RMS Majestic (II), at 56,551 tons, the largest ship the White Star Line ever owned, was originally called Bismarck and belonged to Germany’s, Hamburg American Line. Bismarck along with two sister ships, Imperator and Vaterland, were intended to rival White Star Line’s Olympic, Titanic and Britannic, and Cunard Lines Lusitania, Mauritania and Aquitania.
With the German Kaiser, Wilhelm II, in attendance, Bismarck was launched on 20th June 1914 at Blohm and Voss shipyards, Hamburg, Germany. Bismarck then spent the whole of the First World War uncompleted, sitting around unused.
After the war, as part of the treaty of Versailles, on 28th June 1919, Bismarck was handed over to Britain as war reparation. Bismarck, along with her sister ship Imperator, was sold jointly to Cunard Line and White Star Line in 1921. Bismarck became White Star's Majestic and Imperator became Cunard’s Berengaria.
Majestic was completed at the Blohm and Voss shipyards in Germany, under the supervision of the British, Harland and Wolf shipbuilders.
Majestic, although, presumably in an act of defiance by the German workers, wrongly painted in Hamburg Americans Lines colours and baring the name Bismarck, begun her sea trials on March 28th 1922. This was the first and last time that Majestic sailed under the command of a German captain.
On 9th April 1922, the then largest ship in the world, and now correctly painted in White Star Line colours, Majestic, White Star Lines new flag ship, sailed from Germany to her new home under the command of Captain Bertram Hayes, who had recently commanded Olympic since her successful career as a troopship during the First World War.
Majestic left Southampton at the start of her maiden voyage to New York on 10th may 1922. On the way back from New York a steerage passenger committed suicide by jumping off the stern. His body was not found.
Majestic would spend most of her career sailing with Olympic on the New York to Southampton route, along with Homeric taking the places intended for Titanic and Britannic.
In Southampton on 22nd December 1922, Majestic collided with her Cunard owned sister ship, Berengaria, after Majestic was blown of course while docking; fortunately, no series damage was sustained.
Majestic, a British ship, was involved in, as her crew called them, “booze cruises” during the American Alcohol prohibition. Once the ship was a certain distance away, the alcohol could be served; she had at least one, three day voyage seemingly mainly for this purpose, although, it probably would not have been advertised as a “booze cruise”. Winston Churchill was aboard at the time while recovering from an accident in New York.
In December 1924, while on her way to New York in bad weather, a 100 foot crack appeared on Majestic.
After returning home to Southampton, on Captain Hayes last voyage before retiring, she was out of service until April 1925.
In 1928, Majestic, the largest ship in the world, was refitted in Boston in the United States. The work had to be carried out in Boston as there was no dry dock big enough to accommodate Majestic at home in the United Kingdom until 1934.
When the White Star Line merged with Cunard Line in May 1934, Majestic become part of the new Cunard White Star Line fleet and flew both the Cunard Line and White Star Line flag, White Star’s on top.
In October 1934, while on her way to New York, Majestic’s captain, EL Trant, sustained head injuries and injuries to his shoulder and his face, after a large wave struck the bridge, smashing four windows, and knocking him over. As soon as Majestic landed in New York, he was sent to hospital, where he remained until after majestic had gone home without him. He eventually left New York for home, aboard Olympic, over a month later.
In May 1935, the French, liner Normandie, at 79,280 tons, entered service, which meant that Majestic was no longer the largest ship in the world, but did still remain the largest British ship until RMS Queen Mary. Majestic was the last White Star ship to be the largest in the world.
On 13th February 1936, Majestic started her 207th and last voyage to New York, before being taken out of service, after 14 years of being White Star Lines’ flag ship. When Majestic returned to Southampton on 29 February she was laid up.
In May 1936, Cunard White Star sold Majestic for £115,000 to Thomas W Ward ship-breakers, to be broken up for scrap, but Majestic was then re-sold, in July, to the British Admiralty for use as a stationery cadet training ship in Rosyth, Scotland, UK.
In April 1937, after being converted into a cadet ship, renamed HMS Caledonia, and with her masts and funnels shortened so that she could pass under the Forth Bridge in Scotland, she made her last voyage from Southampton.
On 29th September 1939, with no one onboard a fire broke out and destroyed and sunk the ship. In March 1940, Caledonia/Majestic was sold again to Thomas W Ward who demolished her as far as the waterline – before the remainder of the ship was raised and towed to Inverkeithing, Scotland for scrapping in July 1943.