The River Mersey is a tidal river and the range of the tide can be as great as 33 feet. In Cunard’s early days, its ships were moored in the river and passengers would embark and disembark in tenders. With the arrival at Liverpool of increasingly larger ships in the 1880s, two new tenders were built: one was the baggage and fresh water carrier Otter, while the other was the large passenger tender Skirmisher. When Cunard ships berthed alongside from 1895, Skirmisher was used to control the positioning of every Cunarder as well as ferry passengers to and from those mid-river.
Skirmisher (607 gross tons / 165 feet long / 32.2 feet wide with accommodations for three classes) was launched at Clydebank on 14 May 1854 and was in fact Cunard’s first two-propeller ship! She entered service in July that year and would remain a familiar sight on the Mersey until she was withdrawn from service in October 1945.
By then, Skirmisher had become Cunard’s longest-serving ship and carried more passengers than any other Cunarder!
Royal duties beckoned twice. On 25 May 1894 Skirmisher acted as an escort to HRH Queen Victoria’s Royal Yacht at the opening of the Manchester Ship Canal. And then in 1897 she acted as a tender to Cunard’s Campania at the Diamond Jubilee Spithead Naval Review. She also visited Fishguard at this time.
Skirmisher did her duty for the country in time of war too. She acted during the whole of the Boer War as the Liverpool Embarkation Ship as the troopships mainly anchored mid-river and were stored and provisioned by a medley of small craft. In 1917 when U Boats were reported off the Mersey, she was berthed across Gladstone Dock Gate in case of an attempt to destroy it by torpedo. In the Second World War she was equipped as a fire fighter and capable of pumping 100 tons of water per minute. In 1944 she went to Fishguard to disembark Winston Churchill from Queen Mary after the Quebec Conference as bad weather forced Queen Mary to sail straight to the Clyde.
With the advent of the "giants" Lusitania and Mauretania an extra deck was added to Skirmisher to enable her gangways to reach the hull doors.
In 1914 Skirmisher went to the Clyde to attend the launch of Aquitania.
A truly remarkable Cunarder indeed!
For more information and to book a voyage aboard flagship Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth, contact your Travel Agent, call Cunard toll-free at 1-800-728-6273, or go to www.cunard.com.