Majestic

RMS Majestic

Majestic was originally built for the Hamburg America Line as the Bismarck. The keel plate was laid by Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1913 and, at the time, it was the world's largest ship. Her sister ships were the Imperator, which later became the Cunard vessel Berengaria, and the Vaterland which became United States Line's Leviathan.

As with other ships built around this time, extra safety measures were introduced as a result of the Titanic disaster. The outbreak of World War II, in August 1914, meant that work on the ship was suspended.

In 1919 the ship was handed over to the British Government as part of the war reparations and then bought jointly by White Star and Cunard, it was decided that Bismark would operate under the White Star flag. In 1920 the work on the ship was further delayed as it was badly damaged by a fire. Sabotage was suspected as the Germans had no wish to part with the ship. Work was completed at Hamburg in March 1922 and the ship was delivered to Liverpool at the end of the month. After a period of trials the ship was renamed Majestic on 12th April. She made her maiden voyage for White Star on 10th May on the Southampton & Cherbourg to New York route. In September 1923 the ship broke two records. Firstly she made her fastest crossing, in 5 days, 5 hours and 21 minutes, and secondly on one voyage she carried a total of 2,625 passengers, one of the the company's highest. In 1925 she went on to make a crossing in 5 days flat, at an average speed of 25 knots.

In 1928 the Majestic went to Boston Navy Dockyard to be refitted. New boilers were fitted, the promenade deck was glassed in, the funnel tops were deepened and the passenger accommodation was altered to house 860 1st class, 705 tourist class and 1,067 3rd class passengers. During the early 1930's she ran summer cruises between New York and Halifax, along with the Olympic. In July 1934 the ship became part of the newly formed Cunard-White Star company and replaced the Mauretania on the Southampton-New York service. In 1935 the Normandie replaced Majestic as the world's largest ship. In February 1936 Majestic made it's last voyage for Cunard and was replaced by the Queen Mary.

After this the ship was laid up at Southampton and was then sold on May 15th for scrapping. The Admiralty, however, purchased the ship in July to be converted into a Cadets' Training ship. Conversion work was carried out at Southampton, including the shortening of the masts and funnels so that it could fit under the Forth Bridge. After this Majestic was renamed HMS Caledonia. On 8th April 1937 Caledonia left Southampton for her base in Rosyth and she was commissioned on 23rd April with a capacity for 1,500 boys and 500 artificer apprentices. The outbreak of World War II, in September 1939, meant that the cadets were withdrawn to shore accommodation and the ship's berth was vacated for Naval use. Caledonia was temporarily anchored in the Firth of Forth whilst its future role was considered.

On 29th September 1939 the Caledonia caught fire, burnt out and sank at her moorings in Rosyth. In March 1940 she was sold to Thomas W. Ward for demolition and salvage work commenced. It was not until 17th July 1943 that the hulk was raised and towed five miles to the scrap yard. No one knows why an empty ship spontaneously caught fire.