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RMS Aquitania in the Great War - The Wartime Memories Project -

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- RMS Aquitania during the Great War -


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RMS Aquitania



 Hospital ship  

HMHS Aquitania

RMS Aquitania was a Cunard Line ocean liner designed by Leonard Peskett and built by John Brown & Company in Clydebank, Scotland. She was launched on 21 April 1913 and sailed on her maiden voyage to New York on 30 May 1914. Aquitania was the third in Cunard Line's "grand trio" of express liners, preceded by the RMS Mauretania and RMS Lusitania, and was the last surviving four-funnelled ocean liner. Widely considered one of the most attractive ships of her time, Aquitania earned the nickname "Ship Beautiful".

In her 36 years of service, Aquitania survived military duty in both world wars and was returned to passenger service after each. Aquitania's record for the longest service career of any 20th-century express liner stood until 2004, when the Queen Elizabeth 2 (ultimate career service of 40 years) became the longest-serving liner.

Aquitania's maiden voyage was under the command of Captain William Turner on 30 May 1914. This event was overshadowed by the sinking of the RMS Empress of Ireland in Quebec the previous day with over a thousand drowned. The following month Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated, and the world was plunged into World War I, interrupting Aquitania's civilian career. After only three round trips she was taken over for military use. At first "Aquitania" was converted into an armed merchant cruiser, for which provision had been made in her design. The Admiralty found that large liners were too profligate in their use of fuel to act as cruisers, so Aquitania did not serve long in that role. After being idle for a time, in the spring of 1915 the Cunarder was converted into a trooper, and made voyages to the Dardanelles, sometimes running alongside Britannic or Mauretania. Aquitania then was converted into a hospital ship, and acted in that role in during the Dardanelles campaign. In 1916, the year that White Star's third ship, Britannic, was sunk, Aquitania was returned to the trooping front, and then in 1917 was again laid up. In 1918, the ship was back on the high seas in troopship service, conveying North American troops to Britain. Many of these departures were from the port of Halifax, Nova Scotia where the ships spectacular dazzle paint scheme was captured by artists and photographers, including Antonio Jacobsen. On one occasion "Aquitania" transported over 8,000 men.

  • Hospital Ship or Ambulance Transport Service during WW1.
  • Medical Staff strength.
  • Officers:41
  • Nurses:102
  • Other:351
  • Accommodation capacity.
  • Officers:196
  • Cots:893
  • Berths:3093
  • Period of Service as Hospital Ship or Ambulance Transport.
  • Date From:4th September 1915
  • Date To:27th December 1917
  • Ships Crew details:

After the end of hostilities, in June 1919, "Aquitania" ran a Cunard "austerity service" between Southampton and New York. In December of that year Aquitania was docked at the Armstrong Whitworth yards in Newcastle to be refitted for post-war service. The ship was converted from coal burner to oil-fired, which greatly reduced the number of engine room crew required. The original fittings and art pieces, removed when refitted for military use, were brought out of storage and re-installed. At some point around this time during the ship's history, the wheelhouse was moved up one deck as the officers had complained about the visibility over the ships bow. The second wheelhouse can be seen in later pictures of the era and the old wheelhouse area below has had the windows plated in.

John Doran


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Those known to have served in

RMS Aquitania

during the Great War 1914-1918.

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