2: Article 2: CAMPANIA and LUCANIA - The First Great Cunarders
Cunard's CAMPANIA, when she appeared in 1892, immediately rendered all
other liners obsolete with her simple lines and lack of fussy detail so
beloved of rivals the Inman Line. She had an almost straight bow, and
gigantic raked funnels - go faster funnels, you night say. And go faster
she did, not on this run, but on the return crossing, and then took the
record for the westbound on the next dash out to New York. Her sister
LUCANIA appeared on the scene and proved a bit faster yet, and Cunard
held all the records until the German KAISER WILHELM DER GROSSE scooped
the lot and the Blue Riband.
It is fair to say that the Cunard brand was made from these two ships
- powerful, modern, and luxurious. The same design cues would persist
in their Atlantic liners until the revolutionary QUEEN ELIZABETH 2 re-wrote
how a Cunarder should look. The new QUEEN MARY 2 harks back not only to
her illustrious predecessor of the same name, but through the design of
the bridge, which on the older ship seems to hark back to the distinctive
high bridge of CAMPANIA
CAMPANIA prior to her launch on 8th September 1882 - ( Photo supplied
by Stuart Cameron on Clydesite in 2003 )
CAMPANIA's life was not without incident. On July 21st of 1900 she sliced
clean through the Liverpool barque EMBLETON, causing 11 deaths as the
sailing ship sank.
But is was in October 1905 that a famous Cunard boast was to be rendered
obsolete. Amazingly up until this time, no passenger had ever been lost
in an accident on a Cunard ship. However on the 11th of that month, during
a gale, a freak wave hit her in the mid-Atlantic.
As the wave went through the vessel it burst the doors from the steerage
deck, spitting out into the ocean five of the unfortunate passengers,who
were never seen again.
On top of this 29 other passengers were injured in the incident, dashed
against steelwork as the wave ripped through the vessel, resulting in
cracked and broken ribs and bones. One of whom was to die from her injuries
later when the ship docked in New York.
A newspaper of the time recounts that officials from Cunard stood over
the Captain at the press call, refusing him to answer questions about
An interesting and more happy fact of her history is that CAMPANIA was
the first ship in the world to be fitted with Marconi's wireless telegraph,
In 1907 a new breed of Cunarders appeared, the LUSITANIA and MAURETANIA
and despite being relatively young in todays terms, the sisters of 1892
and 1893 were outmoded and outclassed.
The opulent interiors of LUCANIA and CAMPANIA were of the highest
standard- ( Photo supplied by Stuart Cameron on Clydesite in 2003
CAMPANIA continued nevertheless on the New York run until 1914, after
clocking up 250 voyages on it. Her intended last spell as a passenger
vessel saw her return to the river and city of her birth when Anchor Line
chartered her for two sailings from Glasgow to New York - her first began
on the 23rd May and the second on the 20th June 1914. So her history may
have ended fittingly; leaving the city that built her.
But, the war intervened. AQUITANIA, which had made her maiden voyage
on 30th May, and effectively displaced the old girl, was requisitioned
by the Admiralty. Once again CAMPANIA was pressed into service and made
three round trips to New York, the last one starting 26th September (another
Cunarder shares this anniversary date - QUEEN MARY being launched on 26th
After completing her final voyage she at last sold to the breakers.
Step in the Admiralty once again!
They purchased her and had her converted on Merseyside into an aircraft
carrier. This laid the foundations for the Fleet Air Arm. On 30th April
1915, now virtually unrecognisable (except for that distinctive bridge!)
she left Cammell Laird's and proceeded to Scapa Flow. Here she made history
once more by being the first ship, while under way, to launch an aircraft.
By all accounts she performed her new role successfully. She would have
took part too in the Battle of Jutland, but her captain missed the orders
to sail. He decided not to attempt to catch up, as she would have been
a vulnerable lone target.
From October 1918 she operated from Burntisland on the Forth and it was
here she would end her days.
Remember the remember the 5th of November for something other than Guy
Fawkes, for on the morning of that date in 1911, she dragged her anchor
in ferocious winds and collided with nearby ROYAL OAK, who in turn struck
GLORIOUS, then CAMPANIA drifted across the bows of REVENGE and was fatally
holed. It took three hours for her to sink to the bottom of the Forth.
It is ironic that she survived her newer fleetmates LUSITANIA, ALAUNIA,
ANDANIA, all lost in the war years, whilst she herself should sink, in
an accident, in anchorage, and only four days before war had ended.
LUCANIA - Photo from the Joe McMillan Collection posted
by Gavin Stewart on Clydesite
As for LUCANIA, when she made her maiden voyage on September 2nd 1883,
expectations were high and they were found to be just. She took the record
for the eastbound run to New York and from then on both she and her sister
CAMPANIA set new records until the earlier mentioned German liner stole
As I said before, LUCANIA and CAMPANIA were outmoded when the new Cunarders
appeared in 1907. LUCANIA from then on was used less and less until in
1909 she only made one transatlantic run before being laid up in Liverpool's
the 14th August 1909 disaster struck as a fire started, then raged through
the entire vessel. As firefighters poured water into her, she took on
a list, and by the early hours of the next morning she took on a severe
list. Tugs worked to right the vessel and she was taken out into the middle
of the dock where she settled into the mud.
She was beyond economic repair, the end had finally come.
But not quite. It was found that her massive engines had escaped undamaged
and so, with the diginity she deserved, it was under her own steam that
she progressed to Ward's breakers yard in Swansea, there to be slowly
These two ships then had set the scene for the ascendancy of the Cunard
firm and its famous ships. From then on the connections with the Clyde
would see most of their ships built there, right up until 1969 when the
QE2 emerged completed from The Firth of Clyde Drydock at Inchgreen.
(Right: Photo of LUCANIA's engines, posted by Stuart Cameron