RMS Britannia

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RMS Britannia 1840 paddlewheel.jpg
RMS Britannia at harbour.
Civil Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg United Kingdom
Name: RMS Britannia
Owner: British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company
Builder: Robert Duncan & Company, Greenock, Scotland
Launched: 5 February 1840
Maiden voyage: 4 July 1840
Out of service: Sold to the Reichsflotte in March 1849
Flag of the German Confederation (war).svg German Confederation
Name: SMS Barbarossa
Acquired: March 1849
Out of service: Transferred to the Prussian Navy in June 1852
War Ensign of Prussia (1816).svg Prussia
Name: SMS Barbarossa
Acquired: June 1852
Fate: Sunk as a target ship in July 1880
General characteristics
Tons burthen: 1,154
Length: 207 ft (63 m)
Beam: 34 ft (10 m)
Draught: 16.8 ft (5.1 m)
Speed: 8.5 knots (15.7 km/h)
Range: 640 tons coal
Capacity: 115 passengers
Crew: 82

RMS Britannia was an ocean liner of the British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, later known as Cunard Steamship Company. She was launched on 5 February 1840, [1] at the yard of Robert Duncan & Company in Greenock, Scotland. The ship and her sisters, Acadia, Caledonia, and Columbia, were the first ocean liners built by the company.

Ocean liner Ship designed to transport people from one seaport to another

An ocean liner is a passenger ship primarily used as a form of transportation across seas or oceans. Liners may also carry cargo or mail, and may sometimes be used for other purposes.

Greenock town and administrative centre in the Inverclyde council area in Scotland

Greenock is a town and administrative centre in the Inverclyde council area in Scotland and a former burgh within the historic county of Renfrewshire, located in the west central Lowlands of Scotland. It forms part of a contiguous urban area with Gourock to the west and Port Glasgow to the east.


Description and service

Britannia was a large ship for the period, 207 feet (63 m) long and 34 feet (10.3 m) across the beam, with three masts and a wooden hull [2] . She had paddle wheels and her coal-powered [2] two-cylinder side-lever engine (from Robert Napier) had a power output of about 740 indicated horsepower with a coal consumption around 38 tons per day [2] . She was relatively fast for the time: her usual speed was about 8.5 knots (16 km/h) [2] , but she could do better if the winds and currents were favourable. She had a tonnage, or carrying capacity, of 1,154 tons (by the Builder's Old Measurement). She was capable of carrying 115 passengers with a crew of 82. [3] On her maiden voyage, starting on 4 July 1840, she made Halifax, Nova Scotia, from Liverpool, England, in 12 days and 10 hours, continuing on to Boston, Massachusetts. The Britannia transported numerous types of cargo alongside its passengers. The cargo included 600 tons of coal; mail due across the Atlantic; livestock for food and milk; and cats to control the rat population. There were 115 first class passengers, with 89 crew members on board. [4]

Robert Napier (engineer) Scottish marine engineer

Robert Napier was a Scottish marine engineer known for his contributions to Clyde Shipbuilding.

Tonnage is a measure of the cargo-carrying capacity of a ship. The term derives from the taxation paid on tuns or casks of wine. In modern maritime usage, "tonnage" specifically refers to a calculation of the volume or cargo volume of a ship. Tonnage should not be confused with displacement, which refers to the actual weight of the vessel. Tonnage is commonly used to assess fees on commercial shipping.

Builder's Old Measurement is the method used in England from approximately 1650 to 1849 for calculating the cargo capacity of a ship. It is a volumetric measurement of cubic capacity. It estimated the tonnage of a ship based on length and maximum beam. It is expressed in "tons burden", and abbreviated "tons bm".

Her first homeward run from Halifax to Liverpool was made in just under 10 days at an average speed of about 11 knots (20 km/h), setting a new eastbound record which lasted until 1842. [5]

She was joined by her sister ship Acadia in August 1840, by Caledonia in October 1840 and by Columbia in January 1841, each constructed by a different shipbuilder. [2] All four ships could carry 115 passengers and 225 tons of cargo. The dining saloon was a long deck-house placed on the upper deck and there was also a 'ladies only' saloon. The fare to Halifax was 35 guineas (2,964 GPB in 2015) [6] which included wines and spirits as well as food. [7]

In January 1842 Charles Dickens and his wife travelled to the United States on Britannia. The weather was bad, he was seasick for most of the voyage and returned home on a sailing ship. [8] [9]

Charles Dickens English writer and social critic

Charles John Huffam Dickens was an English writer and social critic. He created some of the world's best-known fictional characters and is regarded by many as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. His works enjoyed unprecedented popularity during his lifetime, and by the 20th century critics and scholars had recognised him as a literary genius. His novels and short stories are still widely read today.

As Barbarossa in German service

In March 1849 she was sold by Cunard to the revolutionary German Empire Navy and was renamed SMS Barbarossa. She had nine guns fitted, and was the flagship of the Reichsflotte under Karl Rudolf Brommy in the Battle of Heligoland. In June 1852 she was transferred to the Prussian Navy and used as a barracks ship at Danzig. In May 1880 she was decommissioned from the Prussian Navy and in July 1880 she was sunk as a target ship. [8]

Reichsflotte German imperial / federal fleet 1848-1850

The Reichsflotte was the first navy for all of Germany, established by the revolutionary German Empire to provide a naval force in the First Schleswig War against Denmark. The decision was made on 14 June 1848 by the Frankfurt Parliament, which is considered by the modern German Navy as its birthday.

Karl Rudolf Brommy German admiral

Rear Admiral Karl Rudolf Brommy was a German naval officer who helped establish the first unified German fleet, the Reichsflotte, during the First Schleswig War which broke out just before the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states.

Battle of Heligoland (1849) battle of the First Schleswig War

The first Battle of Heligoland took place on 4 June 1849 during the First Schleswig War and pitted the fledgling Reichsflotte against the Royal Danish Navy, which had blocked German naval trade in North Sea and Baltic Sea since early 1848. The outcome was inconclusive, with no casualties, and the blockade went on. It remained the only battle of the German fleet.

Film depiction of RMS Britannia

The funding and first crossing of Britannia were key plot elements in a Warner Brothers film released in 1941 as Atlantic Ferry in the U.K., and Sons of the Sea in the U.S.

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Cunard Line British cruise line

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Steamship Type of steam powered vessel

A steamship, often referred to as a steamer, is a type of steam-powered vessel, typically ocean-faring and seaworthy, that is propelled by one or more steam engines that typically move (turn) propellers or paddlewheels. The first steamships came into practical usage during the early 1800s; however, there were exceptions that came before. Steamships usually use the prefix designations of "PS" for paddle steamer or "SS" for screw steamer. As paddle steamers became less common, "SS" is assumed by many to stand for "steam ship". Ships powered by internal combustion engines use a prefix such as "MV" for motor vessel, so it is not correct to use "SS" for most modern vessels.

White Star Line British shipping company

The Oceanic Steam Navigation Company, more commonly known as the White Star Line (WSL), was a British shipping company. Founded out of the remains of a defunct packet company, it gradually rose up as one of the most prominent shipping lines in the world, providing passenger and cargo services between the British Empire and the United States. While many other shipping lines focused primarily on speed, White Star branded their services by focusing more on providing steady and comfortable passages, for both upper class travellers and immigrants. Today it is most famous for the innovative vessel Oceanic of 1870, and for the losses of some of their best passenger liners, including the wrecking of RMS Atlantic at Halifax in 1873, the sinking of RMS Republic off Nantucket in 1909, the infamous loss of RMS Titanic in 1912 and that of HMHS Britannic while serving as a hospital ship in 1916. Despite its casualties, the company retained a prominent hold on shipping markets around the globe before falling into decline during the Great Depression, which ultimately led to a merger with its chief rival, Cunard Line, which operated as Cunard-White Star Line until 1950. Cunard Line then operated as a separate entity until 2005 and is now part of Carnival Corporation & plc. As a lasting reminder of the White Star Line, modern Cunard ships use the term White Star Service to describe the level of customer care expected of the company.

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Britannia may refer to a number of ships:

SS <i>Oregon</i> (1883) ship

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<i>Britannia</i>-class steamship ship class

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<i>America</i>-class steamship

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  1. https://www.chriscunard.com/history-fleet/cunard-fleet/1840-1900/britannia/ RMS Britannia on Chris' Cunard Page.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Smith, Eugene Waldo (1947). Trans-Atlantic passenger ships, past and present. Boston: George H. Dean Company. p. 3. Retrieved 26 May 2018.
  3. Lavery, Brian. "SHIP: The Epic Story of Maritime Adventure", p. 209. DK Publishing 2004.
  4. "175 Anniversary Historical occasions in Halifax, Boston and New York". Cunard Line 175 Anniversary Crossing. Cunard Line. Retrieved 22 August 2015.
  5. The Blue Riband of the North Atlantic
  6. "Purchasing Power of British Pounds from 1270 to Present" . Retrieved 22 August 2015.
  7. Bernard Dumpleton, "The Story of the Paddle Steamer", 1973, The Uffington Press, ISBN   0-85475-057-6
  8. 1 2 MaritimeQuest- SS Britannia/Barbarossa. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  9. Dickens, Charles (1850). American Notes for General Circulation. Chapters 1, 2 and 16. Project Gutenberg. Retrieved 1 June 2014.