By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: A Merchant Fleet at War
Author: Hurd, Archibald
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Merchant Fleet at War" ***

Transcriber’s Note: Italic text is indicated by _underscores_.

[Illustration: (cover)]






  Author of “The British Fleet in the
  Great War,” “Command of the Sea,”
  “Sea-Power,” etc. etc.


  London, New York, Toronto and Melbourne

_All rights reserved_

    _Over the warring waters, beneath the wandering skies,
    The heart of Britain roameth, the Chivalry of the sea,
    Where Spring never bringeth a flower, nor bird singeth in a tree,
    Far, afar, O beloved, beyond the sight of our eyes,
    Over the warring waters, beneath the stormy skies._

                                          ROBERT BRIDGES.



During a war, which was at last to draw into its vortex practically
the whole human race--the issue depending, first and foremost, on sea
power--there was little time or opportunity or, indeed, inclination
on the part of British seamen to keep a record of their varied
activities. The very nature of many of the incidents recorded in the
following pages precluded the preparation of detailed reports at the
time. Nor can we forget that many of the officers and men, to whose
resource, courage, and devotion this volume bears testimony, have
joined the great silent army of the dead to whose exploits the freedom
of conscience of every man and woman in the British Empire, as well as
their state of material comfort, bear witness.

This book has been written under not a few difficulties, and it owes
whatever merit it possesses to many individuals--captains, officers,
engineers, pursers and other ministers to British sea-power--who have
assisted in its preparation, whether by recounting incidents in which
they took part, by placing written records at my disposal, or by
lending photographs from which the illustrations have been prepared. I
would especially emphasise that the illustrations have been made from
photographs of all sorts and shapes, taken by all kinds of cameras,
though for the most part of pocket size. Many of the pictures were
snapped under dull and forbidding skies, and some were secured in the
very presence of the enemy in mad pursuit of his piratical policy. Some
of these pictures were soaked with sea water, and other were recovered
from destruction at the last moment. The value of the illustrations
lies not so much in their perfection as in the knowledge that they were
taken “on active service.”

Finally a word should be said, perhaps, of another difficulty which
confronts any one who endeavours to tell the story of what merchant
sailors did during the Great War. These men dislike publicity and their
modesty disarms the inquisitor. Like their comrades of the Royal Navy,
they are content if they can feel that they have done their duty.
They would leave it at that. But were silence to be maintained, later
generations would be robbed, for the progress of humanity depends, in
no small measure, on the manner in which the memory of great deeds
is preserved, and handed down from age to age. No man can live unto

The story of the contribution which British seamen have made to the
happiness and well being of the world can never be half told, and these
pages form merely a footnote to one of the most glorious epics in human
annals. They go forth in the hope that they may help to perpetuate
those sterling virtues which find increasing expression in the British
race throughout the world. James Anthony Froude once declared that all
that this country has achieved in the course of three centuries has
been due to her predominance as an ocean power. “Take away her merchant
fleets; take away the navy that guards them; her empire will come to
an end; her colonies will fall off like leaves from a withered tree;
and Britain will become once more an insignificant island in the North
sea.” So I hope this book may be regarded not merely as a footnote to
history, but may remind all and sundry of the priceless heritage which
our seamen of all classes and degrees have left in our keeping.

                                                  ARCHIBALD HURD.


  Foreword                                                          xvii


    I.  Mobilisation                                                   1

   II.  Combatant Cunarders                                           12

  III.  Carrying on                                                   38

   IV.  The Ordeal of the “Lusitania”                                 58

    V.  The Toll of the Submarines                                    87

   VI.  Shore Work for the Services                                  119


                              _In Colour_

  “AQUITANIA” LEADING THE TRANSPORTS                      _Frontispiece_

                                                          _To face page_
  “AQUITANIA” ESCORTED BY DESTROYERS                                   4

  “MAURETANIA” ESCORTED BY DESTROYERS                                 12

  TORPEDOING OF THE “IVERNIA”                                         28

  “CARMANIA” SINKING “CAP TRAFALGAR”                                  36

  TORPEDOING OF THE “AUSONIA”                                         44

  TORPEDOING OF THE “LUSITANIA”                                       52

  “PHRYGIA” SINKING A SUBMARINE                                       60

  TORPEDOING OF THE “THRACIA”                                         68

  “VALERIA” SINKING A SUBMARINE                                       84

  TORPEDOING OF THE “VOLODIA”                                         92

  “AQUITANIA” AS HOSPITAL SHIP                                       108

  “CAMPANIA” AS SEAPLANE SHIP                                        124

                            _In Monochrome_

                                                          _To face page_

  EMBARKATION                                                          6

  TRANSPORT IN SOUTHAMPTON WATER                                       6

      COMMANDER                                                        8

  THE “CAMPANIA” SINKING IN THE FIRTH OF FORTH                        10

  THE “CARMANIA” STARBOARD FORWARD GUNS                               14


  LIFE ON A TRANSPORT (i): KIT INSPECTION                             16

  LIFE ON A TRANSPORT (ii): RIFLE DRILL                               16

  THE “CARMANIA” READY FOR ACTION                                     18


  THE “CARONIA” LEAVING DURBAN                                        24

      RIVER                                                           26

  THE “CARMANIA” APPROACHING TRINIDAD                                 30

  ONE OF THE “CARMANIA’S” GUNS                                        30

  “ABANDON SHIP” DRILL AT SEA                                         32

  AFTER THE FIGHT                                                     32


  THE “LACONIA” AT DURBAN                                             38


  THE NELSON PLATE PRESENTED TO THE “CARMANIA”                        40





      IN ONE OF THE BOATS                                             54

  THE “LUSITANIA”                                                     56


  THE “ALAUNIA” AS AN EMERGENCY HOSPITAL SHIP                         62




  “HOMEWARD BOUND.”                                                   70

  THE SUN-CURE                                                        72



      AMERICAN SOLDIERS TO EUROPE                                     78

  THE “AQUITANIA’S” STAGE                                             80

      AMERICAN TROOPS FOR EUROPE                                      80

      TROOPS, NEW YORK, DECEMBER 1918                                 82


  BOAT DRILL ON A CUNARD HOSPITAL SHIP                                86


  THE “AURANIA” ASHORE AFTER BEING TORPEDOED                          90

  THE “IVERNIA” SETTLING DOWN                                         90

  THE “IVERNIA” SURVIVORS ARRIVING IN PORT                            94

  TROOPS LANDING FROM THE “MAURETANIA”                                94


      LIFEBOAT                                                        96

  THE “MAURETANIA” LEAVING SOUTHAMPTON                                98


  AN ARMED CRUISER’S RANGE FINDER                                    102

  THE “THRACIA” FAST                                                 104

  THE “AQUITANIA” RE-APPEARS IN THE MERSEY                           106

  OFFICERS OF THE TORPEDOED “FRANCONIA”                              110


      WORKS                                                          112

  THE “AQUITANIA’S” CHAPEL                                           112

  CUNARD NATIONAL AEROPLANE FACTORY                                  114

  INTERIOR OF THE AEROPLANE FACTORY (i)                              118

  INTERIOR OF THE AEROPLANE FACTORY (ii)                             118

  INTERIOR OF THE AEROPLANE FACTORY (iii)                            120

  RUSSIAN REFUGEES ON THE “PHRYGIA”                                  120

  ONE OF THE ROOMS IN THE CUNARD SHELL WORKS                         122

  A RECORD OF “STRIKING” VALUE                                       122


  THE “AQUITANIA” LOUNGE AS ORDERLY ROOM                             128


  MEN’S WARD IN THE LOUNGE OF THE “AQUITANIA”                        132

  THE “FRANCONIA” SINKING                                            136


There was never a time in our history when the value of the Mercantile
Marine to our national life was as apparent as it is to-day. After
passing through the crucible of war, we are what we are, mainly,
because we are the possessors of ships.

When the Great War came, we possessed only a small, though highly
trained, Army, and the guns of our Navy extended little further than
high-water mark. How could we, a community of islanders, in partnership
with other islanders living in Dominions thousands of miles away,
hope to make our strength felt on the battlefields of the Continent
of Europe, where the military Powers were mobilising conscript armies
counted not by thousands, but by millions? The original Expeditionary
Force, as finely tempered a fighting instrument as ever existed, was
at once thrown across the Channel in merchant ships and it held in
check the victorious army of Germany, saving by a miracle, the Channel
ports; then, having mobilised on the eve of the declaration of war,
the Royal Navy, the great protective force of the British peoples, we
mobilised also the Merchant Navy, their essential sustaining force,
bridged the oceans of the world, and concentrated on the conflict
the enormous and varied powers of the 400,000,000 inhabitants of the
Commonwealth. In Belgium and France as in the Pacific, in Gallipoli
as in Eastern Africa, in Salonica as in Mesopotamia, and in Italy as
in Palestine, British troops were soon confronting the forces of the
Central Alliance; every ocean was dominated by British men-of-war.
The enemies had the advantage of interior military lines, but by the
aid of ships--carrying troops, munitions, and stores--we gradually
forged a hoop of steel round them and slowly but irresistibly drew it
tighter and tighter until, their economic power having been strangled
by sea power, their naval and military power was weakened and they were
compelled to sue for peace. If it had not been for our ships--ships of
commerce drawing strength from the seas, and ships of war, efficiently
policing those seas--the Allies could not by any possibility have won
the Great War and Germans would to-day be the dominant race, not only
in Europe, but in both hemispheres.

It is a common error to think of sea power in terms only of
battleships, cruisers, destroyers and submarines. The secret of the
spread of Anglo-Saxon civilisation, with its ideals of fair play,
tolerance and personal liberty, its hatred of tyranny and love of
justice, is not to be found as much in these emblems of organised
violence as in merchant ships. Out of our island State the Merchant
Fleet, a purely individualistic institution, developed by the
compulsion of geographical necessities; the British people could not
exist without ships even in days when their numbers were small and
the standard of living was relatively low. The population has trebled
in the last hundred years and the level of comfort of all classes
has risen, and to-day the very existence of the 45,000,000 people of
the British Isles, as well as their commercial and social relations
with the other sections of the Empire, depends on the sufficiency and
efficiency of the Mercantile Marine.

We possessed a trading Navy, with fine traditions of peace and war,
long before we had a Fighting Navy. The owners of merchant ships for
many centuries defended this country from raids and invasions, just
as it was the early merchant-adventurers who laid the foundations of
the Empire. Thus as far back as the reign of Athelstan, we find this
Saxon king granting a Thaneship--or, as one might say, a knighthood--to
every merchant who had been three voyages of length in his own trading
vessel. It was largely with the ships of merchant owners that in 1212
the English, by raiding France, prevented a French invasion, and that
in 1340 one of the greatest British naval victories was won over vastly
superior forces at the battle of Sluys. And though, by the time of the
Armada, merchant ships were but as it were the core of the fleets that
fought and destroyed the threatened world domination of Spain, they
played an exceedingly important part in that epoch-making struggle,
which marked the emergence of this Island as a world power. Similarly
the Indian Empire, the early American Colonies, and many other British
Possessions all over the world, were founded by merchant shipping
enterprise alone. From time immemorial, the British merchantman has
carried the flag to the outermost parts of the world and thus helped to
maintain its prestige.

The Mercantile Marine and Navy have always been so closely knit that
it is often difficult to separate their histories. The Mercantile
Marine was in reality, as has been said, the parent of the latter.
As the State grew, and civilisation became more complex, a process
of separation between the ships of commerce and the ships of war was
inevitable, and the Navy became more and more a distinct Royal Service.
The increasing difficulties of the problems of defence, armament,
and so on, led to a process of specialisation, and could only be
adequately studied and the Empire’s growing needs supplied by a State
Department. On the other hand, the Mercantile Marine remained, and
still remains, individualistic, each merchant ship-owner, or company of
ship-owners, building the sort of vessel best adapted to the particular
enterprise in hand. Thus we have sailing from our ports, ships of
all descriptions, ocean-going liners carrying passengers, cargoes
and mails, as well as tramps, colliers, cold-storage vessels, and an
infinity of other types.

But while this process of separation, or specialisation, has been
both inevitable and fruitful, the Mercantile Marine has, in every
war, been called upon by the Navy to provide transports, auxiliary
cruisers, hospital and munition ships, and, in the recent Great War,
minesweepers, submarine chasers, ‘Q’ ships, and many other equally
vital subsidiaries. Similarly, in the personnel of the Mercantile
Marine, the Navy has always had a powerful reserve, not only of
experienced sailors, but of actual navally-trained officers and men.
Without these, it is safe to say that the Navy could never have
undertaken, or accomplished, those vast and world-wide, and many of
them unforeseeable, tasks, so magnificently and successfully carried
out; and it is equally true that but for the Mercantile Marine, the
armies of the whole Alliance would have been paralysed.

In no history, however long and laboriously compiled, would it be
possible to do full justice to the war-work of the British Mercantile
Marine, but the present volume supplies, at any rate, an index to the
scope and value of what it performed. In the re-action of one unit,
of one old, honourable, and successful merchant shipping Company
to the demands of the world war, it is perhaps possible to realise
more clearly than by making a wider sweep of research, the amazing
accomplishments of the whole; and where all rose, with magnificent
unity, to heights of service never surpassed in our annals, none
excelled either in the prescience or organizing ability of its
directors, in the courage and resource of its captains and crews, or in
the loyalty and ingenuity of its skilled and unskilled employees, the
record of the Cunard Steamship Company.




    _Oh hear! Oh hear!
    Across the sullen tide,
    Across the echoing dome horizon-wide,
    What pulse of fear
    Beats with tremendous boom?
    What call of instant doom,
    With thunder-stroke of terror and of pride,
    With urgency that may not be denied,
    Reverberates upon the heart’s own drum
    Come! ... Come! ... for thou must come!_

                                          HENRY NEWBOLT.

In order to obtain the truest conception of what the Cunard Company
stood for in 1914, it will be well not only to consider very briefly
its first origin and steady growth, but to refresh our memories by
recalling one or two of the tidemarks of ocean-going navigation. Thus
it was in 1802, in the year, that is to say, following Nelson’s great
victory at Copenhagen, in the year of the Peace of Amiens, and three
years before the Battle of Trafalgar, that the first successful,
practical steamer was launched. This was the _Charlotte Dundas_, built
by William Symington on the Forth and Clyde Canal, and fitted with an
engine constructed by Watt, which drove a stern wheel. This vessel
proved to be an inspiration to Robert Fulton, who in 1807 built the
_Clermont_ at New York, a wooden steamer 133 feet long, engined by
Bolton and Watt. In the autumn of that year, this vessel made a trip
from New York to Albany, a distance of 130 miles in 32 hours, returning
in 30 hours, and thenceforward maintained the first continuous long
distance service performed by any steam vessel. Five years later Bell’s
famous steamer, the _Comet_, began the earliest, regular steamer
passenger service in Europe.

In 1814 the _Marjory_, the first steamer to run regularly on the
River Thames, began her career; but it was not until 1819 that the
_Savannah_, a wooden sailing ship of American construction, but fitted
with engines and a set of paddles amidships, crossed the Atlantic,
arriving at Liverpool after 29½ days. In the following year the
_Condé de Palmella_ was the first engined ship to sail across the
Atlantic from east to west, namely from Liverpool to the Brazils.


These were but tentative experiments, however, and the Transatlantic
Steamship Service, as we see it to-day, did not really begin till
the year 1838, when the steamers _Sirius_ and _Great Western_ sailed
within a few days of each other from London and Bristol respectively.
Both ships crossed without mishap, the _Sirius_ in 17 days, and the
_Great Western_ in 15. In the same year, the _Royal William_ and the
_Liverpool_ crossed from Liverpool to New York in 19 days and 16½ days

It was now clear that a new era in transatlantic navigation had dawned,
and the Admiralty, who were then responsible for the arrangement of
overseas postal contracts, and had hitherto been satisfied to entrust
the carrying of mails to sailing vessels, invited tenders for the
future conveyance of letters to America by steam vessels. One of their
advertisements, as it happened, came into the hands of Mr. Samuel
Cunard; he was the son of an American citizen of Philadelphia, who
had settled in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in which city he had been born
in 1787. For some time the idea of developing a regular service of
steamers between America and England had been simmering in Mr. Cunard’s
brain. He was already in his 50th year, a successful merchant and ship
owner; and he now resolved to visit England with the intention, if
possible, of raising sufficient capital to put his ideas into practice.
Armed with an introduction to Mr. Robert Napier, a well-known Clyde
shipbuilder and engineer, he went to Glasgow, after having received but
little sympathy in London. Through Mr. Napier he became acquainted with
Mr. George Burns, a fellow Scotsman of great ability and long practical
experience as a ship-owner, and through him with Mr. David McIver,
also a Scotsman of sagacity and enterprise, then living at Liverpool.
Between the three of them the necessary capital was obtained, and Mr.
Cunard was able to submit to the Admiralty a tender for the conveyance
of mails once a fortnight between Liverpool, Halifax, and Boston,
U.S.A. His tender was considered so much better than that offered by
the owners of the _Great Western_ that it was accepted, and a contract
for seven years was concluded between the Government and the newly
formed British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, as
it was then called.


Such was the beginning of the Cunard Company in the shape of four
wooden paddle-wheel steam vessels, built on the Clyde, the _Britannia_,
_Acadia_, _Caledonia_, and _Columbia_; and its history from then
until 1914 was one of steady and enterprising, cautious and daring,
development. This is not the place to linger in detail over the
technical strides made since 1840 by the Cunard Company’s directors,
but one or two of the more important milestones should perhaps be
noted. In the year 1804, John Stevens in America had successfully
experimented with the screw-propeller, and in 1820, at the Horsley
Iron Works, at Tipton in Staffordshire, Mr. Aaron Manby had designed
and built the first iron steamer. It had always been the policy of the
Cunard Company to keep in touch with every new marine experiment, but
at the same time it had been their wise habit, both from the commercial
point of view and that of the safety of their passengers and crews,
to move circumspectly in the adoption of new devices. It was not,
therefore, until 1852 that the first four iron screw steamships were
added to their fleet, namely the _Australian_, _Sydney_, _Andes_,
and _Alps_, four vessels that were also the first belonging to the
Company to be fitted with accommodation for emigrants. For the next
ten years, however, it was found that passengers still preferred
the old paddle-wheel system, and side by side with their iron screw
steamers, the Company continued to build these until, in 1862, the
_Scotia_ proved to be the last of a dying type. Meanwhile, in 1854,
the Government was to realise another side of the value to the nation
of the Cunard Company. During the Crimean War, in response to a strong
Government appeal, the Company immediately placed at the Admiralty’s
disposal, six of their best steamers, the _Cambria_, _Niagara_,
_Europa_, _Arabia_, _Andes_, and _Alps_; later adding to these their
two most recent acquisitions, the _Jura_ and _Etna_. Throughout the
campaign these eight vessels were continuously employed upon various
important missions, supplying the needs of the military forces.



Perhaps the next most important era began with the invention in 1869
of compound engines, and in 1870 the _Batavia_ and _Parthia_ were
fitted with these, and proved extremely successful, maintaining good
speeds, with a reduced consumption of fuel. The Company was now sailing
one vessel under contract with the General Post Office every week
from Liverpool to New York, calling at Queenstown, and from New York
to Liverpool, also calling at the South Irish port, and receiving a
certain subsidy for so doing. They were also maintaining services
between Liverpool and the principal ports in the Mediterranean,
Adriatic, Levant, Bosphorus, and Black Sea, and between Liverpool
and Havre. In 1881 the first steel vessel, the _Servia_, was built
for the Cunard Company. This was the most powerful as well as the
largest ship, with the exception of the famous _Great Eastern_, that
the world had then seen. She was followed in 1884 by the _Etruria_
and _Umbria_, the former of which in August, 1885, set up the record
for speed from Queenstown to New York, the journey being accomplished
in 6 days 6 hours and 36 minutes. In the meantime, research work, in
the construction of marine engines had been continued, and Dr. Price
had invented the triple expansion engine, which effected further
considerable economies in the consumption of fuel; and these were
fitted by the Cunard Company into the two great twin-screw vessels, the
_Campania_ and _Lucania_, built in 1893. With the _Campania_ we shall
deal again, as she performed valuable services in the late war, and
it is interesting to note that it was on board the _Lucania_ in 1901
that Mr. Marconi carried out certain important experiments in wireless
telegraphy, this vessel being the first, under the Cunard management,
to be fitted with a wireless installation.

Through all these years the Cunard Company had of course been submitted
to very great competition in the transatlantic trade, not only by
British lines, but by American and Continental shipping companies
also; and in the year 1900 with the _Deutschland_ and in 1902 with
the _Kaiser Wilhelm II_, what has been called the “blue ribbon” of
the Atlantic passed to Germany, these vessels having an average speed
of 23½ knots. It was then decided that the supremacy in this respect,
should, if possible, be regained by Great Britain, and, with Government
help, and in return for certain definite prospective services if
required, the Cunard Company laid down the _Lusitania_ and the
_Mauretania_. In 1907, these vessels making use of Sir Charles Parsons’
turbine engines, were put into service and soon afterwards attained a
speed of over 26 knots, and the mastery, in respect of speed, of the


Enormous as were the proportions, however, of these huge vessels, they
were yet to be eclipsed by the Cunard Company’s later and most recent
giant, the _Aquitania_, a vessel that might more fitly be described
as a floating city of palaces, libraries, art galleries, and swimming
baths, than the steamship child of the little _Britannia_ of 1840.
Let us for a moment compare them, remembering that only the ordinary
span of a human life-time intervened between them. The _Britannia_
was 200 feet long, a wooden paddle-wheel steamer of 1,154 tons, 740
horse-power, and a speed of 8½ knots. The _Aquitania_ is 902 feet
long, of 46,000 tons, with quadruple screws driven by turbine engines
of a designed shaft of 60,000 horse-power, maintaining a speed of
24 knots. With her Louis XVIth staircase, her garden Lounge, her
Adams drawing-room, her frescoes, her Palladian lounge, her Carolean
smoking-room, and her Pompeian swimming bath, she can carry in the
comfort of a first-class hotel more than 3,200 passengers, together
with a crew of over 1,000.

Such then has been what one may best call, perhaps, the technical
advance of the Cunard Company, and in 1914, at the commencement
of hostilities, it had in commission 26 vessels, apart from tugs,
lighters, and other subsidiaries. Of these, since we shall presently
deal with their individual adventures, the following list may be found

     Name of Ship.  Tonnage.

     AQUITANIA       45,646
     MAURETANIA      30,703
     LUSITANIA       30,395
     CARONIA         19,687
     CARMANIA        19,524
     FRANCONIA       18,149
     LACONIA         18,098
     SAXONIA         14,297
     IVERNIA         14,278
     CARPATHIA       13,603
     ANDANIA         13,404
     ALAUNIA         13,404
     CAMPANIA[A]     12,884
     ULTONIA         10,402
     PANNONIA         9,851
     ASCANIA          9,111
     AUSONIA          8,152
     PHRYGIA          3,353
     BRESCIA          3,235
     VERIA            3,228
     CARIA            3,032
     CYPRIA           2,949
     PAVIA            2,945
     TYRIA            2,936
     THRACIA          2,891
     LYCIA            2,715

    [A] This vessel was sold for breaking up a few weeks prior to
        the outbreak of war. Her career as a warship is referred to
        in these pages.


From this it will be seen that the total tonnage possessed by the
Cunard Company in 1914 was considerably over 300,000, and the Company
was operating services not only between the United Kingdom and the
United States of America and Canada, but also between the United States
of America and the Mediterranean, as well as from Liverpool and other
British ports to the Mediterranean and France.


Combatant Cunarders

    _Sleep on, O Drake, sleep well,
    In days not wholly dire!
    Grenville, whom nought could quell,
    Unquenched is still thy fire.
    And thou that hadst no peer,
    Nelson, thou needst not fear!
    Thy sons and heirs are here,
    And shall not shame their sire._

                                WILLIAM WATSON.

With the war now over, and after five years, during which the public
mind has been accustomed to emergency arrangements of all sorts,
nothing is more difficult than to reconstruct the enormous and
unprecedented activities that were called so suddenly into being in
the first war weeks of 1914; and in these the Cunard Company had a
typical and vitally important part to play. Of the number of navigating
officers in their employment, namely 163, no fewer than 139 were in
the Royal Naval Reserve, and as such were immediately mobilised, being
instructed to report themselves for naval duty upon their arrival
in a British port; and by the end of the year 131 of these officers
had actually done so. Nor was this the least of the problems that the
Company had to face, in that, at a time when not only every reliable
officer and man was worth his weight in gold to them, so large a
proportion of their best and most highly trained servants had thus to
be yielded up to the senior service.


In the latest agreement arrived at with the Government in 1903, the
whole of the Cunard Fleet was, in time of war, to be placed at its
disposal, and there was considerable uncertainty at first as to the
various purposes to which the ships might be allocated. In the present
chapter we shall confine ourselves to dealing with those of the Cunard
vessels that were commandeered by the Admiralty for strictly combatant
purposes, of which the more important were the _Aquitania_, _Caronia_,
_Laconia_, _Campania_, and _Carmania_; and since the _Campania_ had
only just passed from Cunard control, it may be well, perhaps, in view
of her distinguished and lengthy service under the Company’s flag to
deal with her first. She became a seaplane carrier; after having at
first however, taken a large share in repatriating Americans stranded
in the British Isles owing to the exigencies of war. Her after funnel
was removed and a smaller one put abreast of the forward funnel; and
this alteration, together with the dazzle paint with which she was at
a later date covered, rendered her almost unrecognisable even to the
old Cunarders who had been familiar with her for many years. Throughout
the war she was fortunate in escaping injury both from enemy gunfire
and submarine attack, and her honourable career only came to an end
at the conclusion of the armistice, when she was accidentally sunk in
collision with H.M.S. _Revenge_ in the Firth of Forth.

Turning now to the other vessels, the _Aquitania_ and _Caronia_, these
were fully dismantled and fitted out as armed cruisers in the first
days of August, 1915. This, of course, meant the ruthless stripping
out of all their luxurious fittings and those splendid appointments to
which reference has been made in the last chapter; and for all these
articles storage had to be found on shore at the shortest notice. Some
idea of the work involved in this conversion can best be gathered
perhaps, by realising that no less than 5,000 men were employed upon
this herculean task, and that more than 2,000 waggon loads of
fittings were taken ashore from these two liners. While these two ships
were thus being fitted, yet a third, the _Carmania_, arrived in port
to be similarly transformed; and a brief account of what took place
on board this famous vessel may be taken, perhaps, as typical of what
occurred in all three.



Arriving at Liverpool landing stage at 8 o’clock in the morning of
August 7th, 1914, she was almost immediately boarded by Captain Noel
Grant, R.N. and Lieutenant-Commander E. Lockyer, R.N., who were to be
respectively her Captain and First Lieutenant under the new conditions.
At that moment she looked about as unlike a man-of-war as she could
well have done. From half a dozen gangways, baggage was being landed at
express speed, while first and second class passengers were also going
ashore from the overhead gantries. Owing to the fact that there were
known to be Germans amongst the passengers on board, a considerable
number of police and custom officials were present upon the vessel;
and this necessitated the detention of a large number of third-class
passengers, who had to be carefully scrutinised and sorted out.

While all this was going on arrangements for the new equipment
and personnel of the vessel were already being discussed, and the
proportions of Cunarders and Naval ratings for the _Carmania’s_ future
war service being determined. It was decided that the engine staff was
to be Cunard, the men being specially enrolled for a period of six
months in the Royal Naval Reserve, while the Commander of the ship,
Captain J. C. Barr, was to remain on board as navigator and adviser to
Captain Grant, with the temporary rank of Commander R.N.R. The Chief
Officer, Lieutenant Murchie, with certain other officers, also remained
on board, Lieutenant Murchie, owing to his special knowledge of the
ship, ranking next to Lieutenant-Commander Lockyer for general working
purposes. The ship’s surgeon, her chief steward and about 50 of the
Cunard ratings for cooks, waiters, and officers’ servants, were also
retained, as well as the carpenter, who was kept on board as Chief
Petty Officer and given six mates, the cooper, blacksmith, plumber, and
painter, being also retained with the same rank.



Leaving the stage about noon, the _Carmania_ was immediately docked at
Sandon, where after some further delay the third-class passengers
were landed. Owing to the fact that the _Caronia_ was already in the
_Carmania’s_ proper berth, being fitted out as an armed cruiser, and
that both she and the _Aquitania_ were already well on the way to
completion for their new task, the _Carmania_ could for the moment
neither discharge her cargo nor bunker owing to the shortage of labour.
As many painters, however, as could be assembled began at once to alter
her hull and funnels, blackening out her well-known red and black tops,
while a gang of shipwrights started to cut out the bulwarks fore and
aft on the ‘B’ deck, in order to allow of the training to suitable
angles of the guns that were to be placed in position there. Other
Cunard stewards and joiners also concentrated at once upon the task of
clearing out passenger accommodation from the vessel. During Saturday
and Sunday the _Carmania_ remained in the basin, and it was on this
day that her future midshipmen turned up, and had to be provided with
accommodation in the midst of the existing confusion. On Monday she
was able to get an empty berth, where she began at once to discharge
her cargo, and to bunker at express speed. Armoured plates were now
being put in position upon all her most vulnerable parts, and these
were also being re-inforced with coal and bags of sand by way of extra
protection. All the woodwork in the passengers’ quarters was being
taken away; two of her holds were being fitted with platforms and
magazines were being built on them; while means for flooding were also
being installed, speaking-tubes fitted in the aft steering gear room,
control telephones being run up, and her eight guns placed in position.

These were all of 4.7 inch calibre and with a range of about 9,300
yards. In addition a 6 ft. Barr and Stroud range-finder was being
fitted, together with two semaphores. Two searchlights were being
mounted on slightly raised platforms on the bridge ends, while two
ordinary lifeboats and eighteen Maclean collapsible boats were retained
for war purposes. By Wednesday all the coal was in, all the bunkers
being full, and the protection coal was in place. At 5 o’clock the next
morning, the Naval ratings in charge of Lieutenant-Commander O’Neil,
R.N.R., arrived from Portsmouth, most of them being R.N.R. men, but
a good many belonging to the Royal Fleet Reserve, while the Marines on
board were drawn in equal proportions from the Royal Marine Artillery,
and the Royal Marine Light Infantry. The able seamen were for the most
part Scotch fishermen of the finest type.


On the same day messing, watch, and sleeping arrangements were made,
ammunition was taken aboard and stored in the magazines, together with
a limited number of small arms, in addition to the marines’ rifles: and
so unremitting had been the work of all engaged, and so efficient the
organisation evoked by the crisis, that the _Carmania_ was actually
at sea as a fully equipped armed cruiser by Friday, August 14th, only
a week after she had entered port as an ordinary first-class Atlantic
liner. With her later adventures we shall deal in a moment, but before
doing so let us follow the adventures of the other three vessels that
were converted into armed cruisers.

The _Aquitania_, fitted with 6-inch guns, sailed on August 8th, but
unfortunately was damaged in collision and on returning to port was
dismantled at the end of September. From May to August, 1915, she was
employed in carrying troops, when she was fitted out as a Hospital
Ship, in which capacity she continued to work until April of the
following year. She was again requisitioned as a Hospital Ship in
September, 1916, plying between England and the Mediterranean until
Christmas. She was then laid up by the Government for the whole
of 1917, and in March, 1918, was again put into commission by the
Admiralty as a transport, and played an important part in bringing
American troops to Europe at that critical time.

The _Caronia_ had a somewhat longer career as an armed cruiser. She
was commissioned on 8th August, 1914, by Captain Shirley-Litchfield,
R.N., with Captain C. A. Smith, Cunard Line, as navigator. She sailed
from Liverpool on August 10th, for patrol duties in the North Atlantic,
being attached to the North American and West Indies Station, under the
command of Rear-Admiral Phipps-Hornby, with Halifax (N.S.) as base.

She was employed on the usual patrol duties, stopping, boarding and
examining shipping. In the very early days of the war, she captured at
sea and towed into Berehaven the four-masted barque _Odessa_, and, some
little time after, she took over from a warship and towed to Halifax a
six thousand ton oil tanker.

Eight 4.7-in. quick-firing guns were originally mounted in the
_Caronia_, but, on her return to England for refit in May, 1915, they
were replaced by a similar number of six-inch.

She was at sea again in July, 1915, for another commission on the same
station, with Captain Reginald A. Norton, R.N., in command, and Captain
Henry McConkey, Cunard Line, as navigator. She remained away until
August, 1916, when she returned to this country to pay off.

The _Caronia_ was then employed in trooping between South and East
Africa and India until her return to the Company’s service.

During the whole of this time, she was manned chiefly by mercantile
marine ratings, enrolled for temporary service in the R.N.R. for the
duration of hostilities.

The _Laconia_, for the first two years of the war was also used as
an armed cruiser, seeing special service on the German East African
Coast, and taking part in the operations which ended in the destruction
of the German cruiser _Konigsberg_ in the Rufigi River. She was then
taken out of commission, and returned to the Company’s transatlantic
service. She was finally sunk by a German submarine on the 25th
February, 1917, American lives being lost aboard her. There is no doubt
that this was the “overt act” that helped to confirm the decision of
America to enter the war on the side of the Allies.

It is safe to say that all these vessels maintained in their new naval
roles, not only the best traditions of the Cunard Company itself,
but those of the Mercantile Marine of which they had once been so
distinguished a part, and the British Navy of which they became not the
least useful and honourable units. To the _Carmania_, indeed, fell the
singular honour of being the only British armed auxiliary cruiser to
sink a German war vessel in single armed combat; and the five years war
at sea produced few more kindling and romantic stories than that of her
duel with the _Cap Trafalgar_ in September, 1914, near Trinidad Island
in the South Atlantic.


Leaving the Mersey, as we have seen, on Saturday, August 15th, she
first went up the Irish Channel examining merchant vessels, on her way
to the Halifax trade route; where she was to carry out her first
patrol duties. Having kept this track, however, for twenty-four hours
without adventure, she received orders to sail for Bermuda, and on her
way there seized the opportunity of dropping a target and carrying out
some practice, firing which not only proved that her gun-layers were
exceptionally skilful, but which gave all on board considerably greater
confidence in the ship as a fighting unit. On the evening of August
22nd, she sighted the searchlights off St. George, Bermuda, and early
next morning performed the difficult task of navigating a channel that
no vessel of anything like her great size had ever before been through.
Here for the next five days she coaled, while officers and men were
able to obtain certain articles in the way of tropical clothing, that
they had not had time to procure at Liverpool.

On August 29th she left the Bermudas, and on September 2nd passed
through the Bocas del Dragos, at the mouth of the Gulf of Paria. Here,
amidst scenery new and entrancing to many on board, she approached
the Port of Spain, whence after a couple of days’ coaling, she
left to join Admiral Cradock’s ill-fated squadron, which was then
searching the coast of Venezuela, and the mouths of its rivers, for
the German cruisers _Dresden_ and _Karlsruhe_. To this squadron
she became attached about a week later, and soon received orders
to investigate Trinidad Island in the South Atlantic. On September
11th, however, while on her way there, she received orders to try and
intercept, in conjunction with the cruiser _Cornwall_, the German
collier _Patagonia_, which was supposed to be leaving Pernambuco that
night; but she was not found, and, as a matter of fact, did not sail
for another three days, when she succeeded, in the absence of the
_Cornwall_, in getting away. Before this, however, the _Carmania_
had received orders to continue on her original mission, namely the
examination of Trinidad Island, and she accordingly headed down
for it. This is a small and lonely piece of land, about 500 miles
distant from the South American coast, rising to a height of some
2,000 feet, and being only some 3 miles long by 1½ miles broad, but
with a good anchorage on its south-west side. Though often sighted by
sailing vessels homeward bound from Cape Horn, this island was well
out of reach of any ordinary steamer, and was thus an extremely
likely place for an enemy vessel desiring to coal in a convenient and
unobserved position. Moreover, although both Great Britain and Brazil
had at various times attempted to form small settlements there for
the purpose of cultivating the castor oil plant indigenous to the
island, these attempts had never been successful, and the island was


It was at nine in the morning of Monday, September 14th that the
_Carmania_ sighted the island ahead; and soon after 11 a.m. a large
vessel was made out, lying on the island’s westward side. It was a
bright clear day, with a gentle north-easterly breeze blowing, and the
mast of the unknown vessel showed distinctly above the horizon, two
funnels becoming visible a little while later. It was at once concluded
that she must be an enemy, since it was known that there were no
British war vessels in the neighbourhood, and that no British merchant
vessel was at all likely to be here. Her exact identity, however,
remained a problem that was not to be solved, as it happened, until
several days afterwards. The only enemy vessels that might possibly
be in the neighbourhood according to the knowledge of those on board
the _Carmania_, were the _Karlsruhe_, with four funnels, the _Dresden_
with three funnels, the _Kron Prinz Wilhelm_ with four funnels, and the
_Konig Wilhelm_, an armed merchant cruiser which had one funnel. Even
had the funnels been altered it could not have been any of these, since
the outlines of all these vessels were known to one and another of the
experienced and widely travelled observers on board the _Carmania_,
and this uncertainty added to the excitement of a peculiarly thrilling
occasion. The sudden pouring out of smoke from the strange vessel’s
funnels showed at once that the _Carmania_ had been sighted and that
the enemy was getting up steam, while the position of the island added
further to the thrilling possibilities of the situation.


It was true that there were no other vessels in sight, but the
_Carmania_ had approached so as to head for the middle of the island,
in order that any observer who might be on the look out should be
unable to tell on which side the armed cruiser meant to pass. This
meant, however, that the greater part of the island’s lee side was
out of sight, and behind its shelter other enemy vessels such as the
_Karlsruhe_ or _Dresden_, might well be lying in wait--the visible
vessel merely acting as a decoy to the approaching Britisher. That
other ships were indeed present, became manifest almost at once, as a
smaller steamer, a cargo vessel, as it appeared, of about 1,800 tons,
was now seen backing away from behind the enemy ship. This vessel
at once began steaming away to the south-east, probably in order to
discover whether or no the _Carmania_ was accompanied by consorts at
present hidden by the land. There were also to add to the anxiety of
the _Carmania’s_ commanding officer, two more masts appearing above the
side of the unidentified ship that obviously belonged to a vessel still
out of sight. Fortunately, however, this proved to be only another
small cargo boat, who very soon detached herself and steamed away to
the north-west.

This left them up to the present only the one big vessel as an
opponent, a vessel of some 18,500 tons, and an armed cruiser like the
_Carmania_. It promised, therefore, as regards numbers at least, to be
an equal fight, and in preparation for it dinner was ordered for all
hands that could be excused duty, for the hour of 11.30, in accordance
with the old naval principle--food before fighting. Meanwhile every
endeavour was being made to identify the mysterious enemy, and the
conclusion arrived at was that she must be the _Berlin_, a German
vessel of 17 knots. She was, as a matter of fact, although those on
the _Carmania_ were not to learn this for several days, the _Cap
Trafalgar_, the latest and finest ship of the Hamburg South American
Line--a vessel of 18 knots that had as yet only made one voyage. She
had been built with three funnels, one of them being a dummy one used
only for ventilation, and this had been done away with, reducing the
number to two. She had been in Buenos Aires when war broke out, and had
left that port, as it chanced on the very day that the _Carmania_ had
sailed from Liverpool, her destination being unknown and her cargo one
of coal.


The _Carmania_ had by this time gone to “General Quarters,” and all on
board were ready for the encounter. The largest ensigns floated both
from the flagstaff aft and the mastheads, and the _Cap Trafalgar_ now
ran up the white flag with the black cross of the German Navy. It was
still, however, not quite certain that the enemy was armed, and it was
therefore necessary that the usual formalities should be attended
to. Well within range, Captain Grant ordered Lieutenant Murchie to fire
a shot across her bow, and the shell, very skilfully aimed, dropped
about 50 yards ahead of this. The reply was immediate, the enemy firing
two shells which only just cleared the _Carmania’s_ bridge, and dropped
into the water about 50 yards upon her starboard side.

The fight had now begun in earnest, and the firing on both sides was
of a high order, although the first round or two from the _Carmania_
fell short, while those of the _Cap Trafalgar_ erred a little in the
opposite direction. Quite soon, however, hits were being made by both
sides, and soon one of the _Carmania’s_ gun layers lay dead, his No. 2
dying, and almost the whole of the gun’s crew wounded.

For the first few minutes of the duel, only three of the _Carmania’s_
guns could be brought to bear, but soon by porting a little she was
able to bring another gun into action, and some very successful
salvoes at once followed. The British gun-layers, firing as coolly
as if they had been at practice, were now hitting with nearly every
shot, and the vessels were closing one another rapidly, when at
about 5,500 yards the new and sinister sound of machine-gun firing
began to thread the din of the bursting shells. By this time a well
placed enemy shell had carried away the _Carmania’s_ control, so that
it was no longer possible for ranges to be given from the bridge to
the guns by telephone, and it was evidently the _Cap Trafalgar’s_
intention to disable the bridge entirely, shell after shell hitting its
neighbourhood, or only just missing it. It was at once clear to those
on board that if the enemy’s machine-gun could now get the range, the
guns and ammunition parties on the unprotected decks of the _Carmania_
would be inevitably mown down. The order was therefore given to port,
and the _Carmania_ wore away in order to increase the range. This
brought the enemy astern and another of the _Carmania’s_ guns into
action, and for a brief moment she had five guns bearing upon the _Cap
Trafalgar_. Still porting, however, the guns on that side ceased to
fire, and the turn came for the starboard gunners to take their hand.
The enemy now also ported, and as she did so, it became clear that she
was visibly listing to starboard; she had already been set on fire
foreward, but this fire seemed to have been extinguished.

[Illustration: THE “CARMANIA” APPROACHING TRINIDAD (“Cap Trafalgar” to
the right)]

[Illustration: ONE OF THE “CARMANIA’S” GUNS]

The _Carmania’s_ gunners, on the soundest principles, were steadily
aiming at the _Cap Trafalgar’s_ water line, and there was no doubt that
as a result of this policy she was already beginning rapidly to make
water. It was by no means, however, the case of the honours resting
with one side entirely, and the enemy was constantly registering hits
on the _Carmania’s_ masts, ventilators, boats, and derricks, and it
is an amazing fact, considering that at one time the range was not
more than 1½ miles, that her casualties should have been so few.
The _Carmania’s_ gunners were now firing so fast that the paint was
blistering off the guns, and at the same time she herself was on fire
to an extent that might have proved very serious. The main pipes having
been shot away, no water could be got through the hose pipes and
brought to play upon this fire, and reliance had therefore to be placed
upon water buckets handled under the most difficult conditions of smoke
and heat.

It was now evident that the _Carmania’s_ bridge would in a very short
time be untenable, and her Captain therefore ordered the control to be
changed to the aft steering position, and this was accordingly done,
the enemy being kept at about the same bearing. The bridge was now well
alight, and the flames were licking upward with increasing ferocity.
The port side of the main rigging was hanging in festoons from the only
remaining shroud. The wireless gear had been shot away in the first
moment of the action. Many of the ventilator cowls were in ribbons, and
a large hole yawned in the port side of the aft deck.

Battered as she was, however, it was now clear that the _Cap Trafalgar_
was in a far worse case. She was listing heavily, and her firing,
though still rapid, was becoming wild. She was badly on fire, and
almost wholly wrapped in smoke. Suddenly she turned abruptly to port
and headed back for the island, leaning right over with silent guns,
and already beginning to get her boats out.


[Illustration: AFTER THE FIGHT]

Upon this all the _Carmania’s_ hands, except the gun layers, were
employed in trying to extinguish the fire. Bucket gangs were formed,
and at last a lead of water was arranged from the ship’s own fire
main once more. It was, of course, hopeless now to attempt to save
the bridge and the boat deck cabins, but there was still a hope of
preventing the fire from spreading, and in order to stop the draught
the engines were slowed down. It was a fierce task, and one that
demanded every energy on the part of all on board, but it was one in
which they were encouraged, as they toiled and sweated, by the sight of
their heeling enemy, from whose sides half a dozen boats had already
cleared, pulling towards one of her smaller colliers who was standing
about 3 miles away.

More and more the big liner fell over until at last her funnels lay
upon the water, and then, after a moment’s apparent hesitation, with
her bow submerged, she heaved herself upright and sank bodily. It had
been a good fight and she had fought honourably to the end and gone
down with her ensign flying, and when, as she vanished, the men of the
_Carmania_ raised a cheer, it was hardly less for their own victory
than as a tribute to the enemy.

By now, thanks to their unremitting exertions, the crew of the
_Carmania_ had overcome the fire, but a new danger was already reported
and necessitated prompt action on the part of her Commander. Smoke
had been reported on the northern horizon, and soon afterwards four
funnels appeared, the new comer being undoubtedly another enemy,
probably summoned by wireless by the _Cap Trafalgar_. Crippled as she
was, and with nearly a quarter of her guns’ crews and ammunition supply
parties either killed or injured, it would have been the sheerest
madness for the _Carmania_ to risk another action at that moment,
and she accordingly increased her speed, shaping a course to the
south-west, and steering by sun and wind, until she could assemble what
was left of her shattered navigating gear. Afterwards it was learned
that the enemy sighted was the _Kron Prinz Wilhelm_, who, on learning
by wireless of the _Cap Trafalgar’s_ fate, decided that discretion was
the better part of valour and did not approach any nearer.

During the night the _Carmania_ succeeded in getting into touch
with the cruiser _Bristol_, with whom she arranged a rendezvous for
the next morning, and under whose care, and afterwards that of the
_Cornwall_, she came to anchor near the Abrolhos Rocks at eight
o’clock on the morning of the day after. Here, with the aid of the
_Cornwall’s_ engineers, the worst of her holes were patched up, and
with what navigating gear she could borrow, and in company with
the _Macedonia_, the _Carmania_ set out for Gibraltar at 6 p.m. on
September 17th. Well did she deserve, as she did so, the hearty cheers
of the _Cornwall_, and the two accompanying colliers, and those of the
old battleship _Canopus_ whom she passed early on the morning of the


She arrived at Pernambuco on the same afternoon, leaving there Captain
Grant’s despatches for the Admiralty, and reached Gibraltar nine days
later. Her re-fitting took several months, but she remained as an armed
cruiser until May, 1916, when she was again restored to the Cunard
Company’s service. Her casualties in this brilliant action amounted
to nine killed or dying of wounds, and four severely and twenty-two
slightly wounded. There were no Cunarders among the casualties. Besides
other honours conferred upon participants in this fight, his Majesty
the King decorated Captain Barr with the well deserved Companionship of
the Bath, in recognition of his splendid services in what was to prove
a unique action of the war at sea.

Twelve months later, on September 15th, 1919, there was an interesting
sequel on board the _Carmania_, which had then returned to the
Cunard Company’s service. A piece of plate which belonged to Lord
Nelson, and was with him at Trafalgar, was presented to the ship in
commemoration of her very gallant fight. Twenty-four of these pieces
of plate came into the possession of the Navy League who asked the
Admiralty to allocate them to various ships. The _Carmania_ was the
only merchant vessel to receive this honour. In notifying the Company
of the presentation, the General Secretary of the Navy League stated
that “the Navy League realises that while every unit of the fleet has
rendered service in accordance with the best traditions of the Royal
Navy, _H.M.S. Carmania_ has been able to render herself conspicuous
amongst her gallant comrades, and in accepting this souvenir, the Navy
League trusts that you will recognise it as an expression of gratitude
to the glorious fleet of which that ship was so distinguished a

The veteran Admiral, the Hon. E. R. Fremantle who was present, stated
that there never was a single ship action which reflected greater
credit, both on the R.N. and on the Mercantile Marine, and more
especially on the R.N.R. It had very aptly been compared with the
fight of the _Shannon_ and the _Chesapeake_.


Captain Grant was unfortunately unable to be present, but in a letter
read at the function he claimed that “this action was the only one
throughout the war in which an equal, or as a matter of fact, a
slightly inferior vessel annihilated the superior force.... I shall
always feel proud of the fact that it was my great good fortune to
command a ship in action in which the glorious traditions of the
British Navy were upheld by every soul on board.”

Captain Barr, who retired from the Company’s service in 1917, said that
the Captain of the _Cap Trafalgar_ put up a very gallant fight. “I do
not know his name,” he said, “but he is the only German I would care to


Carrying On

    _The lofty liners in their pride
    Stem every current, every tide:
    At anchor in all ports they ride._

    _The menace of the berg and floe,
    The blindness of the fog and snow.
    All these the English seamen know._

    _And still they calmly jog along
    By Bay and Cape, an endless throng.
    As endless as some dog-watch song._

                                  MORLEY ROBERTS.

We have confined ourselves so far to the adventures of the Cunard
vessels that were used in the early stages of the war for purely
combatant purposes. They were, as has been seen, merely a small, though
important, fraction of the whole fleet, and indeed the distinction
that we have drawn is a somewhat difficult one to maintain. Thus,
from acting, as we have shewn, as purely combatant cruisers, the
_Aquitania_, _Caronia_, _Laconia_ and _Carmania_ passed to different
and even more valuable work; and at the same time many other Cunard
vessels were upon the outbreak of war withdrawn from their usual
avocation for more or less militant purposes. We find the _Mauretania_,
for example, originally intended for employment as an armed cruiser,
converted into a Troopship in 1915, and from this into a Hospital
Ship in 1916, while in 1917 she again became a Transport, fitted with
6-in. guns. In all these capacities she did magnificent work, not
without imminent risk of destruction, and it was only by the brilliant
seamanship of Commander Dow, one of the Cunard Company’s oldest and
most trusted skippers, that she escaped being sunk while plying between
England and Mudros, in her role of Troopship. Attacked by a submarine,
Commander Dow noticed the wake of the approaching torpedo on his
starboard bow, and immediately ordering the helm to be flung hard aport
the torpedo was missed by not more than 5 feet, the _Mauretania’s_
great speed fortunately thereafter placing her beyond range of the

[Illustration: THE “LACONIA” AT DURBAN]


The _Franconia_ and _Alaunia_ were also employed in carrying troops
from September, 1914, onwards until both of them were sunk, curiously
enough within a few days of one another in October, 1916. During
this period they carried troops not only from Canada to England, but
made several voyages to India and various parts of the Mediterranean.
It was while she was on her way from Alexandria to Salonica, though
fortunately after she had disembarked 2,700 soldiers, that the
_Franconia_ (Captain D. S. Miller), was torpedoed, about 200 miles N.E.
of Malta. Twelve of her crew were killed by the explosion. The ship
sank fifty minutes after she was hit, the survivors being picked up
by H.M. Hospital Ship _Dover Castle_, whose R.A.M.C. Surgeon, Dr. J.
D. Doherty chanced himself to be one of the Cunard Company’s Medical
Officers. The _Alaunia_, again, as it happened, having landed her
passengers and mails at Falmouth, after a voyage from New York, was
torpedoed on her way to London, about two miles south of the Royal
Sovereign Light Vessel. Captain H. M. Benison, in command, hoped to
beach the ship, but unfortunately the water gained too rapidly, and the
necessary tugs did not arrive in time. Two members of the crew were
found to be missing, probably as the result of the explosion, the rest
being saved by patrol boats and destroyers and the _Alaunia’s_ own


The _Andania_, _Ascania_, _Ivernia_, and _Saxonia_, were all for
several months used as prison ships in 1915, each of them providing
accommodation for nearly 2,000 German prisoners. They were afterwards
employed as Transports, both to India and the Mediterranean, the
_Ivernia_, _Ascania_ and _Andania_, in the end, all being sunk by enemy
submarines. These losses represented a heavy sacrifice by the Company,
particularly in view of the post-war needs of navigation.

It was on January 27th, 1918, that the _Andania_ was torpedoed without
warning, having sailed the day previously from Liverpool, _via_ the
North of Ireland, with 51 passengers and mails. Captain J. Marshall,
in command, immediately ordered her boats to be lowered with the
result that within a quarter of an hour all the passengers and crew
were clear of the ship, except the Captain himself, the Chief, First,
Second and Third Officers, who made a special request to the Captain
to be allowed to remain on board. The manner in which the boats were
thus speedily lowered and filled and navigated to positions of safety
was an evolution which reflected favourably on the organisation of the
ship. Captain Marshall then made an examination of the ship and called
for volunteers from the nearest boat. The response was immediate and
unanimous, and the Chief Engineer, Purser, Wireless Operator, and two
Stewards, with two Able Seamen at once returned on board with a fine
carelessness to their own safety and rendered valuable assistance in
getting out hawsers forward and aft. At half-past two, these men were
again ordered to leave the vessel, and, with the occupants of the
other boats, were picked up by patrols. Captain Marshall himself and
his Chief Officer (Mr. Murdoch) boarded a drifter and stood by the
_Andania_ until 4 o’clock in the evening, when they again returned
on board to make her fast to a tug which had just arrived, still
entertaining the hope that it might be possible to save her. Unhappily
their efforts were of no avail, the vessel sinking about half-past
seven. Seven lives were unfortunately lost, probably as the result of
the explosion.


On the morning of the 28th December, 1916, the _Ivernia_ left
Marseilles with a crew of 213, 94 officers and 1,950 troops. Shortly
after her departure from Marseilles Captain Turner received orders to
proceed 11 miles south of Damietta (Malta), but prior to altering
course he received further orders to proceed north of Gozo Island
(Malta), where the _Ivernia’s_ escort, _H.M.S. Camelia_ (Destroyer),
was relieved by _H.M.S. Rifleman_ (Destroyer). On approaching the
Adriatic, Captain Turner was instructed not to pass through the danger
zone in daylight. As the _Ivernia_ was proceeding she received a signal
from the escort that permission had been requested and granted from the
Admiralty at Malta to proceed through the danger zone at daybreak.

There was a fresh breeze which accounted for a heavy swell, the morning
sun was shining brightly on the starboard side, when Captain Turner
observed the wake of a torpedo approaching his vessel, too late to
enable him to do anything to avoid it. The torpedo struck the _Ivernia_
on the starboard side, abreast the funnel, and consequently rendered
the engines out of commission, owing to the bursting of the steam pipe,
by the explosion. This explosion accounted for the loss of 13 stewards
and 9 firemen.

Fortunately, at the time, all troops were mustered on deck and were
standing by boat stations. The boats were immediately lowered clear of
the water.

The destroyer _Rifleman_ immediately manœuvred for the purpose of
locating the submarine, by which time several of the _Ivernia’s_ boats
were in the water. At this juncture an unfortunate incident occurred.
The destroyer dashed by the port quarter at full speed without having
an opportunity of avoiding a collision with the ship’s lifeboat,
containing Chief Engineer Wilson and Dr. Parker, among other members of
the crew, the boat sinking immediately. Dr. Parker was picked up but
died almost immediately from injuries received. Chief Engineer Wilson
was not seen.

Two steam trawlers came alongside the _Ivernia_, after the destroyer
had left with 600 survivors on board, which took the remainder of the
Military and Crew, which apparently left only Captain Turner and Second
Officer Leggett remaining on board. The Second Officer, however, went
round the decks and discovered a soldier on the after deck who had
sustained a broken thigh. Two soldiers were immediately ordered aboard
for the purpose of assisting in strapping a board to the man’s damaged
thigh, he being eventually lowered on to one of the trawlers by means
of a bowline, where he was placed in charge of the R.A.M.C.


The Second Officer then went aboard the trawler, later followed by
Captain Turner, who first of all made sure that the vessel was sinking.

The trawlers then cruised around among the boats and wreckage picking
up survivors.

One of the trawlers unfortunately became disabled owing to the ropes
fouling her propellers, which necessitated her being towed by the other.

The trawlers proceeded to Crete, where the survivors were billeted for
14 days, after which time they were taken on board the P. & O. S.S.
_Kalyan_ and conveyed to Marseilles, from which port they were sent
overland to England.

The _Ausonia_ was another of the fine Cunard vessels which the enemy
succeeded in destroying. In February, 1915, she had taken over 2,000
refugees from Belgium to La Pallice, being afterwards employed as a
Troopship from February to May, 1916, working to Mediterranean and
Indian ports. She was then returned to the Cunard Company’s service,
and was sunk on the 30th of May, 1918. Once before, this ship had
been struck by a torpedo, off the south coast of Ireland, in June,
1917, while on a voyage from Montreal to Avonmouth. In this case she
was fortunately salved, and her valuable cargo of food stuffs safely
discharged. On the second occasion, while sailing from Liverpool,
she was less fortunate. The _Ausonia_ was some 600 miles west of the
Irish coast at 5 p.m. on May 30th, when a torpedo struck her, causing
a terrific explosion. As her Commander, Captain R. Capper, afterwards
said, he saw rafts, ventilators, ladders, and all kinds of wreckage
coming down as if from the sky, falling round the after part of the
ship. Captain Capper who, at the moment, was at the entrance of his
cabin, at once went to the bridge, put the telegraph to ‘Stop’--‘Full
Speed Astern’ but received no reply from the Engine Room. All hands
were at once ordered to their boat stations, and the wireless operator
tapped out the ship’s position on his auxiliary gear. Ten boats were
lowered, and, within a quarter of an hour after the ship was struck,
they had safely left her. When about a quarter of a mile astern,
Captain Capper mustered them together and called the roll. It was then
discovered that eight stewards were missing, having been at tea in a
room immediately above the part of the ship struck by the torpedo.


Half an hour after the vessel was torpedoed, a periscope was sighted
on the port bow, and an enemy submarine came to the surface and fired
about 40 shells at the ship, some of these dropping within fifty yards
of the boats. After the _Ausonia_ had sunk, the submarine approached
the boats, and Captain Capper, who was at the oars was ordered to come
alongside. Upon the submarine’s deck several of her crew were lounging,
laughing and jeering at the shipwrecked survivors. After enquiring as
to the _Ausonia’s_ cargo, the submarine commander ordered the boats to
steer in a north-easterly direction; in callous disregard of the peril
which confronted the _Ausonia’s_ crew the submarine herself then made
off northwards.

Captain Capper gave orders to the officers in charge of the boats that
they were to keep together, and endeavour to get into the track of
convoys, the weather being fine at the time. Until midnight the boats
were successful in remaining in each other’s company, but the wind,
having risen in the night, two boats, one of them in charge of the
first officer, and the other in charge of the boatswain were, on the
following morning, not to be seen. Captain Capper had assembled the
survivors in seven boats, and he now gave orders to the remaining five
that they should make themselves fast together. In this formation, they
continued throughout the following day and night, when the ropes began
to part. They were also retarding progress and were therefore cast off,
the boats, however, still continuing to remain pretty well together.

On Sunday, January 2nd, to add to the misery of their occupants, the
weather became bad, heavy rain falling and soaking them all to the
skin. On Monday and Tuesday, conditions improved a little, but on
Wednesday a storm broke, and by mid-day a heavy sea was running, and
a gale blowing from the north-west. The boats were now running before
this, with great seas breaking over them and saturating everybody on
board. These conditions continued until Friday the 7th, when land
was at last sighted, turning out to be Bull Rock. A wise and strict
rationing had been enforced, only two biscuits a day and one ounce
of water having been allowed for the first two days, and one biscuit
and a half and four tablespoons of water the subsequent ration. The
crew were approaching the extremities of exhaustion when hope of
deliverance was awakened in them. Fortunately, on sighting land, the
wind fell a little, but it was another fifteen hours before the unhappy
survivors were picked up by H.M.S. _Zennia_, an American Destroyer also
assisting. Captain Capper’s boat had only 25 biscuits left together
with half a bucketful of water--but one day’s meagre supply when the
terrible ordeal ended. The little boats, it was calculated, had covered
900 miles since the _Ausonia_ disappeared before their eyes. Under
these conditions the conduct of the Cunarder’s crew was of the highest
order, that of the stewardess, Mrs. Edgar, of Orrell Park, Aintree, the
only woman on board the vessel, being particularly courageous.


Special mention must also be made of the butcher’s boy, Robinson. At
the moment of the explosion, together with the pantry boy, Lister,
he was in one of the cooling chambers, and the explosion made it
impossible for the two boys to get out. Robinson had several wounds
on his hips and thighs, and his left arm was lacerated. Both boys, in
addition, had both legs broken above the ankle. Robinson, however,
managed to crawl out on both his hands and knees and secure a board
and place it across the gaping hole in the deck, thus enabling Lister
also to reach a place of comparative safety. The two boys then crawled
on hands and knees up two sets of ladders to the boat deck, and
were placed in the boats. The doctor attended to the boy Robinson’s
injuries, as far as was possible, but it was not for 30 hours that
Captain Capper was able to transfer him to the boat in which Lister
was lying, so that he also might receive medical aid. In spite of
their experiences and injuries, both boys remained calm and cheerful,
and indeed in high spirits, but it is sad to record that Robinson
subsequently succumbed in hospital, as the result of his injuries.

More, however, to Captain Capper than to any one man, was the salvation
of the five boat loads due, and it was in recognition of his dogged
determination and splendid seamanship that his Majesty the King
afterwards bestowed upon him the Distinguished Service Cross.


The _Ultonia_, in August, 1914, was the means by which some of the
old “Contemptibles” were brought from Malta to England, and she then
proceeded to India with Territorial troops. She was subsequently
returned to the Company’s Service and was finally sunk in June, 1917.
She was at this time eastward bound, and about 350 miles west from
Land’s End. She disappeared in ten minutes, so deadly was the blow she
received. Fortunately, she was at the time, being escorted by one of
the “Q” boats, by whom her crew was picked up and safely landed the
next day at Falmouth, one man unfortunately being killed during the
operation of leaving the ship. Captain J. Marshall was in command.

Meanwhile, with their ordinary carrying power thus depleted, the Cunard
management had been looking about for reinforcements, and had entered
into negotiations with certain other lines for additional vessels.
Thus they took over from the Canadian Northern Steamship Company (The
Royal Line and The Uranium Steamship Company), the _Royal George_,
and three other vessels, which they re-christened respectively the
_Folia_, _Feltria_, and _Flavia_. They also purchased five additional
vessels which they re-christened the _Vinovia_, _Valeria_, _Volodia_,
_Valacia_, and _Vandalia_.

Now during the years 1915 and 1916, merchant shipping, apart from
those ships especially chartered by the Government, continued under
the direction of its various owners. In 1917, however, the Liner
Requisitioning Scheme, came into being, and a Shipping Controller was

Under this scheme all British shipping came under the control of the
Government, the object being, in view of the shortage of tonnage caused
by the depredations of the submarines, to confine steamers to those
trades necessary for providing the Allies with the essential foodstuffs
and munitions of war. The greatest percentage of these had, of course,
to be obtained from America, and in consequence many steamers which had
been trading to other parts of the world, were diverted to the North
Atlantic, and placed under the management of the Companies already
established on these particular routes. The owners of these transferred
steamers were given permission to allot their ships to any of the
lines so established, and it came about that the Cunard Company, in
addition to their own ships, had the management of a large number of
vessels thus diverted. It is estimated, in fact, that the number of
additional steamers so handled by the Company, amounted to more than
400. In addition to this, the Company managed several prize steamers
captured from the enemy and neutral steamers that had been placed
at the disposal of the Allies, and it thus happened that the Cunard
management found itself in charge of vessels from the Indian, China,
South African, and Australian trades, assembled from the ends of the
earth in this vital emergency.


Some idea of the magnitude of the work thus carried upon the shoulders
of the Cunard management may be gathered from the facts that in one
year alone not less than 200 sailings were made from American and
Canadian ports, and that over 10,000 tons of cargo were often carried
in one steamer.

With the entrance of America into the war, the carrying problem became
at once more complicated and greater in bulk; and in its solution the
Cunard Company may once more justly be said to have played a major
part. Let us consider first its work in the carriage of troops. The
Cunard organisation was responsible for the transport during the war of
over 900,000 officers and men. This excludes the big total repatriated
after the Armistice was signed. When it is remembered that this
aggregate is greater than the total population of either Liverpool,
Manchester or Birmingham; that 900,000 men, marching in column of route
in sections of fours would take, without halting, nearly six days to
pass a single point, it becomes possible to visualise the immensity
of the task represented by these bald figures. When it is further
remembered that the total British Expeditionary Force first thrown
across the English Channel in August, 1914, was only 80,000; that this
was less than one-tenth of the number carried during the war by the
Cunard Company; and that the number so carried was equal to not less
than one-eighth of the whole British Army at its greatest strength, the
nation’s debt to this great Company can be estimated.

Nor was the mere provisioning of these troops while _en route_ a
negligible feat of transport. Taking an average voyage as ten days,
the food required to feed this number of men amounted to no less than
9,750,000 pounds of meat, 11,250,000 pounds of potatoes, 4,500,000
pounds of vegetables, 9,575,000 loaves of bread, 1,275,000 pounds of
jam, 900,000 pounds of tea and coffee, and among other things 900,000
pounds of oatmeal, 600,000 pounds of butter and 127,000 gallons of


Vast as these figures are, however, they are dwarfed when we begin to
consider what was accomplished during the five years of war in the
way of cargo carrying--in the humdrum performance of an unadvertised
and often little appreciated service, upon which, fundamentally, our
whole war structure rested. Between August, 1914, and November, 1918,
7,314,000 tons of foodstuffs, munitions of war, and general cargo were
carried from America and Canada to the British Isles; over 340,000 tons
from the British Isles to Italy and the Adriatic; over 500,000 tons
from the British Isles to other Mediterranean Ports; nearly 320,000
tons from this country to France; and nearly 60,000 tons from France to
this country. In addition to this, huge quantities were also carried
westwards from this country, amounting to a total, in the same period,
of more than 1,000,000 tons.

Not the least important service rendered in this way was connected
with the supply of oil fuel, of which the stocks in this country
were seriously depleted--so seriously that at one time they were
insufficient to supply the needs of the Navy for more than a few
weeks ahead. In this predicament the Admiralty, realizing the
danger, approached Sir Alfred Booth, Chairman of the Cunard Company,
and asked him to put the matter before other leading ship-owners.
He readily consented to do so, and all owners running ships in the
North Atlantic, at once agreed to take the necessary steps to allow
of oil being carried in the double bottoms of their ships, the Cunard
Company themselves adapting for this purpose the double bottoms of the
_Andania_, _Carmania_, _Carpathia_, _Pannonia_, _Saxonia_, _Valacia_,
_Vandalia_, _Valeria_, and _Vinovia_, each of which brought on each
voyage to this country, about 2,000 tons of oil. The Cunard Company
alone, in a little over a year, thus brought over 100,000 tons of oil
across the Atlantic.

[Illustration: THE “LUSITANIA”]

During all this time, of course, it must be remembered that the Cunard
Company, as throughout the war, plied in a zone particularly exposed
to hostile attack by enemy raiders and submarines; and as we have
already shown, and shall show again, a very heavy toll of their vessels
was taken by hostile torpedoes. How greatly the Cunard steamers were
concentrated upon dangerous routes will be seen on reference to the
map,[B] which indicates the most important services of Cunard Steamers
during the war. Finally, let it be stated that from August, 1914 to
November, 1918, without taking into account such outside steamers as
were working under the Cunard Company’s direction, its own steamers
steamed not less than 3,313,576 miles, with a consumption of 1,785,000
tons of coal. This distance is equivalent to the circum-navigation of
the world no less than 132 times.

    [B] This map will be found in the inside front cover of the


The Ordeal of the _Lusitania_

    _Oh, have you ever seen a foundered horse,
    His great heart broken by a task too great
    For his endurance, but unbroken yet
    His spirit--striving to complete his course,
    Failing at last, eyes glazed and nostril wide,
    And have not ached with pity? Pity now
    A brave ship shattered by a coward blow
    That once had spurned the waters in her pride._

                                              N. N. F. CORBETT.

With the subsequent progress in infamy of Germany’s submarine campaign
it was natural that the sensibilities of the civilised world, so
shocked by the ruthless sinking of the _Lusitania_, should have become
somewhat dulled. But it is clear, in retrospect, that this tragic
event marked an epoch in the slow gathering of the non-combatant
world’s condemnation. Upon the general events preceding the loss of
this world-famous vessel, this is not, perhaps, the place to dwell. It
will be remembered however, that from February 18th, 1915, the German
Government announced that it proposed to consider the waters round
Great Britain and Ireland and the entire English Channel as what
they described as a “War Zone,” stating that they would “endeavour to
destroy every merchant ship found in this area of war, without its
always being possible to avert the peril that thus threatens persons
and cargoes.”

(The “Mauretania” was a sister ship of the “Lusitania”)]

To this the British Government issued a reply on the following March
1st, that the German announcement was in fact a claim to torpedo at
sight, regardless of the safety both of the crew or passengers, any
merchant vessel under any flag. The British Government proceeded to
remind Germany and the world, that by all the accepted traditions of
the sea, and under the terms of international law, it was the duty of
an enemy vessel to bring a captured ship to a Prize Court, where all
the circumstances of the case could be impartially investigated, and
where neutrals might recover their cargoes. The sinking of prizes was
therefore, as the British Government pointed out, always a questionable
proceeding, and could only be justified in exceptional circumstances,
and after full provision had been made for crews and passengers. The
legal responsibility of verifying the status of any vessel always
rested with the attacking ship, while the obligations of humanity
required adequate provision to be made for the safety of all crews and
passengers of merchant vessels, whether enemy or neutral.

It is now both common and tragic knowledge that these protests, as
well as all the canons, so long established, of sea chivalry, were
entirely ignored by the German Government, and it was on May 7th, 1915,
that this became finally and startlingly clear to every intelligent
observer in the civilised world. That the German Government possessed
any special spite towards the _Lusitania_ may not perhaps have been the
case, but, as we have seen, it was by means of the _Lusitania_ and her
sister ship the _Mauretania_ that the “blue ribbon” of the Atlantic, in
the matter of speed, had been wrested from German hands.


Built in 1907 for the Cunard Company by Messrs. John Brown & Co., of
Clyde Bank, she had been constructed under Admiralty Survey, and in
accordance with Admiralty requirements, and was classed 100 A1. at
Lloyds. Built throughout of steel, she had a cellular double bottom,
with a floor at every frame, the depth of this on the centre line being
60 inches, and 72 inches where it supported the turbine machinery.
This double bottom extended up the ship’s side to a height of eight
feet above the keel. All her decks were steel plated throughout, and
the transverse strength of the ship was largely dependent on the 12
transverse water-tight bulkheads which had been purposely strengthened
and stiffened to enable her to stand the necessary pressure in the
event of accident. Inside her hull was a second “skin,” running the
whole length of her vital parts, so that she was virtually a ship
within a ship.

Her length all over was 785 feet. She was 88 feet in breadth, and
nearly 60 feet in depth, with a gross tonnage of over 30,000 tons,
and a load draft of 36 feet. Including the hold she had nine decks,
with accommodation for 523 first class, 295 second class, and 1,300
third class passengers, together with a crew of about 800. She had
turbine engines of 63,220 horse power, four for ahead and two for
astern motion, and her speed in 1914 was from 24½ to 25 knots. Her
four great funnels rose to a height of 154 feet above the keel, and
the diameter of each being not less than 24 feet. Her masts were 210
feet high, while the navigating bridge stood 110 feet above the keel.
At a moderate estimate, the cost of running her to New York and back,
including wages, victualling and fuel, was in 1914 about £30,000, and
she was operated, under the terms of the agreement with the Admiralty,
by a crew of which at least three-quarters had to be British subjects.

She was provided with boat accommodation for 2,605 persons, the number
of persons on board during her last voyage being 1,959. She carried 48
lifeboats, 22 of which were ordinary boats hanging from davits, with
a total carrying capacity of 1,323. The remaining 26 were collapsible
boats, with a total carrying capacity of 1,282. In addition, the ship
was provided with 2,325 life jackets and 35 lifebuoys, all of these
being conveniently distributed on board.


Now at the beginning of the war it had been a very difficult question
for the directors of the Cunard Company to decide as to whether the
transatlantic traffic, under the new and unprecedented conditions,
would be sufficient to justify the continued running of two such large
and costly vessels as the _Lusitania_ and the _Mauretania_. It was
decided, however, after much consideration, that the _Lusitania_
could be run once a month, providing that her boiler power was reduced
by one-fourth. The consequent saving in coal and labour of this would,
the Directors considered, enable them to run the vessel without loss,
although with no hopes of making a profit. Six of the _Lusitania’s_
boilers were accordingly closed, and the ship began to run in these
conditions in November, 1914, the effect of the closing of the six
boilers being to reduce her maximum speed to 21 knots. It is to be
noted, however, that this reduction still left the _Lusitania_ very
considerably faster than any other transatlantic steamer.

Nor had she lacked in exciting experiences before the fatal 1st of
May, 1915, on which she left New York for the last time. On the very
day that war was declared in 1914, she had started from New York
for Liverpool, under the command of Captain Daniel Dow, one of the
best-known and most respected figures in the Cunard Company’s service,
who retired after 43 years’ service in 1919. Within a few hours of
leaving New York, an enemy warship was sighted on the horizon, and
observed to change her course immediately, with the presumed object of
intercepting the _Lusitania_. Without a moment’s hesitation, Captain
Dow set his course for a fog bank to the south, where he was soon lost
to sight by the enemy. As soon as he was out of view, Captain Dow swung
the _Lusitania_ round again and steamed northwards at his highest
speed. Having thus out-manoeuvred the hostile commander, he resumed
his eastward course again, navigating his great ship by night without
lights, and safely reaching Liverpool.

Again in February, 1915, while Captain Dow was still in command of her,
the _Lusitania_, on an eastward voyage, received a wireless message to
the effect that enemy submarines were cruising in the Irish Sea. He
received instructions to fly a neutral flag--a perfectly legitimate
ruse--and having on board some 400 Americans, together with the United
States mails, he decided to hoist the American flag. Having done so,
he crossed the Irish Sea at full speed, without stopping to take up
a pilot; steered straight for the Mersey, and once more brought his
vessel home in safety. Soon after this, Captain Dow, upon whom the
strain of responsibility had been very great, was retained ashore by
the Directors for a brief and much needed rest, and Captain W. T.
Turner, one of the Cunard Company’s most trusted commanders took his
place, with an assistant captain, Captain Anderson, also on board.


That an attempt was to be made upon the _Lusitania_ had for some days
been current rumour in New York, and on Saturday, May 1st, 1915, her
advertised sailing date, the following advertisement appeared in the
New York Times, New York Tribune, New York Sun, New York Herald, and
the New York World. “Travellers,” it stated, “intending to embark on
the Atlantic voyage are reminded that a state of war exists between
Germany and her Allies, and Great Britain and her Allies, that the
zone of war includes the waters adjacent to the British Isles, that in
accordance with formal notice given by the Imperial German Government,
vessels flying the flag of Great Britain, or of any of her Allies, are
liable to destruction in those waters, that travellers travelling in
the war zone in ships of Great Britain or her Allies do so at their own
risk. April 22nd, 1915, The Imperial German Embassy, Washington, D.C.”
It is safe to say, however, that but small attention was paid to this
notice, very few people contemplating that such a diabolical threat
as was implied in this notice would be seriously carried out by any
civilised Christian Power. On the 1st May, therefore, the vessel sailed
in fine weather, and with a calm sea. The voyage till May 7th was
marked by no untoward event. As the danger zone was approached, Captain
Turner took all the necessary precautions. All the lifeboats under
davits were swung out; all bulkhead doors, except such as were required
to be kept open in order to work the ship, were closed, the portholes
being also closed; the look-outs on the ship were doubled--two men
being sent to the crow’s nest, and two to the eyes of the ship; two
officers were always on the bridge, and a quartermaster was stationed
on either side with instructions to look out for submarines.

Up to 8 o’clock on the morning of May 7th the vessel’s speed had been
maintained at 21 knots, but at 8 o’clock this was somewhat reduced,
the object being to ensure that the _Lusitania_ should arrive outside
the bar at the mouth of the Mersey at such an hour on the morning of
the 8th as would enable her to make immediate use of the tide, thus
avoiding loitering in a vicinity where Captain Turner had reason to
suppose enemy submarines might be watching for him. Soon after this
reduction of speed the weather became thick, and the fog into which she
had run necessitated a further reduction to 15 knots. Just before 12
o’clock, however, the fog lifted, and the vessel’s speed was increased
again to 18 knots--a speed that was maintained until she was struck by
the enemy torpedo.


At the same time orders were sent to the engine-room to keep the
steam-pressure as high as possible, so that in case of emergency the
_Lusitania_ might be able to put on all possible speed, should this be
ordered from the bridge. Land was now in sight, about two points abaft
the beam, and Captain Turner took this to be Brow Head. Owing to the
recent fog, however, he was not able to identify it with sufficient
certainty to enable him to fix the _Lusitania_ upon the chart. He,
therefore, kept her upon her course, which was S.87.E and parallel with
the land, until twenty minutes to one, when, in order to make a better
landing, he altered the course to N.67.E.

This brought him nearer to the Irish Coast, and he shortly afterwards
sighted the old Head of Kinsale. Having identified this, at twenty
minutes to two, he altered his course back to S.87.E. and, having
steadied her on that course, began ten minutes later to have a four
point bearing taken, and this was being carried out when the ship was

This occurred at a quarter past two, when the _Lusitania_ was steaming
some ten miles off the Old Head of Kinsale, the atmosphere having then
cleared and the sea being smooth. A seaman, Leslie N. Morton, seems
to have been the first person on board actually to have seen the wake
of the torpedo, and he reported it at once to the Second Officer,
who in turn reported it to Captain Turner, then on the port side of
the lower bridge. Captain Turner looking to starboard saw a streak
of foam travelling towards the ship, and immediately afterwards the
_Lusitania_ was struck full on the starboard side, between the third
and fourth funnels, the explosion breaking to splinters one of the
lifeboats. Almost simultaneously a second torpedo also struck her
on the starboard side, the two having been fired apparently from a
distance of from two to five hundred yards. No warning of any kind had
been given. Immediately on being struck the _Lusitania_ listed heavily
to starboard, and in less than twenty minutes she had sunk in deep
water, carrying to their graves no less than 1,198 men, women and


Perhaps the most lucid, and, since he was an American, the most
impartial account of the occurrence was that afterwards given by Mr.
James Brooks of Bridgeport, Connecticut, one of the saloon passengers.
Mr. Brooks, who was making the voyage to England for business purposes,
had, in common with most of the other American passengers, read the
warning notice issued by the German Embassy, to which we have already
referred. Like most of his fellow-countrymen, however, he had decided
to ignore it. “No one in America,” he said, “ever dreamed that the
Germans would dare to carry out their terrible threat to destroy such a
magnificent vessel, and with it hundreds of the lives of innocent men,
women and children.... A good many passengers were still at lunch when,
on Friday afternoon, the attack came in reality. I had just finished a
run on deck and had reached the Marconi Deck, when I glanced out over
the water. It was perfectly smooth. My eyes alighted on a white streak
making its way with lightning-like rapidity towards the ship. I was
so high in that position above the surface of the water that I could
make out the outline of a torpedo. It appeared to be about twelve feet
long, and came along possibly three feet below the surface, its sides
white with bubbles of foam. I watched its passage, fascinated, until
it passed out of sight behind the bridge, and in another moment came
the explosion. The ship, recoiling under the force of the blow, was
jarred and lifted, as if it had struck an immovable object. A column
of water shot up to the bridge deck, carrying with it a lot of debris,
and, despite the fact that I must have been twenty yards from the
spot at which the torpedo struck, I was knocked off my feet. Before I
could recover myself, the iron forepart of the ship was enveloped in
a blinding cloud of steam, due, not, I think, to the explosion of a
second torpedo, as some thought, but to the fact that the two forehold
boilers had been jammed close together and ‘jack-knifed’ upwards. This
I was told by a stoker afterwards.


[Illustration: “HOMEWARD BOUND”]

“We had been in sight of land for some time, and the head of the ship,
which had already begun to settle, was turned towards the Old Head
of Kinsale. We must have been from twelve to fifteen miles from
land at the time the ship was struck. All the boats on the ship had
been swung out the day previous, and the work of launching them was
at once commenced. The attempt in the case of the first boat was a
tragic failure. The women and children were taken first and the boat
was practically filled with them, there being only a few men. The boat
was lowered until within its own length of the water, when the forward
tackle jammed, and the whole of its occupants, with the exception of
three, were thrown into the water. The _Lusitania_ was then on an even
keel. On the decks of the doomed vessel absolute coolness prevailed.
There was no rushing about, and nothing remotely resembling panic. In
just a few isolated cases there were signs of hysteria on the part of
the women, but that was all.

“Meanwhile the ship had taken a decided list, and was sinking rapidly
by the head. The efforts made to lower the boats had apparently not met
with much success. Those on the port side had swung inboard and could
not be used, while the collapsible boats which were lashed beneath
them could not be got at. The ladies were standing quite coolly,
waiting on board to enter the boats when they could be released by the
men from the davits. The davits by this time were themselves touching
the water, the ship having sunk so low that the bridge deck was only
four feet or so from the surface of the sea. Losing no time, the men
passed the women rapidly into the boats, and places had been found by
now for all the people about the midships section. I stepped into one
of the lifeboats and attempted to assist in getting it clear. I saw
the list was so great that the davits pinched the gear, rendering it
improbable that they could be got away when the ship went down, so I
stepped on to the gunwale and dived into the water. I had no lifebelt
and am not a good swimmer, but I decided to take the risk. I had been
wetted right through when the explosion occurred, and I believe that
had I gone in dry I should have swallowed so much water that I should
not have lasted long.

[Illustration: THE SUN-CURE]


“I swam as hard as I could away from the vessel, and noticed with
feelings of apprehension the menacing bulk of the huge funnels as they
loomed up over my head. I expected them momentarily to fall on me
and crush me as I swam, but at last I judged myself to be clear, and I
turned round and trod the water in order to watch the great hull heel
over. The monster took a sudden plunge, and, noting the crowd still on
her decks and the heavily laden boats filling with helpless women and
children glued to her side, I sickened with horror at the sight. The
liner’s stern rose high out of the water; there was a thunderous roar
as of the collapse of a great building during a fire, and then she
disappeared, dragging hundreds of fellow-creatures into the vortex.
Many never rose again to the surface, but the sea rapidly grew black
with the figures of struggling men, women, and children. The wireless
installation came over with a crash into the sea. It struck my uplifted
arm as it fell, and I felt it pass over my body as it sank, almost
dragging me under.

“The rush of water over the steamer’s decks swept away a collapsible
boat, and I swam towards it. Another man reached it shortly after, and
after we were rescued I found him to be Mr. James Lauriat, jun., of
Boston. Two seamen also managed to swim to the boat and to climb on
to it. One had a knife, and the other asked me for mine, and together
they set about cutting away the canvas cover of the boat. When they
had finished, I climbed inside, and the three of them followed me. We
started to rescue the unfortunate people in the water, or at least
those of them who were still living. We quickly had about 30 of them in
the little craft. Around us in the water were scores of boats. There
were no oars in our boats. We managed to raise the sides of the boat as
they should be raised when the boat is in use, and we collected five
oars from the mass of floating timber in the water. Then we started
to row towards the lighthouse, which we could see in the distance.
At the time the liner was torpedoed there was absolutely no ship of
any kind in sight, with the exception of a trawler--the _Peel 12_, of
Glasgow; she was close inshore under the lighthouse, and, owing to
the lightness of the wind, she was of no use so far as the rescue of
persons actually in the sea was concerned. She came along as fast as
she could, however, and was able to pick up about one hundred and ten
persons from lifeboats and life-rafts. Her limited capacity was pushed
to the utmost, and I even had to sit with one leg hanging over
the sides because there was no room to put it on the inside. We took
in tow a lifeboat and a raft, which were also filled to the gunwale,
and when the occupants were able to be taken out they were cast off.
The auxiliary boat _Indian Prince_ had by that time arrived from
Queenstown. The _Peel 12_ was the first boat on the scene, and she was
followed by a tramp Greek steamer, which came up from the west, and was
able to pick up several lifeboats which had got away.”


Such was the experience of Mr. Brooks, and in his moving narrative we
can not only divine something of a tragedy beyond the scope of any
human pen, but gather also an impression of heroism, of unquestioning
devotion to duty, at which every member of the Cunard Company may well
thrill with pride.

Particularly noticeable perhaps, was the conduct and sound judgment of
the young sailor, Leslie N. Morton, to whom we have already referred,
and he was especially commended by Lord Mersey, the Commissioner in
charge of the formal investigation afterwards held into the loss of
the _Lusitania_. This boy, for he was only 18, had been stationed
as extra look-out on the forecastle head, starboard side, during the
fatal watch; and it was, as we have said, he who was the first to
perceive the approach of the torpedo. This began, as he described it,
with a “big burst of foam about 500 yards away.” This was followed by
a “thin streak of foam, making for the ship at a rapid speed, followed
by another going parallel with the first one, and a little behind it.”
Having immediately reported this through a megaphone to the bridge,
Morton made for the forecastle to go down below to call his brother
who was asleep, and on the way there he saw what he took to be the
conning-tower of a submarine just submerging.

Having called his brother, he went along the starboard side of the
main deck and up on to the starboard side of the bridge deck, where he
found the starboard boats useless owing to the vessel’s heavy list.
He then went to his own boat No. 13, and assisted in filling it with
passengers. Giving up his own seat, he then went to No. 11 boat, and
assisted in filling that one also; and it was in this one that he
eventually took his place. Unfortunately, owing it appears to the
unskillful action of some of the passengers, this lifeboat was unable
to push away from the ship, and it was eventually sunk. Morton then
swam for it and succeeded in reaching an empty collapsible boat, into
which he climbed, succeeding with the help of another young sailor,
Joseph Parry, in ripping off the cover and rescuing from the water some
50 people. He then made for a fishing kedge about five miles away,
and having reached it transferred his passengers to it, and returned
for some more, subsequently rescuing about 30 people from a sinking
lifeboat--the little collapsible boat being subsequently rescued by a
mine-sweeper. These two boys were thus instrumental in saving nearly
100 lives; and in recognition of their bravery they were awarded
decorations by the Board of Trade, Morton receiving the Silver Medal
for Gallantry, and Parry the Bronze Medal for Gallantry.

Equally heroic was the conduct of the First Officer, Mr. Arthur
Rowland Jones, who was in the luncheon saloon when the torpedo struck
the vessel. He immediately went to his boat station on the starboard
side and began to fill his boat with passengers--a matter of extreme
difficulty, owing to the ever increasing angle which the ship was
presenting to the sea, which caused the boat to swing away from the
tilted surface of the deck. After great efforts, however, he succeeded
in getting about 80 passengers aboard before she was lowered into
the water, entered her himself when the boat deck was level with the
surface of the sea, and only some 15 seconds before the _Lusitania_
sank. It was fortunate for the passengers that he succeeded in doing
so, since it was only by his skill and coolness, combined with that of
two or three members of the crew who had also clambered on board, that
the little lifeboat was able to survive the suction and disturbance
caused by the disappearing liner.

[Illustration: IN THE SPRING OF 1918 THE “MAURETANIA” BROUGHT 33,000

She did so however, and afterwards transferred some of her passengers
into another empty boat, the two boats then putting back in order to
attempt further rescues. This they succeeded in doing, and the First
Officer again filled his boat up, thereupon pulling off to a little
fishing smack, the _Bluebell_, then about five miles distant. Having
disembarked his passengers, Mr. Jones once more went back to the scene
of the disaster, and after pulling some two and a half miles, fell in
with a broken collapsible boat in a bad condition with about 35
people inside it. Some of these were lying exhausted in the bottom of
the boat and others were injured, so Mr. Jones took them all on board,
afterwards transferring them to a trawler. He then pulled off once more
and saved yet another 10 people, whom he took to the _Flying Fox_, a
Queenstown Tender. By this time it was 8 o’clock in the evening, and
his crew were at the last point of exhaustion, having been working hard
without food and water. There was too, by this time, a large number of
destroyers and patrol boats on the scene, so Mr. Jones and his weary
helpers themselves boarded the _Flying Fox_.

Mention must also be made of the conduct of Alfred Arthur Bestwick,
the Junior Third Officer, who was responsible for the working of five
boats on the port side of the ship, and courageously remained there
endeavouring to launch them under practically impossible conditions,
until the _Lusitania_ went under. He was dragged down with her,
but fortunately came to the surface, and succeeded in reaching a
collapsible boat, into which, with the help of a companion, he dragged
several people from the water. These he transferred to a second and
more navigable empty boat that they afterwards came across; and he
then returned and saved three more people whom he had previously
noticed supporting themselves by means of a bread tank, besides taking
on board several others who were keeping themselves afloat by means of

All this time on every hand deeds of self-sacrifice, recorded and
unrecorded, were being performed. A typical one was that of one of
the able seamen of the watch, who had been sucked down by the sinking
vessel and coming to the surface again had managed to sustain himself
by means of a floating piece of wood. Clutching this he then found
himself drifting towards a woman struggling unaided in the water,
whereupon he pushed towards her his piece of wood, which could only
support one person, and swam away himself on the chance of finding
some other means of escape. Presently he found a collapsible boat
containing one of the ship’s officers, and a few other persons, but
this unfortunately proved to be extremely unseaworthy. Capsizing again
and again, it was only righted by the determination and skill of this
seaman and his comrades, and on each occasion, alas, lives were lost
until but a few survivors remained to be picked up by another of the
ship’s boats.

[Illustration: THE “AQUITANIA’S” STAGE]


Such is the story of the greatest maritime crime in history and, now
that the war is over, it is well that it should not be forgotten, with
its record of heroism and self-sacrifice, of competent seamanship and
resourceful initiative, of suffering and death. Lord Mersey’s report on
the disaster, after he had heard a mass of evidence from officers and
men, as well as from surviving passengers, is a document which after
generations will read with pride. It contains not the personal opinion
merely of a former President of the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty
Division of the High Court of Justice, but is a considered judgment
in which Admiral Sir F. S. Inglefield and Lieutenant Commander Hearn,
both officers of the Royal Navy, and Captain D. Davies and Captain
J. Spedding, of the Merchant Service, acting as the four assessors,
concurred. The report contained a short, but consolatory statement of
the competency with which the sudden emergency was confronted when
the ship was attacked. “The Captain was on the bridge at the time his
ship was struck,” Lord Mersey recorded, “and he remained there giving
orders until the ship foundered. His first order was to lower all the
boats to the rail. This order was obeyed as far as it possibly could
be. He then called out ‘Women and children first.’ The order was then
given to hard-a-starboard the helm with a view to heading towards
the land, and orders were telegraphed to the engine-room. The orders
given to the engine-room are difficult to follow and there is obvious
confusion about them. It is not, however, important to consider them,
for the engines were put out of commission almost at once by the inrush
of water and ceased working, and the lights in the engine-room were
blown out. Leith, the Marconi operator, immediately sent out an S.O.S.
signal, and, later on, another message, ‘Come at once, big list, 10
miles south Head Old Kinsale.’ These messages were repeated continually
and were acknowledged. At first, the messages were sent out by the
power supplied from the ship’s dynamo; but in three or four minutes
this power gave out and the messages were sent out by means of the
emergency apparatus in the wireless cabin.”



Was the _Lusitania_ well found? Did she comply with the requirements of
the Merchant Shipping Acts? Was she armed? Did she carry war material?
Was the conduct of the Captains, officers and men consistent with
the high traditions of the Merchant Service? To all these questions the
report furnished satisfactory answers. The ship was well provided with
boats, which were in good order at the moment of the explosion, and
“the launching was carried out as well as the short time, the moving
ship, and the serious list would allow.” Lord Mersey added that he
found that the conduct of the masters--for as already stated there were
two--the officers and the crew was satisfactory. “They did their best
in difficult and perilous circumstances, and their best was good.”

And what of Captain Turner, upon whom the chief responsibility for the
safety of the ship and the lives of passengers and crew mainly rested?
He remained upon the bridge until the very last. He went down with the
unhappy vessel and was only rescued by chance after having been in the
water for three long hours. The Wreck Commissioner and the Assessors
examined his every act from the moment when the _Lusitania_ entered the
so-called “war zone” until this devoted officer found himself in the
water confronted with death. In the opinion of Lord Mersey, Captain
Turner “exercised his judgment for the best,” and the report added
that “it was the judgment of a skilled and experienced man.” Captain
Anderson, whose duty it was to assist in the care and navigation of the
ship was, unfortunately, one of the victims of this German crime, but
in Lord Mersey’s own words, “the two captains and the officers were
competent men and they did their duty”--and higher praise than that
there could not be.

“The whole blame for the cruel destruction of life in this catastrophe
must rest solely with those who plotted and with those who committed
the crime.” The disaster was regarded in all civilised countries with
horror. As Mr. Roosevelt said at the time, it represented “not merely
piracy, but piracy on a vaster scale of murder than any old-time
pirate ever practised,” and a Danish paper, in recording this terrible
incident in the war, declared that “whenever in future the Germans
venture to speak of their culture the answer will be ‘It does not
exist: it committed suicide on May 7th, 1915.’” A Norwegian paper
in denouncing the crime remarked that “the whole world looks with
horror and detestation on the event.” In fact, throughout the whole
civilised world the sinking of the _Lusitania_ with merciless disregard
for the lives of those on board, was condemned as an act of wholesale
murder which, as the _New York American_ added “violates all laws of
common humanity.”


In defiance of the judgment of civilisation, this dastardly act was
hailed in Germany as a proud triumph. The _Kolnische Volkszeitung_ of
May 10th, 1915, stated “The sinking of the _Lusitania_ is a success for
our submarines which must be placed beside the greatest achievements
in this naval war.... The sinking of the great British steamer is a
success, the moral significance of which is still greater than the
material success. With joyful pride we contemplate this latest deed of
our Navy, and it will not be the last.” In the _Cologne Gazette_, of
five days later, it was stated that “the news will be received by the
German people with unanimous satisfaction, since it proves to England
and the whole world that Germany is quite in earnest with regard to
her submarine warfare.” In the _Neue Freie Presse_ of the same date it
was remarked, “We rejoice over this new success of the German Navy.”
The City of Magdeburg immediately proposed to honour the officers and
men who had slaughtered so many hundreds of defenceless men, helpless
women, and innocent children and brought the anguish of bereavement on
so many hundreds of homes on both sides of the Atlantic. And to crown
this achievement, which stands in isolation in the annals of the human
race, a medal was struck in Munich commemorating this exploit of the
German Fleet, which was afterwards to be surrendered and, then, to be
scuttled by its own officers in Scapa Flow.



The Toll of the Submarines

    _But some came not with break of light,
    Nor looked upon the saffron dawn;
    They keep the watch of endless night,
    On the soft breast of Ocean borne.
    O waking England, rise and pray
    For sons who guard thee night and day!_

                                      CECIL ROBERTS.

We have dealt at length in the previous Chapter with the loss of the
_Lusitania_ not only because, as we have said, her torpedoing marked an
epoch in the history of crime at sea, and was perhaps the determining
factor in the entrance of America into the war, but because the
Cunard Company was thus identified with this world-tragedy, and its
servants exemplified then, as always, the noblest traditions of the
British Mercantile Marine. Unhappily the _Lusitania_, although the
circumstances of her loss brought her, from so many points of view,
into the limelight of publicity was, as we have already seen, by no
means the only one of the Cunard vessels to be lost at sea in the
service of this country, and in the present chapter it is proposed to
deal briefly with some other of the Cunard Company’s vessels that fell
victims, many of them after the bravest resistance, to the submarine
menace. It will, perhaps, be the more convenient, for purposes of
after reference, to deal with these alphabetically, rather than

Thus it was at 5.30 p.m. on February 4th, about 40 miles north of
Londonderry that Captain W. R. D. Irvine of the _Aurania_ saw a
torpedo approaching his ship, which eventually struck her between the
funnels. The _Aurania_ immediately listed heavily to port, but then
righted herself. The boats were immediately lowered and the crew and
passengers, with the exception of Captain Irvine himself and some of
his officers, were all safely aboard them within ten minutes after the
torpedo had exploded. No sooner had they got into the boats, than the
_Aurania_ was again struck by a second torpedo, a third following in
the wake of this, just as the Captain and the remaining officers were
coming down the ropes into the last boat. Seven men in the engine-room
were killed by the explosions of the torpedoes, and two others were
lost by drowning. The crew were in the boats for about one and a
half hours, when they were picked up by some mine-sweepers.


It was then seen that the ship was not sinking, and Captain Irvine with
some of his crew, returned on board and made her fast with hawsers to
one of the trawlers that had arrived on the scene. During the night,
however, the ship broke adrift, and when day broke she was nowhere to
be seen. A message was then received from one of the naval patrols to
the effect that the _Aurania_ had drifted ashore at Tobermory, nearly
50 miles from the place where she had been torpedoed. Unfortunately,
she had grounded at a very exposed position and in the heavy weather
that followed she went to pieces, it being found impossible to salve
her. She was a particularly severe loss in that she was a new ship,
only on her eighth trip.

The _Dwinsk_, one of the steamers being operated by the Cunard Company
for the Government, and in command of Captain H. Nelson, was torpedoed
on June 18th of the same summer, at about 9.20 a.m., while some 650
miles east of New York, the torpedo striking her on the port side in
the region of No. 4 hold. Seven lifeboats were immediately lowered
and all the crew successfully embarked. The submarine then came to
the surface, and with a heavy calibre gun fired 19 shells into the
torpedoed vessel, sinking her about two hours afterwards. A passing
steamer then came in sight and firing five shots in the direction of
the submarine, passed on her course, the submarine submerging. When
the unknown steamer had disappeared, the submarine again came to the
surface, and overtaking the boats in which the crew had taken refuge,
hailed the one in charge of the Chief Officer, and after interrogating
him, moved off in an easterly direction. Meanwhile, during the night,
the little group of lifeboats became separated, meeting with various
adventures but all except one ultimately reaching safety, their crews
being landed as far apart as New York, Bermuda, Newport, and Nova
Scotia. As in the case of the _Ausonia’s_ boats described in Chapter
III, they underwent the severest hardships. The First Officer’s boat,
for instance, after sailing all that day and through the night, sighted
a steamer, but, though she showed signals of distress, received no
reply. Toiling on, a barque, and another steamer, were sighted in the
evening, but again the little boat was unsuccessful in attracting


[Illustration: THE “IVERNIA” SETTLING DOWN. (Photographed against the
sun from the rescuing trawler)]

Fortunately, the weather up to then had remained favourable, and
continued to do so through the next day, on which another ship was
seen, but again failed to perceive the lifeboat’s dejected crew. Early
on the following morning an empty boat was sighted, and found to be one
of the _Dwinsk’s_ boats from which the crew had evidently been rescued.
On this day the wind began to increase and by the evening a furious
gale was raging. At six o’clock a great sea washed over the little
boat, carrying one of its occupants overboard, and almost filling the
boat with water. On the day after, a Sunday, the wind dropped again,
and remained variable until the evening of the following Wednesday,
when it again increased to such an extent that by midnight a fierce
gale was once more blowing. On Thursday morning this died down, but it
was not until half-past nine on Friday that a steamer which proved to
be the _U.S.S. Arondo_ sighted the now almost famished crew and took
them on board, clothed them, and provided them with medical attention.
They had then been drifting about in every condition of the weather for
no less than ten days, the highest ration allowed being one biscuit
and a half glass of water per man per day, for the first six days,
reduced on the ninth day to half a biscuit and a quarter of a glass of
water. To the invincible optimism and seamanship of the First Officer,
who himself steered the boat for the whole of the ten days, the crew
unanimously announced afterwards that they considered the saving of
their lives to be due.

Of the other boats, one was at sea for eight days, three for three
days, and one for a day and a half; one of them was never accounted
for, probably having foundered in the storm, with the loss of 22 lives.

It is pleasant to record that the First Officer Mr. Pritchard, as
well as the boatswain’s mate, who was in charge of another boat, were
specially commended in the _London Gazette_ for their great services.


Nor must another incident in connection with the saving of the
_Dwinsk’s_ lifeboats go unmentioned although the hero in this case
was a gallant officer of the United States Navy, Lieutenant Ross P.
Whitemarsh, who was one of the convoy officers to the _Dwinsk_ and
went into No. 6 lifeboat with another American and nineteen British
subjects. This boat experienced an extraordinary severe storm some
four days afterwards, and Lieutenant Whitemarsh volunteered to take
the tiller and remained on watch without a break throughout the night
until five o’clock the next morning. One man was washed overboard and
Lieutenant Whitemarsh then ordered the other occupants of the boat to
lie down, two of them taking turns to hold on to this officer’s legs
to prevent him, while at the tiller, from being carried away. For this
Lieutenant Whitemarsh received from His Majesty the King, the Silver
Medal for Gallantry in saving life at Sea.

It was three years earlier and in a far distant sea that the _Caria_
was sunk, while proceeding in ballast from Alexandria to Naples in
charge of Captain J. A. Wolfe. In this case she was not torpedoed; the
‘U’ boat after signalling to the _Caria_ to stop and abandon ship,
fired some 10 shots at her, several of which struck her about the
bows and the bridge. The _Caria_ was unarmed, and Captain Wolfe and
his crew had accordingly no alternative than to abandon ship, having
first destroyed all confidential papers. This was fortunate, since
the submarine, hailing Captain Wolfe’s boat, ordered him alongside,
and demanded the ship’s papers, which were given him. After 12 hours
the crew of the _Caria_ were picked up by the _S.S. Frankenfels_,
ironically enough a German prize vessel in the employ of the India
Office, and landed at Malta. There were happily no casualties among the
_Caria’s_ crew.

In this respect the _Carpathia_, which was sunk on July 17th, 1918, was
not so fortunate. Travelling in convoy, and at the time of the attack,
some 120 miles west of the Fastnet, the escort had left some 3½ hours
previously. Two torpedoes struck the _Carpathia_ within 30 seconds,
one on the port side between No. 4 hold, and the stoke-hold, and the
second, half a minute later, in the engine-room. After satisfying
himself that there was no possibility of saving the ship, her
commander, Captain W. Prothero, ordered everyone to the boats, and saw
them safely embarked, a third torpedo striking the ship just after this
was accomplished. Three trimmers and two firemen were unfortunately
killed by the explosion, but the remaining 218 members of the crew,
together with 57 passengers, were picked up by _H.M.S. Snowdrop_, and
safely brought to Liverpool. A letter was afterwards received from
the Admiralty in which the Lords Commissioners stated that in their
opinion the discipline and organisation on board the _Carpathia_ had
been of a very high order, and that Captain Prothero was to be publicly
commended in the _London Gazette_ in recognition of his conduct in the



It was on May 5th, 1917, at 7.30 p.m., while _en route_ to Avonmouth
from New York, that the _Feltria_ was torpedoed without warning about
eight miles south-east of Mine Head off the Irish coast. A very heavy
sea was running at the time. No 1 boat was capsized during launching,
and No. 4 boat blown to pieces by the explosion of the torpedo. Boats
Nos. 2, 3, 5, and 6 were successful in clearing the ship’s side.
Most of the crew were in boats Nos. 3 and 5, the captain and chief
steward being alone in No. 2 boat, which had also been damaged by the
explosion. The last boat away, No. 6, contained the Chief Officer,
Second Officer, Purser, and three sailors, and it was this boat that
the submarine, coming to the surface, ordered alongside. Having
obtained particulars as to the _Feltria_ and her cargo, she then left
but stopped to pick up Mr. Stott, one of the _Feltria’s_ engineers,
and returned towards the lifeboat. From her deck, he was then assisted
into the water. The _Feltria’s_ Quartermaster, Mr. Burt, with great
courage, jumped into the water to meet him, and helped him to the
boat’s side, where he was taken on board in a very exhausted condition,
while huge breakers were washing over the little boat itself. Of the
boat containing the Captain, Captain W. G. Price, and Chief Steward,
nothing more was seen, their lives being lost, and by midnight, three
other members of the _Feltria’s_ crew in No. 6 boat had died from
exposure and exhaustion, one of the victims being Mr. Stott himself.
The remaining five in this boat were picked up early on Sunday morning
by the _S.S. Ridley_ and landed at Barrow; twenty other survivors were
landed at Queenstown; but out of a crew of 69 no less than 44 lost
their lives, 17 dying from exposure in the lifeboats.

The _Flavia_ was the more fortunate in that the whole of her crew was
saved, when early on the morning of August 24th, 1918, she was sunk
off the Irish coast while on a voyage from Montreal to Bristol. Her
commander, Captain E. T. C. Fear, had been below resting at the time,
but the Officer in charge had kept the situation well in hand, and
_H.M.S. Convolvulus_, standing by, picked up the survivors from the
boats, landing them safely in Ardrossan.



The next loss to be recorded is that of the _Folia_, Captain Francis
Inch, which was sunk on Sunday, March 11th, 1917, at a quarter past
seven in the morning, off the Irish coast, while on a voyage from
New York to Bristol. The periscope of the attacking submarine was
first sighted by the Third Officer some 500 feet away and nearly
abeam. Immediately afterwards, he saw a torpedo approaching the ship,
two of her boats being smashed in the explosion which followed, and
the _Folia_ herself beginning rapidly to settle. Seven of the crew,
including the Second Engineer, were killed by the explosion, but the
rest of the officers and men were safely embarked in the four boats
which were lowered.

While the lifeboats were still in the neighbourhood, the submarine
came to the surface, steamed round the ship and fired four shots into
her, following this up with a second torpedo. The Captain then got
his boats together and instructed the officers in charge to steer
N.W. by compass, three of them making fast by painters so as not to
get adrift from each other. About 11 a.m., the Captain, under the fog
that had crept up, sighted breakers ahead, and told the other boats to
follow in line behind him. Creeping along the edge of the breakers,
they at last sighted smooth water at the base of some cliffs, and,
pulling into shore, noticed the outline of a house high above them,
with people standing in front of it. Shouting in unison, the crew
succeeded in attracting attention and learned that the place was
Ardmore, Youghal, Co. Cork, and from there they proceeded to Dungarvan,
where they arrived at 8 o’clock in the evening, the inhabitants of both
places treating the shipwrecked officers and crew with the greatest


In all these cases the vessels attacked were either unarmed or so
taken by surprise that no resistance was possible. But in the case of
the _Lycia_, Captain T. A. Chesters, which was sunk on February 11th,
1917, a most plucky action against odds was fought. It was nearly
half-past eight in the morning, and about 20 miles north-west of the
South Bishop’s Light, that the submarine was sighted, and by the time
Captain Chesters had picked her up on the starboard beam, his
vessel had already been struck by a shot from her. Captain Chesters
immediately altered the _Lycia’s_ course so as to place the submarine
astern, and himself opened fire at about 3,000 yards. His gun, which
was of Russian make and of a very light type, was one of the first
supplied to merchant ships under the Admiralty scheme, when there was
a great shortage of armaments owing to the needs of the Army and Navy,
and it misfired several times; the Third Officer, Third Engineer, and
Steersman had been already wounded by the fire of the submarine.

In the unequal duel that now ensued, the _Lycia’s_ funnel, starboard
boats, forward cabin, chart room, officers’ and engineers’ quarters and
bridge were all wrecked, and being unable to steer the ship under the
growing force and accuracy of the enemy’s shells, Captain Chesters at
last had no alternative but to abandon his vessel. He, therefore, gave
orders to cease firing and stop the engines. As soon as the ship had
sufficiently lost way, the crew was safely embarked in the port boat,
with the exception of the Captain, Chief Officer, Third Engineer, the
Gunner, and one of the boys, who succeeded in scrambling into the
starboard boat which was dragging alongside.

When the lifeboats cleared the ship, the submarine herself ceased
firing, submerged, and re-appeared alongside Captain Chesters’ boat.
The submarine commander then ordered Captain Chesters to go on board,
which he did, and where, by what, alas, proved to be a rare exception,
he was very courteously treated. The commander of the submarine then
put three of his crew into the boat together with eight bombs, sent her
back to the _Lycia_, and there the Germans hung the bombs on each side
of the rigging, and in the engine-room. The ship’s papers, the breech
plug of her gun, her telescopes and three cartridges, were lowered
into the boat, after which the bomb safety pins were removed, and the
bombs placed below the water-line. The boat was then ordered back to
the submarine. Meanwhile, Captain Chesters had been asked by the ‘U’
boat’s commander why he had fired his gun without flying his Ensign.
Captain Chesters pointed out to him that before he could fire the gun,
he had to remove the flagstaff; and he was then allowed to return to
his boat, the bombs, a few minutes afterwards beginning to explode.
The submarine then went in chase of another vessel that had appeared
on the horizon, and shortly afterwards the _Lycia_ sank, stern first.
Her boats were picked up the same evening by two mine-sweepers, and the
_S.S. Ireland Moor_, the crew being treated with the utmost hospitality
and safely landed at Holyhead. Their conduct had been worthy in Captain
Chesters’ words “of all the traditions of British seamen.”

Happily it now becomes possible to record an equally gallant fight on
the part of one of the Cunard Company’s vessels, with a successful
issue. This was fought by one of the Mediterranean cargo boats, the
_Phrygia_, a vessel of 3,350 tons, with a speed of not more than 9
knots. It was at 2 p.m. on March 24th, 1916, when she was homeward
bound and off the south-west coast of Ireland, that a submarine,
whom she had not previously seen, fired two shots at her, probably
with the intention of bringing her to a stop. The skipper, Captain
F. Manley, immediately ordered his helm hard aport and the crew to
go to “general stations.” There was a big sea running at the time,
and this was fortunate, since the submarine, on divining Captain
Manley’s intentions, had continued to fire at the _Phrygia_. None of
her shells, however, struck the steamer. Captain Manley then succeeded
in manoeuvring his ship so as to bring the submarine astern, when
he opened fire, and there then began a duel lasting for 45 minutes,
during the whole of which time, both the submarine and the _Phrygia_
fired continuously at one another under the most adverse conditions.
Then at last one of the _Phrygia’s_ shells found its mark; a great
rush of smoke poured up from the submarine; her stern suddenly jumped
out of the water; and she disappeared, amongst the loud cheers of the
_Phrygia’s_ crew.

In connexion with this incident, the following resolution was passed
by the Directors of the Cunard Company at a meeting of the Board in
April, 1916. “That the Company place on record their high appreciation
of the gallant and successful efforts made by the Captain, Officers,
and crew of the _Phrygia_ to save their vessel, and of the efficient
preparations made beforehand by Captain Manley to deal with such an
emergency, which contributed towards this result, and finally extend
their heartiest congratulations to all concerned upon the splendid
gunnery and seamanship which put the enemy submarine out of action.”
Captain Manley and the _Phrygia’s_ crew also received recognition from
the Admiralty for their achievement.



It was on March 27th, 1917, at 8 o’clock in the evening, that the
_Thracia_, Captain R. Nicholas, while on a voyage with ore from Bilbao
to Ardrossan, was sunk at sight and without warning, leaving only one
survivor. Disappearing in one minute, those on board were left with no
possible chance of saving their lives, and it was only by a miracle
that Cadet Douglas Duff, a boy of 16 years of age, was left to tell the
tale. He succeeded in saving his life by clinging for sixteen hours
to the keel of a capsized boat, during the early part of which time,
he was seen and jeered at by the crew of the submarine. One of them
indeed raised a rifle and aimed at him, whereupon he shouted, perhaps
characteristically of the service to which he belonged “Shoot and be
damned to you.” He was ultimately rescued by a French destroyer and
landed at La Palais, Belle-ile-en-Mer. The body of the Chief Officer
was also recovered, and it is touching to reflect that, as a mark of
their respect and honour to the personnel of the British Mercantile
Marine, a public funeral was accorded to him by the inhabitants of this
little French seaport town.

Before her loss, however, the _Thracia_ had performed, like all the
vessels mentioned, most arduous and important duties, and one of her
voyages, since it throws a sidelight upon the multifarious activities
of the Company during the war, deserves special mention. She was then
under the command of Captain Michael Doyle, and it was on the 27th of
December 1914, that she left Liverpool for Archangel with stores for
the Russian Government. All the way to the North Cape, she steamed in
the teeth of heavy gales, and under stormy skies, and at this point,
at this season of the year, entered a region where there was but one
hour’s so-called daylight in the twenty-four. Entering the White Sea,
on the night of the 7th of January, she ran the next day into an
icefield, reaching out ahead of her as far as the eye could see. In the
hope of breaking through to clear water, Captain Doyle, however, kept
her going until, the ice becoming thicker and closer packed, it became
impossible for the _Thracia’s_ engines to drive her through.


After prolonged and arduous exertions, the _Thracia_ was at last
extracted from her dangerous position in the ice and brought back to
the open water harbour at Alexandrovsk. From this port, accompanied by
an ice-breaker, she again made an attempt to reach Archangel on January
24th, 1915. Heavy field-ice was once more encountered as soon as the
White Sea had been entered, causing the utmost difficulty in steering,
and reducing progress to the slowest limits. After covering, with much
perseverance, a certain distance, huge floes of ice finally stopped
the _Thracia’s_ progress; the ice-breaker was also in difficulties,
and therefore unable to render any assistance. For a considerable time
the _Thracia_ remained wedged in the drifting ice, and meanwhile a
heavy north-east gale had packed the entrance to the White Sea. The
action of this wind, however, presently opened the ice in the immediate
neighbourhood of the vessel, and a certain amount of further progress
towards the south became possible. Here, however, the ice was found to
be once more heavily packed, while the north-east gale was choking the
entrance with ever more and more drifting floes.

The _Thracia’s_ propeller had by this time become badly damaged, and
the ice-breaker herself was finding it all she could do to secure her
own safety. It was now clear that to remain in the drifting ice would
be bound in the long run to prove fatal, and thereupon Captain Doyle
made an effort to drive his vessel close to the land ice, where some
degree of shelter might be found from the gales which were constantly
driving enormous floes up and down with the ebb and flow of the tides
through the narrow neck of the White Sea.

After many days and nights of the heaviest and most unremitting toil,
the _Thracia_ was finally brought close to land, and a net-work of
cables and ropes thrown out to secure her position there. For seven
weeks, until the 18th of March, she was held here, during the whole
of which time she was being submitted to the severest pressure owing
to the alternating flow and ebb of the tides driving the packed ice
against her side, under her bottom, and piling it up round her counter
to a height of as much as 20 ft. Serious damage was done to her hull,
and for three months her pumps had to be kept going constantly in order
to keep her afloat, while the greatest skill and ingenuity had to be
exercised in order to protect her rudder from the ice pressure under
her counter.


So matters went on until the night of the 18th of March, when, owing to
heavy off-shore gales, the _Thracia_ broke adrift, her anchors, cables,
and ropes being lost and her windlass broken. Fortunately, a few days
later, the ice began to open here and there, and with the courageous
assistance of another vessel, and under her own steam, she succeeded
at last in reaching a position inside the bar of the Archangel river
on April 9th, when her cargo was landed in good condition on the
stationary river ice and conveyed by sleighs to Archangel.

Her troubles, however, were not yet over, for within less than three
weeks, the river ice itself began to break, and the outgoing stream,
carrying this broken ice to sea, drove the _Thracia_ on to the Bar. Her
propeller blades were now reduced to the merest stumps, but in spite
of this, she succeeded, at high water, in working herself free again
by her own exertions. Obtaining ground tackle from another ship, which
had come down from Archangel at the first break-up of the ice, the
_Thracia_ was enabled to come to anchorage in the gulf, and here she
remained for about a week until the Dwina river was finally cleared
of ice. She then proceeded slowly up river to the town itself, where
she arrived on May 9th. So great had been the damage sustained by her,
that she was then dry-docked for the necessary repairs to enable her to
return to England; and when she at last arrived home, about the middle
of August, 1915, it was not until her voyage had lasted some seven and
a half months.

After this diversion, let us return to the record of the war
experiences of other Cunarders. It was on March 30th, 1917, that the
_Valacia_, Captain J. F. Simpson, left London for New York, and it
was at 5.30 the next evening that she was struck on the port side by
a torpedo, when in the English Channel off the Eddystone Lighthouse.
An attempt was made by one of the torpedo boats, of which several
happened to be in the neighbourhood, to tow the _Valacia_, whose No. 6
hold, engine-room, and stoke-hold were all full of water. She proved
too heavy, however, and tugs were accordingly sent from the shore, the
Admiralty officials intending to try and beach the ship. Although a
heavy gale was blowing at the time, Captain Simpson, in view of the
fact that the bulkheads were holding, strongly advised that this
course should not be pursued, but that an attempt should be made to
tow the _Valacia_ into Plymouth Harbour. This advice was taken, and as
it proved with complete success, the _Valacia_ being taken safely into
Plymouth Harbour, where she was subsequently docked for repairs, and
whence she was enabled, within a few months, to take her place again in
the Company’s fleet, and do much useful service.


The hole in the ship’s side caused by the explosion of the torpedo was
no less than 25 feet long by 20 feet deep, and the greatest credit
is due to Captain Simpson for his splendid judgment and seamanship
in bringing the vessel safely into port, and saving her both for the
country and the Company.

To the _Valeria_, under the command of Captain W. Stewart, fell the
good fortune to destroy a German submarine on June 20th, 1917, while
nearing the end of a voyage from New York. It was at 3 o’clock in the
afternoon that both Captain Stewart, who was on the port side of the
bridge, and the Second Officer who was on the starboard side, felt the
ship quiver as if she had struck something. The Captain immediately
crossed the bridge and saw that the object hit was an enemy submarine,
the working of her motors being distinctly audible. For a moment
the _Valeria’s_ gun crew were taken aback at this most unexpected
appearance at such close quarters to the vessel. Captain Stewart,
however, gave prompt orders to fire and the gunners depressing the gun
as far as possible, immediately obeyed.

A volume of vapour was then seen to rise up from the ‘U’ boat, together
with fountain-like spouts of water. A second shot was fired, falling
short, but the third struck the submarine fair and square, at the base
of her conning tower, and caused her to sink. It is believed that
the _Valeria_, when she first came into contact with the submarine,
probably broke her periscope. Captain Stewart’s first impulse was to
turn back in order to pick up any survivors, but in view of the fact
that German submarines were at this time usually hunting in couples he
thought it wiser to continue his voyage, and brought his ship safely
back into Liverpool. For this successful action, both Captain Stewart
and the crew received special awards from the Admiralty, the Cunard
Company, and other Associations, the destruction of the German
submarine being later verified by Admiralty trawlers.



It was perhaps not an unexpected fact, but it was one, nevertheless,
of which the whole nation may well be proud, that the rescued officers
and crews of these torpedoed vessels, never for a moment hesitated, and
indeed were anxious, as soon as possible, to render further service
in other vessels. An example of this occurred when the _Vandalia_
was torpedoed on June 9th, 1918, her commander, Captain J. A. Wolfe,
having already, as has been seen, had a previous vessel, the _Caria_,
torpedoed beneath him in the Mediterranean. The _Vandalia_ was in a
convoy accompanied by six American destroyers, and though she settled
down rapidly and was lost within less than two hours, no lives were

The _Veria_, Captain D. P. Thomson, was sunk on December 7th, 1915,
in the Mediterranean, having left Patras in ballast for Alexandria on
the 3rd. At noon on the same day, when about 50 miles from Alexandria,
she had sighted two lifeboats containing the crew of a Greek steamer,
the _Goulandris_ which had been sunk by a submarine, and at half-past
four in the afternoon, it was probably the same submarine that was
sighted approaching the _Veria_ at high speed from a distance of about
eight miles. Almost at once the ‘U’ boat opened fire, dropping a shell
about 20 feet ahead of the _Veria_, when Captain Thomson, having no
alternative, stopped his ship and ordered the crew to muster at the
boats. On a second shell dropping closer to the vessel, Captain Thomson
ordered the crew to take to the boats; the submarine continued to fire
as she approached, one of her shells destroying the chart house and
the bridge, just as the boats were leaving the vessel’s side. Captain
Thomson had already destroyed the confidential papers, and all that the
German commander obtained, was the ship’s register. It was at 9.15 p.m.
that the _Veria_ sank, her boats being not interfered with and arriving
at Alexandria next morning, in safety.


[Illustration: THE “AQUITANIA’S” CHAPEL]

The next vessel to claim our attention is the _Vinovia_, and high
as was the standard set by, and expected of the Cunard Company’s
commanders, there were few instances of greater coolness and bravery
than that of her skipper, Captain Stephen Gronow, when she was
torpedoed in the English Channel on the 19th of December, 1917. She
was then on her way from New York with a Chinese crew, and it was
at half-past three in the afternoon that the torpedo struck her on the
starboard side. As the _Vinovia_ did not at first appear to be sinking
Captain Gronow ordered his engines full speed ahead, and made a gallant
endeavour to reach the land. At 4 p.m. a small tug came on the scene
and made fast to the _Vinovia_, after some of her crew had left the
ship on one of the lifeboats. A patrol boat then came alongside, and
the remainder of the crew jumped aboard her. For the next three hours
Captain Gronow, the only man left on his sinking vessel, steered her
by means of the hand gear. At seven o’clock in the evening a drifter
approached and the Chief Engineer returned on board to assist his
Captain in making a rope fast, and then returned to the patrol boat. It
was now quite dark, but Captain Gronow, sticking to his forlorn hope,
remained alone on board the _Vinovia_, and continued to steer her and
attend to the ropes. By half-past seven, he noticed that she appeared
to be making no headway, and groping forward by means of the rails,
he found the forecastle deck already submerged four feet. He also
discovered that the tug had slipped the wire. In making his way back
again, he was so severely struck by a piece of wreckage that for a time
he remained unconscious.

On recovering he made his way to the bridge and put on a life-jacket.
Here he remained until, at eight o’clock, five miles from land and in
pitch darkness, the _Vinovia_ sank under his feet, and he was thrown
into the water. He succeeded however, in supporting himself on some
wreckage, to which as it happened the ship’s bell was attached; and it
was this little fact that in the end proved his salvation. Attracted by
the ringing of the bell, a small patrol boat the next morning decided
to investigate the wreckage, and there Captain Gronow was found lying
unconscious. Unhappily his vessel, with her valuable cargo, of 9,000
tons was lost, but in endeavouring to save the _Vinovia_, Captain
Gronow had provided yet another illustrious example for his successors
at sea, and happily survived to receive from the Cunard Directors a
handsome inscribed silver vase, together with a certificate, a silver
medal and a monetary gift from Lloyds.


Twice it has been our duty to record the torpedoing of vessels under
the command of the gallant Captain J. A. Wolfe, but he underwent
this ordeal three times. He was in command of the _Volodia_ on the
21st of August, 1917, when, at half-past seven in the morning she was
torpedoed and sunk some 300 miles from land. As was usual, there had
been no warning, and the _Volodia_ was struck amidships, several of
her engine-room crew, mostly Chinamen, being killed by the explosion.
In addition, before she sank, the _Volodia_ was also shelled by the
attacking submarine. Captain Wolfe, with the survivors of the crew,
had, however, succeeded before this in getting away in three boats, in
charge respectively of Captain Wolfe himself, the Chief Officer, and
the Second Officer, and these boats were chased by the submarine. On
catching up with the Second Officer’s boat, the submarine commander
enquired for the Captain. He was told by the Second Officer that
his last sight of Captain Wolfe was on the bridge of the torpedoed
vessel. The Second Officer was then taken on board the submarine and
questioned, but was subsequently allowed to return to his boat.

Captain Wolfe then gave sailing directions, and the three boats kept
together until nightfall, by which time the wind had increased to the
violence of a gale. During the night the three boats became separated,
and it was only the magnificent seamanship of Captain Wolfe and the
two other Officers, together with the splendid endurance and courage
of the crews, that succeeded in bringing any of them to safety. For
three days they were adrift in the open Atlantic, rations being reduced
to one biscuit and one dipper of water a day. The Captain and Chief
Engineer were actually on one occasion washed out of their little boat.
It was in the Captain’s boat that the sea-anchors and rudders were
carried away, and Captain Wolfe then improvised a sea-anchor out of
some canvass, sewing it with his penknife and rope-yarn, and putting in
it the last three remaining seven-pound tins of meat, the only articles
of weight left in the boat. This contrivance he lashed to the broken
rudder, and by this means was enabled to weather the breaking seas. How
well to the course the vessel was kept can be gathered from the fact
that when she was picked up by a destroyer, she was within 30 miles of
the Lizard, having sailed 300 miles without seeing a ship. Both the
other boats had similar adventures, but both were at last found and
their exhausted and almost helpless crews brought safely to land.

Thus ends a record, perhaps equalled, but certainly not excelled, by
any other of the great Mercantile Marine Companies, upon whose unsung
exertions our success both on land and sea was primarily founded.
The list which appears on the next page, in tabular form, summarises
in brief the losses sustained by the Cunard Company during this, the
severest ordeal, that any maritime nation has ever undergone.

From this it will be seen that vessels amounting to over 205,000
gross tonnage were lost by the Company, and this does not include the
_Campania_, which had just passed from the Company’s service, or two
further losses, that of the _Ascania_ and the _Valeria_, which were
wrecked by stranding during 1918, and which added to the total another
14,985 tons. In all, more than 56 per cent. of the Company’s gross
tonnage was sacrificed in the performance of services of the highest
importance to the nation in the hour of its greatest jeopardy.

  |      NAME OF SHIP.      |Tonnage | Total  |  Date Lost.  |
  |                         |(Gross).|Tonnage.|              |
  |LUSITANIA                | 30,395 |        | 7 May  1915. |
  |CARIA                    |  3,032 |        | 6 Nov.   ”   |
  |VERIA                    |  3,228 | 36,655 |   Dec.   ”   |
  |FRANCONIA                | 18,149 |        | 4 Oct. 1916. |
  |ALAUNIA                  | 13,404 | 31,553 |19  ”     ”   |
  |IVERNIA                  | 14,278 |        | 1 Jan. 1917. |
  |LYCIA                    |  2,715 |        |11 Feb.   ”   |
  |LACONIA                  | 18,098 |        |25  ”     ”   |
  |FOLIA                    |  6,704 |        |11 Mar.   ”   |
  |THRACIA                  |  2,891 |        |17  ”     ”   |
  |VALACIA (towed into port)|  6,526 |        | 1 Apl.   ”   |
  |FELTRIA                  |  5,253 |        | 5 May    ”   |
  |AUSONIA (towed into port |  8,152 |        |11 June   ”   |
  |  but sunk the following |        |        |              |
  |  year)                  |        |        |              |
  |ULTONIA                  | 10,402 |        |27  ”     ”   |
  |VOLODIA                  |  5,689 |        |21 Aug.   ”   |
  |VINOVIA                  |  5,503 | 71,533 |19 Dec.   ”   |
  |ANDANIA                  | 13,404 |        |27 Jan. 1918. |
  |AURANIA                  | 13,936 |        | 4 Feb.   ”   |
  |AUSONIA                  |  8,152 |        |30 May    ”   |
  |VANDALIA                 |  7,333 |        | 9 June   ”   |
  |CARPATHIA                | 13,603 |        |17 July   ”   |
  |FLAVIA                   |  9,291 |        |24 Aug.   ”   |
  |CAMPANIA (turned into    | 12,884 | 78,603 |   Nov.   ”   |
  |  seaplane carrier)      |        |        |              |




Shore Work for the Services

    _Here stand we; naught else can we do!
    Take us, all that we have, all we are!
    We bide by the issue with you,
    And this is our war!_

                                      MARGARETTA BYRDE.

Enough, perhaps, has already been written to show how intimately
the Cunard Company was bound up with every phase, not only of our
mercantile, but our naval effort at sea; how its long experience of
maritime organisation, placed unreservedly at the country’s disposal,
became an asset in the hands of the Government of almost incalculable
importance, and how, in the course of its everyday unadvertised duties,
it lost more than half its tonnage. It was not only at sea, however,
and not wholly in connection with the problems of transport that the
Cunard Company rendered such yeoman service.

The possessors of highly efficient repairing shops, engine works,
furnishing departments, and laundries, these also were at once
mobilised at the outbreak of war, and put to the most various and vital

Some of these, of course, were congruous with its useful efforts as a
marine concern. Thus, amongst much other work of a similar nature, we
find, for instance, that H.S. Sloops _Buttercup_ and _Gladiolus_ were
refitted, their engines over-hauled, and their hull and deck plating
repaired, while they were also provided with hydraulic release triggers
in order to enable depth charges to be released from the bridge.

H.M. ships _Riviera_ and _Empress_ were fitted out as sea-plane
carriers by the Company at Liverpool. The after-decks of both vessels
were stripped and hangars, capable of accommodating about six
sea-planes, were built on them. A mechanics’ repair shop was also
installed and special cranes, for lifting sea-planes out of the water,
were fitted.


SPRING, 1919]

The _Campania_, converted as we have seen into a sea-plane carrier, was
refitted in 1916, a thorough overhaul being carried out, including the
fitting of a new crank shaft, and the examination of, and repairs to,
her hull and engines. In 1917, H.M.S. _Scotia_, the well-known Holyhead
mail boat of the London and North Western Railway, was reconditioned,
after having been in Admiralty employment, and all necessary repairs
carried out in respect of her hull and engines. H.M.S. _Berwick_ was
also partially refitted in the same year. No less than 3,200 Plunger
control valve keys and retarding rams for 12-pound and naval guns
were made at the Company’s works; and a large amount of work was also
undertaken in connection with the fitting of submarines and mines.

This included, as regarded submarines, the provision of 520 Oilers for
exhaust valve boxes, 40 tail-end shafts, 20 complete thrust blocks,
and the machining and complete fitting of four tail-end intermediate
shafts. At the same time 456 save-alls for oil fuel were designed and
provided--the pattern of these save-alls being afterwards adopted as
the standard pattern for the Navy. Nineteen thousand, eight hundred
manganese bronze spindles for mines were turned out, as well as 1,000
mine mechanism plates. When the Admiralty decided to fit naval and
merchant ships with the paravane contrivance, as a protection against
mines, the Cunard Company manufactured for them 5,728 sets of wires for
this gear. All this work was, of course, carried out in addition to the
ordinary routine of overhauling the Company’s own fleet.

This sort of work, however, valuable as it was, was perhaps only to
be expected of a large marine Company, so efficiently organised for
many years as the Cunard Company had been. But in addition, a large
amount of work was done for the armies in the Company’s workshops,
much of which required the highest degree of accuracy and extremely
skilled workmanship. One of the most important of such contracts was
the assembling of the 9·2 American Howitzer Equipment. These enormous
guns were shipped from the United States in parts, and the work of
completing, assembling, carrying out modifications in design, and
getting them ready for use in France, was done entirely in the Cunard
Works. Eighty-four of these equipments were dealt with, and, in
addition, 100 carriages and limbers and brake gear, which were a part
and parcel of the equipment, were manufactured. Owing to the fact that
the firing beams, which were received from the United States, were
found in practice to be insufficiently strong, the Company undertook
the stripping and re-inforcing of 73 sets of these.



In the critical month of March, 1918, when the Allied armies were
retreating on the Western Front, and it was clear that the crucial
point of the war was imminent, the Ministry of Munitions sent out
urgent appeals to all Munition Works. During the great retreat,
although many of the actual guns were saved, there was no time to
attempt to bring away the gun beds, and in consequence many of the
larger calibre weapons were thus rendered useless. The Cunard Company
was then asked to undertake to supply one hundred sets in as short a
time as possible. Realising the urgency of the position, the Company
succeeded in engaging the assistance of several outside firms, who
carried out part of the work under Cunard supervision, with the amazing
result that no less than 146 sets were finished and delivered complete
within a fortnight.

But for the unremitting attention of the Company’s officials and the
high degree of organisation that had been attained, such a result
would, of course, have been wholly impossible. The separate items
manufactured by outside firms were all received and distributed from
the Company’s Gun Department a special chart of progress being kept
for the purpose. For this great achievement the Company received a
special letter of congratulation from the Ministry of Munitions, which
in their turn they passed on to their men, who had so magnificently
responded to the calls of their country in the crisis, and also to the
firms who had rendered such able assistance.

Another very large contract, carried out by the Cunard Company, was
the manufacture of artillery wheels. This work was distributed between
the Company’s various establishments, the metal work being done by the
Cunard’s Engine Works, and the wood work at the Furnishing Departments
in Liverpool and London; in order to provide the necessary material,
the Company’s timber experts had to make enormous purchases, not only
having to buy complete cargoes, but in many instances, having to buy
the timber before the trees were felled, and it cannot be denied that
the Government was extremely fortunate in having the advantage of their
great experience and wise advice. The metal parts provided consisted
of pipe boxes, nots and naves, all of these being made of manganese
bronze as required by the War Office, and the tyres--the wooden parts
of the wheels being the spokes and felloes. Eleven hundred complete
artillery wheels were thus made, as well as 1,400 sand tyres--a sand
tyre being a contrivance fitted to the rim of the gun wheel in order
to prevent it sinking into mud or sand. The reconstruction of damaged
wheels was undertaken for the War Office by the Cunard Company’s London
works and more than 8,000 wheels were dealt with in this manner.


It is impossible to give a detailed account of the whole of the work
of this nature carried out by the Cunard Company, but a general idea
can be obtained from the following list of some of the most important
contracts carried out at Liverpool.

      60  Loading trays for 6 in. shells. These are the trays
            which guide the shell into the breech of the gun.

   1,200  Dial sight adaptors--to render sights adaptable for
            guns of different calibres.

  12,000  Copper and leather washers for  }
            recuperating gear; and        } This recuperating gear
                                          }   is the mechanism
  12,000  Manganese Bronze Rings for      }   used to bring the
            supporting packing leathers   }   gun into firing position
            in recuperating gear attached }   again after recoil.
            to 6 in. Howitzers.           }

   5,340  Actuating Nuts and Screws for Brake gear for 13 and
            18 pounder Field Guns.

     250  Sets of Cables for electing firing gear. This is the gear
            attached to 6 in. and 92 in. guns, to enable them
            to be fired by electricity.

      24  Battery Boxes in connection with above.

     500  Sets Rings and Discs protecting obturator. This is a
            contrivance in the breech of a gun to prevent
            the escape of the gases generated in firing.

      35  Steel Crankshafts for the Motor Boats which were used
            for chasing submarines.

      36  Magazine Barrows for transporting heavy shells from
            Magazine to Guns on board H.M. Ships.

     160  Breech Rings for 18 pounder guns.

     100  Clamp Bearings.

  14,912  Shell Nose adaptors for correcting the thread in end
            of shell.

  20,300  Dummy Shells for 18 pounder Guns. These were used
            in training new troops to handle guns and shells.
            To complete this contract in 1915 the Cunard
            Company bought all the mangle rollers that could
            be obtained and converted them into dummy shells.

The Company’s Laundry, which before the war dealt with all the Linen,
etc., from the Company’s steamers, was able during the last few years
to assist many of the Military Hospitals and other institutions in
the district by undertaking their Laundry work; at the same time, of
course, they did whatever work was required for the Company’s ships and
those under their management, whether acting as troop ships or hospital


Nor did these activities exhaust the long list of the Cunard Company’s
manifold contributions to the Nation’s improvised war industries.
In 1916, realising the urgent need for aeroplanes, the Company’s
Directors made certain suggestions to the Government, and placed their
services at the Government’s disposal in this connexion. After some
months consideration a definite scheme was formulated in July, 1917,
providing for the erection of a factory at the Government’s expense,
to be under the supervision of the Cunard Company, who would act as
Managers under the Direction of the Ministry of Munitions. A site was
selected near the race course at Aintree, the first sod was removed on
the 4th October, 1917, and within less than nine months the factory
was completed, many of the shops having been working at full pressure
very much earlier than this. Although the Cunard Company had had no
experience of aircraft work, and could not, of course, spare sufficient
staff to man the factory, the arrangement of the various shops, and
the selection of the machinery to be installed rested in their hands,
and a certain number of the Company’s own officials were subsequently
employed there.

Even under normal conditions, the construction and fitting out of
this the largest aeroplane factory in the country would have been a
herculean task, but in war time, with the resultant difficulties to
be encountered in obtaining the necessary material, the undertaking
might well have baffled even the most enterprising brains. That it was
accomplished at all is, perhaps, the best proof of the enormous reserve
of initiative and capability that had been accumulated by the Company
during the long years of its previous expansion; and some idea of what
was achieved can perhaps be more easily obtained when it is remembered
that the largest shop measured not less than 700 by 500 feet, and that
there were several other shops each of which were about half this size;
that for the necessary electrical power a cable had to be laid for a
distance of six miles from the Lister Drive generating station; that,
the local water and gas supply being totally inadequate, a supply well
had to be sunk to a depth of 370 feet, thus providing the factory’s own
water supply; that a special gas main had to be laid for a considerable
distance; that a new siding from the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway
had to be constructed, the line running right into the factory’s
grounds; that the machinery and equipment had to be assembled not only
from every part of the United Kingdom, but from the United States of
America; that several of the most essential machines, which had been
specially made, were lost in transit owing to the action of enemy
submarines, so that new machines had to be made in their place; and
that a canteen had to be provided, fully equipped with the latest
cooking utensils and labour saving devices, which would accommodate at
two sittings no less than 5,000 people.

[Illustration: THE “AQUITANIA’S” LOUNGE (Once a hospital ward, it was
used subsequent to the Armistice as an orderly room)]


In spite of all this, however, the first complete aeroplane was turned
out on June 7th, 1918, just eight months after the commencement, while
within four or five months after this, the factory was in a position to
turn out no less than 100 aeroplanes a month. Before this, however, the
Ministry of Munitions had appointed a controller of National Aircraft
Factories, so that on the 17th of October, 1918, the factory was handed
over to the Government in full working order, another concrete instance
of the organising skill and versatility of this great Mercantile Marine

Long before this the Cunard Company had embarked upon yet another
subsidiary enterprise in the establishment of a factory for the
manufacture of shells. This factory, which came to be known as the
Cunard National Shell Factory, was established at Bootle, the building
having before been used as a store for the fittings and furniture taken
from such of the Cunard Company’s vessels as had been used as armed
cruisers and in various other capacities. A new floor was built and
the roof trusses were strengthened in order to carry shafting. Most
of the lathes and other machine tools installed in the factory were
of the type suitable for marine work, and therefore, special fittings
were necessary in order to convert them into lathes suitable for the
production of 4 in., 5 in., 6 in. and 8 in. shells; and these special
fittings were designed and made by the Cunard’s Staff Engineers. The
boring bars used for the 8 in. shells were made from the piston rods
of the old Cunard liner _Lucania_, sister ship to the _Campania_, the
vessel, as we have seen, on which Signor Marconi carried out some of
his most important wireless experiments. The ingenuity displayed in
this won a tribute of admiration from all the engineering experts who
were brought in touch with it; and the proof of their success is to
be found in the fact that the shells, ranging up to 6 in. and 8 in.
diameter, were entirely completed by female labour.

The Cunard National Shell Factory was, indeed, the first factory in
Great Britain to produce 6 in. and 8 in. shells with female labour,
and was thus the pioneer in the employment of women on shells of large
calibre. In order that the women might be able to handle these heavy
shells great attention had, of course, to be paid to the lifting
appliances; and it may, perhaps, here be mentioned that one of the
women operators worked throughout the whole period from October,
1915, to November, 1918, without the loss of a single minute of time,
probably creating a record. To this factory also several of the retired
engineering officers of the Cunard Company’s ships returned to work in
order to assist their country in increasing the output of shells, while
the factory was self-contained in that it manufactured all its own
tools, jigs, and other necessary appliances.

In this factory work was continuous, being carried out in three shifts,
one working from seven in the morning till three in the afternoon, the
next from three in the afternoon till ten at night, and the third from
ten p.m. until seven next morning; while on Saturdays one shift worked
from seven a.m. till noon, and another from noon till five p.m.

In 1916 the Bottle Nosing Plant for the large shells was instituted--a
plant that turned out to be a great success, while at the same time a
system for the mixing of gas and air to enable a furnace temperature
of 1,400 degrees centigrade to be maintained was also installed--a
contrivance that resulted in a very considerable saving both in upkeep
and expenditure.

On an average about 1,000 people were employed in this factory, of
whom 80 to 90 per cent. were women. The factory contained excellent
kitchens and dining rooms, so that hot meals could be served both for
the day and night shifts. The welfare of the workers was scrupulously
attended to; and a recreation room fitted with a theatrical stage and
all accessories was very popular with the workers in their spare time.


When on November 11th, 1918, hostilities ceased, upon the acceptance
by the enemy of the Armistice terms, work on shell production was
stopped. The factory being closed down on Saturday, November 16th,
each operator was presented on leaving with a 4·5 in. shell as a
souvenir, together with a letter of appreciation signed by the Chairman
and General Manager of the Company. A total of 410,302 shells of
various calibres was turned out during the months through which the
factory worked. Out of every 500 shells made, one was selected by the
Government to be fired as a test, and of the shells manufactured at the
Cunard Factory not a single one failed to pass.

Lastly should be mentioned one of the most beneficent minor activities
initiated by the Cunard Staff in the provision of entertainments for
wounded soldiers. It was in 1916, after the Company moved into their
great new building, that the staff first approached the Management with
a view to obtaining permission to hold a concert for wounded soldiers
in one of the new and spacious rooms. The suggestion was readily agreed
to, and the Company undertook to bear the cost, the staff doing the
work. So successful was this concert that a second entertainment was
given, this being followed by a third, until these concerts became a
regular institution through the winters of 1916–1917, 1917–1918, and
1918–1919. In all about 20 concerts were given, at which more than
7,000 wounded soldiers were entertained and provided with refreshment.
A first-class orchestra of 20 performers was created, as well as a
chorus that would have done credit to any London stage; and it is safe
to say that these Cunard concerts were eagerly looked forward to by
every Military Hospital in the district.

During the summer months also the Company lent their tender, the
_Skirmisher_, for river cruises; and more than 6,400 wounded men were
thus provided with yet another means of recreation. A similar trip
was organised in 1918 by the Cunard Company’s Bristol Staff, while
the Liverpool Office Concert Party was indefatigable in attending
at various hospitals, munition works, and camps in order to provide
additional entertainment to their wounded brothers. The Britannia Rooms
were also used for dances and receptions for American Officers and
American Red Cross Units, and when on Independence Day, July 4th, 1918,
the Lord Mayor of Liverpool entertained 4,000 American Troops, the
whole of the catering arrangements were carried out by the Cunard line.

Now to have initiated, organised, and won success in departments of
service so various and vital would not, of course, have been possible
without the unanimous and unremitting personal devotion of every
Director and member of this great Company; and it cannot be denied that
the Government paid them the compliment of using their activities to
the very highest degree. The Chairman, Sir Alfred Booth, in addition
to the enormous responsibilities resting upon him in virtue of his
executive position, acted also as Chairman of the North Atlantic
Committee, appointed under the Liner Requisitioning Scheme, while he
also served on several Royal Commissions dealing with questions of
urgent national importance in relation to reconstruction and other
post-war problems; and, at the same time, he had many calls upon him
owing to his connexion with the Employers’ Federation, the War Risks,
and Liverpool Steam Ship Owners’ Associations.

The Deputy Chairman, Sir Thomas Royden, acted as Deputy Shipping
Controller, where his wide experience of shipping affairs was
invaluable, Sir Thomas being frequently entrusted with foreign missions
requiring the greatest tact and ability. Early in the war he went to
Mudros in order to organise the transport arrangements in connexion
with the Gallipoli campaign, and at a later date he was in Washington
discussing the international shipping problems that arose when the
United States cast her lot with the Allies. He organised the shipment
of American and Colonial troops to the various theatres of war, and was
selected to represent the Shipping Controller on the Peace Conference.

Sir Percy Bates, Sir Aubrey Brocklebank, and Mr. Walter Tyser all
occupied administrative positions at the Ministry of Shipping, and Mr.
A. C. F. Henderson was selected to represent the Ministry at one of
the chief Mediterranean ports. Sir Ashley Sparks, one of the Company’s
Directors, and its New York Agent, was appointed direct representative
of the Ministry of Shipping at Washington, soon after the United States
came into the war, and was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the
British Empire in January, 1919, in recognition of his great services.
No less responsible and intricate were the duties devolving upon the
General Manager, Mr. A. D. Mearns, and the other managers, Mr. S. J.
Lister and Mr. F. Litchfield--Mr. Mearns being elected to a seat on
the Board of Directors in 1918.


Many of the Company’s officials and technical experts were frequently
called upon to render assistance to various Government Departments,
and it is deeply to be regretted that the Cunard Company’s loved and
respected Marine Superintendent, Captain G. H. Dodd, lost his life at
sea through a torpedo attack whilst on an important Government mission.

We have already referred to the mobilisation on the outbreak of war of
a very large proportion of the Company’s navigating officers, and it
is estimated that at least 1,500 sailors, firemen, and stewards joined
the colours, of whom 88 were killed or drowned. Nor was the clerical
staff behind them in its eagerness to serve the country in a combatant
capacity. When a brigade of business men was formed in Liverpool, in
1914, not less than 120 Cunarders from the Liverpool staffs enlisted on
the first day, while from the clerical staffs alone of the principal
Cunard Offices in Great Britain, 387 men joined the Army, besides 65
who joined from the Canadian and American Offices--a total of 452. Of
these 53 lost their lives in the service of their country, while a
large proportion received more or less serious wounds, several being
permanently disabled.

Many distinctions and honours were gained both on the field of battle
and at sea, to be engraved upon the Company’s records as one of their
proudest trophies. They include a Victoria Cross and, in numerous
cases, the D.S.O., D.S.C., M.C., M.M., etc. Various members of the
staff have received other British, and also French, Belgian, Russian
and United States, decorations and medals.

Such then in brief were the war activities of one of our chief
Mercantile Marine Companies, and it is surely a record of which the
whole Empire, not less than every member and employee of the Cunard
Company itself, may well be proud. In the study of it we have perhaps
been able to perceive, as in a wider survey of a larger number of
units might have been less possible, something of the peculiar genius
for organisation and adaptation that, in spite of so much ignorant
criticism, our race possesses. It is at any rate an indication that the
sea instinct that has been our inheritance for so many centuries is as
strong to-day as ever, and a happy augury for the future of a country,
whose very breath of life depends upon its maintenance of Admiralty, in
the widest sense of the word.

  Thos. Forman & Sons, Printers,
  Nottingham, Liverpool, London


Transcriber’s Notes

Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were made consistent when a
predominant preference was found in the original book; otherwise they
were not changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected; unbalanced quotation
marks were remedied when the change was obvious, and otherwise left

Illustrations in this eBook have been positioned between paragraphs
and outside quotations. In versions of this eBook that support
hyperlinks, the page references in the List of Illustrations lead to
the corresponding illustrations.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Merchant Fleet at War" ***

Copyright 2023 LibraryBlog. All rights reserved.