SS Laurentic (1927)

The second SS Laurentic was an 18,724-ton ocean liner built in 1927 by Harland and Wolff, Belfast, for the White Star Line.[1] She served on the Canadian route from 1927 to 1936. After the merger of the White Star Line with Cunard Line, the ship was mainly used for cruise service. After December 1935, however, she was laid up unused in Liverpool. In August 1939, she was requisitioned and converted into an auxiliary cruiser for the Royal Navy for service in the Second World War. The Laurentic was torpedoed by the German submarine U-99 on 3 November 1940 off Bloody Foreland, County Donegal, Ireland during a rescue mission for another ship that had been torpedoed and sunk, but she remained afloat. After two more torpedoes smashed into the Laurentic, she foundered, taking the lives of 49 people.

SS Laurentic (II)
United Kingdom
Name: Laurentic
Owner: White Star Line
Route: LiverpoolQuebec CityMontreal
Builder: Harland & Wolff, Belfast
Yard number: 470
Launched: 16 June 1927
Completed: 1 November 1927
Maiden voyage: 12 November 1927
In service: 1927
Out of service: 1940
Fate: Torpedoed and sunk by U-99 off the west coast of Ireland on 3 November 1940. 49 people killed.
Notes: The final White Star Line vessel and the last ship in the possession of the White Star Line to sink.
General characteristics
Tonnage: 18,724 Gross Register Tonnage
Length: 600 ft(182.88m)
Beam: 75.4 ft(22.98192 m)
Decks: 5 decks
Propulsion: Triple Expansion plus Low Pressure Turbines by builders.
Speed: 16 knots
  • 594-Cabin Class
  • 406-Tourist Class
  • 500-3rd Class


The construction of this ship is peculiar in several respects. In fact, it was the only time in sixty years that White Star Line ordered from the shipyard Harland & Wolff on the basis of a defined budget. The Laurentic thus appeared to be a ship at a discount, an unusual fact in the history of the company.[2] The very origin of the construction was rather nebulous, since she was built with the hull number 470, while the Doric, put into service in 1923 (four years before her), had the hull number 573. This would suggest that the decision to build the Laurentic was made in the early 1920s and that the construction sites retained the cumbersome unfinished structure for more than five years, but the cause of the delay is unknown.[3] Not only did it have a profile similar to that of the Doric, the Laurentic also stood out for its archaism: she was still propelled by coal when most of the newer ships were fueled by oil, and its propulsion is similar to the one used by the first Laurentic in 1909.[4] She used two quadruple expansion engines powering sided propellers and a low pressure turbine for the central propeller.[5] The construction was delayed by the 1926 United Kingdom general strike. The ship was eventually launched without a ceremony on 16 June 1927. She was completed five months later on 1 November, after which she left Belfast for Liverpool with representatives of the company and shipyards on board.[3]

Passenger career

On 31 December 1927, she began her maiden voyage, sailing from Liverpool and cruising around the Mediterranean before returning to Liverpool on 17 April 1928. On 27 April 1928, the ship was transferred to the Liverpool - Quebec - Montreal route and remained there for most of her commercial career but also occasionally cruised the Mediterranean.[6] In January 1931, it was expected that the ship be transferred to a Mediterranean cruise but the Great Depression made the service unprofitable.[5]

The Laurentic had two collisions during her career. The first occurred on 3 October 1932 with Lurigethen of the HE Moss Line. Both vessels remained afloat following the collision. An inquiry later determined that the crews of the Laurentic was responsible for the accident.[7] The second occurred on 18 August 1935 with Napier Star of the Blue Star Line, leaving six dead among the crew of Laurentic.[8]

On 25 February 1934, she made her last crossing on a regular line for the White Star between Boston, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Halifax, and Liverpool. She was then assigned to cruises. In March of that year, she transported 700 pilgrims from Dublin to Rome for the Easter celebrations.[9] Many unnecessary ships were sold in the following years, but the Laurentic was retained and temporarily assigned to the Montreal route before returning to cruising.[10]

Military service and sinking

The White Star Line and Cunard Line merged in 1934, without affecting the career of the ship. The ship was docked in December 1935 and served the following September as troop transport bound for Palestine. In this capacity, she made her last trip for the White Star Line in December of that year. In 1937 she took part in the Coronation Naval Review at Spithead carrying government guests. In 1939, with the start of the Second World War, Laurentic was requisitioned as HMS Laurentic and converted into an auxiliary cruiser, losing her recasting part of the superstructure aft. On 3 November 1940, the Laurentic responded to a call for help from a ship that had been torpedoed by a U-boat. Arriving at the scene, she was targeted by two torpedoes from U-99 commanded by Otto Kretschmer, but the torpedoes missed. Laurentic fought back, but after four hours, she was struck by two torpedoes which sent her to the bottom, killing 49 of 416 people aboard. She was the last White Star vessel to sink and one of the final four White Star vessels along with Georgic, Britannic and Nomadic.[11]



  1. "S/S Laurentic (2), White Star Line". Retrieved 11 May 2008.
  2. Richard de Kerbrech 2009, p. 216
  3. Richard de Kerbrech 2009, p. 217
  4. Duncan Haws 1990, p. 98
  5. Laurentic 2 Archived 2 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine, The White Star Line. Retrieved 11 August 2009
  6. SS Laurentic (II), White Star Liner. Retrieved 11 August 2009
  7. Duncan Haws 1990, p. 101
  8. White Star Liner RMS and HMS Laurentic (2nd) 1927-1940 torpedoed and sunk by U-99 - 49 killed, White Star Ships. Retrieved 11 August 2009
  9. Richard de Kerbrech 2009, p. 218
  10. Roy Anderson 1964, pp. 180–181
  11. White Star Line Ships and the U boats, White Star Ships. Retrieved 11 August 2009


  • Anderson, Roy (1964). White Star. T. Stephenson & Sons Ltd.
  • de Kerbrech, Richard (2009). Ships of the White Star Line. Ian Allan Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7110-3366-5.
  • Eaton, John; Haas, Charles (1989). Falling Star, Misadventures of White Star Line Ships. Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 1-85260-084-5.
  • Haws, Duncan (1990). Merchant Fleets : White Star Line. TCL Publications. ISBN 0-946378-16-9.
  • Osborne, Richard; Spong, Harry & Grover, Tom (2007). Armed Merchant Cruisers 1878–1945. Windsor, UK: World Warship Society. ISBN 978-0-9543310-8-5.

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