Sister of the Britannic she was last ship built for the White Star Line.
With guests who had been taken to the ship by the Belfast Steam Ship Companies Ulster Monarch which had been chartered for the occasion, she undertook her sea trials on 4th June 1932 and was delivered on 10th June. The Northern Ireland Government had to issue a statement to quash rumours that the building of the ship had been subsidised where, in fact, a repayable loan had been made available.
She arrived at Liverpool on 12th June and commenced her maiden voyage on 25th June from Liverpool to New York where she arrived 12 hours early. Like her sister she also operated off season cruises out of New York.
On 11th January 1933 she replaced the Olympic during her overhaul on the Southampton - New York run and in the October landed a record 3000 ton (51687 cartons) shipment of fruit at Liverpool. She was amalgamated into the Cunard - White Star fleet on 10th May 1934.
In January 1935 a fire broke out in a cargo of cotton stowed in her forward hold but was extinguished before it took a hold. In April of that year she joined the Britannic on the London - Southampton - New York service and, as the largest ship to use the River Thames, commenced her first sailing on 3rd May. She reverted to the Liverpool - New York run in September 1939 and made five round voyages before being requisitioned for trooping duties on 11th March 1940. In April she was converted to carry 3,000 men and in the following May was used to evacuate British troops from Andesfjord and Narvik in Norway, landing them in the Clyde. After that she assisted in the evacuation of Brest and St. Nazaire and after two Atlantic crossings with Canadian soldiers during July and September trooped to the Middle East via the Cape of Good Hope before making two further crossings of the Atlantic. On 22nd May 1941 she sailed from the Clyde with the 50th Northumberland Division for Port Tewfik in a convoy which was virtually unprotected as available Royal Naval escorts were hunting the Bismarck. She arrived on 7th July and on 14th, while at anchor off Port Tewfik in the Gulf of Suez waiting to embark 800 Italian internees, was bombed by German aircraft. Hit twice, her fuel caught fire which gutted the midships section and her ammunition exploded which wrecked the stern area. On 16th July she was beached half submerged and burnt out.
It was, on 14th September, decided to salvage her and on 9th October and with the assistance of the salvage vessel Confederate, she was raised on 27th October. By 5th December the hull had been plugged and on 29th December she was towed stern first by Clan Line's Clan Campbell and Ellerman's City of Sydney into Port Sudan where she arrived after a voyage which lasted 13 days. She was made seaworthy and on 5th March 1942 she was towed to Karachi by the Hong Kong based tug HMS St. Sampson with T & J Harrison's Recorder and British India's Haresfield bring up the rear. Moller's Pauline Moller joined the tow at a later stage. After 26 days, on 31st March, she arrived at Karachi where repairs to her were not completed until 11th December. She then sailed to Bombay where she was drydocked for hull cleaning and further repairs before loading 5,000 tons of pig iron ballast which was eventually sold for £10,000 as freight.
On 20th January 1943 she sailed from Bombay bound for Liverpool where she arrived on 1st March and then to Belfast where she anchored in Bangor Bay until 5th July awaiting a berth. After 17 months she emerged on 12th December 1944 with a Single funnel and a stump foremast and under the ownership of the Ministry of War Transport with Cunard - White Star as managers.
She was handed over at Liverpool on 16th December. During 1945 she carried troops to Italy and on 25th December arrived at Liverpool with troops from the Far East including General Sir William Slim the C-in-C South East Asia. In 1946 she repatriated over 5000 Italian POW's before trooping from India for the RAF. On one voyage she landed two cases of smallpox at Suez and was required to go into quarantine. During one voyage from Bombay in the June a dispute broke out between the civilian and service women regarding status and accommodation which led to the decision being made that no civilians would be allowed to travel on troopships unless no other ship was available.
In September 1948 she was refitted for the Australian and New Zealand service in White Star livery by Palmers & Company at Hebburn. She made her first sailing from Liverpool - Suez - Fremantle - Melbourne - Sydney with 1200 'assisted passages' in January 1949.
On 4th May 1950 she was chartered back to Cunard for the Liverpool - New York route, continuing to sail in White Star livery and on 22nd March 1951 was chartered again to Cunard for a series of seven Southampton - New York summer round voyages, a pattern that was repeated in the following three years. She made her final sailing from New York on 19th October 1954 and then came off charter. On 16th April 1955 she arrived at Liverpool with troops from Japan and was then put up for sale. However, in the May she was chartered to the Australian Government and on 19th November sailed from Hong Kong to Liverpool with 800 troops.
On 11th December 1955 she was laid up at Kames Bay, Isle of Bute pending disposal until January 1956 when she was sold for scrap.
On 1st February 1956 she arrived at Faslane where she was broken up by Shipbreaking Industries Ltd.
[Steamers of the Past by J.H.Isherwood, Sea Breezes Magazine, July 1973][North Atlantic Seaway by N.R.P.Bonsor, vol.2,p.770]