Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
RMS Laconia (1921)
The second RMS Laconia was a Cunard ocean liner built by Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson as a successor to the Laconia of 1911 to 1917. The new ship was launched on April 9, 1921, and made her maiden voyage on May 25, 1922 from Southampton to New York. In January 1923 Laconia began the first around-the-world cruise, which lasted over four months and called at 22 ports.
On September 24, 1934 Laconia was involved in a collision off the US coast, while traveling from Boston to New York in dense fog. It rammed into the port side of Pan Royal, a US freighter. Both ships suffered serious damage but were able to proceed under their own steam. Laconia returned to New York for repairs, and resumed cruising in 1935.
On September 4, 1939, Laconia was requisitioned by the Admiralty to be converted into an armed merchant cruiser. By January 1940 she was fitted with eight six-inch guns and two three-inch high-angle guns. After trials off the Isle of Wight, she embarked gold bullion and sailed for Portland, Maine and Halifax, Nova Scotia on January 23. She spent the next few months escorting convoys to Bermuda and to points in the mid-Atlantic, where they would join up with other convoys.
On June 9, she ran aground in the Bedford Basin at Halifax, suffering considerable damage. It was not until the end of July that she had been fully repaired. In October her passenger accommodation was dismantled and some areas were filled with oil drums to provide extra buoyancy.
During the period June-August 1941 Laconia returned to St. John, New Brunswick and was refitted, then returned to Liverpool to be used as a troop transport for the rest of the war. On September 12, 1941, she arrived at Bidston Dock, Birkenhead and was taken over by Cammell Laird and Company to be converted. By early 1942 the work was complete, and for the next six months she made trooping voyages to the Middle East. On one such voyage the ship was used to carry POWs, mainly Italian. She traveled to Cape Town and then set a course for Freetown. On the way to Freetown it followed a zigzag course and undertook evasive steering during the night, but this was not enough.
On September 12, 1942, at 8:10pm, 130 miles north-northeast of Ascension Island, Laconia was hit by a torpedo on the starboard side, fired by U-boat U-156 . There was an explosion in the hold and most of the 450 Italian prisoners were killed instantly. The vessel immediately took a list to starboard. Captain Sharp, who had also commanded Lancastria when she was torpedoed, was beginning to control the situation when a second torpedo hit Number Two hold.
Captain Sharp ordered the ship abandoned and the women, children and injured taken into the lifeboats first. Some of the 32 lifeboats had been destroyed by the explosions and the Italian prisoners tried to rush those that remained. The efforts of the Polish guards were instrumental in controlling the chaotic situation on board and certainly saved many lives.
At 9:11pm Laconia sank with many Italian prisoners still on board. The prospects for those who escaped the ship were only slightly better; sharks were common in the area and the lifeboats were adrift in the mid-Atlantic with little hope of being rescued.
However, before Laconia went down, U-156 surfaced. The U-boat's heroic efforts to rescue the survivors of its own attack began what came to be known as the Laconia incident.
- Gross Tonnage - 19,860 tons
- Length - 183m (600 feet)
- Beam - 22.5m (74ft)
- Number of funnels - 1
- Number of masts - 2
- Construction - Steel
- Propulsion - Twin-screw
- Engines - Steam turbines, direct acting by Wallsend Slipway Co Ltd
- Service speed - 16 knots
- Builder - Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Wallsend-on-Tyne
- Launch date - 9 April 1921
- Passenger accommodation - 350 1st class, 350 2nd class, 1,500 3rd class
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details