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SS Bismarck / RMS Majestic

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.

picture of RMS Majestic docked
SS Bismarck in port

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.

Painting of the RMS Majestic White Star Line
pictur of RMS Majestic steaming
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

SS Bismarck / RMS Majestic Ship Facts
Number of Decks:
Cruising Speed:
Max Speed:
56,551 GRT
956' - 0"
100' - 4"
23.5 Knots (27 mph or 43.5 km/hr)
26 Knots (29mph or 46km/h)
Port of Registry:
Maiden Voyage:
Years in Service:
Current Status:
Blohm and Voss, Hamburg 
Hamburg / Liverpool
June 20, 1914
Caught fire in September 1939 and sank. Scrapped in 1943
SS Bismarck RMS Majestic Elevation drawing
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