Mauretania - a wonder of the seas, the largest and fastest liner

The cover of the new book RMS Mauretania (1907), one of the largest passenger ships to sail the Atlantic.
The cover of the new book RMS Mauretania (1907), one of the largest passenger ships to sail the Atlantic.
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If you or members of your family served in the Mercantile Marine then a book just published is for you. It tells the story of the world’s largest ship of the time, RMS Mauretania, then as now, a liner that would be a floating city.

She was the largest and fastest ship from her launch in 1906 until Olympic, sister to the Titanic, was launched in 1911.

Stokers at work on the worlds largest ship of the time, Mauretania. There were 64 boilers to be fed, 24 hours a day.

Stokers at work on the worlds largest ship of the time, Mauretania. There were 64 boilers to be fed, 24 hours a day.

To keep the ship’s 32,000 tons on the move, 6,200 tons of coal was used on one trip across the Atlantic. No wonder the coal industry was in such good form. 

The ship was the wonder of the age and a great favourite with the passengers who travelled on her.

Her astounding speed realised a twelve-and-a-half-day voyage to and from America during 1926 and continued to astound with record breaking crossings.

During the First World War she was used as a hospital and troop ship. In 1920, her engines were converted to oil making her much cleaner.  

The back garden of Charles Dickens's birthplace, now in Old Commercial Road, Portsmouth..

The back garden of Charles Dickens's birthplace, now in Old Commercial Road, Portsmouth..

What always amazes me about these ships is how they were broken up.

Breaking began in July 1935 and within a year she was little more than a hulk and disappeared from view six months later.

The whole history of the ship can be read in David F Hutchings’s 310-page high quality book containing many photographs.

It is somewhat expensive at £40, but order a copy through New To You Books, in High Street, Cosham, and there will be a £5 discount for readers of The News. Just take in a copy of the paper.

The second picture shows the men who must have been the fittest in the shipping world, stokers. Imagine shovelling coal day and night into 64 boilers. I can only think they worked four hours on, four off. Perhaps someone knows?

I am sure when oil-fired boilers came into use many of these men would have been made redundant and were perhaps glad of it.

Coaling ship was another hazardous, dirty task that had to be done over many hours when a ship berthed.

• Last Tuesday I published a postcard view of the back garden of Charles Dickens’s birthplace in what is now Old Commercial Road, Landport, Portsmouth.

As the great man left Portsmouth aged about three I don’t suppose he played in the garden but might have been left there in a pram sleeping in the fresh air.

I received an immediate reply from Susan Ward, the curator of art at Portsmouth Museum with this modern photograph. She says the garden is not open to visitors but can be viewed from an upstairs window.

The museum is open Monday to Friday from April to September.