A New Generation

A 1928 refit modernized Mauretania’s interior design.  The Norddeutscher Lloyd ships Europa and Bremen were launched in August 1928, and Bremen captured the Blue Riband from Mauretania in 1929 with a speed of 28 knots.  On 27 August 1929, Cunard took Mauretania out of service to modify her engines to make her competitive with Bremen.  The new Mauretania beat her old speed records eastbound and westbound but was unable to catch up with the new German liner.

On 27 November 1929, Mauretania collided with a train ferry near Robbins Reef Light just after leaving New York.  No one was killed or injured in the collision, but Mauretania’s bow was damaged.  The hole in her bow was repaired within 24 hours.  She was overhauled again that winter and returned to service in February 1930.  But, with the Great Depression and newer competitors on the North Atlantic, Mauretania was painted white and converted into a cruise ship.

A British Government-promoted merger of Cunard and White Star in 1934, done for the purpose of completing the future Queen Mary, meant that Mauretania, along with White Star’s OlympicMajestic, and other older ocean liners, were considered surplus and retired.

Mauretania made her last passenger sailing from Southampton on 30 June 1934, the day Cunard and White Star officially merged.  She made two cruises to the West Indies.  After a September turnaround in New York, she returned to Southampton on 2 October.   The final crossing was made at an average speed of 24 knots.

Now outdated and past her prime, Mauretania was laid up in Southampton alongside Olympic.  Mauretania was purchased by Metal Industries Ltd. of Glasgow for scrapping on 3 April 1935.  Her fitting were auctioned off at the Southampton Docks on 14 May.  Some of Mauretania’s furnishings can still be seen in at the Java Bristol (formerly Mauretania Bar) on Park Street in Bristol, England.

On 1 July the ship left for Rosyth via Tyne under the command of Captain A. T. Brown.  Her former captain, Sir Arthur Rostron, came to see her off but refused to go aboard, saying that he preferred to remember her as she was and not as how he would see her.

She stopped at Tyne for half an hour where she drew crowds of sightseers.  The Lord Mayor of Newcastle boarded her and bid her farewell from the people of Newcastle.  On 3 July Mauretania reached the Firth of Forth.  Her masts had to be cut down to fit under the Forth Bridge and she arrived in Rosyth to be dismantled.

American President Franklin D. Roosevelt protested her scrapping, writing as a private citizen that he wished for Mauretania to be spared such an indignity unworthy of a great ocean liner.

But why couldn’t the British [have] remembered the Mauretania’s faithfulness – taken her out to sea and sunk her whole – giving her a Viking’s funeral, this ship with a fighting heart? It would be more inspiring to those who come hereafter to know that a ship that was a ship received decent treatment at her death.*

* From “Queen with a Fighting Heart” by Franklin D. Roosevelt.  World Ship Society.  Web. 29 April 2011.  <http://www.worldshipny.com/mauretania100.shtml>.

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