Ausonia was requisitioned in 1915 for use as a troopship. She operated in the Mediterranean and as far as India. She had a skirmish with submarine U55 on 11th June 1917, but survived. She was not so lucky the second time. On 30th May 1918, while en route from Liverpool to New York, in ballast, she was attacked by submarine U62. She sank some 600 miles off Fastnet. This was the submarine, under Captain Hashagen, that had earlier sunk Storstad, the collier that had rammed and sunk the Empress of Ireland. Although there were no passengers aboard Ausonia, there was a crew of 130. Of these, 44 were lost in the attack or on two of the lifeboats that disappeared. The rest were rescued on 8th June by HMS Zennia – all were in serious distress by then through hunger, dehydration and exposure.
The liner had been built in 1909 by Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson’s at Newcastle, for the Cairn-Thompson Line, and named Tortona. She was 450 feet long, 7,907grt, and had been designed for their Canadian service. In 1911 she was acquired by Cunard and renamed Ausonia.