The Cunard Lineís Saxonia


The  Saxonia at its dock at Liverpool, England.

The Saxonia typically left Liverpool with passengers from all over Europe who were  bound for America.  The ship then stopped at Queenstown, near Cork, to pick up Irish passengers.

On the shipís manifest on which my father appears are passengers from Russia, Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden, and other European countries.


This postcard of the Saxonia illustrates its most distinctive feature: the Saxonia and its sister ship, Ivernia, each had one unusually tall stack.

Like almost all ocean liners of the day, the Saxonia had luxurious accommodations for first class passengers, and comfortable rooms for those in second class.


The Steerage Berths

This photograph was taken aboard another Cunard ship, the Aquitania, but it illustrates what the third class accommodations aboard the Saxonia were like.

The sexes were segregated in dormitories with metal bunks.  The accommodations were far from luxurious but were a vast improvement over the conditions endured by immigrants only a few decades earlier.


The Third Class Lounge

This photograph was taken aboard the Saxonia, and shows a room the steerage passengers could occupy during their waking hours.  

It is possible that my father spent an afternoon on these austere wooden benches speaking with other immigrants about what they might find in America.

Itís likely he would have been amazed at the diversity of people he saw and languages he heard aboard the Saxonia.


An area of the deck near the stern of the ship, below the mast at the right of this illustration, was set aside for the steerage passengers to stretch their legs.

Sepia tone cards like this were sold aboard ship as souvenirs. Itís unlikely that steerage passengers like my father, who would declare that he had five dollars upon arrival in Boston, bought many postcards.


The Cunard Lineís web site offers this official history of the Saxonia

Saxonia I

1900 - 1925

Gross Tonnage - 14,281 
Dimensions - 176.77 x 19.77m (580 x 64.2ft) 
Number of funnels - 1 
Number of masts - 4 
Construction - Steel 
Propulsion - Twin-screw 
Engines - Eight-cylindered quadruple-expansion 
Service speed - 15 knots 
Builder - John Brown & Co.Ltd., Glasgow 
Launch date - 16 December 1899 
Passenger accommodation - 164 1st class, 200 2nd class, 1,600 3rd class

At the close of the 19th century Cunard began a programme of rebuilding which was to culminate in the production of the Lusitania and Mauretania. This was largely due to the fact that a large part of the fleet was either outdated or on loan to the government. Also, as Germany was becoming more influential in European politics it joined the international race for the supremacy of the North Atlantic. Germany had already begun to build up its mercantile and naval fleets to equal those of the British. 

For the Liverpool to Boston route Cunard required ships with ample cargo capacity and passenger accommodation. In 1898 orders were placed for two 14,000 ton vessels, the Ivernia and Saxonia. The Saxonia was launched on 16 December 1899 by The Hon. Mrs. Burns, the wife of one of Cunard's directors. It made its maiden voyage from Liverpool to Boston on 22 May 1900. 

The service provided by this ship was reliable and efficient. It was 9 years later that the first mishap occurred, and this was only minor. On 16 September 1909, returning from Boston, the Saxonia ran aground on the Burbo Bank in the Crosby Channel. After divers had checked the damage, however, it was established that there was no permanent damage. 

Along with its sister ship, the Ivernia, it was transferred to the Mediterranean trade in 1911. This was to exploit the profitable trade of transporting emigrants, mainly Italian and Hungarian. During this period the Saxonia traveled from Trieste and Fiume to New York. The outbreak of World War I, in July 1914, forced a change in the ship's role. 

After returning to Liverpool the Saxonia sailed to the Thames to be used as a POW accommodation ship. It soon returned to the company's service and, between May 1915 and October 1916, made several voyages from Liverpool to New York. It was not until 1917 that the Saxonia was again requisitioned by the government, this time to carry troops and cargo between Liverpool and New York. After the war ended the ship was employed transporting American troops from France home to New York. This task was completed by April 1919 and the Saxonia was free to return to commercial service. 

After being refitted it could now accommodate 471 cabin class and 978 3rd class passengers, and the funnel was shortened by 15 feet. Subsequently it sailed on the London to New York route. From October 1924 it called at Hamburg, Southampton and Hamburg en route. However, by November it was laid up at Tilbury and in March 1925 it was sold to Dutch shipbreakers. It was finally broken up at Hendrik Ido Ambacht, near Rotterdam. 

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