Liverpool-based ocean liners of the post-war period 1945 - 1980
The Elder Dempster flagship AUREOL in the Mersey
off the Pier Head at Liverpool, from an original painting
by John Stobart
This website details some of the most well-known ships which have sailed from the Mersey, including:
ACCRA : Elder Dempster
AQUITANIA : Cunard Line
ASCANIA : Cunard Line
BIBBY LINE (includes OXFORDSHIRE)
BRITANNIC : Cunard - White Star
CARINTHIA : Cunard Line
CARONIA : Cunard Line (go to Postscript on 'Mauretania' webpage)
CILICIA : Anchor Line
EMPRESS OF BRITAIN : Canadian Pacific
EMPRESS OF CANADA : Loss by Fire
EMPRESS OF CANADA (1961) : Canadian Pacific
EMPRESS OF ENGLAND : Canadian Pacific
EMPRESS OF FRANCE : Canadian Pacific
EMPRESS OF SCOTLAND : Canadian Pacific
GEORGIC : Cunard - White Star
HILARY : Booth Line
IVERNIA : Cunard Line
MAURETANIA (1907) : Cunard Line
MAURETANIA (1939): Cunard Line
MEDIA : Cunard Line
NEWFOUNDLAND and NOVA SCOTIA : Johnston Warren Lines
PARTHIA : Cunard Line
REINA DEL MAR : Pacific Steam Navigation Company
REINA DEL PACIFICO : Pacific Steam Navigation Company
SAXONIA : Cunard Line
SYLVANIA : Cunard Line
WINDSOR CASTLE : Union-Castle
visit also: www.merseyships.org
To select a particular ship, go to the navigation bar on the left-hand side of this page.
The Cunard liner CARINTHIA at anchor off the Pier Head at Liverpool in 1959
The British Pathe newsreel footage of the launch of the CARINTHIA can be viewed at:
A massive rebuilding programme began in the mid 1940s after the end of the Second World War and continued throughout the 1950s, commencing with Elder Dempster's ACCRA and APAPA in 1947/48.
A total of fourteen new ships were built for Liverpool-based passenger services, culminating in the EMPRESS OF CANADA in 1961. It was a bold move, given that competition from the airlines was making its presence felt from the mid 1950s.
In the early 1960s life on the passenger ships in the British Merchant Navy was a way of life which seemingly had no end, but towards the end of the decade it had disappeared, almost overnight, or so it seemed. Six almost new Liverpool-based passenger liners became redundant due to competition from the airlines, combined with the appalling industrial relations both amongst the ships' crews and shore labour. The situation was exacerbated by the ever increasing cost of fuel oil.
Taking the rough with the smooth! The view through the 'Kent' clearview screen
from the CARINTHIA's bridge whilst on passage from Greenock to Halifax, NS,
on 25th January, 1965.
'Boundless as ocean's tide, rolling in fullest pride' J.Marriott (1780-1825)
(photos taken by John Shepherd)
The 1950s and 1960s were decades of appalling industrial relations in the shipping industry, both ashore and at sea. The sixteen-week strike of boilermakers at Liverpool in 1961 was the reason cited by Cunard for the early withdrawal of the MEDIA and the PARTHIA. Passengers simply did not know if their ship would sail on time or, indeed, at all. Crossing the North Atlantic by sea became nothing short of a lottery. Like a Greek tragedy the tale of woe gathered force, and this whole sorry mess culminated in the forty-two day seamen's strike of May and June 1966 when the entire British Merchant Navy was strikebound. This was the catalyst, but by no means the only reason, for the total disappearance of Liverpool's passenger liners by March 1972.
Accidents will happen!!! The Cunard liner SYLVANIA in Canadian Vickers' floating
dock at Montreal in June 1967. The SYLVANIA had run aground in the St Lawrence
at Trois Rivieres (half-way between Quebec and Montreal).
(photo taken by John Shepherd)
Four of Liverpool's almost-new passenger liners were sold to foreign owners and went on to enjoy another thirty years of undreamt of success as cruise ships. The EMPRESS OF BRITAIN sailed on under various names until April 2008, almost 52 years to the day since her maiden voyage from Liverpool to Montreal. Cunard's CARINTHIA and SYLVANIA were sold to the Sitmar Line and as the FAIRSEA and the FAIRWIND became two of the most popular cruise ships afloat in the 1970s and 1980s.
Sadly, the two Liverpool liners sold to British interests - the REINA DEL MAR and the EMPRESS OF ENGLAND - enjoyed only a further five years of active service after they left Liverpool due to on-going crew problems and ever soaring fuel prices. Speaking at Shaw Savill's Annual General Meeting in June 1975, Chairman Lord Beeching said:
"Ships such as the OCEAN MONARCH (ex-EMPRESS OF ENGLAND) inspire a strong sentimental attachment, and I am sure that many of our shareholders will regret her passing, just as we do. Nevertheless, it must be said that from a financial point of view the OCEAN MONARCH's disposal gives rise to nothing but a sigh of relief. She has become a loss-making worry and there can be no surer way of improving profitability than by withdrawing her from service."
During my career in the British Merchant Navy, I was fortunate in being able to sail on many of the Liverpool-based ocean liners in the 1960s. Looking back, it was the best time of my life.
j.s. May, 2011.
At Cape Town, February, 1969
visit also: www.merseyships.org
Will Ye No Come Back Again ?
Canadian Pacific's EMPRESS OF CANADA and EMPRESS OF BRITAIN
at anchor at the Tail of the Bank, off Greenock, in the Firth of Clyde in 1961.
THE NEW ORDER AT LIVERPOOL
Special commemorative postal cover marking the first visit
to Liverpool by the QE2 on 24th July 1990.
(courtesy Alan Woodhouse)
The QUEEN MARY 2 alongside the Liverpool Cruise Terminal; Thursday 15th September, 2011
The QUEEN MARY 2 passing the Rock The QUEEN MARY 2 passing the Burbo Bank
Lighthouse at New Brighton. off-shore wind farm in Liverpool Bay.
The QUEEN MARY 2 passing the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company's MANNANAN
off Mariners' Park at 17.15hrs on Friday 17th May 2013.
Now, Voyager, sail thou forth, to seek and find ..... (Walt Whitman)