1927 - 1940
mid-1920s were to become years of great change for the White
Star Line. The company had since 1902 been a part of the International
Mercantile Marine, a consortium created by the American financier J. P.
Morgan to achieve monopoly on the transatlantic route. But this goal was
never reached, much because of the First World War that had seen the losses
of many IMM-owned ships.
the White Star Line was sold in November 1926 to the Royal Mail Steam Packet
Co., lead by Lord Kylsant, who had also been in control of Harland &
Wolff Shipyards since the death of Lord Pirrie in 1924. The White Star
Line, or the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company, was again British-owned.
Kylsant's plans for his empire were much alike those of J. P. Morgan's
25 years earlier. But many of the ships in the White Star fleet were getting
old and needed replacements. Unfortunately, funds were running low, and
before the 1930s, many ships would be retired without being
replaced, for example Persic, Medic and Athenic. But
a bit of fresh tonnage was unarguably needed, so a few
new vessels were commissioned
at Harland & Wolff. But the price had to be cheap.
|A nice postcard of the
new ships were intermediate ones, but one of them was slightly larger than
the others, at some 18,700 tons. She was named the Laurentic.
Actually, she was the second ship in the White Star fleet to bear that
name; the first Laurentic had entered service in 1909. That ship
had played a significant role when the company was to decide what type
of engines their new trio Olympic, Titanic and Britannic
would be fitted with - either traditional quadruple reciprocating engines
with two propellers or triple-expansion engines turning two propellers
in combination with a low-pressure turbine turning a centre-screw. The
Laurentic was fitted with the combination type, and her sister -
Megantic - was equipped with quadruple engines. The Laurentic
proved to be both faster and more economical than the Megantic,
so the choice of engines for the new trio was ultimately a fairly easy
the first Laurentic had been a very modern ship, the second was
to become a drawback in ship design, most because she had to be cheap in
construction. It can seem almost as poetic irony that the second Laurentic
was one of the last ships fitted with triple-expansion engines in combination
with a turbine, where the original Laurentic had been one of the
first. Also, during a time when new ships were equipped with oil-fired
machinery and older ships were converted into such, the new Laurentic
was built with coal-fired boilers.
16th 1927, the Laurentic was launched at Harland &
Wolff, Belfast. Five months later, on November 1st, she went
through her satisfactory sea trials. She was then handed over to her owners.
It is notable that the Laurentic was the only vessel with a fixed
price contract ordered by the White Star Line at Harland & Wolff. The
two companies had always had a special relationship, with bills calculated
at a cost-plus basis. However, as money had to be saved, the Laurentic's
price was agreed on in advance.
was intended for the Canadian run, but her masts were too high to go under
the bridge at Montreal, and so they had to be cut down after delivery.
But before entering her intended route, the Laurentic served between
Liverpool and New York, with her maiden voyage on November 12th
1927. It was not until April 27th 1928 that she made her first
voyage on the Liverpool-Quebec-Montreal run.
continued serving White Star with no major mishaps, except a collision
with the Lurigethan in the Strait of Belle Isle.
But the company suffered great
financial difficulties, and in 1934 the former rivals White Star and Cunard
merged into Cunard White Star. The Laurentic remained on her Canada
|Although a beautiful
ship, it was evident that the Laurentic was a ship of the old style.
the Laurentic became a part-time cruise ship, making £1-per-day
voyages. On one such voyage, while in the Irish Sea, she encountered heavy
fog. During the night she collided with the Napier Star, whereby
six crewmembers were killed. Laurentic was returned to Liverpool,
where she was repaired. However, she was then to be laid up a few times
over a period of four years.
the Second World War broke out. The Laurentic was brought to Plymouth
in September. There she was converted into an armed merchant cruiser. Her
after mast and derrick posts were removed and she was fitted with guns
and anti-aircraft equipment.
that same year, the Laurentic ran across the Hamburg-Amerika Line's
Antiochia off Iceland. The German ship scuttled herself, but at
least served as target practice while sinking.
got off at a bad start for the Laurentic when she ran aground in
fog. She was brought back to her builders and repaired in six weeks. Then
she returned to her war duties.
3rd 1940 at 21.40, the allied vessel Casanare was torpedoed
by the German submarine U-99. The distress calls were intercepted
by the Laurentic, who immediately went to the rescue. The U-99
was still looming in the surrounding waters and managed to hit the Laurentic
at 22.50 off the Bloody Foreland. Another two torpedoes followed the original
one, and the ship sunk. Of the 416 people on board, 367 managed to escape.
49 were lost.
|The Laurentic - Specifications:
||600 feet (183.3 m)
||75 feet (22.9 m)
||18,724 gross tons
engines turning two wing-propellers and a low-pressure steam turbine turning
the centre propeller.