After losing ground to the faster Four Flyers of North German Lloyd, Cunard's fastest Lusitania and Mauritania duo, the decision was made to create a trio of the worlds largest and most opulent ships. Unfortunately for HAPAG, White Star's Olympic class ships were launched first and the sinking of the Titanic would be remembered first.
Launched at the height of the German Empire, Kaiser Wilhelm insisted the ship be referred to in the masculine form, whereas most other liners were referred to as feminine. Although the Kaiser was to sail as soon as the ship entered service, issues during sea trials postponed the ship's maiden voyage. Earlier images show taller funnels that were shortened due to excessive roll and stability issues. Lighter furniture, removal of marble floors in first class, and filling the bottom double hull with concrete helped alleviate these initial issues.
Several unique design decisions created a grand and powerful ship. One of those designs featured a 10 foot tall bronze eagle standing on a globe located on the prow of the ship. The 40 foot wide wings did not survive many trips and were ripped off in a storm. Gold scrollwork and Imperator name replaced the eagle.
Larger Than The Titanic
After the turn of the 20th century, the Golden Age of ocean liners was in full swing. Nationalism of the time aided in the fierce competition between the different shipping lines. The inspiration for the SS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse came from a visit of royalty aboard the White Star Line RMS Teutonic. NGL responded with size and speed, sparking the race for the Blue Riband.
Hamburg America sorely needing an answer to a completely new Atlantic fleet, answered with a trio of ships - largest and most luxurious ships afloat. As the first to sail, the Imperator surpassed the RMS Titanic's and Olympic's size, claiming the title of world's largest ship and keeping it until the launch of sister ship SS Vaterland
Famed Bronze Eagle on the Bow
Designed using the latest technological advances, the Imperator was a sight to see. New turbines powered the ship's four propellers, giving him decent speed.
One of the most visibly designed elements on the ship helped the Imperator soar above the waves. A bronze eagle towered over a globe it perched upon. Unfortunately, the eagle's 40 foot wings only survived a year before being knocked off in a storm, somewhere at the bottom of the Atlantic.
Throughout the first few years, the ship developed a tendency to roll in most seas. During ensuing refits, the funnels were reduced in height, furniture replaced with lightweight replacements, and concrete was added to parts of the bilge to balance the ships buoyancy.
SS Imperator to RMS Berengaria
As World War One raged on, the Imperator sat on the sidelines docked in Hamburg for the duration of the war. Periodic wartime salvage efforts stripped the ship of bonze while leaving the ship in increasingly deteriorating condition. At the end of the war, the ship was surrendered and converted into a United States troopship, returning soldiers home after the war.
After an extensive overhaul, the ship was renamed Beregaria and sailed for Cunard alongside the Mauretania and Aquitania. Sailing through the 1920's and 1930's, the Berengaria was the first ship of the era to be replaced by the Queen Mary.