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RMS Laconia I (1912) Ship History and Information

The RMS Laconia I

RMS Laconia (1912) Cunard Steam Ship Company 1912 - 1917

The LACONIA was the first of two vessels of this name owned by the Cunard Line. The Laconia was launched from the Wallsend Shipyard on 27 July 1911 and after completion of all testing, was turned over to the Cunard Lines on 12 December 1911 and commencing service on 20 January 1912.

  • Gross Tonnage - 18,099 tons
  • Dimensions - 182.96m x 21.73m (600.3ft x 71.3ft)
  • Number of funnels - 2
  • Number of masts - 2
  • Construction - Steel
  • Propulsion - Twin screw
  • Engines - Eight-cylinder quadruple-expansion engines by Wallsend Slipway Co Ltd
  • Service speed - 17 Knots
  • Builder -Swann, Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Wallsend-on-Tyne
  • Passenger accommodation - 300 1st class; 350 2nd Class; 2,200 3rd Class

The Laconia and her sister-ship the Franconia were built to replace the Ivernia and Saxonia on the Liverpool to Boston service and to cover for the Lusitania and Mauretania if these were being refitted. They were also intended to ship emigrants from the Mediterranean to New York.

The Cunard Laconia in open seas

RMS Laconia (1912)

The Franconia was the first of the pair to be built, the Laconia taking her place on the stocks and being launched on 27 June 1911. Her maiden voyage was on 20 January 1912 between Liverpool, Boston and New York, on 3 February she made her first voyage between New York, Naples and Fiume.

For the most part, pre-World War I Cunarders almost all boasted twin stacks. Those that were lost at sea (and both Franconia and her sister Laconia were torpedoed) would be replaced post-war by single-funneled simulacra.

As it was, the pretty sisters' profiles, apart from their unseen technological specifications below decks, inaugurated the era of the high-sided steamer, a substantial advance over the comparable look of the company's doughty greyhounds of the 1890's, Campania and Lucania.

The third-class passengers are extremely well catered for, and have provided for them enclosed cabins with berths of modern type for two or four persons, while there are also a number of six-berth rooms for the use of families. 

The main ding saloon is situated on F deck amidships and extends the full width of the ship.  It is a spacious and will lighted apartment, and is fitted with revolving chairs. 

Two small dining rooms adjoin the main saloon.  The remaining third-class public rooms include a social hall on D deck and a smoking room and ladies' room on E deck, all comfortably furnished and well lighted.¹

The Laconia was turned into an armed merchant cruiser in 1914. She was based at Simonstown in the South Atlantic which she patrolled until April 1915.

Laconia was then used as a headquarters ship for the operations to capture Tanga and the colony of German East Africa (Tanzania). Four months later she returned to the patrolling of the South Atlantic. The Laconia was handed back to Cunard in July 1916.

The Laconia I Near New York Harbor

On the outbreak of World War I the Laconia was transformed into an armed merchant cruiser, serving in the South Atlantic and Indian Ocean. In July 1916 she was returned to Cunard and on 9 September resumed the Liverpool to New York service.

On 25 February 1917 she was torpedoed by the German U-50 six miles northwest by west of Fastnet. Capt. Irvine of the Laconia, was returning from the United States to England. 

The first torpedo struck the liner on the starboard side just abaft the engine room, but did not sink her.  Twenty minutes later a second torpedo exploded in the engine room, again on the starboard side, and the vessel sank at 22:20. 

There was a crew of 217 and she was carrying 75 passengers, of whom 34 were first class and 41 second class passengers. 12 people were killed, 6 crew and 6 passengers., including three American citizens, which added to anti-isolationist feeling there.

Structure, Dimensions and Other Information on the Laconia I

  • Name: Laconia
  • Class: Lloyds 100 A1
  • Certificates: B of J Passenger Lloyds Classification No. 877 Berth 1
  • Owners: Cunard Steam Ship Company, Ltd. Liverpool
  • Trade: Atlantic Passenger Steamer, Intermediate Class
  • Keel Laid: 25 July 1910
  • Framed: 1 February 1911
  • Plated: 1 June 1911
  • Launched: 27 July 1911
  • Trial Trip: 8 December 1911


  • Length Overall: 621'3"
  • Length P.P.: 600'0"
  • Breadth Mld. 71'0"
  • Breadth Ext. 71' 3.5"

Crew and Passenger Compliment (Capacity)


  • Captain (1)
  • Officers (6)
  • Engineers and Staff (17)
  • Physician and Staff (7)
  • Petty Officers (20)
  • Purser Staff (252)
  • Seaman (32)
  • Firemen, Trimmers and Others (80)

Total Crew (415)

Passengers (Capacity)

  • First Class (184)
  • Second Class (482)
  • Third Class
    • Cabin (1186)
    • Portable Cabins (758)
    • Total Third Class (1,944)

Total Passengers (2,610)

Lifeboats: 16 - Capacity: 972 Persons

You may also be interested in:

the 1912 Brochure: RMS Laconia and Franconia Extremely rare brochure filled with information and photographs of the sister ships, including interior and exterior views.

Discovery Channel's Treasure Quest - The Silver Queen about the salvage of cargo from the sunken Laconia.

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