Mauretania  logo
Design Construction Fitting Out Trials Service War Service Final

MAURETANIA completed her Government work by May 1919 and, following restoration to her pre war condition, was returned to Cunard service. A major change at this time was the substitution of Southampton in place of Liverpool as her home port. She left on her first peacetime crossing on 6 March 1920 and, following a call at Cherbourg, arrived in New York having averaged 21 knots for the voyage. Unfortunately her age was beginning to tell and in particular her turbines were showing signs of wear and tear following the years of arduous service. MAURETANIA’S average speeds continued to drop (as low as 17.8 knots on one occasion) but once again help came from an unexpected source.

 A fire broke out as she lay alongside in Southampton on 25 July 1921 and only the heroic efforts of the Fire Brigade prevented more serious damage to the vessel. As it was there was extensive damage to many first class cabins and the first class dining room and Cunard decided to have her repaired at her builder’s yard. Whilst she was out of service the company also decided to take the opportunity to convert her machinery to oil burning. Thousands of spectators lined the banks of the Tyne to watch MAURETANIA return to her birthplace and the same spectacle occurred when she left six months later in March 1922.

 She returned to Southampton with a new lease of life. Sailing with more passengers and fewer crew MAURETANIA often managed to average 25 knots. In 1923 she undertook her first cruise,  of several weeks duration, around the Mediterranean carrying some of the world’s richest people. Also in 1923 Cunard decided that it was time for a major overhaul of her turbine machinery which was begun in Southampton but finished in Cherbourg because of labour problems. When she returned to service in May 1924 she picked up where she had left off, crossing the Atlantic with great regularity and little fuss.

The inevitable finally happened in 1929 when a younger, faster ship captured the Blue Riband. The German liner “Bremen”, on her maiden voyage, took the record for a westbound crossing at 27.83 knots followed by the eastbound at 27.92 knots. The “Bremen” had the advantage of an extra 32,000 hp and the latest hull form technology. However MAURETANIA was not going to give up her record easily and set out for New York in August 1929 to try her best. She averaged 26.9 knots

knots westbound and 27.22 eastbound to break her own previous record but not quite fast enough to beat the “Bremen”. This was her swansong but a rumour still persists that during one of her cruises in the early 1930’s she was opened up to see what she was still capable of and a speed of 30.1 knots was supposedly reached.

 Following the loss of the Blue Riband she spent less and less time on the Atlantic and more time cruising, the most popular being from New York to the West Indies. For this service she was painted white overall which led to people calling her the “White Queen” although the crew referred to her as the “Wedding Cake”. The years were now beginning to take their toll and MAURETANIA’S accommodation and facilities were beginning to look dated. The company watched things closely and finally decided in 1934 to withdraw her from service. MAURETANIA made her final Atlantic crossing in September of that year at an average speed of over 24 knots carrying many of her loyal customers who mourned the passing of this Edwardian lady.

MAURETANIA was then laid up at Southampton until mid 1935 when she was stripped and her fixtures and fittings sold off at auction. On  1 July 1935 she left Southampton for the last time en route to the breakers yard at Rosyth. As she sailed up the east coast of England under her own steam for the last time it was fitting that she would pass the River Tyne. Thousands of people lined the shore  while many thousands more set sail in a flotilla of small craft to say goodbye to “their ship”. Following a quick trip on board by local dignitaries rockets were fired, the assembled multitude sang “Auld Lang Syne” and many people cried as MAURETANIA steamed slowly away to meet her fate.

So passed the greatest ship ever built on Tyneside. She was a combination of grace, style and purpose and for 29 years she sailed the seas as an illustration of the flair, skills and craftsmanship of the region. No other ship has ever entered the collective psyche of a region as she did and, unfortunately,  there will never be another MAURETANIA.

An officer standing on the bridge wing.
© Tyne and Wear Archives Service
Tyne And Wear Archives Service Logo © Heritage Lottery Fund Heritage Lottery Fund