Cunard Line Ships
The R.M.S. Lusitania

Launched: 1907
Volume: 31,550 gross tons
Length: 787 feet
Speed: 25 knots
Demise: Torpedoed and sunk Jan.16, 1915

Launched in 1907, the
Lusitania was the first of the British four stackers. Not only pleasing to the eye and luxurious, but the new British liners were fast. They instantly captured the Blue Ribband, which is the award given to the ship that crosses the Atlantic the fastest. When the Lusitania was launched, it was the largest ship in the world. At 787 feet long and 31,550 tons, the Lusitania was a mammoth compared to earlier ships. Along with her size, she carried new turbine engines. These new engines gave the Lusitania the ability to reach 25 knots, faster than other ships. She soon won the Blue Ribband and was an instant success. In 1914, with the First World War underway, the Lusitania and other transatlantic liners were at risk from the German U-boats. On January 16, 1915 in choppy seas on the way to Queenstown, Ireland, the ship was running from possible German subs. In a bind, the captain raised the American flag. America was still neutral at this time and the event became world news. Washington published warnings to American citizens telling them to cross the Atlantic on Allied ships at their own risk. On April 17, 1915, captain William Turner took command of the Lusitania and set sail with about 1,960 passengers aboard. About 20 miles away from Old Head of Kinsale, running in a typical war-time zig-zag, the ship was torpedoed by a u-boat. There was a second internal explosion and the ship immediately began to sink.
Because of a severe list, some of the lifeboats could not be used. The ship foundered in approximatelly 20 minutes and took 1,198 people with her. This got the United States' attention and the US entrance into the World War was indirectly caused by this tragedy. Cries of "Remember the
Lusitania were often heard in the war. There is still controversy about this great ship. (It has been argued that the Lusitania could have been carrying war munitions. It has also been suggested that this is the reason why she was torpedoed and the reason for the internal explosion.)  
The R.M.S. Mauretania:

Launched: 1907
Volume: 31,938 gross tons
Length: 790 feet
Speed: 25 knots
Demise: Scrapped in old age in 1935

Just slightly different, the
Mauretania was the sister ship to the Lusitania. This ship was faster than her predecessor, and remained the speed queen of the Atlantic for some years. With the luxurious interiors and beautifully proportioned lines, the Mauretania immediately became one of the famed "floating palaces" of the great passenger shipping era. During WWI, the Mauretania served gallantly as a troop ship, painted in the odd "dazzle" scheme. When refitting the ship from a trooper back to a liner, a strike nearly caused the Mauretania to be laid up. Cunard decided to have the ship towed across the English Channel to France. While being towed, a tremendous gale blew in, causing the Mauretania to break free from her tugs and drift violently out of control. After a panic and some quick thinking, the tugmasters regained control. When the Mauretania was being refit, her chief engineer oversaw diligently. When testing the engines, he found the French had sabotaged her by placing a collar button in one of the turbines. Had this not been noticed by the keen engineer, the Mauretania's engines would have been ruined. In the 1930's, during the Depression, the Mauretania was hit hard financially. Business declined and it was decided to put the ship to cruising in warm waters. She was painted white and sent to the tropics. On the same day as the Queen Mary's launch, the Mauretania crossed the Atlantic for the last time. She was scrapped in 1934. Many of her fine interiors were auctioned off, and still exist today in various places.
The R.M.S. Aquitania:

Launched: 1914
Volume: 45,647 gross tons
Length: 901 feet
Speed: 23 knots
Demise: Scrapped in 1950

The Cunard Line saw very successful business with the express service between England and America using their two "fast ships
" Lusitania and Mauretania. Business was in fact so successful, the line opted to build a third, more luxurious liner to the existing super-duo. Cunard decided on a larger, slower four stacker to be called Aquitania. The ship had just entered in to liner service in 1914, when Europe witnessed the beginning of WWI. The Aquitania was put into military service first as an armed merchant cruiser, then a troopship, and then a hospital.
In the 1920s,
the Aquitania proved highly profitable as part of the new Cunard Line "big three." The original "big three" would have included the Lusitania, Mauretania, and the Aquitania, but the loss of the Lusitania narrowed the team to two. After the war, Cunard was given Germany's Imperator (renamed Berengaria) for the loss of the Lusitania, and the trio was revived, now with the Mauretania, Aquitania and Berengaria.
The Aquitania was very popular and became lovingly known as "The Ship Beautiful" and "The Grand Old Lady." Her interiors were lavishly decorated with columns, expensive wood paneling, gilded furniture, and many works of art. There was the occasional "wrench" thrown in the works of all liners, and the Aquitania was no exception. In 1920, an engine room explosion killed one crew member. In the 30's, she ran aground twice. During the Great Depression of the thirties, transatlantic business slowed drastically. So much so, that Cunard had one of three options for their grand Aquitania: sell the ship to the scrappers to be torn apart, lay up the ship in dry-dock, or send it on cruises in the tropics. So it was off to warm waters for this great lady of the sea. The Aquitania sailed on triumphantly until the outbreak of WWII in the 1940s. She was then called into service as a trooper once more. After the war, the Aquitania was nearly 40 years old. She was the last four stacker in service, and was the only liner to survive service in both World Wars. In 1950, the ship was sold to the scrap yard and broken apart
The R.M.S. Britannia:

Launched: 1840
Volume: 1,139 gross tons
Length: 207 feet
Speed: 9 knots
Demise: scrapped

Britannia was the very first Cunard Line vessel and her arrival in Boston was heralded by crowds and fanfare.  On one occasion, when the Britannia was caught in ice in Boston's harbor, the people of the city came out with pick axes and shovels and cleared a path through the ice for the Britannia to sail. From the very beginning, Cunard had a design for the smokestacks. This ship marked the appearance of what was to become the famous orange-red funnels with a black top and small black bands. Charles Dickens sailed on the Britannia in 1842 to America, and he described how much he hated the voyage. He complained that his cabin was cramped and small, and how he feared for his life when he observed the sparks flying toward the sails from the funnel. At this time in history, people still trusted sail more than steam.
The R.M.S. Campania / Lucania:

Launched: 1892 / 1893
Volume: 12,920 gross tons / 12,950 gross tons
Length: 622 feet / 620 feet
Speed: 22 knots / 22 knots
Demise: Sunk after collision / Burned in port

With the design of these two sisters, Cunard Line took passenger ship design further, finally abandoning sails and using the twin screw approach. These two ships set the standards for what would become the
appearance of liners up to the 1920s. They both held the Blue Ribband for speed and were the pride of Cunard's fleet. Unfortunately, these record-setters had short careers. The Lucania burned at  her Liverpool pier in 1910. The Campania was bought by the Royal Navy and converted into an aircraft carrier for service in World War One. In 1918, she collided with the battleship HMS Revenge in the Firth of Forth. There, she sank stern first
(The photo from the link above is the Campania sinking in the Firth of Fourth. Her forward stack was removed and replaced with twin uptakes. The large booms just entering the water held up the small flight deck.)
The R.M.S. Carpathia:

Launched: 1902
Volume: 13,603 gross tons
Length: 558 feet
Speed: 14 knots
Demise: Torpedoed in World War One

This rather handsome single-stacker served the Liverpool - Boston route. Cunard (like many other large shipping firms) had always kept a fleet of smaller, less auspicious vessels to help with the tremendous responsibility of ferrying immigrants from Europe to America. The
Carpathia was one of these. She earned her world-wide fame from the Titanic disaster in April of 1912. On that cold night, Captain Roston turned his ship around and pushed her engines to top speed when he heard of the distress call sent by the stricken White Star liner. The Carpathia saved 706 passengers from the few floating lifeboats and headed to New York. This vessel's career also ended in war. In 1918, three German torpedoes sank her near Bishop Rock. The irony of the Titanic disaster is that the Cunard and White Star lines were Britain's greatest rivals. (White Star was American owned, but maintained a British crew and operating schedule.) In the early 1930's, Cunard would acquire, then completely dissolve the White Star Line.
The R.M.S. Russia:

Launched: 1867
Volume: 2,959 gross tons
Length: 358 feet
Speed: 14 knots
Demise: Sank in collision after
being sold to the Red Star Line
and renamed

Russia was Cunard Line's first all propeller driven ship. She won the Blue Ribband easily with the new technology, crossing the Atlantic in 8 days. (Cunard was finally convinced about propeller propulsion when, 20 years earlier, a paddle-driven ship was chained to the stern of a screw-driven ship. The display ended with the propeller-driven ship towing the fighting paddler into port.) In 1880, the Russia was sold to the Red Star Line and renamed Waesland. She sank in 1902 after colliding with the Harmonides.
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