NotesThe model of the RMS Berengaria was constructed for the Cunard White Star Line and used to promote the Berengaria when it was the company's flagship. This would date the model between 1921 and 1938, after the Imperator was renamed Berengaria and before the vessel was decommissioned and sold. The scale of the model is 1:150.
The RMS Berengaria was originally built as the Imperator for the Hamburg-Amerika line at the Vulcan-Werke shipyards in Hamburg, Germany. The keel was laid on 18 June 1910 and the vessel was launched on 23 May 1912 by the German Kaiser Wilhelm II.
The Imperator was the first vessel to exceed 900 feet and 50,000 tons and the first German liner to be propelled by four screws. At the time of its launch, it was the largest and longest luxury liner. The vessel carried 908 first class, 972 second class, 942 third class and 1772 steerage passengers, a total of 4594. The crew numbered 1180.
Late in construction a second skin was fitted five feet in from the Imperator's hull, following the sinking of the unsinkable Titanic (on14 April 1912). This ensured the largest ship in the world could never be sunk in the same manner. The second skin ran the length of the hull. There were twelve watertight bulkheads and thirteen transverse watertight compartments. Many of the watertight doors were operated hydraulically, using the patented Dorr system. This meant the watertight doors could be closed from either the Commander's bridge or by auxiliary controls on the upper deck. A number of other features built into the design of the bulkheads ensured the vessel's safety even if two or more adjacent compartments were flooded.
The Imperator had two engine rooms. The power plant was innovative, with water tube boilers and turbine propulsion so the vessel could reach a service speed close to that of the Mauritania and faster than the Olympic and Titanic, which were built with a combination of reciprocating engines and low pressure turbines. The turbine propulsion was capable of generating 72,000 horsepower, allowing an average speed of 22 1/2 knots across the Atlantic Ocean. In the event of trouble with the power plant, each of the four propellers could run independently using isolating valves. On the port side of the aft engine room there were five turbo-generators producing 110 volts to power the lifeboat winches, ventilating system, lighting, and all heating in saloons and staterooms.
The fitout of the Imperator was also affected by the sinking of the Titanic. The number of lifeboats was increased to 83, and the speed, safety and efficiency of the lifeboat system were improved. This included a newly designed launching apparatus on each deck, ensuring rapid lowering of lifeboats. The launching system featured an independent lighting system, which ensured that the lifeboats and exits were lit at night, even if the engine room were to be submerged. For the first time on any ship, lifeboats were stored below the main promenade, in pockets along the side of the ship, closer to the water. Two of the lifeboats had further safety features: wireless telegraphs and motors powerful enough to tow other boats.
There was little doubt during construction that the Imperator would be the heaviest luxury liner ever built. However, to ensure that the vessel was the longest, Ballin commissioned Dr Bruno Kruse to sculpt the figurehead. This took the form of a 10.3 foot gold and bronze German eagle with a wingspan of 16 metres. The eagle clutched a globe within its claws, with rays radiating behind to affix the figurehead to the stem. The Hamburg-Amerika line motto 'Mein Felt is die Welt' (the world is my field) was inscribed on a banner running the circumference of the globe. Thus the length of the Imperator was 919.3 feet including the figurehead, making it the longest vessel to date. The figurehead was damaged in high seas in 1914 on a voyage to New York and was replaced with decorative grillwork; the length was not adjusted.
Just as the size of the Imperator was meant to outstrip all rivals, so the internal fitout was designed to be the ultimate in luxury. First class extended for most of the length of the vessel, from the bridge to the last funnel, spanning 7 decks. Second class extended aft from there, while third class was in the stern and steerage in the foremost part of the hull. The interiors were designed by architect Charles Mewes, who had previously designed the interiors for the Ritz Hotel in Paris and London. The vessel featured luxuries such as two Imperial suites, marble bathrooms, public rooms with unusually high ceilings, a gymnasium and the first ocean-going swimming pool. Unfortunately aspects relating to weight and stability seemed to be ignored in the outfitting of the vessel.
On its maiden voyage, the lack of stability and top heaviness of the vessel soon became an issue. The Imperator was withdrawn to the Vulcan shipyards for major alterations. The funnels were reduced in length by nine feet. Internally the vessel was stripped of heavy marble and panelling, and the hold was filled with 2000 tons of cement ballast. This greatly improved the stability of the vessel in the water and lessened rolling in heavy seas, although stability remained a problem.
In August of 1914, as World War I began, the Imperator was laid up at Hamburg and remained inactive for more than four years. Following the November 1918 Armistice, it was claimed as war reparations by the Allies and allocated to the United States for temporary use in transporting American service personnel home from France. The vessel was commissioned as USS Imperator in early May 1919. It made 8 crossings between Brest and New York carrying troops, under the control of US Army transport but operated by navy crew. The Imperator carried some 25,000 persons back to the U.S. from Europe.
Decommissioned at New York City in late November 1919, the Imperator was transferred to the British and managed by the Cunard line. The vessel was renamed Berengaria in 1921, after the wife of King Richard the first. Early in 1922 the Berengaria and the unfinished Bismark (later called Majestic) were bought jointly by the Cunard and White Star lines in order to save money. Joint ownership continued until 1932. The Berengaria became the flagship of the Cunard line, and the White Star line generally using the Majestic.
The ship did not meet Cunard standards and was sent to the Tyne for an overhaul. The engines were converted to oil burning, the steerage accommodation was stripped, and the remainder of the passenger spaces were improved. In the late 1920s much of the vessel's old third class accommodation was converted into tourist class. This altered the passenger capacity to 881 first class, 661 second, 525 tourist and 606 third class.
Following refit, the Berengaria started a successful North Atlantic service, running alongside the Aquitania and Mauritania between Southampton, Cherbourg and New York. Later, the vessel was also used for warm weather cruising to Bermuda and the Caribbean.
The Depression and the establishment of regular airline services had a disastrous affect upon the liner when travellers were few and rates were low. As a result, the Berengaria was used on what were regarded as $50 'booze cruises' in an attempt to bring in revenue. The liner acquired the nickname 'Bargain Area'.
Plagued by electrical fires beginning in the mid-1930s, the Berengaria caught fire at New York on March 3 1938 and was put up for sale after being labelled a fire risk by American authorities. The ship was sold to John Jarvis ship breakers of England in 1938; however work was held up by the outbreak of World War II. In 1946 the Berengaria was towed to Firth in Scotland for breaking up.
The Berengaria transported many famous personalities, including the dog Rin Tin Tin, the Prince of Wales, the body of Edgar Wallace (scriptwriter of the film 'King Kong'), and AHG Fokker, the aircraft designer.