Built as "Imperator" for the Hamburg-Amerika Line, she made her maiden
voyage from Cuxhaven to New York on the 20th June 1913.
From August 1914, she was in Hamburg harbour for the duration of the
war. On the 5th May 1919 she was seized by US navy as a troop transport
and in February 1920, she was handed over to the Shipping Controller,
London as reparation for the sinking of the "Lusitania" and sold to the Cunard Line, where she bacame the
company's flagship, later renamed "Berengaria". In 1934, Cunard
and White Star Line merged and on the 3rd March 1938 Berengaria caught
fire in New York harbour. On the 7th of November 1938, she was sold
for scrap, following Cunard's introduction of the giants "Queen Mary"
and "Queen Elizabeth" two years previously.
Between 1920 and the entry into service of the "Queen Mary"
in 1936, the Berengaria was the pride of the Cunard fleet. The ship,
however, was originally built for the Hamburg-Amerika Line at the Vulcan
Werft shipyard at Hamburg on the river Elbe. She was originally named
"Imperator" and was launched on 23 May 1912. As she was launched
only 5 weeks after the "Titanic" disaster, changes had been
made both in hull design and the equipment on board in order to increase
safety. At the time, the "Imperator" was the world's largest
During WWI the "Imperator" lay protected on the river Elbe.
At the end of the war the Allied forces of occupation found the "Imperator"
rusted, decaying and stuck in the mud. After serving as a troop transport
until August 1919, she was transferred to Britain and it was made clear
that the vessel would be managed by the Cunard Line. Retaining the name
Imperator, she made her first voyage for Cunard on 11 December 1919
from New York to Southampton. On 21 February 1920 she made her first
voyage from Liverpool to New York. She continued in this service but
it was decided to change the name to "Berengaria".
converted from coal to oil burning engines and a complete overhaul was
carried out by Armstrong Whitworth & Co. on the Tyne. The ship, however,
was not without her fair share of problems. In August 1922 the liner
struck a submerged object which damaged one of her propellers. Later
the same year she lost 36 feet of guard rail in the Atlantic during
heavy weather. For the next 6 years, however, she operated successfully
on Cunard's express service in conjunction with the "Mauretania"
and "Aquitania". During the early 1930's the ship went aground
twice on the approaches to Southampton, although she suffered no real
damage. 1933 saw another major overhaul for her in Southampton, during
which the interior was upgraded. The withdrawal of the "Mauretania"
in 1934 placed further pressure on "Berengaria" to operate
more efficiently and in 1935 she set a record passage on the New York
to Southampton route.
During an overhaul in Southampton in 1936, a fire broke out in the first
class cabins on the starboard side of the ship. The fire was soon controlled
and extinguished but there was considerable smoke and water damage.
It was ascertained that the cause was again defective wiring, which
was eventually to lead to her demise. She made Her final passage on
the Southampton-Cherbourg-New York route on 23 February 1938. After
she arrived in New York, on 3 March, a fire was discovered in the first
class lounge. It took the ship's crew and firemen over 3 hours to bring
the blaze under control. After officials had examined the ship it was
decided that they could not give her clearance to embark passengers.
The following day she sailed back to Southampton where it was discovered
that faulty wiring had again been the cause of the fire. Throughout
her life she had been pagued by fires caused by faulty wiring and as
the cost of renovation would be so high it was decided to withdraw the
"Berengaria" from service altogether on 23 March 1938. For
the next few months she lay idle in Southampton dock until 19 October,
when it was decided to dispose of her.
Sir John Jarvis, MP bought the ship for demolition on
the Tyne at Jarrow for £108,000. She sailed from Southampton on December.
The furniture and fittings were auctioned in January 1939 and over 200
Jarrow men were employed in breaking up the old ship. The outbreak of
war, however, meant that the men were required elsewhere so it was not
until 1946 that the remains of the hull were towed to Rosyth for the
final process of dismantling. By this time few people were interested
in the remains of an old liner that had been built in the Imperial Germany
Launched 23rd May 1912, A G Vulcan, Hamburg
Commissioned 24th May 1913
Gross Tonnage - 52,226
Length Overall: 909 feet
Beam: 98 feet
Depth: 63 feet
Machinery: 4 turbines AEG-Vulcan
Speed: 23 knots service, 24 knots maximum
Passengers: 714 + 194 first class, 401 + 205 second class, 962 + 1772
third class, 1180 crew.
From Cunard Archives and www.ocean-liners.com