SS Kronprinzessin Cecilie

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The SS Kronprinzessin Cecilie at sea in circa 1910.jpg
Career (Germany) German Ensign 1903–1917
Name: SS Kronprinzessin Cecilie
Namesake: Crown Princess Cecilie
Owner: North German Lloyd
Port of registry: Bremen
Route: Transatlantic
Builder: AG Vulcan, Stettin, Germany
Launched: 1 December 1906
Maiden voyage: 14 July 1907
Fate: Interned, 1914; Seized by U.S., 1917
Career (United States)
Name: USS Mount Vernon
Namesake: Mount Vernon
Acquired: 3 February 1917
Commissioned: 28 July 1917
Decommissioned: 29 September 1919
Fate: Scrapped 1940
General characteristics
Class and type: Kaiser-Class
Type: ocean liner
Tonnage: 19,400 GT
Length: 208.89 m (685 ft 4 in) LBP
Beam: 22.00 m (72 ft 2 in)
Draft: 31 ft 1 in (9.47 m)
Propulsion: two quadruple-expansion steam engines, two screw propellers
Speed: 23–24 knots (43–44 km/h)
Capacity: 1,741
Complement: 1,030 (as USS Mount Vernon)
Armament: 4 × 5-inch (130 mm) guns
2 × 1-pounder guns
2 × machine guns
Notes: four funnels, three masts

SS Kronprinzessin Cecilie was an ocean liner built in Stettin, Germany in 1906 for North German Lloyd that had the largest steam reciprocating machinery ever fitted to a ship.[1][2] The last of four ships of the kaiser class, she was also the last German ship to have been built with four funnels. She was engaged in transatlantic service between her homeport of Bremen and New York until the outbreak of World War I.

On 4 August 1914, at sea after departing New York, she turned around and put into Bar Harbor, Maine, where she later was interned by the neutral United States. After that country entered the war in April 1917, the ship was seized and turned over to the United States Navy, and renamed USS Mount Vernon (ID-4508). While serving as a troop transport, Mount Vernon was torpedoed in September 1918. Though damaged, she was able to make port for repairs and returned to service. In 1919, after the end of the war, she was laid up until 1940, when she was scrapped at Baltimore.



Kronprinzessin Cecilie, built at Stettin, Germany, in 1906 by AG Vulcan Stettin, was the last of a set of four liners built for North German Lloyd, and the last German liner to carry four smokestacks. She was the product of ensuing competition between Germany and the United Kingdom for supremacy in the North Atlantic. Her older sister, the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse had been introduced in 1897 and was a great success.[3] Her popularity prompted North German Lloyd to build three more superliners, namely the Kronprinz Wilhelm (1901), SS Kaiser Wilhelm II (1903) and finally the Kronprinzessin Cecilie.[3]

In 1907 Wiegard trusted Eduard Scotland and Alfred Runge with the interior design of the ship. They designed luxury cabins where the beds would convert to sofas and the washstands would convert into tables. All of the metalwork was gilded; the surfaces were generally white while the wooden surfaces of violet amaranth were inlaid with agate, ivory and citron wood.[4]

The liner was 19,400 GT and was 208.89 metres (685 ft 4 in) long by 22.00 metres (72 ft 2 in) abeam. She had two reciprocating, quadruple-expansion steam engines that powered two screw propellers. The Kronprinzessin sailed at a comfortable 23 knots (43 km/h).

Eduard Scotland and Alfred Runge's design for the Bremen ship

German career[edit]

Named after Crown Princess Cecilie of Prussia, she was launched by her father in law Wilhelm II, German Emperor. In July 1907, the new Kronprinzessin Cecilie was planned to leave Bremerhaven on her maiden voyage. However, before the voyage could take place, the ship sank in Bremerhaven harbour. It was not until the next month on 6 July, had the ship been pumped out and repaired, before setting out on 14 July.[3] Overall, her capacity was 1,741 at the time of her maiden voyage; this was 617 first class, 326 second class and a further 798 third class passengers.[3]

The so-called "Vienna Café" on the Kronprinzessin Cecilie

In comparison with a $2,500 first class suite ticket, the immigrant could sail on the Kronprinzessin Cecilie for a mere $25 – one hundred times cheaper.[3]

The interiors of the "four flyers",[3] as they were called, were special. The entire ship was fitted with the best of craftsmanship Germany could offer; the salons were full of ornamented wood and gilded mirrors. While her sister, the SS Kaiser Wilhelm II was thought by some to be too extravagant, the Kronprinzessin Cecilie was a popular ship.[3] Some of her first class suites were fitted with dining rooms so the passengers who booked the suite could dine in private if they did not wish to take their meals in the main restaurant. Also, a fish tank was placed in the kitchen, providing first class passengers with the freshest of fish.[3]

The liner operated on North German Lloyd's transatlantic route travelling from Bremen, with occasional calls at other ports, including Boston and New Orleans. The ship was steaming toward Germany from America with Captain Charles Polack,[5] who had succeeded Dietrich Hogemann in 1913,[6] when she received word of the outbreak of war. She was carrying some $10,000,000 in gold and $3,400,000 in silver. The ship headed back to the neutral United States to avoid capture by the British Navy and French cruisers[7] and was interred at Bar Harbor, Maine, then moved to Boston.[1][8] Captain Polack had had her normally all-buff funnels painted with black tops as a form of disguise, so as to resemble the Olympic[2] or another ship of the British White Star Line.[9]

American career[edit]

Commandeered by the United States on 3 February 1917, the ship was transferred from the United States Shipping Board (USSB) to the U.S. Navy when America entered the war that April. She was renamed USS Mount Vernon, after George Washington's Virginia home.[1] She was fitted out at Boston to carry troops and materiel to Europe and commissioned on 28 July 1917.

Kronprinzessin Cecilie at Bar Harbor, Maine with black funnel tops painted in order to imitate the Olympic

Mount Vernon departed New York for Brest on 31 October 1917 for her first U.S. Navy crossing, and during the war made nine successful voyages carrying American troops to fight in Europe. However, early on the morning of 5 September 1918, as the transport steamed homeward in convoy some 200 nautical miles (370 km) from the French coast, her No. 1 gun crew spotted a periscope some 500 yards (460 m) off her starboard bow. Mount Vernon immediately fired one round at German U-boat U‑82. The U‑boat simultaneously submerged, but managed to launch a torpedo at the transport. Mount Vernon‍ '​s officer of the deck promptly ordered right full rudder, but the ship could not turn in time to avoid the missile, which struck her amidships, knocking out half of her boilers, flooding the midsection, and killing 36 sailors and injuring 13. Mount Vernon‍ '​s guns kept firing ahead of the U‑boat’s wake and her crew launched a pattern of depth charges. Damage-control teams worked to save the ship, and their efforts paid off when the transport was able to return to Brest under her own power. Repaired temporarily at Brest, she proceeded to Boston for complete repairs.

Mount Vernon rejoined the Cruiser and Transport Service in February 1919 and sailed on George Washington’s birthday for France to begin returning veterans to the United States. The Mount Vernon pulled out of port on March 3, 1919 at 11 PM to return to the United States. Some of her notable passengers during her naval service were: Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations; General Tasker H. Bliss, Chief of Staff of the United States Army; Col. Edward M. House, Special Adviser to President Wilson; and Newton D. Baker, Secretary of War. At the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the Americans offered the former Kronprinzessin Cecilie to the British as a troop transport, who refused on the pretext that she was too old.[3] During the war, the Mount Vernon was laid up in the James River Reserve Fleet, before being scrapped in Baltimore, Maryland in 1940.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d "Kronprinzessin Cecilie". United States Navy. Retrieved 2010-10-16. Kronprinzessin Cecilie, a 19,503 gross ton passenger liner built at Stettin, Germany, was completed in 1906. She operated on the North Atlantic during the next eight years, making regular passages between Europe and the United States. The ship was at sea, en route to Germany, when World War I broke out in early August 1914. Since the risks of interception by British cruisers were very great, she turned back and found safety at Bar Harbor, Maine. Laid up soon afterwards, Kronprinzessin Cecilie was seized by the United States Government when the U.S. entered the conflict and was later renamed Mount Vernon. As such, she served as a U.S. Navy transport from mid-1917 until September 1919, and was subsequently a U.S. Army transport. Laid up in the early 1920s, Mount Vernon was too old to be of use during World War II and was scrapped in 1940. 
  2. ^ a b Frank Osborn Braynard and William H. Miller (writer) (1982). Fifty Famous Liners. W. W. Norton and Company. p. 34. ISBN 0-393-01611-0. Retrieved 16 October 2010. ... had the largest steam reciprocating machinery ever fitted to a ship. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "SS Kronprinzessin Cecilie , The Great Ocean Liners". The Great Ocean Liners. Retrieved 15 July 2010. 
  4. ^ Studio Magazine, Vol 42, 15 October 1907, retrieved 9 February 2014
  5. ^ "Captain With a Great Record". Boston Evening Transcript. 16 March 1914. Retrieved 2010-10-16. when Captain Charles Polack of the North German Lloyd arrives in New York tomorrow, In command of the Cecilie, from London, Paris and Bremen, ... 
  6. ^ "Capt. Hogemann Makes His Last Voyage After 44 Years Spent at Sea." (PDF). New York Times. 7 May 1913. Retrieved 2 December 2010. After the North German Lloyd liner Kronprinzessin Cecilie, arriving from Bremen yesterday, had been made fast to her pier in Hoboken Capt. Dietrich Hogemann, Commodore of the fleet, announced that it was his last voyage, and that Capt. Charles Polack of the George Washington would succeed him. 
  7. ^ "The vagaries of war: A treasure-ship in Bar Harbor". The Independent. 17 August 1914. Retrieved 24 July 2012. 
  8. ^ "German Gold Ship To Quit Bar Harbor. Kronprinzessin Cecilie Starts Today for Boston Under Escort to Face Libel Actions". New York Times. 6 November 1914. Retrieved 2010-10-15. The steamer Kronprinzessin Cecilie of the North German Lloyd Line, which has been interned here for three months, will sail at 4 o'clock tomorrow morning for Boston, where she will remain pending the determination of civil suits against her owners in the Federal courts. 
  9. ^ Arnold Kludas, Die Geschichte der deutschen Passagierschiffahrt Volume 4: Vernichtung und Wiedergeburt 1914 bis 1930, Schriften des Deutschen Schiffahrtsmuseums 21, Hamburg: Kabel, 1989, ISBN 978-3-8225-0047-7, p. 36 (German)

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Media related to SS Kronprinzessin Cecilie at Wikimedia Commons