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SY Liberty in the Great War - The Wartime Memories Project -

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- SY Liberty during the Great War -

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SY Liberty

1st August 1914 Hospital ship  

HS Liberty

Names: Liberty (1908-1912), Glencairn (1912-1914), Liberty (1914-1938).

Owners and details.

  • Joseph Pulitzer (1908-1911)
  • James Ross (1912-1914)
  • Lord Tredegar (1914-1920)
  • Sir Robert Houston (1920-1926)
  • Lady Lucy Houston (1926-1936)
  • Port of registry: USA (1908-1912) USA
  • Portsmouth (1912-1924) United Kingdom
  • Jersey (1924-1938) United Kingdom
  • Builder: Ramage & Ferguson Ltd, Leith[1]
  • Cost: US$1.5 million
  • Launched: 5 December 1907[1]
  • In service: 1908[1]
  • Out of service: 1938
  • Fate: scrapped

General characteristics

  • Type: Steam Yacht
  • Tonnage: 1,607grt, 887nrt
  • Length: 268.6 ft (81.9 m),Beam: 35.6 ft (10.9 m), Depth of hold: 17.9 ft (5.5 m).
  • Propulsion: twin screw

SY Liberty was a steam yacht built for Joseph Pulitzer and one of the largest private yachts of its day. She served as a Royal Navy hospital ship during World War I. Strangely, two of her five owners died on board.

The steam yacht Liberty was designed by G L Watson & Co and launched by Ramage & Ferguson Ltd at Leith on 5 December 1907. With a tonnage of 1,607grt, length of 268.6 feet (81.9 m) and beam of 35.6 feet (10.9 m), she was a large yacht by the standards of the day. She had twin screws, powered by two triple expansion steam engines made by the shipbuilder.

In addition to the expected high level of luxury, Liberty was especially fitted with ramps and soundproofing due to Pulitzer's blindness and extreme sensitivity to noise, and was nicknamed "The Tower of Silence".


Liberty was built in 1908 at a cost of US$1.5 million for newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer, who died on board at Charleston, South Carolina on 29 October 1911. She was sold to Scottish-Canadian businessman James Ross, renamed Glencairn and registered in Portsmouth, England. Ross sailed around the world in her in 1912, hoping to improve his health, but died the following year. In 1914 she was purchased by Viscount Tredegar, who reverted her name to the original Liberty.

In September 1915 she was requisitioned by the Royal Navy for the duration of World War I, initially as an auxiliary patrol yacht Liberty IV, though soon transformed to a hospital ship, No. 10, first operating within the North Sea and for much of the time under the command of her owner. She was returned to Lord Tredegar in January 1919.

After refitting Liberty as a yacht, Viscount Tredegar embarked on a world cruise, eventually going around the world twice, during which time he visited every colony in the British Empire, but then sold her to the shipping magnate Sir Robert Houston in 1920. Following his marriage in 1924, Houston moved his residence to Jersey for tax reasons and also re-registered his yacht there. Like Pulitzer, he died on board the yacht, on 14 April 1926.

Left in his will to his wife Lucy, Lady Houston, she lived aboard Liberty much of the time. In the 1930s, to express her hatred for former prime minister Ramsay MacDonald, she hung a huge electric sign "Down with MacDonald the Traitor" in the rigging and sailed round the British Isles in her.

John Doran

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SY Liberty

during the Great War 1914-1918.

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