The amazing success of the Lusitania and Mauretania in the early 20th century was a notable success for Cunard, transferring the prestigious Blue Riband award to the line and securing their prominent position in speedy transatlantic travel above the liners of the North German Lloyd. However, the company were facing new a new grapple. The mighty International Mercantile Marine company now owned some of the most illustrious and noteworthy shipping companies in the world including the famous White Star Line. This great power of this corporation could be fatal to the future of Cunard Line. The White Star Line was establishing a reputation for impeccable luxury but not concentrating on building record braking liners.
In late 1912 Cunard called upon Leonard Peskett, designer of the Lusitania and Mauretania, to design a new vessel to join her earlier sisters. The R.M.S. Aquitania was launched on 21st April 1913 and Started her maiden voyage on 29th May 1914. The Aquitania was designed to be of a speed not too dissimilar to that of her earlier sisters but not intended to be a record breaking liner. The Aquitania had a service speed of about 23 knots and weighed 45,647 tons. The Aquitania had much enhanced interior accommodation to the Lusitania and Mauretania.
Aquitania had much enhanced interior accommodation to the Lusitania and Mauretania.
Right: The Aquitania during construction, (courtesy of National Museums Liverpool, Merseyside Maritime Museum)
Although they were not as lavish as that of the Olympic or late Titanic, the Aquitania had beautiful first class accommodation On A deck was the magnificent Georgian lounge. The plasterwork, similar to that of Sir Christopher Wren, showed great examples of late Georgian design. On one side of the room was a small round platform for music and the ceiling was plastered to show the four elements- Earth, wind, water and fire. There was also a Georgian mahogany styled smoking room and leisure facilities included a swimming pool and gymnasium, the first aboard any Cunard Liner. The grandest room on board was the dining saloon, plastered in a classical style with an open well and dome. The interior design in first class was undertaken by Mewès and Davis.
The Aquitania carried a greater quantity if steerage passengers than the Olympic class liners, but she did not had the same lushness of upper class accommodation, with a larger number of interior cabins in first class and fewer large hotel style staterooms. She did however, have a number of fine suites named after various painters such as Rembrandt and Gainsborough The second class area on board included a dining saloon, a lounge, drawing room, smoking room and a veranda café. Olympic and Titanic had a larger expanse of deck space, nevertheless, the interior accommodation of second class was of a much higher standard.
left: The Aquitania at Liverpool. (Courtesy of National Museums Liverpool, Merseyside Maritime Museum)
After her maiden voyage, Aquitania only completed two transatlantic voyages before World War one broke out and she was requisitioned for wartime service. First of all she was transformed into an armoured merchant cruiser. In 1917 she was employed as a hospital vessel. In 1918 came the end of the war. The Aquitania was handed back to Cunard, who had lost 22 ships during the war including the mighty Lusitania. This loss was compensated for by the other side, HAPAG were forced to hand over the Imperator to Cunard Line, who renamed her R.M.S. Berengaria. Most of the surviving ships including Mauretania and Aquitania were refitted and many became oil-powered. The Aquitania became very popular again in the late 1920’s with many summer cruises and long voyages. Aquitania went for a major refit in 1922. This development added lavatories and showers to many of the C deck staterooms. These staterooms were redeveloped again in 1933, and many of the interior cabins were also transformed into large bathrooms. In 1939 it was announced that Britain was at war with Germany. For most of the war the Aquitania was commissioned as an army trooper. After the war ended in 1945 the Aquitania started a small cruise service. In 1949 Cunard noticed how outdated their once beautiful liner had become and considered possibilities for her future. By 1950 the Aquitania had been taken out of service. During her extremely long life, one of the longest in Cunard’s history, she steamed some 3 million miles and carried over 1.2 million passengers. She was then scrapped in Gourock. One of the ships bells is currently on board the QE2 and the other is at All Saints Cathedral, Halifax, Nova Scotia, USA.
Length 901.5ft (274.8m)
Beam 97ft (29.6m)
Gross tonnage 45,647 tons
Engines four sets of triple expansion steam turbines
Speed 23 knots
Passengers 618 first class, 614 second class, 1,998 third class