The Aquitania was the longest surviving British four-funneled liner of the Edwardian Era.
She was built for the Cunard Line at the John Brown and Company shipyard in Clydeback, Scotland, where the Lusitania and Mauretania were constructed.
Aquitania was launched on April 21, 1913 and christianed by Alice Stanley, the Countess of Derby.
After 13 months of being fitted out, Aquitania began her sea trials and sailed for Mersey in preparation for her maiden voyage. She arrived on May 14, 1914, under the command of Captain William Turner (who would later command the Lusitania). After undergoing a major cleaning, Aquitania departed Mersey on May 30. She arrived in New York on June 5. Her arrival was, however, overshadowed by the sinking of the Canadian Pacific liner Empress of Ireland. The following month, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary was assassinated and the First World War broke out. After completing only three round trips, the Aquitania was taken out of passenger service and put into military use. She was first converted into an armed merchant cruiser, but the Admiralty found her too profligate in the use of fuel, so she was converted into a troopship and made voyages to the Dardanelles. She was than converted into a hospital ship alongside the Britannic and Mauretania.
In 1916, right after the Britannic was sunk, she returned to the trooping front and was laid up again.
She went back to serving as a troopship in 1918, and conveyed troops from North America to Britain. Many of these departures from Halifax, Nova Scotia.
After the war, she returned to Southampton for a post-war refitting. Her furnaces were converted from coal-burning to oil-fired. A new wheelhouse was installed over the other.
During the Roaring Twenties, Aquitania became one of the most popular liners on the North Atlantic route. Her popularity had given her the nickname 'Ship Beautiful' by her passengers. She was also one of the most profitable ships. But it all ended following the Stock Market Crash of 1929. The Great Depression affected the Cunard line hard. The White Star Line had to merge with Cunard and Aquitania was used for cheap cruises to the Mediterranean. She ran around on in the Solent on January 24, 1934, but was able to refloat that day. On April 10 1935, she ran aground again on Thorne Knoll near Southampton. Ten tugboats were used to pull her free.
When the Second World War broke out in 1939, Aquitania was brought back into military service. She was refitted as a troopship to bring Canadian soldiers to England. In 1940, along with the liners Queen Mary, Empress of Britain, Empress of Japan, Empress of Canada and Andes, Aquitania embarked New Zealand troops at Wellington and joined the Australian component of Sydney on May 5.
In November 1941, Aquitania sailed to the British colony of Singapore to take part in the loss of the Australian cruiser HMAS Sydney. The Sydney had engaged in a battle with the German Auxiliary cruiser Kormoran. After a fierce battle, both ships were lost. There were no survivors from the Sydney.
When the United States entered the war in December 1941, Aquitania had bee scheduled for transport duties from the United States to Australia in February 1942, but delayed due to repairs. She spent March and April transporting American troops from the West Coast of the U.S. to Hawaii. She temporarily transferred from the Pacific to transport troops from the U.S. to Britain, transporting some 19,000 troops from New York.
When the war ended in 1945, the Aquitania was handed back to the Cunard Line and went back into passenger service. Her final service was to transport war brides and their children to Canada.
In December 1949, she was taken out of service due to her ageing and corroded condition.
The Aquitania was officially retired and scrapped at Faslane in Scotland in 1950.
Throughout her life she steamed 3 million miles in 450 voyages and carried 1.2 million passengers in a career that spanned nearly 40 years. Sh was the only liner to serve in both World Wars and was the last four-funneled liner to be scrapped.