19 February 2010

R.M.S. Princess Elizabeth?

From Time on this day in 1934:

Business: Cunard-White Star, Ltd.

For the past year headline writers have been merging the Cunard and White Star Lines about once a week. Finally in the House of Commons last week came the official announcement of the union by his Majesty's Government of these two great North Atlantic shipping companies. For the time being the couple will be known as Cunard-White Star, Ltd., may later become British National Services. In the last five years British pride in the merchant marine has been roughly handled. Cunard's Mauretania, commissioned in 1907, is still the fastest British ship but her old records have been broken by Germany's Bremen and Europa, Italy's Conte dl Savoia and Rex. White Star's flagship Majestic is still the biggest ship afloat but soon she will be surpassed by France's Normandie. Balm for British pride lies on the ways of John Brown & Son's shipyard in Clydesbank, Scotland — Cunard's unfinished No. 534 (probable name: Princess Elizabeth), the skeleton of a 73,000-ton monster which will be "world's biggest & fastest" liner. Funds ran out and work was dropped on No. 534 two years ago. Last week, with the merger a fact, Neville Chamberlain loosened the strings of his Exchequer. For completion of No. 534 he promised the new company a loan of £3,000,000 (about $15,000,000). For working capital he promised advances up to £1,500,000 (about $7,500,000).

To the new company Cunard will turn over its fleet of 15 "ia" ships including Berengaria, Aqnitania, Franconia, Mauretania and what there is of No. 534. White Star will contribute its fleet of ten "ic" ships, including Majestic, Olympic, Homeric, Georgic and Britannic. In return Cunard will get 62% of the new stock and six directorships, White Star 38% and four directors. The Chancellor's soft voice was heard in the clause: "It is regarded by all parties hereto as a cardinal principle of the merger company that it is to be and remain under British control."

Still unsettled last week was Cunard-White Star's personnel. Until stockholders of the two old companies have a perfunctory opportunity to approve the deal, operation will be directed jointly by the two general managers. International Mercantile Marine expects to continue as U. S. agent for White Star until June 30, when combined offices will probably be established at Cunard's headquarters.

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