Friday, November 16, 2018

RMS LusitaniaWorld War One began in 1914, and it involved the largest navies in the world. The British, German and French navies had lots of dreadnoughts at their disposal, but needed extra ships for transporting troops and commerce raiding.

As such, those navies added ocean liners to their fleets provided by some of the foremost shipping companies such as White Star Line, Cunard and Norddeutscher Lloyd.

After Britain declared war with the German Empire, the Admiralty requisitioned a number of famous ocean liners in 1914. Among them was the Mauretania, the Blue Riband holder, which was subsequently refitted and shipped more than 10,000 troops to Greece in 1915. Like other liners converted to troop transport ships, the Admiralty painted the Mauretania’s hull with dazzlepaint to camouflage it from German U-boats that were expanding their operations.

No German U-boat ever intercepted the Mauretania, but Cunard’s Lusitania was not so fortunate. That was one of the few ocean liners which continued transatlantic crossings in 1915. In 1915, the German embassy stated that any ship flying the British flag would become a potential target for their U-boats. Nevertheless, Lusitania still sailed with about 1,959 passengers aboard in May 1915.

A German U-boat intercepted the Lusitania off the Irish coast in May 1915. The U-boat fired a torpedo at the Lusitania that left a huge hole at the ship’s side. The impact of the torpedo ensured the ocean liner sank within 30 minutes. There was not nearly enough time to effectively evacuate the ship, and about 1,195 passengers were lost at sea.

Even though there were Americans aboard the liner, the Lusitania’s sinking was not enough to end US neutrality in the war during 1915. However, the Germans pledged to scale down their U-boat operations thereafter. Only when the German navy resumed unrestricted submarine warfare in 1917 did the United States declare war with the Germany.

The Carmania was a Cunard liner that the Admiralty converted to an armed merchant cruiser. As an armed cruiser, the Carmania intercepted the German ship Cap Trafalgar off Trindade Island. The Cap Trafalgar was also an ocean liner converted to a cruiser, and there was relentless firing between the two ships for more than an hour. The battle ended with the Carmania sinking the former German ocean liner. With 304 holes in her hull and decks ablaze the Carmania quickly made her way to a nearby port for repairs.

The Admiralty also added White Star ocean liners to their fleets. The Olympic-class liners RMS Olympic and Britannic were the largest afloat, and were duly converted to troop and hospital ships. The Admiralty added a 12-pounder gun and a couple of 4.7 guns to the Olympic before it began transporting troops. Then it began transporting troops to Mudros in the Mediterranean, and later sailed as a hospital ship.

The RMS Olympic sailed into British waters in May 1918 transporting US troops, where it met up with four US cruisers that provided further escort. As the Olympic sailed into the Channel, a lookout aboard the ship spotted the German U-boat U-103 lying still at the surface. Gunners aboard the Olympic opened fire, but they were too close to sink the submarine with their guns. As such, the Olympic rammed and sank the U-boat. The impact twisted the Olympic’s stern, but the ship did not leak any water and reached port.

RMS Olympic The Admiralty requisitioned the Britannic as a hospital ship in 1915. The ocean liner continued sailing into the Mediterranean in 1916 until November. On its final November trip the Britannic sailed into the Kea Channel where a German U-boat had laid mines. There an explosion shattered the ship at the starboard bow. As water flooded the Britannic, Captain Bartlett gave the orders to abandon ship. Distress calls were promptly picked up by a number of nearby destroyers and cruisers that rushed to the Britannic. Those ships rescued most aboard the Britannic, and White Star later received the German ship SS Bismarck (later retitled Majestic) as a replacement for their lost liner.

France II was one of the French ocean liners converted to a troop transport ship during the war. It was initially converted to an auxiliary cruiser, but as it had high fuel consumption was rebuilt as a troop ship. The ship transported troops to the Dardanelles in 1915. When the United States joined the war, France II transported troops from the USA to Europe in 1917 and 1918.

The German shipping company Norddeutscher Lloyd also had some great ocean liners in their fleet such as the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse and Kronprinz Wilhelm. Both of those ocean liners had set new Blue Riband records for transatlantic crossings. Their extravagant interior décors had also raised the bar for naval architecture.

After the outbreak of World War One, those German ocean liners went to war as merchant cruisers. The German navy adopted a war on commerce targeting merchant ship supplies. For that they deployed not only their U-boats, but surface raider ships such as the converted Wilhelm Der Grosse and Kronprinz Wilhelm.

The Kaiser Der Grosse sank three ships during 1914. Later in August 1914, the same month it sank the three ships, the Kaiser Der Grosse approached the west coast of Africa and stopped at Rio de Oro to refuel. As colliers refuelled the ship, the British cruiser HMS Highflyer approached the Kaiser Der Grosse. The German commerce raider quickly steamed out to engage the cruiser, but ran out of ammunition during the skirmish. To ensure the ship was not captured, Captain Reyman ordered his crew to scuttle the Der Grosse.

Read the rest of this article with additional pictures in Sea Breezes Magazine - April 2015 Issue
Click here to subscribe

Subscribe Graphic

Latest Issue - Look Inside!

Nexus

Most Popular

  • Less (K)Notts, More Speed! +

  • Message from the Bridge - November 2018 +

  • Honfleur Hull Sections Craned Into Place +

  • Tragedy in Tanzania +

  • Bells Will Ring Out on 100th Anniversary of War's End +

  • 1
  • 2

Top Ten Books and DVDs of 2018

Latest Products

Maritime Log

  • Clean Air Hero +

    Titus The first in a new class of four large roll-on,rolloff car and truck carriers for Wallenius Wilhelmsen, of Norway, has Read More
  • Wreck of Cook's Endeavour Found? +

    HM Bark Endeavour Replica A team of marine archaeologists believe they may have found the wreck of Captain James Cook’s famous vessel Endeavour which Read More
  • Bells Will Ring Out on 100th Anniversary of War's End +

    Lusitania This month, Remembrance Sunday is also the 100th anniversary of the ending of the First World War and various events Read More
  • Focus on Historic Photographs of Lifeboats +

    Beken Lifeboat Collection Photographs of lifeboats dating from the turn of the 20th Century are the centrepiece of a new RNLI exhibition that Read More
  • Vehicle Carrier Runs Aground +

    Makassar Highway The vehicle carrier Makassar Highway, 17,735gt, of the Japanese company K Line, ran aground off the Swedish coast on the Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

North America

  • Disabled Bulk Carrier Towed Into Harbour +

    GDF Suez North Sea A 55,848dwt bulk carrier had to be towed into New York harbour after she became disabled while more than 100 Read More
  • Annual Surveys of Titanic Wreck to Start +

    Island Pride A major expedition takes place next summer to explore the wreck of the White Star Line passenger liner Titanic, 46,328grt, Read More
  • USCG Respons as Ports Closed in Hurricane +

    USCG Dilligence Shipping and ports from the states of Virginia south to Georgia were seriously affected in mid-September by Hurricane Florence, which Read More
  • Forest of Giant Cranes and a New Wharf +

    Port of Houston The Port of Houston, in Texas, took delivery of three new neopanamax ship-to-shore cranes on Aug 6 and five rubber-tyred Read More
  • Garbage Patch Clean-up Set to Start +

    garb The first offshore cleaning system was to be installed last month in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch located halfway between Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Asia-Pacific

  • Cranes Lift Ferry Superstructure onto Hull +

    Express 4 The Australian shipbuilders Austal has rolled-out a new catamaran ferry for the Danish company Molslinjen at its Henderson shipyard in Read More
  • China is World's Top Shipping Nation +

    China Containers China is the world’s leading international shipping nation, according to a new report presented at a Hamburg trade fair on Read More
  • Automatic Berthing Project Test +

    Shioji Maru The proposed joint demonstration project by four Japanese organisations relating to the safety of vessels’ auto berthing and un-berthing has Read More
  • Record Voyage for Northern Sea Route LNG Cargo +

    Christophe de Margerie A new record for crossing the Northern Sea Route was set up in July by the icebreaking LNG carrier Christophe Read More
  • Antarctic Ship is Re-Chartered +

    Aurora Australis The contract for the icebreaker and research ship Aurora Australis, 6,574gt, to resupply Australia’s Antarctic stations has been extended until Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Naval Focus

  • Sea Trials Recall for Zumwalt-Class Destroyer +

    USS Michael Monsoor American News The Zumult class destroyer USS Michael Monsoor was in dockyard hands at Bath in Maine for the removal Read More
  • HMS Albion Proves Big in Japan +

    HMS Albion British News The assault ship HMS Albion, at time of writing, had just completed a five day visit to Tokyo Read More
  • Royal Navy Commissions New Survey Ship +

    HMS Magpie British News The latest survey vessel to join the Royal Navy was commissioned into service at her homeport of Devonport Read More
  • F-35 Stealth Fighters Land in UK +

    F-35 British News The first four of Britain’s next generation F-35 Lightning supersonic fighter jets touched down in the United Kingdom Read More
  • Upgrade Planned for Russia’s Only Aircraft Carrier +

    Admiral Kuznetsov Russian News Russia’s only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, will be refitted to prolong the warship’s operational life. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Ferry World

  • Seatruck Irish Sea Expansion +

    Seatruck Power Seatruck Pace At this time, when all cross-border ferry operators ex UK must be extremely apprehensive as leaving the EU approaches, Seatruck Read More
  • Tragedy in Tanzania +

    Nyerere A country well used to tragedy, saw another, on Lake Victoria in September. Read More
  • Trouble for "Loch Seaforth" +

    Loch Seaforth Ferry services between Ullapool and Stornoway were disrupted when Caledonian MacBrayne’s Loch Seaforth lost power just over an hour into Read More
  • Stena Adds Extra Freight Capacity to Liverpool Service +

    Stena Forerunner In response to growing market demand, Stena Line has upped freight capacity on the popular Belfast – Liverpool route. Read More
  • Honfleur Hull Sections Craned Into Place +

    Honfleur Brittany Ferries has celebrated the second milestone in the build of its next ship Honfleur with the keeling laying - the Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Sail Review/Coastal Comment

  • The Temps Fête Maritime Festival +

    La Recouvrance During World War II, most of France’s traditional sailing vessels were destroyed and after the war, the emphasis was on Read More
  • Sunderland to Esbjerg Race +

    Oosterschelde On the north east coast of England, it was Sunderland’s proud claim that more ships had been built here than Read More
  • Tall Ships at Liverpool +

    Belem At the end of May, a Tall Ships fleet met at Liverpool. Read More
  • New Bridge Challenges Melissa +

    Melissa The organisers of the charter barges working from Ipswich are worried by plans to build a road bridge across the Read More
  • German Schooners +

    Thor Heyerdahl Two German schooners based at Hamburg are regularly making voyages under sail with general cargoes across the Atlantic. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

From the Lookout

  • Forty Years of Sailing for Mercy Ships +

    Africa Mercy Over the years, I have been a great admirer of the vital work which Mercy Ships carries out in the Read More
  • World Class Simulator Arrives at Montrose +

    Ethos simulator Coming from the NE of Scotland myself, I have been impressed by how, in recent years, Montrose Port Authority (MPA) Read More
  • New Flying Focus Calendar 2019 +

    Flying Focus 2019 Once again, Flying Focus’ maritime aerial photographer, Herman IJsseling, has taken to the skies to brave the elements of nature Read More
  • Less (K)Notts, More Speed! +

    Sir Keith Speed A recent addition to my book collection is Sea Change, a commentary on the battle for the Falkland Islands and Read More
  • UK P&I Club Launches Interactive Video Series +

    Lessons Learned Video I am always in favour of any steps taken to improve safety of life at sea and I feel that Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Cruise News/Superyacht News

  • Three Year Restoration for Alicia +

    Alicia The Southampton headquartered ship repairer and marine engineering services provider, SMS, has launched the classic 1930’s superyacht Alicia from its Read More
  • Latona - A Family Affair +

    Latona With her wide open-air spaces, CRN’s new superyacht Latona offers an original interpretation of timeless elegance, coupled with Italian style Read More
  • Back to Back Transatlantic on the Queen Mary 2 +

    Queen Mary 2 In the past I have been fortunate in that I have been on a cruise to a number of the Read More
  • Turnkey Explorer Yacht +

    Explorer 67 An exciting opportunity for an owner looking to build one of the finest explorer yacht projects available has presented itself. Read More
  • Great Perseverance +

    Meira Behind the construction of every great yacht there is a story and in the building of Meira, it is one Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Ships, Ports and Places

Maltese Maritime Museum

A Visit to Ye Olde Naval Bakery

Malta’s “Maritime Museum” is housed in the former Naval Bakery on the quay of Valletta’s urban ward Birgu. Construction of Read More
Presidente Peron

"Eva Peron"

If someone in 1939 had decided to sit out the Second World War they might well have done so in Read More
  • 1
  • 2

Companies, Events and Other Features

MV Crestbank

A Bank Line Voyage in 1959

The Crestbank was the second of a massive 17 ship order from Harland & Wolff in Belfast commencing with the Read More
USS Liberty

The Attack on the Liberty

You can feel for the captain of USNS “Liberty” Commander William McGonagle, after he was wounded in a sneak Israeli Read More
  • 1
  • 2