Campania was built at the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Co. in Scotland, and was launched on 8 September 1891.
Identical in size and scale to her sister Lucania, the duo were the largest and fastest liners in the world. Their speed allowed them to cross the atlantic in under six days, and on Campania's second voyage she won the transatlantic speed record from the Inman Liner City of Paris.
The following year, Lucania eclipsed Campania's speed record and held the accolade until 1898. Never the less, Campania was a popular ship, being one of Cunard's premiere transatlantic liners for the next 14 years.
White Star Line's 'Big Four', as well as the new fast German liners rendered Campania and her sister obsolete. Despite this, she was retained on lesser routes until Aquitania's introduction in 1914 at which time Campania was chartered to the Anchor Line having completed 250 voyages for Cuanrd.
At the start of World War I, Aquitania and Mauretania were both requisitioned for military service. As a result, Cunard recalled Campania and operated her on three crossings before she was again retired.
Plans had been formulated for Campania to be scrapped, however at the eleventh hour the British Admiralty acquired the vessel and converted her into an aircraft carrier. Campania joined the war effort and had the distinction of being the first ship to successfully launch an aircraft while underway.
The military career of Campania was a distinguished one, until on 15 November when the vessel collided with the Battleship Royal Oak. The former Cuanrd liner sank and was later destroyed by explosives.