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RMS Caronia II 1949-1965


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Some of you might know that I am an ocean liner historian.  I spent most of my productive life collecting ocean liner ephemera from the age of 16 onwards.  A few years ago I donated my extensive collection to a marine library.  My collection contained a complete library of ocean liner history including rare books and thousands of menus along with passenger lists and various brochures etc.  When I collected menus I would obsessively go after complete sets of a particular cruise or crossing.  Thereby giving the viewer a clear idea of what it was like on that particular ship in that particular time.  “What Ever Happened To” is, in my mind, a good place to remind CC readers and bloggers of The RMS Caronia II.  Why is Caronia so important?  RMS Caronia II, from a historic perspective, is a major link to modern day cruise ships and cruising.  
 

RMS Caronia II was born as a major gamble taken by the Cunard Company right after WW II.  So much so that a Caronia failure would have meant the demise of Cunard.  The Cunard board of directors placed all their available chips on this bet that Caronia would be a success.  World War II had just ended and Cunard was just beginning to refurbish their fleet.  Great Britain was virtually bankrupt and in desperate need of American Dollars.  Cunard calculated that they could build a magnificent cruise ship that would double as a transatlantic liner in the high season thereby attracting the desperately needed American Dollars.  WW II had just ended and there were millions of wealthy Americans with a pent up desire to see the world…in luxury.  Cunard calculated that Caronia was to be a cruise ship of such luxury that Americans would flock to Cunard for a chance to cruise on Caronia.  Thankfully Caronia exceeded all expectations and became the icon of post war cruising that slowly led to the cruise revolution that we are seeing today.  The history of RMS Caronia II is worth looking at for any armchair liner enthusiast.  The Caronia history is one that is not only historic but full of drama and human stories above deck and below.  
 

Begging the indulgence of the rulers of CC, since the interest here is purely historic, I would call your attention to an incredible historic record of RMS Caronia II.  Google…Caronia Time Line. You will find the most complete and extensive history of any famous ocean liner ever created.  It was my privilege to donate important liner ephemera to this historic record.  The Caronia Time Line took 20 years to build.  It was created by a former crew member, Peter Stevens.  “Steve” has spent the past 20 years painstakingly putting together a complete day to day record of this magnificent and important ship.  The Caronia Time Line is an incredible historic record that is unsurpassed in detail and well worth perusing by any ocean liner enthusiast.

 

CGT Normandie

Edited by CGTNORMANDIE
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6 hours ago, RICHARD@SEA said:

Thanks CGT.....

 

Was Caronia  a sister ship Franconia of the same period?

I believe you are talking about Franconia II.  Franconia I was from 1923.  Franconia II was launched as Ivernia in 1956.  Around 1958-1960 (extemporaneous) the name was changed to Franconia and she had a career cruising to Bermuda which is probably where you caught up with her.  Caronia was a luxury liner in her own class…World Class…she was purpose built for cruising and about 10,000 tons larger than Franconia.  So in response to your initial question…no Franconia was not a sister ship to Caronia.  Caronia II was a very special purpose built ship.  

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Thanks CGT..... I remember being on Franconia !! in 1969...& yes it was Bermuda cruise.

 

I always remember a waiter(a Cunard Longterm employee & Brit) say to my Mother at dinner one nite during a very bad storm... "don't worry Maam Franconia is a great ship - we may turn over but we'll never sink"

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  • 6 months later...

Hello Folks,

I am remiss! Somehow, Ross has posted this amazing review about the Caronia Timeline and I've only today got to find it, quite by accident.

 

I spent almost 3 years on board the RMS Caronia, in two stints. I got diverted by Cunard's shore office at the last moment ahead of the 1965 Great World Cruise. Caronia was my "university", not only carrying me around far-flung places I'd only seen on maps, but making an adult of a very wet-behind-the-ears young lad.

 

For many years I had kept a range of Caronia meal menus, mostly from the 1964 North Cape Cruise. I'd occasionally look through them, with memories flooding back on how we served many of the wonderful dishes on offer. I wonder how many people today know how to properly "silver service" a complete Dover Sole?

 

 The Caronia was all about the "detail", from the moment you stepped aboard. Cunard might have employed us and almost paid us too. What mattered was looking after those who properly employed and generously paid us! The result being that we cleaned and polished that ship half to death. I can absolutely claim that there was not a cleaner working-alleyway aboard any other ship, British or foreign.

 

Anyway, a couple of my saved menus got rather foxed as they aged and then I found a world-wide auction Web site. A whole world of Caronia memorabilia kind of fell at my feet, with information I was totally unaware of. Things like menus and daily programmes I knew all about, but original cruise brochures and shore-tour programmes, they were a complete revelation.

 

One of my bidding competitors, unbeknown to one another at this stage, was a certain CGTNormandie, so I can vouch for his assiduous bidding! Oh boy, did he cause me grief... Nevertheless, as my bank-balance dwindled, I was still slowly amassing quite an archive of material which was making the avoidance of buying duplicates rather difficult. At that time I was also busy making dBase III do its stuff, so it became very tempting to record my material into a database.

 

Also, I was in the throes of learning about building Web sites. Now, that brought with it some excitement but also a few particular challenges. When I searched through the Web for sites about Caronia the results were very disappointing. Don't get me wrong, they were indeed factual and illustrated, but they were only telling the story of the metal and wood. There was very little of a human interest element. Also, it became very clear that "history" had not been kind to this ship after her Cunard demise.

 

All that aside, I then had to consider my approach. The big advantage of building the site was that others could contribute their stories too. No doubt, I could probably trace where in World this grand cruising ship was on any particular day so building a timeline seemed logical. However, the biggest question was whether I had enough information to not only bring life to this ship but also do proper justice to all my fellow travellers, passengers, officers and crew.

 

At the back of my mind was that any Web site with such a far-reaching ambition was going to be very closely scrutinised and I wasn't going to let it be found wanting! The resulting 20 year journey has been an absolutely joyful experience with all and sundry "adopting" the timeline as their own. The outcome is a site that I have "edited", with so much information and original content coming from enthusiastic contributors. If ever I need a lift, I only need to look back through my feedback archive. Some of the emotions expressed by visitors will have me welling-up

 

As time progressed and major internet outfits just got greedier and greedier, so access to items from America got more difficult and more or less dried-up. The huge increase in postage costs and the artificial "duty" on non-taxable items made it impossible to justify any purchase. This is where my old bidding adversary stepped in and really saved the day. As the amount of Caronia material has inevitably dwindled, I now have an avid ally ready to mop up what are quite often exceedingly rare items.

 

While I'm obviously going to thank Ross for his very kind words, I really want to pay tribute to his absolute and unstinting generosity. There are many, many pages on the Timeline where you'll see images that come from the "Blouin Collection". Just try and imagine how dull those pages would be without them.

On 7/31/2023 at 11:59 AM, CGTNORMANDIE said:

 When I collected menus I would obsessively go after complete sets of a particular cruise or crossing, thereby giving the viewer a clear idea of what it was like on that particular ship in that particular time.

Job, jobbed! Ross' contributions have acted as wonderful aide-memoires and enabled me to add further information relevant to the moment. While I'm obviously happy to accept any plaudits, I do want to emphasise that the Timeline is not all my own work and could have never achieved its current status without the many, many contributions by fellow travellers. My gratitude is complete and heartfelt!

 

After 20 years I'm now stepping back a little, though once you get this collecting bug there is no antidote. There will no doubt be additions here and there when the rarest items are gathered or a new story emerges. Meanwhile, there are over 1,000 pages for everyone to explore, all written in homage to a much-loved ship.

 

Please step aboard and allow yourself to be transported into an age of travel unlikely to ever be repeated... 

 

Regards,
Steve (Peter S.)

Edited by Lowiepete
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On 8/2/2023 at 5:16 PM, CGTNORMANDIE said:

I believe you are talking about Franconia II.  Franconia I was from 1923.  Franconia II was launched as Ivernia in 1956.  Around 1958-1960 (extemporaneous) the name was changed to Franconia and she had a career cruising to Bermuda which is probably where you caught up with her.  Caronia was a luxury liner in her own class…World Class…she was purpose built for cruising and about 10,000 tons larger than Franconia.  So in response to your initial question…no Franconia was not a sister ship to Caronia.  Caronia II was a very special purpose built ship.  

I thought might like to see a couple of my Caronia items. 
A spoon from 1918 for the earlier Caronia, a nice tie clip from the later one known as *The Green Goddess*, a nice postcard for *The Green Goddess*, the postcard is unique as it’s not one you can write on on the back as you’ll see in the photo as it shows part of the fleet

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26 minutes ago, norboy76 said:

I thought might like to see a couple of my Caronia items. 
... a nice tie clip from the later one known as *The Green Goddess*, 

 

IMG_4238.jpeg

 

 

I have a sneaking suspicion that this isn't a Caronia item. Speaking of the Franconia, both her and Carmania of the 1960s were re-purposed and painted in Cunard Cruising Green, along with a brief period for the RMS Mauretania. The straighter prow and domed funnel of this piece associates more closely with the two smaller sisters. The foredeck clutter also tends to rule out Caronia.

 

Whilst there's mention of these ships, I spent the worst 5 months of my sea-career on board Carmania. That was _not_ a happy ship! I cannot put into words the amount of hate carried by a substantial number of her crew. You had to pick who you spoke to as associates very carefully; it was scary! Apparently, by comparison, Franconia was like chalk and cheese and a very much calmer place to live.

 

In May 1965, just 3 days from home, the Carmania sailed over 8 hours later than booked from Barcelona, while overnight more than a dozen men were flown home in disgrace, their sea-going days over. A junior catering officer was left behind, being hospitalised after being launched backwards and head-first down a companionway he was climbing to investigate a disturbance at the aft end of the galley.

 

At that moment, I was Staff-Captain's Commis clearing up after luncheon service. I quickly ducked-down twixt the port-side galley exit and aft restaurant entrance when a very drunk and angry crowd came back on board. I've never been more scared by any situation before or since and the dreadful sounds of that commotion will never leave me!

 

I'm aware that I'm digressing away from the Caronia, but I need to record this properly. All this was at the height of "the troubles"; the one thing that was rarely conveyed by any commentator of this difficult period of history was the extreme levels of hate. There were so many factions that for many people, me included, the whole thing was just too confusing. This to the point where I cannot for certain confirm whether it came from just one side or was shared. All I fervently hope for is that such situations never return!

 

Regards,
Steve

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1 hour ago, norboy76 said:

I thought might like to see a couple of my Caronia items. 
 a nice tie clip from the later one known as *The Green Goddess*

At the time, Caronia II was not known as the Green Goddess! The reason being that this moniker had already been fondly ascribed to the British Army fire engines, painted green rather than red, and fairly frequently called upon to fight domestic fires.

 

Caronia at the time was much better known as "The Millionnaire's Yacht". The later moniker is today used only as a marketing term. It's curious that such a gift of an idiom was never used in any Cunard / Amex or Thos. Cook cruise brochure of the period, bar a single leaflet hastily put together in Liverpool late in her career.

 

The "Green Goddess" was an affectionate term used almost exclusively by Caronia's crew, not even widely in the Merchant Navy. It was in fact a colloquial Scouse term that had travelled South. The full story is recorded here...

 

Regards,
Steve 

 

Edited by Lowiepete
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4 hours ago, Lowiepete said:

I have a sneaking suspicion that this isn't a Caronia item. Speaking of the Franconia, both her and Carmania of the 1960s were re-purposed and painted in Cunard Cruising Green, along with a brief period for the RMS Mauretania. The straighter prow and domed funnel of this piece associates more closely with the two smaller sisters. The foredeck clutter also tends to rule out Caronia.

 

Whilst there's mention of these ships, I spent the worst 5 months of my sea-career on board Carmania. That was _not_ a happy ship! I cannot put into words the amount of hate carried by a substantial number of her crew. You had to pick who you spoke to as associates very carefully; it was scary! Apparently, by comparison, Franconia was like chalk and cheese and a very much calmer place to live.

 

In May 1965, just 3 days from home, the Carmania sailed over 8 hours later than booked from Barcelona, while overnight more than a dozen men were flown home in disgrace, their sea-going days over. A junior catering officer was left behind, being hospitalised after being launched backwards and head-first down a companionway he was climbing to investigate a disturbance at the aft end of the galley.

 

At that moment, I was Staff-Captain's Commis clearing up after luncheon service. I quickly ducked-down twixt the port-side galley exit and aft restaurant entrance when a very drunk and angry crowd came back on board. I've never been more scared by any situation before or since and the dreadful sounds of that commotion will never leave me!

 

I'm aware that I'm digressing away from the Caronia, but I need to record this properly. All this was at the height of "the troubles"; the one thing that was rarely conveyed by any commentator of this difficult period of history was the extreme levels of hate. There were so many factions that for many people, me included, the whole thing was just too confusing. This to the point where I cannot for certain confirm whether it came from just one side or was shared. All I fervently hope for is that such situations never return!

 

Regards,
Steve

Thank you for fixing the ship mix, the shop I bought the tie clip from had it listed as the Caronia, but as I look through my postcards, she looks more like the liners you mentioned, I also have postcards for the Franconia, but one with an all white hull. I do have in the green hull too. Green hull top photo, white hull bottom photo. Thank you again for clearing it up for me.

image.jpg

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