Originally planned to be the largest of Hamburg America's big three, the SS Bismarck's completion in 1914 was pushed back until after WWI. Although not as fast as her Cunard competitors Lusitania and Mauretania of the time, Hamburg America decided to follow White Star's lead with size and comfort. Sister ship to both Imperator and Vaterland, the trio would have ruled the Atlantic had war not broken out.
Although never sailing commercially for Germany, the Bismarck re-christened the Majestic led a successful career. Still incomplete after the War and with most precious metals scavenged during the war, much work still had to be done before sea trials. The Treaty of Versailles earmarked the Bismarck to replace the lost Britannic, the shipyard Blohm and Voss was contracted to finish construction. Fire broke out as the ship was nearing completion, arson was suspected. Representatives from Harland and Wolff to oversee completion.
HAPAG's Big Three
Poised to ensure transatlantic dominance for Germany, the three ships designed by Albert Ballin were larger and more luxurious than any ships afloat. More than 70 feet longer than the Titanic, the Imperator class vessels utilized improved steam turbines for all four propellers. The interiors of the ships were revolutionary as well. Exhaust vents from the boilers to the funnels were routed in a way to allow for long expansive interior spaces yet unseen on the ocean.
During the transition from German to British ownership was tense, but civil. German officer quarters were finished much earlier than the British ones. As soon as the British crew arrived, they entered from one side as the Germans left from the other.
The Bismarck turned Majestic sailed from Hamburg to Southampton, arriving April 10, 1922, exactly 10 years after the Titanic disembarked for her maiden voyage.
RMS Majestic after WWI
Sailing during the roaring twenties, the Majestic sailed as the flagship of the White Star Line alongside the Olympic.
An immensley popular liner at the time, the Majestic carried more passengers across the Atlantic in 1924, 1926, 1928, and 1930. Nicknamed the "Magic Stick" the Majestic hosted monarchs and celebrities alike.
The ship still maintained size supremacy until the next generation of ships almost a decade later. The Majestic was so large that the original White Star berth in New York on the Hudson River was too small by nearly 50 feet. The immense size also posed structural concerns. In 1924 a 100' long crack caused the ship to undergo a retrofit. An almost identical failure plagued the Leviathan nearly five years later.
RMS Majestic, the End of HAPAG's Big Three
After a successful career for White Star, the White Star and Cunard merged and the ship joined a new contingent of aging liners. Although the Berengaria suffered from an electrical fire, the decision was made to scrap the Majestic first. The ship was sold to breakers, however the original agreement at the end of WWI prevented the ship from going to the scrapyard. The British Admiralty instead gave several cruisers that were a combined similar tonnage to the scrap yard and requisitioning the Majestic and renaming it the HMS Caledonia to become a training ship.
After several year training future officers, the onset of WWII forced the Navy to make a determination on how best to use the large liner. Anchored at the Firth of Forth, the ship caught fire and settled in the mud. Nearly four years later the ship was raised and scrapped, unceremoniously.
SS Bismarck / RMS Majestic Ship Facts
Number of Decks:
956' - 0"
100' - 4"
23.5 Knots (27 mph or 43.5 km/hr)
26 Knots (29mph or 46km/h)
Port of Registry:
Years in Service:
Blohm and Voss, Hamburg
Hamburg / Liverpool
June 20, 1914
Caught fire in September 1939 and sank. Scrapped in 1943
SS Bismarck | RMS Majestic Ship Frequently Asked Questions
What was the SS Bismarck/RMS Majestic? Answer: The SS Bismarck was a German ocean liner built by the Hamburg America Line in 1914. After World War I, it was handed over to Britain as part of war reparations and renamed the RMS Majestic.
When was the RMS Majestic launched, and what company operated it? Answer: The RMS Majestic was launched on June 29, 1914, by the German company Hamburg America Line. It was later acquired by White Star Line and renamed the RMS Majestic.
What was the RMS Majestic's route and passenger capacity? Answer: The RMS Majestic primarily sailed between Southampton and New York City, with a capacity of up to 2,145 passengers.
What happened to the RMS Majestic during World War I? Answer: During World War I, the RMS Majestic was requisitioned by the British government and used as a troopship. It was returned to Hamburg America Line after the war, but was later surrendered to the British as part of war reparations.
What was the size of the SS Bismarck/RMS Majestic? Answer: The SS Bismarck/RMS Majestic was approximately 956 feet (291 meters) long and could accommodate up to 2,145 passengers and crew.
How long did the RMS Majestic serve as a passenger liner, and what happened to it after it was retired? Answer: The RMS Majestic served as a passenger liner for 23 years, from 1922 to 1945. After it was retired, it was sold to the British government and scrapped in 1947.