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The SS Rex was an Italian ocean liner launched in 1931. It held the westbound Blue Ribbon between 1933 and 1935. Originally built for the Navigazione Generale Italiana (NGI) as the SS Guglielmo Marconi, its state-ordered merger with the Lloyd Sabaudo line meant that the ship sailed for the newly created Italia Flotta Riunite (Italian Line). On May 12, 1938, in a demonstration of U.S. air power, three YB-17 bombers of the U.S. Army Air Corps intercepted the Rex 610 miles at sea in a highly publicized event.

The Rex operated transatlantic crossings from Italy with its running mate, the Conte di Savoia. On 8 September 1944, off Koper, Rex was hit by 123 rockets launched by RAF aircraft, caught fire from stem to stern, rolled onto the port side, and sank in shallow water. The ship was broken up at the site beginning in 1947.


Following North German Lloyd’s successful capture of the Blue Riband with its Bremen and Europa duo of ocean liners, the Rex was intended to be Italy’s effort to do the same. Amid great competition from other steamship companies, the Italian Line carried out a very attractive and enthusiastic publicity campaign for its two largest liners, the Rex and the Conte di Savoia.

Both ships were dubbed "The Riviera afloat". To carry the theme even further, sand was scattered in the outdoor swimming pools, creating a beach-like effect highlighted by multicolored umbrellas. Both ships were decorated in a classical style while the norm of the time was the Art Deco or the so called "Liner Style" that had been premiered onboard the French Line’s Ile de France in 1927. The ship’s exterior design had followed the trend set by Germany’s Bremen and Europa. The Rex sported a long hull with a moderately raked bow, two working funnels, but still featured the old-type overhanging counter stern found on such liners as the Olympic and Aquitania.

The first of this pair to be completed was, appropriately, the largest and fastest. It was christened the Rex in August 1931 in the presence of King Victor Emmanuel III and Queen Elena. In its goal of a record-breaking maiden voyage, its first run was a dismal failure. It sailed from Genoa in September, 1932, after a send off from Premier Benito Mussolini, with a passenger list of international celebrities. Unfortunately, while approaching Gibraltar, serious mechanical difficulties arose. Repairs took three days. Half its passengers requested to leave, preferring to reach Germany’s coasts and take the Europa; arriving in New York they found the Rex already into the dock. Lengthy repairs were required in New York before returning to Europe.

The Atlantic crossing ceased in the spring of 1940 and she was returned to Italian ports for safekeeping, with Rex laid up in Bari. With the surrender of Italy in 1943, the German government seized the Rex and had it towed to Trieste. Ultimately however this effort proved futile as the Rex was destroyed by Royal Air Force Beaufighters on September 8, 1944, in a successful effort to prevent German forces from using the liner to blockade the harbor entrance.

The battle of the Blue Ribbon was a reality for more than a hundred years, but the ribbon was not. It may seem strange that the world’s leading ship owners and seafaring nations should fight over a ribbon, even though it was blue. When one knows that this ribbon didn’t even exist the effort put down to win it seems overwhelming. The cup didn’t turn up until 1935. But the ship owners were so caught up in the battle by then, that when Cunard White Star Line who were one of the first to receive the cup were asked where they kept it, they didn’t know. Records were set both on the westbound and the eastbound route.

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RMS Campania was a British ocean liner owned by the Cunard Steamship Line Shipping Company, built by Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company of Govan, Scotland, and launched on Thursday, 8 September 1891.

Identical in dimensions and specifications to her sister ship RMS Lucania, Campania was the largest and fastest passenger liner afloat when she entered service in 1893. She crossed the Atlantic in less than six days; and on her second voyage in 1893, she won the prestigious Blue Ribbon, previously held by the Inman Liner SS City of Paris. The following year, Lucania won the Blue Ribbon and kept the title until 1898 – Campania being the marginally slower of the two sisters.Campania and Lucania were partly financed by the British Admiralty. The deal was that Cunard would receive money from the Government in return for constructing vessels to admiralty specifications and also on condition that the vessels go on the naval reserve list to serve as armed merchant cruisers when required by the government. The contracts were awarded to the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, which at the time was one of Britain’s biggest producers of warships. Plans were soon drawn up for a large, twin-screw steamer powered by triple expansion engines, and construction began in 1891, just 43 days after Cunards’ order. 

Campania had the largest triple expansion engines ever fitted to a Cunard ship. These engines were also the largest in the world at the time, and still rank today amongst the largest of the type ever constructed. They represent the limits of development for this kind of technology, which was superseded a few years later by turbine technology. In height, the engines reached from the double-bottom floor of the engine room to the top of the superstructure – almost three stories. Each engine had five cylinders. The two low pressure cylinders on each engine each measured 8´2″ (2.48 m) in diameter, and the engines operated with a stoke of 5′ 9″ (1.75 m). Together, the engines could generate a massive 31,000 ihp (23,000 kW), which produced an average of speed of 22 knots (41 km/h), and a record speed of 23½ knots.Each of the engines was placed in separate watertight engine compartments, in case of a hull breach in that area, for only one engine room would then be flooded, and the ship would still have power to limp home with the adjacent engine. In addition to this Campania had 16 transverse watertight compartments, which meant that she could remain afloat with any two compartments flooded.In their day, Campania and her sister offered the most luxurious first class passenger accommodation available. It was Victorian opulence at its peak – an expression of a highly confident and prosperous age that would never be quite repeated on any other ship. All the first class public rooms, and the en suite staterooms of the upper deck, were generally heavily panelled, in oak, satinwood or mahogany; and thickly carpeted. Velvet curtains hung aside the windows and portholes, while the furniture was richly upholstered in matching design. The predominant style was Art Nouveau, although other styles were also in use, such as “French Renaissance” which was applied to the forward first class entrance hall, whilst the 1st class smoking room was in “Elizabethan style”, comprising heavy oak panels surrounding the first open fireplace ever to be used aboard a passenger liner.

Perhaps the finest room in the vessels was the first class dining saloon measuring 20 by 30 m (66 by 98 ft) with a more than 10 m (33 ft) ceiling. Over the central part of the room was a well that rose through three decks to a skylight. It was done in a style described as “modified Italian style”, with a coffered ceiling in white and gold, supported by ionic pillars. The panelled walls were done in Spanish mahogany, in-laid with ivory and richly carved with pilasters and decorations.

The battle of the Blue Ribbon was a reality for more than a hundred years, but the ribbon was not. It may seem strange that the world’s leading ship owners and seafaring nations should fight over a ribbon, even though it was blue. When one knows that this ribbon didn’t even exist the effort put down to win it seems overwhelming. The cup didn’t turn up until 1935. But the ship owners were so caught up in the battle by then, that when Cunard White Star Line who were one of the first to receive the cup were asked where they kept it, they didn’t know. Records were set both on the westbound and the eastbound route.

 

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01489_qe1_01The Queen Elizabeth was the second of the two superliners which Cunard built for the New York service. After lengthy negotiations between Sir Percy Bates, Chairman of Cunard, and the Government a formal contract for what was known as job 535 was signed on 6 October 1936. The contract went to John Brown & Co, builders of the Queen Mary  –  Read the whole article

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The White Star Line’s first four steamships met with great success in the trans-Atlantic market, and the line decided to build two more. The first of these was SS Adriatic, which was built by Harland and Wolff and launched on 17 October 1871; the second was the Celtic.

During the remainder of 1871 and the early part of 1872, Adriatic was fitted out. As a part of this process, a technology new to that era was tried on the ship. Up to this point, ships’ cabins were lit with oil lamps, but the builders decided to try new gas lamps on Adriatic. A machine was added to the engine room that made gas from coal, the first ship in the world to have such a system. However, problems with gas leaks could not be overcome, so the system was removed before the ship went into service.

Adriatic left on its maiden voyage on 11 April 1872, sailing from Liverpool to New York, under Captain Sir Digby Murray, who had captained the maiden voyage of the White Star’s first ship, the Oceanic the year before. Adriatic was similar in configuration to the earlier Oceanic-class ships, with a single funnel and four masts (highest of which was 150 feet), the first three of which were square-rigged. The hull was painted black in typical White Star fashion, and accommodated two classes, First and Steerage. As the largest of the six White Star Line ships, Adriatic received the designation as the Line’s flagship, a title which she held until the larger Britannic came on line in 1874.

A month later, during a subsequent Atlantic crossing to New York, Adriatic maintained an average speed of 14.52 knots and thus won the Blue Ribbon away from the Cunard Line’s Scotia, which had held it since 1866.

Adriatic was involved in several accidents. The first of these occurred in October, 1874, when Adriatic, while sailing parallel with the Cunard Line Parthia, collided with it, with little damage to either ship. In March, 1875, Adriatic rammed the American ship Columbus in New York harbor, and Columbus subsequently sunk. In December of the same year, in St. Georges Channel, Adriatic ran down and sunk the sailing vessel Harvest Queen in an accident that resulted in the loss of all life aboard Harvest Queen. Queen sunk so quickly that the crew of Adriatic could not identify what boat they had hit, and only a records search later showed who the victim had been. On 19 July 1878, Adriatic hit the brig G. A. Pike off of South Wales, killing five crew onboard Pike. Blame was fixed on Adriatic for excessive speed.

In 1884, Adriatic underwent a refit, during which accommodations for 50 Second Class passengers were added. In 1897, she was deemed too old for regular trans-Atlantic service, and was then laid up as a reserve ship for the Line, at Birkenhead. When the second Oceanic entered service in 1899, Adriatic was sold for scrap, arriving in Preston on 12 February.

The battle of the Blue Ribbon was a reality for more than a hundred years, but the ribbon was not. It may seem strange that the world’s leading ship owners and seafaring nations should fight over a ribbon, even though it was blue. When one knows that this ribbon didn’t even exist the effort put down to win it seems overwhelming. The cup didn’t turn up until 1935. But the ship owners were so caught up in the battle by then, that when Cunard White Star Line who were one of the first to receive the cup were asked where they kept it, they didn’t know. Records were set both on the westbound and the eastbound route.

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SS Britannic was the first of three ships to sail with Britannic name. All were part of the White Star Line, famous for Titanic and other ocean liners.

Britannic was a steamship equipped with sails. It was initially to be called Hellenic, but, just prior to her launch, her name was changed to Britannic. Its twin was Germanic. Britannic sailed for nearly thirty years, primarily carrying immigrant passengers on the highly trafficked Liverpool to New York route. In 1876 it received the Blue Ribbon, both westbound and eastbound, by averaging almost 16 knots (30 km/h).

On 19 May 1887, at about 5:25 in the afternoon the White Star liner, SS Celtic collided with Britannic in thick fog about 350 miles (560 km) east of Sandy Hook, New Jersey. Celtic, with 870 passengers, had been steaming westbound for New York City, while Britannic, carrying 450 passengers, was on the second day of her eastward journey to Liverpool. The two ships collided at almost right angles, with Celtic burying her prow 10 feet (3 m) in the aft port side of Britannic. Celtic rebounded and hit two more times, before sliding past behind Britannic.

Six steerage passengers were killed outright on board Britannic, and another six were later found to be missing, having been washed overboard. There were no deaths on board Celtic. Both ships were badly damaged, but Britannic more so, having a large hole below her waterline. Fearing that she would founder, the passengers on board began to panic and rushed the lifeboats. Britannic’s captain, pistol in hand, was able to restore some semblance of order, and the boats were filled with women and children, although a few men forced their way on board. After the lifeboats had launched, it was realized that Britannic would be able to stay afloat, and the lifeboats within hailing distance were recalled. The rest made their way over to Celtic. The two ships remained together through the night, and the next morning were joined by the Wilson Line’s Marengo and British Queen of the Inman Line, and the four slowly made their way into New York Harbor.

The battle of the Blue Ribbon was a reality for more than a hundred years, but the ribbon was not. It may seem strange that the world’s leading ship owners and seafaring nations should fight over a ribbon, even though it was blue. When one knows that this ribbon didn’t even exist the effort put down to win it seems overwhelming. The cup didn’t turn up until 1935. But the ship owners were so caught up in the battle by then, that when Cunard White Star Line who were one of the first to receive the cup were asked where they kept it, they didn’t know. Records were set both on the westbound and the eastbound route.

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The SS Bremen of 1929 was one of a pair of ocean liners built for the Norddeutscher Lloyd line (NDL) for the transatlantic passenger service. The Bremen was notable for her low streamlined profile, and modern approach to her design. Her sister ship was the Europa, later renamed Liberté. The German pair sparked the building of the large and very expensive express liners of the 1930s. She was the fourth ship of NDL to carry the name Bremen.Also known as TS Bremen – for Turbine Ship – the Bremen and her sister were designed to have a cruising speed of 27.5 knots, allowing a crossing time of 5 days. This speed enabled Norddeutsche Lloyd to run regular weekly crossings with two ships, a feat that normally required three. It was claimed that Bremen briefly reached speeds of 32 knots (59 km/h) during her sea trials.Bremen was to have made her maiden transatlantic crossing in the company of her sister Europa, but Europa suffered a serious fire during fitting-out, so Bremen crossed solo, departing Bremerhaven for New York City under the command of Commodore Leopold Ziegenbein on 16 July 1929. She arrived four days, 17 hours, and 42 minutes later, capturing the westbound Blue Ribbon from the Mauretania with an average speed of 27.83 knots (51.54 km/h). This voyage also marked the first time mail was carried by a ship-launched plane for delivery before the ship’s arrival. A Heinkel HE 12, piloted by Jobst von Studnitz, was launched a few hours before arrival in New York with a number of mailbags. On her next voyage Bremen took the eastbound Blue Ribbon with a time of 4 day 14 hours and 30 minutes and an average speed of 27.91 knots (51.69 km/h). This was the first time a liner had broken two records on her first two voyages. The Bremen lost the westbound Blue Ribbon to her sister Europa in 1930, and the eastbound Blue Ribbon to SS Normandie in 1935.

As Nazism gained power in Germany, Bremen and her pier in New York were often the site of Anti-Nazi demonstrations. On 26 July 1935 a group of demonstrators boarded Bremen just before she sailed and tore the Nazi party flag from the jackstaff and tossed it into the Hudson River. On 15 September 1935 Hitler declared the Nazi Flag to be the exclusive national flag of Germany in response to this incident, removing the status of the original flag of the Weimar Republic as co-national flag. The Bremen started her South America cruise on 11 February 1939, and was the first ship of this size to traverse the Panama Canal. On 22 August 1939, she began her last voyage to New York. After ten years of service, she had almost 190 transatlantic voyages completed.

 

The battle of the Blue Ribbon was a reality for more than a hundred years, but the ribbon was not. It may seem strange that the world’s leading ship owners and seafaring nations should fight over a ribbon, even though it was blue. When one knows that this ribbon didn’t even exist the effort put down to win it seems overwhelming. The cup didn’t turn up until 1935. But the ship owners were so caught up in the battle by then, that when Cunard White Star Line who were one of the first to receive the cup were asked where they kept it, they didn’t know. Records were set both on the westbound and the eastbound route.

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RMS Umbria and her sister ship RMS Etruria were the last two Cunarders that were fitted with auxiliary sails. RMS Umbria was built by John Elder & Co at Glasgow, Scotland in 1884. The “Umbria” and her sister “Etruria” were record breakers. They were the largest liners then in service and they plied the Liverpool to New York Service. RMS Umbria was launched by the Honourable Mrs Hope on Wednesday 25 June 1884 with wide coverage by the press, the reason being that she was the largest ship afloat, apart from the Great Eastern, but by this time that ship was redundant.The “Umbria” had many distinguishing features that included two enormous funnels which gave the outward impression of huge power. She also had three large steel masts which when fully rigged had an extensive spread of canvas. Another innovation on “Umbria” was that she was equipped with refrigeration machinery, but it was the single screw propulsion that would bring the most publicity later in her career. The ship epitomized the luxuries of Victorian style. The public rooms in the 1st class were full of ornately carved furniture, heavy velvet curtains hung in all the rooms, and they were decorated with the bric-a-brac that period fashion dictated. These rooms and the 1st class cabins were situated on the promenade, upper, saloon and main decks. There was also a music room, a smoking room for gentleman, separate dining rooms for 1st and 2nd class passengers. By the standard of the day 2nd class accommodation was moderate but spacious and comfortable. By early October 1884 “Umbria” had completed her sea trials and on 1 November 1884 she set off to New York on her maiden voyage. She was commanded by Captain Theodore Cook. He was Cunard’s senior captain, having served his apprenticeship in the days of square-rigged sailing ships.

In 1887 RMS Umbria gained the prestigious “Blue Ribbon” when on 29 May she beat her sister ship’s record of the year before. She set off from Queenstown (Cobh) to cross the North Atlantic, westbound. She got across to Sandy Hook on 4 April, in 6 days 4 hours and 12 minutes, averaging a speed of 19.22 knots (35.60 km/h) and covering a distance of 2,848 nautical miles (5,274 km). Her sister RMS Etruria regained the blue ribbon the following year. On 10 November 1888 RMS Umbria was outward bound from New York when she collided with and sank the trading steamer SS “Iberia” of the Fabre Line, near Sandy Hook. The stern part of the “Iberia” was completely cut off. The blame for this accident was placed upon the RMS Umbria, which it was said was travelling at a dangerous speed, said to be 17 knots (31 km/h).

The battle of the Blue Ribbon was a reality for more than a hundred years, but the ribbon was not. It may seem strange that the world’s leading ship owners and seafaring nations should fight over a ribbon, even though it was blue. When one knows that this ribbon didn’t even exist the effort put down to win it seems overwhelming. The cup didn’t turn up until 1935. But the ship owners were so caught up in the battle by then, that when Cunard White Star Line who were one of the first to receive the cup were asked where they kept it, they didn’t know. Records were set both on the westbound and the eastbound route.

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