SS Cymric Official Harland & Wolff Rigging Plan re-issued on 18th July 1962. Size: 55" x 15"
Cymric had originally been designed as a combination passenger liner and livestock carrier, with accommodation for only 1st Class passengers. During the stages of her design layout, it became clearer to the designers at Harland & Wolff that combining passengers and livestock had become rather unpopular, so the spaces designated for cattle were reconfigured into 3rd Class accommodations. Cymric retained her relatively small and lower-powered machinery, intended to drive the ship at the slower, more economical speeds of a cargo-liner. When her livestock spaces were removed in favour of more passenger accommodation, the high internal volume provided by the former cargo space and the relatively small machinery space (as opposed to the more speed-orientated passenger liners of the time, which dedicated a large proportion of their hull space to boilers and engines) produced a ship that was relatively slow for a passenger liner but with much more interior space and an uncommonly high degree of comfort. The less powerful machinery produced less noise and vibration for passengers and had much lower running costs at the Cymric's intended service speed of 15knts than White Star's flagship Atlantic liner, the 25-knot Majestic. Although Cymric's design came about somewhat by chance, she proved a popular and profitable ship and marked the beginning of White Star's shift towards an emphasis on luxurious, high-quality and comfortable accommodation over outright speed on its liners which would mark it out in contrast to its rivals during the early 20th century.
She departed Liverpool on her maiden voyage on 29th April 1898, arriving in New York City on 9th May 1898. She spent the first five years of her career on the White Star Line's main passenger service route between Liverpool and New York, until 1903 when she was transferred to the less travelled Liverpool-Boston route, which she sailed on for nine years before being returned to the New York route in 1912.
During both the Boer War and the First World War she was pressed into service as a troop and cargo transport. In 1914, Cymric transported British soldiers to France.
In August 1915, under the command of Captain Frank E. Beadnell, Cymric delivered 17,000 tons of ammunition from New York to Liverpool, one of the biggest shipment of such kind from the United States since the start of the war. She continued to shuttle between the Atlantic coast of the United States and Great Britain carrying cargo and passengers until her last voyage in April 1916.
On 29th April 1916, Cymric finished her loading in New York and sailed for Liverpool with 112 people on board including five or six passengers (sources vary) with Captain Beadnell in command. On 8th May 1916, she was torpedoed three times 140 miles west-north-west off Fastnet Rock, Ireland by Walther Schwieger's U-20, which had sunk RMS Lusitania a year earlier. Torpedo explosion in the port side of her engine room instantly killed four crew members. Cymric sank the next day, altogether five lives were lost as one sailor fell into the sea during evacuation and drowned. Since all who died were British citizens, there were no international repercussions. While the general location of her sinking is known, Cymric's wreck has not been located.
Between 1914 and 1918 about 50 large oceangoing passenger steamships converted to war purposes as floating hospitals and troop transports were sunk in the Atlantic by the German navy, and SS Cymric came to be the thirty-seventh in the list.