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Luncheon menu from RMS AQUITANIA

Date: 11 January 1941
Overall: 190 x 141 mm
Medium: Ink, card
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Annandale Galleries
Object Name: Menu
Object No: 00018206
Place Manufactured:London

User Terms

    This luncheon menu, which was on board Cunard White-Star Line’s RMS AQUITANIA on 11 January 1941, features an illustration of another White Star Line vessel, BRITANNIC.
    SignificanceAt the time this menu appeared, the vessel’s days as a luxury cruise liner had passed, and AQUITANIA was serving Allied forces as a troop transport. Interestingly, in spite of this wartime role, the luncheon menu still appears to be designed for luxury cruise liner audiences. This was perhaps a remnant design of the vessel’s days as a luxury cruise liner just before the war. As well as being a creative piece of advertising, the menu served as an elaborate memento for passengers sailing across the North Atlantic on board AQUITANIA.
    HistoryIn 1910, the largest British mercantile ship was being constructed in Clydebank, Scotland for Cunard Line. Around about the same time AQUITANIA was being built, Britain was fighting to maintain naval supremacy over Germany. This tension was echoed in the race to produce new luxury liners to service the North Atlantic route. In 1912, Cunard’s competitor White Star Line had launched TITANIC. The fateful voyage, which resulted in the sinking of the vessel and the deaths of just over 1,500 people, instigated Cunard’s new safety measures on AQUITANIA.

    AQUITANIA was finally launched in 1913 and commenced the passenger trade between Britain and the United States of America. After only three voyages, the outbreak of World War I meant that the vessel was requisitioned by the British government as an armed merchant cruiser under the name HMS AQUITANIA. By the end of the war, she served as a troop transport before resuming service as a passenger cruise ship across the North Atlantic.

    In 1934, Cunard merged with White Star Line and continued the Atlantic passenger trade. When war was declared in 1939, AQUITANIA was again requisitioned as a troop transport for British, American, Australian, Canadian, German and Italian servicemen. After the war, AQUITANIA played a significant role in the transportation of immigrants and troops from Europe to the USA and Canada. In 1949, Cunard White-Star Line announced that the cruise liner would be withdrawn from service.

    AQUITANIA’s longevity demonstrates her reputation as a durable and seaworthy vessel. In 1950, the last of the ‘four-funnelled’ passenger liners made her final voyage to ship breakers in Gare Loch, Scotland. Other troopships and cruise liners flew farewell messages and crowds gathered to pay their respects. One journalist described it as a ‘gloomy and sad experience’ as tribute messages were signalled by other ships with one reading, ‘Goodbye old faithful’. John Campbell, a crew member, described the atmosphere during the final disembark, recalling that:

    ‘We were all a little stunned by the speed of the whole thing as there was no chance to even say our goodbyes. I also remember that there was some difficulty in persuading the ship’s carpenter, Jim Elder, to leave the ship. He had served the AQUITANIA for 20 years.’

    By late 1951, after just over 35 years in service, AQUITANIA had been completely dismantled.

    There are a large number of shipboard menus in the museum’s collection and a vast majority of these menus appeared in passenger liners. This shipboard menu is from one from a series of eight menus which appeared on AQUITANIA’s voyage to Australia, New Zealand and India in December 1940 to January 1941. They provide an insight into one of the most famous and loved luxury liners in the history of British shipping.
    Additional Titles


    Web title: Luncheon menu from RMS AQUITANIA

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