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LISBON w -f,' d 






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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 oi 
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 himself. 

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. 


B ix 



Foreword ------ xvii 


I. Mobilisation ----- i 

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 


To face pag$ 

" 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 Ci 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 
" Aquitania " at Southampton with Canadian troops - 2 

Embarkation - - - - - - 6 

Transiort in Southampton Water - - 6 

Canadian troops on "Caronia" being addressed by their 

commander - - - - 8 

The "Campania" sinking in the Firth of Forth - - 10 

The " Carmania " starboard forward guns 14 

Rope protection on "Carmania" against shell splinters - 14 

Life on a transport (i) : Kit inspection - - - 16 

Life on a transport (ii) : Rifle drill - - - 16 

The "Carmania" ready for action - - - 18 

South African infantry on board the " Laconia " - -22 

The " Caronia " leaving Durban - - - 24 

H.M.S. "Mersey" alongside the "Laconia" off the Rufigi 

River - - - - - - 26 

The "Carmania" approaching Trinidad - 30 

One of the "Carmania's" guns - - - - 30 

"Abandon Ship" drill at sea - - - 32 

Aftkr the fight - - - - - 32 

Chart-house and bridge of the " Carmania " after the fight 34 

The "Laconia" at Durban - - - 38 

Final of the S.A.I, heavyweight championship on the " Laconia " 38 

The .Nelson Plate presented to the "Carmania" - - 40 

Crew leaving the " Franconia " after she was torpedoed - 42 



To face page 
Scene on board after the torpedoing of the " Ivernia " (i) 46 

Scene on board after the torpedoing of the " Ivernia " (ii) 48 

The torpedoing of the " Ivernia " : Survivors afloat on raft 50 

The torpedoing of the " Ivernia " : Survivors being taken 
in one of the boats - - - - 

The "Lusitania" - - - - 

The " Mauretania " as a hospital ship off Naples Harbour- 

The " Alaunia " as an emergency hospital ship - 

The "Lusitania" passing the Old Head of Kinsale - 

The " white wake " that stretched to the beaches of Gallipoli 66 

Officers, nurses and R.A.M.C. orderlies of H.M.H.S. " Aquitania " 70 

" Homeward Bound." - - - - 70 

The sun-cure - — — — __ 

The "Franconia" passing through the Suez Canal - 

American troops never forgot the "Lusitania" - - 





In the Spring of 1918 the "Mauretania" brought 33,000 

American soldiers to Europe - - - 

The "Aquitania's" stage - - - - 

The " Saxonia," camouflaged, leaving New York with 

American troops for Europe - - 

Welcoming the first contingent of returning American 

troops, New York, December 1918 - - - 

The " Mauretania " arriving at New York, December 1918 - 

Boat drill on a Cunard hospital ship - - 

The "Aquitania's" garden lounge as hospital ward - 

The " Aurania " ashore after being torpedoed - - 

The " Ivernia " settling down - - - - 

The " Ivernia " survivors arriving in port - - 

Troops landing from the " Mauretania " - - - 

The " Dwinsk " settling down after being torpedoed - 







To face page 

Survivors from the " Dwinsk " after eight days in the 

lifeboat - - - - - - 96 

The "Mauretania" leaving Southampton- - - 98 

" Father Neptune " cared little for the preying submarines 102 

An armed cruiser's range finder - - 102 

The " Thracia " fast - - - - - 104 

The "Aquitania" re-appears in the Mersey - - 106 

Officers of the torpedoed "Franconia" - - no 

A Cunard crew buying war savings' certificates - no 

One of the American howitzers, assembled at the Cunard 

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 

A hospital ward in the lounge of the "Mauretania" - 126 

The "Aquitania" lounge as orderly room - 128 

Officers' ward in the smoking room of the " Aquitania" - 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 

c xvii 


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 



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 

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 

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 

Beat,s with tremendous boom ? 

What call of instant doom, 

With thunderstroke of terror and of pride, 

With urgency that may not be denied, 

Reverberates upon the heart's own drum 

Comet... Come ! ...for thou must come! 

Henry New bolt. 

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 

D I 

A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 ComeU 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 29J days. In the following year 

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the Conde 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 16 \ 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 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 Mclver, 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 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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, 



"Ark we downhearted?" 

Transport in Southampton Water : 

Colonials' first view of " Blighty " 


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, 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 23 J 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, 


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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 Atlantic. 

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 
8| 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 Vlth staircase, her garden Lounge, 
her Adams drawing-room, her frescoes, her Palladian 
lounge, her Carolean smoking-room, and her 

E Q 

A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 convenient : 

Name of Ship. 


Name of Ship. 




Ultonia . . 










Caronia . . 






Phrygia . . 




Brescia . . 


Laconia . . 




Saxonia . . 




Ivernia . . 

I4>27 8 

Cypria . . 




Pa via 






Alaunia . . 


Thracia . . 


♦Campania . . 




* Tliis 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. 





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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, 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 




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Combatant Cunarders 

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 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 

The "Carmania's" starboard 
forward guns 

Rope protection on "Carmania" 
against shell splinters 

Combatant Cunarders 

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. 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 Carmanid'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 Roval 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 


Life on a transport (i) : 
Kit inspection 

Life on a transport (ii) 
Rifle drill 

Combatant Gunarders 

some further delay the third-class passengers were 
landed. Owing to the fact that the Caronia 
was already in the Garmania'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 
CaiTfnania 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 
* 17 

A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 search- 
lights 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 



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Combatant Cunarders 

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 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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-Litch field, 
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 


Combatant Cunarders 

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 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 


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Combatant Cunarders 

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 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 lj 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, 



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Combatant Cunarders 

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 uninhabited. 

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 
q 25 

A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 


H.M.S " Mersey" alongside the "Laconia," 


Combatant Cunarders 

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 Carmanid'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 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 


2 I 

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a > 

a 1-1 


Combatant Gunarders 

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, 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 fore ward, 
but this fire seemed to have been extinguished. 




The "Carmania" approaching Trinidad 
("Cap Trafalgar" to the right) 

One of the "Carmania's" guns 

Combatant Cunarders 

The Carmanid'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 Carmanid's masts, ventilators 
boats, and derricks, and it is an amazing fact, 
considering that at one time the range was not 
more than lh miles, that her casualties should have 
been so few. The Carmanid'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 

It was now evident that the Carmanid'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 

3 1 

A Merchant Fleet at War 

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. 

Upon this all the Carmanid'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 

3 2 



Combatant Cunarders 

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 stand- 
ing 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 

H 33 

A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 


O « 

Combatant Gunarders 

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 19th. 

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 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

Carrnania, 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 Carrnania 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.31.S. Carrnania 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 representative." 

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 





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Combatant Cunarders 

been compared with the fight of the Shanncm 
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 meet." 



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 


The "Laconia" at Durban 

Final of the S.A.I, heavy-weight championship 
on the " Laconia" 

Carrying On 

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 enemy. 

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. 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 foimd to be 
missing, probably as the result of the explosion, 
the rest being saved by patrol boats and destroyers 
and the Alaunia 's own lifeboats. 


The Nelson Plate presented 
to the "Carmania" 

Carrying On 

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 
i 4 i 

A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 

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 


Crew leaving the "Franconia" 
after she was torpedoed 

Carrying On 

(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. 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

The destroyer Rifleman immediately manoeuvred 
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. 







Carrying On 

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 propellors, 
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 after- 
wards 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 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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. 


Scene on board after the torpedoing 
of THE " Ivernia" (i) 

Carrying On 

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 Ausonicfs 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 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 da) 7 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 


Scene on board after the torpedoing 
of the "Ivernia" (ii) 

Carrying On 

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 

k 49 

A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 ot 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 live 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 Ullonia, 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 


The torpedoing of the "Ivernia" 
Survivors afloat on raft 

Carrying On 

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, aud 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 

5 1 

A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 appointed. 

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 


Carrying On 

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 manage- 
ment 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 

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 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 milk. 


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Carrying On 

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 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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. 

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 


t ll Ml ' V I t. Ti 

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i iM'fli' i < 'A 1 ll 1 !. 





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Carrying On 

the map,* 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. 

* This map will be found in the inside fiont cover of the book. 



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. 


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 


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The Ordeal of the Lusitania 

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." 

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 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 Al. 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 




in — • 


= < 

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5 w 

The Ordeal of the Lusitania 

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 24-| 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 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 

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 life-boats, 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, 


The "Alaunia" as an emergency 
hospital ship 

The Ordeal of the Lusitania 

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 f 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. 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 vovage, received a wireless message to 
the effect that enemy submarines were cruising 
in the Irish Sea. He received instructions to rly 
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 

6 4 






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The Ordeal of the Lusitania 

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 advertise- 
ment 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 

M 65 

A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 


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The Ordeal of the Lusitania 

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 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 torpedoed. 

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 
orpedo 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, 





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The Ordeal of the Lusitania 

and in less than twenty minutes she had sunk 
in deep water, carrying to their graves no less than 
1,198 men, women and children. 

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 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 

" 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 


Officers, nurses and R.A.M.C. orderlies 
of H.M.H.S. '-Aquitania" 

"Homeward Bound" 

The Ordeal of the Lusitania 

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 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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. 

44 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 


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The Ordeal of the Lusitania 

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. 

4k 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 

N 73 

A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 Perl 12, of 
Glasgow ; she was close inshore under the light- 
house, 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 


American troops never forgot 
the "lusitania" 

The Ordeal of the Lusitania 

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 

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 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 unskilful action of some of the passengers, 

7 6 

The Ordeal of the Lusitania 

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 

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 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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. 

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 


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The Ordeal of the Lusitania 

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 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 lifebelts. 
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. 


The "Aquitania's" stage 

The " Saxonia," camouflaged, leaving New York 
with American troops for Europe 

The Ordeal of the Lusitania 

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 
o 81 

A Merchant Fleet at War 

obeyed as far as it possibly could be. lie then 
called out ' AVomen 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, 
4 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, 


Welcoming the first contingent of returning American troops, 
New York, December, 1918 

The "Mauretania" arriving at New York, 
December, 1918 

The Ordeal of the Lusitania 

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 

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 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

" 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. 

11 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 



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The Ordeal of the Lusitania 

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 Volkszeilung 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 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 
achievem nt, 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 Sea pa 


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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. 
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 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 chronologically. 
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 







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The Toll of the Submarines 

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, 
p 89 

A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 alter 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 show r ed 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 attention. 


The "Aurania" ashore after 
being torpedoed 

The "Ivernia" settling down. (Photographed against 
the sun from the rescuing trawler) 

The Toll of the Submarines 

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 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 after- 
wards 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 

Nor must another incident in connection with 
the saving of the DwinsFs 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. 


5 o 
S J 

x Z 

3 > 

The Toll of the Submarines 

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, 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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. Frankenjels, ironically enough a German prize 
vessel in the employ of the India Office, and 
landed at Malta. There were happily no casualties 
among the Carlo'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 3 \ 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 


The "Ivernia" survivors 
arriving in port 

Troops landing from the " Mauretania" ; 
two days later they were at sljvla bay 

The Toll of the Submarines 

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 crisis. 

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 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

engineers, and returned towards the lifeboat. 
From her deck, he was then assisted into the 
water. The Feltrid'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 Feltrid'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 

9 6 


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The "Dwinsk" settling down 
after being torpedoed 

Survivors from the "Dwinsk" after 
eight days in the lifeboat 

The Toll of the Submarines 

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 neighbour- 
hood, 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, 
Q 97 

A Merchant Fleet at War 

three of them making fast by painters so as not 
to get adrift from eaeh 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 ship- 
wrecked 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 

9 8 









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H U 





<~ C 

a ^ 

3 O 


The Toll of the Submarines 

picked her up on the starboard beam, his vessel 
had already been struck by a shot from her. 
Captain Chesters immediately altered the Lucia'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 
LycicCs 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 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 


The Toll of the Submarines 

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 8.8. 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, 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 Phrygians 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 
Cimard 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, OfTicers, 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 


Father Neptune" cared little for 
the preying submarines 


The Toll of the Submarines 

concerned upon the splendid gunnery and seamanship 
which put the enemy submarine out of action." 
Captain Manley and the Phrygians crew also 
received recognition from the Admiralty for their 

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 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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. 





2 z 

= 3 

- < 




The Toll of the Submarines 

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. 

R 105 

A Merchant Fleet at War 

The Thracid'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 Tkracia 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 











- a 

< z 




The Toll of the Submarines 

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 18 th 
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 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 neighbour- 
hood, 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 


< J1 

„ ,J 
- < 

The Toll of the Submarines 

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 

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 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 


Officers of the torpedoed 
" Franconia" 


The Toll of the Submarines 

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 lost. 

The Vcria, Captain D. P. Thomson, was sunk 
on December 7th, 1915, in the Mcditerancan, 
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 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

probably the same submarine that was sighted 
approaching the Veria at high speed from a 
distance of about eight miles. Almost at once 
the c 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. 

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 

I 12 

One of the American howitzers assembled 
at the cunard works 

The "Aqcitania's" chapei. 

The Toll of the Submarines 

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 

i J 3 

A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 meaal and a 
monetary gift from Lloyds. 

Twice it has been our duty to record the 
torpedoing of vessels under the command of the 














The Toll of the Submarines 

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 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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. 


The Toll of the Submarines 

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 Campahia, 
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. 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

Name ok Ship. 



Date Lost. 





7 May 1915. 



6 Nov. „ 




Dec. ,, 



4 Oct. 1916. 




19 » 



1 Jan., 1917. 



n Feb. „ 



25 ., 



11 Mar. „ 



17 .. 

Valacia (towed intoport) 

6, 5 26 

1 Apl. „ 



5 May „ 

Ausonia (towed into port 


11 June „ 

but sunk the following 




27 „ 



21 Aug. „ 




19 Dec. 



27 Jan., 1918. 



4 Feb. „ 



30 May „ 



9 J une » 



17 July ,, 



24 Aug. „ 

Campania (turned into 



Nov. ,, 

seaplane carrier) 


Interior of the Aeroplane 
Factory (i) 

Interior of the Aeroplane 
Factory (ii) 


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 I 

Margaretta Byrdb. 

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 purposes. 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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. 

The Campania, converted as we have seen into 
a sea-plane carrier, was re-fitted 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. Scolia, the well-known Holyhead mail boat 
of the London and North Western Railway, was 
reconditioned, after having been in Admiralty 


Interior of the Aeroplane 
Factory (iii) 

Russian refugees on the "Phrygia" in the 
Black Sea, Spring, 1919 

Shore Work for the Services 

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. 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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, 

I 22 

One of the rooms in the Cunard 
Shell Works 







A Record of "striking" 

Shore Work for the Services 

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 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 
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, 


Shore Work for the Services 

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 under- 
taken 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 
12,000 Manganese Bronze Rings for 
supporting packing leathers 
in recuperating gear at- 
tached 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. 

I2 5 

• \ 


This recuperating gear 
is the mechanism 
used to bring the 
gun into firing posi- 
tion again after 

A Merchant Fleet at War 

24 Battery Boxes in connection with above. 

500 Sets Rings and Discs protecting obturator. This is a 
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 ships. 




X ~ 

- < 

z 5 

< D 

? < 

E « 

X. — 

O r- 

Shore Work for the Services 

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. 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 


The "AquitaniaV Lounge (Once a hospital ward, it was used 
subsequent to the Armistice as an orderly room) 

Officers' ward in the Smoking Room 


Shore Work for the Services 

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. 

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 

u 1 129 

A Merchant Fleet at War 

Long before this the Cunard Company had 
embarked upon yet another subsidiary enterprise 
in the establishment of a factory for the manu- 
facture 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 tor 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 


Shore Work for the Services 

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 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 




x z 
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- < 

< - 

Shore Work for the Services 

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, 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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. 


Shore Work for the Services 

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 Liver- 
pool 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. 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 

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 


< ,r 


< * 

J s. 

U X 

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Shore Work for the Services 

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 Super- 
intendent, 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 


A Merchant Fleet at War 

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 

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 


Shore Work for the Services 

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 

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j H O L) Santa Barbara 


Series 9482 




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°00 291866 

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