Thursday, March 14, 2024


She was launched and delivered to a company already in serious financial trouble and due to crash in three years. And throughout all this the world depression was building up to its peak, with the shipping business at rock bottom. A dismal outlook indeed for a new ship. It is a little difficult to see why she was ordered at all.

J.H. Isherwood, Sea Breezes, July 1979.

Of all White Star ships, none have been more dismissed than Laurentic of 1927.  The final liner by IMM for White Star  has been described as "built on the cheap,"  out of date and some even wonder why she was built at all.  The last reciprocating-engined, coal-fired Atlantic liner was indeed conceived and completed amid turbulent times and hers was not a long career but as fulsome as most. The last classic Harland & Wolff liner, Laurentic's handsome profile set against Quebec's Chateau Frontenac or Liverpool's Pier Head buildings, coal smoke boiling from those perfectly proportioned White Star pink buff funnels, evoke the twilight era of a fabled line. 

This is the story of that least appreciated of all White Star liners, 

R.M.S.  LAURENTIC  1927-1940

The last traditionally styled White Star liner, the splendid looking R.M.S. Laurentic.  Credit: author's collection. 

The best thing to come out of the Cunard-White Star era for Laurentic was surely this marvelous depiction of her by James S. Mann.  Credit: author's collection.

The report that there is a prospect of the White Star Line extending its service to Montreal is received with decided favour in all quarters here. It is felt that the extension of the Canadian railways will naturally necessitate more steamship accommodaton.

Western Daily Press, 9 April 1908.

Introducing to the travelling public a new era of ocean transportation between Montreal nnd Europe by super-sized passenger liners, the White Star Laurentic docked at fined last night after an excellent voyage from Liverpool, and her first to the St. Lawrence, for which service she was especially designed and constructed.

Gazette, 7 May 1928.

It is ironic that White Star Line, one of the greatest innovators on the Atlantic Ferry in the last quarter of the 19th century and into the first decade of the 20th, and rightly credited with inventing the modern trans-Atlantic liner, Oceanic of 1871, would, after passing to American owners, expand not through continued enterprise and inspiration but mainly rather by capital inspired market placement, living as it were on purchased if not borrowed wings. Few lines passed from triumph to tribulation faster than did White Star. If Olympic  of 1911 represented the summit, Laurentic of 1927 symbolised the swansong of IMM and White Star, forever colouring perceptions of the ship and her career. 

The Canadian trans-Atlantic service, indeed acquired rather than originated by White Star, came to figure prominently in the line's fortunes at the same time they faded. It is remarkable that Laurentic of 1927 was, in fact, the sole newbuilding designed and built specifically for White Star's Canadian route from inception, all others, including Doric (Calgary), Megantic (Albany), Laurentic (I) (Alberta) etc. were originally intended for a line all but forgotten today that was the true heart of what became the White Star Canadian service: Dominion Line. 

So it was that having acquired Dominion Line as part of his initial buying spree in 1903, Morgan's IMM expanded their aspirations of North Atlantic dominance beyond New York and Boston to Canada and the Mediterranean.    Dating to 1871,  the Liverpool & Mississippi Steamship Co. conjured in name the original route and purpose of the enterprise that aimed to profit from the post American Civil War resurgence of the cotton trade between New Orleans and England. Like Donaldson Line, the suddenly booming immigrant traffic between Britain and Canada, offered broader and more profitable prospects at a time when the route was almost wholly in the capable hands of Allan Line.  Whereas in 1867, 10,700 immigrants came to the new Dominion of Canada, by 1873, the number peaked to 50,100.  

Mississippi inaugurated the first sailing to the St. Lawrence on 4 May 1872. The now renamed Mississippi & Dominion Steamship Co. Ltd. reflected the reorientation towards the Canadian trade and the ships now named after Canadian cities and towns.  It will be admitted, however, that  Dominion Line garnered an atrocious safety record in their early years on a route that was fraught with navigational hazards. Between 1870 and 1899, no fewer than 12 of their steamers, plus two on charter, had been lost through groundings, hitting icebergs, etc., out of total of 27 ships owned or operated during this period.

Dominion Line began to introduce some impressive individual ships to a route so dominated by Allan Line that it made them all the more remarkable, including the 5,141-grt Vancouver of 1884 which was a smaller, iron-hulled version of Allan's famous Parisian.  Further expansion ensued when Dominion shared with Allan Line the Canadian mail contract for the first time beginning in 1885. 

The doughty Canada (1896-1926).  Credit: author's collection. Credit: National Museums NI.

Doubtless the most famous Dominion liner was the aptly named Canada of 1896. At 8,806 grt, 500 ft. x 58 ft. she was the first twin-screw liner on the St. Lawrence, the first of Harland & Wolff's "big ship" designs on the route and considered by many to be the progenitor of the modern intermediate Atlantic liner.  Indeed, Canada set the pace for every Canadian liner built after her with the exception of Empress of Britain of 1931 and her eventual replacement, after three decades of service, Laurentic of 1927 has a direct design lineage to her. 

The seasonal quality of the St. Lawrence route, closed to navigation from November to April, inspired  alternate winter services. Dominion which had maintained winter sailings to Portland, Maine, for a number of years, put Canada on a new off season service to Boston which thrived to the extent she remained on it for several full seasons.   Business boomed with Canadian immigration rising from 16,800 arrivals in 1896 to 89,100 in 1902.  The successful Boston service prompted building of the 11,394-grt New England in 1898 and the 12,097-grt Commonwealth in 1900.  Dominion boldly started a new Boston-Naples-Genoa winter service in November 1901 with Commonwealth that was hugely profitable owing to burgeoning Italian immigration to New England. 

The second of British-flag lines acquired by Morgan (the first being Leyland Line) and the first under the newly created International Mercantile Marine Company in 1902, Dominion Line gave the fledging endeavour their first significant passenger company and widespread routes and markets. As such, it first flourished under the new regime.  Even Leyland Line's brand new Hanoverian was, after just three voyages, transferred to Dominion and rebuilt as the three-class liner Mayflower for the Boston run. In 1903, Dominion commissioned the 15,378-grt Columbus for the Boston run. It proved the most fleeting of apogees.

All that changed with IMM's purchase of White Star Line for such a sum as to make it the favourite child of the combine at the expense of all others.  At a stroke, IMM concentrated almost all of their U.S. market activities and Dominion's Boston and Mediterranean routes and ships were transferred to White Star, leaving the Canadian service to Dominion which continued to prosper along with surging immigration to Canada:
year    immigrant arrivals in Canada
1905   141,500
1906   211,700
1907   272,400
1908   143,300
1909   173,700

Such was the extent of traffic that Canadian Pacific entered the trans-Atlantic steamship trade in 1903, built Empress of Britain and Empress of Ireland  and in response, Dominion laid down their largest ships to date: Alberta and Albany in 1908.  The deep depression of 1907-08 and its enormous impact on traffic on the American routes, led IMM to improve White Star's position by placing them in the Canadian service in a joint operation with Dominion via the simple expedient of giving White Star Alberta and Albany on the stocks which would be launched instead as Laurentic and Megantic.  This was announced in May 1908, coincidental with the news that Laurentic would be given the new Harland & Wolff "combination" machinery of twin triple-expansion reciprocating engines coupled with a centre screw driven by an exhaust steam turbine.  Now very much a junior partner, Dominion contributed Canada and Dominion to the new joint White Star-Dominion Line weekly service. 

R.M.S. Laurentic by Charles Dixon, RI. Credit: author's collection.

On completion in spring and summer 1909, the 14,892-grt, 550 ft. x 67 ft. Laurentic and Megantic were instant successes, firmly establishing  White Star in the Canadian trade. 

Just before the Great War, Harland & Wolff designed a standardised intermediate passenger and cargo carrier for IMM that presaged the "platform" concept of cruise ships shared by multiple lines. This type had the now tried and proved "combination" machinery and featured the new cruiser stern.  Emulating CPR's Missanabie and Metagama, they would be "one-class cabin (second class)" steamers with a saloon class of 600 berths and a Third Class of 1,500-1,800 berth capacity. In all, six such ships were envisioned including two for Holland America and in 1913 the first two were laid down at Belfast as  no. 454 for Dominion Line (Regina) no. 457 for American Line (Pittsburgh) with another pair originally intended for HAPAG (nos. 463 and 464) to be built by Barclay Curle.  The outbreak of war saw work paused on all of them and HAPAG pair reassigned to Canadian Pacific. Construction resumed in 1917  and Regina was hurredily completed as an austerity transport and cargo vessel and  the CPR pair as austerity transports, named Melita and Minnedosa.

Carrying 525,000 troops and 4 mn. tons of cargo during the First World War, White Star lost 16 ships,  including the largest sunk in it: Britannic and the other IMM lines suffered even worse, Atlantic Transport losing all four of their  largest ships.  IMM's post-war reconstruction was mitigated by their near bankruptcy in 1915 and salvaged from receivership by P.A.S. Franklin who was determined to dispose of the combine's foreign flag holdings thereafter.  In 1919 a proposed buy out of IMM's foreign flag lines by a British consortium was vetoed by the Wilson Administration as being counter to national interests and henceforth, the whole operation tottered along on a shoestring budget.  By contrast, Cunard-Anchor-Donaldson commenced in 1919 and completed, albeit with considerable difficulty and delays by 1925, no fewer than 18 new oil-burning, turbine-driven liners.

By late 1919, IMM had placed orders for four newbuildings with Harland & Wolff: no. 573 (Calgary for Dominion Line) nos. 613 and 614 (Minnewaska and Minnetonka for Atlantic Transport Line) and no. 615 (Laurentic II for White Star). It seemed a good start but as events proved, contracting and completing were very different endeavours with anything related to IMM and Harland & Wolff in the first five years after the War. Of these four, three were actually built, one with a different name and for a different line, and one cancelled only to be revived under a different number years later.

Remarkably, IMM did not commission a single newbuilding for White Star's New York route after Britannic of 1915, making Olympic the sole new liner actually to arrive in the port back in… 1910. After the war, they relied on  ex-German tonnage and completed Pittsburgh as a White Star liner. Launched in November 1920, she entered service in May 1922, but not renamed. 

There was more activity on the Canadian run owing to well-founded concerns of impending American immigration restrictions (the first such coming into law as early as 1920) and the constraints of the St. Lawrence run which restricted the draft and size of the ship engaged in it, as least those able to serve Montreal which constrained the use of "used" tonnage not designed for the route. 

Regina as finally completed in 1922 for Dominion Line, their last new ship.  Credit: National Museums NI.

A first priority was to finish Regina as a passenger liner and she entered Dominion Line service in March 1922.  No. 573, a consort and first post-war newbuilding for IMM was reported in the Canadian press  on 26 January 1920:  a new triple-screw 15,500-grt liner, 600 ft. x 67.5 ft., with accommodation for 650 Cabin and 2,000 Third Class, to be named Calgary, "has just been laid down at the yards of Harland & Wolff, Belfast…" and "expected to enter service in 1921." She was stated to be a sister ship to Regina except, as announced in April, she would instead be powered by twin-screw geared turbines. 

Calgary was not intended to be a replacement for  one of White Star's biggest losses in the war.  That there was a second Laurentic was occasioned by the tragic loss of the first.  Striking two mines laid by U-80, off Lough Swilly, Northern Ireland, on 25 January 1917, Laurentic sank quickly and of her compliment of 475, 354 died, either in the sinking or from exposure in the bitter winter seas before rescue ships could arrive. Famously, she went down, too, with £5 mn. in gold bars, bound for Halifax to pay for munitions, and for years the salvage of the treasure ensured the first Laurentic had more press attention than her replacement ever would.

Plans for a Laurentic replacement, always envisioned as a larger vessel than another Regina-class and with three classes rather than two and altogether more of a flagship as benefitting the "senior partner," of the White Star-Dominion service, were less defined amid increasing woes in British shipping and especially shipbuilding after the war, specifically huge inflation in costs, shortages of materials and labour strife.  

If Calgary had been announced with some detail and confidence at least in Canadian papers, plans for a new Laurentic were more vague from the onset.   IMM were, if nothing else, masters of publicity and owed nothing to any other shipping group in producing it as it suited them and operating in obscurity if not obfuscation when it did not. This was especially true when plans became to fall apart during the evolving depression in cargo rates, overtonnaging and labour and material shortages plaguing British shipbuilding by 1920, coupled with astonishing inflation in costs, which made many lines hit the "pause button" on ambitious post-war building plans. 

Then, too, the Canadian and American shipping press were far more inquisitive than their British counterparts so that almost all the published reports, speculation and rumour surrounding the new Laurentic project appeared "on the other side."  This was facilitated, too, by new and engaging management in the Montreal head office of White Star-Dominion Line that came on the scene in early 1920 in the person of Major P.A. Curry, Manager, and L.S. Tobin, Passenger Traffic Manager.

Major P.A. Curry, White Star-Dominion Manager, 1920-1930. Credit: Montreal Daily Star, 1 May 1930.

One of the great shipping executives of his time and instrumental in the restoration and expansion of White Star-Dominion Line after the Great War, Major Philip A. Curry, OBE, DSM (1890-1977) was born in Rock Ferry, Cheshire, England.  Wounded in action at Ypres in 1915, Curry was invalided out of active service and went on to become Director of Embarkation in New York for the British Ministry of Shipping and, in that capacity, planned and executed the unprecedented embarkation and transportation of  two million American troops to Britain and France in 1917-19. For this, he was awarded by President Woodrow Wilson the American Distinguished Service Medal, a decoration seldom bestowed on non Americans.  In the capacity of General Manager of White Star-Dominion Line, Curry settled in Montreal, Canada in early 1920, and was immediately involved in the rebuilding of the company's Canadian service as well as the earliest plans for a Laurentic replacement. 

During his introduction as new White Star-Dominion General Manager in Montreal, Major P.A. Curry, told the Montreal Gazette (8 January 1920): "… it is intended to build a successor to the Laurentic… but owing to the great run on British shipyards, it is impossible to make a start with this."

A new Laurentic has been laid down at the Belfast yards of the Harland & Wolff Company to replace the fine steamship of that name lost during the war. The new Laurentic  will be a vessel of 17,000 to 18,000 tons as against the old Laurentic of 15,000 tons.  The new liner will carry first, second and third class passengers and be ready for commission in the Canadian trade early in 1922.

The Victoria Daily Times, 13 November 1920.

L.S. Tobin, White Star-Dominion Passenger Traffic Manager, 1920-1933, is credited with originating the concept of "Tourist Third Cabin" class in Regina in 1924 and played an important part in the planning for and introduction of the new Laurentic. Credit: The Ocean Ferry, July-August 1927.

The order of a new Laurentic from Harland & Wolff was finally formally announced on 13 November 1920 in Montreal by L.S. Tobin. The vessel, whose stated dimensions were 590 ft. in length and tonnage of 17,400, was to be powered by geared turbines. Differing from Regina and Pittsburgh, the new ship would, like Megantic, carry First, Second and Third Class passengers

A rare rendering of the stillborn second Laurentic project showing her to be very similar to Regina and Doric (so much so it is obvious a stock image of Pittsburgh was used) and described as being fitted with geared turbines.  Credit: Shipping, 10 March 1921.

Laurentic was assigned yard no. 615 and slotted right after Minnewaska (no. 613) and Minnetonka (614), the first of which (613) was laid down on 11 November 1920. Indicative of the state of shipping and shipbuilding by then, work on no. 613 ceased soon thereafter and the skeletal beginnings would rust on the slipway until summer 1922.  There is no evidence that no. 615 was ever laid down.

Curiously, there was still no mention whatsoever of the vessel in the British press whose attention was focused on the salvage of a fortune in gold bullion from the wreck of the first Laurentic.  In the Canadian press, no. 615 was periodically cited (as Laurentic) throughout 1921:

When reporting on 16 March that the sister ship to Regina, originally to be named Calgary, would instead be called Doric, the Victoria Daily Times, added "The new Laurentic, 17,400 tons, designed especially for the St. Lawrence service, is reported to be well advanced towards completion."

"Other new ships under construction for the Montreal route in addition to the Doric, are the Laurentic of 17,400 tons.." (Gazette, 31 May) and the same paper on 14 July: "… Laurentic, when completely fitted out for passenger trade, will no doubt succeed to the Laurentic's place of favor in the minds and hearts of the ocean traveller."  

The Montreal Star, 25 October: "The Laurentic is building at Belfast and will be launched in 1922… the Laurentic will burn oil and have two funnels," whilst the  Gazette, 4 January 1922, added  "The Laurentic is expected to be in service about the end of July 1922…"

By autumn 1922, no. 615 had been effectively shelved. Trading conditions worsened when the new U.S immigration restrictions decimated Third Class carryings and practically shut down White Star's Mediterranean route as the Quota Act specifically reduced of the number of immigrants from the Balkans and Mediterranean. Immigrant traffic to Canada had  burgeoned immediately after the war and then lagged when economic conditions contracted in the early 1920s and in the absence of any comprehensive Home or Dominion government encouragement.  
year        immigrant arrivals in Canada
1919       107,700
1920       138,800
1921        91,700
1922        64,200

Major Curry said it is still intended to be built a new Laurentic of 17,400 tons to replace the vessel of that name torpedoed during the war, but that construction will not be commenced until traffic conditions improve.

The Gazette, 9 October 1922. 

The dip in arrivals in 1921-22 are not coincidental to White Star's deferring of the Laurentic project. The decision in March 1921 to complete Calgary as Doric as a White Star liner and as such serve as a de facto replacement for Laurentic and paired with Megantic, gave White Star their pair to run with Dominion's Regina and Canada for timebeing.

Intended to be named Calgary for Dominion Line, when completed in 1923 as Doric as a White Star liner, a de facto replacement for the first Laurentic was achieved when the more ambitious no. 615 was shelved. Credit: National Museums NI.

Harland & Wolff's association  with IMM which had guaranteed so much work before the war with a cooperative "cost plus" arrangement, was largely absent after it.   If overall British employment in the early 1920s stood at 12.5 percent, that in the engineering and shipbuilding trades was 22 percent and topping 27 percent in Northern Ireland.  The Government of Northern Ireland took steps to spur orders with the passage in July of the Loans Guarantee Act in July 1922 in which the government advanced loans at low interest rates to companies placing orders in Northern Irish yards.  This was a lifesaver to Harland & Wolff and Workman Clark and indeed to the construction of British ocean liners in the mid to late 1920s, of which the principal ones like Carnarvon Castle (1926), Asturias (1927), Laurentic (1927) and Bermuda (1928) were all Belfast-built thanks to the Loans Guarantee Act. Work also resumed on Atlantic Transport's Minnewaska and White Star's Doric and a sister to Minnewaska, Minnetonka (no. 614) laid down in late August 1922. Now, loan scheme would revive the second Laurentic project.

Although in their annual report for 1924, issued in April 1925, White Star stated that a new passenger-cargo liner for the Canada run  "had been deferred owing to a fall-off in emigration to Canada," by then the decision to revive the project was already in hand. White Star-Dominion was still on the sellers block with no takers and deferring the replacement of  the 1896-built Canada, was no longer an option against the all new Cunard Canadian fleet. Although some latter day chroniclers; "It is difficult to comprehend why she was ordered at all," the reason was replacing a 30-year-old ship with a new one to maintain a four-ship weekly service. Then, too, there was an encouraging development in Canadian immigration spurred by subsidised "£10" passage schemes that the Home and Dominion Governments contracted Cunard, Canadian Pacific and White Star-Dominion to carry:
year        immigrant arrivals in Canada
1922       64,200
1923       133,700
1924       124,500

One of the more misleading interpretations of Laurentic's origins is conflating her eventual completion in late 1927 with the Royal Mail Group acquisition of White Star the previous year. With the resulting cessation of Royal Mail's own trans-Atlantic service and transfer of Ohio and Orca to White Star's Canadian Service, Laurentic was indeed surplus to requirements before she was finished. But given that the ship was revived as a project in 1925, long before any consideration let alone finalisation of a Royal Mail offer (and indeed advance of the Furness Withy offer in 1926), this is an absurd argument.  Laurentic was ordered when traffic demands and the pressing need to replace Canada required it.  

How IMM paid for Laurentic, was, like the Atlantic Transport pair and completion of Doric, via the Loan Guarantee Act which was not confined solely to shipyards, but also to the equally important engine building industry.  In June 1925 White Star were granted a £250,000 loan from the Loans Guarantee Act towards the purchase of the machinery for a revived second Laurentic to be constructed by Harland & Wolff's Lancefield Works. Laurentic would, too, be built on a fixed price contract, and a first for White Star and Harland & Wolff which, too, has led to assertions that consequently she was somehow "built on the cheap" and finished "below standards," which will be examined later. In any even, what was the largest and finest Canadian route liner ever built up to the advent of the CPR Duchesses in 1928 was finally underway. 

This White Star poster encouraging immigration to Canada took on double meaning for IMM when it finally placed an order for the second Laurentic, the last new vessel they would order for the Canadian run or for White Star Line.  Credit:

It was a watershed year for the International Mercantile Marine and 1925 would see the final orders for newbuildings by the combine that reflected its changed focus.  An October 1925 order for three new ships, the largest yet contracted in the United States, for Panama Pacific Line, was preceded that summer by the contracting of the last new White Star liner by IMM.  The American trio would blaze new trails being the first turbo-electric liners whilst that for White Star would the very last of her kind, a bookend to Harland & Wolff engineering and shipbuilding rather than a new chapter. Ironically, all four would have commercial careers in their original roles not extending more than nine years and IMM would not survive them, either. 

The classic postcard of Laurentic by Montague B. Black (1884-1964) is, at close inspection, intriguing, and may well have been commissioned for the original no. 615 project. Note the different superstructure front (similar to Belgenland's) and the lack of glazed forward promenade deck. Credit: author's collection.

The order for the new Canadian liner was placed in July 1925, Shipbuilding and Shipping Record (16 July 1925) stating that "The passenger and cargo steamer ordered by the White Star Line from Harland & Wolff will be 575 ft. long by 69 ft. beam, with a possible tonnage of about 17,500 tons. The machinery will consist of the combination of reciprocating engines and low-pressure turbine adopted in the Laurentic (I) and other vessels."  Interestingly, the essential dimensions quoted were applicable to the stillborn no. 615 and the newly redesigned vessel would instead be approximately 18,700 tons and 604 ft. x 75 ft..

Adding another layer of un-necessary confusion, when the keel of the new ship was finally laid down, for real this time, on 17 September 1925 on slipway no. 10, East Yard, she had for some arcane reason assumed the keel number 470 which had been previously used by the long dead Germanic/Homeric project.  The new project had nothing whatsoever to do with the previous endeavour and we need not detain ourselves with the endless and tedious speculation attending H&W/IMM failed enterprises or needlessly confuse them with the ship actually constructed and completed.  From the onset the new ship was referred to in the Canadian press as being named Laurentic whilst for some reason reason not initally so in the British papers

Laurentic takes shape at Harland & Wolff's Musgrave Channel yard, Belfast, in late autumn 1925. Here, her tank tops are being plated.  Credit: National Museums, NI.

For the first time in the history of this port an Atlantic liner exceeding 16,400 tons, which is the largest of the type   now coming here, will come to Montreal when the new ship of the White Star-Dominion Line makes her maiden voyage in the spring of 1927.

This will be the Laurentic which will be between 17,000 and 18,000 tons register.  In place of the smaller liner the Canada which ends her Canadian service at the end of 1926.

It will be possible to bring the Laurentic right up to Montreal, because she will have three feet  less draught than the Doric one of the biggest of the White Star-Dominion liners now using this port and six feet more beam which mean she will be wider but shallower in the water than the majority of the ocean linen now plying between Europe and Montreal. 

She will be a cabin and third class boat and one of the many new features will be the  use of port and starboard reciprocating engine and a low pressure turbine providing a third screw in the centre and underneath the rudder. This type of propelling machinery ls said to be more efficient than that on the turbine propelled boats.

The Laurentic is now under construction and will be finished next year in time to undergo her trials and be in readiness to sail for this port early in 1927.

The Montreal Star, 14 September 1925.

IMM's publicity department went into high gear in September 1925 at the announcement of the new ship and even without the "PR" elements, the new Laurentic would be the largest liner to serve Montreal.  This was a major selling point in that many St. Lawrence ships, were too big or more to the point, had too much draught, to navigate up the river past Quebec City, including Empress of France.  

Among those landing at New York from Homeric on 9 December 1925 was IMM President P.A.S. Franklin, who announced that his company is now constructing a new liner of 19,000 tons which he named the Laurentic, named after the ship sunk during the world war.  

Press of Atlantic City, 10 December 1925.

Possibly merely to keep the new ship in the news, even though already referred to as Laurentic in the North American  press, White Star formally announced she would be so named in December 1925. The Liverpool Daily Post (19 December 1925) stating that "the 18,700-ton White Star liner laid down recently in Messrs. Harland and Wolff's Belfast yard is to be named the Laurentic."

The well-known American marine painter Worden Wood (1880-1943) contributed this widely used rendering of the new Laurentic. Again, there no depection of the glazed forward promenade and the bridge/forward superstructure is different from the completed vessel. Credit: Marine Review, May 1926.

It was announced on 13 April 1926 that Laurentic would be launched in October and placed in service in spring of 1927. This occasioned a flurry of newspaper coverage and details of the ship:

Built to the limit of dimensions considered by the company practicable for navigation of the St. Lawrence River the new vessel will be 604 ft. and 75 ft. wide. The displacement, or weight, will be 26,250 tons. She will have capacity for 600 cabin and 1,000 third-class passengers.

Bearing a strong resemblance to her sister ships in the Canadian trade, and also to the Pennland (ex-Pittsburgh) of the Red Star Line, the Laurentic will be wider by several feet than any of her class and hence will have greater deck space, an asset in a ship devoted primarily to the tourist passenger business. 

In general arrangements the new ship will have, besides the usual accommodation, the newer features accepted as standard in the modern cabin liner, such a veranda cafe, sports deck, gymnasium, children's  playroom and rooms in suites consisting of private sitting room, bedroom and bath. There are six of these suites on B deck, in the choicest location amidship. and they will be furnished, the company states, in a style that a few years ago would have been looked for only in express liners.

Practically all the staterooms will have outside light and air; and will be  equipped with hot and cold running water.

The public rooms are spacious. The smoking room will be decorated in natural woods and the lounge and dining saloon in white and light tints. There will be 310 seats in the dining saloon, at tables for four, six or eight persons. 

Referring to the third-class accommodation, the company  announcement points out that these quarters will be specially fitted to meet the requirements of tourist traffic. There will be three dining saloons, a ladies room, a lounge, a barber's shop and a shop selling travel souvenirs and neccesities.

Third-class staterooms will be fitted for two, four or six persons, and in many cases will have hot and cold running water..

The machinery was stated to be two sets of four-cylinder expansion balanced reciprocating engines operating wing propellers and a low pressure turbine operating a central propeller and producing a service speed of 16.5 knots, coal will be used as fuel in four double ended and four single ended boilers, arranged for natural draft.

The Gazette, 14 April 1926.

Satisfactory progress is being made with the construction of the new White Star triple-screw liner, Laurentic, at the Belfast yard of Messrs. Harland and Wolff, Ltd, and it is expected the steamer will be launched next October.

Western Daily Press, 14 April 1926.

In English papers, Walter Thomas' (1894-1962) wonderful depiction of the new Laurentic was favoured. Still, no glazed forward promenade deck but the bridge/forward superstructure is closer to that completed.  Credit: The Western Daily Press, 14 April 1926.

The real thing, hull framing almost complete, on the ways, April 1926. Credit: National Museums, NI. 

Another view of the hull taken later in April 1926. Credit: National Museums, NI.

Few ships construction managed to take place amid more upheaval, short of war, than that of the second Laurentic, although in context with the often tortured buiding of the immediate post-war ships for Cunard-Anchor-Donaldson, it was not wholly extraordinary.  

Although the British General Strike (4-12 May 1926) lasted but nine days, its deleterious effects on the nation's industry, commerce and labour relations was far longer lasting.  Preceding the General Strike and far outlasting it, a lock-out of miners began on 3 May and would last into that winter.  This was far more  crippling to Harland & Wolff and all shipbuilders for without coal, there was no steel and with no steel, no shipbuilding. In the whole month of May, just 183 tons of steel was delivered to Harland & Wolff and supplies on hand were exhausted in six weeks. 

Credit: Times Colonist, 14 July 1926.

For White Star and Laurentic, the effects of the General Strike were as immediate and profound as any. The proposed sale of White Star to Furness Withy & Co. did not go through and work on Laurentic was effectively ended for the timebeing.  Ironically, this occasioned a flurry of press reports that "satisfactory progress is being made with the construction of the new White Star liner Laurentic…" that appeared in mid-May.   Another round of press releases in mid July reaffirmed she would be launched in October and enter service in May 1927. On 29 July 1926, the 30-year-old Canada (which Laurentic was meant to replace) was taken off the Montreal run prematurely, owing to the continuing coal strike. 

It seemed a curious time indeed to announce on 3 August 1926, as IMM's P.A.S. Franklin did arriving at New York in Majestic, plans to build a new 62,000 grt liner to be named Oceanic, which was among five ships the company was having built or contemplating, including two for the England-New Zealand route, one for Panama Pacific and Laurentic.  He did allow that "the coal strike is seriously interferring with our business." As late as 12 October, it was affirmed that Laurentic would depart Liverpool to Canada on 6 May 1927 and from Montreal on the 21st. Doric would open White Star's St. Lawrence season upon her voyage from Liverpool on 15 April and in all, White Star would have 30 sailings that season. 

Laurentic, as of September 1926: a month before her planned launching and her plating still not complete. Credit: National Museums, NI.

Another view of the hull as of September 1926. Credit: National Museums NI.

Astern, as of September 1926, she remains to be plated. Credit: National Museums NI.

However, at a luncheon held aboard Cedric at Liverpool on 22 October 1926 for steamship agents to introduce the ship and her sister Celtic as newly converted for Cabin, Tourist Third and Third Class travel, White Star's S.E. Cruise, stated that "their new steamer Laurentic, now under construction at Belfast, would, they hoped, be launched at a not far distant date and take up her position in their Canadian fleet next spring. Unfortunately, the coal strike had been responsible for some little delay arrangements." (Liverpool Daily Post, 23 October 1926). By that autumn, 40 per cent of Harland & Wolff's workers were laid off.

Laurentic's planned October launch was quietly shelved and indeed the ship herself shoved aside by the headline news in November 1926 that Lord Kylsant's Royal Mail Group had purchased White Star Line for an astounding £7 mn. (recalling that Furness Withy's offer the previous year was half that).  

White Star was back in British hands, even the already shaky ones of the overextended Kylsant, and operations continued as before, including IMM retaining the North American agency for the line. One consequence was that Royal Mail Line's own New York service from Southampton, dating from 1921, and maintained by Orca (1918/16,083 grt) and Ohio (1920/18,940 grt), was shut down immediately and the two were transferred to White Star, being renamed Calgaric and Albertic. As their names reflected, they went to the St. Lawrence Service and almost immediately, the yet completed Laurentic, through no fault her own or indeed forward planning by her previous owners, was now already a bit of a fifth wheel on a suddenly overtonnaged route.

Beginning in 1927, the White Star-Dominion Line name was dropped and the service was restyled as White Star Line Canadian Service. Credit: Mitchell & Mitchell Auctions. 

The Ocean Ferry of January 1927 listed the maiden voyage of Laurentic as beginning from Liverpool on 6 May and from Montreal on 21 May.  Subsequent voyages would be from Liverpool on 3 June (calling at Belfast and Glasgow instead of Queenstown) and 1 July from Liverpool and 16 from Montreal. By the March  issue,  Laurentic had vanished from the advance schedules. 

The Belfast News-Letter of 1 December 1926 reported that that plans to launch Laurentic, finally, by the end of the month, would, too, have to be postponed as was the launch of the Commonwealth & Dominion motorship Port Fremantle at Workman Clark. The November-December 1926 Monthly Review-Midland Bank stated that "Work on the White Star liner Laurentic however is still restricted owing to the lack of steel material." On 5 January 1927 the Gazette reported:

The new 18,700-ton liner Laurentic, which was scheduled to make her maiden trip to Montreal from Liverpool on May 6, will not be coming out until later in the summer. The British coal strike, according to her owners, the White Star Line, is to blame for this delay, as it was not possible to obtain the steel with which to complete her hull and interior fittings. No report has been received concerning the present supply of steel, the coal strike having been brought to an end, but it Is expected to hear shortly the projected date of launching.

It was planned to have the liner take the water in November, and later arrangements set the date for December.  She is still on the ways and, even after she is launched, there will be four to five months' work ahead in installing the engines and other interior fittings before she can run her trials and make the maiden voyage.

No arrangements have yet been made to replace the liner during the early portion of the summer season on the St. Lawrence.

All this came at rather an awkward time as the British and Canadian Governments had begun a subsidised immigration scheme for qualified migrants at £2 a head passage and 1927 was forecast to be a record season, one that Laurentic was now likely to miss entirely.  For Harland & Wolff, it meant, too, that Laurentic could not be included in 1926's return of launches which stood at 65,765 gross tons from Belfast and 22,568 grt from Govan. Ironically, the principal liners completed that year-- Alcantara, Carnarvon Castle and Accra-- were all of the new "Kylsant Motor Ship" type against which the coal-fired, reciprocating-engined Laurentic seem rather dated in comparison and still not yet in the water. She was also the solitary ship Harland & Wolff had presently still under construction. 

She might still be on the ways and her planned launched and maiden voyage postponed indefinitely, but the "palatial new Laurentic" still rated her first newspaper advertisement in February 1927.  Credit: Star Weekly, 26 February 1927.

Laurentic finally nearing readiness for launching in March 1927, including the erection of her Promenade Deck and bridge. Credit: National Museums NI.

Laurentic on the ways in March 1927. Credit: National Museums NI.

Stern view of the completed hull of Laurentic and work well in hand on her Promenade Deck.  Credit: National Museums NI.

White Star did manage to introduce a "new" ship to the Canadian run in 1927 and at a luncheon aboard Albertic, ex-Ohio, on 20 April,  A.B. Cauty, General Manager of White Star, said that "Laurentic was now being completed in the Belfast shipyards of Messrs. Harland and Wolff, and that at the end of the year the ship will be put on the Liverpool-Canadian service." The Northern Whig of 11 April stated that "the Laurentic, almost ready for launching at the Musgrave Channel yard, and it is anticipated she will be afloat before the July holidays."

Given the dreadful weather conditions a month later at her launch, it's just as well the photographer chose a fine day, 15 June 1927, to record Laurentic, now full painted and ready to go. Credit: National Museums, NI.

Showing off her classic H&W full hull and great beam, an impressive looking Laurentic on the ways, ready for launching. Credit: National Museums NI.

Showing her considerable length (600 ft overall), and superstructure completed and already in its first coat of white, Laurentic on 15 June 1927. Credit: National Museums NI.

In advance of the July holiday, but still nine months late, it was announced on 7 June 1927 that Laurentic would be sent down the ways on the 16th. Following the first such example, at the occasion of the launch of Port Gisbourne on the Tyne, the event would be broadcast by wireless. "In order to carry out the project a series of microphones will be installed in the yard, and the sounds incidental to a launch will thereby be transmitted to the ears of listeners-in, who can easily visualise the scene as they hear the groaning and crackling of timber as the huge hull glides down the greasy ways into the water." (Belfast Telegraph, 7 June 1927). The launch would, as was tradition with White Star ships, not be attended by any ceremony, and scheduled for 11:30 a.m.

If no ceremony attended the launching, bad weather did and it was a miserable day on 16 June 1927, sheets of rain, blowing a hooley and the Lagan shrouded in mist.  As The Shipbuilder and Shipping Record, noted "It was a pity that in the midst of so much fine weather the launch should have been favoured with one of worst days experienced for some time."

The official launch party: left to right, Mr. Saxon Payne, Viscountess Pirrie, Miss Carlisle and Mr. A.T. Marshall (Asst. Sec., Harland & Wolff). Credit: Northern Whig, 17 June 1927.

For the first time the history of shipbuilding on the Lagan, the proceedings associated with the launch were broadcast so that listeners all over the country were able to hear the shipyard sounds familiar Belfast people, the knocking away of the great baulks of timber preparatory to the launch, and then the cheering of the Islandmen and the hooting of ships' syrens, which indicated that the vessel had taken to her natural element. Although the weather was very bad and a strong wind blowing, the launch passed off without a hitch, and the had their reward for braving the trying by the inspiring and picturesque scene which was. presented as the Laurentic moved slowly and majestically down the slipway and dipped her bow gracefully to the swell as her massive bulk settled in the water. She immediately taken charge by the tugs, and afterwards moved one the wharfs, where she will be completed.

Belfast News-Letter, 17 June 1927.

Laurentic "takes the water" from Harland & Wolff's East Yard, 16 June 1927. Credit: Northern Whig, 17 June 1927. 

Almost obscured by the mist and driving rain, Laurentic emerges from the slipway and slids into the Musgrave Channel. Credit: National Museums NI.

Gliding silently and swiftly down the greased slipway, the new White Star liner Laurentic was launched from the Belfast yard of Messrs. Harland & Wolff, Ltd., yesterday morning. Large number of visitors saw the big hull take the water during a heavy downpour of rain.

The launch took place without any fuss. There was an air of hushed interest over the sightseers as the towering mass of riveted steel plates dipped gracefully into the water. The launch successfully completed, cheers were raised by the crowd of workmen who had gathered at the end of the slipway. 

The launching looked exceedingly simple in execution that it tended to obscure the fact that the highest engineering skill was required to carry out the operation successfully. No sooner had the Laurentic tasted water than she was taken into custody by four tugs and towed to the 150-ton harbour crane. 

There was no breaking of a bottle of champagne the side of the ship at the moment of moving. In fact, the Laurentic started to stir before some the onlookers had realised it.

The honour of  pulling the lever which released the ship from the slips fell Mr. J. Gillespie, foreman shipwright. 

The Northern Whig, 17 June 1927.

Credit: Northern Whig, 17 June 1927. 

Laurentic afloat and being taken in hand by tugs. Note she was sent down the ways with her davits and Boat Deck houses complete.  Credit: National Museums NI. 

Wet as the day was, large crowds assembled at various point of vantage to see the liner take the water. At the ship itself there were many prominent citizens. Viscountess Pirrie,  president of Messrs. Harland and Wolff, Ltd., amd her sister, Miss Carlisle, were interested spectators, and others presents were: Messrs. Charles Payne, CBE.,DL, Saxon J. Payne, and A.T. Marshall, representing the builders; Mr. Willett Bruce, superintendent engineer of the White Star Line; and Mr. J. Galloway, resident superintendent of the company, who represented the owners. 

There was no formal ceremony, but promptly at 11.30 Mr. Charles Payne gave the signal, a lever was pulled, and the liner glided gracefully into the water amid the hearty cheers of the men who built her. Cheers were also given for Lady Pirrie, the Queen's Island, and 'The King and Queen and Constitution.'

Liverpool Journal of Commerce, 23 June 1927.

Pathé newsreel of the launch of Laurentic:

Fitting out of Laurentic in Abercorn Basin ensued and on 9 July 1927 the Hampshire Advertiser reported that "it is expected she will be ready for her trials in November."

Harland & Wolff great Titan crane installing the second of Laurentic's twin funnels in late summer 1927. Note the foward one is on the barge awaiting its turn. Credit: National Museums NI.

Laurentic gets stacked in Abercorn Basin in late summer 1927.  Her full compliment of lifeboats have also been installed. Credit: National Museums NI. 

Laurentic's forward funnel is lowered into place. Credit: National Museums NI.

In Montreal on 23 July 1927, Major P.A. Curry announced that Laurentic would undertake two long Mediterranean cruises from New York, the first departing 17 January 1928 and the second on 6 March. 

The new Laurentic should have been delivered about March last, but delivery had been retarded by the coal strike. There was a time, years ago, when a shipping company in the North Atlantic would have viewed with great concern the delivery of a steamer in the autumn. Developments in recent years had opened up another field for the employment of passenger ships in the winter months, and the White Star Line had always been to the forefront of such moves. The Laurentic would make her first winter cruise from New York about the middle of this month, and then would make two longer cruises to Mediterranean ports.

Liverpool Journal of Commerce.

Having missed the whole of the 1927 St. Lawrence season and bearing in mind the river was closed to navigation from late October to mid April, White Star on 31 August set Laurentic's maiden voyage from Liverpool to New York instead on 12 November and following a second trip to New York, beginning 31 December, and then make her two cruises.   Finally, Laurentic would be introduced to the service for which had been built upon her sailing from Liverpool to Quebec and Montreal on 27 April 1928. 

The imminent completion of Laurentic, the last classic H&W "combination" machinery vessel to be built by the yard, marked an end of an era and the conclusion of the long and succcesful career of Engineer-Captain W.J. Willett Bruce, OBE, RD, RNR, M-Eng., as Harland & Wolff's Supt.-Engineer. On 22 September 1927 D. Galloway, who was superintending the completion of Laurentic, was appointed to the position with effect from 1 October. 

With a surfeit of tonnage on the Canadian run, White Star announced on 28 September 1927 that for 1928  Albertic and Megantic would start to a new route from London to Quebec and Montreal, outbound via Southampton and Le Havre as well as Queenstown whilst Laurentic, from Liverpool, would also call at the Irish port westbound and, partnered with Calgaric, offering a fortnightly frequency on this route, with Doric and Regina, instead calling westbound at Belfast, from Liverpool.

Capt. E.L. Trant. Credit: The Ocean Ferry, December 1927.

On 27 September 1927 White Star appointed Capt. E.L. Trant as commander of Laurentic.  Trant, whose brother was the famous A.V.W. Trant of Leyland Line, had joined White Star in 1898 and rose to his first command in 1919. 

Laurentic entering Thomson Graving Dock in mid October 1927. Credit: National Museums NI.

Credit: Belfast News-Letter, 14 October 1927.

Her underwater hull freshly cleaned and painted, Laurentic in Thomson Graving Dock. Credit: National Museums NI.

Messrs. Harland and Wolff drydocked the White Star liner Laurentic in the Thomson Dock at the week-end, preparatory to running trials, and the departure of the vessel will be of interest in that it most probably marks the completion of the last of the combination ships which have contributed to make the White Star Line, in particular, famous. It is also appropriate that she will carry away the name which was borne by her predecessor, which marked the introduction of the system to the fleet, and which made possible the Olympic and her successors. 

Liverpool Journal of Commerce, 20 October 1927.

Laurentic leaving drydock and heading back to the fitting out basin for her final hull painting. Credit: National Museums NI.

After laying in Abercorn Basin undergoing her final fitting out since her launching, on 13 October 1927, Laurentic was drydocked in the Thomson Graving Dock for the removal of remaining launch fittings to her hull and complete painting, preparatory to her trials. 

The final steamer delivered by Harland & Wolff to White Star Line, leaves Belfast for her trials and delivery voyage. Credit: National Museums NI.

Laurentic left the yards on 1 November 1927 for her trials in Belfast Lough. which occupied some 12 hours going "through a series of evolutions off Belfast Lough, to the entire satisfaction of her builders, Messrs. Harland & Wolff, and her owners." (Liverpool Echo, 2 November 1927). The Gazette reported that "officials were well pleased with the speed she made and the manner in which she behaved in the test." 

Circumstances prevailed which made it seem no one had time for Laurentic. Missing from being among the guests for her delivery voyage were Lord Kylsant "it was only recently that he had returned home after a comparative long absence aboard and, he found it impossible to get away so soon. Their [White Star] chairman, Mr. Harold Sanderson, had fully intended to be on board, and his arrangements had been made to that end, but unfortunately, in his case, ill-health had kept him at home." (Liverpool Journal of Commerce, 3 November 1927.)

Among those aboard for the delivery trip from Belfast to Liverpool were Mr. W.R. Roberts, manager of the White Star Line; Mr. H.E. Fernie, Mr. Livingston, Mr. L.A.P. Warner (Mersey Docks and Harbour Board), Sir Bertram Hayes, Mr. H.M. Pollock, MP, Sir Samuel Kelly, Captain C.H. Petherick, Commodore C. A. Bartlett, Engineer Superintendent W.J. Willett Bruce, Mr. F.J. Blakes, and Messrs. C. Payne, Rebbeck, Dunlop, and Tobin, of Harland & Wolff. 

The Laurentic ran trials on Tuesday, and in the evening left Belfast for Liverpool. There was a number of guests of the White Star Line and officials of the builders and owners on board, and at an informal dinner on the voyage to the Mersey, Mr. A. B. Cauty proposed the toast of 'The Builders.' Mr. Cauty said that it was fitting that, in opening his remarks, he should make reference to the retirement, after 51 years' service with the White Star Line, of one of their colleagues, Engineer-Captain W. J. Willett Bruce, who had taken particular interest in the Laurentic and, by the introduction of superheated steam, had obtained a great increase in economy and efficiency. 

Continuing, he said that he would like to express his appreciation of the work of Harland & Wolff and his congratulations to them for building such a fine vessel. Their connection with Harland & Wolff was a very old one. The Laurentic was the 68th ship they had had built by Harland & Wolff, making a total of 749,621 gross tons, in addition to which there were 9,256 tons of sailing ships.

Responses were made by Mr. Charles Payne and Mr. F. E. Rebbeck, directors of Harland & Wolff. Mr. Payne referred to the burdens of rates and taxes on the shipbuilding industry, and urged individual effort to bring pressure to reduce such charges. Mr. Rebbeck said that the Laurentic was propelled by a combination system of which Mr. Willett Bruce was a very strong advocate. He had been right all the way through, for the combination could show a remarkable degree of economy and reliability.

It was fitting that this ship-if, perhaps, it was to be the last of its type-should bear the same name as the first which had the combination system. At the present time he was receiving inquiries for vessels to be propelled by a form of propulsion bearing the name of a well-known German engineer. Yet it differed very little in principle from this combination system except that the older one employed the exhaust steam with a turbine on the centre shaft.

Shipping and Shipping Record, 3 November 1927.

The White Star Line's new steamer, the Laurentic, attracted much notice as she rode at anchor in the Mersey yesterday morning. 'Dressed' to celebrate her advent, she was in from Belfast, where she was built by Harland and Wolff, Ltd, which is only another way of saying she is a fine addition to a fine fleet. 

Liverpool Post, 3 November 1927.

Credit: Liverpool Journal of Commerce, 3 November 1927.

Handed over to White Star Line on 1 November 1927, Laurentic  then proceeded to Liverpool where she arrived at 6:00 a.m. on the following morning. White Star Line had taken delivery of their last steamship, the last ordered by IMM for them and the first newly commissioned by the Royal Mail Group. 

R.M.S. Laurentic on departure from Belfast showing her superb lines and perfect proportions. Credit: National Museums NI.

To sum up her virtues or otherwise is tricky.

J.H Isherwood, Sea Breezes.

A Marine Rolls Royce

The new Laurentic, the White Star Line's latest addition  to its transatlantic fleet, which came to New York in mid-November on her maiden voyage, reminds me in the conservative permanence of her elegant fittings, of a certain make of British motor car, known the world over for its strength and durability and absence of fuss and feathers.

'Here, gentlemen, is something that will outlive you,' is what the ship seemed to say to all who inspected here.

Seeing the Laurentic coming up the Hudson to the Chelsea piers, I reminded but little of her sister ships, the DoricRegina and Pennland, but more,  may add, of the glorious old Germanic, which I saw in the Bosphorus a few years ago, staunch and handsome at the age of 51 years.

If any ships as sturdy as the Germanic are built in these times, I should say the Laurentic was one such.

The Ocean Ferry, December 1927.

She was a most unsatisfactory vessel in every way, bring completely out-of-date before she was launched.

The Ismay Line.

A vessel that can be used either for pleasure cruising, or as North Atlantic cabin ship with extensive accommodation for tourist third-cabin passengers, obviously, must be profitable to her owners. The Laurentic is such a vessel, and the fact that she is does credit to her builders, Messrs. Harland and Wolff and her owners, the White Star Line. Her public rooms and cabines de luxe reserved for Cabin passengers are excellently laid out, artistically decorated, and tastefully furnished. The accommodation for the rapid growing number of Tourist Third-Cabin voyagers is as fine as anything I have seen.  Everywhere is light and airy and spotless cleanliness, and nothing that any reasonable man or woman can desire has been omitted in furnishing and fitting of the rooms. There is assurdly a great future for this class of passenger traffic if the standard set by the Laurentic is maintained. 

Fairplay, 3 May 1928.

Poor Laurentic-- lauded in contemporary accounts, lambasted in later summations-- yet whose story, both technical and operational, has never been told beyond the usual breezy summations that seem the lot of most passenger ships, especially White Star liners other than "you know what," is doubtless an intriguing subject for closer examination and appraisal. 

One of the most perfectly proportioned passenger ships of her era,  Laurentic was "a looker" from every angle and in any setting.  Here, she is anchored in the Mersey and you can almost smell the coal smoke.  Credit: Merseyside Maritime Museum.

The 68th steamer (and last) built by Harland & Wolff, totalling 749,621 tons, for White Star Line, Laurentic was a "bookend" ship in many respects and as such all the more intiguing.   

Credit: Liverpool Journal of Commerce, 5 April 1928.

Edward Wilding, 1923.
was conceived, designed and  completed during a tumultuous time for her builders.  She bridged the waning years of the Pirrie Era and the new Kylsant ownership  of Harland & Wolff as well as the watershed shift in liner design from the Elegant Edwardians of Chief Naval Architect Edward H. Wilding (1875-1939) and the Motorship Look developed by T.C. Tobin. It is likely Laurentic (as then no. 615) was largely designed by Wilding before he left Harland & Wolff in 1923 after suffering from a nervous breakdown amid a major falling out with Lord Pirrie, after which his assistant Thomas Charles Tobin (1875-1957) became Chief Naval Architect.  Tobin was aboard for her delivery voyage from Belfast to Liverpool.  Laurentic was clearly a Wilding design and all the most handsome for it. 

No less handsome basking in the afternoon sun at Gibraltar on a cruise, dressed overall and neat as a pin. Credit: National Maritime Museum.

Only the most perfectly proportioned ships can be shown to true advantage in a quartering stern aspect as Laurentic proves here, again at Gibraltar. Credit: National Maritime Museum.

The new White Star liner Laurentic is now sufficiently completed to give visitors to Belfast a complete idea of her appearance when finished; and it must be admitted that it is an appearance that will be of the greatest credit to her owners and builders. On general lines she is not unlike the Doric, but is certainly an improvement on that vessel. With two big funnels and two masts, she has a flush forecastle, with the necessary breakwaters and tonnage openings under it, but has no bank of boats round the foremast after the fashion now so general. Her boats are banked in two heights the whole length of the promenade deck and right aft. After the fashion of the White Star Line, which is much appreciated by their officers, the bridge is isolated, and has a full-width flying bridge over the charthouse instead of the more usual monkey island. Only the forward end of the long promenade deck is glassed in, which is a point that will be appreciated by many travellers who consider that the present tendency is to cover in rather too much of the ship. The general impression of the Laurentic is solid power, which is in keeping with recent practice both of the White Star Line and of Messrs. Harland and Wolff.

Liverpool Journal of Commerce, 20 October 1927.

Laurentic was, above all else, "a fine-looking ship," (J.H. Isherwood, Sea Breezes, July 1979), the last of remarkable output of big but graceful ships conceived by Harland & Wolff's Alexander Carlisle at the turn of the century, originating with Cymric of 1899. With Laurentic, the superstructure elements, incorporating the trademark "island" bridge that was an H&W/White Star hallmark, were refined visually in that the promenade deck was made continuous from the forward end to the aft of the structure, with the no. 3 hatchway trunked through it, but the wheelhouse bridge, etc. still in a separate island above.  Then, too, her perfectly proportion and spaced funnels, both functional, were far more graceful and imposing in appearance than on the Regina-class, in perfect harmony with her masts, and balanced by a solid but not over dominant superstructure.  Unlike the Regina-class, there were no ungainly Topliss gantry davits to clutter her upper decks or impede on open deck space, instead a neat but imposing line of double-banked lifeboats at a new style of quadrant davits. Finally, Laurentic's imposing broad-beamed hull with its full cruiser stern and the well-raked bows (introduced by the Olympic-class) with its sheer mitigating a high freeboard, made for a fine-looking ship indeed. 

Anchored in the Mersey, Laurentic modellng her fine quarter and like any proper White Star liner, flying a Blue Ensign. Credit: Merseyside Maritime Museum. 

It is due to her unusually wide beam that this vessel is able to navigate the stretch of water between Quebec and Montreal, water that is of insufficient depth for many vessels of less tonnage, but of greater draught. She has been suitably constructed to meet the requirements of the North Atlantic trade, and is divided into 12 watertight compartments, the double bottom extending throughout the whole length of the ship. The vessel has a straight stem, cruiser stern, and has two masts fitted with telescopic topmasts that enable her to pass with safety below the Quebec Bridge, and will also allow her to pass with safety underneath the new Harbor Bridge in Montreal.

The Gazette, 7 May 1928.

Laurentic, often lumped in as a vague "sister ship" to Regina, Pittsburgh and Doric, was no such thing and, as originally envisioned in 1920, a substantially larger vessel both dimensionally and visually. With principal dimensions of 600 feet (length overall), 578 ft. (b.p.) and a beam of 75.4 ft, her gross tonnage of 18,724 compared to Doric's 16,874 grt.  Laurentic was actually the largest newly built British ship for the Canadian run to date, even larger in tonnage than the pre-war Alsatian (18,485 grt) and significantly larger than the post-war Canadian Pacific 16,400-grt "Monts" and Cunard's 13,900-grt "A"s which were her chief competition. Ironically, her claim to being the biggest ship on the Canadian route at introduction was usurped by her unexpected running mate, the 18,939-grt Albertic, the former RSMP Ohio.  The 18,724-grt Laurentic was, in fact, the fourth largest new newbuilding commissioned by IMM since Britannic, exceeded only by the 27,132-grt Belgenland and the 21,176-grt Minnewaska and Minnetonka.

Whereas the Regina-class had been designed with the St. Lawrence River in mind in terms of their overall dimensions and loaded draught, Laurentic went them one better in being far beamier (75.5 ft vs. 67.9 ft.) which further reduced her loaded draught (to 29.ft 3 in.), allowing her far freer navigation in parts of the river effected by tidal conditions and low water and she steam at full speed in most part of the river.

Laurentic's classic big beefy H&W cruiser stern with its stern anchor and the equally classic triple-screw arrangement of the combination machinery system. Credit: National Museums NI.

Among the more absurdly erronious claims against Laurentic is: "though built for the Canadian service, she was given masts far too lofty for the voyage up to Montreal, and had to be cut down later by about 25 ft."  This is nonsense for she was fitted with novel telescoping mast tops from delivery, the same type being retrofitted to Ohio when she was refitted for the St. Lawrence run as Albertic.  She could sail under the Quebec Bridge without retracting her mast tops in most conditions but had to retract them to pass under the new Montreal Harbour Bridge (1930), renamed the Jacques Cartier Bridge in 1934. Like her fleetmates, Laurentic was fitted with a stern anchor, of special utility both in the confines of the St. Lawrence and the Mersey. 

W.J. Willett Bruce on arrival in New Zealand in 1937. Credit: Dominion 29 March 1937.

The Laurentic was a ship in which Mr. Willett Bruce had taken a particular interest, as it embodied a speciality in the way of superheated steam, which was something in which Mr. Willett Bruce had interested him very much, and he looked for greater economy and efficiency in the ship.

A.B. Cauty, Chairman, White Star Line, aboard R.M.S. Laurentic, 2 November 1927. 

A product of a challenging but memorable era of Harland & Wolff shipbuilding then directed by  Charles Payne, Managing Director, and F.E. Rebbeck, Engineering Director, Laurentic capped the extraordinary 52-year career of  W.J. Willett Bruce, RNR, (1861-1953), naval architect and engineer superintendent to White Star Line. After 14 years seagoing service as an engineer on White Star ships staring with Baltic in 1881 and ending with Adriatic in 1895, Bruce was then appointed White Star's assistant superintendent engineer and then in 1904 superintendent engineer. Bruce is best remembered for his patented automatic whistle control for wheelhouse and for pioneering that great hallmark of the H&W steamship in the first quarter of the 20th century: the "combination" system of reciprocating engines coupled with an exhaust steam propelled turbine, first appearing in New Zealand Shipping Co.'s Otaki and introduced in Atlantic liners by Laurentic in 1909 and, fittingly enough, last employed in her namesake 18 years later. 

If nothing else, Laurentic of 1927 is remembered today for being the last coal-fired, reciprocating-engined trans-Atlantic liner built, a retrograde throwback that was obsolete at inception. Or so the endlessly regurgitated summations that are too common with anything surrounding White Star, keep reminding us. The reality, as so often, is more nuanced and more interesting to those intrigued by a fascinating transitional period in passenger ship machinery and propulsion.

If her lines were ageless and classic, Laurentic's machinery was indeed no less traditional.  Powered on the Harland & Wolff "combination system," that the first Laurentic of 1909 introduced to liners and proved so successful that it became a hallmark of Belfast-built liners for a decade and a half, the second Laurentic represented another bookend to an era. She was powered by two four-cylinder triple-expansion engines with cylinders of 29, 46, 52 and 52 inches diameter and a stroke of 54 inches powering the wing shaft three-bladed screws, exhausting into a low-pressure direct-drive turbine driving a centre four-bladed screw. Manoeuvring was achieved via the wing screws only.  

Steam was generated by four double-ended and four single-ended Scotch boilers with superheaters, with 36 furnaces burning coal under natural draught, and working at 215 psi.  At service speed, Laurentic burned about 120 tons of coal a day and carried 2,391 tons in her bunkers. 

Producing 16,000 shp, Laurentic's machinery installation gave her a service speed of 16.5 knots with a maximum of 17 knots under normal conditions. This compared to the Canadian Pacific "Monts" 16-knot service speed and the 15 knots of Cunard's "A"s so Laurentic was the fastest of the post-war liners yet completed for the Canadian run by a half a knot.  As was common to reciprocating-engined liners, her averages improved as her engines were worked in and with the pick of Merseyside strokers and good Welsh coal, Laurentic would put in some fine passages during her career.  

Electricity was supplied by three 100-kw. turbo-generators. In addition to these, a 36-kw. oil-driven emergency dynamo was installed.

The Power & the Glory of a proper twin set of triple-expansion reciprocating engines in Laurentic's remarkable spacious engine room.  Credit: National Museums NI.

The most controversial aspect of Laurentic was her machinery.  She was designed during  a period of enormous experimentation, development and proving of new forms of propulsion of ships that produced remarkably divergent solutions to achieve that long desired combination of economy and efficiency that defied a single type or mode. Introduced to big liners in 1925 by Aorangi, this is best remembered as The Motor Ship Era, one certainly embraced by the British, especially Harland & Wolff, with Carnarvon Castle (1926) and  Asturias (1926) early exemplars.  Then there was the development of high pressure steam boilers combined with geared turbines as introduced by CPR with the Beaverbrae-class of 1925 followed by the Duchesses of 1928. And a revival of the H&W "combination" system of exhaust steam turbines and reciprocating machinery, refined with the two using the same shaft, the Bauer-Wach system devised by the Germans.  Lastly, there was the turbo-electric concept, introduced to liners by Panama-Pacific's California late 1927 and in British liners with  P&O's Viceroy of India in 1928.  

In consideration of Laurentic's machinery, all of the developments underway by the time of her introduction were either insufficiently development or experimental at the time of her initial design or her contracting.  Indeed, such were the flurry of machinery developments that sensible shipowners, let alone ones in the delicate financial condtion of IMM, were wise to step back until committing to any of them. 

Laurentic was notable for reverting to the tried and true combination system that her predecessor had introduced back in 1909. In so doing, she significantly did not follow the innovation of geared turbines in White Star liners that Doric of 1923 introduced. Direct drive turbines, famously pioneered in liners c. 1905, produced Blue Ribands and enormous coal consumption and found to be  unsuited to ships of moderate size and speed.  The development of geared turbines immediately after the war showed more promise and adopted on a major scale in Cunard-Anchor-Donaldson's epic post-war rebuilding programme.  Here, the operational results were decidely mixed with issues with vibration causing uneven gear wear and some notable failures.  But the biggest  factor was the sheer cost of gearing owing to the precise manufacturing required to produce them.  

The engine starting platform in Laurentic's engine room.  Credit: National Museums NI.

It is often alleged that Laurentic was the victim of cost cutting and the desire by IMM's P.A.S. Franklin and White Star Director Harold Sanderson to squeeze every pence out of the first fixed price contract the company had ever signed with Harland & Wolff.  It was something that was even acknowledged during the speeches following the celebratory dinner during Laurentic's delivery voyage from Belfast to Liverpool in November 1927 and recorded by the Liverpool Journal of Commerce (3 November):

Mr. C. Payne [Harland & Wolff Director], in responding, said they had built a good ship in the Laurentic, and a cheap ship. (Laughter.) He hoped that when the White Star Line had had experience of her, and she had made big dividends, they would come back and give his company an order for a dozen. (Renewed laughter.)

Mr. Cauty [White Star Managing Director] had referred to the delay in the delivery of the Laurentic, and he remembered on a Sunday afternoon talking about the cost of the Laurentic, with the president of the International Mercantile Marine Company, when they knocked off a quarter of a  million or so from the cost, and the ship was to be delivered in the early spring…  and we have tried our best to give the White Star Line as cheap an article as we can produce.

Significant is that the cited "quarter of a million" was equal to the £250,000 loan that White Star received from the Trade Facilities Act specifically to construct Laurentic's machinery, giving every indication that the decision not to install geared turbines in her (as stated in the initial description of the ship as yard 615 in 1920) was indeed based on cost and the experience with Doric's geared turbines had perhaps not afforded sufficient economy and efficiency to warrant the trade off in initial outlay.  

The decision to revert back to the tried and true but admittedly dated combination machinery was also mentioned during the delivery voyage speeches:

Mr. Cauty had referred to the fact that Mr. Willett Bruce was particularly interested in the superheating system of the Laurentic. That particular ship was propelled by a  form of machinery of which Mr. Willett Bruce had always been a very powerful advocate-- in reciprocating engines on the wing shafts and turbines in the centre. There had been a lot of difference of opinion among engineers regarding the value that particular form of propulsion, and a good body of men who did not know what it was capable of, had thought fit to decided against it, but he would tell those present, one who had had considerable amount of inside information, that Mr. Willett Bruce had been right all through. The combination machinery was showing a remarkable degree of efficiency, coupled with almost everlasting reliability, so he thought it was fitting that the last ship Mr. Willett Bruce was associated with officially should be propelled by that form of machinery. 

In his remarks on the occasion, Mr. Willett Bruce added:

In the developments of recent years he had been tackled by some of his engineering friends and told that they could not understand he recommended his owners to build combination machinery. Well, they did not take consideration that when the Laurentic was started, it was some three years ago, since then they had had remarkable developments in high-pressure steam and the internal combustion engine. They could quite understand when they came to put into service a very important steamer such as the Laurentic, requiring a high horse-power, that one had to be very careful, and he believed in recommending something that he was sure of.  He not think he had misjudged the conditions, which would  be realised in the case of the Laurentic. In her they had adopted super heat,  by which they hoped to get a material reduction in coal consumption, an economy of somewhere about 8 per cent. He had never seen any machinery laid out to better advantage,  and giving such accessibility and  easy working for the department, in the Laurentic, and he congratulated Harland and Wolff, not only on had done that day, but what they had done in the past. 

Laurentic on the ways showing off her classic combination machinery triple screws, the centre prop having four blades and the wing screws having three. Credit: National Museums NI.

And what of the operating results of Laurentic's machinery in service?  Below, Mr. Willett Bruce provided figures culled from a three-day period of an eastbound crossing in 1928:

I do not appreciate the necessity, in this case, of the introduction of gearing, with all its uncertainties and vagaries, when all this gain of 20 per cent. can be, and is, accomplished without it. As far back as 1911-12 we had comparative data of two steamers of similar construction and displacement running in the same service, but one having quadruple expansion engines and the other with four crank triple engines exhausting into a centre low pressure turbine, resulting in a 21 per cent. gain in economy and an accelerated speed of 1 knot. I can quote, in comparison with these results, those recently obtained in the new Laurentic, having Scotch boilers, burning coal, combination system engines developing 14,000 S.H.P., hand-fired boilers consuming 160 tons for main engines and 24 tons for auxiliaries, inclusive of heating and cooking, this being equal to 1.086 lb. and 1.232 lb. respectively. These results were obtained from lower pressure and temperature-namely boiler pressure 215 lb. and 510° temperature-and were not spasmodic, but covered a period of three days working on an Atlantic homeward voyage. I think you will agree that this performance is certainly better than those already quoted in the case of the higher pressure steam and the geared low-pressure turbines.

W.J. Willett Bruce, OBE, Transactions of the Institution of Naval Architects, 1928

Laurentic was built as coal burner… in 1927!! That is perhaps the biggest "why did they do that?" assertion against her.  It is a given but wholly inaccurate assumption that oil-firing was universal in liners and merchantmen after the First World War.  Whilst widely adopted in larger liners, it by no means predominated. As late as 1929, of the 1,522,623 tons of ships launched in British yards that year, 464,188 grt were motor ships, 306,000 grt were oil-burning steamships and… 753,435 grt were coal burning steamships.  Fully 70 per cent of the British Merchant Navy  burnt coal up to the Second World War. Canadian Pacific's Empress of Asia and Empress of Russia were coal burners throughout their careers to the outbreak of the Second World War and throughout it.  The enormous Blue Funnel Fleet was entirely coal-fired. British India's Amra, Aska and Aronda of 1938 were coal burners. More importantly, the whole of White Star-Dominion's  considerable Mersey-based fleet, including Adriatic, Baltic, Celtic, Cedric, Regina, Doric, Megantic and Canada were coal burners.  Operationally, it made every sense that Laurentic be, like her fleetmates, a coal burner. 

It is only the Laurentic, which burns coal, that has any chance of competing with existing motorships in fuel economy. A consumption of 1.2 lb. of coal per i.h.p. per hour for main engines and auxiliaries has been achieved by plain quadruple expansion engines with ordinary boiler pressures. With a turbine for the low-pressure stage better results should be obtained. A figure that can be reasonably expected for the machinery in the Laurentic is 1.1 lb. per i.h.p. per hour. In the Asturias the consumption for the main engines and auxiliaries on trial worked out to about .28 lb. on the basis. Taking coal at 18s a ton (allowing for coaling abroad) and Diesel oil at 6.5 s (bunkered in U.S.A.), there is little to choose between the steamer and the motorship in the cost for fuel. But there are two other important items. These may, however, balance out. One is the extra cost for the engine -room staff in the steamer, due to the large numbers of firemen and coal trimmers needed; the other the higher first cost of the machinery in the motorship, involving higher capital charges. The foregoing facts and factors indicate an interesting position for the present, and a certain line of development for the future. 

Machinery for Passenger Liners, Opportunities for Comparisons Afforded. W.O. Horsnaill, Liverpool Journal of Commerce, 18 August 1927.

Laurentic, like her fleetmates, had a substantial cargo capacity with a total 440,000 cu. ft. (bale) and 75,000 cu. ft. (reefer). She had three holds forward, one trunked between the island bridge and the main superstructure and three aft.

She is fitted with the latest type of boat davits, called the "Clarris" davit, which assures easy and efficient working in all conditions of weather. The mechanical gear is so arranged that the working parts are in an oil bath, and as a consequence it can be controlled by two men. She is also fitted with the "Vangunco" boat lowering gear, and by the joint work of the davit and the boat lowering gear all the boats to the full capacity of the 2,038 persons, for which the Laurentic is regstered can be placed in the water under ordinary conditions fully manned with passengers and crew in about 20 minutes, while the boats without passengers and crew can be dealt with in about 7 minutes. It is maintained that the two systems working in co-operation, form one of  the finest life-saving systems at present installed on any ship.

The Gazette, 7 May 1928.

Laurentic's boatage consisted of four pair of double-nested 30-ft., one pair of double-nested 28-ft., one pair of 28-ft  Murray's lifeboats and two 26-ft. emergency boats (fitted with Fleming's Hand Propelling Levers). 

Rigging & General Arrangement Plans, 1927
courtesy: Bob Fivehouse 
(For full-size scan, LEFT CLICK on image)

Rigging Plan.

Side Elevation Cutaway.

House Tops.

Boat Deck & Bridge.

Promenade Deck.

"A" Deck.

"B" Deck.

"C" Deck.

"D" Deck.

Orlop Deck.

Tank Top.

Lower Orlop Deck.

Cruise Deck Plan, 1930
courtesy: Hubert Leoszewski/Library of JAGOTI
(For full-size scan, LEFT CLICK on image)

Boat Deck.

Promenade Deck.

"A" Deck.

"B" Deck.

"C" Deck.

Tourist Third/Third Class Deck Plan
(For full-size scan, LEFT CLICK on image)

"B" Deck.

"C" Deck.

"D" Deck.

"The Book of the Laurentic," the lavish interior brochure for the new ship. Credit: eBay auction photo. 

The passenger accommodation provided in the Laurentic is unexcelled in the Mersey-Canadian trade.

Liverpool Journal of Commerce.

But it is less her dimensions which make her so interesting an addition to the White Star fleet than the character of her accommodation. She is the first ship which has been constructed with an eye to the Atlantic tourist traffic which has developed so remark ably since the war. The improved standard of living of the people has made it worth the railway companies while to offer work a day folk facilities for comfortable railway travel that-were the privilege of the well-to-do before the war; and in the same way the shipping companies, by steamers like the Laurentic, are responding to a parallel demand by people of small means for ocean travel. It is not the least noteworthy of the social movements of our time.

The Guardian, 27 April 1928.

Credit:eBay auction photo.

As a passenger liner, it is worth remembering that Laurentic, like the Regina-class, was a Cabin Boat even if having, from scratch, three classes: Cabin, Tourist Third and Third.  White Star had themselves helped to pioneer the entire concept of the "one-class" liner with Cymric back in 1898 in that there was one "saloon class," no second and a third class (steerage).  Before the war, these increasingly popular ships were classed, at the insistence of the trans-Atlantic Conference as "One Class (Second Class) Cabin" for which a tariff comparable to that charged for Second Class in the three-class ships was charged.  Henceforth, "Cabin Boats" top class was usually equal in finish, quality, table and accommodation to Second Class.  By definition, it was plainer, less ornate but not lacking for sensible comfort and convenience whilst affording the desirable "run of the ship" or at least the best part of it, but was never intended to duplicate First Class. As such,  Laurentic was one of the best exemplars of Cabin Boats of the 'twenties and her extra beam rendered her decks and public rooms far more expansive and spacious than the Regina-class.  

Credit: eBay auction photo.

Far from being a ship "below White Star standards," Laurentic was an important and impressive ship in both her decoration and accommodation, presenting as so much with the vessel, an intriguing combination of first and lasts.  Decoratively, Laurentic was remarkable in being the last British-built liner with traditional period décor throughout, a classic rendering by H&W's Heaton Tabb that was altogether more lavish and spacious than on the Regina-class ships whose essentially pre-war décor was in keeping with the plainer Georgian revival so popular just before the war. In feeling and fittings, Laurentic was closer to Red Star liners in having a more decorative quality than previous White Star intermediates.   Reading the descriptions of her rooms reveals the considerable effort put into them whilst the illustrations and photos show that this resulted in a particularly fine set of public rooms.

The scale of the rooms, especially the lounge and the dining saloon, was impressive and far more expansive in character than in Doric, so much so that the firm resistance to domes or double-height centre portions made them look low-ceilinged  by comparison. This was completely opposite the approach taken with the Cunard "A"s whose quite small room had double height centre portions or domes that either made them look even smaller or larger depending on one's perspective. 

But this was still a Cabin Boat and even at almost 19,000 tons and with 500 Cabin passengers, there was no lift, no swimming pool (other than the canvas ones erected on deck on cruises), no grand foyers or staircases although an especially large gymnasium and children's playroom were provided.  

Considering that White Star-Dominion literally invented the whole concept of Tourist Third Cabin Class in June 1924 in Regina, it was only fitting that the first new trans-Atlantic to be built specifically to accommodate Tourist Third was Laurentic three years later. As such, she was the first three-class liner with Cabin as the top class that was built as such.  This was a material improvement especially when what had been two-class cabin ships like Letitia/Athenia and the Cunard "A"s had Tourist Third literally shoehorned in with some dreadful extemporanious facilities so that a card room in Letitia became a Tourist Third smoke room and the gymnasium in the "A"s became a Tourist Third "lounge!"  In Laurentic, both Tourist Third and Third had a full set of public spaces designed as such from the onset. 

Laurentic's large Cabin Class was designed as much with one-class cruising in mind, a capacity increasingly in demand especially for ships employed on the seasonal St. Lawrence run.  The large capacity Cabin dining saloon could easily accommodate all passengers in a single sitting or, if needed, in two. Moreover, her superior Tourist Third Class enabled her to be the first New York based cruise ship to offer the facility of two-class cruises beginning in 1929.

Laurentic had three overall decks, an orlop deck outside machinery space and a promenade and boat deck: Boat Deck, Promenade Deck, "A" Deck, "B" Deck, "C" Deck and "D" Deck.  Cabin Class occupied the while of the midships superstructure: Promenade, "A" and most of "B" Deck with Tourist Third aft on "A," "B." and "C" and Third Class forward on "B," "C," and "D" Decks.  

Laurentic's Boat Deck. Credit: Gordon Turner collection.

Cabin Class enjoyed exceptional deck and promenade space, having all of Boat Deck which offered 255 ft. of open promenade and sports deck on the port side with engineers accommodation and deck space on the starboard side with deck tennis courts forward.  The continuation of this deck through to the island bridge materially increased the deck space compared to Doric and Regina. Aft on Boat was an exceptionally large gymnasium and children's playroom with more open deck space aft.  

On the boat deck forward, abaft the navigating bridge, is a wide expanse of deck where deck-tennis, quoits, bullboard and shuffleboard are played beneath the glorious blue of an Atlantic sky.

The Book of the Laurentic.

Laurentic Cabin Class aft open deck. Credit: Gordon Turner collection. 

Plenty of space for exercise is a necessity at sea. It was always the drawback of the ships of twenty-five and fifty years ago that their small tonnage did not per of this space. Even some of the modern ships are woefully lacking in this essential feature.

The Book of the Laurentic.

Cabin Class children's playroom.

A really delightful children's playroom has been designed, on the walls of which are depicted the most authentic pictorial history of Robinson Crusoe. One panel shows the first umbrella which is said to have been invention.

The children's playroom is designed on the most up-to-date lines, with the walls divided into large panels on which the life and adventures of Robinson Crusoe is depicted from the most authentic sources and recorded by Daniel de Foe; everything in the pictures has a foundation in the facts as related by Crusoe himself. 

Liverpool Journal of Commerce.

The Laurentic, par excellence, is the kiddies' ship. Aft, next to the gymnasium, is a wonderous room-- a children's paradise-- as shown in the sketch. Panelled with pictures depicting adventures of old friend Robinson Crusoe, the Children's Playroom is provided with a fascinating Wendy Hour, a rocking horse, swing, a boat and innumerable teddy bears and dolls. 

The Book of the Laurentic.

Cabin Class gymnasium. Hubert Leoszewski/Library of JAGOTI

The cabin gymnasium is designed in the Pompeiian style, with the walls in panels of various colours in sheet rubber. As the rubber is of a marble pattern quite a good effect is obtained. The lighting is by a number of lights concealed in the friezes at a height of seven feet from the ground, and the light is reflected to the ceiling, giving a soft even light over the whole room. 

Walking is not exercise to be found on board the Laurentic. The little etching on this page depicts a corner of the roomy gymnasium where, the under the eye of a trained instructor, all kinds of physical training can be practised, from punching the medicine ball and riding the electric horse to a bout with the gloves or five minutes with the foils.

The Book of the Laurentic.

The principal public rooms were on Promenade Deck arranged along the most traditional of British layouts with the drawing room forward, then the main entrance and stairase, the lounge amidships and not directly accessible from it, the card room on the starboardside, and then quite separately, aft, the smoking room and veranda café and the aft staircase. Adjoining was the covered (and glass-enclosed forward) promenade which was 298-ft. in length on the sides but was not  walk around as the drawing room extended to the end of the superstructure, with a short stretch of open deck before the forward island bridge.  

Cabin Class Promenade Deck. Credit: eBay auction photo.

Cabin Class Promenade Deck. Credit: Gordon Turner collection.

Cabin Class Promenade Deck. The Book of the Laurentic. Credit: eBay auction photo.

The picture on the facing page gives a very true impression of the broad promenade deck; passengers call it the 'Parade.' Everyone walks there, and it rivals the front at Brighton on a Sunday morning. A portion of this deck is enclosed by glass windows, and from here passengers, protected from the weather, can watch the seas-- so puny when viewed from the height of this deck-- which ride past the ship with white-capped crests.

The Book of the Laurentic.

The staircase and entrances are designed in the Empire style after the work of Percier et Fontaine, directors of the decorations of the Opera House, Paris, over 130 years ago, and when Napoleon became First Consul they were appointed his architects and designed for him the whole of the imperial decoration, including that of his coronation as Emperor, hence the name of the Empire style. The details of this style being modelled on the classic art of Greece and Rome, the effect is more severe in appearance than the style of the preceding French kings, and a complete break from all previous traditions, though not  less magnificent. 

The walls of the cabin entrance and passages of this vessel are simple and dignified in treatment, and are panelled in a light cream colour with a stone finish, and green bronze electric light brackets in alternate panels. A touch of colour is introduced by a series of panels of figure subjects after the antique modelled in ivory colour on a ground of terra-cotta. The staircases are of oak with black wrought-iron balustrade, and the floor is laid with marbled tiles of a cool Cippolini pattern. 

Liverpool Journal of Commerce.

Cabin Class drawing room. The Book of the Laurentic. Credit: eBay auction photo. 

The Cabin Drawing Room has all that charm of delicate colour and furnishing to be associated with a room essentially intended for ladies.

Panelled in shades of pale pink, and lit at night by handsome basket lights, most soothing to the eye, the room is furnished with comfortable settees, lounge chairs, and writing tables, in it will be found the latest women's journals, while the ship's library, providing modern fiction, is also in this room. 

The Book of the Laurentic.

Cabin Class drawing room. Credit: Charles Dragonette collection. 

Cabin Class drawing room. Credit: Syren & Shipping.

Cabin Class drawing room. Credit:

The cabin drawing-room entered from the forward entrance on "A" deck is in the Empire style, and the general colour scheme is in warm shades of grey, with mahogany furniture upholstered in lilac-coloured materials. The curtains to the round-beaded windows are of a shade to hamonise with the rest of the room. In the centre of the aft end is a fireplace in Fleur de Pecho marble with ormultu mounts, and a gilt clock set in the architrave with gilt-framed mirror over in three panels. 

The arrangement of the furniture is not stiff and set, but is kept simple so as to give the effect of a ladies' drawing-room. Antique green bronze coloured torchere brackets are arranged round the room, and a fine needlework tapestry panel of classical subjects at port side of the room relieves the walls and give character and a note of colour to complete the scheme. On the star side is a bookcase in mahogany, designed in the simple lines of the period, with glass panels in the doors. There are windows on three sides of the drawing room, and the whole effect is graceful and light. 

Liverpool Journal of Commerce.

Cabin Class drawing room. The Book of the Laurentic. Credit: eBay auction photo.

The Cabin Lounge is a magnificent apartment extending the whole width of the ship. It is probably the most striking in this ship of beautiful rooms. Yet despite its size it has an atmosphere of intimate cosiness.

Decorated in delicate shades of grey and blue, this room, with its wide blue-curtained windows looking out on to a broad vista of promenade deck, is suggestive of some big hotel at one of the fashionable watering places. 

It is in the Lounge, too, that the Cinema 'shows' are held. At one side of the room is a cinema screen, neatly hidden away when not in use, on to which is projected the film from the operating box at the opposite side of the room. Over 250 people can view the performance under conditions which vie with those obtaining in the best picture houses ashore.

The Book of the Laurentic.

Cabin Class lounge. Credit: Charles Dragonette collection.
Cabin Class lounge. Credit: Hubert Leoszewski/Library of JAGOTI

Cabin Class lounge. Credit: Syren & Shipping. 

The cabin lounge in the Italian Renaissance style is the principal room on this vessel, both in size and general importance of the decorations. Great dignity and distinction has been aimed at by the designer, combined with the clear and harmonious colouring so beloved by the great Italian artists of the Renaissance. As this room will be frequently used for dances, the centre of the floor is laid with parquet in oak and walnut in the Italian manner in panels with a dark walnut border, and the furniture is designed with lighter pieces in the centre of the room, with richer upholstered and sherwood settees and easy chairs around the walls. 

The walls are divided into bays with white pilasters with enriched panels of Italian ornament in relief. On the port and starboard sides are arched windows in pairs hung with blue and gold silk damask curtains. The spaces between are panelled in shades of gold, fawn and russet brown, with six pictures in elaboratel; modelled gilt, the coloured picture frames with suitably selected copies of the old masters. On the fore and aft ends are hung circular mirrors in modelled frames, reproductions of the work of the Della Robbia family, and coloured after the finest examples of the kind. A feature is made of the fireplace at the forward end. It is the full height of the room, with an antique basket grate in a deep recess lined with choice coloured marbles on a rich and dark coloured marble hearth. The overmantel is a reproduction of the 'Cantoria' or Singing Gallery of the Luca Della Robbie, ordered in 1431 A.D. and finished by 1441 A.D., now in the museum of the Opera del in Florence.

The ceiling of the lounge is in shallow coffers with antique bronze electric light fittings designed in the style of the room. The doors are of walnut of a design characteristic of the Italian work, with glass in square panels with enriched pilasters on either side. 

Liverpool Journal of Commerce.

Cabin Class card room. The Book of the Laurentic. Credit: eBay auction photo.

Cabin Class card room. Credit: Charles Dragonette collection.

Cabin Class card room. 

The card room is designed in the style of the early French Renaissance, panelled in grey oak with small  Linedfold panels, and the windows are glazed with leaded glass from a pattern taken from an old 'Boke of Sundry Draughtes,' published by an old craftsman in, the seventeenth century.

At the forward end is a fireplace in stone. An antique basket grate is fitted and the overmantel is in plaster, with a clock in an antique brass Cartouche frame on a background of white plaster pondered with the fleur-de-lys of Old France. At the after end is a tapestry panel of an old French hunting scene from the Gaston Phoebus now in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, and once the treasured possession of Francis the First. 

The ceiling is divided into panels with beams with carved bosses at the junctions. Old-fashioned lauterns are hung from the ceiling and cressot bracket lamps are hung on the walls. The furniture is in oak, of the design of the period, with antique leather and tapestry upholstery, all in the old style Of the Chateau of Blois and the early days of Fontainbleau.

Liverpool Journal of Commerce.

Cabin Class smoking room. The Book of the Laurentic. Credit: eBay auction photo.

Cabin Class smoking room. Credit: Charles Dragonette collection.

Cabin Class smoking room. Credit:

The smoking room is designed on the lines of a Jacobean oak panelled room from one of the mansions of England of the olden times, with a stone fireplace and overmantel and basket firegrate. The walls are hung with antique brass candle brackets and shades, with pictures painted in the old manner to give a piece of colour to the walls. The ceiling is of plaster with plaster moulded beams, from which are hung lanterns. The furniture is of oak to harmonise with the period, with hide-covered seats, and the floor is laid with oak colour Jaspe Ruboleum in small parquet pattern. 

Liverpool Journal of Commerce.

Cabin Class veranda cafe. Credit:

The verandah cafe aft of the smoking room is treated as an open air apartment with oak half timber and white plaster wall filling and mullioned windows with leaded glass. The ceiling is in plaster with oak beams to match the walls.
Liverpool Journal of Commerce.

Cabin Class dining saloon. The Book of the Laurentic. Credit: eBay auction photo.

Every evening when dinner is in progress the brilliantly-lit saloon is a blaze of colour. The black coats and white shirt fronts of the men act as a foil to the beautiful frocks of fair women. The hum of conversation, like the buzz of a busy bee, drowns the faint clatter of dishes as the stewards, masters of their art, deftly steer the meal to its conclusion.  

Possibly in the Dining Saloon, more than anywhere else, is felt rather than seen that wonderful organization that makes such a scene as this possible. Everything moves with a snap and precision of a machine.

It has been written that there is an art in eating. To aspire to the highest form of the art it is necessary to dine in pleasant surroundings, with perfect service and, of course, a meal chosen by an epicure, and these conditions are fulfulled in the Laurentic

Cabin Class dining saloon.

Cabin Class dining saloon. Hubert Leoszewski/Library of JAGOTI

Cabin Class dining saloon. Credit: Syren & Shipping

The cabin dining saloon has been designed in the Louis the Sixteenth style after the design by Lalonde, a graceful French architect, and designer of much of the furniture and decorations in vogue during the latter half of Eighteenth Century, which helped to give such a distinguishied character to the period. 

The general colour scheme is blush rose for the walls, relieved with pale lilac plaques and trophies in old ivory. The ceiling is in old ivory, with pendant lights in old rose silk shades, giving a warm and pleasantly soft glow to the whole room. Seagliola columns of Greek Skyres marble with gilt capitals and black ebonised bases divide the room into bays. At the fore and aft ends are large pier glasses in gilt frames with enriched panels on either side. The furniture is in dark mahogany, upholstered in leather, and the floor Is dark oak Jaspe pattern ruboleum.

The entrance to the saloon from the main forward staircase is formed with a screen glazed from foor to ceiling, and adds considerably to the agreeable effect on entering the saloon. The recesses in which the port lights occur are hung with curtains of old rose-coloured material of ample length to fall in graceful  folds. 

Cabin Class suite bed room. The Book of the Laurentic. Credit: eBay auction photo.

Cabin Class suite sitting room. Credit:

Cabin Class suite bed room. Credit:

Cabin Class outside three-berth cabin. Credit: Gordon Turner collection.

Cabin Class inside three-berth cabin. Credit: Gordon Turner collection.

The cabin class staterooms are spacious and well appointed. Amidships there are suites, including bedroom, sitting room, and private bathroom. Running cold and hot water are provided in all stateroom and lavatories. 

Liverpool Journal of Commerce.

There are six of these suites on B deck, in the choicest location amidship. and they will be furnished, the company states, in a style that a few years ago would have been looked for only in express liners.

The Gazette, 14 April 1926.

Detail of interconnecting suite rooms with bath on "A" Deck. 

In layout and concept, Cabin Class accommodation was along the lines of Belgenland in that the best cabins were arranged in a series of rooms-- bed, sitting and bath-- that could be connected as desired in a number of configurations. The best accommodation, including six de luxe suited, was situated on "A" Deck amidships, which were richly decorated in Louis XIV to Louis XVI styles.  Twelve other staterooms could be let with private bathrooms and 10 single-berth cabins were forward, the others being two or three-berths. More ordinary cabins for 1-4 passengers were on "B" Deck.  All cabins had hot and cold running water and wardrobes. 

Passenger accommodation summary from Laurentic's General Arrangement Plan. Credit: Bob Fivehouse.

With a listed maximum capacity of 594 berths, Cabin Class offered considerable flexibility between it and Tourist Third in that only 104 cabins (285 berths) were permanently designated as such with another 115 rooms (285) that could be let instead as Tourist third.  Permanent Cabin Class staterooms were on "A" Deck, encircled by 298-ft. of covered promenade on either side.  These were all provided with windows not portholes and of the total of 71 cabins on this deck, only 25 were inside.  The outside rooms all had settees. The remaining Cabin Class accommodation was on "B" Deck including a few on the portside on the "Bibby" pattern which were permanently assigned to Cabin with smaller cabins on the starboardside interchangeable with Tourist Third.  Most had settees but two-thirds were inside.

The growing popularity of Tourist Third Class Cabin travel has been kept well in mind in designing the Laurentic, and excellent accommodation has been provided to meet the great development of these holiday tours. The greatest care has been taken to provide suitable amenities for travellers in this class and in addition to the well-furnished and airy staterooms for four and six persons, there are a number of two-berth rooms, fitted with hot and cold waters. The numerous public rooms includes, besides a Dining Saloon, a Ladies' Room, Lounge, General Room, Smoking Room, and a Children's Playroom; whilst there is a conveniently situated Barber's Shop where all  kinds of useful articles and novelties may be purchased.

Laurentic Tourist Third Class brochure, c. 1928

As mentioned, Laurentic was the first North Atlantic liner designed and built with designated Tourist Third Class accommodation and public rooms.  Here, at least her advent was well-timed when "Tourist Third" became all the rage and unlike her competitors, hers was not extemporaneously carved out of Third Class.  

Tourist Third Cabin lounge. The Book of the Laurentic. Credit: eBay auction photograph.

Tourist Third Class lounge. Credit: Gordon Turner collection.

Tourist Third Class lounge.  Credit:

Tourist Third Cabin smoking room. The Book of the Laurentic. Credit: eBay auction photo. 

Tourist Third Class smoking room.  Credit:

Tourist Third General Room. Credit:

Tourist Third Cabin children's room. The Book of the Laurentic. Credit: eBay auction photo. 

Tourist Third Class children's playroom.  Credit:

Tourist Third Class dining saloon.  Credit:

Tourist Third Class "A" Deck open deck (lft) and "B" Deck covered promenade deck.

Situated aft in the ship, Tourist Third approximated the same location as Second Class with a large lounge on "B" Deck (like the Second Class lounge on Megantic and first Laurentic with the mainmast piecing the middle of the room, a smoking room, bar, general room and children's playroom further aft. These were panelled and painted in light pastels with coloured and patterned linoleum flooring, light wicker furnishings and of a general character and quality clearly superior to Third Class.  There was less decorative distinction in the dining facilities since their capacity was dependent on how many berths had been sold as Tourist Third.  The designated dining saloon, seating 176, was aft on "D" Deck accessed by its own staircase.  Tourist Class had quite extensive covered deck and promenade space aft on "B" Deck as well as open deck aft on "A" Deck.

Tourist Third Class two-berth cabin. The Book of the Laurentic. Credit: eBay auction photo. 

Beautiful artwork by Montague Black on the cover an early Third Class brochure for Laurentic. Credit: eBay auction photograph.

With a listed capacity of 406, Tourist Third Cabin, by its nature, was far more flexible in its number of berths in that only 104 cabins (285 berths) were permanently designated as Cabin Class leaving 115 rooms (309 berths) on "B" Deck that could be let as Tourist Third Cabin or Cabin as required.  In addition, 99 cabins (304 berths) could be sold as Tourist Third or Third Class.  Tourist Third cabins had, a washbasins with running water (cold in the case of interchangeable Third/Tourist or hot/cold for otherwise Cabin Class rooms and wardrobes. 

Referring to the third-class accommodation, the company  announcement points out that these quarters will be specially fitted to meet the requirements of tourist traffic. There will be three dining saloons, a ladies room, a lounge, a barber's shop and a shop selling travel souvenirs and neccesities.

Third-class staterooms still be fitted for two, four or six persons, and in many cases will have hot and cold running water..

The Gazette, 14 April 1926.

Third Class lounge. The Book of the Laurentic. Credit: eBay auction photo.

Third Class Class lounge.  Credit:

Third Class smoking room. Credit: Gordon Turner collection.

Third Class dining saloon. The Book of the Laurentic. Credit: eBay auction photo.

Third Class Third Class dining saloon.  Credit:

For Third Class, Laurentic offered noticeable improvements over Doric and Regina.  The public rooms had a lighter décor and a superior finish and there were freestanding chairs in the dining saloons rather than the old-fashioned bolted to the deck swivel chairs. The public rooms, comprising a lounge, ladies room and smoking room, were forward on "B" Deck with a barbers shop and purser's office adjoining. Covered deck space was forward and outside deck space on the foredeck.   There were three dining saloons: a 98-seat one forward of amidships on the starboardside, and two on either side aft, one seating 126 and the other 120.

Third Class four-berth cabin. The Book of the Laurentic. Credit: eBay auction photo.

Laurentic's Third Class is usually cited as having berths for "500" passengers but in reality, there were 96 cabins (2, 4- or 6-berth) with 304 berths and an additional 320 berths in "portable" cabins in the fore and aft 'tween decks on "D" Deck.  The permanent cabins had washbasins with gravity tank cold water but no wardrobes and much better finish, including linoleum decking, than the "portable" cabins which had wood decking underfoot.

The same year Laurentic at last entered the Canadian service in May 1928, a full year later than planned, she was rendered instantly obsolete, as was every other ship on the route, by the introduction of the first of the four 20,000-grt  Duchess-class of Canadian Pacific, Duchess of Atholl, which made her maiden voyage from Liverpool to Montreal on 13 July. With their advanced high-pressure geared turbine  machinery, moderne interiors, gravity davits, etc., the Duchesses were without equal on the North Atlantic and the finest intermediate liners yet built.  Whether Laurentic burnt coal or had pre-war machinery was made irrelevant at a stroke. That she proved a fine sea boat, a reliable, economic ship in service  and a splendid looking one was without question. In any event, R.M.S. Laurentic was the last of the line so many respects that it is worth now relishing when she was new as a penny and finally about to embark on a sadly short career. 

The first "official" postcard of Laurentic, by Walter Thomas (1894-1962), to actually accurately depict the vessel as built,  showing her at Quebec. Credit: author's collection.

Faith in the Dominion of Canada was expressed by P.V.G. Mitchell vice-president for traffic of the International Mercantile Marine at a banquet held on the new White Star Liner Laurentic to mark her en try into the Atlantic trade. The Laurentic,  Mr. Mitchell said has been built expressly for the Canadian trade because the White Star Line believed in Canada her present greatness and her future. The Laurentic will lake her place in the Canadian trade next spring.

The Chronicle, 1 December 1927.

Maritime and travel-minded Canadians in 1927-1931 could be forgiven thinking they were the centre of the ocean liner universe if not the veritable nexus of the ocean highways. During these four years, spanning prosperity and depression, an unparalleled new fleet of liners linking the Dominion across the Atlantic, across the Pacific and south to the West Indies entered service: Laurentic (1927), Duchess of Atholl (1928), Duchess of Bedford (1928), Duchess of Richmond (1928), Lady Nelson (1928), Lady Hawkins (1928), Lady Drake (1928), Lady Somers (1928), Lady Rodney (1928),  Duchess of York (1929), Empress of Japan (1930) and Empress of Britain (1931).  

The late 'twenties, too, were the heyday of the luxury cruise when liners wintered in the Mediterranean.  In winter 1927-28, Doric, Homeric, Scythia, Transylvania, Rotterdam, Samaria, Empress of France, Carinthia and… Laurentic left New York on long Mediterranean cruises.  This would be the routine of the new Laurentic, crossing and cruising, a contemporary career for a classic liner.  

A perfect portrait of a truly splendid looking ship.  R.M.S. Laurentic, finally completed and ready to embark on a career of crossing and cruising.  Credit: Steamship Historical Society of America, Everett Viez collection.  


Laurentic was opened for public inspection in Gladstone Dock, by pre-arranged application, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. 3 November 1927 and 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. on the 5th and from 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. 7-8th. 

The new White Star liner Laurentic built especially for the Canadian trade, will received her Atlantic baptism when she sails from Liverpool on Saturday on her first voyage. The destination of this trip will be New York, where she will receive a fitting welcome at the end of next week. 

The Gazette, 10 November 1927.

Credit: Democrat and Chronicle, 18 November 1927.

Laurentic was but one of three ships sailing from Liverpool on their maiden voyages on 12 November 1927: Harrison Line's 5,600-grt Planter for the West Indies and Elder Dempster's 2,789-grt Dixcove for West Africa, being the others.  The White Star liner had 100 Cabin, 27 Tourist Third and 141 Third Class passengers, and among those aboard were the 16-strong Irish Players Theatrical Company, including Arthur Sinclair and Marie O'Neill who would open their American engagement with Sean O'Casey's "The Plough and the Stars."  Laurentic called at Queenstown on the 13th. White Star's Montreal office staff, including Mr. Leo S. Tobin entrained for New York to greet the ship on arrival.

Credit: The Indianapolis Times, 24 November 1927.

Credit: The Evening News, 23 November 1927.

After a crossing in not ideal weather conditions, Laurentic arrived at New York on 21 November 1927, docking at Pier 60 North River at 9:30 a.m. "Her passengers spoke in high terms of the steadiness of ship while buffeting strong head winds and high seas." (New York Times).  Capt. Trant told reporters that Laurentic had averaged 15 knots across, but once the engines had been run in, was good for 165, although the New York Herald Tribune said she "was throttled down to 13.35 knots and will be held there until her engines loosen up."  The Gazette reported that "hundreds of people welcomed" the ship on arrival and those who visited her that afternoon, "declared her a very fine cabin ship."  

Credit: Daily News, 22 November 1927.

Reporters were more interested in six-year-old Herbert Menary of Ireland who made the crossing on his own to visit his mother he had not seen since he was a baby and Mossie Doyle, lightweight champion of Ireland, "with a brogue so pronounced that the American reporters were unable to understand him." (Leicester Mercury). 

Faith in the great Dominion of Canada was expressed tonight by P. V. G. Mitchell, vice-president for traffic of the International Mercantile Marine, at a banquet held on the new White Star liner Laurentic to mark her entry into the Atlantic trade.

Mr. Mitchell explained that this new 19,000-ton liner has been built expressly for the Canadian trade because the White Star Line believes in Canada's greatness. and future. Accordingly, he said, the new steamer will take her place in the Canadian trade next spring.

When she does enter the Canadian trade, he added, she will set a new standard for ocean travel from Canada, because she excels any steamer of her type yet built. 

The Gazette, 23 November 1927.

Laurentic and Capt. Trant hosted two functions aboard for steamship agents, including many from Canada, a banquet dinner on the 21st and a luncheon the following day featuring an address by IMM President P.V.G. Mitchell on "the problems of modern ocean travel," and read a radiogram sent by P.A.S. Franklin who, was en route to New York aboard ATL's Minnetonka. Some two hundred Canadian agents inspected the ship.  On the 24th, the ship hosted consuls and consulars agents from the countries to be visited during her upcoming Mediterranean cruise including representatives from Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Italy and Monaco. This included luncheon aboard and an inspection of the ship, "who were much impressed with the unusually spacious decks both in cabin and tourist classes," (Pittsburgh Press).

Credit: Intelligencer Journal, 28 November 1927.

With 75 Cabin, 32 Tourist Third and 53 Third Class passengers, Laurentic departed New York on 26 November 1927 on her maiden eastbound crossing.  Among those aboard, remarkably, was Mrs. Henry Black of Montreal, who had sailed on the maiden voyage of the first Laurentic from Montreal to Liverpool in May 1909.  During the voyage, whilst the two ships were off Sable Island, Capt. E.L. Trant of Laurentic had a half-hour wireless "chat" with his brother, Capt. A.W.V. Trant, commanding the Leyland liner Devonian.  

Upon arrival at Liverpool the evening of 4 December 1927, Capt. Trant told reporters: "that both out and home the ship had behaved splendidly, and even in the little rough weather they had experienced, the ship had carried on without a trace of rolling. A maiden voyage could not have been better, and so well had the engineering of the heating and ventilating arrangements worked that the passengers aboard did not know it was winter." Mr. W.J. Willett Bruce, the recently retired White Star Supt. Engineer, made the round voyage and said "the engines had run beautifully, and so far as coal consumption was concerned, she was an exceptionally economical ship." (Liverpool Journal of Commerce, 5 December 1927). 

The new White Star liner Laurentic (19000 tons) with her arrival at Liverpool from New York last night completed her first round Atlantic voyage Captain E. L. Trant her commander told a Daily Post representative that the vessel had behaved splendidly  'We had rough weather” he said “ both out and home but the Laurentic behaved so well that it was just like a yachting trip We didn’t know it was winter One lady who sat at my table asked me when she might expect the boat to roll if she wanted a roll she was disappointed. We had a wonderful reception at New York'.

Liverpool Daily Post, 5 December 1927.

After landing her passengers at the Prince's Landing Stage, Laurentic shifted to the Gladstone Dock and by the 15th, she was but one of a remarkable, even unique, assemblage of no fewer than nine White Star liners berthed there: Adriatic, Celtic, Albertic, Laurentic, Regina, Doric, Megantic, Ceramic and Demosthenes, totalling over 150,000 tons.  Never before had some many big liners been in Gladstone Dock at one time, and with 55 acres of water within its confines, there was room for even more. Whilst in Gladstone Dock, Laurentic hosted the annual White Star superintendents' Christmas luncheon on 22 December 1927, presided over by Commodore C.A. Bartlett and with D. Galloway. W.J. Willett Bruce and Mersey Docks and Harbour Board officials among those present. 

The classic Stewart Bale portrait of Laurentic in the Mersey which seems only to have been reproduced "touched up" to show her underway.  Credit: author's collection.

In 1927

R.M.S. Laurentic completed

1 voyage Liverpool-New York carrying
Westbound  268 passengers (100 Cabin, 27 Tourist Third and 141 Third Class) 
Eastbound 160 passengers (75 Cabin, 32 Tourist Third and 53 Third Class)

Credit: The Cincinnati Enquirer, 1 January 1928.


Having the good fortune of Christmas in home port, Laurentic sailed from Liverpool on New Years Eve on her second voyage to New York via Halifax. Among those aboard was British actor Seymour Hicks and his 30-strong theatre company en route to Canada for a winter season of plays.  For Halifax, Laurentic had 30 Cabin, 25 Tourist Third and 115 Third, of the latter almost all were settlers coming out under the British Empire Settlement Act and a party of farmers sponsored by the Overseas Dept. of Canadian National Railways' Colonization Dept. She docked at Halifax the morning of 7 January 1928, having made a fine passage across from Queenstown where she left late New Years Eve.  This being her first arrival in Canada, White Star staff from the Montreal and Halifax offices were on hand to see the ship and meet Capt. Trant. Proceeding to New York, where Laurentic docked on late on the 10th, landing 67 Cabin, 20 Tourist Third and 51 Third Class passengers.  

Credit: Daily Mirror, 21 January 1928.

Arriving with ten minutes of each other, Laurentic (Capt. E.L. Trant) and Devonian (Capt. A.W.V Trant) docked at adjacent New York piers (59 and 60, North River), affording the two brothers their first ever meeting in port in their 23 years at sea.  

Credit: Daily News, 17 January 1928.

Laurentic sailed from New York at noon on 16 January 1928 on her first Mediterranean cruise with 312 aboard. In a last minute change, she called at Boston the following day to embark a group of 91 passengers from the city, including a party of Shriners. She got quite a send-off on departure from Commonwealth Pier 2 on the afternoon of the 17th, with airplanes swooping over her, and had a total of 403 aboard at sailing. 

Striking artwork graced the cover of the combined IMM cruise brochure for the 1927-28 season. Credit: eBay auction photo. 

For her maiden voyages and first cruises, Laurentic's principal officers were Capt. E.L. Trant, Chief Engineer D. Horsburgh, Chief Purser W.J. O'Hagan, Chief Steward F. Carroll and Surgeon L.H. Woods.  When cruising, Thos. Cook handled the shore excursions and land arrangements under the direction of M.W. Workman. Laurentic, on her first Mediterranean cruise (45 days, 12,169 miles)  called at Funchal (24 January), Gibraltar (26), Algiers (28), Monaco (30-31), Naples (1 February), Phaleron Bay (Athens) (3), Constantinople (4-5), Haifa (8), Alexandria (9-14), Syracuse (16), Naples (17-19), Monaco (20) and Gibraltar (22) before returning to New York on 3 March. Fares started at $695.00.

A selection of on board "paper" from Laurentic's second Mediterranean cruise. Credit: eBay auction photo.

On her second cruise (45 days), Laurentic left New York on 6 March 1928 for Funchal (14), Gibraltar (16), Algiers (18), Monaco (20-21), Naples (22), Phaleron Bay (Athens) (24), Constantinople (25-26), Haifa (29), Alexandria (30 March-4 April), Syracuse (6), Naples (7-9), Monaco (10), Gibraltar (12), Cherbourg (15), Southampton (16)  with a direct connection to Olympic, returning to New York on 24 April. Passengers who wished to stay over in Britain could disembark at Southampton and take any White Star boat home. Laurentic returned to Liverpool on the 17th.  

Credit: The Windsor Star, 27 April 1928.

Things got a bit heated during an inspection and luncheon aboard Laurentic on 26 April 1928, fresh from drydocking, on the eve of her maiden sailing to the St. Lawrence, during which White Star General Manager A.B. Cauty stated in his address to the invited guests, including Dr. Bruce Walker, Director European immigration for the Canadian Government, that shipping men were disappointed with the flow of emigrants and suggested simplified examination of prospective settlers.  When Dr. Walker rose to speak, "there were cries of 'red tape' and 'you don't want immigrants.'  He said it was "errant nonsense" that Canada did not want settlers from Great Britain but stated that Canadian pubic institutions for the insane had been "filled in recent years chiefly with newcomers who were not natives of Canada," adding, "Canada wants immigrants, but not idiots."

Credit: Star Weekly, 28 April 1928.

Hundreds of people lined the docks in Liverpool yesterday to wish the new White Star liner Laurentic 'bon voyage' as she cast off and moved easily into the stream on her maiden voyage to Montreal.

Gazette, 28 April 1928.

But it is less her dimensions which make her so interesting an addition to the White Star fleet than the character of her accommodation. She is the first ship which has been constructed with an eye to the Atlantic tourist traffic which has developed so remark ably since the war. The improved standard of living of the people has made it worth the railway companies while to offer workaday folk facilities for comfortable railway travel that were the privilege of the well-to-do before the war; and in the same way the shipping companies, by steamers like the Laurentic, are responding to a parallel demand by people of small means for ocean travel. It is not the least noteworthy of the social movements of our time.

The Guardian, 27 April 1928.

Mediterranean cruises were one thing but not until R.M.S. Laurentic first cleared the Mersey for the St. Laurence  the evening of 26 April 1928, did her life really begin and she finally fulfill, almost a decade after being first mooted, her destiny as a link between Mother Country and Dominion, reviving the traditions of her namesake predeccesor.  On this voyage, too, Laurentic returned to Belfast Lough and made her first call at Glasgow (Greenock).  The last White Star liner built for the Canadian run and for the historic old Dominion Line service was beginning what would prove a sadly short but still full career. 

Laurentic sailed in company with the Cunarder Andania and CPR's Montcalm, carrying between them 1,000 settlers for Canada. Most of Laurentic's third Class passengers were sponsored settlers, including 12 families, one numbering 11 members, and one of 10, two of 8, five of 7, and three of 6.  There was Salvation Army party of 90, and a Canadian National Railways had a group of 100. Prior departing, Laurentic was thronged with over 700 visitors.  She called at Belfast Lough on the morning of the 27th and a considerable number of visitors as well as passengers and mails came out to the ship from York Dock, Belfast, aboard the steamer Robina, "a beautiful run being made down the Lough in summer-like weather."

Credit: Northern Whig, 1 May 1928.

The Robina sailed from the York Dock, and there was a large crowd present to bid good-bye to those who were making the journey to Canada. It was quite a happy crowd, and even the plaintive strains of 'Come Back to Erin,' played upon by a banjo by a young immigrant from the Shankill Road, failed to produce any visible emotion. The deck of the tender was sprinkled with confetti, which had been liberally bestowed upon a young Belfast couple by their friends. The Robina is not a large boat, but the newly married pair were able to find a corner in which to hide themselves from the gaze of their fellow-passengers and the sight of the tell-tale confetti.

Saturday was a perfect day for the trip down the lough, and those who were saying good-bye to Ireland must surely have done so with regret as the boat glided past the green fields of Down on one side, and the grim hills of Antrim on the other. Far down the Lough could be seen the big bulk of the Laurentic; and close to it another huge ship belonging to the C.P.R. Line. In a short time the Robina drew alongside the larger vessel, whose passengers thronged the deck in the bright sunshine and witness the embarkations with interest. 

Belfast News-Letter, 30 April 1928. 

Credit: The Montreal Daily Star, 1 May 1928.

After embarking 100 additional passengers at Belfast, Laurentic proceeded to Glasgow where another 200 boarded and then steamed west having a total of 96 Cabin, 283 Tourist Third and 557 Third Class passengers aboard. Fog encountered in the Gulf of St. Lawrence held her back and Laurentic did not arrive at Quebec City until the morning of 5 May 1928.  

Credit: The Montreal Star, 7 May 1928.

Indicative of the importance placed on the new ship to his city and port, Montreal Mayor Camillien Houde and Madame Houde travelled by train to Quebec City on 5 May 1928. There, they embarked in Laurentic for the final run to Montreal, accompanied by L.S. Tobin, Passenger Traffic Manager of White Star Line and A.A. Gardiner, General Passenger Agent of Canadian National Railways. "Mayor Houde and a party of Montreal newspapermen who joined the ship at Quebec yesterday morning were given every opportunity to see the splendid appointments of the vessel and to the enjoy the hospitality of the White Star Line officials. " (Gazette, 7 May 1928).   Mayor Houde embarked shortly after 8:00 a.m., welcomed aboard by Capt. Trant and shown to their suite and then toured the ship at leisure before Laurentic sailed at lunchtime for Montreal.

Shortly after leaving Quebec the mayor and mayoress stood on the boat deck with other passengers to witness the illusion that takes place as the ship nears the Quebec bridge. The masts of the Laurentic are so arranged that they can be lowered an appreciable distance, but it was not necessary to lower them In order to clear the bridge. The passengers, however, like all passengers coming up the St. Lawrence, were sure the masts would strike the bridge, and one woman, despite the assurance of ship's officers, thought it wise to dodge down a companion-way just as she thought the forward mast was about to strike. In the afternoon a shuffle-board tournament was organized for the visitors to the ship and a tour of inspection was also made.

In the main dining saloon at night the visitors were given an opportunity to thank the White Star officials for their courtesy and hospitality. 

The Gazette, 7 May 1928.

Towering majestically over the high level wharves, her boat deck in line with the shed roofs, the Laurentic drew gracefully to her berth and was docked at Montreal at 11.30. Her initial voyage to Montreal, the western terminus of the route for which she was specially constructed, was ended and her  commander, Captain E. L. Trant, R.D., was the recipient of hearty congratulations from Major P. A. Curry, general manager of the Whlte Star Line Canadian service, on the able manner in which he brought his ship into port. 

Nosing her way into King Edward Basin, the tremendous bulk of the Laurentic impressed all observers on shore. Her unusually wide beam, which is 75 feet, is a feature that is at once apparent, giving her an air of great stability and almost grandeur. Designed for navigating the ship channel between Quebec and Montreal, particular attention was given to the question of draft, as vessels occasionally have to sail without loading all available cargo on account of low water levels in the river. In order, therefore, to build a craft of large tonnage and vaster accommodation, it was necessary to provide a wider beam to offset the decreased draft that a vessel of her tonnage, 18,700 gross tons, would ordinarily have.

The Gazette, 7 May 1928.

The White Star Line last night brought into Montreal the last word in ocean travel accommodation. It was the Laurentic-- a liner specially designed and fitted for the St Lawrence river.

Built broad of beam and therefore somewhat shallower of draught than the general run of such ships, the new boat can be navigated in the river with the freedom of a ferry. Full speed was kept up in a 12 hour run from Quebec.

The Montreal Star, 7 May 1928.

Making the run from Quebec in 12 hours, Laurentic docked at Shed 4 at Montreal at 11:30 p.m on 6 May 1928. She had maintained an average speed of 15.626 knots across from Liverpool. Montrealers anxious to be home could disembark that evening, but others could remain aboard for the night and continue their travels the following morning. 

Credit: The Montreal Daily Star, 7 May 1928.

Laurentic was opened for public inspection on 8 May and again on the 10th. Those on the 8th contended with the ship coaling but "everywhere one heard high comment on the latest addition to the Canadian fleet of the White Star Line and more than one remarked that the class of accommodation far exceeded their expectations." (Gazette, 9 May 1928). 

Credit: The Montreal Daily Star, 10 May 1928.

Several hundred steamship agents, local shipping executives and newsmen attended a luncheon aboard Laurentic on 9 May 1928, hosted by Capt. Trant and addressed by Leo S. Tobin, White Star Passenger Traffic Manager. A reception in the Cabin Class lounge was followed by luncheon in the dining saloon. In his speech of welcome, Mr. Tobin said: "It gives me real pleasure to welcome on board this new addition to the White Star Line Canadian Service fleet so many of the company's friends," Mr. Tobin said. "We are proud of  her, her fittings and decoration, and of her fine personnel. We have pride in having achieved much in bringing the Laurentic, largest vessel ever to navigate the St. Lawrence to Montreal, to the greatest port in Canada. She was designed and built to the utmost capacity of the ship channel, and we feel that the Laurentic is only the first of what may be expected in a few years."  (Gazette, 10 May 1928).

One might pity Laurentic's dining steward and galley staff who seem to have worked harder in port on this maiden Montreal turnaround than at sea. The evening of  10 May 1928 saw the final and grandest dinner reception held aboard, for government officials, diplomatic staff that was hosted by Major P.A. Curry, OBE, Manager of White Star Line Canadian Service, and Sir Henry Thornton, President of Canadian National Railways, and among the 300 attendees were Montreal Mayor Camillien Houde, but Prime Minister McKenzie King who was to have been present, was detained by other matters in Ottawa, and sent a letter of regret to Capt. Trant, recalling sailing with him in the past. The captain, in his remarks, said "The owners had been anxious while the Laurentic was building because of the reputation of the old Laurentic. It was therefore gratifying to learn, after her maiden trip to Montreal, that the new vessel was worthy of the traditions of the old and would, he was sure, have a career equally honourable."

Transitioning back from venue to liner and mailship, Laurentic departed Montreal on 13 May 1928 for Liverpool.  Among her 193 Cabin, 138 Tourist Third and 93 Third Class passengers were Sir Stephen Lennard, Major-General W. Bethune Lindsay and Lt.-Col. A.B. Cutliffe, DSO, as well as actor Seymour Hicks and his theatre company, returning to England after their successful Canadian tour.  A consignment of air mail was put aboard Laurentic at Rimouski when she paused there briefly at 2:30 a.m. on the 14th, the mail plane having lifted off from Montreal at 3:25 p.m. and arrived at the pilot station at 6:35 p.m.

Laurentic helped set a record on 22 May 1928 when she, together with Themistocles (11,250 grt) berthed at Gladstone Dock, Liverpool, joining six other vessels there-- Mamilus (8,090 grt), Aramic (18,495 grt), Demosthenes (11,250 grt), Medic (12,222 grt), Nestor (14,629 grt) and Adriatic (24,541 grt)-- making a grand total of 119,000 in a single dock.  Of these, 104,548 grt were White Star liners, seven in all.

Now it was down to the routine of an Atlantic liner for Laurentic which left on her second voyage to the St. Lawrence on 25 May 1928 and after making calls at Belfast and Glasgow, had 106 Cabin, 123 Tourist Third and 355 Third Class aboard. Among the latter were domestics, farm workmen and boys coming out under the Nova Scotia settlement scheme.  As customary, most of her Tourist and all of her Third Class disembarked on arrival at Quebec the morning of 4 June whilst most Cabin Class passengers continued with her up to Montreal when she docked at eight that evening. Homewards on the 9th, Laurentic numbered 262 Cabin, 290 Tourist Third and 97 Third Class, among them Canada's top scullers en route for races at Henley and at the Olympic Games in Amsterdam. She arrived at Liverpool at 10:30 p.m. on the 16th after a crossing "enjoyed in extraordinarily fine weather."

On 28 June 1928, Laurentic was reported to be "making splendid time" and expected at Quebec at midnight the following day.  Chances for a really exceptional run were spoilt by a patch of bad weather in the Straits of Belle Isle.  She brought over 199 Cabin, 174 Tourist Third and 264 Third, with 108 agricultural workers, sponsored by Canadian National Railways.  Montreal was reached at 8:00 p.m. on the 30th. Her arrival closed out a busy week for White Star staff in the port having dispatched 1,600 passengers total in Megantic and Regina in addition to handling the arriving Laurentic

After making her fastest eastbound crossing to date, Laurentic comes alongside Prince's Landing Stage, Liverpool on 14 July 1928 with the White Star tender/tug Magnetic (1891) in attendance. Credit: Merseyside Maritime Museum.

With the arrival of the peak summer travel season, Laurentic's 7 July 1928 sailing for Liverpool had her best list to date: 303 Cabin, 315 Tourist Third and 140 Third Class, including some large tourist agency parties and one sponsored by the CNR.  She had fast trip over, too, and departing at daybreak on the 7th, she was alongside at Liverpool at 12:30 p.m. on the 14th. Logging 6 days 2 hours 35 mins, it beat her best previous time by 10 hours. 

With her reciprocating engines now fully run in, Laurentic began to put in fine passages.  Leaving Liverpool on 21 July 1928, she had 199 Cabin, 174 Tourist Third and 386 Third, in the later class were 15 domestics, 30 farm workmen travelling under the Empire Settlement Scheme, and 163 agriculturalists sponsored by the CNR.  Passing Father Point at 7:30 p.m. on the 27th, she arrived at Quebec early the following morning, landing her Third Class, and proceeding to Montreal where she came in the evening of the 28th.  Quite a few Australasians were aboard, returning home, via The All Red Route, and travelling on to Vancouver by train and thence to the Antipodes in Canadian Australasian's  Aorangi or Niagara.  

When Laurentic left Montreal on 4 August, among her 111 Cabin Class were Major General Sir Charles, Sirdar of Egypt, and Hon. J.R. Douglas, ex-Governor General of Nova Scotia.  Outbound in the St. Lawrence, in Lake St. Peter, she collided with the Italian freighter Artena which impacted with Laurentic on her starboardside bows, damaging plates and tearing off rails for a distance of some 30 ft. in the glancing blow.  The freighter, outbound from Philadelphia to Montreal to load grain for Europe. The incident occurred at 2:30 p.m. on the 4th as the two ships passed curve no. 3 in Lake St. Peter and both were under the command of pilots (Alberic Anger aboard Laurentic and Tancrede Perron aboard the Artena). Artena was able to proceed to Montreal where she arrived on the 6th and Laurentic continued on her voyage, suffering only a slightly bent rail on her starboard quarter.

Having claimed to have introduced Tourist Third Cabin to the North Atlantic in 1924, White Star on 14 August 1928 announced it would extend the class to cruises, starting with two Mediterranean cruises from New York in Adriatic on 10 January and 28 February 1929 and two aboard Laurentic departing 19 January and 9 March calling at Madeira, Gibraltar, Algiers, Monaco, Naples, Athens, Constantinople, Haifa, Alexandria and Syracuse. 

On her most publicised voyage since entering service, at least in Canadian papers, Laurentic sailed from Liverpool 17 August 1928 at 6:00 p.m. for Montreal numbering among her 409 Cabin, 374 Tourist Third and 456 Third Class passengers, many of the Dominion's returning Olympic team members, 26 in all, including scullers Joe Wright, Jr., and Jack Guest, who were defeated in the final of the Olympic doubles by the United States, and Bobby Kerr, Canadian track champion. Most of the women's team was aboard as well. Among those in Third Class were 405 harvesters and overall, it was Laurentic's best list to date. 

The Laurentic had a smooth passage, with the result that the Olympians and other passengers enjoyed the life on board with zest. One unrehearsed entertainment will long remain in the minds of the athletes and a number of other passengers 

During the bridge tournament, organized on Friday night after the Laurentic left Father Point, the owner of a piano accordion In the tourist third cabin, appeared on the lower deck playing popular airs. He was more than ordinarily skilful, and before long a crowd of Olympic athletes and other passengers, clad In evening dress, came out on the upper deck to hear the unidentified musician. His skill and versatility astounded all listeners. With easy grace he switched from 'The British Grenadiers' to the latest fox trot and then to 'On the Road to Mandalay.' The people on the upper deck applauded and insistently called for more. He played on. The peaceful strains of 'Barcarolle' eddied through the air and, although a fine rain started to fall, the player continued undaunted because of pleasure he gave his listeners.

The Gazette, 27 August 1928

After landing her Third Class passengers at Quebec  the morning of 25 August 1928, Laurentic had a good trip up river to Montreal where she docked at 10:00 p.m. 

Hundreds of people thronged the wharf and harbor sheds on Saturday night to give a rousing reception to the first contingent of the Canadian Olympic team, and officials, when they arrived at 10 o'clock aboard the White Star liner Laurentic, fresh from their triumphs at Amsterdam, and at the British games In England and Ireland which followed. 

The Greeks of old, who won honors at the Olympiads, were never acclaimed more vociferously; and while they may have been crowned with laurel wreaths emblematic of notable victories they did not receive more adulation than the Canadians, who 'put Canada on the map' in an athletic sense. As the Laurentic, brilliantly lighted, came around the bend with the grace of a yacht, there was a scramble to pick-out the various members. Some immediately recognized Joe Wright, Jr., winner of the Diamond Sculls at Henley, and roared their welcome to 'young Joe' as he is generally called.

The Gazette, 27 August 1928.

Credit: Calgary Herald, 6 September 1928.

Mayor Camillien House and Madame House were on the dock as well as Alderman Louis Rubenstein, a veteran Montreal sportsman himself, White Star's Major P.A. Curry and others welcomed the ship and the team members arrival. Even at that late hour, customs officials examined 4,000 pieces of baggage and under the direction of C.E. Killoran, "all who wanted were able to connect with the CNR late trains for the west." A prominent Yorkshire textile executive, marvelling at the efficiency of Canadian customs, told a reporter that he walked off the gangway at 10:19 p.m. and at 10:38 p.m. was booking his room at the Queen's Hotel. 

During the ship's Montreal turnaround, the R.M.S. Laurentic Social and Athletic Club field day was held at the Canadian National Recreation Club at Lachine. 

Departing Montreal at 5:30 a.m. on 1 September 1928, with 72 Cabin, 93 Tourist Third and 50 Third Class, Laurentic put in another fast passage, docking at Liverpool at 11:30 a.m. on the 8th.  She was one of a remarkable nine ships handled by White Star shore staff in 48 hours as described by the Liverpool Daily Post (10 September 1928):

During week-end White Star Line Liverpool dealt with ships inward and outward, a total  of 133,700 tons in forty-eight hours were the Regina for Quebec and Montreal Friday afternoon and the Fairoa arriving in the Mersey. On Saturday, Cedric left for Boston and York and Delphic sailed for Australia with cargo next the Laurentic came in from Montreal and Quebec and shortly the Suevic arrived. On Sunday the Themistocles, Adriatic, Moreton Bay alongside the last-named from ports in Australia with 260 passengers.

Log Abstract for Laurentic's westbound September 1928 crossing from Liverpool, Belfast and Glasgow. Credit: eBay auction photo. 

Clearing the Mersey on 14 September 1928, with 295 Cabin, 225 Tourist Third and 183 Third Class, Laurentic, despite head winds and quite rough weather across, did the crossing to Father Point in exactly six days at 16.43 knots average.  She got into Montreal  on the 22nd just in time for passengers to make the late trains for the West. Among those landing at Quebec was the Welsh Imperial Singers, starting a tour of the Maritimes, and at Montreal, the Stratford-upon-Avon Festival company starting their Canadian engagement. 

A long and at times quite contentious investigation into the 4 August 1928 collision between Laurentic and Artena was concluded in Ottawa on 22 September that absolved the pilots of both ships of blame and ascribed the cause of the accident to a temporary failure of  Artena's steering gear. 

Credit: The Montreal Star, 12 September 1928.

In her first detour from her established route, Laurentic called eastbound at St. John's, Newfoundland, from Montreal en route to Liverpool on 29 September 1928.  This was to embark a party of 56 British schoolboys returning from their visit of the North American Dominions, under the School Empire Tours Committee.  They had arrived in Canada on 10 August in Calgaric.  The Newfoundland call was extensively promoted by White Star as a mini cruise for Montrealers who could sail to St. John's and return via the regular Red Cross or Clark Steamship Co. services and enjoy rare "big ship" services at least one-way. 

Credit: Liverpool Daily Post, 8 October 1928.

Laurentic sailed at daybreak on 29 September 1928 with 87 Cabin, 104 Tourist Third and 160 Third Class. She arrived at St. John's on the 3rd, sailing the same day for Liverpool. It proved a stormy crossing amidst a wide-ranging and severe gale in the North Atlantic and expected to be alongside the Landing Stage at 2:00 p.m. on 7 October, Laurentic did not even appear in the Mersey until 4:00 p.m., those waiting for her doing so in heavy rain. 

Her schoolboys, from Eton, Harrow, Ruby, Charterhouse and other public schools, relished the stormy passage as one related to the Liverpool Daily Post: "Although several of the chaps were pretty bad, I think the majority of us enjoyed it. The tossing about added a bit of zest to a return journey which otherwise have been very tame." "The visit proved that there is great unity of sentiment in our Empire," said Rev. G. Wooley who lead the group, but according to The Western Press, the boys had more than Imperial Progress on their minds: "All the girls out in Canada are much younger than what they look. This is because they commence to paint and powder when they are still at college. They are very nice to go out with for a day, but I wouldn't like to marry any of them. Now the girls in Newfoundland, they're fresh. They've got that schoolgirl complexion without visiting the chemist. I could marry them all."

Credit: The Gazette, 2 October 1928.

Releasing their 1929 Canadian schedule on 1 October 1928, White Star offered 46 sailings from Montreal to Liverpool, Belfast, Glasgow, Southampton, Le Havre and London, with 30 to Liverpool via intermediate ports and 16 to the Channel ports.  For 1929, there was a considerable increase in Glasgow calls, 17 eastbound and 29 westbound to maintain a weekly service from the Clyde to Montreal, directly competing with Donaldson Line on the route. Laurentic, Regina, Doric and Calgaric would be Mersey-based and Albertic and Megantic from the Channel ports. 

"Maintaining her reputation for carrying large numbers of passengers on each trip during this, her first season on the St. Lawrence, " (Montreal Star), Laurentic which left Liverpool on 12 October 1928, had 114 Cabin, 125 Tourist and 174 Third Class aboard when she cleared Glasgow on the 14th and docked at Montreal the evening of the 21st, having landed her Third Class passengers earlier that day at Quebec, the majority of whom were women and children settlers.  Wolfe's Cove also accommodated the incoming Andania and Volendam that day.  

Credit: The Winnipeg Tribune, 16 November 1928.

With the harvest done, big bookings by returning harvesters, eager to be home by Christmas, were reported by White Star Line on 23 October 1928 with heavy demand for Laurentic's 24 November sailing from Montreal. A special trains were laid on from Winnipeg, departing the 22nd to connect with the ship's sailing from Montreal, the last that season, before the river was closed to navigation.

Laurentic would close out White Star's 1928 St. Lawrence season with her sailing from Liverpool on 9 November. After calling at Glasgow, her passenger list showed 54 Cabin, 97 Tourist Third and 326 Third Class, and among them was the great Canadian medical scientist and physician  Dr. F.G. Banting (1891-1941), co-discover of Insulin. Among the large number of Third Class was a party of farm workers sponsored by the CNR, 53 under the auspices of the British Dominions Emigration Society and 13 under the Ontario Government settlement scheme.  Laurentic docked at Montreal at 7:40 p.m. on the 18th. She reported snow in the St. Lawrence River as the season was truly drawing to its close. 

Ending what had been an exemplary and eventful first year on the Canadian Run, Laurentic sailed from Montreal at daybreak on 24 November 1928 for Belfast, Glasgow and Liverpool with 71 Cabin, 134 Tourist Third and 391 Third Class passengers. She also had seven stowaways who surrendered themselves to officers-- two of them haven hidden in a lifeboat and others in the stokehold-- and they were fined 40 s. in Liverpool court.

Credit: Liverpool Post and Mercury, 20 December 1928.

Laurentic would undergo her annual overhaul before sailing to New York and in Gladstone Dock, she was joined by the CPR liner Montrose in Brocklebank Dock, Middlesex in Canada Dock and Lancashire in Birkenhead Dock. 

In 1928

R.M.S. Laurentic completed

8½ voyages Liverpool-New York/Halifax or Montreal carrying
Westbound  5,598 passengers (1,470 Cabin, 1,581 Tourist Third and 2,547 Third Class) 
Eastbound 3,550 passengers (1,169 Cabin, 1,131 Tourist Third and 1,250 Third Class)
2 Mediterranean cruises from New York carrying 709 passengers

Laurentic sails from Boston on 20 January 1929 on her Mediterranean cruise. Credit: William B. Taylor photograph, Mariners' Museum.


Starting her year coming out of Gladstone Dock after drydocking, Laurentic was stored and provisioned for her upcoming winter Mediterranean cruises.  According to the Liverpool Daily Post (4 January 1929) this included 53,000 napkins among a total of 100,800 pieces of linen. An innovation in her manning was introduced that year in the employment of three stewards with "a conversational knowledge of French" for the line's French Canadian passengers.

Laurentic sailed from Liverpool for Belfast, Halifax and New York on 5 January 1929. Among her passengers was the first group of juvenile immigrants for Canada as well as another party sailing the same day in Antonia. Some of the lads were the sons of unemployed miners in Northern England and four were already miners. All had completed an intensive course in farming at the Walker Hostel, Newcastle-on-Tyne and had a job waiting for them in Eastern Canada.  One hundred in Third Class were coming out under the new  £10 settlement rate, the first do so. Laurentic landed 28 Cabin, 26 Tourist Third and 156 Third Class and 600 tons of cargo at Halifax on the 14th and upon arrival at New York the following day, 65 Cabin, 21 Tourist Third and 85 Third Class.  

With 218 Cabin and 154 Tourist Third passengers, Laurentic left New York on 19 January 1929 on her first 46-day cruise to the Mediterranean, calling at Boston, Madeira, Gibraltrar, Algiers, Monaco, Naples, Athens, Constantinople, Haifa, Alexandria, Syracuse, Naples, Monaco and Gibraltar. The cruise cost cost $695 and up in Cabin and $395 in Tourist Third. As the previous year, a call was made at Boston the following day to embark about 100 more passengers.  She was the first cruise ship to sail from the port that winter and left Commonweath Pier at 2:00 p.m. Among those embarking was a guest of IMM, Capt. John H. Berry, the recently retired marine superintendent in Boston and former commander of Canopic, and his wife.  Laurentic's purser on this trip was J.T. Cummings, formerly of the now abandoned Celtic which had run aground on Daunt's Rock, Queenstown. 

Laurentic sails from Boston, 20 January 1929 for the Mediterranean. Credit: William B. Taylor photograph, Mariners' Museum.

Laurentic had a rather rough passage to Madeira where she arrived on 26 January 1929, doing the passage from Boston in 6 days 16 hours 11 mins at an average of 16.181 knots and maintained an impressive 17.16 knots to Gibraltar, reached on the 29th.  After calling at Algiers, she called at Monaco on 2 February and reached Naples on the 4th.  Subsequent stops were made at Phaleron Bay (for Athens) on the 6th, Haifa on the 11th, Alexandria (16), Naples (20), Monaco (23) and when she returned to New York on 6 March, she had 118 Cabin and 134 Tourist Third passengers still aboard, the others choosing to extend their stay in Europe and return by another White Star liner. 

An ice-coated Laurentic at Boston's Commonwealth pier 10 March 1929, anxious to be off to the warmer Mediterranean. Credit: William B. Taylor photograph, Mariners' Museum.

Laurentic departed New York on her second Mediterranean cruise on 9 March 1929 with 294 Cabin and 107 Tourist Third passengers. As with the first cruise, a call was made at Boston the following day where 38 Cabin and 19 Tourist Class passengers embarked, including the former Governor of Vermont, Redfield Proctor and his family.  The itinerary was identical to the first cruise: Funchal, Madeira on the 17th, Gibraltar (19), Algiers (21), Monaco (24), Athens (27), Alexandria (27-28), Constantinople (28-29), Naples (10 April), etc. but the cruise ended  at Southampton on the 19th where passengers could transfer to the next White Star sailing to New York or take a later one.  Laurentic was drydocked at Liverpool in preparation for her second Canadian season.  

Laurentic approaching Boston Harbor, 10 March 1929. Credit: William B. Taylor photograph, Mariners' Museum.

The Liverpool Post of 27 April 1929 reported that "Bill Mack, who is well known at the Liverpool Stadium, and is the ex-welter-weight champion of Europe, sailed with the White Star liner Laurentic yesterday, as gymnasium instructor." Laurentic left Liverpool on the 26th and following her calls at Belfast and Glasgow, had 105 Cabin, 184 Tourist and 710 Third Class and 1,680 tons of cargo.  Her Third Class list was a record for the ship, swelled by 109 young men sponsored by the Ministry of Labour Training Scheme.  She docked at Montreal on 5 May.  On her first departure of the season on the 11th, Laurentic had 136 Cabin, 100 Tourist Third and 62 Third Class passengers aboard. She reached the Mersey on the 18th. The Hull Daily Mail on the 20th   noted that she arrived with three saloon cars which were quickly slung ashore on the landing stage and "within less than half an hours… three parties of Canadian travellers were driving away."

White Star developed quite different graphics for their respective Canadian (left) and British (right) market advertising. Credit: Toronto Star (left) and Daily Telegraph (right)

New that season for White Star's Mersey-based fleet was the provision of a permanent fireproof cinema projector room to show films in the Cabin lounge. This was introduced aboard Adriatic and Laurentic would soon be similarily fitted, the Southampton ships already having this feature. 

It was announced on 29 May 1929 that on her 8 June crossing from Montreal to Liverpool, Laurentic would now additionally call at Belfast en route. She arrived at Montreal on 2 June with 72 Cabin, 133 Tourist and 611 Third Class, where the latter passengers were landed that morning at Quebec, some being described by the Toronto Star as "splendid types of British settlers," which led its story: "A gray red-tailed parrot, a pretty black-eyed Jewish girl, a chubby pink seven weeks' old baby, a professional golfer, and an elderly Irish preacher added color to the picturesqueness and human color of the arrival of approximately 400 Laurentic and Andania immigrants from Great Britain and the continent." During the crossing over, held during the national elections in Britain, a mock vote was held aboard resulting in "Conservatives with a sweeping majority of the passengers who attended the polls; Liberals polling a small second; and Labour falling to the small number of nine." (Gazette, 3 June 1929).

Log abstract card from Laurentic's 8 June 1929 crossing from Montreal to Liverpool via Quebec and Belfast. Credit: eBay auction photo. 

Among the 269 Cabin, 408 Tourist Third and 144 Third Class passengers sailing from Montreal in Laurentic on 8 June 1929 were some of Canada's top scullers, including Joe Wright, Jr., holder of the Diamond Sculls trophy, and an eight from the Toronto Argonaut Rowing Club, en route to matches at Henley. There was also a party of 200 Lutherans off on a tour of Europe before attending the Lutheran Convention in Copenhagen.  Laurentic arrived at Liverpool on the 16th, landing 834 passengers and nine motorcars whose owners were off on their way within two hours of landing.   Just as expeditiously processed with four young men who were stowaways and taken into custody and to appear in court the following day. 

A popular day's outing was a visit to the Liverpool docks and the chance to board one of the big liners and on 19 June 1929, the LNER conveyed some 500 people to the port, a group from Lincoln visiting Laconia and 700 from Bolton and Wigan who toured Albertic and Laurentic in Gladstone Dock. 

It was a Dominion Day arrival in Canada for Laurentic which left Liverpool on 21 June 1929, arriving at Quebec and Montreal on 1 July. She came over with 83 Cabin, 124 Tourist Third and 464 Third and was not alone with she,  Duchess of Atholl, Minnedosa, Andania and Ascania landing more than 900 settlers that weekend. It was a peak season compliment of vacationers, organised tour groups and a party of Canadian schoolboys making up the 253 Cabin, 325 Tourist Third and 325 Third Class for Laurentic's sailing from Montreal on the 6th. When she arrived at Liverpool, it was found that the ship's registered mail consignment had been rifled and one bag missing, part of a lot that had been flown from Montreal to Rimouski and put aboard when she dropped the pilot. In all 126 pieces were missing. Scotland Yard began an immediate investigation which led nowhere, but it was later ascertained that none of the missing items contained any large amount of money or valuable articles. 

White Star Canadian Service advertisements for the British market featured striking graphics.  Credit: The Daily Telegraph, 9 July 1929.

By the time Laurentic cleared Glasgow at 9:30 p.m. on 20 July 1929, coming from Liverpool and Belfast, she had 123 Cabin, 163 Tourist Cabin and 548 Third Class passengers for Quebec and Montreal where she docked on the 27th. Homewards on 3 August, she was lightly booked with 89 Cabin, 74 Tourist Third and 58 Third. 

White Star announced on 7 August 1929 the winter cruise programme for Laurentic and Adriatic which was again to consist of each undertaking two 46-day Mediterranean cruises from New York on 9 January and 27 February 1930 with Cabin and Tourist Third Class accommodation offered. 

On 14 August 1929 Laurentic and Albertic were thronged by 1,000 excursionists from Manchester whilst lying at Gladstone Dock, Liverpool, on an LNER tour in two special trains. 

Credit: The Toronto Star, 5 September 1929.

Boy immigrants continued to come out to Canada and over 16-18 August 1929 a total of 66 departed: 29 leaving Liverpool and Glasgow in Laurentic, 15 in Andania from Liverpool and Belfast and others in Ascania from Southampton. Laurentic left Liverpool on the 16th and after calling at Belfast and Glasgow, had a good list of 324 Cabin, 355 Tourist Third, 434 Third aboard.  Among those aboard were five apprentice grocers, students of the Institute of Certificated Grocers, accompanied by the secretary, Mr C. L. T. Beeching,  on a tour which will last three weeks, having won travelling scholarships offered by the Department of Trade and Commerce of Canada, the tour giving the youths an opportunity of seeing first hand the different centres of food production Canada. Laurentic arrived Montreal on the 24th.  Before she sailed for home, Laurentic hosted a dinner for American newspapermen who had been part of a group who had travelled to Toronto in the new Canadian National oil-electric locomotive no. 9000 and the group addressed by Leo S. Tobin, passenger manager of White Star Canadian Services. 

On 31 August 1929 for the first time in years, three liners sailed from Montreal: Duchess of Richmond, Minnedosa and LaurenticDuchess of Richmond was making her first eastbound trip from the port. Laurentic had 54 Cabin, 75 Tourist Third, 57 Third aboard and eastbound carryings continued to lag behind westbound.  She was in the Irish Sea on 6 September to mark the Diamond Jubilee of the Oceanic Steam Navigation Co., Ltd., which had been founded on 6 September 1869 by Mr. Thomas Henry Ismay and grown to their present fleet of 24 ships totalling some 440,000 grt. Laurentic arrived at Liverpool on 7 September.

Laurentic in the Mersey. Credit: eBay auction photo.

Laurentic left from Liverpool on 13 September 1929 and after calling at Belfast and Glasgow, had 159 Cabin, 147 Tourist Third and 275 Third Class passengers including Col. Maurice Alexander, of the British diplomatic service, who was to be guest at the Governor-General, Government House, Ottawa. Laurentic arrived at Montreal just before midnight on the 21st.  On her return crossing to Liverpool beginning the 28th, she numbered only 37 Cabin, 40 Tourist Third and 78 Third Class in her passenger list. Coming into Liverpool on 5 October at 11:00 a.m., she logged the second fastest eastbound crossing of her career to date, with a sea crossing of 6 days 4 hours or only 65 minutes short of her record.

Among the settler families emigrating to Canada aboard Laurentic from Liverpool on 11 October 1929 were two, totalling 15 persons between them, from Rhos, near Wrexham, Wales.  One, a motor mechanic was taking his wife and seven children to the mining district of Windsor, Ont..   When Capt. E.L. Trant brought Laurentic into Montreal on the 20th, landing 97 Cabin, 198 Tourist Third and 454 Third Class passengers, he was afforded another in port reunion with his brother, Capt. A.W.V. Trant who had just arrived from Avonmouth in the Leyland Line freighter Nessian. The two ships berths  directly in line with on another at Shed 4. During her Montreal layover, Laurentic's officers hosted an informal dance aboard the night of the 23rd to which their many friends in the port were invited on this, her penultimate call there that season. 

Credit: The Gazette, 26 October 1929.

Honoured guests of White Star were Canadian Victoria Cross holders from the Great War going over for H.R.H. Prince of Wales' speech at the British Legion in London on Armistice Day 1929 headed Laurentic's passenger list on her 26 October 1929, which comprised 45 Cabin, 67 Tourist Cabin and 138 Third Class.  The V.C. passengers were T.W. Holmes, VC,  of Owen Sound; W. Merrified, VC, of Sault Saint Marie; C.J. Kinross, VC, of Loughhead, Aberta; W.L. Rayfield , VC, of Pontypool, Ontario, and H.H. Robson, VC,  of Toronto, and White Star provided them with free passage out and back .  The evening before sailing at daybreak the following day, Sir Arthur Currie and Brig.-General W.B. King, DSO, came aboard Laurentic to meet the four  V.C. holders sailing from Montreal with the fifth, Pte. C.J. Kinross, embarking at Quebec.

Although scheduled to make one more voyage to Montreal, departing 8 November 1929, this was cancelled. Whilst at Liverpool on Armistice Day, Laurentic, lying in Gladstone Dock, was honoured to signal the three-minute silence at 11:00 a.m. by the sounding of her whistle. 

In 1929

R.M.S. Laurentic completed

8½ voyages Liverpool-New York/Halifax or Montreal carrying
Westbound  6,144 passengers (1,056 Cabin, 1,351 Tourist Third and 3,737 Third Class) 
Eastbound 2,613 passengers (883 Cabin, 1,084 Tourist Third and 641 Third Class)
2 Mediterranean cruises from New York/Boston carrying 947 passengers (645 Cabin and 302 Tourist).

Laurentic at Boston. Credit: William B. Taylor photograph, Mariners' Museum.

Credit: eBay auction photo.


Before sailing for New York and take up her winter cruising programme, Laurentic's smoking rooms would be well-stocked for Prohibition parched Americans and she took aboard 21,940 bottles of beer, 1,200 gallons of lager, 9,240 bottles of stout, 1,400 bottles of whisky, 400 bottles of gin as well as 3,350 cigars, 25,000 cigarettes in tins and 28,500 in packets and 1,600 lbs of tobacco.

Credit: The Pittsburgh Press, 5 January 1930.

When Laurentic (Capt. J.B. Bulman) sailed on 28 December 1929 from Liverpool, she would not return to her home port until late March after steaming 23,000 miles.  Arriving at New York on 6 January 1930, she landed 71 Cabin, 21 Tourist Third and 39 Third Class passengers and unlike previous years, came in direct with no intermediate call at Halifax but stopped en route at Queenstown instead.

Credit: The Pittsburgh Press 5 January 1930.

This season, too, there would be intermediate call at Boston to embark passengers for her cruises, although Adriatic would do so for her two trips. Laurentic sailed from Pier 59 North River on 9 January 1930 having a pretty light list of 186 Cabin and 79 Tourist Third for the trip.  One of the passengers, "Chicago's champion alimony payer," Gordon C. Thorne, was off on his honeymoon with his fourth wife, having paid, to date, $2 mn. in alimony payments to the first three.  

Cover of White Star's 1930 brochure. Credit: eBay auction photo.

Credit: eBay auction photo.

Laurentic's itinerary was the same as previous seasons with calls at Funchal (17 January 1930), Gibraltar (19), Algiers (21), Monaco (23), Naples (25), Constantinople (28), Haifa (1 February), Alexandria (2-8), Naples (10-12), Monaco (13), Gibraltar (15) and returning to New York on the 24th. Her second cruise, commencing on 27 February attracted 223 Cabin and 140 Tourist Third passengers.  This called at Madeira (7 March), Gibraltar (8), Algiers, Monaco (13), Naples (15), Athens (17), Constantinople (18), Haifa (22), Alexandria,  Naples (31 March-2 April), Monaco (3), Gibraltar (5) and arriving at Southampton on the 9th. Laurentic arrived back at Liverpool at 3:00 p.m. on the 10th. 

Laurentic at Monaco. Credit: The Los Angeles Times, 19 August 1935.

As announced on 7 March 1930, Laurentic would lose Capt. E.L. Trant to the new Britannic entering service on 28 June, and relinquish command of Laurentic when she arrived at Liverpool on 9 April. Replacing him would be Capt. J.B. Bulman, formerly commanding Arabic, who had first joined White Star in 1899 and assuming his first command in 1921 of Tropic.  In addition to Capt. Bulman, Laurentic's principal officers that season were Chief Officer J. Evans, First Officer A. Tyrer, Second Officer F.M. Murphy, Surgeon L.H. Woods, Purser B.O. Bartlett, Chief Steward F. Carrol, Asst. Purser W.L. Green and Chief Engineer D. Horsburgh.

Opening White Star's 1930 season, Laurentic sailed from the Mersey on 19 April.   She carried the first three families to Canada under White Star new Cottage Scheme and a number of boys going out to work on farms.  After calling at Belfast and Glasgow, there were 60 Cabin and 637 Third Class aboard, demand for the latter meaning that no Tourist Third being accommodated this trip. 

Credit: The Montreal Daily Star, 29 April 1930.

Unusually, Laurentic and Calgaric (from Southampton and Channel ports) sailed on the same day but Laurentic beat her into Quebec by a day, docking there on the 27th with Donaldson's Athenia, the first arrivals of the season.  Laurentic arrived at Montreal at 1:30 p.m. on the 28th and Calgaric at 9:00 p.m. after calling at Quebec that morning, with the former at Shed 4 and the latter at Shed 6. Capt. J.B. Bulman said Laurentic "made an excellent passage."

Sailing a day after Calgaric, Laurentic left Montreal at daybreak on 3 May 1930 with 84 Cabin, 88 Tourist Third and 84 Third Class passengers, among whom were three different Toronto Star organised tour parties, a Sons of Scotland group and four other groups as well as Capt. A.J. Gilbert and three officers of Canadian National Steamships.  Sadly, a passenger, Toronto architect Edward Shelton, aged 47, who had been ill for some time, required an urgent operation aboard and although successfully carried out, he died a few hours later and buried at sea.  Laurentic docked at Liverpool on the 11th. 

Credit: The Toronto Daily Star, 21 May 1930.

Unusually, both Laurentic and Calgaric sailed again in tandem from England and would make another arrival in Canada before the month of May was out.  Laurentic left Liverpool on 16 May 1930 and Belfast and Glasgow the following day with 51 Cabin, 80 Tourist Third and 263 Third Class passengers.  Duchess of Bedford, also bound for Montreal, sailed from Liverpool about two hours after Laurentic. Laurentic, commanded by Capt. F.A. Frank on this trip, put in a capital passage, making a record run between Father Point and Montreal, docking there at 9:00 a.m. on the 27th exactly one day after picking up the pilot at Father Point, including a stop of two hours near Long Point, 15 miles below Montreal, and a three-hour call at Quebec.  Joined the following day by Calgaric, both ships had their colours lowered to half mast on the 28th out of respect of the death of White Star Commodore William Marshall, born in 1873 and with the company since 1899.  

Now a firm regular with the ship, Canadian sculling champion, Joe Wright, and his new bride, was among those sailing in Laurentic on 31 May 1930, and bound for the Diamond Scull race at Henley. Also aboard was the co-discoverer of insulin (with Dr. Banting), Dr. J.B. Collip of McGill University, and his family. In all, she had 120 Cabin, 321 Tourist Third and 139 Third Class aboard. When she arrived at Liverpool the morning of 8 June, Laurentic had completed the fastest crossing of her career to date, logging 6 days 4 hours 42 mins from Rimouski to Mersey Bar.

Credit: The Ocean Ferry.

The Laurentic which is engaged on the Canadian service of the While Star Company is an 18,724 ton ship with accommodation for cabin tourist third cabin and third class passengers. It was a revelation to many of the visitors to see the comfortable and even luxurious surroundings provided in a modern steamship for the most humble passenger. A feature of the visit was the arrangements for tea which enabled many of the party to take this meal in apartments away from the main saloon not usually open to the public except for a passing inspection.

The result was sometimes rather comic. An early tea party assembled in the cabin card room had a constant stream of other members of the party filing past the entrance and overheard more than one ask the accompanying steward 'Who are they?' ' Where are they going? Are they going to Canada ?' It may have been the distinguished appearance of one of the party who holds an important railway appointment but it is certain that more than one of the passing visitors thought who were a group of the captain's personal friends.

Leicester Mercury, 12 June 1930.

The Leicester Mercury organised two day trips to Liverpool to see the Mersey docks and visit a White Star liner, that on 5 June 1930 would visit Arabic and on the 11th, Laurentic, with tea aboard. A new station on the Liverpool Overhead Railway was opened on the 16th, named Gladstone, and located between Alexandra and Gladstone Docks to the delight and convenience of ship lovers and photographers as well as dock workers and crew members. To inaugurate the station over the Whitsun holiday, passes were issued to see Laurentic in Gladstone Dock and for 1 s. also visit the magnificent new CPR liner Empress of Japan.

Laurentic and Duchess of Richmond remained a matched pair that season, the two departing Prince's Landing Stage, Liverpool, within two and a half hours of one another on 13 June 1930. The White Star liner's passenger list-- 121 Cabin, 67 Tourist Third and 213 Third Class-- including 65 French-Canadians, including a large number of priests, returning from the Eucharistic Congress at Carthage who occasioned "one of the biggest crowds that have ever greeted an ocean liner arriving at a Canadian port," when Laurentic came into Quebec on the 21st.  She docked at Montreal the following morning. 

Credit: The Toronto Daily Star, 25 June 1930.

At peak summer travel season, Laurentic sailed from Montreal on 28 June 1930 with more groups of organised travellers than any White Star liner that year.  There were some 40-50 different parties, numbering from half a dozen to 150, and it was a trade that the company had very successfully nurtured with 150 groups alone in June.  Given the nature of her trade on this trip, Laurentic went out with 422 Cabin Class and 577 in Tourist Third, a record for the latter class, no Third Class being carried,and she skipped her usual calls at Belfast and Glasgow to permit a fast "Liverpool direct" sailing.   It capped a wonderful week for Canadian Atlantic liners with the departure of seven ships carrying between them almost 6,000 passengers topped  by the departure of the new Empress of Japan on the return portion of her unique trans-Atlantic roundtrip before entering the trans-Pacific trade.  And it proved a splendid, record crossing for Laurentic which docked at Prince's Landing Stage on 5 July after the fastest eastbound trip to date: 5 days 21 hours 15 mins. from Father Point.  She arrived with Duchess of Richmond and Athenia, all from Canada and landing some 3,000 passengers between them; the 1,301 aboard Duchess of Richmond being the largest number in one vessel from Canada since the war. 

Glass lantern slide by J.H. Williams of Laurentic, assisted by Magnetic, at Liverpool's Prince's Landing Stage, c. 1930. Credit: Merseyside Maritime Museum.

The effects of the Depression arising from the Stock Market Crash the previous autumn were gradual and manifested itself incrementally in the passenger steamship trade. White Star's Tourist Third Cabin trade increased greatly for awhile, offset by a steep decline in Cabin Class demand and with a general retrenchment of Canada's immigrant schemes, Third Class traffic was soon impacted. Cruising, which had experienced a veritable explosive expansion in "The Roaring Twenties," in particular the long voyages to the Mediterranean and round the world, was already off the boil by 1929 and from 1930 onwards, these luxury "once in a lifetime" trips were out of reach of the upper middle class and even once wealthy individuals.  Of course, a wholly different character-- in price, duration, destination and market-- of cruising would be quickly spurred by the Depression, but for the time being, White Star, like other lines, curtailed their traditional offerings. 

Brochures for the proposed Frank C. Clark Mediterranean cruise in Laurentic in January 1931 that never took place. Credit: eBay auction photos.

So it was that White Star had decided by March 1930, whilst the ship was still on her second such trip that year,  not to dispatch Laurentic on any more long Mediterranean cruises and, instead, secured a full ship charter for the ship from the famous and pioneering firm of Frank C. Clark, for what would be their 27th Mediterranean cruise, from New York on 31 January 1931.  Clark's had made history with the first cruise charter of the then biggest ship in the world, White Star's Celtic, to the Mediterranean in February 1902 and their subsequent extensive use of Arabic for the same purpose which directly led to White Star entering the cruise business themselves. Advertisements for Clark's 58-day Laurentic cruise began to appear in June 1930. 

Valentine photo postcard of Laurentic off Prince's Landing Stage, Liverpool. Credit: author's collection.

Laurentic, which sailed 11 July 1930, from Liverpool, and after calling at Belfast and Glasgow, numbered 101 Cabin, 150 Tourist Third and 182 Third Class aboard, including the returning sculler Joe Wright, Jr, who was unsuccessful in his quest for the Diamond Sculls at Henley, arrived at Montreal on the 19th. During that weekend, 2,500 travellers in seven vessels docked at Quebec including Duchess of Richmond, Empress of Australia, Ascania, Koeln and Laurentic

During her layover at Montreal on 23 July 1930, member of the Province of Quebec Safety League were given a demonstration of manning and lowering of Laurentic's boats and entertained to lunch. 

After lunch the party proceeded to the top deck of the ship, where the boat drill was given. The boat used was number 3. It was explained that she was the emergency, boat usually used to rescue persons who had fallen overboard. Manned bv a crew of six men, under H. G. Williams, and assisted by S. M. Arthur, wireless operator, the men went to their task. In a few minutes the boat had been lowered gently into the St. Lawrence river and the oars, which in this case happened to be vertical levers with direct action on a propeller, were manned. As the boat was moved quickly away from the side of the ship radio operator set his wireless up in readiness to work. 

The boat has a capacity of thirty-six passengers and the radio hag a radius of 250 miles. It carries an aerial, which is speedily placed in position. It has the regulation water cash and provision lockers and carries oars in addition to the propeller.

For a few minutes the boat circled around the basin about Alexandra pier and then came alongside. A few moments more and she was back on the davits and in position with everything stowed away, ready for any emergency.. The speed with which the entire procedure was carried out, was favorably commented upon by the members of the Safety League.

The Gazette, 24 July 1930.

With 59 Cabin, 89 Tourist Third and 89 Third Class passengers, Laurentic left Montreal on 26 July 1930. The crossing was enlivened when on the 30th she was in wireless contact with Britain's new airship R-100 on her first trans-Atlantic flight to Canada when 2,400 miles from Montreal. Laurentic arrived at Liverpool on 2 August.  The 230 passengers she landed there were part of the 3,700 White Star handled at Liverpool and Southampton that Bank Holiday weekend: 1 August Adriatic from Liverpool on cruise to Atlantic isles with 474 and Albertic to Canada with 600; 2 August Britannic from Liverpool to New York with 1,000 and Homeric arrived Southampton with 423 and Calgaric left there on a cruise to Norway with 385; and 3 August, Laurentic landing 230 at Liverpool and Baltic arriving from New York with over 600. 

Credit: The Ocean Ferry.

Sailing from Liverpool on 8 August 1930, whilst in the Belle Isle Strait, Laurentic had another encounter with the R-100, this time more immediate, as the giant airship, now on her return flight, passed over the liner at 10:20 a.m. on the 14th in clear weather. Capt. Binks dipped Laurentic's ensign and sounds a whistle salute. She was among six liners arriving at Quebec on the weekend of the 16-17th with 3,982 passengers, the others being Duchess of Bedford, Empress of Scotland, Montclare and Athenia. Laurentic contributed 239 Cabin, 333 Tourist Third and 149 Third Class.  All they wanted to talk about was seeing the R-100 and passengers said there had been a run on ship's darkroom facility to develop their snaps of the airship. 

Homewards from Montreal on  23 August 1930, Laurentic took out 56 Cabin, 68 Tourist Third and 47 Third Class passengers,  among them 26 members of the crew of the Dominion Coal Co.'s steamer Hochelaga (4,681 grt). Whilst taking coal from Sydney, NB, to Nova Scotia and Montreal, she had run aground on the rocks of Magdalen Island in the St. Lawrence and had to be abandoned. The crew were taken to Montreal and except for the Captain who had to stay for the inquiry, the crew embarked in Laurentic to be repatriated home.  The liner reached the Mersey on the 30th.

Credit: Daily Telegraph, 2 September 1930.

With the evolving effects of The Slump, White Star and other lines cultivated the nascent cruise market in Britain and for the first time, began advertising on 21 August 1930 a 17-day Christmas cruise for Laurentic, from Liverpool 18 December and Southampton on the 20th to Spain, Portugal and the Atlantic Isles with Christmas Day at Las Palmas with fares beginning at £36 and advertised as "The Largest Christmas Cruising Steamer from Great Britain."  This would be before she departed for New York to begin her long Mediterranean cruise charter to Frank C. Clark Co.

Now commanded by Capt. J.W. Binks, RD, RMR, Laurentic left Liverpool  on 5 September 1930, and after Belfast and Glasgow, had 227 Cabin Class (including the Rt. Hon F.A. Anglin, PC, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, and his wife), 245 Tourist Third and 160 Third Class passengers, arriving on the 13th. There were 45 Cabin, 55 Tourist Third and 99 Third for the eastbound crossing from Montreal on the 20th, which concluded at Liverpool on the 27th. 

"Savoy Chapel Choristers Leave for Canada: Twelve choristers of the Chapel of the Savoy, London, left Euston Station aboard the Laurentic boat train, on their way to Canada where they will tour for three months, singing in the most important towns." Credit: Pastpix / TopFoto

Among those sailing in Laurentic from Liverpool on 3 October 1930 were 12 choir boys from the Royal Savoy Church Choir en route to a tour of the leading churches of Canada, led by Mr. Carlton Borrow, headmaster of the London Choir School. In all, there were 97 Cabin, 267 Tourist Third and 244 Third Class passengers aboard for the crossing during which the choir gave several performances, "which were thoroughly enjoyed by the passengers." Laurentic arrived at Montreal on the 11th. She embarked 50 Cabin, 63 Tourist Third and 205 Third Class passengers for Liverpool, sailing on the 18th. Among those aboard was Sir Giles Scott, the young architect who designed the new Liverpool Cathedral, then under construction. 

At the time of Laurentic's departure on 18 October 1930, the Gazette reported that after her next departure from Montreal on 15 November, "the liner will then be placed in the special cruise service between British ports and the Mediterranean. Following this she will be placed on the regular run between New York and Great Britain, which will be followed by her return to the St. Lawrence next spring."  The charter to Frank C. Clark for her 31 January 1931 Mediterranean cruise appearing to have been cancelled and last advertised on 5 October. 

White Star announced quite a few changes of command to their ships on 17 October 1930 with Capt. J.W. Binks shifting from Laurentic to Adriatic and replaced by Capt. R. Hume whose existing command, Megantic, had gone into lay-up at the end of the season. 

When Laurentic sailed from Liverpool on 31 October 1930 on her final St. Lawrence voyage that season, she was not commanded as announced by Capt. R. Hume, but still by Capt. J.W. Binks. Calling at Belfast and Glasgow, she had 28 Cabin, 58 Tourist Third and 178 Third aboard and gave them a very fast trip, coming into Montreal on 8 November at 8:00 p.m.

Looking rather ahead, White Star announced on 4 November 1930 a unique cruise for Laurentic from Montreal on 28 June 1931 to Quebec, "and down the Atlantic seaboard of Nova Scotia and the New England states to New York" arriving on 2 July.  Excursionists would then sail by river steamer on the 4th to Albany, and return to Montreal via Lake George and Champlain, the Green and White Mountains. Meanwhile, Laurentic was again chartered to Frank C. Clark for a 4 July cruise to the Mediterranean and Norwegian fjords and would not resume the St. Lawrence run until August.

Advertisement for Clark's proposed cruises for Calgaric and Laurentic, the latter a 53-day North Cape and Mediterranean itinerary from New York on 4 July 1931. Neither would take place. Credit: The Indianapolis Star, 14 December 1930. 

Making her final departure from Montreal that season, Laurentic left for Liverpool on 15 November 1930 with 29 Cabin, 41 Tourist Third and 221 Third as well as a record number of deportees, 46 in all, 19 landed at Glasgow and Belfast and remainder at Liverpool where she arrived on the 21st. 

Credit: Liverpool Daily Post, 17 November 1930.

Indicative of increasing dire times, "as the passenger bookings have not come up to expectations, the White Star Line have cancelled the sailing of the Laurentic, which was scheduled to leave Liverpool on December 20th for a seventeen days' cruise to the Atlantic Isles, Spain, Portugal, and the Mediterranean," the Liverpool Daily Post reported on 17 November 1930.  She was but one of three liners programmed for Christmas cruises that season, the others being Arandora Star and Atlantis, both well-established, even legendary de luxe cruise ships in the British market. 

White Star made it official on 5 December 1930 announcing that the charter to Frank C. Clark for the long Mediterranean cruise for Laurentic beginning 31 January 1931 had been cancelled owing to poor bookings.

In 1930

R.M.S. Laurentic completed

8½ voyages Liverpool-New York/Halifax or Montreal carrying
Westbound  4,291 passengers (995 Cabin, 1,221 Tourist Third and 2,075 Third Class) 
Eastbound 3,088 passengers (865 Cabin, 1,302 Tourist Third and 921 Third Class)
2 Mediterranean cruises from New York carrying 630 passengers (411 Cabin and 219 Tourist).

"Home For Christmas"-- White Star's 1930 Christmas sailings, including that for Laurentic from Montreal on 15 November. Credit: Mitchell & Mitchell Auctions. 


There would be no languid days in the Mediterranean for Laurentic in winter 1931 either under the auspices of White Star Line or Frank C. Clark.  On her return to Liverpool from Montreal in December, she was reprogrammed  for a single round voyage on the winter Liverpool-Halifax-New York service. 

Credit: Evening Express, 19 January 1931.

Laurentic sailed from the Mersey on 17 January 1931, and called at Belfast on the 18th and Glasgow on the 20th.  One of her passengers embarking alone at Liverpool had a tag on her coat written in Polish, German and English: "My name is Olga Karnowiz. I am three years old and travelling to Montreal. Please see that I reach Liverpool safely and sail in the Laurentic on 17 January."  The three-year-old was travelling 4,500 miles, alone, from Zezawa, Poland, to Montreal to join her mother.  

Reaching Halifax on 25 January 1931, Laurentic landed 4 Cabin, 17 Tourist Third and 48 Third Class passengers before continuing to New York. docking  at Pier 59, North River, late in the morning on the 26th, disembarking 42 Cabin, 32 Tourist Third and 30 Third Class passengers. That one day, she,  Majestic, Europa, Drottingholm, President Fillmore and Pulaski all arrived in New York Harbor. Mersey-bound, Laurentic left New York on the 31st having aboard 16 Cabin, 25 Tourist Third and 66 Third Class passengers and called at Halifax on 2 February where she embarked 15 Cabin, 2 Tourist Third and 69 Third Class passengers as well as 53 deportees.  Laurentic called at Queenstown on the 9th and docked at Liverpool at 10:00 p.m. on the 10th.

That would conclude Laurentic's activities for the rest of the winter and she laid up in Gladstone Dock. On 14 February 1931, one of her quartermasters, James Edward Thurgood, aged 25, was fined £1 at the Liverpool Police Court for having been found with a quantity of paint, worth 5 s., concealed inside his trousers and this began a lonely and disultory winter for the barely four-year-old ship. 

The last advertisement for the Frank C. Clark cruise charter of Laurentic, from New York on 4 July 1931 for a 53-day Western Mediterranean and Northern Europe cruise appeared on 25 February and like the proposed long Mediterranean cruise to have been operated that January, this was cancelled for lack of bookings. 

Credit: The Lincoln Star, 13 April 1931.

Capt. R. Hume. Credit: Daily Mirror, 7 September 1931 

Laurentic resumed service upon her sailing from Liverpool on 28 March 1931 from Liverpool, via Belfast and Glasgow, to Halifax and New York, commanded by Capt. R. Hume.  Among those aboard was the Hogarth family from Warton, near Preston, who were the first family going out to Canada under a new family scheme by the New Brunswick Government and having been alloted  a farm at Bailey, NB. Also aboard was 83-year-old Jimmy Branscombe, a farm worker from Saskatoon who had sailed all the way to Liverpool just to see the running of the Grand National, and was returning in Laurentic; "It was a most thrilling race. When I reach my home again I will have travelled some 9,000 miles just to see a steeplechase, but it was worth it." (Birmingham Gazette, 30 March 1931). Among her cargo were 35 carillon bells, made by the John Taylor and Co., bell founders, Loughborough, England, which were for the new First Plymouth Congregational Church in Lincoln, Nebraska. After calling at Queenstown on the 31st and Glasgow on 1 April, Laurentic numbered 18 Cabin, 41 Tourist Third and 181 Third Class passengers for Halifax where she arrived on the 5th and proceeded to New York, docking there on the 7th and landing 36 Cabin, 48 Tourist Third and 36 Third Class passengers. 

Laurentic left New York on 11 April 1931 with 42 Cabin, 41 Tourist Third and 83 Third Class, and embarked an additional 18 Cabin, 16 Tourist Third and 63 Third Class at Halifax on the 13th. She sailed that evening for Queenstown and Liverpool where she arrived the afternoon of the 20th. 

Reflecting the times, White Star's 1931 St. Lawrence programme reflected considerable retrenchment. The Channel ports service was ended entirely and that from Liverpool reduced to eight round voyages by Laurentic, five by Doric and one by Megantic

On 10 April 1931 White Star announced that Chief Purser E.  Grahl, formerly of Calgaric, would be joining Laurentic for the season as would F. Carroll as Chief Steward. 

Credit: Evening Express, 18 May 1931.

Commanded by Capt. R. Hume, Laurentic, which left Liverpool on 24 April 1931, had, after her calls at Glasgow and Belfast, 35 Cabin, 114 Tourist Third and 218 Third Class passengers aboard for the first White Star sailing to the St. Lawrence of the season. She docked at Quebec at 3:00 p.m. on 2 May. At dawn on the 9th, Laurentic sailed for  Glasgow, Belfast and Liverpool, her list of 54 Cabin, 116 Tourist Third and 119 Third including the Hon. Frank Stanfield, Lt. Governor of Nova Scotia, and his wife. Although not often mentioned, Laurentic often carried considerable cargo and on this sailing she went out with one of the largest shipments of grain-- 122,000 bushels of wheat and 73,000 bushels of oats-- ever lifted from the Port of Montreal by a single ship.  She arrived at Liverpool just before 1:00 p.m. on the 17th.

White Star announced on 21 May 1931 that henceforth only American films would be shown on Majestic, Olympic and Homeric on the New York-Southampton run, Adriatic on that to Liverpool and aboard Laurentic on the Canadian route under a new contract.  The big ships would have five pictures per crossing and Adriatic and Laurentic, four. 

The wine and bar stewards were possibly not best pleased on Laurentic's  22 May 1931 crossing to Montreal whose 46 Cabin, 108 Tourist Third and 112 Third Class included 50 delegates to the world convention of the Women's Christian Temperance Union in Ottawa that June. Montreal was reached on the 30th.

As the summer season began in earnest, Laurentic's eastbound crossing beginning at daybreak on 6 June 1931 proved her best patronised Liverpool-bound sailing of the year, yet there were still only 105 Cabin, 228 Tourist Third and 205 Third Class aboard for it.  Not that White Star were not trying and that season extensively promoted all-inclusive tours to Britain and Europe with rates beginning at $199 (Third Class) for 26 days.

Credit: The Gazette, 23 June 1931.

Increasingly popular in New York were the short, often overnight, cruises "to nowhere" in the big liners during their long layovers in port. Whilst the appeal out of American ports were the bars opening outside the 12-mile limit, it was a concept that White Star decided to test with their Canadian service as well.  At the last minute inspiration of Major P.A. Curry, White Star Line Manager, who used the trans-Atlantic telephone to get permission from the line headquarters, on 22 June.

On 22 June 1931, General Passenger Manager Leo S. Tobin announced the first such cruise in Laurentic during her layover on her next voyage which would be over the Dominion Day holiday.  She would depart on 30 June at 6:30 p.m. and sail to Quebec where additional passengers could embark via tender as well as disembark before she returned to Montreal.  There would no class distinctions on the cruise with a min. rate of $15. 

Mr. Tobin told the Gazette on 24 June 1931 that: "The innovation of a short river cruise by ocean liner has evidently seized the imagination of the public of Montreal," said Leo S. Tobin, passenger manager of the White Star Line, in commenting yesterday afternoon on the bookings for the special Dominion Day trip by the R.M.S. Laurentic. "The number of reservations and inquiries received today, within a few hours of the announcement, has been most gratifying, and there is every indication that we will go out on Tuesday evening with a full ship."

The Gazette went on to detail the elaborate entertainment features that would be offered on the cruise:

Several special entertainment features are being introduced on this trip, Mr. Tobin stated, including a fashion parade by professional mannequins. Over twenty-four smart practical styles defining the summer mode for the tennis court, the beach, the boudoir, the home and the street, interpreted in Celasilk fabric by the Canadian Celanese, Limited, will be shown during the cruise. After the last show the dresses, through the courtesy of the manufacturers, will be auctioned off by the ship's purser, and the proceeds will go to the Seamen's Charities, an institution which cares for widows and children of British seamen. Another attraction will be the Montreal Troubadors, the well-known quartette, comprising Emile Gour, C. E. Brodeur, Hercule Lavoie and Armand Gauthier. which will entertain the passengers with old French-Canadian folk songs as well as modern tunes. In addition there will be 'horse racing,' deck golf, deck tennis, shuffle board and other games, and in the evening dancing on the decks, which will be gaily decorated with flags and bunting and colored lights and lanterns.

It was additionally announced that "a large canvas tank of the type used on West Indies and Mediterranean cruises will be erected on deck." The cruise would take the following route, as described by the Gazette on 25 June 1931:

The Laurentic, after leaving Montreal at 6.30 p.m. on Tuesday, will pass Sorel by daylight. Three Rivers is passed during; the evening and Quebec is reached in The early morning of Dominion Day. No stop is made there, as the steamer proceeds by the north channel, passing Murray Bay and Tadoussac, direct to the mouth of the Saguenay River. Here the return trip will commence via the south channel, and such places as Riviere du Loup, Kamouraska and Montmagny will be seen en route. The second glimpse of the Ancient Capital will be obtained at sunset the same day, and on Thursday morning at seven o'clock the Laurentic will tie up at Alexandra Pier, Montreal.

Sailing from Liverpool on 19 June 1931, Laurentic had 28 Cabin, 125 Tourist Third and 74 Third Class and arrived, in company with Duchess of Bedford, at Montreal, the morning of the 27th. Among Laurentic's passengers were 65 members of a "See the Empire" tour arranged by the Manchester Daily Dispatch

Credit: The Gazette, 1 July 1931.

Nearly six hundred Montrealers are celebrating Dominion Day on the broad bosom of the St. Lawrence in the White Star liner Laurentic, which sailed at 6.40 o'clock yesterday afternoon on the first river cruise ever organized by transatlantic steamship company. Lively scenes were to be witnessed as the happy holiday-makers arrived at the liner's side in private automobiles, taxis and on foot. Many of the passengers had never experienced the pleasure of travelling in such a big vessel, while there were others who had never even been aboard an ocean steamer.

She has been specially decorated for this unique excursion, both sides of the promenade dock having been hung with a multitude of flags and bunting for the dance that was taking place last night and again this evening.

Gazette, 1 July 1931.

Bookings for Laurentic's Dominion Day Cruise exceeded all expectations and by 30 June 1931, there were 490 reservations and bookings were taken even at the dock on 1 July right up to departure. Laurentic sailed at 6:40 p.m. with 610 aboard and another 122 embarked at Quebec at 7:00 a.m. the following morning, for  total of 732 passengers.  In keeping with the spirit of the day, Major Curry "pointed out that all the food, wines and coal used on board during this cruise were of Canadian origin, as the regular ship's stores were placed in bond for this coastwise trip." Laurentic sailed up to the mouth of the Saguenay River and then turned back towards Quebec. After landing some of her passengers there via tender, Laurentic departed for Montreal at 7:30 p.m. to arrive the following morning.

Off to England, Laurentic cleared Montreal at daybreak on 4 July 1931, her 108 Cabin, 228 Tourist Third and 205 Third  Class passengers included several tour groups from the United States. Her compliment contributed to a record, for the season, of arriving passengers at Liverpool on the 10-11th, totalling more than 2,600 brought in by Britannic (1,445), Laurentic (500) and Duchess of York (700). The Daily Telegraph reported on the 14th that in the last four days White Star had brought nearly 4,000 American visitors to Britain: Homeric at Southampton and Laurenic at Liverpool, landing 1,675 on 12 July, Britannic 1,445 on the 13th and Majestic with almost 1,000 at Southampton on the 14th.  Laurentic also put in "an exceptionally fast passage," (Gazette) having left Montreal Saturday morning and docking at Liverpool the following Saturday, including calls at Glasgow and Belfast.

Laurentic, from Liverpool on 17 July 1931, had among her 60 Cabin, 111 Tourist Third and 97 Third Class passengers, the fourth "See the Empire" party from Manchester.  Passing Father Point at 4:00 p.m. on the 24th, the White Star liner arrived at Montreal on the 25th.

The homeward crossing, beginning from Montreal at daybreak on 1 August 1931, with 57 Cabin, 74 Tourist Third and 365 Third Class, included a party of 100 French-Canadians, led by Laurent Turcotte, of White Star's Montreal office, whose European tour would include a visit to the Colonial Exposition in Paris, and to accommodate them, French speaking stewards would be assigned to their tables and cabins. Third Class bookings were swelled by a new lower roundtrip fare in that class which attracted many "Old Country people" going back for a visit to their homelands. Laurentic docked at Liverpool on the 8th. 

Credit: Western Mail, 18 August 1931.

Laurentic, sailing from Liverpool 15 August 1931, would unusually detour to Southampton, departing there on the 17th and proceeding to  Cherbourg the same. This was the first time a White Star Canadian Service liner had left from a French port for Canada. There, she would embarked a large number of returning Canadian and American tourist parties as well as the French-Canadian group that had gone out on her last eastbound crossing.  Also making the trip was the famous St. Hilda's Band, five-time winner of the Crystal Palace Trophy and five times honoured by command performances before The King and Queen.  The 26-man band would be performing at the National Exhibition at Toronto amongst other Canadian cities during their tour. In all, she had 146 Cabin, 265 Tourist Third and 131 Third Class passengers for the crossing.  Laurentic called at Quebec on the 24th at 2:00 p.m. and proceeded to Montreal, arriving there at 7:00 a.m. the following morning. 

Credit: The Gazette, 26 August 1931.

White Star arranged a unique package for aviation enthusiasts wishing to see the Schneider Trophy contest race over The Solent on 12 September 1931. Already, the Royal Aero Club had chartered Homeric as the official ship for the race and floating grandstand, and those wishing to, could sail from Montreal in Laurentic on 29 August to Liverpool and make connection to Southampton and embark in Homeric for the race event. 

When Laurentic left Montreal the morning of 29 August 1931, she had 28 Cabin, 82 Tourist Third and 155 Third Class passengers aboard and, a six-month-old bear cub who had travelled from Jasper National Park, Alberta, and was en route to a zoo in England.  The 159-lb. cub was given a pre-voyage check-up by a vet and embarked and placed in care of the ship's butcher who was "given special and careful instructions in regards to its diet on the journey." (Gazette). There was a dramatic rescue at sea when on 2 September, seaman Robert Jones fell overboard.  A lifering was thrown to him and he managed to grasp it, Laurentic was immediately hove to and a boat, commanded by Third Officer Cochran, was lowered and rescued Jones, all in the space of 17 minutes.  Laurentic docked at Liverpool at 8:00 p.m. on 5 September.

Laurentic had pride of place in this White Star cruise poster c. 1931. Credit:

White Star announced a return to winter Mediterranean cruising for Laurentic on 9 September 1931, except this time, from Liverpool and Southampton and for the British market. The first would depart Liverpool on 6 February 1932 and the second, from Southampton, on the 27th, each calling at Lisbon, Tangier, Barcelona, Monaco, Palma, Algiers and Gibraltar. 

Among those embarking in Laurentic at Liverpool on 11 September 1931 for Canada was the English Light Opera Company. Mr. John Redmond, leader of the 23-strong troupe, told reporters that Canadians preferred English singers and "disliked the American 'talkie voice,' and their programme would include Sir Edward German's "Merrie England." After calling at Belfast and Glasgow, there were 103 Cabin, 215 Tourist Third and 82 Third Class passengers for the crossing which concluded at Montreal on the 19th.  During her Montreal turnaround, Laurentic hosted an invitation only concert on 20 September 1931, courtesy of Capt. Hume, by the Band of the 2nd Montreal Regiment, Canadian Artillery, under Lt. Col. W.C. Hyde, DSO. The returning St. Hilda's Band was among the 29 Cabin, 93 Tourist Third and 173 Third Class passengers sailing in Laurentic from Montreal on the 26th, arriving Liverpool on 4 October. 

Credit: Belfast Telegraph, 6 October 1931.

An additional cruise for Laurentic was announced on 25 September 1931, from Liverpool to the Mediterranean over Easter, 24 March-9 April 1932.

"Funnels, mast and rigging. A scene in Gladstone Dock, Liverpool, yesterday. White Star liners in 'massed formation.' They are the Laurentic, Cedric, Doric, and in the foreground, the motor-vessel Britannic discharging a big cargo of fruit from New York, the largest of the present season." Credit: Liverpool Post and Mercury, 6 October 1931. 

When Laurentic, which left Liverpool on 9 October 1931, arrived at Montreal on the 18th with 30 Cabin, 126 Tourist Third and 161 Third Class, the Gazette noted that "the total number of passengers arriving by this steamer numbered three hundred and seventeen. This is considered a large list of passengers for a westbound steamer at this time of year." 

Her 14 Cabin, 46 Tourist and 183 Third Class passengers having embarked the previous evening, Laurentic cleared Shed 4 at 2:00 a.m. on 24 October 1931. The big news attending the voyage were the 107 deportees aboard, including family of seven, one of five and several of four, 102 of whom were British and constituting the largest number of deportees in one ship in 18 years. On arrival, 21 were landed at Greenock, 12 at Belfast and 73 at Liverpool. All had been sent back for lack of employment even though they had job skills and it was widely reported in British papers on the ship's arrival at Liverpool on 1 November.  The Depression had truly become global and Canada no longer able to accommodate immigrants to anything like the previous numbers. 

On 24 October 1931 it was announced that Capt. R. Hume had been promoted to command Baltic and Capt. W.H.P. Jackson, formerly of Doric, would command Laurentic.  

Log abstract for Laurentic's last westbound crossing of 1931 and her first commanded by Capt. W.H.P. Jackson. Credit: eBay auction photo.

Marking her final voyage of the St. Lawrence season, her 40th voyage and exactly four years in service, Laurentic, now commanded by Capt. W.H.P. Jackson, sailed from Liverpool at 5:00 p.m. on 13 November 1931 and after calling at Belfast and Glasgow had 12 Cabin, 50 Tourist Third and 82 Third Class aboard. In the St. Lawrence, on the 21st Laurentic and the auxiliary schooner Cap Saumon collided at 5:25 a.m. off St. Jean, Island of Orleans, in the steamship channel.  Laurentic immediately stopped and lowered a boat to offer any assistance to the schooner which suffered about $2,500 in damage when she hit the liner's starboard bow and unshipping one of the schooner's mast. Laurentic, undamaged proceeded to Montreal where she docked the following morning.  It was a busy end of season for Montreal with Laurentic joined in port by Antonia, Ascania, Duchess of Atholl and Montcalm.  

On her last Montreal departure on  for 1931, on 28 November, Laurentic took out 24 Cabin, 46 Tourist Third and 385 Third Class plus another record 143 deportees.  Among the  Third Class passengers were seven travelling to the USSR, five of them were factory workers who intended to live there and two on a tour. Also aboard were the returning member of the British Army and Irish Free State equestrian teams after collecting many trophies at the Boston Horse Show, New York Horse Show and the Winter Fair in Toronto, as well as their 16 prize English and Irish jumpers, "aristocrats of the equine world," and provided with extra spacious horse boxes aboard measuring 7 ft. 6 ins. wide, "not tied and in their temporary homes on the well deck of the ship they should lack for nothing so far as their comfort is concerned." (Montreal Star, 28 November 1931).  The Gazette stated that "on her arrival at Liverpool, she will be laid up until January when she is to be thoroughly overhauled in preparation for three cruises to the Mediterranean."  She arrived at Liverpool on 6 December.

Laurentic at Liverpool. Credit: Stuart Smith,

By the end of the year, the effects of the Depression on North Atlantic shipping were profound. Whereas 1,002,353 passengers had crossed the Atlantic in 1930, a year later, the number had plummeted to 685,456.  The effect on the already ailing White Star was worse and as the whole Royal Mail Group was near collapse after Lord Kyslant was tried and convicted in  July 1931 for issuing a false stock prospectus. White Star posted a £450,777 loss in 1931 and was unable to repay the interest payments on its Trade Facilities Act loans from the Northern Ireland Government. 

On the Canadian run, the economic conditions in the Dominion saw an end to all subsidised immigration schemes and what had been a major component of passenger traffic vanished whilst Cabin Class carryings were much reduced.  From 1929-31, White Star's Canadian service (from Liverpool to/from Halifax, Quebec and Montreal) decreased by two-thirds in carryings and crossings:

  • 34 westbound 30 eastbound trips  4,387 Cabin 6,329 Tourist 18,757 Third 29,503 total
  • 30 westbound 29 eastbound trips 3,774 Cabin 6,979 Tourist 10,737 Third 21,485 total
  • 18 westbound 20 eastbound trips 1,578 Cabin 3,709 Tourist 4,828 Third 10,115 total

The Liverpool Journal of Commerce, 30 December 1931, reported that White Star's cruising programme from Britain, from 6 February-3 February 1932 would comprise 15 cruises, nine of which were from Liverpool in AdriaticLaurentic and Doric. The line would also be offering short Bank Holiday cruises in Doric

The IMM house organ, The Ocean Ferry, now seemed in name to conjure up a past era and in amidst a lack of immigrant traffic and the rigours of a growing depression, cruising seemed to the salvation of the beleagued steamship industry and, indeed, of Laurentic

In 1931

R.M.S. Laurentic completed

2 voyages Liverpool-New York/Halifax
8 voyages Liverpool-Montreal 
Westbound  3,102 passengers (560 Cabin, 1,262 Tourist Third and 1,282 Third Class) 
Eastbound 3,612 passengers (510 Cabin, 1,233 Tourist Third and 1,878 Third Class)

Credit: Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, 7 November 1931.


On 5 January 1932 Laurentic was drydocked in the Gladstone Graving Dock to have her hull cleaned and painted preparatory to be reactivated for her winter cruise programme. 

British cruising was not only a opportunity to escape the dreariness of early 1930s life, but it was increasingly promoted as patriotic as it was a holiday spent abroad entirely  in the sterling zone and in British ships.

The patriotism of a cruise holiday in a British ship was officially confirmed in a broadcast, by the BBC on October 9 last, when the following statement, was made on behalf of Sir Arthur Steel-Maitland:  Just as it is right to buy British goods, it is right also to book a passage in a British ship.

The White Star Line last year were the pioneers of short holiday cruises from this country; they have followed this innovation in the world of shipping by placing at the service of this year's prospective holiday-makers 16 cruises of a variety, length, and cost to suit, every purse and taste. Shipping is doing share in enhancing the attractions of the patriotic holiday. Let it also have  a share in publicity as the Government, or the BBC may give to the 'Buy British Holidays' movement recently inaugurated by the English holiday resorts

The response of the British public to this offer of a new of patriotic holiday has already been almost overwhelming, and their appreciation of the situation is well illustrated by the letters received by us.

It may interest your readers to know that when a ship like the Laurentic goes into commission she finds employment for a crew of 420 men. In addition to this, during her cruise she will burn about tons of English coal, the production of which, together with the preparation and supplying of stores for her victualling, deck and engine departments, and the handling of the vessel to and front her berth, provides employment for a very large number of British workers. 

Letter from White Star Line to the Liverpool Journal of Commerce, 30 January 1932.

The cruise and week-end sea trips programme of the White Star Line will be inaugurated on Saturday by the Laurentic, which leaves Liverpool with a full list of passengers for a nineteen-day cruise to the Mediterranean. 'People are showing an increasing interest in cruises,' said an official. 'This year thousands who have previously spent their vacation at Continental resorts will take their holiday on a British liner."

Liverpool Daily Post, 4 February 1932.

On her first cruise from Britain, Laurentic left Liverpool at 6:00 p.m. on 6 February 1932 with 455 passengers. The 19-day voyage, totalling 4,202 miles, visited Lisbon (9-10, 21 hours), Gibraltar (11, 6 hours), Barcelona (13-14, 30 hours), Monaco (15-17, 33 hours), Palma (18, 10 hours), Algiers (19-20, 18 hours), Tangier (21, 8 hours) and returned to Southampton on the 25th. Among those aboard were Earl of Guildford Lady Muriel North, the Countess of Cardigan, Major C. V. Godfrey CBE, Chief Constable of Salford Mr. Justice M’Carthy and Mrs. M’Carthy, Mr. Cedric Hardwicke, the actor, and Mrs. Hardwicke Councillor, and Mrs. George A. Strong and Councillor and Mrs. Alfred Gates.  

The well-booked first departure prompted the Liverpool Post of the 8th to comment: "Shipping officials are said to be very much surprised at the rush of bookings for the holiday cruises Liners totalling 300,000 tons that could scarcely have hoped to be employed in the normal way during the summer are booked up for the whole season crews to the number of some 6,000 will be employed. There also stated to be a possibility that some of the office staffs who had been discharged may be have to be reinstated."

Credit: The Daily Telegraph, 19 February 1932.

The second cruise, commencing from Southampton on 27 February 1932, repeated the first itinerary: Lisbon (1-2 March), Gibraltar (3), Barcelona (5-6), Monaco (7-9), Palma (10), Algiers (11-12), Tangier (13), returning to Liverpool on the 17th.

Credit: Liverpool Post, 26 March 1932.

Poster by T.J. Bond for Laurentic's 1932 Easter Cruise. Credit:

Laurentic and her crew got a bit of a breather before setting on the third cruise, which was timed to be over the Easter holiday, and added after the first two had been programmed.  This had Laurentic departing Liverpool on 24 March 1932 and calling at Vigo (27, 9 hours), Casablanca (29, 11 hours), Tangier (30, 9 hours, Algiers (1 April, 10 hours), Palma (2, 11 hours), Gibraltar (4, 5 hours), Lisbon (5-6, 14 hours) and returning to Liverpool on the 9th. When Laurentic returned, it was reported that six couples had met and become engaged during the cruise. "The weather has been simply glorious, and dancing on deck at night has been a feature of the cruise," an official told the Liverpool Journal of Commerce

Liverpool remained the true heart and soul of White Star Line  as evidenced on 9 April 1932 when four of their liners berthed alongside Prince's Landing Stage within five hours of each other, starting with Laurentic at 9:00 a.m., returning from her last cruise, then Britannic from New York, at noon, Baltic embarked passengers for New York and at 2:00 p.m. Doric returned from her 10-day scholars' cruise in the Mediterranean. Altogether, they made up 86,500 tons of White Star tonnage. 

For 1932, "Tourist Third Cabin" was mercifully shortened to "Tourist" and for the increasingly beleagured White Star and Royal Mail Group, equally abbreviated was the St. Lawrence season that year which was confined to just five round voyages by Laurentic and one by Doric.

Credit: Montreal Daily Star, 20 April 1932

It was back to the business of North Atlantic mailship for Laurentic which cast off from Prince's Landing Stage at 1:15 p.m. 15 April 1932. After stopping at Belfast and Glasgow, she had 22 Cabin, 42 Tourist and 144 Third Class passengers aboard. Not aboard was "the Lindbergh Baby," as White Star quashed a wild rumour spread by some crank that the child, kidnapped 50 days previously, as being aboard. After what was described as "an uneventful voyage," Laurentic docked at Montreal at 6:30 p.m. on the 24th.  Among those disembarking was the first party of English wives and children coming over to joining their husbands, their passage fare being paid by the British Dominion Immigration Society of Canada. On her first homewards crossing of the season, Laurentic sailed from Montreal on the 30th with 19 Cabin, 112 Tourist and 316 Third Class passengers and reached Liverpool on 9 May.

There were only 16 Cabin, 29 Tourist and 70 Third Class passengers aboard Laurentic (with Capt. W.H.P. Jackson back in command, having just brought Ceramic in from Liverpool from Australia five days before!) after she cleared Greenock on 14 May 1932 (from Liverpool the previous afternoon). She docked at Montreal on the 22nd.

Credit: The Gazette, 16 May 1932.

However, more exciting was her Empire Day Cruise departing on 23 May 1932 at 6:30 p.m. which built on the success of the previous year's Dominion Day trip and duplicated the 36-hour  itinerary from Montreal to the mouth of the Saguenay River and back. "Records will be broken next week, when the White Star liner Laurentic leaves on her Empire Day cruise to Quebec and the Saguenay, according to present bookings, as it is expected that the number of passengers who made the trip last year will be exceeded. The novelty of such a cruise, which is an ocean voyage in miniature, has appealed to the public imagination, judging by the bookings in the last 48 hours, and when the Laurentic leaves Shed 4 at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, it is expected the record for bookings on a trip of the character will have been shattered." (Gazette, 21 May 1932).

Depression was dismissed from the docks yesterday evening, as the decks of the White Star liner Laurentic were lined with rows of happy faces. Some three hundred and fifty Montrealers were leaving in this large liner for a short Empire Day cruise on the St. Lawrence River, sailing as far as the Saguenay, and returning at 7 o'clock tomorrow, in time to begin another business day. All cares and worries had been cast aside by this happy group of passengers, intent on enjoying to the utmost their few hours afloat in one of the biggest boats operating in the Canadian trade.

As the Laurentic left the dock, hundreds of colored streamers fluttered in the brisk breeze. The passengers were then afforded a fine opportunity, before sun-down, of observing the Port of Montreal and the numerous ocean vessels moored to the many wharves.

Although they live within short hail of the great harbor, few  have the opportunity of witnessing its various activities from the water. This, therefore, was an additional attraction for most of the joyous recreation-seekers.

The Gazette, 24 May 1932.

Sadly, the weather was unseasonably cool leading up to the cruise  and despite the predictions of heavy demand and the facility to book passage directly at the pier up to sailing, Laurentic cleared Shed 5, Alexandra Basin, at 6:30 p.m. with only 350 aboard but another 100 embarked at Quebec.  They certainly were well catered to as described by The Gazette:

According to the programme prepared by the White Star Line, little time for boredom would occur. Dinner was to be served in the palatial dining saloon at 7 o'clock, and at 9.30 p.m. commenced the cabaret entertainment, followed by dancing until a late or early hour, depending on the desire of passengers themselves. First appeared the 'Troubadors,' a male quartet featuring Emile Gour, Hercule Lavole, Demarais and C. E. Brodeur, with C. Saint-Armand as accompanist. Then followed 'Thorpe and Le Brun,' soloists with piano-accordions; the Misses Lauretta and Lucille Turner, who gave an exhibition of ballad Singing; the Gaspesian Dancers, who entertained with old-time jigs and reels; and then the 'Rosebuds,' who provided a dancing ensemble. Hercule Lavoie acted as master of ceremonies.

No less than twenty-nine entertainers were engaged by the White Star Line to assist in making merry the hours aboard their flagship. In addition, twelve 'models' were taken aboard in Montreal to display'the numerous summer sports frocks and evening dresses at the Fashion Show, scheduled for 10' o'clock this morning and 9 o'clock this evening. These will be interpreted in fabrics by the Canadian Celanese, Limited, and the show is being directed by Miss Constance Mais. All accessories are being supplied through the courtesy of the T. Eaton Company, Limited.

It was also mentioned that the famous St. Lawrence pilot, Alberic Angers, was on the bridge for the whole cruise and Laurentic could not have been better hands.  As with the Dominion Day, all the provisions and wines etc. were purchased in Canada, some $2,000 spent on foodstuffs alone and $600 on wines, exclusive of beer.  Despite concerns, the weather during the cruise "was described as delightful" and "a very enjoyable time was spent," according to the Montreal Star. 

Laurentic had to make quick work of her coaling, provisioning and loading cargo for her return to Liverpool, via Belfast and Glasgow, on 28 May 1932. On this, she took out 27 Cabin, 155 Tourist and 249 Third Class and docked at Liverpool on 5 June.

Adding to White Star's short cruise programme were short four-day one-way trips or nine-day roundtrips in Laurentic from Montreal and Quebec to New York, offering "shipboard fun and freedom and cooling ocean breezes. De luxe accommodation; organized sports and entertainment; wonderful meals".  Outbound from Montreal, Laurentic would depart on 19 and 30 July 1932 and 9 August and from New York on 23 July and 3 and 13 August 1932 with fares starting at $40 one-way and $60 roundtrip "all Cabin Class." These were first advertised in May.

Credit: Liverpool Daily Post, 10 June 1932.

During her Liverpool turnaround, Laurentic was the venue for a luncheon on 9 June 1932 for attendees of the hospitals conference of the Council of the Incorporated Association of Hospital Officers, and thanking Mr. W.R. Roberts, director and manager of White Star Line, who "suggested that a sea voyage was the best treatment any doctor could order."

It was another light list for Laurentic when she left Liverpool on 10 June and Belfast and Glasgow the next day: 17 Cabin, 63 Tourist and 68 Third Class. Little wonder that the Gazette published the White Star press release on the same day stating that "booking for the S.S. Laurentic, flagship of the White Star Line's Canadian service, are particularly heavy for her scheduled sailing from Montreal on June 25 for Glasgow, Belfast and Liverpool. Tour parties from Toronto, Winnipeg, Detroit, Cleveland and Chicago will leave aboard this steamer, now en route to Montreal, and it is expected there will be a total of 1,200 passengers in all three classes. These figures indicate, it is claimed, that the summer tourist trade is being maintained on the Atlantic." It was not all press release puffery and special cars were put on the Canadian National lines on the 24th to carry the Detroit and Chicago member of the Hubbell's European Tour Party to Montreal to embark Laurentic which arrived from Liverpool on the 18th.

With her 72 Cabin, 389 Tourist and 544 Third Class passengers having embarked the previous evening, Laurentic was off at daybreak on 25 June 1932 and was alongside Prince's Landing Stage on 3 July.  During the crossing there was an unique double christening at sea as described by the Liverpool Daily Post, 4 July 1932:

When the White Star liner Laurentic arrived at Liverpool yesterday from Canada it was reported that on Sunday June 26th one day after the vessel left Montreal the unusual ceremony of a double christening was performed. A christening of one infant aboard an ocean steamer is not uncommon but a double event of that nature is rare.

 In the case of the dual episode on the Laurentic it seems that soon after the liner left Montreal on June 25th two passengers Mrs Fisher with a three-weeks-old boy and Mrs Wood with a six-months-old girl approached the purser Mr B O Bartlett and each expressed a wish that her infant should be christened aboard the Laurentic. Accordingly Purser Bartlett arranged with the Rev Thomas W. Isherwood of Wycliffe College Toronto who was a cabin passenger and the latter christened both children after the ship’s service on the Sunday morning.

Baby Fisher was given 'William Laurie' as Christian names — after the commander Captain William H P Jackson coupled with the abbreviated title of his ship and baby Wood was baptised and registered as 'Joanna Mildred.' Both mothers belong to Canada where the children were born Mr Wood was travelling with his wife. The passengers in the Laurentic were greatly interested in the ceremony.

The White Star liner Laurentic has been chosen for the voyage. One of the largest and newest vessels on the Canadian service she will carry samples of all forms of British manufactures and will herself be the biggest sample of a British manufacture — shipbuilding — in which this country is unexcelled.

Liverpool Daily Post, 8 July 1932.

Credit: The Sault Daily Star, 20 July 1932.

On 7 July 1932 it was announced that on her 2 September voyage to Montreal, the last of the season, Laurentic would also act as trade ship highlighting British goods and carry samples and manufacturing agents on the trip and open to Canadian importers during the turnaround in Montreal. This was all timed around the British Empire Economic Conference in  Ottawa 21 July-20 August to discuss ways to meet the Great Depression, encourage imperial trade and contend with the failure of the gold standard. Laurentic would number several attendees on her sailing from Liverpool on the 8th, including TUC Chairman John Bromley, two British Ministry of Agriculture experts and Sean T. O'Kelly, had of the Irish Free State delgation. The main British delegation, including Stanley Baldwin, would sail the following week in Empress of Britain. Laurentic, which had 83 Cabin, 76 Tourist and 118 Third aboard, arrived at Quebec at midnight on 15 July 1932 and  docked at Montreal the following morning. 

Advertisement for Laurentic's "Little Ocean Voyages" consisting of three nine-day round trips from Montreal or from New York July-August 1932. Credit: Burlington Free Press, 30 July 1932.

Not sailing again for Liverpool until 20 August 1932, Laurentic would then operate her three roundtrips between Montreal and New York: 19-27 July, 30 July-7 August and 9-17 August. These offered "a little ocean voyage with all the fun and romance of a trans-Atlantic trip aboard the mighty Laurentic, comfort ship of the St. Lawrence route."  

White Star went all out to promote these, including a press release advising that each four-day one-way voyage would be provisioned to the tune of 2,100 tons of butter, 1,000 pounds of new potatoes, 30,000 eggs, 900 quarts of ice-cream, 1,000 tons of milk, 400 pounds of spinach, 800 pounds of broccoli, 1,100 pounds of lobster, 8,000 pounds of fish, 16,000 pounds of meat and 750 pounds of coffee. For the cruise programme, a canvas open-air pool was erected on the after deck.  As with her Dominion Day and Empire Day cruises, White Star did not stint on the entertainment, either, which included 23 artists: well known "Troubadours," a French Canadian male quartet rendering a series of Quebec folk songs. The "Gaspesians," comprising a party of five, giving displays of old French dances, while the "Old Time Artists" provided music. There was also a concert trio, Madame Cedia Brault, Canadian contralto; L. Millette, pianist; and M. Leduc, cellist.

Credit: The Gazette, 19 July 1932.

At dawn on 19 July 1932, Laurentic cleared her Montreal berth for her first voyage to New York, her 538 passengers having embarked the night before, and among them were 400 members of the Quebec Union of Muncipalities who would hold their annual convention aboard during the round trip and including 75 mayors from the Province. Laurentic docked at Pier 60 North River at midnight on the 22rd, delayed by fog, and sailed for Montreal at 12:30 a.m. on the 24th, and after calling at Quebec, returned to Montreal first thing on the 29th. There were considerable complaints in both Canada and the United States over the overbearing conduct of immigration officers in New York in receiving the passengers and the crew, which, coupled with the fog delay, making it impossible for the Quebec provincial mayors from calling on New York Mayor Walker.

There were almost 600 passengers for Laurentic's second voyage to New York, sailing at dawn on 30 July, including 200 who were on the roundtrip originating from there. A special Canadian National train brought passengers from points in Ontario to Montreal the previous to embark for the cruise.

Laurentic's third "little ocean voyage," from Montreal on 9 August 1932 featured a cabaret show by Texas Guinan and her "Gang." Miss Guinan was en route to New York after a five-week engagement at the Frolics cabaret in Montreal and would have another engagement there before sailing with her company of 25 for Europe.  Laurentic returned to Montreal on the 18th.

Finally sailing for home on 20 August 1932, Laurentic, instead of sailing from Montreal at dawn as customary, was held back to 10:00 a.m. to accommodate the arrival of a large number of returning delegates of the Imperial Conference.  Among those taking Laurentic home were the Rt. Hon. Walter Runciman, President of the Board of Trade, and Mrs. Runciman; the Northern Ireland delegation and that of the Union of South Africa who would embark at Quebec that evening.  Also aboard were Ireland's Olympic team, 16 in all,  returning from the games at Los Angeles, and four Canadian professional boxers on a European tour. She left with 74 Cabin, 69 Tourist and 184 Third Class passengers as well as 135 deportees.  Empress of Britain, which had most of the returning delegates, including Stanley Baldwin, passed Laurentic on the afternoon of the 21st.  Laurentic docked at Liverpool on the 28th. The Runcimans landed at Greenock and thence by train to Glasgow and on to their home in Northumberland, and were apparently delighted with their crossing:

Mr. Runciman's compliment to the Laurentic of 'A happy ship,' was, I am told, generally endorsed by the other passengers. One civil servant was so enthusiastic about what he called the 'happy familyness' of the liner, that contemplated 'wrangling' a job on her when she sets forth to Canada early in October!

Daily Record, 29 August 1932.

As a follow-up to the Ottawa Conference, White Star Line announced on 20 August 1932  that Laurentic would "be placed at the disposal of the British men for the development of commercial relations with Canada," and sail for Montreal on 1 October in the capacity of a trade exhibition ship there, beginning on the 10th and running through the 14th.  This would replace the original proposed trade delegation using her last scheduled St. Lawrence round voyage of the season. 

Despite extensive advertising of Laurentic as British Empire Trade Ship, there was insufficient business interest in the scheme and it was cancelled. Credit: Daily Telegraph, 2 September 1932.

Laurentic sailed from Liverpool on 2 September 1932 for Montreal amid considerable interest on both sides of the Atlantic over her impending use as "Empire Trade Ship," including large advertisements placed by White Star targeted to business leaders.  Plans were sufficiently developed to list rates for Cabin or Tourist cabin accommodation for the roundtrip and the provision to book an inside cabin for use as a storeroom for product samples, etc. with all in rates for the whole trip at £73 Cabin and £56 Tourist including the extra cabin and using the ship as an hotel during the four-day call at Montreal. The public rooms would be set up with displays and exhibiting booths, etc.. The scheme was endorsed by trade organisations in Canada and Britain and for while, it was seemingly "all go".  

The present was considered inopportune for sending an exhibition of British commodities to Canada, as it was too soon after the Imperial Economic Conference at Ottawa. No date has been fixed for the departure of the Laurentic next year on her mission to Montreal but it is expected that she will undertake this special voyage early in the season. The results of the Ottawa Conference will then be known and it is probable that trade will be greatly stimulated by the arrival here of such a large vessel with representatives of industries, accompanied by examples of their factories.

Major Philip A. Curry, Manager of White Star Canada Service, in The Gazette,  17 September 1932. 

Timed to take advantage of the enthusiasm generated by the Ottawa Conference but too in advance of the concrete government policies to really spur trade, businessmen held off booking and citing "insufficient response," White Star announced cancellation of the voyage on 8 September 1932 but "it is hoped the Empire Trade ship will sail for the Dominion next spring."

As it was, White Star were having enough trouble keeping Laurentic on the Canada run for the rest of the season.  Upon his return from England, Major Curry was obliged to reassure the Montreal Gazette that "the management has no idea of withdrawing from the Canadian trade, he pointed out most emphatically."  Yet, he also had to announce that Laurentic's next two scheduled voyages (from Liverpool on 1 and 29 October 1932 respectively)  to the St. Lawrence would be cancelled, "due to the falling off in immigration and poor prospects for passenger traffic.  For the rest of year, the Canada office would concentrate on filling those ships calling at Halifax en route to New York: Adriatic, Baltic, Minnetonka, Minnewaska, Pennland and Westernland with Georgic making a special Christmas sailing from Halifax on 4 December. 

As far the White Star  is concerned, the passenger season is over.  The Laurentic, when she dropped out of the  harbor at dawn last Saturday wrote finis to a prosperous  year, as far as 1933 can be said to be prosperous from a passenger travel standpoint.  This year, the White Star did not maintain its usual service,  the Doric for instance,  just coming to port once.

The Montreal Star, 23 September 1932.

Laurentic, which arrived at Montreal the evening of 10 September 1932, with 89 Cabin, 197 Tourist and 146 Third Class, occasioned little notice.  Closing out her abbreviated season, Laurentic left Montreal at daybreak on the 17th with 32 Cabin, 54 Tourist and 163 Third Class passengers, and another depressingly large number of deportees: 121.  The Canadian migrant bubble had long burst and the disappointed returned prospective setters added to the prevailing dismal conditions of trans-Atlantic traffic. She docked at Liverpool on 25 September and out of work for the timebeing. 

Increasingly, White Star along with other Atlantic lines,  found the only glimmer for hope in cruising.  The Depression created two very different cruise markets.  That in America and Canada reflected the far more drastic nature of the Depression on a huge and newly created consumer oriented middle class that was literally more invested in the economy than Britons who, whilst missing the highs of the Roaring Twenties, also were sparred the jarring difference between unbounded prosperity and crushing depression.  So it was that shorter "booze" cruises proliferated out of America whilst the British market matured more gradually. 

Credit: Liverpool Post, 23 September 1932.

In mid September 1932, White Star announced late autumn and early winter cruises from Britain for Doric (12 days to Spain and Portugal) in October, one of 14 days to the Atlantic Islands in Homeric,  and two Christmas itineraries, one of 14 days for Homeric, and the longest, 28 days in Laurentic, departing Liverpool on 10 December 1932 and in 28 days visiting Gibraltar, Villefranche, Alexandria, Haifa and Naples, with fares from 42. The winter programme for 1933 was released on 23 September 1932 which had Laurentic offering three 28-day cruises from Liverpool to Spain, Portugal, the Riviera, North Africa and Mediterranean with fare beginning at 42 and would effectively duplicate the first originally announced Christmas voyage with additional sailings on 11 January, 11 February and 14 March 1933. In all, White Star proposed 11 cruises in three ships encompassing 64,131 miles and visiting 87 ports over a four-month period. When Doric arrived at Liverpool on 26 October 1932, ending White Star's summer-autumn cruise scheduled, it was stated that overall more than 100,000 Britons had gone on cruises that season, more than 20 per cent in White Star ships. 

Laurentic (far left) barely shows in this impressive assemblage of White Star tonnage (Adriatic, Baltic and Georgic)  in the Gladstone Dock, Liverpool in mid October 1932.  Laurentic was laid up until her proposed winter cruise season beginning in early December. Credit: Evening Express 18 October 1932.

White Star had little in the way of good fortune by this time. On 8 November 1932 it was announced that owing to machinery problems (cracking found in one of her engine crankcases) with Olympic, she would go for a major overhaul, taking off her off the Southampton-New York run until March.  To replace her, Georgic was put on the route through mid February, cancelling a planned West Indies cruise and her December New York-Liverpool via Boston voyage in December.  Laurentic, in turn, would substitute for Georgic on that service, departing Liverpool on 14 January 1933 and from New York on the 27th. This service usually called as Boston, Galway and Cobh, but Laurentic would skip the Galway stop. This cancelled her first Mediterranean cruise but it was still planned she would sail on that for 11 February.  Laurentic's originally announced Christmas cruise departing 10 December 1932, too, was cancelled.  

Credit: Times Colonist, 7 December 1932.

Anticipated increased freight and passenger traffic between Great Britain and Canada as a result of the recent signing of the many trade agreements made at the Imperial Conference, is seen in the announcement to-day from the local offices of the White Star Line to the effect that the liner Calgaric will be operated on the Montreal-Liverpool via Glasgow and Belfast service of the White Star Line next summer, in addition to the Ss. Laurentic.

This announcement, coming as it does, before the present season has closed, is a good omen for next year, and is the result of a careful study of world-wide conditions by the officials of the company, all of whom feel that the conference is bound to have a decidedly beneficial effect upon trade and travel next year.

Times Colonist, 7 December 1932.

White Star voyage planners were kept busy that autumn and on 24 November 1932 the company announced in Montreal their 1933 St. Lawrence programme reflecting "confidence in the development of passenger and freight traffic between Montreal and the United Kingdom" and offering a revived fortnightly service by Laurentic now paired with the reactivated Calgaric with initial departures from Montreal by the former on 13 May 1933 (from Liverpool on 28 April, arriving Montreal 6 May) and Calgaric  from Montreal on the 27th. The season would end with Calgaric's 11 November sailing from Montreal and that of Laurentic on the 25th.

Cruising would be offered from Montreal by both ships with Calgaric making two of the popular roundtrips to New York 20 July and 1 August whilst Laurentic would reprise her Dominion Day Cruise to the Saguenay, starting 30 June as well as a Saguenay cruise in Calgaric on 12 August.

Amid the plans and prognostications, Laurentic spent a lonely end to a busy 1932 laid up in no. 2 Branch, Gladstone Dock, Liverpool.  On 29 December the Liverpool Journal of Commerce reported that Harland & Wolff were carrying out repairs to Laurentic and Britannic in the dock. 

In 1932

R.M.S. Laurentic completed

5 voyages Liverpool-Montreal 
Westbound  1,180 passengers (227 Cabin, 407 Tourist and 546 Third Class) 
Eastbound 2,437 passengers (224 Cabin, 757 Tourist Third and 1,456 Third Class)
2 19-day Mediterrannean cruises from Liverpool
1 16-day Mediterranean cruise from Liverpool
1 3-day cruise from Montreal
 3 9-day cruises Montreal to New York and return 
This superb poster by Walter Thomas for Laurentic's winter 1933 Mediterranean which she would never make.   


So rather than start the New Year "in the Med," Laurentic (Capt. R. Hume) would wind up how she began her career, a little over five years previously, on the winter Liverpool-New York run. Sailing from Liverpool on 14 January 1933, after calling at Cobh on the 15th (White Star having finally relinquished the old name of Queenstown), she had 13 Cabin, 43 Tourist and 64 Third Class passengers aboard. But no one much noticed or cared about them, but rather her consignment of £1,500,000 ($7,305,000) or ten tons in gold bars which was part of a large repayment of Britain's war debt to the United States. 

Credit: Liverpool Post, 16 January 1933.

The bars of gold packed in a large number of little iron-bound wooden boxes in the Liverpool consignment arrived in a bullion wagon at Lime-street Station overnight under guard. The bullion was met by a plain-clothes armed escort and was conveyed in lorries to the Gladstone Dock where it was placed in the strong-room of the Laurentic. The consignment was checked at each end. The weight of the gold which arrived at Liverpool is estimated at more than 10 tons. A watch will be kept over the consignment day and night during the voyage.

Evening Express, 14 January 1933.

Laurentic arrived at New York on 23 January 1933, 24 hours late owing to rough weather. Homewards, she sailed on the 27th with 13 Cabin, 14 Tourist and 62 Third Class. Calling at Halifax on the 31st, embarking 1 Cabin, 2 Tourist and 25 Third Class and 127 deportees. She called at Cobh early on 6 February and arrived at Liverpool late the same day. 

Laurentic's Mediterranean cruises for 11 February and 14 March 1933 were quietly cancelled and, instead, she would make one more transatlantic voyage to New York.

Credit: Detroit Free Press, 21 February 1933.

Sailing from Liverpool 11 February 1933, and after calling at Cobh the following day, Laurentic had 2 Cabin, 1 Tourist and 36 Third Class disembarking at Halifax on the 17th and 5 Cabin, 14 Tourist and 36 Third landing at New York on the 19th. Laurentic cleared Pier 60 North River at 5:00 p.m. on the 24th with 16 Cabin, 14 Tourist and 62 Third and took on another 4 Cabin, 3 Tourist and 13 Third as well as 49 deportees at Halifax on the 26th. After calling at Cobh on 5 March, Laurentic returned to Liverpool the following day.  When she docked, a tragic incident was recounted when a steward from Georgic, Robert Patrick Curran, aged 53, who was returning after being diagnosed with internal cancer, had lit a cigarette before bed the evening of 5 March and falling asleep, accidentally set fire to his bedclothes and too weak to raise an alarm, sustained severe burns. He died from heart failure due to shock just before Laurentic arrived. 

This would be Capt. R. Hume's final voyage, having reached White Star's retirement age, after 50 years at sea and 33 years with the line during which had commanded six of the company's vessels. It was estimated that he completed 3,000,000 miles at sea, over 2,000,000 in steamers, having begun in sail. 

In early March 1933, White Star first advertised a Round Britain and Norwegian Fjords cruise, 13 days from Southampton, departing 15 July, for Laurentic

For Laurentic, it would be another idle period in Gladstone Docks with her first sailing for the St. Lawrence not beginning until 28 April 1933. On 6 April the Gazette reported that Leo S. Tobin, White Star traffic manager, had advised that Laurentic was presently being overhauled and that "the liners public rooms and staterooms are being redecorated and she should arrive here [Montreal] like a new ship." 

Credit: eBay auction photo.

By 13 April 1933, White Star had given up the idea of a fortnightly frequency on the St. Lawrence run that season and Calgaric, which was to started on the route on 12 May, was now not listed to sail until 9 June and this would prove her one and only trans-Atlantic  voyage that year. 

As announced on 15 April 1933, Laurentic would have a new commander to start her season, Capt. C.H. Bate, RD, RNR, formerly Chief Officer of Georgic being appointed and B.O. Barlett reappointed as  Chief Purser. 

Advance bookings for Laurentic's Dominion Day cruise, sailing from Montreal 30 June 1933, had recorded over 75 passengers confirmed by 22 April and hundreds of inquiries. 

Back in service and sparkling in fresh paint, Laurentic (Capt. C.H. Bate) left Liverpool on 28 April 1933. She had 16 Cabin, 27 Tourist and 50  Third Class aboard and arrived at Montreal at 8:00 p.m. on 6 May. The Gazette reported that Capt. Bate, "was loud in his praise of the St. Lawrence route and efficient aids to navigation provided," adding that "The Laurentic has been renovated since her appearance last season, and received favorable comment from officers of the White Star Line in Montreal." Other principal officers for the season were Chief Officer D. Owens, Chief Engineer H. Fishwick and Chief Steward J.H. Gaade.  To promote her Dominion Day Cruise, Laurentic was opened for public inspection during her Montreal turnaround and over 1,000 persons availed themselves of the opportunity. On her first eastbound crossing of the season, commencing from Montreal at daybreak on the 13th, 1933, Laurentic had 16 Cabin, 75 Tourist and 129 Third Class as well as 105 deportees. 

Laurentic had 19 Cabin, 24 Tourist and 65 Third Class passengers for her second westbound crossing of the year, arriving at Montreal the morning of 4 June 1933.  "A large number of unaccompanied children were on board the White Star liner when she docked. The children were on their way to their parents in various parts of Canada and were under the care of the British Dominions Emigration Society." (Gazette, 5 June 1933). Being a Sunday, the ship was again opened for public inspection to promote her upcoming Dominion Day cruise which already had 900 bookings in hand. 

Indicative just how dire were the times and how diminished the demand for trans-Atlantic space, what would have been a peak early summer eastbound sailing attracted only 36 Cabin, 75 Tourist and 129 Third Class fares when Laurentic cleared Montreal at dawn on 10 June 1933.  She arrived at Greenock at 5:00 p.m. on the 17th and Belfast at midnight, and docked at Liverpool the following day. 

Departing Liverpool on 21 June 1933, when Laurentic called at Greenock the following day, among those embarking were two 82-year-old ladies, twins, who had been touring Scotland and England and whose cabin, by coincidence, was no. 82.  They were among the 17 Cabin, 35 Tourist and 30 Third Class passengers for the crossing which ended at Montreal the evening of the 29th.  Longshoremen had to hustle to unload her cargo in 24 hours as she would sail at 11:00 p.m. on the 30th on her much anticipated Dominion Day Cruise. This was an earlier departure than planned which had been at daybreak the following day and would enable a longer call at Quebec.

Testifying to the increasing appreciation and realization by Montrealers  and Canadian generally of the St. Lawrence River, which contributes to the creation of this port as one of greatest in the world, the large White Star liner Laurentic sailed at eleven o'clock last night with 1,190 passengers on a Dominion Day cruise to the Saguenay. This vessel, which is one of the biggest coming to Montreal, left with the largest number of passengers ever embarked by a single ship in this harbor.

The Gazette, 1 July 1933.

Laurentic's Dominion Day Cruise was, by far, her best booked trip not only of the year but of her career, a welcome tonic from her sparsely populated crossings. Indeed, when she cleared her Montreal pier, she was only ten persons under her Board of Trade passenger certificate. Every cabin had been booked two weeks prior departure and quite a few intending passengers had to be turned away. Laurentic's 1,190 passengers exceeded Doric's 1,040 for a trans-Atlantic crossing departing on 16 June 1929 and one of the new CPR Duchess liners left a week later with slightly in excess of 1,100.

Rather wonderfully, the sailing occurred on the exact 62nd anniversary of the first departure from Montreal for Liverpool by Dominion Line, the originator of the present White Star Canadian Service. 

Credit: Gazette, 5 July 1933.

Making her last departure from Montreal until late August, Laurentic sailed at daybreak on 5 July 1933 with 64 Cabin, 159 Tourist and 133 Third. Among those in Cabin Class was H.R.H. Prince Youssouf Kamel of Egypt, and H.R.H. Prince Mohamed Abdel Momeam, son of the ex-Khedive, returning from the tour of the United States and Canada, having come to New York in GeorgicLaurentic arrived at Liverpool on the 13th.

Laurentic finally performed an advertised cruise from Britain that year upon her departure from  Liverpool on 16 July 1933 and Greenock the following day, calling at Oban, Kirkwall, Trondheim, Oie, Hellsylt, Merok, Gudvagen, Bergen, Ulkvik, Eidfjord and Norheimsund during the 13-day voyage. Laurentic was but one of three White Star liners sailing from the Mersey that day with Britannic off to New York and Doric on a cruise to Portugal and Spain (carrying a total of 1,650 passengers)  and in the past week, the line had six liners in and out of the port, carrying over 4,000 passengers combined. This was claimed to be record for a number of years for a single line out of Liverpool. Among Laurentic's passengers was former White Star Commodore Sir Bertram F. Hayes and Miss E. Hayes.  Calling at Greenock the following day, it was arranged to have Laurentic call at Leith on the 27th to land Scottish passengers there after the cruise, and she ended the cruise at Immingham. 

Laurentic alongside Hamburg's Überseebrücke, August 1933.

On 1 July 1933 White Star began to advertise an additional cruise for Laurentic to the Northern Capitals, from Immigham on 29 July, 13 days ending at Southampton or 15 days, terminating at Liverpool.  More than 600 embarked at Immingham for the voyage. That weekend saw White Star liners, totalling 297,625 tons, land or embark 7,000 passengers at Liverpool, Southampton and Immingham. The cruise called at Oslo, Copenhagen (1-2 August), Stockholm (4-5), Danzig, (7), Hamburg etc., A feature of the cruise was Laurentic's first transit of the Kiel Canal and she was, in fact, the largest passenger ship yet to pass through the waterway. "It was only after many consultations between the White Star Company and the Canal Company's officials that the trip was taken. As it was, the masts had be shortened and the water in the canal lowered two feet before the ship was allowed through. Commander Bate was very perturbed and was obviously relieved when the big ship safely passed under the huge bridges." (Coventry Evening Telegraph, 7 September 1933).  Laurentic arrived at Southampton at 5:00 p.m. on the 11th and returned to Liverpool on the 13th.

Continuing the cruise focus of the year, White Star announced on 1 August 1933 a follow-up to the hugely popular Dominion Day Cruise for Laurentic with a similar cruise departing Montreal on the evening of 28 August and returning first thing on the 31st, to Saguenay via Quebec.  Fares for the three-night trip were a flat $22.50 or $25.00 (Cabin Class cabins).  

Marking the first sailing for the St. Lawrence in two months, Laurentic left Liverpool on the early evening of 18 August 1933 and arrived at Montreal with her best westbound list of the year: 50 Cabin, 111 Tourist and 119 Third Class. 

Atmosphere of a festive character surrounded the White Star liner Laurentic last night as nearly eight hundred passengers boarded the vessel with the promise of fine weather for a cruise to the Saguenay that will bring them back to Montreal Thursday morning.

The Gazette, 29 August 1933.

With 800 passengers, including  quite a few from the United States, and 31 entertainers to see they had a swell time, Laurentic sailed from Montreal at 11:00 p.m. on 28 August 1933 for Quebec and Saguenay. Among those aboard was White Star Traffic Manager L.S. Tobin.

Laurentic sailed for Liverpool first thing on 2 September 1933 with 21 Cabin, 42 Tourist and 84 Third Class passengers where she docked at 10:00 a.m. on the 10th.

Ending another abbreviated St. Lawrence season, Laurentic (Capt. F.J. Burd, formerly commanding Calgaric) departed the Mersey the early evening of 15 September 1933 and after calling at Belfast and Glasgow, headed west with 32 Cabin, 58 Tourist and 110 Third Class passengers.  She docked at Montreal on the 23rd.  

Laurentic had 24 Cabin, 30 Tourist and 73 Third Class aboard upon departure from Montreal at 10:00 a.m. on 30 September 1933. When at the western entrance to the Strait of Belle Isle, 16 miles east of Point Armour and 817 nautical miles from Montreal, Laurentic and the British tramp steamer Lurigethan (1916/3,627 grt)  were in collision at 5:30 p.m. on 2 October in fog.  Lurigethan (Capt. R.A. Bingham) was bound from Montreal to Rotterdam and had left the same day Laurentic did. White Star Manager Curry received a wireless from Capt. Burd advising of the accident and stating that the damage to his vessel, on the starboard quarter on C Deck, was "slight and above the waterline," and he was proceeding on schedule. The crew fabricated a wooden "patch" 10 x 12 ft. square to plug the missing plates which had been ripped off by the Lurigethan's anchor. 

Upon arrival at Greenock, there were enough passengers to give the Sunday Sun (8 October 1933) "thrilling accounts" of the "crash": 

A hole large enough to admit a man to pass through had been pierced in the starboard hull of the Laurentic but the damage was all above the water line and at no time was the ship in danger Relating his experiences to a Sunday Sun representative on board a first-class passenger stated: 'The Laurentic wsa two days out from Montreal when the collision took place. We had fog all the way and it was a slow and somewhat eerie journey out from port with the sirens blowing all the time. About 6:30 on Monday night the crash occurred. The fog then seemed to be at its worst and darkness was setting in. We had no warning of the approach of the other steamer and it was a bit of a shock to see the dark object suddenly appear out of the gloom almost on top of us.  As it was we got two pretty severe glancing blows Both were on our starboard side amidship and they made the Laurentic stagger.

Many of the first-class passengers were dressing for dinner at the time and the emergency signal coupled with the noise of the collision sent them scurrying on to the top deck with their lifebelts Some were only partly clad.

We remained at the muster station for about 20 minutes when we were assured by the officers that there was no danger and we were able to return to our cabins.

 It seemed to us as if the overhanging anchor of the Lurigethan had pierced our side. Rivet heads were shaved off a number of plates and the paint was scraped on a large section of the after art of the hull while one or two portholes were damaged.

The steerage passengers were in the dining saloon at the time and one of them stated that the force of the collision scattered dishes off some of the tables.

The watertight doors were immediately closed as a precautionary measure but there was really no alarm.

That would be the end of Laurentic's 1933 and literally out of work, like so many, she was idled for the rest of the year.  There was not even a new series of winter cruises promoted by wonderful brochures and posters promising new horizons, only to be cancelled owing to lack of demand.

Credit: Catholic Standard, 4 November 1933.

However, on 4 November 1933 it was announced that Laurentic had been chartered to Hewett's Travel Agency, Dublin, for a cruise the following Easter season  to Rome for the Holy Year. This would have her depart Dublin on 23 March for  Gibraltar and then Civitavecchia where she would act as a hotel ship for the pilgrims to visit Rome on Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday, and witness the final celebrations of the Nineteenth Centenary of the Redemption and the ceremony of the Closing of the Holy Door.  On the voyage back, Laurentic would call at Palma de Majorca and Ceuta. The 18-day cruise would have fares starting at 24 guineas and passenger capacity limited to 750. 

In mid December 1933, Laurentic was again detailed to two voyages from Liverpool to New York in relief of Britannic which was cruising from Liverpool to the Mediterranean.

In 1933

R.M.S. Laurentic completed

2 voyages Liverpool-New York/Halifax
5 voyages Liverpool-Montreal 
Westbound  938 passengers (152 Cabin, 312 Tourist and 474 Third Class) 
Eastbound 1,238 passengers (195 Cabin, 384 Tourist Third and 659 Third Class)
2 3-day Saguenay cruises from Montreal carrying 1,990 passengers
1 13-day Norwegian cruise from Liverpool carrying 600 passengers
1 13-day Northern Capitals cruise from Immingham carrying 600 passengers
The last White Star Line poster, art by Wells, 1933. Credit


Beginning a New Year, one that would see the end of the old White Star Line, before it was half over, Laurentic sailed on the first of two round voyages from Liverpool to New York via Galway, Cobh, Boston and or Halifax, on 13 January 1934. She called outbound at Cobh and after a very stormy passage arrived at Halifax on the 21st where she landed 5 Cabin, 3 Tourist and 44 Third Class before proceeding to New York where she docked on the 23rd, some 29 hours late as were Mauretania and Pennland

Laurentic arriving in Gladstone Dock. Credit: Liverpool Post, 7 February 1934.

Homebound, Laurentic left New York at 5:00 p.m. on 26 January 1934 with 11 Cabin, 19 Tourist and 30 Third Class and had a very busy crossing, with calls en route to Liverpool at Boston, Halifax, Galway and Cobh.  Arriving at Boston at 7:00 p.m. on the 27th, she embarked 13 Cabin, 8 Tourist and 17 Third Class and 500 tons of wool and other cargo, which delayed her departure for Halifax until after midnight. Laurentic sailed from there on the 29th, adding 3 Cabin, 2 Tourist and 6 Third Class passengers to her compliment. After calling at Galway the morning and at Cobh in the evening of 5 February, Laurentic arrived at Liverpool the following evening.  Among her cargo and passengers, she also landed a consignment of £300,000 in gold bullion, 33 cases in all, shipped from Halifax, from the Royal Bank of Montreal to their London branch and conveyed in a motor van, under armed escort to Lime Street Station, for the train to the Capital. 

Credit: Belfast Telegraph, 10 February 1934.

Now under commanded by Capt. W. S. Quinn, who had been master of Doric for the last two years, Laurentic sailed for New York 10 February 1934, and in addition to passengers and cargo, she had a nine-month-old  pedigree bulldog valued at over £100 and £2.5 mn, in gold bullion.  Among the passengers was Miss Rose Quong, Chinese actress and lecturer, who had given 60 talks in Britain, and had appeared in James Laver's "The Circle of Chalk."  Laurentic arrived at Halifax on the 17th landing 2 Cabin, 2 Tourist and 22 Third and at New York on the 23rd disembarking 14 Cabin, 30 Tourist and 38 Third. Homewards, Laurentic had 13 Cabin, 11 Tourist and 47 Third Class passengers on departure from New York on the 23rd, to which were added 5 Cabin, 4 Tourist and 21 Third Class embarking at Boston on the 25th and at Halifax on the following day, 4 Cabin, 3 Tourist and 7 Third Class.  She called additionally at Cobh and arrived at Liverpool on 3 March. 

White Star released their last Canadian schedule on 16 February 1934. Laurentic would hold down the service singlehanded with monthly sailings and her first departure from Montreal being on 28 April and every fourth Saturday with the except of 24 June, a Sunday and St. Jean Baptiste Day.  There would be no October sailing and an eight-week gap between Montreal departures from 15 September and 10 November with a total of seven sailings that season. It was stated there was "no definite announcement concerned the operation of the White Star liner Laurentic after the end of June."

The era of "Talkies," already a feature on White Star's big New York liners, came to Laurentic and Doric as announced on 1 March 1934. "The most up-to-date RCA and Gaumont British equipments" being fitted to both ships and inaugurated on Laurentic's 23 March 1934 cruise to the Mediterranean and on Doric in time for her cruise to the Mediterranean on the 29th. 

Cover of White Star's final cruise brochure for the British market, 1934. Credit: eBay auction photo.

White Star's final cruise programme for the British market comprised 19 cruises in Homeric, Doric and Adriatic from Southampton and Liverpool ranging from 10 to 21 days from 24 March-2 October 1934. Laurentic would not figure in the main programme but lead it off with her 23 March Holy Week cruise to Rome.  

Credit: The Catholic News, 31 March 1934.

The Pilgrimage is essentially Irish in every aspect.

The vessel is Irish built, and it has been chartered by Mr. A.W. Hewett, the founder and proprietor of Hewett's Travel Agency, which has its headquarters in Dublin. 

On the eve of the Laurentic's departure from Dublin, a large number of guests was entertained to dinner on board by Mr. Hewett.

Archbishop Gilmartin paid a compliment to Captain Quinn, who is command of the liner. His Grace said he had on previous occasions had the pleasure of travelling with Captain Quinn, in whom he had the greatest confidence. He congratulated him on his promotion from the command of the Doric, and prayed the cruise would be a great success.

Dr. Gilmartin said he would inform the Holy Father of the enterprise of Mr. Hewett in organising the trip.

Thanks for his Grace's kind words were expressed by Mr. Hewett and Captain Quinn, the later recalling the occasion when he took 830 passengers in the Doric to the Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, two years ago. 

Nottingham & Midland Catholic News, 31 March 1934.

Fitted with ten altars in various public rooms as well as her "talkie" picture apparatus, Laurentic departed Gladstone Dock, Liverpool, the evening of 22 March 1934, for Dublin, having embarked 80 passengers and picking up the remaining 700 the following day on arrival, including the Archbishop of Tuam (the Most Rev. T.P. Gilmartin).  Laurentic sailed the morning of the 24th and make history as the largest liner ever to have departed from the Irish port. Later the same day, the Cunarder Lancastria arrived in port, returning from the first pilgrimmage cruise, the 1,250 pilgrims including 560 Boy Scouts.  Laurentic arrived at Gibraltar on the 27th and at Civitavecchia on the 30th. Remaining there for 80 hours, the ship used as an hotel by the passengers who travelled to and from Rome by train, Laurentic sailed on 2 April at 10:00 p.m. for Palma (4) and Ceuta (6) before returning to Dublin on the 10th and Liverpool on the 11th. 

Credit: The Windsor Star, 22 March 1934.

's St. Lawrence season had not begun before it was curtailed and on 22 March 1934 her first voyage, from Liverpool on 15 April and from Montreal on the 28th, was cancelled. Unfavourable ice conditions in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and in the river were cited and Canadian Pacific, Cunard and Donaldson all cancelled their first sailings of the season as well.  Passengers booked on Laurentic from Montreal were transferred to Georgic which would call at Halifax eastbound on 23 April. Laurentic would now depart Liverpool on  12 May for Montreal, via Glasgow, with her first departure from Montreal on the 26th. 

Credit: Daily Mirror, 29 March 1934.

Another charter for Laurentic was announced on 26 March 1934 by the Irish Franciscan Tertiary Pilgrimage for a pilgrimmage from Dublin to Lourdes for 1,200, sailing 29 September 1934 for Le Verdon for a four-day stay.  It was reported this would the first time a Lourdes pilgrimmage would be done by liner. The minimum rate was £12 10 s. 

Credit: The Daily Telegraph, 23 March 1934.

Gleaming brightly inside and out, the 18,724-ton White Star liner Laurentic arrived her yesterday morning on her initial visit to Montreal this season, completing a voyage described by several of her passengers as thoroughly enjoyable in every respect. The sky was overcast on one day only. The large vessel reached Longue Pointe shortly before midnight on Sunday, but did not dock until seven o'clock yesterday morning,  when customs examiners handled  baggage of passengers expeditiously.

The Gazette, 22 May 1934.

The End: Poster for the final sailings from Montreal of White Star Line Canadian Service by R.M.S. Laurentic. Credit: Mitchell & Mitchell Auctions. 

Laurentic  (Capt. W.S. Quinn) finally began her St. Lawrence season of 1934 upon her departure from Liverpool at 5:00 p.m. for Belfast and Glasgow, and had 23 Cabin,  26 Tourist and 76 Third Class aboard.  She docked at Montreal early on the 21st. Among her senior officers that season were Chief Engineer W.H. Marker, Chief Officer W. Wilcox, First Officer D.W. Alexander, Second Officer R.G Parode, Second Engineer J. Clachrie, Surgeon R.S. Taylor OBE, Chief Purser B.O. Bartlett, Chief Steward R.G. Gough and Chief Tourist Steward W. Jackson. 

Plans continued apace for the Cunard-White Star era and on 25 May 1934 it was announced that bookings for all Laurentic's sailings after 30 June would be made through the Cunard offices in Canada. Already the 1934 sailing schedules of the two lines had been coordinated so that no more than one ship would sail from Montreal for Liverpool each week. Laurentic, Antonia, Athenia and Letitia served Glasgow, Belfast and Liverpool whilst Alaunia, Aurania, Ausonia and Ascania served Plymouth, Le Havre and London. 

With 34 Cabin, 72 Tourist and 152 Tourist Class passengers, Laurentic began her first eastbound crossing of the year at daybreak on 26 May 1934. Calling at Glasgow the morning of 2 June and Belfast late the same day,  she arrived at Liverpool on 3 June.

Making the final White Star Line voyage to Canada, Laurentic cleared Prince's Landing Stage at 5:00 p.m. on 8 June 1934, calling at Greenock on the 9th by which time she had 15 Cabin, 36 Tourist and 70 Third Class aboard. Laurentic arrived at Montreal on the 17th.

Credit: Montreal Star, 2 June 1934.

Although much jolification and celebration surrounded the departure of the White Star liner Laurentic, which sailed at daybreak yesterday for Greenock, Belfast and Liverpool, the final clearance of this vessel from Montreal under the house flag of the White Star Line occasioned considerable regret among those long associated with this company.

The Gazette, 25 June 1934.

To accommodate a large number of students, Laurentic's sailing for Liverpool was put back from Friday evening embarkation to Saturday evening, departing at daybreak Sunday and calling at Quebec at noon.  So it was that at dawn, Laurentic cleared Shed 4, Alexandra Basin, Montreal on 24 June 1934 on the last White Star Line departure from the Port. She had a fair list of 66 Cabin, 159 Tourist and 135 Third Class and also took out  an exceptionally heavy grain cargo, totalling 128,000 bushels. Calling at Glasgow and Belfast on 1 July, Laurentic  arrived at Liverpool on the morning of 2 July.  

By the time Laurentic arrived back in homeport, White Star Line ceased to exist and as of 1 July 1934 she would be operated by the new Cunard-White Star Line whose combined fleet of 25 vessels totalled some 616,000 tons. In Montreal on 30 June Major Philip A. Curry, who joined White Star Line on 3 September 1906, announced the termination of the local IMM office in representing White Star within the new combine. A number of senior officials in the Montreal office, including Thomas W. Hayes, who started with Dominion Line 45 years earlier, retired upon the changeover.

Operationally, all liners of the joint company henceforth used the Cunard piers in Chelsea, New York, 53-56, and the North American headquarters at 25 Broadway, lower Manhattan.  The ships would retain their original liveries and names and fly the houseflags of both lines, with their original flag flown above the other.  In reality, however, White Star was very much the junior partner in the New Order although it could be argued that the two most profitable ships (as well as the newest)  in the combined fleets were Britannic and Georgic.  Trading conditions were such that there was only enough traffic for 70 per cent of the combined fleet and most of the severe attrition to follow would be of White Star ships, in particular the coal-fired Mersey-based vessels.  Some old White Star hands, smarting over the obvious preference, said "the only thing wrong with their ships was the colour of their funnels," but they were only feeling what officers and crews of American Line, Dominion Line, Leyland Line, etc. experienced under IMM when White Star was the favoured child.   It was a merger occasioned by the need to survive and in the end, White Star save for two ships, did not.

On 5 July 1934 the ships of Cunard and White Star Line were officially transferred by registry to the ownership of Cunard Star Ltd. and of the White Star liners, so registered, Albertic and Calgaric were laid up (and quickly sold for scrap) and with Doric cruising fulltime, Laurentic would be the sole representative  of the old company on the Canadian run.

Credit: The Gazette, 16 July 1934.

Making her first arrival here under the auspices of the new merger company, the Cunard White Star liner Laurentic docked for the first time in this role, flying the two flags of the two great rival companies which are now one, on Saturday evening. As her telescopic masts slipped under the span of the newly named Jacques Cartier bridge, the two house-flags known for decades on the St. Lawrence, broke simultaneously from their tops and fluttered gaily when a large crowd of Montrealers welcomed the 19,000 ton ship into port.

The Gazette, 16 July 1934.

As such and flying the Cunard houseflag below her White Star burgee, Laurentic embarked passengers at Prince's Landing Stage between 5:00-6:00 p.m. on 6 July 1934 and sailed shortly thereafter.  Laurentic made, in fact, the first Cunard-White Star sailing to Canada and the same day Antonia and Ascania did so from Montreal under the new regime. After calling at Belfast and Greenock, she had 24 Cabin, 35 Tourist and 62 Third Class passengers.  Laurentic arrived at Montreal on the evening of the 14th. 

When Laurentic sailed from Montreal at daybreak on 20 July 1934 she numbered 32 Cabin, 72 Tourist and 87 Third Class in her passenger list, including Major P.A. Curry, OBE, his wife and two daughters. Laurentic docked at Prince's Landing Stage at 7:30 a.m. on  the 28th.

Pages from the Passenger List for Laurentic's unexpected 11 August 1934 cruise from Liverpool replacing the damaged Lancastria. Credit: eBay auction photo. 

Laurentic's next voyage to Canada, beginning 3 August 1934 (and from Montreal on 18 August) was cancelled in late July. This was a result of  Lancastria running aground on a Norwegian cruise on 25 July 1934. and damaged. Drydocked at Cammell, Laird, Birkenhead, on return to Liverpool on 3 August, she was found to require replacement of 22 hull plates and other damage.   Laurentic took her place on her Bank Holiday  cruise on the 4th, sailing at 7:10 p.m, calling at Corunna on the 6th, Vigo on the 7th and returning on the 10th. Another cruise followed on the 11th the Mediterranean calling Gibraltar on the 15th, Barcelona 17th, Palma 18th, Ceuta 20th and arrived at Liverpool the 24th.   

Now fleetmates, Laurentic and Mauretania off Gibraltar in August 1934. Credit: painting by Capt. Stephen Card, displayed aboard Queen Mary 2. 

Laurentic left Liverpool for the St. Lawrence on 1 September 1934 and after her stops at Belfast and Greenock, had 86 Cabin, 123 Tourist and 80 Third Class passengers.  She docked at Montreal on the 8th. 

During her turnaround, Laurentic was used as an exhibition ship and venue for the fifth advertising exhibition for the Advertising Club of Montreal whilst alongside Shed 2.  The annual show demonstrated the newest forms of advertising art and technique and tremendously popular, attracting 10,000 attendees in 1932 and 1933 when it was held aboard the Cunarder Aurania. Montreal Mayor Camilien Houde, no stranger to Laurentic, official opened the exhibition during a luncheon aboard on 10 September 1934. 

Thousands of people visited the 5th annual exhibition of the Advertising Club of Montreal, on board the Cunard White Star liner Laurentic, docked at shed No. 2, at the foot of St. Francois-Xavier street, yesterday. Officials stated that 2,000 people visited the show on the opening day. The show was the most successful staged so far, Leo Cox, vice-president of the club, stated.

An informal dinner took place at 7 p.m., and was attended by 300 men and women advertisers. There were no speeches. An entertainment programme was supplied by stewards and other members of the crew. Later in the evening a dance was held on the boat deck. Many couples danced under the star-lit sky while hundreds watched.

Throughout the evening people came on board the steamer in uninterrupted lines. Two gangplanks had to be used in order to accommodate the heavy traffic. The shed and ship were gaily decorated with flags and pennants. Many people wore paper bonnets and other fancy decorations. Balloons, streamers and noise-making contrivances were to be seen everywhere.

At 4 p.m., today a tea-dansant will be held and a dinner and dance will bring the event to a close in the evening..

The Gazette, 12 September 1934.

In all, Laurentic hosted an extraordinary 18,000 visitors for the exhibit. 

With 43 Cabin, 48 Tourist and 73 Third Class, Laurentic sailed from Montreal on 14 September 1934 and arrived at Liverpool on the 22nd at 8:00 a.m.  Her departure occasioned no notice in the papers which was unusual and ironic since, unknown at the time, it would prove Laurentic's farewell to Canada and to the route she was built for as well as ending the last links with the historic Dominion Line.

Bound for Dublin and her charter pilgrimage cruise to Lourdes (Le Verdon), Laurentic left Liverpool the afternoon of 28 September 1934.  She had been fitted with 21 altars in various public rooms.  Arriving at Dublin the following morning, Laurentic embarked a capacity list of 1,320 passengers, including 60 priests and 80 invalid cases, including a large number of stretcher cases, who would be looked after by nurses in the hospital. Among those aboard was Alderman Alfred Byrne, the Lord Mayor of Dublin. The pilgrimage, the largest ever to Lourdes by sea,  was under the patronage of his Grace Most Rev. Dr. Paschal Robininson, Archbishop of Tyane and Papal Nuncio to the Irish Free State and the leaders of the party were the Most Rev. Drs. McNeely and Neville, Lordbishops of Rapnol and Carres.  

Stirring scenes were witnessed in Dublin last Saturday when the Franciscan Tertiary pilgrimmage, the largest to go to sea to Lourdes, left Alexandra Basin on board the Cunard-White Star liner Laurentic.

Hundreds of people assembled on the dockside to give a send-off to the pilgrims, of whom there were 1,320, including 60 priests and 80 invalids. The Garda band played music appropriate to the occasion, and as the vessel was about to start up struck up the Lourdes Hymn which was sung by the pilgrims on the decks and their friends on shore.

A guard of honour of Catholic Boy Scouts and Sea Scouts received his Lordship Most Rev. Dr. MacNeely, Bishops of Raphoe,and Most Rev. Dr. Neville, Bishop of Carres, leaders of the pilgrimage. The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Ald. A. Byrne, received an ovation as he ascended the gangway to take his place among the pilgrims.

The liner, which is a majestic 19,000 vessel, was gaily decorated with bunting and flew the National flag, the Lourdes and Papal flags.

When the gangways were up and everything in readiness for the departure, the National Anthem was played and the monster liner glided away from the quayside, escorted by two gaily bedecked tugs.

The Catholic Standard, 5 October 1934.

Laurentic sails from Le Verdon. Credit: eBay auction photo.

Laurentic alongside Le Verdon's impressive 1930s Gare Maritime. Credit: eBay auction.

Sailing direct to Le Verdon, the pilgrims would travel by train the 230 miles inland to Lourdes for a five-day stay, sailing for Dublin on 5 October. However, on returning to Dublin Bay around midday on the 7th, Laurentic missed the tide by about an hour and could not enter the port and go alongside until 10:00 p.m. that evening. She sailed for Liverpool on the 8th.

Credit: Liverpool Daily Post, 12 October 1924

Whilst in Gladstone Dock, Liverpool, Laurentic was the venue for a charity ball in aid of the Liverpool Women's Auxiliary of the Red Triangle Lad's Club the evening of 11 October 1934. This was attended by the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress (Mr. and Mrs. G.A. Strong) and 250 other guests.  Laurentic, as it turned out, was not originally chosen for the event which was to have been held aboard Laconia which was "detained in New York, having sustained damage in a slight collision."

It was clear that under the new management, Laurentic was already a bit of a fifth wheel and surplus to requirements.  Then, too, Cunard's Aurania had been laid up for more two years and there was simply not enough traffic to keep both combined fleets gainfully employed.  Laurentic's scheduled voyage to Canada, 26 October 1934 from Liverpool, 9 November from Montreal, was quietly cancelled about two weeks before departure.  Aurania would finally be returned to service in mid November, but Laurentic was out of work for the rest of the year and initially laid up in Gladstone Dock. Capt. Quinn was transferred first to Scythia and then Homeric

In late October, Laurentic was advertised for a crossing from Liverpool  and Belfast to Halifax departing on 12 January 1935 on behalf of Anchor-Donaldson Line. By early December, Lancastria was listed for this sailing but Laurentic shown for one on 9 February.  Then, on 18 December she was listed for a 16 February departure from Liverpool to New York via Cobh.

Laurentic laid up in Langton Dock, Birkenhead in early 1935. Credit: oceanic house, pininterest.

Indicative that she was not going anywhere anytime soon, at 2:00 p.m. on 13 December 1934, Laurentic was towed out of no. 2 Branch Gladstone Dock across the Mersey to Birkenhead where she laid up in Langton Dock. 

In 1934

R.M.S. Laurentic completed

2 voyages Liverpool-New York/Boston/Halifax
4 voyages Liverpool-Montreal 
Westbound  899 passengers (185 Cabin, 280 Tourist and 434 Third Class) 
Eastbound 1,197 passengers (224 Cabin, 398 Tourist Third and 575 Third Class)
1 17-day Mediterranean cruise from Dublin carrying 780 passengers
1 15-day Mediterranean cruise from Liverpool
1 13-day Mediterranean cruise from Liverpool
1 8-day cruise to Le Verdon from Dublin carrying 1,320 passengers


Starting the New Year languishing in lay-up in Langton Dock, Laurentic had the cheering news on 25 January 1935 that she would again be chartered for another Irish Franciscan pilgrimmage cruise from Dublin to Le Verdon, for Lourdes, departing 7 September. 

Credit: Galway Observer, 2 February 1935.

Countering this was the cancellation of Laurentic's scheduled 17 February sailing for Halifax, Boston and New York (departing Boston on 2 March 1935) and it would be last time she would even be listed for further trans-Atlantic service. 

Cedit: Daily Telegraph, 25 February 1935.

Cunard-White Star released their spring-summer cruise programme from British ports in February 1935 to be operated by Homeric, Doric, Laurentic and Lancastria from 9 March through 5 October.  Laurentic would return to service with her 13 July sailing from Liverpool on a 13-day Mediterranean cruise followed by a 14-day itinerary to Portugal, the Riviera and Spain on the 27th and a 14-day Baltic cruise from Liverpool on17 August. 

Laid up in Langton dock 25 May 1935 with Furness Withy's Incemore alongside. Credit: Merseyside Maritime Museum.

Laurentic was towed from Langdon Dock, Birkenhead, to Gladstone Graving Dock on 22 July 1935 for an overhaul and repainting prior to re-entering service.

With 800 passengers (including a party of 100 Catholics from Dublin) accompanied by the Lord Bishop of Meath, Dr. Thomas Mulvanney), Laurentic left from Liverpool late on 27 July 1935. She was one of four Cunard-White Star liner, three outbound and one inbound, handled that day with Andania inbond from Canada,  Letitia for Canada and Samaria for Boston and New York. To cater to her Catholic passengers, one of Laurentic's her Tourist class public rooms aft was converted into a chapel. Her 14-day cruise took in  Lisbon (30), Monte Carlo (3-4 August), Gibraltar (6 August) and Corunna (8), returning to Liverpool on the 10th.  Fares from £16.

Laurentic (Capt. W.S. Quinn) sailed from Liverpool on her second cruise the evening of 17 August 1935, the 14-day itinerary comprising Danzig, Visby, Stockholm, Gothenburg and Copenhagen. Among the 620 passengers were the Earl and Countess of Bradford and Sir E.M. Archdale, MP. Although all were aboard by the scheduled sailing time of 6:30 p.m., there was a last minute delay with luggage which came by tender after she had cleared Prince's Landing Stage at 6:49 p.m., which, with low water, occasioned a three-hour delay which, as it turned out, proved most unfortunate as she left the stage in pouring rain but it was clear and by the time Laurentic proceeded at 9:52 p.m., it soon became misty.  

Navigating in what was now heavy fog, the Blue Star cargo ship Napier Star, Capt. Tayor, (10,583 grt), inbound from Glasgow, collided with Laurantic at 2:30 a.m. on the 18th, 42 miles northwest of the Mersey Bar and close to the Isle of Man. So thick was the fog that the two ships only sighted one another at a 50-yard distance and Napier Star put her engines in full reverse which at least checked some of the impact. The look-out at the time of the collision, George Stewart Allender, told the Liverpool Daily Post (19 August 1935):

It happened about 2.30, half an hour after I relieved the look-out man in the bows of the ship. I was on duty for two hours, and it was very misty. Visibility was fairly bad. Suddenly I saw the light of the other ship on our starboard bow. I struck the warning bell, and the other ship blew her whistle. She went hard over, but came right into us. The  impact was terrific, and it threw me against the rails. I do know what happened then, because I was so dazed. I stuck to my station, and the emergency bells went.

Credit: Evening Express 19 August 1935.

Credit: The Daily Telegraph, 19 August 1935.

Napier Star's bow penetrated deeply into Laurentic's starboard bow in way of no. 1 hold and crew accommodation, ripping a "V" shaped gash from the upper deck to below the water line that extended from the starboard side to within a few feet of the portside.  The Blue Star ship's bow was crushed back 50 ft., the fore deck grotesquely bent down and she left her port bow anchor and many fathoms of chain imbedded in the devastated impact area.  Fortunately, her crew accommodation was aft and there were no injuries to those aboard.

Credit: Evening Express 19 August 1935.

Laurentic "was shaken from stem to stern," by the impact and the watertight doors ordered closed immediately, but the damage was confined to one compartment and the sea was like a mill pond. Still, the crew called to muster stations, the boats swung out in readiness and the passengers ordered to put on their lifejackets and muster in public rooms and on deck, many still in their night clothes.

Even though 50 crew were bunked on the port side of the collision site and escaped from the wreckage,  those on the less occupied starboard side were less fortunate, and crushed in by the impact or trapped injured in the demolished berthing areas. The quarters for the ship's orchestra was completely "smashed to matchwood," Len Beckhouse, the cello players, told the Liverpool Daily Post:

Our syren blew for about five or six minutes, and then gave three long blasts. Another ship's syren answered, and I say up to look out of the porthole to see if I could see the other ship. I saw the reflection of light on the water, and then was a terrible crash. Sparks flashed across the porthole as the iron plates were torn apart. There was an avalanche of plaster, and splintered wood, and water gushed out of the broken service pipes.

I was horrified to see the partition of the next cabin come crashing in towards me, but luckily it stopped a few inches before my bunk. Through there splinters flying everywhere, I was not touched. 

Credit: Evening Express, 19 August 1935.

Six crew members were killed outright:
A.J. Bellis, 32, look-out
P.W. Murray, 25, AB
J. Nuttall, 24, AB
D. Stewart, 60, AB
T. Roberts, 19, Boy Seaman
W.E. Holcroft, 34, musician

The injured were:
A.S. Barnett, 22, Boy Seaman
W. Monhehan, 34, Quartermaster
M. Prendigast, 49, look-out
J.A. Hamilton, 23, AB
T.I. McDonald, 17, Boy Seaman

Photographs taken by a crew member showing Laurentic's fore deck after the collision showing the crushed deck ventilator and the loose ratlines. Also visible is the portable canvas swimming pool erected on the fore deck for cruises.  The photo on the right shows the ship being assisted towards the entrance to Gladsone Dock. Credit: eBay auction photo.

Credit: The Daily Telegraph, 19 August 1935.

Credit: The Sphere, 24 August 1935.

Immediately, a rescue gang was organised, armed with torches and axes, to free the trapped and injured men who were passed brandy and given cigarettes whilst awaiting being freed.  Capt. W.S. Quinn, satsified there was no immediate danger to his ship, hove-to off Mersey Bar by noon at which time the tender Skirmisher arrived from Liverpool with men from Harland & Wolff to assist in torching their way through the wreckage to free those still trapped.  One dead man was removed from the side of the ship, lowered into a launch and in full view of passengers. Two of the dead remained entrapped in the wreckage.  One of the boy seamen, T.I. McDonald, was trapped in his top bunch for nine hours until he could be freed, without serious injury. Passengers raised a collection of £212 for the immediate dependants of the dead crew members. Skimisher returned to Prince's Landing Stage late in the after with more 100 passengers and their luggage to take a special train from Riverside Station to London. 

Credit: Evening Express, 19 August 1935.

Both ships were able to make Liverpool under their own steam, and Laurentic, with her houseflags and ensign at half mast,  was alongside by 5:30 p.m. 18 August 1935 and her passengers served breakfast before disembarking.  Cunard-White Star organised coaches to take passengers to Riverside or other Liverpool railway stations once they had packed and disembarked whilst 114 elected to stay aboard until the following day owing to train and transport timings. Laurentic's passengers were offered alternative cruises in Lancastria, sailing from Liverpool on 25 August or Homeric the same day from Southampton, and by the 20th, 200 had rebooked.  Others had their fares refunded in full. 

Laurentic in Gladstone Graving Dock for repairs. Credit: Oceanic House, Pinterest. 

Hundreds of spectators watched gangs of men working at high pressure in clearing away the debris and cutting away the battered plates of the Cunard White Star liner Laurentic in the Gladstone Graving Dock yesterday in an effort to repair the vessel in time for her to sail from Liverpool on September 6. The bright flashes and spasmodic blue-white glare from the oxy-aoetylene apparatus vied with the brilliant sunshine as plates and great pieces of twisted metal wen wrested from the hull end crashed into the graving dock while the larger pieces were lifted off by cranes. The anchor of the Napier Star the vessel with which she came in collision was cut sway early in the day. The workmen handling the oxy-acetyleue plant are wearing life-lines to guard against accidents.

'Our men will work day and night in shifts and we are confident that the work will be finished within a few days of the date the Laurentic is due to sail' an official of the company told the Daily Post.

'It will be necessary,' he added, 'to cut away large sections off the hull from the top rail to well below the waterline The smashed cabins and decks will be reconstructed and new plates will be fitted in place of those torn in the collision.'

Liverpool Daily Post, 21 August 1935.

Credit: Liverpool Daily Post, 30 August 1935.

Laurentic was put into Gladstone Graving Dock late on 19 August 1935 and tons of water flowed out of the enormous hole in the side when the dock was drained. The repairs were carried by Harland & Wolff's Bootle Division and employed 200-300 men working day and night shifts to ensure she was repaired in time for her upcoming pilgrimmage cruise from Dublin.   The same evening work began clearing the damaged steelwork and interior wreckage. On the 21st, men began cutting of the eight to nine tons of anchor and chain belonging to Napier Star imbedded in Laurentic's bows. As early as the 24th, work began repairing the damage with new framing and plating and this was completed in just ten days with 20 sheel plates, 18 frames and other structural members etc. replaced over five decks. All of the accommodation, etc., in the damaged section was completely rebuilt. 

The Laurentic appears somewhat astonishing as one sees her to-day from the Overhead Railway in Liverpool. The liner sits in the Gladstone Graving Dock with smoke coming from one funnel. But there is no water there. She sits in the immense concrete dry dock, apparently without support of any kind. 

Her deck comes about to the level of the dock side. There is a good deal of space all round her, and she is so neat and clean, with her white paint above, black below, and a gold band around the hull, that one might think her a model ship, newly built,  except for the hole in her bows.

The gash which she received in her collision with the Napier Star on Sunday has been widened by the removal of the adioining buckled and strained plates, which lie, a heap of of gigantically corrugated metal, with  other wreckage on the dockside. The hole is fenced by a new wooden staging, and Messrs. Harland and Wolff's men are completing the work necessary to prepare the Laurentic for her new plates. The firm expects to see the Laurentic afloat again a week on Wednesday, two days before she is due to carry pilgrims on their way to Lourdes.

In Sunday's collision the plating was rent in a V shape from the deck to a point a little below the waterline, but the liner returned without assistance under her own steam. The ship, it seems, was not in danger, and without doubt owes her security, in the first place, to the excellence, of the cellular construction which naval architects have devised to safeguard vessels, against accident, and, in the second, to the sound workmanship of the Harland and Wolff yard. The amount of water she took was so little that she was not down by the head when she got in, and the early report that the damage was local and easily reparable has been amply confirmed.

The replacement of the quarter-inch plates, the rebuilding of the decks and accommodation inside, is the work which now will begin. The shipbuilders have had teams working both day and night, but consider the work neither difficult nor large. There is no question that it will carry out its programme.

The Guardian, 24 August 1935.

After what is claimed to have been one of the smartest ship-repairing jobs accomplished the Cunard White Star liner Laurentic left Gladstone Graving Dock yesterday to occupy her old dock berth ready to sail on Friday. She will go to Dublin to make three cruises to the French port of Le Verdon with Irish pilgrim 8 for Lourdes. The Laurentic bears no traces of the serious damage to her starboard bow received on August 18 when she was involved in a collision in the Irish Channel. Between 200 and 300 repairers employed by Messrs Harland and Wolff Ltd at their Bootle branch have worked day and night on the damaged oow for fifteen days. New plates cover the hole which ran from deck-level to water-level. Practically the whole of the interior damage in this section has also been repaired and will be completed to-day when the task of revictualling the liner will begin.

Liverpool Daily Post, 4 September 1935.

Harland & Wolff's Bootle yard did themselves proud with Laurentic's repairs (said to have cost £20,000) and had her "in all respects ready for sea," 18 days after the collision. She was undocked on 3 September 1935 and shifted to No. 2 Branch, Gladstone Dock, to begin provisioning.

Within three weeks two of the Cunard-White Star cruising liners have met with trouble. The Laurentic had set out on August 17 with her holiday-makers when she and the Napier Star collided in fog. There was a limp home to Liverpool. and some of the passengers found accommodation on the Doric. She, returning from her cruise, meets with the Formigny off the Portugese coast in fog and the passengers find peace after their trial on two other cruising ships. There will be sympathy with the Cunard-White Star in this run of bad luck. They and many other ship-owners have proved that travel by sea is wonderfully safe, and these two incidents will not disturb the confidence that has been created in British boats. The nervous may have increased doubts but the vast majority of people will go abroad for business or for pleasure with the confidence born of faith in ship and seamanship and with, perhaps, still some of the wonder left with them as to the knowledge and skill which enables men to steer great vessels truly on the great oceans... 

Halifax Evening Courier, 6 September 1935.

In an extraordinary occurrence that seemed to sum up the fading fortunes of the White Star Line and indeed seal the fate of their remaining ships except for Britannic and Georgic, Doric was involved in her own collision, on 5 September 1935, off Oporto, Portugal, returning to Tilbury from a Mediterranean cruise, with the French liner Formigny. Doric's 736 passengers were evacuated in ship's boats to P&O's Viceroy of India and the new Orient Line Orion and landed at Tilbury on the 7th.  There, the press had a field day interviewing those among Doric's passengers who had also been aboard Laurentic's ill-fated cruise.  It was a low point for the new Cunard-White Star, and whilst Doric would make it back to England, she was finished and sold for scrap the following month.  

Credit: Liverpool Daily Post, 7 September 1935.

Amid all this, Laurentic, commanded by Capt. F.J. Burd, resumed service upon her departure from Liverpool on 6 September 1935 for Dublin where she docked at Alexandra Basin early on the 7th.

Unlike the previous year's cruise, this pilgrimage, organised by Rev. F. Fehilly, OFM, of Limerick and led by the Most Rev. Dr. Mageean, Bishop of Down and Connor, would see Laurentic act as a veritable ferry, making three voyages from Dublin to Le Verdon and back with pilgrims:
7 September Dublin
9 September  Le Verdon
11 September Dublin
13 September Le Verdon
16-17 September  Dublin
19 September Le Verdon
21 September Dublin
 Again, 20 altars had been fitted into public rooms and High Mass would be celebrated daily and loud speakers installed on the deck so all could take part in the services. For the invalids, expanded hospital facilities were provided under the direction of Dr. T.P. Magnier with three Bon Secour nuns, three St. John of God nun and a number of lay nurses in attendance. 

The ship was beautifully decorated with flags and bunting, and, as she left the dock, the pilgrim crowded the decks and sang hymns in which those on shore joined.

The Irish Weekly & Ulster Examiner, 14 September 1935. 

With 1,300 pilgrims aboard, including 64 invalids of whom 20 were stretcher cases, Laurentic sailed from Dublin the evening of 7 September 1935. Among those aboard were 12 Franciscan friars and 50 secular priests who were seen off by a large crowd ashore who joined those aboard in the signing of hymns. The Lord Mayor of Dublin was among those wellwishers on the quayside.  Laurentic arrived at Le Verdon at 11:00 am on the 9th and after landing her pilgrims who proceeded by train to Lourdes, sailed at once for Dublin to embark a second group.  She arrived on the 11th and from 5:00 p.m., embarked 1,300 passengers, including 50 stretcher cases, and by 11:00 p.m. had sailed for Le Verdon.

Laurentic returned to Dublin the evening of 21 September 1935 with 1,300 returning pilgrims, including 70 invalids, welcomed at Alexandra Basin by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Alderman Byrne. Capt. Burd said the ship had had an excellent passage and the weather for both of the pilgrim voyages had been excellent. Unbeknownst at the time, this was Laurentic's final commercial voyage and upon return to Liverpool the next day, she returned to lay-up

Both Cunard-White Star and Blue Star filed claims against one another over the 18  August collision. The resulting inquiry, by Mr. Justice Bucknill, in Admiralty Court issued a judgement on 23 October 1935 fiinding  Laurentic and Napier Star equally to blame.  Laurentic was faulted for not appreciating the weather conditions sooner, not keeping an adequate look out under the conditions, not sounding her fog horn and for not stopping at once upon hearing Napier Star's fog horn  whilst Napier Star was faulted for excessive speed of 9 knots under the conditions and altering course to starboard which prevented what would have been a safe starboard to starboard passing. 

Laurentic, meanwhile, remained idle in No. 1  Branch, Gladstone Dock and with poor prospects. Trading conditions remained dire on the North Atlantic, certainly in winter, and Britain's "Cruise Boom" had proven just that and had run its course by the end of 1935 by which time Cunard-White Star had, with other lines, substantially culled their fleets of the ageing vessels they had initially engaged in it. Mauretania was scrapped in 1934 and within two years of the merger, Albertic, Calgaric, Adriatic, Doric and, most significantly, Olympic, the last two at the end of 1935.  

On 4 November 1935 the Liverpool Echo reported "mystery surrounds the future of the Cunard White Star vessel Berengaria, which, according to reports, is likely to be scrapped when the new giant liner Queen Mary enters the Atlantic service," citing that the ship did not figure in advance sailing lists after 29 April 1936 when Queen Mary was due to enter service.  It was added, however, that "in some quarters it is felt, however, that instead of scrapping the Berengaria, the company may decided to scrap the Majestic (56,000 tons), together with the Homeric (34,000 tons) and the Laurentic (18,000 tons)."  

It was the first public speculation that the eight-year-old Laurentic might be good for nothing but the breakers and emulate her former IMM fleetmates Minneswaska and Minnetonka which were scrapped after only nine years' service. In the event, Homeric was sold to the breakers in February 1936 but as 1935 drew to its close, Laurentic faced at best an uncertain and inactive future. On 22 November 1935 she was shifted across the Mersey to Birkenhead for long-term lay-up in Bidston Dock. 

Before 1935 was over, it was announced that Majestic, rather than Berengaria, would be broken up and erasing any doubt as to White Star's much diminished status.  On 10 December 1935, the Liverpool Echo reported, "Following the news that the Cunard White Star liner Majestic (56,621 tons) is to be broken up, it is now stated that the Laurentic, which is at present laid up at the new dock at Wallasey along the West Cheshire golf course, maybe also be sold for the same purpose." The Liverpool Journal of Commerce on the 11th noted that since the merger, 209,922 grt of tonnage had been disposed of, of which 180,000 grt were former White Star vessels, not including Homeric (which would be sold for scrap in February 1936) or the just announced Majestic. It was further mentioned that Laurentic was laid up "until required for cruising."

It was reported in the British press on 19 December 1935 that "negotiations are in progress for the sale of the Cunard-White Star liner Homeric, and possibly the Laurentic, to German interests," but "it is understood that negotiations may not be completed until the New Year." The Western Morning News of the 23rd stated that "Laurentic may be based on London for Cunard-White Star cruises, but an early decision is likely concerning the future of Homeric."

In 1935

R.M.S. Laurentic completed

1 14-day Mediterranean cruise from Liverpool carrying 800 passengers
3 5-day roundtrips from Dublin-Le Verdon carrying 3,900 passengers

Still part of the Cunard-White Star fleet, Laurentic was featured with the liner themed covers for Queen Mary's maiden voyage.  This dates from 7 June 1936. Credit: eBay auction photo.


Such was the deteriorating international situation by the beginning of 1936 that alternate employment for liners became periodic use as troop transports. Arising from the Italian invasion of Abyssinia, itself the biggest seaborne transport of troops since the World War, Britain's War Office suddenly, on 5 January 1936, chartered the Cunard-White Star liner Scythia to carry troops to Egypt.  The Weekly Dispatch that day reported that "War Office representatives have surveyed a number of White Star passenger liners with a view to transforming them for War Office service.  These include the Laurentic is 'chalked off' for alterations) and the Laconia and the Samaria. The two latter are mentioned as most likely to be requistioned next."

February 1936 saw Majestic make her final crossing from New York and Homeric sold for scrap on the 27th.  Laurentic was suddenly the last of three remaining White Star liners and the only inactive of the trio. 

The outbreak of Arab Revolt in the British Mandate of Palestine in April 1936 led to an immediate strengthening of British forces in the Mandate.  It also resulted in an hurried reactivation of a long idle (since 22 September 1935) Laurentic to carry British troops to Haifa. She was picked specifically because of her greater speed compared to other troopships, reflecting the urgency of the situation.  

Credit: Liverpool Daily Post, 9 September 1936.

On 7 September 1936, a faded Laurentic cast off from Bidston and towed across the Mersey for drydocking at Gladstone Graving Dock and expected to be ready for sea in about a week.  The Elder Dempster liner Aba, laid up since October 1935, was also reactivated for the same purpose and P&O's Naldera, Lamport & Holt's Vandyck and Anchor's California were chartered. 

The War Office announced on 8 September 1936 that Laurentic would sail from Southampton on the 14th with headquarters staff and administrative units of the 1st Division  in company with H.M.T. Nevasa with the 2nd Battalion East Yorkshire Reg. and 2nd Battalion North Staffs Reg. On the 10th, the Liverpool Journal of Commerce reported that "a considerable amount of repair work is being carried out," but the Belfast Telegraph noted: "In the Laurentic no alterations whatever will be made as the ship is leaving Liverpool immediately for Southampton to embark the troops."  Laurentic sailed from Liverpool on 12 September 1936 for Southampton, arriving the following day.  

Troops embarking Laurentic at Southampton. Credit: TopFoto.

Major-General C.C. Armitage, commanding the First Division was among the 120 officers and 1,300 other ranks sailing in Laurentic with headquarters staff 3rd Infantry Brigade from Bordon, and the headquarters staff 5th Division from Richmond, Yorkshire and as well as detachments of the Royal Engineers, the Royal Corps of Signals, the Royal Army Service Corps, the Royal Army Service Ordinance Corps and Royal Army Pay Corps.  

The troopship-de-luxe, the Cunard- White Star liner Laurentic sailed from Southampton for Palestine yesterday with 1,400 troops on board. 

For eleven days they will live the life of passengers on a luxury cruise. Soldiers will sleep in two- and four berth cabins normally occupied by passengers on holiday cruises.

For more than a year the Laurentic has been laid up, stripped of her furniture crockery and linen. Not until last Wednesday morning was a start made of the job of recommissioning her, and by the time she arrived here yesterday she was as spick and span as any Transatlantic liner. 

Daily News, 15 September 1936.

Laurentic sails from Southampton for Palestine with Nevasa (right) shortly to sail for the same destination. Credit: eBay auction photo

Laurentic sailed from Southampton the afternoon of 14 September 1936 followed within the hour by Nevasa, the two carrying nearly 3,000 troops who were "given a great send-off," (Liverpool Daily Post, 15 September 1935).  For their first meals aboard, the troops had for dinner: Pea soup, Lancashire hot pot, roll and currant pudding and for tea: cold meats, Dutch salad, bread and butter, tea and preserves. 

Wartime scenes were re-enacted on the quay here today when the first contingent of the Palestine Expeditionary Force disembarked from the Cunard-White Star liner Laurentic.

It was dark when she slowed down, but a number of soldiers were on deck to catch a first glimpse of the Holy Land. The men looked cheerful and well. 

Evening Dispatch, 23 September 1936.

Credit: Daily Telegraph, 29 September 1936.

Laurentic passed Gibraltar on 17 September 1936, and did herself proud, putting in a remarkably fast passage and reaching Haifa the evening of the 23rd, less than nine days after leaving Southampton.  In the mid Mediterranean, she swept past Dorsetshire which had departed two full days before she. Laurentic came alongside at 5:10 a.m. on the 24th and disembarked her troops in quick order, the trains for Jerusalem departing at 8:45 a.m. and 9:45 a.m., respectively. The trains were preceded by pilot cars with machine guns, manned by men of the Cheshire Regiment and there were Bluejackets on the footplates to discourage Arab terrorists.  Dorsetshire, when she finally arrived, was obliged to wait outside the harbour for Laurentic to discharge her 300-ton cargo and 30 cars. 

Laurentic alongside at Haifa on her first arrival there with troops. Note the three-stacked Royal Navy cruiser moored aft. Credit: Library of Congress.

Troop train alongside Laurentic berthed at Haifa, September 1936. Credit: Library of Congress. 

Making a quick turnaround, Laurentic departed Haifa the evening of 24 September 1936 to return to Southampton to embark more troops, specifically the 3rd Battalion, Coldstream Guards, and the 2nd Battalion of The Buffs. 

Wasting no time, Laurentic was back in Southampton on 2 October 1936 and embarked the 2nd Battalion, The Buffs (28 officers and 499 men); a detachment of Royal Engineers; 3rd Battalion of the Coldstream Guards (29 officers and 672 other ranks); Royal Army Service Corps (56 officers and other ranks) and Casualty Clearing Station. In all, she had 1,400 officers and other ranks aboard when she sailed on the 3rd. One of the officers in the Coldsteamers, Lord Frederick Cambridge, was a nephew of Queen Mary. Laurentic docked at Haifa on the at 6:00 a.m. 12th. 

On her return to Southampton, Laurentic called at Port Said to embark the 1st Light Battalion of the Tank Brigade which had been in Egypt since December 1935. She also had wounded Seaforth Highlanders returning from Palestine. Laurentic docked at Southampton on 24 October 1936. 

A piper of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers wearing only an overcoat over his pyjamas, marched up and down the deck of the Cunard-White Star liner Laurentic playing 'Bonnets Are Over the Border' when she arrived at Southampton early to-day bringing the first batch of troops from Palestine.

Officers and men tumbled out of their cabins and came on deck similarly clad in pyjamas and overcoats as the liner came into dock.

Evening Chronicle, 16 November 1936.

Credit: Daily Telegraph, 11 November 1936.

Making her third voyage to Palestine, Laurentic sailed from Southampton on 27 October 1936, but deadheaded outbound and would be taking home 1,400 Class A reservists called up during the emergency.  She passed Gibraltar on the 31st and docked at Haifa at 2:30 p.m. on 6 November. Embarking her troops by 5:00 p.m.,  Laurentic left Haifa that same evening.  It was a stormy passage from Gibraltar  (12) north and it was so rough in the Channel the evening of the 15th, that she unable to come through the Needles and had to come round the Isle of Wight and past the Nab Tower to get into Southampton where the docked very early on the 16th.

Laurentic's  next trooping voyage was to Egypt to would return the 20th Field Brigade Royal Artillery, the 12th Lancers, and the 1st Battalion, Scots Guards. She arrived at Malta on 23 November 1936. Homewards, she  sailed from Alexandria on the 27th and arrived at Southampton on 7 December.

Coldstream Guards on Laurentic's fore deck, happy to be home. 

Now a real veteran "trooper," Laurentic cleared Southampton Water on 10 December 1936 for Haifa, calling at Malta on the 16th, Port Said on the 19th  and docking at Haifa at 8:00 p.m. on the 20th. The following morning, she embarked 70 officers and 1,300 others ranks belonging to the  3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards, 2nd Battalion Scots Guards and Headquarters, 1st Division, which she had brought out in October.  It was Christmas at sea for her troops and on Boxing Day, Laurentic steamed through the Gibraltar Straits.  Tuscania landed 1,300 men at Southampton on the 29th and Laurentic arrived the following day.  Her men landed exactly three months after they had sailed aboard her. "As soon as we go there the trouble. Perhaps it was because they knew the Guards were coming," an officer told a reporter. She landed 60 hospital cases, including three wounded men. One soldier, Lance Corporal Knight, Bedsfordshire and Hertfordshire Reg., died on board owing to illness. 

After a busy few months, Laurentic found herself again without prospects when her War Office charter expired. She returned to lay-up at 107 Berth, Western Docks, Millbrook, Southampton. 

In 1936

H.M.T. Laurentic completed

4 trooping voyages Southampton-Haifa/Egypt under charter to War Office carrying 5,590 soldiers. 

Splendid looking as ever, Laurentic alongside at Haifa in September 1936 with Mt. Carmel in the background. Credit: Library of Congress.


Next the after Strathmore came the Lamport & Holt liner Vandyck, smart and clean. Then the ugly but, no doubt efficient Rangitiki, of the New Zealand Shipping Company. The Laurentic, of the White Star, and the Cameronia, of the Anchor Line, came last, but by no means least in style and appearance amongst her consorts.

Londonderry Sentinel, 25 May 1937.

Laurentic was then laid up at no. 107 quay, Western Docks, Millbrook.  Cleaned up and dressed overall, she was briefly reactivated  on 20 May 1937 as a floating "grandstand" for the Coronation Fleet Review off Spithead and would, with Strathmore, Vandyck, Rangitiki and Cameronia, accommodating 3,000 distinguished guests of the Government, chartered Board of Trade and Admiralty follow Enchantress carrying members of the Cabinet and Dominion Prime Ministers. Laurentic was last in the line save for Cameronia.  In all, some 50 vessels left Southampton for the Review and 35,000 people passed through the docks and harbours to see all of the liners, channel steamers, tenders and tugs, etc. assembled for the review.  Led by the Trinity House yacht Patricia, Strathmore, Vandyck, Rangitiki, Laurentic and Cameronia entered the view lines at 3:35 p.m. Owing to the tides, it was not possible for the liners to land their guests at the end of the Review and, instead, they were treated to an overnight aboard ship and get to see the "The Fleet All Lit Up" illuminations as well from the best possible vantage point. Back at Southampton on 21 May 1937, Laurentic returned to lay-up alongside No. 108 Western Docks. 

Credit: Illustrated London News, 24 July 1937.

Southampton organised a Merchant Navy Week, 17-24 July 1937  which was officially opened by by the Princess Alice Countess of Athlone.  A large exhibit "The Seaman's Service to the Citizen" was created in New DockSheds 107-108 sheds and Asturias, Empress of Britain, Queen Mary and Warwick Castle were opened for public inspection. A highlight was the brand new cruiser H.M.S. Southampton visiting her namesake port. Still looking spruce enough after her Fleet Review duties, Laurentic formed a backdrop to entire affair, lying right alongside the main exhibit. Berthed right ahead of her were H.M.S. Resolution and H.M.S. Southampton. So it was that one of Britain's more resolutely out of work liners was an unwitting "star attraction," and an ironically festive finale to a barely decade-old Laurentic's commercial career.  
Merchant Navy Week: a week-long celebration of the merchant service in Southampton was centred on a large exhibit in Sheds 107-108 with the laid-up Laurentic alongside figuring throughout including this parade on 18 July 1937. Credit: Southampton City Archives.


Any hope that Laurentic would ever return to commercial service was long gone and on 28 March 1938 it was announced she would be shifted from Southampton's 108 berth to lay up on the River Fal, near King Harry Ferry on the 31st. She was moved to make way for Berengaria which was withdrawn from service that month and to be laid up pending disposal.  

Credit: The Guardian, 5 April 1938.

Laurentic would be the largest ship  yet to enter the River Fal and arrived at Falmouth at 10:00 a.m. on the afternoon of 31 March 1938. With four tugs in attendance, and piloted by Mr. F. Benney, Truro river pilot and under the supervision of Capt. Walker, Cunard-White Star marine superintendent and Truro harbour master, Laurentic went up river and was moored without difficulty, secured five 7-ton and one 6-ton anchor.    Indicative of better times for shipping, she would be sole ship laid there, compared to 65 just a few years ago.

Laurentic, laid up amid the bucolic beauty of the Cornish countryside, effectively disappeared from note or notice whilst around her a second World War seemed inevitable when, the same month she was towed to Fal, Germany invaded what remained of Czechoslovakia, Britain and France issued guarantees to Poland and on 24 August 1939, Germany and the USSR signed a non-aggression pact.

Britain was immediately put on a war footing with preparations so far reaching that they even roused Laurentic from her premature slumbers.  On 23 August 1939, she was requisitioned by Admiralty as a armed merchant cruiser.  Towed to Devonport Dockyard in Plymouth, Laurentic was converted into a makeship warship with astonishing speed. 

Laurentic's  transformation into a makeshift warship entailed removing her mainmast to give her newly installed anti-aircraft guns freedom of fire, her many lifeboats and davits removed save for three on each side of her superstructure, and she was armed with seven  140 mm (5.5-inch)  Mk I naval guns  and three  102 mm (3-inch) Mk V anti-aircraft guns. A gun control position was erected on her after Boat Deck and her holds filled with empty 55 gal. oil drums to provide added bouyancy in case of damage. Much of her pre-war finery was landed, more out of concern for its flammability than anything else, but the main lounge retained much of its furnishings and used as the officers' mess and officers used former passenger cabins. 

Painted in the black hull and orche superstructure and funnels of a merchantman at war rather than a warship, H.M.S Laurentic (F51) was commissioned on 15 October 1939 under Capt.  Eric Paul Vivian, RN.  The Royal Navy had its first coal-burning warship in 20 years.  

One of Laurentic's more interesting crew members, a midshipman, was John Worsley (1919-2000) who was a commercial illustrator before joining the Navy, and whose sketches of life aboard the ship caught the attention of Kenneth Clark, then the director of the War Artists' Advisory Committee and led to his appointment as a war artist. He was captured by the Germans in the North Adriatic and continued his sketches of prison life. Sadly, there appears no on-line copy of Worsley's portrait of H.M.S. Laurentic but his some of his early vignettes are included here. 

Her coal burning caused considerable headache to the "Senior Service," and whereas most of the AMC's on the Northern Patrol were Clyde based, Laurentic returned to the Mersey as homeport where it is presumed she could find the 120 trained stokers that the Navy had not needed in a generation.  She could now bunker as much as 4,000 tons but even at reduced speed, Laurentic had to return for coaling every 20 days similar to the AMCs in the First World War. 

Assigned to the Northern Patrol at the beginning of November 1939, Laurentic's main duties was to intercept enemy merchantmen and neutral ones suspected of carrying contraband of war.  It was tedious and miserable duty, made worst by one of the most severe winters in recent memory. Laurentic was hit by a gale on 15 November 1939 which hit the ship with such force as to jam some of her guns in their mounts and swept away three boats as well as flooding some of her accommodation.

"Smoke on the Horizon," by John Worsley, 1940. Credit: Imperial War Museum.

Laurentic had luck with her for her first  year in her role as  an AMC.  She was due to be relieved on patrol by H.M.S. Rawalpindi on 23 November 1939, but inexplicably the former P&O liner arrived three days early and Laurentic made for Liverpool for coaling. Three days later Rawalpindi encountered the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau whilst protecting a convoy and sunk after an uneven but legendary heroic action. 

On the evening of 22 November 1939 the Mersey-bound Laurentic had her biggest success as an AMC when she intercepted the German merchantman Antiochia (3,106 grt) south of Iceland. When she was challenged, the German ship did not stop and begin to wireless at which Laurentic ordered her by morse to cease transmitting.  She then fired two warning shots at which it noted her crew was abandoning her in a ship's boat. The following morning, it was found that the ship was painted up to be Flora, registered in Amsterdam, but when taking aboard her crew and captain, it was discovered she was. in fact. Antiocha of HAPAG and had left Hamburg back on 8 August for the West Indies.  The Antiocha's captain told Laurentic's commander that the condensor inlet valve had been broken off and the ship was flooding so as to scuttle her. Antiocha resisted going down and Laurentic put several rounds into her to finish her off. Laurentic then continued to Liverpool where she arrived on the 25th. 

Departing Liverpool on 2 December 1939, Laurentic rejoined the Northern Patrol but only two days later was one  was one of six AMC's ordered back to their patrol stations between the Faeroes and Iceland after a fruitless search for a suspect German battleship the previous day with H.M.S. Suffolk and Laurentic, were west of the Shetland Islands, steaming to the Denmark Straits, reached on the 6th. Owing to the menace of mines (after H.M.S. Nelson had been damaged by one), Admiral Forbes withdrew the AMCs from the Northern Patrol on the 9th and the seven vessels returned to the Clyde or Liverpool.  She resumed the Northern Patrol on  the 17th.

"Rum Issue," by John Worsley, 1940. Credit: Imperial War Museum.

When the big air raids started against Liverpool in November-December 1940, it was safer for Laurentic to be at sea on patrol than in her home port. During one of the big raids in December which devastated the port area, Laurentic was luckily just arriving in the Mersey and anchored whilst the raid was at its worse, bombs dropping around her and other ships in the river.  She was able to come into the harbour, shrouded in smoke, and dock amidst the destruction. 


Laurentic began the New Year, her last, poorly.  Whilst returning to the Clyde in thick fog, she ground southwest of Islay on 6 January 1940. Remarkably, almost to the day and within 50 miles of where the first Laurentic had struck a mine and sunk. Coming to her assistance was the tug Englishman which was carrying survivors from the sunken Union-Castle liner Rothesay Castle and transferred them to a destroyer. In the event, Laurentic  managed to get herself free  without assistance and proceeded to Harland & Wolff, Belfast, for repairs, her first return to her place of birth since she left in 1927. 

During her repairs, Laurentic's main armament was improved with newer 5.5-inch guns, and was out of action for six weeks and when back on duty, escaped much notice. 

By 10 June 1940 and the Fall of France, the Northern Patrol, commanded by Vice Admiral R.H.T. Raikes, was composed of the AMC's Asturias, California, Cheshire, Circassia, Derbyshire, Forfar, Laurentic, Letitia, Salopian, Scotsdoun, Transylvania  and Wolfe with Chitral and Cilicia undergoing refits. In November, a Western Patrol was established to escort convoys in the Western Approaches and Laurentic and the other coal-fired AMC, the former Blue Funnel liner Patroclus, was assigned to this, although it proved fleeting and fatal to both. They escorted a southbound convoy to Gibraltar without incident but would not survive the homeward journey.

Laurentic would meet her end in one of the most spectacular U-Boat attacks of the war when, returning to Liverpool from Western Patrol duties with Patroclus,  she came under attack from U-99 (Kpt.Lt. Otto Kretschmer) off Bloody Foreland the evening of 3 November 1940.  "Silent Otto," was already known as "The Wolf of the Atlantic" as one of the early U-boat aces of the war, having sunk 35,414 grt of shipping to date.  Kretschmer had just sunk the Elders & Fyffe's steamer Casanare at 2140 that evening, and Laurentic received her distress call, being about 30 miles away.  She was just making a starboard turn to make for the stricken ship, zig-zagging at 15 knots, when she came into Kretschmer's sights who attacked on the surface.  Laurentic had always been a concern in presenting a big target given her size, two towering funnels and burning coal, making more smoke than ideal.  At 2250 she was hit by a single torpedo on her starboardside, in the engine room with devasting impact, stopping her immediately and putting out the lights. The emergency generator was put on line and Laurentic took on an increasing starboard list but the empty oil drums in her holds did their work well in keeping her afloat. 

Kapitänleutnant Otto Kretschmer on his return in November 1940 from a remarkable patrol in U-99, including the sinking of Laurentic. Credit:  Bundesarchiv.

After signaling Action Stations and bringing Laurentic's forward 5.5-inch gun and one 4-inch gun to fire starshells to illuminate the target, Capt. Vivian ordered the ship's company, except for the gun crews, to abandon ship.  U-99 fired another torpedo at Laurentic at 2328 but failed to explode and at 2337 attacked again at just 300 yards distance, the third torpedo hitting precisely where the first had struck. Laurentic fought back,  illuminating the sub by starshells from the starboard 4-inch gun and then, switching to high explosives, laid into U-99  and causing her to dive. Although warned by Laurentic of the presence of a U-Boat, Patroclus made for her to rescue survivors as she had from CasanarePatroclus  took on 52 officers and 316 ratings from Laurentic's boats and rafts, only to come under repeated attack by U-99 and finally sunk with the sixth and last torpedo hit at 0525 on 4 November 1940.

"The Last of the Laurentic" by John Worsley, 1943. Credit: Imperial War Museum. 

A conning tower lookout aboard U-99 suddenly called Kretschmer's attention to a destroyer coming toward them on the horizon. The U-boat's crew had been at action stations all night, and the men were weary, but now "Silent Otto" was seeing red, and he wasn't about to let it go. The armed merchant cruisers floated mockingly on the surface before him, and Kretschmer said angrily "[I]We have got to sink those ships before the destroyer gets here![/I]" U-99 turned and closed to within 250 yards of the nearer of the two ships, the Laurentic, before firing. The torpedo struck the ship in the stern, a large section of which fell away and sank immediately. This section contained the ship's depth charges, which were still strapped into their racks, and had not been defused. Some of these charges had been set shallow (set to explode a short distance underwater), and quickly detonated just after the stern section disappeared from sight. This, of course, set off the rest of the charges, and the resulting underwater explosion was tremendously violent. 

The Sinking of HMS Patroclus and HMS Laurentic

Laurentic proved almost as tough and stayed afloat until hit by a final torpedo by U-99, again surfaced, at  4040 which hit her stern, blowing it off and setting off her depth charges aft. She sank by the stern at 0453 on 4 November 1940.  Laurentic took with her 49 of her ship's company but Capt.Vivian, 51 officers and 316 were rescued by H.M.S. Hesperus (H57) which had attacked U-99 but to no effect. The survivors were landed at Greenock, Scotland.  

Credit: Liverpool Echo, 7 November 1940.

Kpt.Lt. Otto Kretschmer was decorated by Hitler (Oak Leaves and Swords to his already awarded Knight's Cross) and would survive the war, being captured in March 1941 during an attack on a convoy and spent the rest of the war as POW. Rejoining the Navy of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1958, he retired in 1970 and died in 1970. Kreschmer's attack on 3-4 November 1940 was one of the most audacious and successful of the Battle of Atlantic and Laurentic and Patroclus did the Navy proud by fighting to the end.  

Laurentic departs Belfast on her trials/delivery voyage, 1 November 1927. Credit: National Museums NI.

R.M.S. LAURENTIC (1927-1935)
  • 62 North Atlantic round voyages carrying 40,315 passengers
  • 25 cruises
  • 4 trooping voyages 

Unlucky in timing, tormented in fate and fortune, Laurentic never had much of a chance it appears.  One of her claims to fame is that she was the last White Star liner to sink, suggesting hers was the lot of a star-crossed enterprise which still managed to give us some of the most handsome passenger ships of their time. In these attributes, Laurentic, at least, did not disappoint.  She was one fine looking ship, Belfast-Built, that surely deserved better.

Built by  Harland & Wolff Shipbuilders, Belfast no. 470 
Gross tonnage      18,724                                                             
Length: (o.a.)        600 ft. 
              (b.p.)        578 ft.2 ins. 
Beam:                     75 ft. 4 ins. 
Machinery:            twin four-cylinder (29", 46", 52", 52" dia) 54" stroke triple-
                                expansion engines 16,000 shp, twin-screw                                
Speed:                    16.5 knots service
                                17 knots trials
Passengers             594 Cabin 406 Tourist Third 500 Third Class                               
Officers & Crew   420 

Armed Merchant Cruisers, Kenneth Poolman, 1985
Falling Star, John P. Eaton and Charles A. Haas, 1989
The Ismay Line, Wilton J. Oldham, 1961
John Worsley's War, John Worsley and Kenneth Giggal, 1979
Merchant Fleets, White Star Line, Duncan Haws, 1990
Ships of the White Star Line, Richard de Kerbrech, 2009
World War II Sea War: Vols. 1-3, Donald A. Bertke, Don Kendell and Gordon Smith,  2010

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© Peter C. Kohler