Furness Bermuda Line was a UK shipping line that operated in the 20th century. It was part of Furness, Withy and ran passenger liners between New York and the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda from 1919 to 1966.

Furness Bermuda Line
Company typePassenger Shipping
New York City, NY
Area served
New YorkBermuda
ParentFurness, Withy

Origins edit

The Quebec Steam Ship Company had served Bermuda since 1874. Canada Steamship Lines took over the company in 1913 and sold it in 1919 to Furness, Withy, who renamed it the Furness Bermuda Line. At first the route had only one ship,[1] the 5,530 GRT Bermudian,[2] which Sir James Laing & Sons had built in 1904 and which Furness, Withy renamed Fort Hamilton.[3]

RMS Fort Hamilton, Furness Bermuda first ship
Wandilla, which Furness, Withy renamed Fort St. George

In 1921 Furness, Withy bought a pair of ships from the Adelaide Steamship Company: the 7,785 GRT Wandilla and 7,784 GRT Willochra.[2] They were quadruple-expansion steamships that William Beardmore and Company in Glasgow had built in 1912[4] and 1913.[2]

Furness, Withy had Willochra fitted out with berths for 400 first class passengers and renamed her Fort St. George. It had Wandilla modified to carry 380 first class and 50 second class passengers, replaced her cargo holds with tanks to supply Bermuda with fresh water, and renamed her RMS Fort Victoria.

At the same time Furness, Withy invested in tourist development such as hotels on Bermuda.[1]

Growing trade edit

RMS Fort Victoria, which was sunk in a collision in 1929

Furness, Withy had competition from the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, which had long served Bermuda. After the First World War enough tourists from North America wanted to sail to Bermuda for RMSP to employ prestigious "A-series" liners such as the 10,537 GRT Araguaya, 11,073 GRT Avon and 12,015 GRT Arcadian on the route. However, in 1926 RMSP withdrew its service between the US, Bermuda and West Indies.[5]

Furness, Withy sold Fort Hamilton[6] and ordered a 19,086 GRT passenger liner for the route. Normally it would take 27 months to build a ship of such size,[7] but Workman, Clark and Company in Belfast completed the motor ship Bermuda in December 1927,[8] just 16 months after laying her keel. She had berths for 691 passengers, could sail between New York and Hamilton in about 40 hours,[9] and was an immediate success.[7]

Bermuda, Furness Bermuda Line's first purpose-built ship

The Great Depression that began in 1929 caused a worldwide slump in shipping. Most types of cargo and passenger traffic sharply declined. Many hundreds of ships were laid up, and thousands of officers and tens of thousands of seamen were laid off.[10] Most of Furness, Withy's cargo and passenger services were affected. But bookings from the US to Bermuda, many of them for one-week short holidays, remained buoyant.[11] Furness, Withy ordered a second large ship in order to offer two sailings each week: one on Saturday and the other midweek.[7]

However, before the new ship could be completed, Furness, Withy suffered two setbacks. In December 1929 Fort Victoria was sunk when the 5,946 GRT Algonquin collided with her in fog in Ambrose Channel off New York.[2] Then in June 1931, Bermuda's passenger accommodation was gutted by fire in Hamilton Harbour. Bermuda's hull and main engines survived, so she was returned to Workman, Clark to be repaired.[11]

But in the shipping slump, even modern passenger liners were laid up and readily available. Furness, Withy was able to charter ships including Cunard Line's RMS Franconia and Holland America Line Veendam to maintain its Bermuda service.[11][12]

The "Millionaires' Ships" edit

Furness Bermuda promotion poster for Queen of Bermuda

Monarch of Bermuda was launched in March 1931 and completed that November. At 22,424 GRT was larger and more luxurious than Bermuda, with berths for 830 first class and 30 second class passengers.[11] Vickers-Armstrongs built Monarch of Bermuda at its Walker shipyard.[13] She was a turbine steamer, and was Furness, Withy's first ship to have turbo-electric transmission. She was swifter than Bermuda, easily exceeding 19 knots (35 km/h) on her sea trials.[11]

In November 1931 Bermuda's rebuild at Belfast was nearly complete when she suffered a second fire that caused more serious damage than the first.[7] Between them the two fires caused damage estimated to cost her underwriters £1.25 million.[14] Workman, Clark bought the wreck[9] and Furness, Withy ordered a turbo-electric sister ship for Monarch of Bermuda.[11]

In the meantime Furness, Withy temporarily achieved its aim of a two-ship service by chartering modern cabin liners from Canadian Pacific: the 20,021 GRT Duchess of York for several trips in 1931 and 1932[15] and the 20,123 GRT Duchess of Bedford in the early months of 1933. The latter maintained the service alongside Monarch of Bermuda until Queen of Bermuda was completed.[16]

Queen of Bermuda

Vickers-Armstrongs built the 22,575 GRT Queen of Bermuda at its Barrow-in-Furness shipyard, launching her in September 1932 and completing her in February 1933.[17]

Queen of Bermuda looked like Monarch of Bermuda but had slightly larger cabins and only 731 berths.[11] They were nicknamed the "Millionaires' Ships".[18]

The pair competed with each other on speed. Eventually Queen of Bermuda took the record with a passage from New York to Hamilton in 32 hours, 48 minutes, which meant that her speed averaged 20.33 knots (37.65 km/h).[18]

In 1935 Furness, Withy sold Fort St. George to Lloyd Triestino, who renamed her Cesarea.[2] In 1938, to meet the high demand of the Bermuda service, Furness charted White Star Line's Georgic to operate in tandem with the Monarch of Bermuda and Queen of Bermuda.[19]

Second World War edit

HMS Queen of Bermuda in WWII

In the Second World War Monarch of Bermuda was converted into a troop ship and the Admiralty requisitioned Queen of Bermuda as an armed merchant cruiser. Queen of Bermuda was released from the Royal Navy in 1943 and spent the next few years as a troop ship.[20]

Both ships survived the war, but for a while afterwards the Ministry of Transport continued to use both ships as military and government transports. Furness, Withy made do with two small ships on the route between New York and Bermuda.[21]

Eventually the UK Government released Monarch of Bermuda and Furness, Withy started having her converted back into a luxury liner to return to her former route. But in March 1947[22] while being refitted she was damaged by fire, so Furness, Withy sold her to the UK Government.[1] The UK Government then released Queen of Bermuda. Her refit took 18 months, cost more than her original building and was not completed until February 1949.[22]

Post War Voyages & Fleet edit

Promotion poster for Ocean Monarch passing Queen of Bermuda
Queen of Bermuda in Hamilton Harbour, Bermuda in the early 1950s

The Queen of Bermuda returned to the New York-Bermuda service after the war. To replace the Monarch of Bermuda, Furness, Withy ordered a smaller ship. the 13,834 GRT Ocean Monarch, completed by Vickers-Armstrongs at Walker in 1951.

In October 1961 the Queen of Bermuda was sent to Harland and Wolff in Belfast for a refit, to modernize the ship. The bow was reshaped, and all three funnels were removed, replaced with one funnel amidships.[19] This gave the ship the distinction of being the only ocean liner to have sailed with one, two and three funnels.

The two ships continued to serve the island until late 1966, when Furness, Withy ceased its Bermuda service.[1] The Queen of Bermuda was sold for scrap, while the Ocean Monarch was laid up until 1967, when she was sold to Navigation Maritime Bulgare and renamed Varna.

Fleet edit

Furness Bermuda Passenger Fleet edit

[23] Ship Name Year Completed Years in Service for Line Shipyard Status Notes
  Fort Hamilton 1904 1920-1926 Sir James Laing & Sons Ltd., Deptford, England[24] Scrapped 1934
  • Built for Quebec Steam Ship Company as the Bermudian
  • Sold to Cosulich Line in 1926
  Fort St. George 1912 1921-1935 William Beardmore & Co Ltd, Dalmuir, West Dunbartonshire, Scotland Bombed and sank 1942
  Fort Victoria 1913 1921-1929 William Beardmore & Co Ltd, Dalmuir, West Dunbartonshire, Scotland Sank 1929
  Bermuda 1928 1928–1931 Workman, Clark and Company, Belfast, Northern Ireland Burned, towed & wrecked/ partially scrapped 1933[25]
  • First purpose-built ship for the line
  Monarch of Bermuda 1931 1931–39 Vickers-Armstrongs, Walker, Newcastle upon Tyne, England Scrapped 1966
  Queen of Bermuda 1933 1933–39, 1943–66 Vickers-Armstrongs, Walker, Newcastle upon Tyne, England Scrapped 1966
  • sister ship to Monarch of Bermuda
  Fort Townshend 1936 1939, 1945-1950 Blythswood Shipbuilding, Glasgow, Scotland[26] Scrapped 1984
  • Built for Furness, Withy Red Cross Line
  • sister ship to Fort Amherst
  Fort Amherst 1936 1945-1952 Blythswood Shipbuilding, Glasgow, Scotland[27] Scrapped 1964
  • Built for Furness, Withy Red Cross Line
  • sister ship to Fort Townshend
  Ocean Monarch 1951 1951–67 Vickers-Armstrongs, Walker, Newcastle upon Tyne, England Burned, sank 1981
  • Last ship built for the line

Furness Bermuda tenders edit

Ship Name Year Completed Years in Service for Line Shipyard Status Notes
Bermudian 1915 1923-1947 Admiralty whaler, Adty No 878. Smiths Dock Company, South Bank, UK[28] Scrapped 1958
  • Built as HMS Arctic Whale, purchased by Furness in 1923 for service to St. George Hotel[29]
  • Sold to Bermuda Transportation Co, Hamilton
  Castle Harbour

(originally Mid-Ocean)

1929 1929-1939 Blythswood Shipbuilding Co. Ltd, Glasgow, Scotland Sunk by torpedo in WWII off Tobago 1942[30]
  • Purpose-built for Furness Bermuda Line for service to St George Hotel & Mid Ocean Club, and later Castle Harbour Hotel
After a fire put Bermuda out of service, Furness, Withy chartered ships including Cunard Line's Franconia

Chartered Fleet edit

Furness Bermuda Line Hotels edit

Bermudiana Hotel, Built 1924

Furness, Withy bought and built several hotels in Bermuda, using the tenders Bermudian and Castle Harbour to ferry passengers to hotels outside of the main harbor in Hamilton. Furness sold all its hotels in 1958.[19]

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d Jones, Simon (26 February 2016). "Shipping anniversary celebrates end of era". The Royal Gazette. Retrieved 8 July 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e Swiggum, Susan (13 November 2005). "Quebec SS Co. / Bermuda & West Indies S.S. Co. / Trinidad Shipping & Trading Co". The Ships List. Retrieved 10 October 2020.
  3. ^ Lloyd's Register of Shipping (PDF). London: Lloyd's Register. 1930. Retrieved 10 October 2020., see "Stella d'Italia"
  4. ^ Lloyd's Register of Shipping (PDF). London: Lloyd's Register. 1930. Retrieved 4 October 2020.
  5. ^ Wilson 1956, p. 100.
  6. ^ "About Furness Bermuda Line". Furness Bermuda Line: ships' crew reunited. Retrieved 10 October 2020.
  7. ^ a b c d Wilson 1956, p. 101.
  8. ^ Lloyd's Register of Shipping (PDF). London: Lloyd's Register. 1930. Retrieved 4 October 2020.
  9. ^ a b Miller 2001b, p. 49.
  10. ^ Wilson 1956, pp. 13–14.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Wilson 1956, p. 102.
  12. ^ a b "1922 Veendam (II) – – Captain Albert's Blog –". Retrieved 22 January 2021.
  13. ^ Lloyd's Register of Shipping (PDF). London: Lloyd's Register. 1932. Retrieved 4 October 2020.
  14. ^ Wilson 1956, p. 218.
  15. ^ a b c "Ships of Bermuda – 1900's". Bermuda Genealogy & History. Retrieved 10 October 2020.
  16. ^ "The Canadian Pacific Liner 'Empress of France' (ex Duchess of Bedford) of 1928". Liverpool Ships. Retrieved 10 October 2020.
  17. ^ Lloyd's Register of Shipping (PDF). London: Lloyd's Register. 1934. Retrieved 4 October 2020.
  18. ^ a b Wilson 1956, p. 103.
  19. ^ a b c Plowman 2002[page needed]
  20. ^ Miller 2001a[page needed]
  21. ^ Wilson 1956, p. 115.
  22. ^ a b Wilson 1956, p. 116.
  23. ^ "Furness Line". www.theshipslist.com. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
  24. ^ "Bermudian". Wear Built Ships. Shipping and Shipbuilding Research Trust. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
  25. ^ "Bermuda". Scottish Shipwrecks. 2 December 2018. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
  26. ^ "Fort Townshend". Scottish Built Ships. Caledonian Maritime Research Trust. Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  27. ^ "Fort Amherst". Scottish Built Ships. Caledonian Maritime Research Trust. Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  28. ^ "Royal Navy ships of World War 1, based on British Warships, 1914–1919 by Dittmar and Colledge". www.naval-history.net. Retrieved 26 January 2021.
  29. ^ "Quebec SS Co. / Bermuda & West Indies SS Co. / Trinidad Shipping & Trading Co". www.theshipslist.com. Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  30. ^ "Castle Harbour". uboat.net. Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  31. ^ "Bermuda's historic Town of St. George". www.bermuda-online.org. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
  32. ^ Sayer, ET (1 March 1959). "A New Hotel for Bermuda". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
  33. ^ "The day the old Bermudiana died". The Royal Gazette. 17 May 2012. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
  34. ^ "Bermuda's Hamilton Parish". www.bermuda-online.org. Retrieved 22 January 2021.

Bibliography edit

External links edit