23rd January 1920 – Mount Vernon sails to Vladivostock

mt vernon, 1918On 23rd January 1920, Mount Vernon (ex-Kronprinzessin Cecilie) sailed from San Francisco for Vladivostok, via the Panama Canal, to collect 4,000 refugees, mainly Czechoslovakian troops, escaping from the civil war still raging in Russia. Some 7,000 tons of coal were loaded for the trip to Siberia. On arrival, 261 First Class passengers and 3,074 escaping troops were taken aboard, and she sailed on 13th April. Stopping at San Francisco, she collected a further 700 prisoners of war, and on 12th June arrived at Norfolk, where all the passengers were debarked.

mt vernon at mare islandMount Vernon then returned to Mare Island in California, where she was laid up. Following the outbreak of the Great War, the German express liner Kronprinzessin Cecilie had been seized by US authorities on 6th April 1917 and allocated to the US Navy. She was converted into a troopship, to accommodate 3,000 troops, and six 5-inch guns were mounted for defensive purposes. She was commissioned on 28th July 1917 as USS Mount Vernon, ID-4508, and after her trials and a shake-down cruise, on 13th October she joined the New York Division of the Atlantic Fleet Cruiser and Transport Force. After sterling service in 1917 and 1918, she was decommissioned on 29th September 1919. Later laid up in Chesapeake Bay, she was eventually scrapped Baltimore in September 1940.

23rd January 1909 –
Republic and Florida collide

Republic and holeFollowing the major earthquake that had devastated Messina in Italy on 28th December 1908, White Star announced that it would carry, free of charge, any freight addressed to the Italian Red Cross Society for the relief of the victims. Republic arrived at New York on 13th January 1909, loaded emergency supplies for Messina, and sailed on 22nd January. Her accommodation was fully booked, and she was carrying 560 tons of supplies: these were to be transferred to the the US Navy supply ship Culgoa at Gibraltar. There were also unsubstantiated rumours that she had a large amount of gold and silver aboard for the relief fund and also for the payroll for the US Atlantic Fleet based at Gibraltar.

republic after collisionThe next day, 23rd January, travelling in dense fog off Nantucket, she was rammed by Lloyd Italiano’s Florida. Severe damage was done to Florida‘s bow, and a large hole was ripped in the side of Republic. Jack Binns, later of Titanic fame, was the radio operator aboard, and he managed to summon several rescue vessels, including White Star’s Baltic. Apparently this was the first time a CQD distress call had been sent.

Florida_After_Collision_with_RepublicRepublic‘s passengers were safely transferred to Baltic, and Florida was safely escorted to New York and was later repaired. However the damage to Republic was too severe, and in spite of attempts to tow her back to New York, she sank at 8pm the next day. White Star later sued Lloyd Italiano for $2 million in damages, but the Italian company had filed a limitation of liability action and later obtained a court order staying all damage suits against it. A Captain Bayerle has established salvage rights to the wreck and plans to try to recover any bullion or other valuable material in the near future.

21st January 1938 – Leviathan due to sail for scrapping

levi - hoboken to scrappersEarly in January 1937 there were rumours that Leviathan, laid up since September 1934, was to be converted into a troopship, but neither the US Army or Navy were seriously interested. In October 1937 formal calls were made for bids from scrapyards, although some rather onerous conditions were included. Only two bids were submitted: the winning bid of $800,000 was made by two British companies, Ward’s and Metal Industries. They planned to scrap her at Rosyth in Scotland, an area of high unemployment, to provide work for up to 400 men. The final amount paid was $732,000, well below the $2.5 million US Lines had expected.

On 13th December 1937 workers from Bethlehem Steel came aboard to prepare the engines, boilers and other machinery for her final trip, to be made under her own power. On 17th December 1,500 tons of fuel oil was pumped aboard. The skeleton crew from US Lines left on 28th December, and the US flag was finally lowered. A UK firm had hired a crew of 150 to handle Leviathan on the trip to Rosyth, and they sailed for New York aboard Berengaria. Captain John W. Binks was brought out of retirement for the crossing: he had previously commanded both Majestic and Olympic, and was used to handling such big vessels.

levi under forth bridgeOn 10th January 1938 the funnels were shortened by 10 feet and the masts by 30 feet, so she could pass under the Forth Bridge. Lifeboats were taken down, furniture was roped together and carpets rolled up. The initial plan was for Leviathan to sail on 21st January, to arrive at Rosyth on 3rd February. The engines and boilers were tested and approved, but then the British seamen went on strike when they realised some American sailors on board were receiving a higher level of pay! Captain Binks arrived on board on 19th January, with three supporting officers, but with the strike, they weren’t able to sail. Sailing was delayed several times as the strikers demanded wage parity, then a bonus, but finally a settlement was reached. On 25th January the tugs arrived to assist Leviathan from her berth; later that day more fuel was loaded, and final preparations made. Eventually, on 26th January she left New York, sailing under the Red Ensign rather than the US flag, under a huge cloud of black smoke.

Levi with CaledoniaAfter 3,164 miles, at an average 17.1 knots, Leviathan arrived off Scotland on 3rd February, but missed the spring tide and had to wait nine days for the next. On her first attempt to enter the Firth of Forth, she grounded in a strong gale, and had to be towed off. On 14th February another attempt was made, and she finally made it into the Admiralty Basin, opposite her sister, HMS Caledonia (ex-Majestic).

levi stern at rosythScrapping did not proceed very quickly, and finally in August 1939 the Admiralty ordered Metal Industries to clear the yard: with the deteriorating situation in Europe they realised they would soon be needing the facilities. The remains were towed out of the basin and beached. Scrapping was not complete until 14th February 1940.

Carnival Corp. order
two more cruise ships

Plans have been announced by Carnival Corp. to build two new cruise ships at Fincantieri. One vessel is intended for the Holland America fleet, with the second for Princess Cruises. Work is proceeding on preparing the final contracts. This means that Carnival now has a total of 19 ships on order or planned, for delivery before 2022. Overall, Carnival now owns 10 different brands, and operates 102 ships in the cruise industry, with a total of 226,000 lower berths.

1600-1Holland America’s ship will be built at Fincantieri at Marghera, with delivery scheduled for 2021. This will be the third vessel in the Pinnacle Class, and will be based on the design of Koningsdam and Nieuw Amsterdam. Each will accommodate 2,660 passengers.

Majestic PrincessThe Princess Cruises’ ship will be built at Fincantieri at Monfalcone, with delivery scheduled for 2022. It will be based on the Royal Class, and will accommodate 3,660 passengers.

This announcement follows a similar statement issued by Carnival late last year, when it released plans to build three LNG-powered cruise ships. Two will be built by Meyer Turku, for Carnival Cruise Line; one will be delivered in 2020 and the second in 2022. The third vessel will be built by Meyer Werft at Papenburg, for P&O Cruises, with delivery in 2020. Carnival claim these new vessels will generate all of the necessary power from LNG, “to help us produce the most efficient and sustainable ships”.

19th January 1889 –
Teutonic launched at Belfast

Teutonic Alexandra graving 21-5-89On 19th January 1889, White Star’s Teutonic was launched at Harland & Wolff, Belfast. With her sister, Majestic, they were the first twin propeller vessels for White Star; although they still had masts, they were not rigged for sails. They were designed for fast conversion into armed merchant cruisers (AMC). Accommodation initially was 300 in First Class, 190 in Second Class and 1,000 in Third Class. On 21st May 1889 the Prince of Wales came aboard Teutonic for an inspection, and then watched as she entered the brand new Alexandra Graving Dock, which had been named after his wife.

Teutonic PortsmouthDelivered on 25th July 1889, Teutonic arrived at Liverpool on 29th July, where she was quickly converted into an AMC and took part in Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee Fleet Review at Spithead. Back in her peacetime guise, she sailed on her maiden voyage to New York on 7th August. In June 1897 she was present as an AMC at the Diamond Jubilee Naval Review, notable for the appearance of Charles Parsons’ Turbinia. In May 1907 she made her last sailing from Liverpool, and was then transferred to the new Southampton express service. A notable crossing was in November 1907, when she arrived in New York with $1.6 million in gold aboard.

teutonic, post refit merseyIn April 1911 she was transferred to the White Star/Dominion service from Liverpool to to Canada, and was sent to Belfast for conversion to cope with the colder conditions on the route. Plating was added to the upper and promenade decks, and a larger bridge was fitted. Accommodation was now 550 in Second Class and 1,000 in Third Class.

1915 HMS teutonicWith the outbreak of the Great War, in September 1914 Teutonic was requisitioned as an AMC and joined the 10th Cruiser Squadron, operating in the northern approaches. She was purchased outright by the Admiralty in September 1915 and adapted for use as a troopship. In December 1916 she was placed in reserve and laid up, but was recommissioned in October 1917 as an AMC. In December 1918 she reverted to being a troopship carrying troops to Egypt. Early 1921 Teutonic was laid up again and offered for sale. With no purchasers, in August 1921 she was sold and scrapped in Emden, Germany.

18th January 1908 –
Suevic returns to service

SUEVIC-1901_01On 18th January 1908, White Star’s Suevic returned to commercial service after rebuilding following grounding on 17th March 1907. She had been built at Harland & Wolff, Belfast, and was launched on 8th December 1900. A twin-propeller steamship, she was designed for the Australian service, with refrigerated capacity for 100,000 carcasses of mutton, plus 20,000 bales of wool. She was requisitioned in 1900 for use as a troopship during the Boer War.

Suevic and rocksOnce released, she settled into her regular commercial service. On 2nd February 1907 she sailed from Melbourne for Liverpool, with planned stops at Cape Town, Tenerife and Plymouth, before arriving at London. Leaving Tenerife on 13th March, by 17th March she was approaching The Lizard, sailing in thick fog, but was off-course, and ran onto Maenheere Rocks. Suevic‘s own boats and two lifeboats rescued the passengers. A specialist salvage team was sent out, and passengers’ luggage was saved, and most of the wool and grain aboard was removed.

Suevic separatedSuevic was hard aground, and eventually the decision was taken to use a series of 30 small charges of dynamite to separate the damaged bows from the rest of the vessel. The operation was successful, and the stern section was towed to Southampton.

Suevic bow launchIn the meantime, a new bow section was built from the original plans, at Belfast, and then towed stern-first to Southampton. On 4th November 1907 the two sections were joined up successfully. The rebuilt ship left Southampton on 8th January 1908. Her later service included transporting Australian and New Zealand troops during the Great War. In 1928 she was sold to Norway and converted into a whale factory ship, Skytteren. On 1st April 1942, while attempting to escape the Nazis, she was scuttled.

17th January 1923 – Olympic’s captain rushed to hospital

olympic with tugsOn 17th January 1923 Olympic arrived at New York with Assistant Commander E.R. White in command. Olympic had sailed from Southampton on 10th January, under Captain Hambelton, on his final voyage before retiring after 36 years with White Star. He collapsed on the bridge the following day, having suffered two gastric hæmorrhages, and made the rest of the crossing under the care of the ship’s doctor. Arriving at New York, Captain Hambelton was immediately taken by ambulance to a private hospital in Manhattan. Captain H.F. David, his successor as captain of Olympic, had been on board as an observer during the westbound crossing, and took command on the eastbound crossing. After treatment at the hospital, Captain Hambelton returned to the UK on 10th February, as a passenger aboardc. He retired immediately on his return. He died in a nursing home in Golders Green, London, on 27th April 1929.

Photo from my collection

Extracted from “White Star Line: The Company and the Ships” – see http://wp.me/P82xkB-8L for more details

16th January 1903 –
Ionic’s maiden voyage

Ionic at anchorIonic (II) was built by Harland and Wolff (yard number 346) in December 1902 for the joint White Star/Shaw, Savill & Albion service to New Zealand. She began her maiden voyage on 16th January 1903, from London to Wellington. She arrived at Wellington on 5th March, and left on 16th April for the return trip. In August 1914 Shaw, Savill & Albion ships changed their inbound port of call from Plymouth to Southampton, with Ionic being first to do so.

With the declaration of the Great War both Australia and New Zealand volunteered to send troops. Among the first liners to be requisitioned were Medic, Afric and Ionic. A torpedo was fired at her in the Mediterranean on 31st December 1915 but it missed her by a matter of feet. Ionic returned to commercial service on 31st January 1919, after being operated under the Liner Requisition Scheme.

IONICDuring a refit in 1929, the accommodation was converted to Cabin Class and Third Class only. In 1932 White Star’s Australian service passed to Shaw, Savill & Albion, together with Ionic and Ceramic, plus Mamilius (ex-Zealandic). Although the corporate entities had merged, operations continued unchanged but White Star had no further interest. Subsequently she was rebuilt with Tourist Class accommodation only for 280 passengers. On 9th September 1936 Ionic left Avonmouth for New Zealand on her last sailing. Having sailed over 2 million miles, she was sold for scrapping on 6th January 1937 for £31,500. She left Liverpool for Osaka, arriving on 16th June, and soon after was dismantled.

16th January 1942 –
Llangibby Castle torpedoed

llangibbycastleLlangibby Castle was built in 1929 for Union Castle by Harland & Wolff at Govan. A motorship, she was 485 feet long and 11,951grt, and was principally used on the “Round Africa” service. She was requisitioned in July 1940, and converted into a troopship, initially transporting troops to South Africa. She was damaged in an air raid on Liverpool in December 1940 but was quickly repaired.

Llangibby_Castle_FL5793She was in Convoy WS-15, which sailed on 12th January 1942 from Liverpool and the Clyde for Durban, via Freetown. On 16th January Llangibby Castle was torpedoed by U-402, just north of the Azores. The torpedo blew off part of the stern, including her after gun, and her rudder and killed 26 men, but she remained afloat. In spite of repeated air attacks, and using her propellers to steer, she managed to reach Horta, Portugal, on 19th January.

1Llangibby4After emergency repairs, she sailed for Gibraltar, arriving on 8th February, having fought off several U-boat attacks, where she landed her troops. Finally on 6th April, after some repairs but still without a rudder, she sailed for the UK, arriving on 13th April, escorted by three destroyers. Llangibby Castle had sailed some 3,400 miles without a rudder, an amazing feat which earned her captain a CBE.

In November 1942 she took part in Operation Torch, landing troops in North Africa. Then in 1943 she took part in the Sicily landings, transporting Canadian commandos. She was converted into a Landing Ship Infantry in March 1944, carrying 18 landing craft and could also carry 1,590 troops. In 1944 she took part in the Normandy landings, making several trips with mainly Canadian troops to Juno Beach. It was later estimated that she had landed over 1,000 soldiers in 70 crossings. Later she was used as  troopship in the Far East.

Following the war Llangibby Castle was thoroughly refitted and in 1946 returned it commercial service. In June 1954 she was sold to shipbreakers in Newport, Monmouthshire.


Olympic to be scrapped as White Star purge continues

Cunard-White Star formally announced on 25th January 1935 that Olympic was to be withdrawn from regular trans-Atlantic service and would be used for cruises, at the end of the spring schedule. In spite of the major refit conducted at Harland & Wolff’s yard at Southampton, more cracks had been discovered in 1934, but were poorly repaired. In February 1935 further welding was needed.

olympic & maure laid upOn 31st March 1935 Cunard-White Star stated: “Olympic will drop out of the trans-Atlantic trade for the summer season”, and a series of cruises were proposed. Olympic departed from New York for Southampton on 5th April 1935 on her last passenger-carrying voyage. Arriving at Southampton on 12th April, she was towed to Berth 108 in the Western Docks, where she was laid up, ahead of Mauretania.

On 13th April Cunard-White Star cancelled plans for Olympic’s cruising schedule, and announced that the lay-up would be extended for three months. At a board meeting in late April, it was formally announced that the company “had no further employment in sight” for her. Cunard-White Star announced on 20th August that Olympic would be opened the following week for inspection by prospective purchasers.

olympic heading for breakers copyShe was bought on 10th September 1935 by Sir John Jarvis for £97,500, who then sold her on to Thomas Ward’s, to be scrapped at Jarrow, which had been badly affected by unemployment. Under Captain P.R. Vaughn, Olympic left Southampton on 11th October, and arrived at Palmer’s Yard, Jarrow, on 13th October. Cut down to the waterline, Olympic was towed to Inverkeithing for final demolition on 19th September 1937.