Gold Ribbon Banner
Tuesday, June 25, 2019
Campania

When the people of Edinburgh, the Lothians and Fife awoke on the morning of Saturday 6th November 1918 and unfolded the weekend editions of their newspapers, they found their tight packed columns full of news that victory in the War was at last only days away, and that sailors of the German Navy had mutinied at Kiel in the Baltic.

There was, however, not one single word in either paper about the biggest news story which had broken within their own circulation areas the previous day. The censors had ensured that there was not a mention that carelessness had sunk the Royal Navy’s first ever aircraft carrier HMS Campania within sight of the Forth Bridge.

The 12,950 ton Campania was built on the Clyde by the Fairfield Engineering Company, Govan, not as an aircraft carrier, but as the latest luxury liner to join the Cunard fleet. Like all Cunard liners of the period, her name ended distinctively in the letters, “ia” and together with her sister ship, Lucania, also built by Fairfields, she was to revolutionise transatlantic travel, both because of her speed and because of her luxurious fittings, unsurpassed in her period.

However, after Campania’s launch at Govan on 8th September 1892, Cunard were not happy with their new vessel, because speed trials off the Isle of Arran revealed excessive vibration. Campania was Cunard’s first twin screw vessel; the two huge propellors were deemed the source of the problem. For a time, Cunard threatened to sue Fairfields, but after the pitch of the propellor blades was changed the vibration was greatly reduced.

After a delay of seven months, SS Campania entered service on 22nd April 1893. By the time she sailed on her maiden voyage the shaking was much reduced and, in any case, was really only felt by the 1,000 emigrates huddled together – just as on the later White Star liner, the ill-fated Titanic; in steerage class, so called because it was situated in the stern of the ship where her German designed rudder and the propellor tubes were situated. Meanwhile, her 600 pampered guests in first class and 400 passengers in the almost equally comfortable second class accommodation situated for’ard and amidships, never noticed the problem even when Campania’s captain ordered her full cruising speed of 22 knots. As they disembarked in the United States they were so full of praise for the delightfully comfortable crossing, which they had so much enjoyed, that on the return trip to Britain, her master was encouraged to urge an extra knot from Campania’s two 15,000 horse power triple expansion steam engines, and she set a transatlantic record time of five days, seventeen hours and twenty seven minutes, to arrive home the proud holder of the fabled Blue Riband.

Campania was the pride of the Cunard fleet and company literature boasted of her two enormous red funnels, each almost twenty feet in diameter and rising an impressive 130 feet from keel to rim; her elegant and perfectly designed razor sharp bow to ensure speed, and her twenty lifeboats to ensure safety.

Along with Lucania, which entered service later the same year, Campania, put Cunard well ahead of all of its British and Continental rivals on the North Atlantic route as the 19th century drew to a close.

AIRCRAFT CARRIER CONVERSION
Throughout the first decade of the new century, Campania continued as the race horse of the Atlantic fleet, but by 1910 Cunard were becoming concerned about the growing expense of operating her. From her launch, Campania’s one hundred furnaces required to heat her thirteen boilers ate up a huge 500 tons of coal every day she was at sea, and as her engines grew older they were becoming ever more expensive to fuel.

Therefore, in 1914 Cunard decided to sell Campania to the breakers. Soon after, the outbreak of hostilities against Germany rescued her from the scrap yard, because the Admiralty, who was desperately seeking a ship to convert into a newfangled aircraft carrier, decided that she would make the ideal vessel. The reasons for its choice were her sleek, streamlined liner length, and her still impressive speed. Now that Great Britain was at war, the cost of the coal and the wages of the 180 firemen and stokers required to achieve that speed, no longer mattered! Up until the outbreak of WWI, the pioneering efforts to utilise the newly available air power in naval warfare had depended on seaplanes, which both took off and landed on water, but now the Lords of the Admiralty were determined to gain the advantage of launching planes from ships, and for that to succeed the speed of the vessel was all important.

After Campania was purchased by the Royal Navy, on 27 November 1914, it took almost eight months to refit her as one of the world’s first aircraft carriers, complete with a 168 foot long wooden flight deck stretching all the way from her bridge to her bows. At last, on 8th August, 1915, all was ready for the first trial of a ship borne take off and Campania’s captain ordered her to sail straight into the wind and rang down to the engine room for her to increase her speed to maximum 23 knots. As the now 23-year-old vessel liner surged forward, the pilot of the Sopworth Baby seaplane on her flight deck opened throttle and thundered along the planks of her runway to make a first successful takeoff. Triumphantly, he circled Campania, dipping his wings in salute to the bridge before touching down in the water on the new aircraft carrier’s lee side and being hoisted safely back on board.

Despite this success, it was decided that Campania’s flight deck was definitely too short for operational use, and so she was ordered back to port for further drastic modifications to provide the additional length required. The work involved removing her forward funnel and replacing it with two narrow smoke pipes on either side of the now extended 200 foot long runway. The work was completed by the end of April 1916 and Campania was ordered to sail with all speed to the Orkneys to rejoin the Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow.

It was then that Campania’s luck began to run out. Despite the long light Orcadian twilight at the end of May, her captain missed the final signal to set sail to challenge the German Navy at the Battle of Jutland and, in the brief darkness of the northern night, further failed to see that the rest of the British Grand Fleet had set sail from the anchorage at Scapa Flow. By the time dawn broke about two hours later and the mistake became painfully obvious, the other ships of the fleet were over forty miles out into the North Sea.

Campania set to sea as soon as possible, and with her superior speed to that of any other vessels in the Grand Fleet, would have caught up with them in time to play her part in the vital battle. However, Admiral Jellicoe doubting that she could arrive in time, and ordered her back to Scapa Flow, thus robbing the Royal Navy of air reconnaissance in the ensuing fray. Her ill luck continued, when two months later in August, essential repairs prevented her taking part in the next abortive attack on the German fleet.

Despite these setbacks, in 1917, Campania was equipped with specially built two seater Fairey F 16s. They proved very successful as spotter planes and were named Campanias after their mother ship.

Read the rest of this article with additional pictures in Sea Breezes Magazine - October 2018 Issue
Click here to subscribe

Subscribe Graphic

Latest Issue - Look Inside!

Island Princess

Most Popular

  • Major Boost for Steamship Shieldhall +

  • World’s Largest LNG Carrier is on the Way +

  • Inmarsat Takeover Deal Agreed +

  • Modus Expands Fleet of Hybrid Autonomous Vehicles +

  • Marconi’s Elettra +

  • 1
  • 2

Latest Products

Maritime Log

  • Six LNG Carriers Join BP Fleet +

    BP Partnership Class Six new 173,400 cu m capacity LNG carriers have joined the fleet of BP Shipping, of London. Read More
  • Warehouse Boosts Import of Forest Products +

    Freight A new £17mn warehouse is to be built at Liverpool by the national logistics provider Jenkins which specialises in paper, Read More
  • Inmarsat Takeover Deal Agreed +

    Inmarsat Global Xpress The supplier of global satellite communication services to the shipping industry, Inmarsat, of London, has accepted a $3.4bn takeover bid Read More
  • South Atlantic Repair Yard Plans +

    BBDC Ship Repair Yard What will be the largest purpose-built shiprepair yard in the South Atlantic Basin is being developed in the state of Read More
  • Move to Enlarge River Terminal +

    Grimsby River Terminal Associated British Ports (ABP) plans to expand its Grimsby River Terminal to enable it to handle the world’s largest car Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

North America

  • Line Sells Long Beach Container Terminal +

    Long Beach Container Terminal The Hong Kong shipping group Orient Overseas (International) Ltd (OOIL) is selling its Long Beach Container Terminal, California, to a Read More
  • Terminal to be Extended After Record Year +

    Viau Montreal The Viau container terminal at Montreal, Canada, is to be expanded so that it can handle 600,000 teu a year. Read More
  • Line Sails Back to Port in Partnership +

    ZIM Ningbo The Israeli shipping company Zim returned to the port of Seattle, Washington, on Apr 5 as part of the 2M Read More
  • Houston Ship Canal Closed After Major Fire +

    Houston Fire The Houston Ship Canal reopened to daylight traffic after being closed for nearly a week due to a serious fire Read More
  • Back Home After Eventful Antarctic Season +

    Polar Star The US Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star arrived back at her homeport of Seattle, Washington on Mar 11 after an Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Asia-Pacific

  • Tragedy of the “Stellar Daisy” +

    Stellar Daisy The very large ore carrier Stellar Daisy, 266,141dwt, was owned by Polaris Shipping, of Seoul, South Korea, and had been Read More
  • Line’s Special Offer to Help Clean Up the Seas +

    The Ocean Cleanup The Singapore shipping company APL is providing free shipping for the non-profit Ocean Cleanup organisation that is working to develop Read More
  • World’s Largest LNG Carrier is on the Way +

    DNV GL Model The World's largest LNG carrier, with a cargo capacity of 270,000 cu m, is being developed by the only builder Read More
  • Three Main Courses Being Plotted for MOL +

    MOL Triumph The major Japanese shipping line Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL) has unveiled a number of new objectives aimed at improving its Read More
  • Cargo Ships for Bass Strait Service +

    Tasmanian Achiever II The first of two 700 teu cargo ship for the Bass Strait route between the Tasmanian port of Burnie and Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Naval Focus

  • Fourth Dreadnought Named HMS “King George VI” +

    Dreadnought Class UK News The fourth member of the new Dreadnought class of nuclear powered ballistic missile submarines will bear the name Read More
  • US Navy Orders Flight II Landing Platform Dock +

    LDP30 American News The contract for the construction of LPD30, the first Flight II Landing Platform Dock of the San Antonio Read More
  • US Navy Seeks Faster Ship Delivery +

    FFGX Rendering American News The future frigate program for the US Navy is getting fully underway and some idea of the urgency Read More
  • HMS “Dragon” in £75 Million Narcotics Seizure +

    HMS Dragon British News Whilst on patrol in the Gulf, the Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon seized and destroyed ten tonnes of Read More
  • New Generation of Enterprise Confirmed +

    USS Enterprise American News On 31 January, the US Department of Defense announced the awarding of a block buy contract with Huntington Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Ferry World

  • Further Delay for LNG Powered Glen Sannox +

    Glen Sannox The drama surrounding the much delayed new ferries for Caledonian MacBrayne continues to rumble on with the latest, not unsurprising, Read More
  • Pentland Ferries Loses Appeal +

    Hamnavoe Scotland’s Pentland Ferries has lost its appeal against Scottish government state aid for ferry services between the mainland and the Read More
  • Oscar Goes to Italy +

    Oscar Wilde Irish Continental Group has entered into a bareboat hire purchase agreement for the sale of its 1987-built Oscar Wilde to Read More
  • Favourite Claymore +

    Claymore A poster of Llandudno pier prompted a memory from ex Calmac chief engineer Charlie McCurdy as he took another trip Read More
  • Baltic Battery Power +

    Aurora Scandinavian and Baltic operators seem to be leading the way in reducing ferry reliance on fossil fuels. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Sail Review/Coastal Comment

  • Thames Tributary Barges +

    Lady of the Lea Most of the rivers flowing into the Thames had their own barge type. Read More
  • Dry Rot and Dry Dock +

    HMS Victory For some time Victory, the 110gun ship of the line, has had trouble with dry rot and is in danger Read More
  • Everards Eulogy +

    Greenhithe Scottish maritime interests particularly may mourn the loss of Geo Gibson. Read More
  • Welsh Port Gentrification +

    Penarth In the Victorian era, there were many coastal places where craft worked off open beaches. Read More
  • Sussex Sterns +

    Edward and Mary and Valiant In the Victorian era, there were many coastal places where craft worked off open beaches. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

From the Lookout

  • The Majestic River Rhine +

    MS Charles Dickens In September of this year, my wife and I enjoyed a wonderful Riviera Travel river cruise on the majestic River Read More
  • What Next in the US-Iran Saga? +

    Front Altair Over the last year, the escalating trade war between the US and China has created many headlines, not least in Read More
  • Modus Expands Fleet of Hybrid Autonomous Vehicles +

    Saab Seaeye Modus has placed an order with Saab Seaeye for the next vehicle in its Hybrid Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (HAU V) Read More
  • Tectona - A People’s Project Winner +

    Tectona By public vote, the Tectona Trust won the West Country – West Region ‘People’s Project’ award of £50,000. Nationally, the Tectona Read More
  • Major Boost for Steamship Shieldhall +

    Shieldhall Southampton's heritage steamship, SS Shieldhall, has received a Resilience Grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund totaling £85,000. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Cruise News/Superyacht News

  • Singer Andrea Bocelli Trades Up in Size +

    Stella del Nord Andrea Bocelli, the blind Italian tenor and song writer whose work spans both popular music and classical opera is a Read More
  • Plans for Greenock Terminal Approved +

    Greenock Ocean Terminal Plans have been approved for an iconic building on the banks of the Clyde at Greenock to welcome cruise ship Read More
  • Leixoes Cruise Terminal, Gateway to Porto +

    Leixoes Cruise Terminal With the growth of the cruise industry, many ports worldwide have been active in developing or improving their port facilities. Read More
  • Two Distinctive Ships Headed for Chinese Market +

    Spectrum of the Seas and Costa Venezia The Spectrum of the Seas (169,379 GT), Royal Caribbean International’s first ship in the Quantum Ultra Class, embarked on the Read More
  • Seadream Yacht Club to Build New Ship +

    SeaDream Innovation For over fifteen years, the SeaDream Yacht Club has operated two yachtlike ships, on 7 to 15-day voyages. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Ships, Ports and Places

Uganda

Mtwara

Few British shipping companies in the 20th Century were grander than the British India Steam Navigation Company. Read More
John Dock

Inside the Breakwater

It was way back in December 1962 and only a few moments before I had received my “buff form” as Read More
  • 1
  • 2

Companies, Events and Other Features

SS Eastern (2)

MT Arthur Foss

“The last vessel to escape Wake Island before Japanese forces captured the island” Read More
SS Eastern (2)

Rescue of Crew Member From Tanker Avanti

Captain A J Murdoch served with Eastern & Australian Steamship Company until he retired in 1982. Hailing from Melbourne, during Read More
  • 1
  • 2