SS Imperator / Berengaria

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SS Imperator liner launched in 1912, history and images.

NAMES

SS. IMPERATOR  (BERENGARIA) 

CLASS

LINER

LAUNCHED

MAY 23rd 1912

BUILT

VULCAN SHIPYARDS / HAMBURG / GERMANY

WEIGHT

52,117 TONS

LENGTH

919 FEET

WIDTH

98 FEET

SPEED

24 KNOTS

PROPELLERS

4

ENGINES

4 - DIRECT ACTING STEAM TURBINES - 74,000 HP

Imperator was the first of three large record-breaking ships built for the Hamburg Amerika Line that became known as the Big Three. By that time, the Hamburg Amerika Line had built up the world’s largest fleet of merchant ships. After the end of World War One in 1918, as with all other German shipping companies, most of their ships were awarded to the Allies as compensation for ships lost during the war. Imperator was launched by Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm a month after the sinking of the 46,328-ton Titanic. As a result of the Titanic disaster, her C deck had to be converted to carry more lifeboats, 83 in all. The Hamburg Amerika Line had a large eagle figurehead fitted on Imperator’s bow to help make her the longest as well as the largest liner at that time. She could carry 908 1st, 606 2nd and 2,734 3rd class passengers.

Berengaria liner image

Imperator set out on her maiden voyage from Cuxhaven - Southampton and New York June 11th 1913. As that voyage showed her to be top heavy and unstable in heavy seas, she was returned to the Vulcan shipyard for cement to be poured into her hull as ballast, have her three funnels shortened by nine feet and to have her upper deck fittings replaced with lighter materials wherever possible. Following the outbreak of World War One in 1914, Imperator was stranded in Hamburg until the advancing American army seized her in 1918. US forces operated Imperator as a troopship over the few remaining months of the war before laying her up at New York. After the Treaty of Versailles awarded Imperator to Cunard as reparation for the sinking of their liner Lusitania, she was operated as their flagship under her original name for a few months before being renamed Berengaria.

Imperator liner image

A refit at Armstrong Whitworth & Co on the Tyne in 1921 saw her boilers converted from coal to oil burning, more cement poured into her hull as ballast and her interiors upgraded to the standard of other Cunard liners. The depression of the late 1920s/early 1930s led to Berengaria being used mainly for cruising, normally from New York - Caribbean, Bermuda and Nova Scotia. Although she survived the sale of excess ships when the Cunard and White Star lines merged in 1934, Cunard was planning to replace her with a new ship in 1940.

Berengaria’s outdated wiring set off a minor fire in 1938. With her being docked in New York at the time, the US Authorities took the decision to revoke her passenger license. Berengaria was then forced to return to Southampton without any passengers. After Berengaria’s electrics caught fire for a second time at Southampton, the Cunard/White Star Line had no choice but to sell her for scrap. She was being dismantled at Jarrow/England when World War Two broke out in 1939. This forced work on her demolition to be suspended until the hostilities ended. Berengaria’s remains were then towed to Rosyth/Scotland in 1946 for the scrapping to be completed.

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