RMS Ausonia

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HMS Ausonia FL1241.jpg
Ausonia anchored at Liverpool, November 1947
British Merchant Navy EnsignUnited Kingdom
NameRMS Ausonia
OwnerCunard Line
BuilderArmstrong Whitworth, Newcastle upon Tyne
Yard number970
Launched22 March 1921
Maiden voyage31 August 1922
FateScrapped, 1965
General characteristics
Tonnage13,912 gross register tons (GRT)
Length538 ft (164 m)
Beam65 ft 4 in (19.91 m)
PropulsionGeared turbines, 8,500 shp (6,338 kW), twin screws
Speed15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph)
Capacity510 cabin class, 1,178 third class

RMS Ausonia, launched in 1921, was one of Cunard's six post-World War I "A-class" ocean liners for the Canadian service.


Ausonia was built in Newcastle by Armstrong, Whitworth & Co., launched on 22 March 1921, and completed in June. She made her maiden voyage on 31 August 1921 from Liverpool to Montreal, and the following season went into service on the London-Canada route.

In December 1938, the Ausonia carried about 50 American veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade returning from the Spanish Civil War from Le Havre, France, by way of England and Halifax, Nova Scotia, arriving in New York City on 20 December 1938.

On 29 April 1939, English composer Benjamin Britten and tenor Peter Pears sailed from Southampton for Canada on Ausonia to begin what became a three-year sojourn in North America. Britten described the voyage as at first "bloody boring", though there was later a "terrific gale" and even "ice bumping against the ship". Towards the end of the voyage, they gave a recital for voice and piano.[1]

On 2 September 1939, with British involvement in the Second World War immanent, Ausonia was hurriedly docked at Quebec and repainted grey.[2] With the outbreak of war, Ausonia was requisitioned by the Admiralty and converted into an armed merchant cruiser, commissioning on 7 November that year with a pennant number of F53. Armament consisted of eight 6-inch (152 mm) guns, with two 3-inch (76 mm) anti-aircraft guns fitted.[3] She operated in the Atlantic, with her first commanding officer being Mark Pizey, later to become an Admiral.[4] In 1942, Ausonia was purchased by the Admiralty and in May 1942 converted to a heavy repair ship. Her previous armament was removed, and a close-in armament of twenty Oerlikon 20 mm cannon fitted in its place.[4][5] She served in the Far East for the rest of the war.[4]

After return from the Far East, she was laid up in reserve at Chatham. On 16 September 1958 recommissioned at Devonport and was then sent to Malta as repair ship for the Mediterranean Fleet, replacing Ranpura.[4][6] She gradually assumed more duties, becoming a depot ship for submarines and minesweepers based at Malta in 1962. She finally left Malta on 7 August 1964,[4] returning to Portsmouth on 18 August where she was laid up. In September 1965, having been sold for scrap, she left Portsmouth to be broken up at Castellón de la Plana, Spain.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Carpenter 1992, pp. 128–129
  2. ^ "Liner puts into dock: Being repainted grey". Kalgoorlie Miner. 4 September 1939. p. 7. Retrieved 31 May 2021 – via Trove.
  3. ^ Lenton & Colledge 1973, p. 303
  4. ^ a b c d e "Grand Old Lady of Lazaretto Creek home after six years in the Med.: Ausonia—The Big 'A' To Pay Off" (PDF). Navy News. September 1964. p. 7. Retrieved 31 May 2021.
  5. ^ Lenton & Colledge 1973, p. 368
  6. ^ a b Critchley 1982, p. 82


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