Built by Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company of Govan, Scotland, the RMS Campania was a British ocean liner owned by the Cunard Steamship Line Shipping Company. She was launched on Thursday, 8 September 1891.
Identical in dimensions and specifications to her sister ship RMS Lucania, Campania was the largest and fastest passenger liner afloat when she entered service in 1893.
She was able to cross the North Atlantic in less than six days, and on her second voyage (in 1893) she won the prestigious Blue Riband, previously held by the Inman Liner SS City of Paris.
In 1894 her sister Lucania won the Blue Riband (which she kept the until 1898) resulting in Campania being the (marginally) slower of the two sisters.
Campania and Lucania served as Cunard's premiere passenger liners for 14 years, during which time they were superseded in both speed and size by a succession of four-funnelled German liners, beginning with the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse in 1897.
The German competition necessitated the construction of replacements for the two Cunarders, which came to fruition in 1907 with the introduction of RMS Lusitania and RMS Mauretania.
With the appearance of a third Cunard giant in 1914, RMS Aquitania, Campania was surplus to requirement. Her last planned voyage for Cunard (her 250th) commenced on April 25th, 1914. On her return to Liverpool, she was chartered to the Anchor Line to undertake voyages from Glasgow to New York.
However with the outbreak of the First World War, Aquitania (having completed only three voyages) was immediately commandeered by the Navy for use as an armed merchant cruiser. Campania was therefore recalled to take her place, however her age resulted in only three voyages being completed before she was sold for scrap. Her last voyage as a passenger liner was on 26 September, 1914.
Whilst awaiting demolition, the Admiralty bought Campania with a view of converting her to an armed merchant cruiser with the ability to carry seaplanes. The original plan was to use float-planes which would be lowered into and retrieved from the water by a crane. The conversion was carried out at the Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead. Her interior was completely stripped, and room made inside to store up to 14 aircraft. She was also equipped with eight 4.7" guns.
The conversion was completed in 1915, and trials took place under Captain Oliver Swan of the Royal Navy, with Charles H. Lightoller as the first Officer (formerly second officer of Titanic). Two weeks later she joined the fleet at Scapa Flow as HMS Campania, and subsequently began manoeuvres in the North Sea. Her mission was to send airplanes ahead to scout for the German battle fleet.
After a short period, it was decided to add 160 ft (49 m) flight deck at the front of the ship, to enable aircraft to take off directly from the ship without being lowered into the water. Trials following this conversion indicated that the deck was too short, so it was extended to 220 ft (67 m). The alterations required the removal of the forward part of the superstructure, and the first funnel (which was replaced by two narrower funnels on each side). The aft deck was cleared and the aft mast removed, so that she could also serve as an Observation Balloon Ship. Campania now bore little resemblance to her original configuration.
HMS Campania served with the Admiralty until5 November, 1918 - just six days before the armistice was signed, when she was involved in an accident in the Firth of Forth during high winds. Campania dragged her anchor in a sudden squall, and at 3:45am struck the bow of the battleship Royal Oak. She began to sink stern first. A few hours later an explosion (presumed to be a boiler) halted any effort to save her, resulting in her sinking.
Because of the shallowness of the water, she was considered a danger to shipping and destroyed by explosives in 1923. The wreck site today remains one of historical importance, and came under the jurisdiction of the Protection of Wrecks Act on 1 December 2001.