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Your Country Needs You!

August 11, 2014 Cruise No Comments Email Email

Within hours of the declaration of War on 4 August 1914 Cunard and its ships were ensnared in conflict. During the next four years of carnage, Cunard ships transported over a million men, served as hospital ships, prisoner-of-war ships, food and munitions carriers, and as armed merchant cruisers.

Cunard’s “Big Three”MauretaniaLusitania and Aquitania would all play their role as the agreement with the Government, who loaned Cunard money to build them, at the time of the building of these ships stated they were to be placed at the nation’s disposal in time of war.

Mauretania was requisitioned for troop-carrying and carried 10,000 troops in three voyages to Gallipoli and in 1915 became a hospital ship. In 1916 she carried Canadian troops to Europe, followed in 1918 by the transport of US troops when the Americans finally entered the war; no sooner had she ferried them over, of course, than she had to take 34,000 back again after the Armistice was signed.

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After undertaking just three round-trip voyages since entering service in May 1914 Aquitania was taken over by the Admiralty and fitted out as an armed merchant cruiser so within three months of her entry into service she was ruthlessly stripped of all her luxurious fittings, hurriedly strengthened, fitted with six-inch guns and painted an overall grey. Four days after the declaration of war HMS Aquitania left the Mersey on her first patrol. Her time as an armed merchant cruiser was short-lived as she was considered too large and vulnerable for such a role. From May to August 1915 she was used to carry troops to Gallipoli and transported over 30,000 before being converted into a hospital ship where she accommodated over 25,000 wounded and sick personnel. After the entry of America into the war Aquitania was again used for transport service and made nine Atlantic voyages carrying over 60,000 American troops. At the end of the war she was employed in repatriation work before being handed back to Cunard where she was refitted and resumed normal service.

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Lusitania would remain in commercial service which she did until 7 May 1915 when she was sunk by a torpedo ten miles off the Old Head of Kinsale as she was making her final day’s approach to Liverpool. Lusitania sank within 18 minutes with the loss of 1,119 lives. The sinking of the Lusitania, an unarmed and non-combatant merchant vessel was one of the great tragedies of World War 1 and the loss of so many American lives was a contributing factor to America entering the War

Other Cunard ships played distinguished roles during the Conflict. Carmania had the distinction of taking the first German casualty of the war when she sank the Cap Trafalgar – ironically disguised as Carmania – off South America in November 1914. Campania, meanwhile, was equipped with a 240-foot long platform and so became the forerunner of today’s aircraft carriers.

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Lusitania was the first of 22 loses for Cunard – 56% of the company’s pre-war tonnage or a total of 220,444 gross tons.


Lusitania                               7 May 1915 – torpedoed

Caria                                      6 November 1915 – torpedoed

Veria                                       17 December 1915 – torpedoed


Franconia                              4 October 1916 – torpedoed

Alaunia                                  19 October 1916 – mine


Ivernia                                    1 January 1917 – torpedoed

Lycia                                       11 February 1917 – torpedoed

Laconia                                  25 February 1917 – torpedoed

Folia                                       11 March 1917 – torpedoed

Thracia                                   27 March 1917 – torpedoed

Feltria                                     5 May 1917 – torpedoed

Ultonia                                   27 June 1917 – torpedoed

Volodia                                  21 August 1917 – torpedoed

Vinovia                                  19 December 1917 – torpedoed


Andania                                 27 January 1918 – torpedoed

Aurania                                  4 February 1918 – torpedoed

Valeria                                   21 March 1918 – caught fire and destroyed

Ausonia                                 30 May 1918 – torpedoed and sunk by gunfire

Vandalia                                9 June 1918 – torpedoed

Ascania                                 13 June 1918 – wrecked

Carpathia                              17 July 1918 – torpedoed

Flavia                                     24 August 1918 – torpedoed

In addition Cunard-owned company losses included Anchor Line (seven ships / 69,040 gross tons), Commonwealth and Dominion (nine ships / 69,040 gross tons) and Brocklebank (nine ships / 55,155 tons). In all Cunard lost 45 vessels amounting to 389,850 gross tons.

The company was keen to make sure that their injured crew and staff from the Liverpool Head Office were looked after once the War was over and established a welfare fund for them as well as organise various activities, including days out to the country, in the years after.

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