Saturday, November 27, 2010


The great rivalry between the White Star Line and Cunard is legendary among maritime enthusiasts. Each company was famous for trying to outdo the other by building bigger, faster, and more luxurious ships than the world had ever seen before (i.e., Cunard's Mauretania and Lusitania versus White Star's Olympic, Titanic, and Britannic). It should be no surprise to learn that this rivalry extended all the way down to those who actually worked aboard these liners. This was undoubtedly an underlying cause to an event that future-Commodore Harry Grattidge described while serving as Fourth Officer aboard the RMS Carpathia. But the main reason seems to have concerned a far deeper sense of rivalry:
At 6:30 P.M., a bugler sounded the dress call, which gave us just time to take our seats in the dining saloon as another bugle sounded at seven. At Genoa, where we lay alongside the White Star liner Canopic, the dinner bugle had provoked a long-standing feud. At the appointed hour the bugler from each ship would march solemnly on deck. To hail each other was beneath their dignity, nor did they even glance at each other, for, while our bugler had belonged to the Household Cavalry, the Canopic’s bugler had served with the Irish Guards. (Only a Guardsmen could appreciate the deep significance of this.)

Instead they let the music signify their rivalry and the harbor rang with the shrill notes of “The Roast Beef of Old England,” each man contesting for the extra note until one felt that their lungs must burst under the strain. They were implacable, they would not give up, and more often than not the contest ended in a dead heat.
As stated, sometimes this rivalry extended far beyond what company the crew individual member worked for. It nevertheless contributed to the somewhat tense relations between the White Star Line and Cunard.

References: Captain Harry Grattidge, Captain of the Queens: The Autobiography of Captain Harry Grattidge, Former Commodore of the Cunard Line as told to Richard Collier (New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1956), 65-66.

No comments:

Post a Comment