Mauretania's wartime voyages


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Ellen Grace Butland

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Mauretania by Humfrey Jordon (not altogether accurate, but a really good read) The Blue Riband of the Atlantic - Tom Hughes, especially the two chapters called The Incomparables. Commadore by Sir James Bisset (WWl plus 1921 fire) Home from the Sea Capt Sir AH Rostron. The book is usually sought because of Capt Rostron's part in the Titanic saga, but for me its more interesting because of Mauretania. If you like technology, get the reprint of Engineering for Mauretania by Mark Warren or Ocean Liners of the past, Lusitania and Mauretania which is a reprint of the Shipbuilder. Also Mauretania, the ship and her record by Gerald Aylmer (this has been reprinted both by the Titanic Historical Society and in 2000 by someone else. The origonal is very rare.)
 
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Ellen Grace Butland

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To Lynn. There were two ships called Mauretania, The 'old' Maury 1907 -35 and the 2nd Maury 1939-65, so if your grandfather was in the Maury in the 1940s, he would be in the 2nd ship, which is interesting in herself, for instance, she came to NZ in WW2 as a troopship. I have some information on her, mainly in books about Cunard but if you find your grandfather was in Maury2, post a separate thread here, you may find others who can help you with info about that ship.
 
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Ellen Grace Butland

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To Eric Longo. You have mentioned two dazzle schemes, was the second one that depicted in Peter Newell's book? (That scheme I call the Snarl and Stripes)> I have looked at several pictures I have and noted the bulwarks have been cut down as you say. Its interesting how the ship was changed in little ways throughout her life and it does help to date photos.
 

Eric Longo

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Aug 13, 2004
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Hi Ellen,

I have been meaning to write you but have been away from my pc and very busy.
Many thanks for actually looking at the images of the Mauretania in question and noting the changes made to her appearance during her war service.

To answer your query - yes, despite Mr. Newall's assertion of three or four schemes, the Mauretania only wore two dazzle schemes. Both were shown in Mr. Newall's book, one much more than the other. Oddly, all the images Mr. Newall identified of the Mauretania in dazzle (with the exception of page 33 middle right) obviously depict the same scheme over and over. In the case of this scheme, her last, Mr. Newall showed the identical starboard pattern four different times, with varying captions and dates from 1915 to 1918 for each (page 31 identified as her "first scheme", page 33 top identified as 1915 Moudros despite the post-3/18 "second crows nest" and built-up stern, page 33 middle left identified as armed in 1918 despite her bow guns already being removed and page 34 top captioned as December 1, 1918). Apart from the other specific clues discussed, these images all show the same specific wear marks to her starboard bow paintwork, despite being identified as different schemes photographed in different locations and in different years (1915, 1918 etc.).
As mentioned, the only exception is the port side photograph on page 33 middle right, which is uncaptioned, uncredited and unfortunately reproduced backwards. This page 33 middle right image actually shows the starboard pattern of her first scheme (reversed to port in print), and this is the only photograph of her first scheme in the whole book. The true port pattern of this first "snarling" scheme can be seen on page 17 of the O.L.M. catalog Dazzle and Drab by John Maxtone-Graham, as lent from my own collection. Mr. Maxtone-Graham also places the origin of dazzle to March or April 1917. The photo middle right page 33 had me a bit puzzled, until I realized it was her first scheme printed backwards. It looks so very different in color!

Both her first and last schemes had different patterns for port and starboard, which has led to some confusion about the number of schemes she had in all and when they were applied. For example, the pattern Mr. Newall showed on the bottom of page 33 and captioned as another scheme is just her final scheme yet again, only the port pattern is depicted in this photograph.

The visual clues I mentioned are very telling. The photographic record generally does not lie. The written record can mislead. For example, Mr. Newall cited the last book in James Bisset's trilogy as evidence she wore dazzle in 1915. But that book was ghostwritten nearly a half-century after Bisset served at Moudros. As a memoir, Bisset's book can contain errors of memory which lead to incorrect conclusions. The photographic record, when understood as a whole and in context, reveals the number and order of the dazzle schemes applied to the Mauretania. All the visual clues, the cut down bulwarks, the railings, the "second observation nest" and the data from the U.S.N., O.N.I., I.W.M., the Signal Corps and other sources serve to assign dates and chronology, accurately, to these images.
I have heard from many other authors, researchers, collectors and model makers and all agree the Mauretania wore only two dazzle schemes in the order I described them - certainly no scheme present in 1915 at Moudros and neither scheme possibly applied to the Mauretania before 1918.
I am forwarding your service questions to a friend who may be able to point you in the right direction at the very least.

With best wishes,
Eric
 

Peter Newall

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Aug 19, 2006
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"....The written record can mislead. For example, Mr. Newall cited the last book in James Bisset's trilogy as evidence she wore dazzle in 1915. But that book was ghostwritten nearly a half-century after Bisset served at Moudros. As a memoir, Bisset's book can contain errors of memory which lead to incorrect conclusions...."

I am pleased to hear that your knowledge Eric is greater than one of Cunard Line's greatest Commodores. Did you know him later in life? A friend of mine did when he lived in Sydney in the late 1950s and he said that he was a larger than life man and as bright as a button. There is no way, he would have been so specific about Mauretania's dazzle scheme in 1915 if it was not true, especially when he mentions it for her arrival at Toulon.

By the way, if you are so keen to focus on just one page of my book, you might like to point out to the readers on this site that I said she "APPEARS to have been painted in at least four dazzle schemes". If I am not 100% sure about a fact, I never say it was definitely so. That is a gold rule any historian worth his or her salt should always stick to!

Peter
 
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Ellen Grace Butland

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I would still recommend Mr Newall's book (with the reservations stated above by Mr Longo) firstly because it has some photos I have not seen before, plus the wonderful colour photos of Mauretania's relics which I did not know existed, except for the pub in Bristol. Plus it was printed on gloss paper, which I feel is infinitely better than matt paper for reproducing photographs. And secondly because AT LONG LAST, a new book about Mauretania has appeared. So thank you very much, Mr Newall.
 

Peter Newall

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Aug 19, 2006
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Hello Ellen,
Many thanks for your kind comments. It was a very unusual project for me and a great joy to be involved in.

Yes, glossy paper does make a great difference and my publisher Ships in Focus always use glossy paper for their quarterly Ships in Focus Record and books. That includes my Orient Line history which also features all the company sailing ships, a couple of which ended up as coal hulks in Lyttelton, NZ.
Best wishes,
Peter
 

Eric Longo

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Aug 13, 2004
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"I am pleased to hear that your knowledge Eric is greater than one of Cunard Line's greatest Commodores. Did you know him later in life? A friend of mine did when he lived in Sydney in the late 1950s and he said that he was a larger than life man and as bright as a button. There is no way, he would have been so specific about Mauretania's dazzle scheme in 1915 if it was not true, especially when he mentions it for her arrival at Toulon."


Peter,

Your initial observation will receive the same attention your previous personal comments deserved.

Now, that is the basis for your belief she was in dazzle in 1915? I ask because you already mentioned Bisset. Who may have known Bisset is ultimately irrelevant. Why do you feel Bisset's memory is immune to human error? How did you differentiate what Bisset may have remembered from what Stephens wrote and added?
No, surely you must have more concrete evidence to agree with Bisset/Stephens so strongly, especially in light of the amount of data and the photographic record which indicate the contrary.

To the point, from what you wrote above (underlined) you still maintain the Mauretania was in dazzle in 1915, a year and a half before this type of camouflage was conceived and adopted? How do you explain this?
Do you also maintain the photo page 33 top (I.W.M. Q-48349) is from 1915? How I determined this photograph could not date to 1915 is detailed in the posts above. What observable intricacies indicate to you this photograph was indeed taken in 1915?


Eric
 

Eric Longo

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Aug 13, 2004
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Hi All,

I will correct myself for anyone looking this image up - the photograph mentioned above, the photo on page 33, top, of Mr. Newall's book, is NOT I.W.M. Q-48349. When I find the call number I will post it. In any event, this image can not date to 1915 for the reasons listed in the many posts above.
It is interesting to note that the Tyne and Wear Archives also place the date of the Mauretania's dazzle painting to 1918.

Best,
Eric
 

Eric Longo

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Aug 13, 2004
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Hi All,

The Merseyside Maritime Museum also places the dazzle painting of the Mauretania to after she was laid up at Greenock. As she was at Greenock in Gare Loch for nearly the whole of 1917 this would mean she was painted in early 1918. I will post additional information as I find it.

Best,
Eric
 

Mike Poirier

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Dec 31, 2004
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I believe the dazzle paint scheme was developed by Norman Wilkinson. He talks about it in his auto biography. David Williams talks about and shows many examples in his 2001 book, Naval Camouflage. If I am reading the book correctly, it was not started on liners like the Mauretania, Olympic, etc till summer 1917

Mike
 

Eric Longo

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Aug 13, 2004
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Hi Mike,

many thanks for taking the time to add your input. I have been hearing the same thing from many others. While there were other camouflage ideas at the time, they were very different and nothing like the dazzle we are talking about. The earliest trial renderings I have found so far, signed by Wilkinson, are dated June 1917 and the first applied schemes date from August 1917 - the period you mentioned. The earliest scheme for the Mauretania I can find is dated September 1917. Thanks also for the mention of the book - I will have to get a copy.

With best wishes,
Eric
 

Mike Poirier

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Hi Eric

You are welcome. Has anyone checked the Cunard Archives in Liverpool to see if there are any notes or letters relating to this? Or perhaps in the Imperial War Museum? Glad to here you have done research on the Wilkinson angle.

Mike
 

Eric Longo

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Aug 13, 2004
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Hi Mike,

I wrote the I.W.M. this morning, among other places. There is quite a bit of information about the early development of camouflage schemes around - I don't know how much of this thread you read but initial ideas were going around before Wilkinson, as early as 1914, put forward by a Zoologist who apparently based his ideas on observations from nature. But again, these early ideas were very different than dazzle, and rejected.
I also would like to see if I can date any of the photographs of the Aquitania and Mauretania together at Moudros - I might find something there from the period in question. Every image I have seen of both in 1915 (and every other big liner at that time in that location) show the expected dark/dusky scheme. Will let you know what I find out.

Best,
Eric
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>I am pleased to hear that your knowledge Eric is greater than one of Cunard Line's greatest Commodores.<<

Peter, perhaps you missed the signifigence of "But that book was ghostwritten nearly a half-century after Bisset served at Moudros."

Human memory is a very fickle and fallible thing, and it doesn't improve with time. We can see an example of that in Charles Lightoller's work on the Titanic. A work which we know was not ghostwritted and which we know was penned by a man who was actually there, but which we also know has factual inaccuracies.

Lights wasn't lying or dishonest, but he was mistaken. The same situation and the same problems would apply with Bisset, and it's the reason why even indisputably first hand sources need to be treated with caution.
 

Peter Newall

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With due respect Michael, there is a big difference between events on that traumatic night and a long voyage to the Eastern Mediterranean and back. One would have thought that being aboard a ship painted in astonishing dazzle patterns for such a long time would have been hard to forget, especially for someone with such a sharp mind as Commodore Bisset.

As for his book(s) being ghost written, my friend (who is one of the most respected people in British shipping), was astonished by this claim: “ ….the books show P. R. Stephensen's name who, if I remember correctly, helped Sir James, particularly when he was resident in Sydney NSW……..” As I said before he knew Commodore Bisset well so was also amazed by the claim that he must have forgotten if the ship was in dazzle.

I suggest that if anyone is interested in Mauretania, please buy my book, enjoy the full story and decide for yourself. To date, there has still only been one person who has passed any negative comments among the many who have bought the book.

I think this thread has run its course don’t you?

Peter
PS When I did the research for the book, I had lengthy discussions with the Imperial War Museum, the Liverpool Museum, Tyne & Wear Archives and the NMM, Greenwich and none were able to throw any more light on the subject.
 

Jim Kalafus

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Dec 3, 2000
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>I think this thread has run its course don’t you?

No, actually, "Buy my book," with the question left hanging, is an awful note on which to end it.


>I am pleased to hear that your knowledge Eric is greater than one of Cunard Line's greatest Commodores. Did you know him later in life? A friend of mine did when he lived in Sydney in the late 1950s and he said that he was a larger than life man and as bright as a button. There is no way, he would have been so specific about Mauretania's dazzle scheme in 1915 if it was not true, especially when he mentions it for her arrival at Toulon...

As an author, you should be cautious about making statements such as this in a public forum.

First, you HAVE to be aware of the fact that the value of anecdotal evidence reduces in worth BY THE WEEK, no less by the year and in this case by the...what...multiple decades? Which is why the police department and the FBI are called upon to take such anal-retentive notes on scene. Because, even a week later, professional observers undergo the same memory reduction as we all do. True memory erases VERY quickly, and is replaced by reconstruction....

Witness this event from the Lusitania's demise. Assistant Purser Harkness' boat, with between 85 and 100 people in it, was in a position towards the end in which one of the funnels was directly over it and descending downward with ehough speed to cause many of the occupants to bury their heads, cover their faces...etc...and a few actually jumped from the boat hoping to miraculously escape the smashing death that seemed a few seconds away. People in that boat, writing in the first week after the disaster, accurately described the black or grey funnel that seemed close enough to touch as it swung over them. THEN, a funny thing happened. The funnel changed color. By June 1915, occupants of that boat were writing of the "Red funnel which seemed about to destroy us." And the further from the event you get, the more people remembered the red funnel, although it unquestionably wasn't. WHY? Because the actual memory no longer existed. They were reconstructing an image in their minds eyes and, of course, everyone knew that Cunard Liners had red funnels.

I bring that up because three weeks after being feet away from a horrible, pulverizing, death a substantial number of people had already forgotten the color of the funnel that swung down on them! That's how the mind works.

A memo, or series of memos from before 1918...a photo which can definitely be dated to before 1918...film footage... all can be used to great effect to reenforce your point.

Using something written decades later...by "Cunard's Greatest Commodore" or not...and presenting it as anything other than an anecdote, weakens your credibility.

>Did you know him later in life? A friend of mine did when he lived in Sydney in the late 1950s and he said that he was a larger than life man and as bright as a button.

Has nothing to do with anything. First of all, would you expect your mutual friend to say "He was doddering and contentious?" even if he HAD been? Second, your mutual friend is looking back a possible 50 years, at someone who was recalling something that took place a possible 40 years before THAT. Some would be skeptical enough to comment that...perhaps...you ought not cite this with the same level of importance given a dated letter...memo... work order from the war years.

>With due respect Michael, there is a big difference between events on that traumatic night and a long voyage to the Eastern Mediterranean and back.

Indeed there was. One was an event which, through its catastrophically unique nature, MIGHT tend to impress itself more clearly on the memory than the other. The other was the sort of memory one retains in a vague way, if at all.
 

Mike Poirier

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Peter

What exactly did you get from the IWM that proved the any of the WSL or Cunard had dazzle paint in 1915? If they couldn't shed any light- which I think since they have dated pictures, private journals of people who sailed on those ships surprises me.

Mike

Mike
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>With due respect Michael, there is a big difference between events on that traumatic night and a long voyage to the Eastern Mediterranean and back.<<

Actually, in this context, there isn't. The issue I was addressing is the fallibility of human memory. The problem remains whether the events were traumatic or not. I'm not disparaging Commodore Bissett, but the fact remains that he was still only human.

>>I think this thread has run its course don’t you?<<

Only if nobody has anything further they wish to discuss. If you wish to move on to other things, that's certainly your call.
 

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