Cunard Line’s largest vessel to date, Aquitania, departed Liverpool on her maiden voyage to New York on 30 May 1914. It was a subdued departure in light of the previous day’s tragedy and the fact that Empress of Ireland’s destination was Liverpool.
Soon, the liner would face an even larger tragedy. Aquitania made just two more voyages to New York before the outbreak of World War I and her requisition by the British government.
After an unsuccessful attempt to turn her into an armed merchant cruiser, Aquitania was refitted into a troopship. In June 1914 she left Liverpool with over 5,000 troops. After three voyages as a troopship, Aquitania was refitted into a hospital ship and served in this role during December 1915 and occasionally in 1916.
Aquitania made her first postwar voyage, from Liverpool to New York, on 17 July 1920. Soon, “The Ship Beautiful” became a favorite of celebrities, royalty, aristocracy and high-powered businessmen traveling between continents. She was, by any measure, the first Cunard “Queen” ship in everything but name and a floating embodiment of the Roaring Twenties.
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