Majestic II
  • Builder: Blohm & Voss, Hamburg
  • Yard No.: 214
  • Launched: 20th June, 1914
  • Maiden Voyage: 10th May, 1922, Southampton - New York
  • Gross Tonnage: 56,551 tons
  • Length: 955.8 feet
  • Beam: 100.1 feet
  • Decks: 11
  • Funnels: 3
  • Masts: 2
  • Propellers: 4
  • Engines: 4 x Parsons steam turbines
  • Boilers: 48 Yarrow boilers
  • Speed: 23 knots
  • Port of Registry: Liverpool
  • Carrying Capacity: 700 first class, 545 second class, 850 third class
  • Sister Ships: Imperator | Vaterland

Majestic II was built at Hamburg shipyard of Blohm & Voss, as the Bismarck, for the Hamburg America Line, with Kaiser Wilhelm II himself laying the first of her keel plates in a ceremony. Bismarck's third funnel was a dummy, however, the space inside was not wasted, as it contained her refrigeration  equipment, and she also boasted an indoor swimming pool. Bismarck contained many safety features introduced in the wake of the Titanic disaster.

Majestic II Advert

On the 20th June, 1914, Bismarck was launched at Hamburg, making her the biggest ship in the world, and she joined her two sisters, Imperator, and Vaterland, who were already in service for the Hamburg America Line. In August, work on Bismarck came to a halt, due to the outbreak of war, and she remained at Hamburg incomplete.

After W.W.1 had come to an end, Bismarck was assigned to Great Britain as part of the war reparations, on the 28th June, 1919.

In 1920, whilst continuing her fitting out, Bismarck was badly damaged by fire, and sabotage was a very likely cause, as Germany had no wish to hand the ship over to Great Britain.

In 1922, work on Bismarck continued, but under Harland and Wolff supervision, and on the 28th March, she was completed, as Bismarck, to try to create some goodwill between the countries. Bismarck and Imperator were both purchased on a joint basis, by a white Star - Cunard consortium. Bismarck was delivered to Liverpool, as a replacement for the lost Britannic II, and her sea trials commenced on the 1st April. On the 12th April, Bismarck was renamed Majestic II, and on the 10th May, she made her maiden voyage, between Southampton, Cherbourg and New York, with White Star Line Commodore Sir Bertram Hayes in charge. In August, Majestic II was inspected by King George V and Queen Mary, during Cowes Week.

In the September of 1923, Majestic II made her fastest crossing of 5 days, 5 hours and 21 minutes, at an average speed of 24.75 knots, only the Cunard Line's Mauretania was faster. On one Atlantic crossing she carried 480 in first class, 736 in second class, and 1,409 in third, a White Star Line record.

In 1924, Majestic II was found to have a crack in her hull amidships, and to try to solve this potentially serious problem, the hull plating was strengthened, which fixed the problem.

During 1925, Majestic II crossed the Atlantic in just 5 days, her fastest ever, at an average of 25 knots.

Majestic II in Southampton's Floating Dock

In 1928, Majestic II was refitted ad re-boilered in Boston Navy Dockyard, and then any outstanding work was then completed at Southampton, as at that time, there was no dry dock big enough to hold her. However, a floating dock large enough for her huge bulk soon followed, and Majestic II is pictured using it here on the left. Her forward promenade deck was also glassed in at this time, and her her black funnel tops were deepened. Her gross tonnage after the refit increased to 56,620 tons, and the accommodations were changed to fit 860 in first class, 750 in tourist, and 1067 in third class. On the 29th February, 1928, Majestic II resumed her sailings after her refit.

In 1930, the black on Majestic II's hull was raised, so that the white strake was removed. With Olympic as her consort, Majestic II ran a 3.5 day midweek New York to Halifax summer cruises, which took place during her 7 day New York layover.

In the July of 1934, Majestic II was taken over by Cunard White Star Line at the time of the merger. Majestic II was a replacement for Mauretania, and later in the year, she ran aground at Calshot, but was floated off on the tide. In the October, whilst en route to New York, and during a fierce storm, a massive wave broke Majestic II's bridge windows, injuring the First Officer, and White Star Line's final commodore, Edgar J. Trant, who was hospitalised for a month, and never sailed again.

In 1935, with the introduction of the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique Line's NormandieMajestic II could no longer claim to be the world's biggest ship.

On the 31st February, 1936, Majestic II made her 207th, and final, sailing to New York, and was then replaced by the Queen Mary. On the 15th May, Majestic II was sold for £115,000 to Thomas W. Ward to be scrapped, however, in July, she had a brief reprieve, and was sold to the Admiralty to be utilised as a Cadet Training Ship. Majestic II was converted, at a cost £472,000, by Thornycroft at Southampton. Majestic II's masts and funnels were shortened, so that she could pass under the Forth Bridge, close to where she was going to be berthed. She was renamed Caledonia, but kept one major part of her history - her White Star Line livery. Caledonia was fitted with seven guns, and the associated range finding equipment too.

On the 8th April, 1937, Caledonia left Southampton, for her new base at Rosyth, and on the 10th April, she was escorted by eight tugs under the Forth Bridge, to her new home in Scotland. On the 23rd April, Caledonia was commissioned, with a capacity for 1,500 boys and 500 artificer apprentices.

With the outbreak of war in the September of 1939, Caledonia's Cadets were all moved ashore, a much safer option. Caledonia's berth was anchored in the Firth of Forth, freeing up her berth for naval use. On the 29th September, Caledonia caught fire, and sank, on an even keel at her moorings.

In the March of 1940, Caledonia was sold, again, to Thomas W. Ward's, at Inverkeithing. Caledonia was cut down to waterline level, apart from her forepeak, so she could still be towed.

On the 17th July 1943, Caledonia was raised, and towed to Inverkeithing, about five miles away, to be scrapped.


N.B. Image source (top):  Wikipedia



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