News from 1922: Maiden voyage of Majestic II

Not open for further replies.

Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
The Times, 8 May 1922


The Majestic, the largest vessel in the world, is due to start on her
maiden voyage across the Atlantic on Wednesday next, when she will take
her place with the Olympic and Homeric to give a weekly service between
Southampton and New York via Cherbourg; and on Saturday her owners, the
White Star Line, provided an opportunity of inspecting her as she lay
alongside the quay. Among those present were:---

Lord Devonport, Sir William W. Portal (deputy chairman of the London and
South Western Railway), the Mayor of Southampton (Councillor F. Bath),
Sir Samuel Waring, Sir Robert Baird, Sir Alexander Birket, Sir R. R.
Linthorne, Sir Henry Crichton, Mr. C. F. Torrey, and Mr. L. A. P. Warner
(general manager of the Mersey Docks), together with Mr. Harold A.
Sanderson (chairman), and Colonel Concanon and Mr. A. B. Cauty (joint
managers of the White Star Line), and Sir Bertram Hayes (Commodore of
the Line, and captain of the ship).

Built by Blohm und Voss on the Elbe and launched as the Bismarck a few
weeks before the outbreak of the war, the Majestic has a length over all
of 956ft., a beam of 100ft., and a gross tonnage exceeding 56,500 tons,
her displacement when loaded to her marks being 64,000 tons. Her nearest
rival in size is the President Harding, launched as the Vaterland and
afterwards re-named Leviathan, which is a few feet shorter, a few inches
broader, and some 2,000 tons less in measurement. The Berengaria follows
with a length of 919ft., a beam of 98ft., and a tonnage of a little over
52,000, but no other ships in existence reach 50,000 tons, the Olympic
and Aquitania, which come next, being both of about 46,000 tons.

As illustrating her size it may be said that the Majestic is longer than
the river front of the House of Commons, and that if she were stood on
end she would tower to more than twice the height of St. Paul's; and it
has been calculated that in tonnage she approximates to the aggregate of
the 135 ships of the Spanish Armada, and that the apace inside her is
equivalent to 400 detached suburban residences of eight rooms each. One
consequence of her great length and beam is that at the moment there is
no dry dock in this country that can hold her. She is too big for the
dry dock at Southampton, into which the Berengaria can just be squeezed,
and the Gladstone Dock at Liverpool, which is large enough, is not
available for use at present. Mr. Sanderson, however, was able to
announce that, thanks to the enterprise and good will of the London and
South-Western Railway, a provisional agreement had been made whereby
within the next 12 months a floating dock will be provided, adequate, he
hoped, for the purpose.

An interesting feature of the architecture of the ship is that the
boiler casings, instead of passing up the centre, in the usual manner,
are divided and placed toward the sides, the two parts uniting above the
top deck to form a central superstructure for the funnels. This
arrangement is adopted for two of the three funnels (the third is not
used for conveying smoke away from the furnaces), and its effect is
apparent right through the six decks on which first-class passenger
accommodation is provided. On the lower decks it permits the cabins to
be grouped on each side of a broad central passage; two separate main
staircases, one port and the other starboard, rise from deck F to deck
A; and on deck B, which contains most of the public rooms, the lounge is
entered through what is virtually an arch formed by the two casings
leading to the middle funnel, and there is a clear vista, 250ft. long,
from the stage at the forward end of the lounge through the main
entrance to the palm court and the raised restaurant at its after end.
The lounge, with an area of 4,000 sq. ft., is laid with a parquet floor
for dancing, and is remarkable for the fact that no internal pillars are
used to support the roof and its great glass dome. On the same deck
there is a card room aft and a drawing room forward, and the smoking
room above the latter commands an impressive view over the bows of the
ship through a curved front with plate-glass windows. The dining saloon
on deck F has an area of 11,350 sq. ft., and the dome over its middle
portion rises through the two decks above to a total height of 31ft.
Opposite the doors of the saloon is the entrance to the swimming bath,
where a lady instructor is to be in attendance, and on deck A there is a

The full complement of the ship is over 5,000 persons, including 850
first-class passengers, 545 second-class, and 2,392 third-class. On her
run from Cuxhaven to Southampton she reached a speed of over 25 knots.
Steam is supplied from 48 water-tube boilers fired with oil fuel, of
which sufficient can be carried for the round voyage to New York and
back. There are four screws, and the turbine machinery is capable of
developing up to 100,000 h.p.

At the luncheon given on board, Mr. HAROLD SANDERSON proposed the toast
of the guests, to which the MAYOR OF SOUTHAMPTON replied. He pointed out
that as the workshop of the world, this country could maintain its
position only if it produced more cheaply than its competitors, and he
asked what was to be gained by a disturbance that had for its object a
scale of wages at which employment could not be found or by a dispute as
to who was to manage the workshops. Unless a basis could be arrived at
which would enable the affairs of the workshops to be carried on
successfully it would be a case of unemployment without any prospect of

In proposing success to the Majestic, SIR WILLIAM PORTAL concluded with
the lines:---

Majestic both in name and form,
Serene in calm, secure in storm,
We wish you each succeeding year
The best of luck, the best of cheer.

In response, Mr. A. B. CAUTY said that during the completion of the ship
they had met with uniform courtesy from the builders, and their first
anxiety as to having her ready to sail on Wednesday arose on her arrival
at Southampton, where they met with chaos in the labour world.


Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
The Times, 11 May 1922

Dr. Frank Crane, the American preacher and journalist, left England
yesterday, on his homeward journey, on board the Majestic. We received
the following message from him by wireless telegraphy last night.

(From Dr. Frank Crane)

(By Wireless)


On time at 11.30 the Majestic crept from the Southampton Dock out into
the deep. Vast crowds cheered; escorting aeroplanes hovered overhead;
sister leviathans screamed.

From the deck I looked down on the pushing tugboats about the size of
the Pinta, Nina, and Santa Maria of Columbus. The 20th century was
being pushed to sea by the 15th.

Imagine the Savoy or the Biltmore Hotel moving on the waters, and you
have the right idea of this largest steamer in the world, steady as a
city block in the uneasy ocean.

Here the race of British seafarers say their last word. It is not
garish, but great, severely simple, massive. It is majestic, the
proudest gesture of our race.


Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
The Times, 13 May 1922


Dr. Frank Crane, the American preacher and journalist, who is travelling
home on board the Majestic, sends the following message. A previous
message appeared in "The Times" on Thursday:---

(From Dr. Frank Crane)

(By Wireless)


Second day out; dinner in a room fit for an emperor's banquet; evening
in a social lounge of baronial size, lofty ceiling, walls of panelled
oak; dancing and music for the young, and coffee and comfort for the
old; sleep in a bed as motionless as if on English turf.

And to think this huge palace moving in state across the seas might have
been German if the German rulers had not gone mad. For the Germans built
this boat and lost it. What a world-power such men might have been,
welcome and honoured competitors in world service.

I like to think of this ship as the great prize of the race that would
not break its word, a sturdy, solid, imposing symbol of Anglo-Saxondom,
honest, fearless, faring forward, unafraid.


Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
The Times, 16 May 1922


(From Dr. Frank Crane)

(By Wireless)


It is written in the Apocalypse, "And there shall be no more sea." This huge
petroleum-driven royal palace, moving 25 knots an hour between the two
continents, is bringing this prophecy to pass.

The sea has always been the separator of peoples. It is now the loom across
which fly the shuttles weaving the nations into unity. This boat, more than
London, is the British Empire. London is provincial; the Majestic is
cosmopolitan. The English-speaking race has its real home on the sea.

These people are adventurers, trading, seafaring folk; they think not in
terms of conquest, but of commerce; and commerce has no frontiers. It is
ships shall federate the world. They are the physical basis of the League of
Nations to come. On the deck of the Majestic I feel the four great words:
the Ocean, the Sky, God, and Humanity---and also the true name of Great
Britain, servant of all.

The fourth day out the greatest of all ships is finding herself, and the
engines, crew, and management work with veteran smoothness. Here we see the
front line of the advance of civilization. For civilization is transportation.
Its sign is the wheel rolling upon the earth or turning in the water.

It all means a better race, capable of higher team-play. War is a slump into
barbarism, a slip back into medieval provincialism. We are recovering from
that sickness. This ship Majestic, this English-speaking race, this world
sails on toward the Golden Year.


Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
The Times, 17 May 1922


(From Dr. Frank Crane)


This is the 15th of May, the fifth day of the maiden trip of the
Majestic. The world's greatest steamship has passed on smooth seas and
under sunny skies.

All on board are well and happy and each day is delightful, from the
plunge in the swimming pool in the morning to the dancing in the stately
social hall in the evening.

The boat is steady as a house, swift as an express train, commodious as
a ducal palace, and the last word in luxury.

The war is over. Gentlefolk of all nations meet and mingle upon this
latest living link between the New World and the Old.

NEW YORK, May 16---The Majestic arrived here to-day and went into
quarantine at 12.30. She was greeted by the sounding of sirens from
passing steamers.---Reuter.

Not open for further replies.