RMS Laconia (1911)

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RMS Laconia at New York.
RMS Laconia at New York
Name: RMS Laconia
Namesake: Laconia in the Peloponnese
Owner: Cunard Line
Builder: Swan Hunter, Wallsend, England
Launched: 27 July 1911
Acquired: 12 December 1911
Maiden voyage: 20 January 1912
Fate: Torpedoed and sunk 25 February 1917 by SM U-50
General characteristics
Class and type: Ocean liner
Tonnage: 18,099 GRT
Length: 183 m (600 ft)
Beam: 22 m (72 ft)
Installed power: Eight-cylinder quadruple-expansion engines by Wallsend Slipway & Engineering Company
Propulsion: Twin propellers
Speed: 17 knots (31 km/h)
  • Passenger accommodations:
  • 300 1st class
  • 350 2nd Class
  • 2,200 3rd Class

RMS Laconia was a Cunard ocean liner built by Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson, launched on 27 July 1911,[1] delivered to the Cunard Line on 12 December 1911, and began service on 20 January 1912.[2] She was the first Cunard ship of that name.

On the outbreak of World War I, Laconia was converted into an armed merchant cruiser in 1914 and based at Simon's Town, South Africa in the South Atlantic, from which she patrolled the South Atlantic and Indian Ocean until April 1915. She was then used as a headquarters ship for the operations to capture Tanga and the colony of German East Africa. She continued to serve on the East Africa station, before returning to the UK with a convoy in June 1916. She was handed back to Cunard in July 1916 and on 9 September resumed service.

On 25 February 1917, she was torpedoed by SM U-50 6 nautical miles (11 km) northwest by west of Fastnet while returning from the USA to England with 75 passengers (34 first class and 41 second class) and a crew of 217 commanded by Captain Irvine. The first torpedo struck the liner on the starboard side just abaft the engine room, but did not sink her. 20 minutes later a second torpedo exploded in the engine room, again on the starboard side, and the vessel sank at 10:20 pm. A total of 12 people were killed; six crew and six passengers. Two of the killed passengers were American citizens, Mrs. Mary Hoy and her daughter, Miss Elizabeth Hoy, who were originally from Chicago. The death of the Hoys stirred up public opinion in America against the Germans, and raised public support for the United States entering the war.

Chicago Tribune reporter Floyd Gibbons was aboard Laconia when she was torpedoed and gained fame from his dispatches about the attack.


In March 2009, it was announced that the wreck of the Laconia was located and claimed by Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc., a commercial archaeology company in Tampa, Florida. She was found about 160 nautical miles (300 km) off of the coast of Ireland. "Britain claims it is the legitimate owner of the wrecks because, under a wartime insurance scheme, it paid the owners of the vessels when they sank, in effect making the remains the property of the taxpayer."[3] The search for the wreck was featured on an episode of Discovery Channel's Treasure Quest titled "The Silver Queen". One of the artifacts recovered during their investigation of the wreck happened to be the remains of a left shoe that likely belonged to one of the ship's female passengers.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Laconia". Retrieved 2010-07-15. 
  2. ^ "The Cunard Liner Laconia" (PDF). The Engineer. Vol. 113. 26 January 1912. pp. 85–57. 
  3. ^ "Battle for the treasure chest that changed the course of the Great War". The Independent. London. 17 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-18. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°0′N 13°40′W / 52.000°N 13.667°W / 52.000; -13.667