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History of Cruises. Part 4. Sic transit gloria mundi

15 minutes read • March 14th, 2017
We continue our virtual journey through the 

history of cruises.


We finished the last article on the fact that the Second World War began. The most terrible war in the history of mankind...

This destructive war could not but affect the industry.

We will talk about its influence in this article about the history of cruise industry.
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Since the beginning of the war, large ships were in high-demand because they served as military transports and hospitals. An emergency refitting of the once luxurious liners began in accordance with the needs of the time.

In this article, we will not go according to the chronology of events. We’ll follow the history of companies and individual ships.

German companies we spoke about in the previous parts lost almost all their fleet. One part of ships was sunk, another part left as reparations after the war.
 

RMS Queen Mary

was "called into service" on March 1, 1940, when she was traveling with passengers to New York. The ship was urgently repainted in protective colors (gray-steel). The liner began to be popularly called "Gray Ghost".

The ship went to Sydney and Singapore. All the "luxury" was removed from the ship and the capacity was increased from 2,139 passengers to 5,500.

Since May 5, 1940, the ship began to participate in the transfer of troops from the Commonwealth countries to England. Over the years of the war, "Gray Ghost" transported more than 1.5 million people!
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At the end of 1941, it was decreed to increase the capacity of English transports to 15,000 people. Additional bunks were installed on the ship. However, only 12,500 beds were installed. The remaining nearly 3,000 people were forced to stay permanently on the deck.

"Gray Ghost" became the record holder when she transported 16,082 people across the Atlantic! In general, the ship survived the war well and we will return to her.
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Anti-aircraft installations were set on the ship to protect from aircrafts.
Photo by: Altair78/Wiki/CC BY-SA 2.0


The German Columbus liner, which had the world's first outdoor swimming pool and which was to become significant for HDL, was flooded by the crew in December 1940 near the US coast. The crew was afraid of the ship’s seizure by the American or British cruisers that found it.
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Photo by: Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-00383 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

The famous SS Bremen had the same tragic story.

The beginning of the war caught off guard the owner of the Blue Ribbon in the port of New York. Britain asked the US not to let the ship go to sea, because they were afraid that the liner would be converted by the Germans into the military transport.

As a result, Britain sent the cruiser which was to escort SS Bremen to the English port. However, the British forgot that they were dealing with the owner of the Blue Ribbon, though in the distant year 1933.

Already being in the open ocean, SS Bremen built up the maximum speed and easily left the British cruiser behind.
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Frankly speaking, this did not save the ship. SS Bremen came in Germany in December 1939. The authorities held the ship in the port at first and then decided to convert her into military transport. In March 1941, an unknown crew member set the ship on fire and it was completely destroyed.
Sic transit gloria mundi...

The fate of another German owner of the Blue Ribbon – SS Europa – was more successful.

The liner remained inactive almost the entire war. At first, she was planned to be used as the military transport, then as the barracks. There were plans to even make an aircraft carrier out of her!
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Heinkel He 58 D-1919 Bremen Atlantic being loaded onto the catapult on SS Europa.
Photo by: Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-10309 CC-BY-SA 3.0


However, in the end, none of these plans was ever put into reality, and the ship was captured by the US in May 1945 and she immediately became the military transport of the US Army.
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The war didn’t ignore the Italian ships.

SS Conte Rosso was used as the military transport for the transfer of troops to the African theater.

On May 24, 1941, the ship was sailing as part of a convoy to Libya, having 280 members of the crew and 2449 soldiers of the Italian army on board.

The ship was torpedoed by the British submarine HMS Upholder and sank 10 minutes after the attack.

More than 1,300 people died.
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At first, SS Conte di Savoia continued to take sailings to the Mediterranean, and then she was used as the military transport and sank in 1943.
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The Italian holder of the Blue Ribbon – SS Rex – had the same tragic fate.

The ship did not take part in the war and remained hidden almost the entire war – at first in Genoa, then in Trieste.

After Italy surrendered, the Germans tried to seize the ship.

The Allies were afraid that the Germans could use the liner to block the entrance to the harbor, so it was decided to destroy the ship.
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The ship is under the fire of British aviation.

On September 8, 1944, SS Rex was attacked by 12 bombers. After the attack, the ship sank.
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We’ve already talked about RMS Queen Mary. Let's find out how the ships of Cunard-White Star survived the war.

RMS Mauretania II traveled 540,000 miles and carried more than 340,000 soldiers during the war!
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Familiar RMS Aquitania passed through the First World War as the hospital and transport ship! Then she became the most luxurious liner in the world...

During the Second World War, the ship was the military transport and was in service until 1949.

RMS Aquitania was in service since 1914, participated in two world wars, traveled more than 3 million miles and made more than 450 sailings.

In 1950, the liner was sent to be demolished.
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RMS Queen Elizabeth was repainted in black and became the military transport. Anti-aircraft guns were set on the ship. Thanks to her speed, RMS Queen Elizabeth (as well as RMS Queen Mary) could sail without the escort.

During the war, the ship transported more than 750,000 people!
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However, not all the ships of Cunard-White Star survived the war.

During the war, the company lost many ships, among them:

SS Athenia – she became the first British ship destroyed by the Germans. She sank after the attack of the submarine on September 3, 1939.

98 passengers and 19 crew members died. 1418 people escaped.
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RMS Carinthia was torpedoed by the German submarine on June 7, 1940. The ship stayed afloat 36 hours after the attack. 4 people died.
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RMS Andania sank on June 16, 1940 after the torpedo attack.
The crew survived.
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RMS Lancastria was destroyed on June 17, 1940 by the German aviation, more than 4,000 people died...
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Lancastria sinking off Saint-Nazaire, France, 17 June 1940

RMS Laconia was destroyed after the torpedo attack on September 12, 1942.
More than 1500 people died.
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We’d like to mention the ships of the Canadian Pacific Steamship Company:

RMS Empress of Britain was torpedoed and sunk on October 28, 1940.

According to the legend, the ship was carrying a large amount of gold being transported from South Africa to England.
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RMS Empress of Asia was destroyed by the Japanese aircraft on February 5, 1942.
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RMS Empress of Canada went through the entire war as the military transport.
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The ships of the

Holland-America Line company

known even today also participated in the war.

For example, SS Nieuw Amsterdam actively participated as the military transport.

During the war, the ship carried more than 350,000 people and traveled more than 530,000 sea miles.
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Nieuw Amsterdam entering Fremantle Harbour on 18 February 1943, with RMS Queen Mary in the background.

When talking about the liners, we should not forget about the French ships which became the military transport involuntarily.

SS Île de France faced the beginning of the war in New York. France did not return the vessel, so it was towed to Staten Island.

Soon the British started to use the ship as the military transport. The ship survived the war.
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Île de France and Aquitania underway as troopships.

SS Normandie suffered the more difficult fate.

At the beginning of the war, the ship was in New York. After France surrendered to Germany in 1940, the ship was arrested by the US Coast Guard.

After the US joined the Second World War, the ship was renamed as Lafayette and converted into the transport ship.

February 9, 1942, life jackets caught on fire because of the gas burners during the "Grand Salon" dismantling. There were no firefighters on the ship, and the extinguishing system was switched off.

New York firefighters arrived in just 12 minutes, but could not get on the ship because of the panic and workers.
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They began to extinguish after about an hour. The ship began to lean to the port side because of the large flow of water.

The liner’s designer offered to open the kingstons and sink the ship (to lower it to the bottom of the Hudson River, luckily the keel allowed to do this) in order to align it and ditch the heel. However, he was not heard. Despite the fact that the fire was extinguished, the ship capsized on her side at night.
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The ship laid near the pier for more than a year and a half. After continuous operations on cutting the funnels and all the superstructures, she was returned to floatability and in the fall of 1943, she was towed down the Hudson River.
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Later there were ideas of turning her into the aircraft carrier, but it was cheaper to construct from scratch. It was not possible to restore her back to the passenger liner. As a result, the ship was sold for scrap.
Sic transit gloria mundi

We should also mention Japanese ships that suffered the unenviable fate in this terrible war.

Asama Maru (we’ve already talked about her) sank after the torpedo attack of the American submarine in November 1944. About 400 people died.
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The former Italian "Conte Verde" liner was destroyed in Shanghai, after the capitulation of Italy in 1943 on the orders of the captain.

In July 1944, the Japanese refloated the ship. On August 8, the ship was bombed by the Allies and sank. It was refloated again and finally became the Japanese ship already under the name of Kotobuki Maru.

On May 8, 1945, the ship got on an American mine, but it was restored. On July 25, 1945, after the air raid, the ship “ran” ashore.
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MV Tatsuta Maru was the sister of Asama Maru. The ship was destroyed after the submarine attack.
About 1400 people died.
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SS Ural Maru sank on September 27, 1944 after the attack of the submarine.
More than 2,000 people died.
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​Teia Maru was originally the French liner, but was captured by the Japanese.

On August 19, 1944, the ship was destroyed by the American submarine. More than 2600 people died.
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It is not a complete list of the Japanese ships destroyed during this sad period in the history of cruise liners.

We’d like to say a few words about the Soviet Union.

Although the state did not have a large cruise fleet at that time, passenger transportation took place and many ships began to be engaged in the transportation of refugees or the military with the beginning of the war.

SS Lenin is the cargo-passenger ship built in 1909.

At first, she sailed between Vladivostok and Japan. In 1924, she was moved in the Black Sea.

On July 27, 1841, she blew up on the Soviet mine near Cape Sarych, Crimea. (There is a version that the ship was torpedoed by the Germans, but there is no confirmation).

According to various estimates, between 900 and 4,600 people died (it is assumed that 2,500 people died).
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​Iosif Stalin was originally the passenger-cargo steam ship. She was built in Amsterdam.

The seven-deck liner came from the plant in the USSR only in 1940.

On December 3, 1941, the ship blew up on three mines near the island of Naissaar. 5589 soldiers of the Red Army were on board.

The rescue operation began, but after the big explosion, it was stopped. 1740 people were rescued.

The ship was sinking December 3d to 5th. The ship was drifting towards Estonia.

More than 3,000 soldiers that remained on the liner were captured by the German ships.

In total, more than 3,850 people died during the tragedy and further events.
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Soldiers are "drifting" along with the ship.
Bundesarchiv, Bild 101II-MN-2787-30 / Peter / CC-BY-SA 3.0 


Armenia is the beautiful passenger liner that was built in St. Petersburg (Leningrad) in 1928.

With the beginning of the war, she was used for the evacuation of the Crimeans.

She was destroyed by the German aviation on November 7, 1941 near Yalta. According to various estimates, anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000 people were killed. Historians believe the number is close to 7,000 people. Only 8 people were rescued.
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Let’s return to the German liners.

SS General von Steuben, the beautiful German liner considered the first German transatlantic liner after the First World War, sank on February 10, 1945 after the attack of the Soviet submarine.
More than 3,600 people died.
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Bundesarchiv, N 1572 Bild-1925-109 / Fleischhut, Richard / CC-BY-SA 3.0

SS Cap Arcona, once the beautiful liner, was destroyed almost before the capitulation of Germany.

The ship was carrying the prisoners of the concentration camps. Presumably, they were supposed to be transported to Norway to cover-up crimes against humanity on the orders of Himmler.

On May 3, 1945, the convoy was attacked by the British aviation. The pilots were confident that there were SS officers on the ships.

SS Cap Arcona caught on fire, overturned and sank. The German convoy saved 420 SS members and 16 crew members. The prisoners of the concentration camps, who were trying to escape, were shot or thrown into the water by the Germans.

Only about 350 people got rescued of the more than 5,000 prisoners of concentration camps.

In total, about 5,000 people died on SS Cap Arcona.
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The torpedoing of the German airliner MV Wilhelm Gustloff by the Soviet submarine became the largest naval catastrophe in the Second World War (and apparently in history).

We’ve already talked about this liner in the last article.

She was one of the first liners with cabins situated along the sides. Before the war, the ship took 50 cruises and transported about 65,000 tourists. Her routes were the Norwegian fjords and the Baltic Sea in summer and the Mediterranean in winter.

Since the beginning of the war, the ship was used as the hospital...
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Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-L12207 / Augst / CC-BY-SA 3.0

In addition, the ship was used as the floating barracks. The number of refugees rose sharply with the beginning of hostilities in East Prussia.

The ship was in the port of Danzig (present Gdansk). The acceptance of refugees onboard began on January 22, 1945.

On January 30, 1945, the number of "passengers" exceeded 10,000 and the crew ceased to keep records.

According to modern estimates, there were 10,582 people on the liner at the time of departure. 8,956 of them were the refugees (mostly elderly people, women, and about 5,000 children).

On January 30, 1945, the captain of the Soviet submarine S-13 Alexander Marinesko saw the brightly lit ship (which was not acceptable in military practice for such ships). The submarine was watching the ship for two hours, then the boat went on the attack and discharged 3 torpedoes on the liner.

The ship sank within an hour. By the most modest estimations, about 9,400 people died.
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Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-H27992 / Sönnke, Hans / CC-BY-SA 3.0

By the way, SS General von Steuben that was destroyed just 11 days later and that we’ve already talked about, was destroyed by the same submarine and the same Alexander Marinesko.

Just in two weeks, more than 10,000 people died and two ocean liners sunk because of Marinesko…

By the most modest estimations, more than 50 ocean liners were destroyed during the war. More than 90,000 people died on them!

In this article, we discussed only a small part of this great tragedy in the history, and our analysis doesn’t include the cargo ships, military ships, barges – well, any ships that transported people... We talked only about cruise liners...

It was the terrible war that changed the world...

The cruise industry died again...
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We'll continue talking about the history of cruise ships in the next article...

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