An ocean liner of the Cunard Line, RMS Aquitania served from 1914 to 1950. Leonard Peskett designed her, and John Brown & Company built her in Clydebank, Scotland. She had the advantage of both speeds with the Lusitania and Mauritania and the size and grandeur of the Aquitania with the launch of the Aquitania on 21 April 1913. While her speed was slower than her two competitors, the RMS Aquitania made up for it in terms of luxury and amenities. The only ocean liner to survive both world wars, the RMS Aquitania was the last operating four- funneled passenger liner. In WWI, the ship served first as an armed merchant cruiser, then as a troop transport ship, and finally as a hospital ship assisting in the Dardanelles campaign. During WWII, the ship transported Canadian soldiers. During the 1920s, the ship was nicknamed ‘Ship Beautiful’ by her passengers as one of the most classic-looking liners.
The Largest and Most Luxurious of Cunard
By far the largest Cunard steamer during WWI, the Aquitania was roughly the same size as the RMS Olympic. In terms of large plush vessels, she was able to compete with White Star and Hamburg America. With the end of World War I, the Aquitania was joined by the new RMS Berengaria, formerly the SS Imperator of Germany. The ship was top-rated in the 1920s and almost always sailed as a profitable vessel. Following the Cunard White Star Merger of 1934, the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth were ordered to replace the aging British fleet. As Aquitania was the newest and best-maintained ship, it was decided that she would remain sailing until Queen Elizabeth was ready to replace her. After the other four funneled liners retired during the 1930s, the Aquitania continued to sail until WWII.
Aquitania During WWI and WWII
During both World Wars, the Aquitania was the only ocean liner that sailed. Despite being launched right before the start of WWI, the Aquitania did not see much civilian service before being requisitioned for the war effort. Initially, she was too expensive to sail since she was armed to sail as an armed merchant cruiser. Soldiers were transported to different battlefronts around the world by the ship as a troopship. Soon after, hospital ships became necessary. During WWI, the Aquitania assisted the Britannic in healing and returning wounded soldiers home. After WWII, the ship was to be retired, but the British Admiralty repurposed it as a troop transport; the Aquitania was back at work, serving as a troop transport. After mainly sailing between Britain and Canada during the war, the ship survived and continued to sail for Cunard until 2004, when the RMS Queen Elizabeth II passed the ship as the longest-serving Cunard liner.
RMS Aquitania’s retirement
Following its service as a troopship, Aquitania was returned to Cunard in 1946 and used to transport war brides and their children to Canada under charter from the Canadian government. The final service in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the port of disembarkation for these immigration voyages, created a particular fondness for Aquitania. After completing that task in December 1949, “Aquitania” was taken out of service when the Board of Trade certificate of the ship was not renewed because it had reached a stage where the ship was too old and in an uneconomical condition be brought up to today’s safety standards. After 450 voyages and 3 million miles of travel, the vessel was retired and scrapped in 1950 in Scotland. The Aquitania carried 1.2 million passengers over nearly 36 years, making her the longest-serving Express Liner of the 20th century.
By August of that year she had been requisitioned by the government for use as an armed merchant cruiser. In the spring of 1915 it was decided the huge liner was better suited to trooping and hospital work. She was sent on troop voyages to the Dardanelles and then converted to a hospital ship