.
The carrier of AQUITANIA is not marked by the Blue riband conquest for which she was not conceived, but by her engagement during the two wars (see Liners in the wars)
On 14 june 1919, she goes back in her civil activity from Southampton in a Cunard Line which had lost 22 vessels during the hostilities: IMPERATOR was seized and painted back to Cunard Cunard colours as BERENGARIA. AQUITANIA will be refitted several times (conversion to fuel, amenities, change of screws in 1936) that make him a very good reputation. In 1948, she comes back briefly to service civil before being scrapped in 1950 having steamed over three million miles, completing nearly 450 voyages.

In December 1930, works on hull 534 start at John Brown yards on the Clyde river then stopped in 1931 because of economic difficulties. Two years later, the British government gives a loan of £ 3,000,000 with the condition of the merging with the White Star effective on 30 December 1931. The White Star contributes 8 ships among them OLYMPIC, and on 26 September 1934, QUEEN MARY is launched. On 27 May 1936, the blue ribband is taken to Normandie (see Liners made in France) at 30.14 knots then in 1938 31.69 knots are reached.

In July 1938, a new MAURETANIA is launched at Birkenhead. from the 3 December 1939, she is grey painted and proceeds to 48 troops transportation before handed back to owners for Southampton-Cherbourg to New York service in 1947.

mauretania21.jpg (71938 octets)

Postcard with mark of Le Havre

The fleet modernisation goes on with QUEEN ELIZABETH which joins in secret QUEEN MARY at New York: the both ships carried more than 1.2 millions of soldiers in 6 years.
At 83 673 tonnes, her 149 200 kW give to QUEEN ELIZABETH a service speed of 28.5 knots, with a capacity of 2283 passengers.
Her first peacetime departure occurs on 31 July 1947 ; the Cunard is able to deliver the weekly Atlantic express service, without being affected by the return of the French Line with the former Europa, became Liberté in 1950 or the arrival of United States in 1952.

To followed: the Cunarders on cruise

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