On 31st January 1903 Harland & Wolff, Belfast handed over Cedric to White Star. She had been launched on 21st August 1902, and at the time was the largest ship in the world. As built, her accommodation was listed as 365 in First Class, 160 in Second Class and 2,352 in Third Class. She also had an enormous cargo capacity. Under Captain Haddock, she made her maiden voyage from Liverpool to New York on 11th February 1903.
Over her career Cedric had numerous collisions and incidents, mostly relatively minor. She also had the misfortune to encounter a number of severe storms. In March 1904 she was delayed three days by one storm, suffering damage. A year later in another storm she was swamped by three giant waves and took eleven days to complete the crossing. In another storm, in January 1912, some waves were described as over 60 feet high: a number of lifeboats were destroyed. In March 1924 she met a severe storm, Captain Marshall said it was one of the worst trips he had ever experienced.
Cedric was requisitioned in November 1914 to serve as a troopship and armed merchant cruiser, but was released in January 1916. In April 1917 she was again requisitioned, as a troopship. In January 1918 while in Convoy HG47 she rammed Canadian Pacific’s Montreal, which sank: a later enquiry found the cause was improper navigation by Cedric. She was returned to White Star in December 1918 and returned to commercial service. During her career she was rebuilt a number of times, with various changes to accommodation and configuration. Finally in January 1932 she was sold to Ward’s and was scrapped at Inverkeithing.
Minnetonka was built at Harland & Wolff’s Belfast yard for Atlantic Transport. Launched on 12th December 1901, she was completed by early July 1902. Her maiden voyage was from London to New York on 12th July 1902. She was one of the first ships to be fitted with wireless, a Marconi system: her call letters were MMK.
Following the outbreak of the Great War she was requisitioned in May 1915 as a troopship, as HMT158. She was attacked by submarine U35 on 2nd February 1917, while in the Mediterranean, but successfully escaped. Later that year she was attacked on 24th September by the German submarine UC34 but again escaped successfully.
Finally, on 30th January 1918, she was attacked by the German submarine U64, under Captain Robert Moraht. She was sailing unescorted from Port Said to Malta, carrying a cargo of mail. Two torpedoes were fired, one of which hit and damaged the liner. Shortly after the submarine fired another torpedo, and then surfaced and engaged the troopship , firing 10 rounds from the deck gun. Fortunately at that time there were no troops aboard, although four crew were killed in the attack. Minnetonka sank soon after.
Leviathan arrived at Brest, France on 23rd February 1919 to collect the next contingent of troops to be repatriated. This turned out to be the 27th Division, also known as “New York’s Own”, formed in 1908 as the New York Division of the National Guard.
The Division boarded on 25th February and sailed the next day, with a total of 9,714 troops, 133 NCOs, 319 officers, 66 nurses and 151 others. More of the 27th Division travelled on Mauretania. To avoid bad weather they took a more southerly course which added two days to the journey.
She arrived at New York on 6th March, and was met by a flotilla headed by the city’s Mayor. Aircraft flew overhead and thousands gathered along the shore in a great welcome. There had been a strike among the harbour workmen which looked likely to spoil the arrival, but after a direct appeal by the city officials, the union agreed to furnish volunteers – in the end crews for everything were provided at no expense to the vessel’s owners!
Following the recent financial problems in the Far East, such as Hanjin, another massive loss has been reported. This time it is China’s COSCO Shipping Holdings, which has admitted it expected to post a loss of $1.44 billion for 2016, blaming the weak condition of the freight market, and low returns from disposing of assets. COSCO, which is state-owned, claims that freight rates had started to recover in the fourth quarter of 2016.
In 2015 COSCO had made a healthy profit, but declining freight rates had reversed this. As part of its efforts to control the losses, it sold off its dry bulk business and other divisions while restructuring. This was part of a merging of China Ocean Shipping Group and China Shipping Group. On the Hong Kong Exchange COSCO’s shares dropped 0.34% on the news of the loss.
On 27th January 1918, Cunard’s Andania was hit by a torpedo from the German submarine U-46. She was some two miles off Rathlin lighthouse; attempts were made to tow her to safety but she sank some hours later. She had around 40 passengers and 200 crew; all bar seven crew were saved.
Andania was built at Greenock by Scott’s, and had been completed on 13th July 1913. She was 520 feet long, 13,405grt. Requisitioned in August 1914, she made several runs to Canada, bringing troops to the war in Europe. In 1915 she was used briefly to accommodate German POWs while moored in the Thames, then assisted at the Gallipoli landings later that year. After more trips to Canada, she was returned to commercial service in 1917, running from Liverpool to New York. One of a class of three sisters, all were lost in the Great War. The next Andania, built in 1922, was torpedoed and sunk in World War II.