Cunard Steamship Company Ltd's Souvenir of the Launching of RMS 'Aquitania' in 1913.
The cost of construction was £2 million, a large sum for the period, paid for almost entirely by the Cunard company. Cunard made sure that Aquitania was provided with highly artistic and costly luxuries. Features included a Caroline smoking room, a Louis XIV dining room, a Palladian lounge and a swimming pool inspired by the Egyptian architecture in the British Museum.
The gracefulness of the liner and her exquisite interiors earned Aquitania the name ‘the ship beautiful’. In Souvenir of the launching of RMS 'Aquitania' the writer Edward Keble Chatterton (1878-1944) describes the liner as ‘combining in one structure the qualities of the most modern hotel and the speed almost of a gull’. Cunard’s Lusitania and Mauretaniawere the fastest liners on the North Atlantic but Aquitania was designed to express opulence and grandeur and therefore exceeded the Lusitania and Mauretania in size.
Aquitania was launched on 21 April 1913 by the Countess of Derby and huge numbers flocked to the river Clyde to watch. The day was declared a public holiday in Glasgow.
The souvenir of the launching of Aquitania describes the special arrangements that had to be made to launch the liner due to her extraordinary size (approx 45,000 gross tonnage). These included dredging the river so that the new liner could float, and cutting away a portion of the opposite bank.
In January 1914 the last of Aquitania’s four funnels was put in place and her maiden voyage was scheduled for 30 May. Much emphasis was placed on the fact that the Aquitania would have lifeboat accommodation for all onboard, a pertinent issue in light of the recent Titanic disaster.
Aquitania was to provide a weekly service to New York as well as interior appointments that would challenge new builds from rival companies. The liner’s service was varied and her commercial service was relatively brief. The government had stipulated that Aquitaniabe made available for naval duties during the event of war and Aquitania was requisitioned to serve as an armed merchant cruiser in 1914. Amongst other roles during the First World War, Aquitania served as a troop ship in the Gallipoli expedition and later acted as a hospital ship. Aquitania was again converted to a troop ship in the Second World War.
The British Iron & Steel Corp (Salvage) Ltd bought Aquitania in 1950 for demolition after it was decided the previous year that she was no longer fit for active service.