Following heavy losses during the First World War, the Cunard Line embarked on an ambitious building programme. The line opted to build "intermediate", 19,000-ton ships, to supplement the large Mauretania, Aquitania and Berengaria. The Scythia was the first ship in this new fleet, and construction began in 1919. The Scythia was built for the services between Liverpool and Queenstown in Britain to New York and Boston, in the United States. She was later altered to appeal to American tourists and began sailing from New York to the Mediterranean.
The Scythia was requisitioned for use in World War II at the end of 1939 and she was first used as a troop ship on 1 November 1940, when she sailed from Liverpool to the Middle East carrying the 1st King's Dragoon Guards.
She saw service carrying evacuees from Liverpool to New York. In 1942, the Scythia took part in the British Army landings in North Africa. On 23 November she was struck by an aerial torpedo. The crew managed to get to harbour at Algiers, and the ship suffered only five casualties out of a complement of 4,300 men.
The Scythia was salvaged and taken to New York for repair in January 1943, and afterwards ferried American troops to Europe. At the end of the war, she took many American troops back from Europe, many of them accompanied by their young brides, before sailing to India to bring home British troops from the war in the East.
She was also a war bride repatriation ship completing a number of voyages to take Canadian war brides and their children from Liverpool to Halifax in the early part of 1946. One of her final missions as a troop ship was to bring the 1st King's Dragoon Guards home to Liverpool, on 11 March 1948.
Later in 1948, the Scythia was handed to the International Refugee Organisation to take refugees from Europe to Canada. In 1950 she became a passenger ship again, sailing from Britain to Canada and later to New York. Her final route was around the North Sea. In 1958 the Scythia was delivered to the ship breakers at Inverkeithing by Captain Geoffrey Marr, her final commander.