21st April 1913 (Monday)

BORN TODAY, in Sheerness, Kent, England – Dr Richard (later Baronet) Beeching, physicist, engineer, Technical Director, and later efficiency guru at large, for ICI (defunct, 2008). In retirement, the axeman of the British Railway network lovingly assembled since (just before) Stephenson’s Rocket kicked it all off in 1829.

Shipping News: On the River Clyde in Scotland, Cunard launches RMS Aquitania.  A crowd estimated at 100,000 people watch the launch of the 900ft luxury liner.

Meanwhile, also today, the German passenger ship Imperator runs aground on her first sea trials. When Cunard announced in May 1912 that RMS Aquitania would be 1 foot longer than Imperator, its owner, Hamburg America Line, extended the bow with a bronze eagle figurehead to ensure the Aquitania stays in second place.

Arms Race: Also launching today, in Brest, France – the battleship “Bretagne”. Destroyed by the British Navy (with the loss of most of her crew) in 1940, amid fears that she would be seized by Germany.

An empire under arms: In Wellington, New Zealand, on board HMS New Zealand, a party of Maoris are entertained by Captain Halsey and his crew. HMS New Zealand is a gift from the colony to the imperial motherland, and the Captain has expressed a “desire to meet representatives of the native race”. Mr C. R Parata, speaking “as one of the parliamentary representatives of the native race” pays a tribute of sorrow to Great Queen Victoria “to whom our elders ceded our sovereignty in the Treaty of Waitingi” and to her late son King Edward VII “whose loss we lament” [Otago Daily Times, 22nd April 1913].


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