Cunard’s Ships in Song, Film, Literature and History


During the cruise line’s 175 year history, 248 ships have sailed under the Cunard banner – inspiring a fascination with the sea and nautical travel in a wide range of songwriters, novelists and filmmakers. As the three current ships in the fleet, Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria prepare to meet in Liverpool – the city synonymous with the company, we explore the cultural and historical impact had by seven of the line’s ships.

RMS Carpathia

Cunard’s RMS Carpathia was the first ship on the scene following the sinking of the Titanic, rescuing 705 survivors of the disaster. The captain and crew were awarded medals and the captain was knighted for the ship’s efforts. Navigating through dangerous ice fields, the ship was unfortunately too late to save more of the Titanic’s passengers as the ship sank in less than two hours.

Titanic - Cliff

The ship’s action didn’t end there as it was used as a war vessel during World War 1, transferring Canadian and America troops to Europe. The ship was sadly sunk by a German submarine just months before the end of the war.

RMS Scotia

Unfortunately for Cunard, the bottom of sea is littered with a number of their ships sunk in World War 1 and 2. The line’s willingness to support the war effort was not forgotten however and perhaps the most famous of Cunard’s wrecked ships is the RMS Scotia, mentioned in Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

RMS Queen Mary

The Original Queen Mary ship from Cunard was operating as a troopship when it was hit and capsized by a monster wave. The event is said to have inspired the 1969 novel The Poseidon Adventure, which became the famous 1972 disaster movie of the same name.

Queen Mary - Tom

RMS Queen Elizabeth

Not to be confused with the liner of the same name currently in operation, the Queen Elizabeth enjoyed a celebrated two decade reign sailing the Atlantic. The ship was sold by Cunard to a succession of buyers before being left to rot in a Hong Kong harbour.

The wrecked ship provided the background for part of the 1974 James Bond film, The Man with the Golden Gun.

RMS Lusitania

The Lusitania is the subject of one of the most popular war time conspiracy theories still in circulation. The conspiracy suggests the British Government deliberately put the ship at risk to entice the USA to join the county’s side. This theory is supported by a letter from Winston Churchill stating this task was of the upmost importance and recovery dives of the wrecked ship which have found the ship to be suspiciously full of holes.

Lusitania - paukrus

RMS Lancastria

Another Cunard ship which suffered at the hands of the German military, the liner was sunk by a bomber as it evacuated civilians from German occupied France. The event was later documented in the 1994 song, Natural Disaster, by Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip.

RMS Mauretania

Holder of the illustrious Blue Riband (the award for the passenger ship capable of the fastest Atlantic Ocean), the RMS Mauretania was a prodigiously quick and technologically-advanced vessel. A fire broke out on the ship in 1921 and Cunard removed her from service for an overhaul. This fire inspired the song Firing the Mauretania by Hughie Jones of The Spinners and events in the Clive Cussler novel, The Thief.

The current ships of the Cunard fleet are currently enjoying similarly celebrated careers on the seas (if not as tumultuous as the war-time vessels). For a full range of great Cunard deals from Cruise1st, visit our homepage here, or call us now on 0808 2746 777.

Images sourced via Flickr Creative Commons. Credits: Cliff, Tom, paukrus, stereotyp-0815


About Author

Claire has worked in the travel industry since leaving college in 1994. One of this blog's most regular contributors, Claire covers cruise news and industry trends.

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