RMS Majestic: The ‘Magic Stick’

RMS Majestic: The ‘Magic Stick’


RMS Majestic The Magic Stick book cover.

‘Mark Chirnside has once again delivered a book that not only tells a story, but also makes that story come alive – Majestic is no longer a mere footnote. RMS Majestic: The ‘Magic Stick’ is a book that fills the need for a comprehensive look at the White Star Line’s last flagship.’


Chirnside, Mark. RMS Majestic: The ‘Magic Stick.’ Tempus Publishing; November 10th 2006. Ninety-six pages. ISBN number: 0752438778.

Revised and expanded edition:
Chirnside, Mark. RMS Majestic: The ‘Magic Stick‘.  History Press; March 14th 2024. 144 pages. ISBN number: 1803993375.



Built in Germany for Albert Ballin’s HAPAG, she was launched just before the start of the First World War as Bismarck. Following Germany’s defeat, she was allocated to the United Kingdom and purchased by the White Star Line from the British government. Renamed Majestic, she earned the affectionate nickname ‘The Magic Stick’ during the Roaring Twenties, when she was the largest and one of the most popular liners in the world. The merger of the Cunard and White Star Lines and the Depression of the Thirties led to her withdrawal from service after only fourteen years, after which the British government acquired her as a naval training ship. She became Caledonia and served until fire consumed her in September 1939.

RMS Majestic: The ‘Magic Stick’ was the first book devoted to her history. This revised and expanded edition is a lavish illustration of her life and times, showcasing many rare or previously unpublished images and new material, all put together by one of maritime history’s most celebrated historians.

Above left: 2006 edition. Below right: 2024 edition.


To  purchase a signed copy securely , please follow these instructions:

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Book price: £25 plus postage.




‘Fabulous book – a must for all ocean liner fans.’ – Mark Amess, November 21st 2006.

‘What a wonderful book!’ – Brian Hawley, November 28th 2006.

‘The book looks fantastic…I’ve really enjoyed it so far. Some beautiful photographs and illustrations in there.’ – J. Kent Layton, November 25th 2006 and December 13th 2006.

‘I have to say your new book “Majestic…” is really great…What a great Christmas present it is…It’s great that you’ve devoted a book to her – she’s a largely “forgotten” ship in many ways – and it’s nice to see an entire book devoted to just her.’ – Ray Lepien, December 13th 2006.

‘This book chronicles all stages of the ship’s life in fascinating details, with many photographs of both Majestic’s opulent interiors and her excellent profile. A thoroughly enjoyable book, and highly recommended to anyone with an interest in the great liners and the history of the White Star Line.’ – David Hill. Atlantic Daily Bulletin March 2007; pages 9-10.

‘Since I first read about Majestic of 1922 in the summer 1978 Titanic Commutator, I’ve been intrigued by her story and wanted to learn more. Majestic is usually mentioned in passing if at all; even Frank Braynard’s monumental series on Leviathan short changes her younger sister. RMS Majestic: The “Magic Stick” is a gem authored by Mark Chirnside that remedies this situation. Drawing on an extensive wealth of information, Chirnside has given us a close up and detailed look at a ship that was intended to carry the Kaiser but instead became the pride of the White Star Line…

‘From her first voyages, the Majestic proved to be one of the most popular ships afloat. She was not only the world’s largest ocean liner, but for many years carried more passengers than any other ship on the North Atlantic. As in his two previous books, Chirnside repeats his successful formula of superlative research and use of a stunning collection of archival photographs and illustrations – over 160 – from the first pages, the reader is hit by a dizzying array of information and images…

‘With a writing style that is both light yet very informative, Chirnside has presented the story of Majestic’s service and retirement in a way that once again brings to life the ship, her passengers and crew.

‘Beginning with the background of the creation of Ballin’s trio, Chirnside explains the rationalisation behind the construction of these massive liners – each in turn the world’s largest – as the answer to the new express steamers of the White Star and Cunard lines…

‘Extensive notes about changes to Majestic’s public rooms and even her paint scheme is discussed. There are multiple anecdotes from her years in passenger service that flesh out technical details…

‘Renamed HMS Caledonia, she served for parts of three years in this role. In 1939, Caledonia was undergoing a refit for use as transport when she caught fire and burned. Coverage of this career-ending fire is summarised, but I would like to have seen more detail on this aspect. Really, the only other criticism is the lack of an index, but there are five appendices that cover subjects such as passenger statistics year by year and a report on profits and losses – fascinating source material for the serious researcher. Photographs are presented in a way that compliments the text; although there are no photographs of the Bismarck under construction, there are illustrations of nearly every other facet of the ship’s existence – including gloomy photographs of Caledonia being broken up.

‘Mark Chirnside has once again delivered a book that not only tells a story, but also makes that story come alive – Majestic is no longer a mere footnote. RMS Majestic: The ‘Magic Stick’ is a book that fills the need for a comprehensive look at the White Star Line’s last flagship.’ – Tim Trower. Titanic Commutator 2007: Volume 31 Number 177: Pages 55-56.

‘Mark Chirnside has a knack of finding new info and turning it into a learning experience for the ship buff. In this volume, we get a great overview of the Majestic, which was an important ship for the White Star Line.

‘The pictures are excellent, the text is filled with important events in the ship’s career. The only thing I could suggest is finding more people who sailed on it to add to the text. One could have hoped that the publisher would have allowed for a lengthier volume. Other than that, it certainly sets the bar in terms of research.’ – Michael Poirier. July 5th 2007. Amazon.com

‘Albert Ballin, Managing Director of the German Hamburg-Amerika Line (HAPAG), was the man behind the creation of three large liners that would have provided stiff competition to Cunard and White Star on the North Atlantic run, were it not for events in Sarajevo that changed world history…
‘Mark Chirnside’s RMS Majestic: The ‘Magic Stick’ tells the story of the former Bismarck and in typical fashion provides a wealth of detail on the liner’s interiors, number of voyages made, passengers carried, significant incidents in her career, anecdotes and photographs, all providing a fascinating read on a ship that was popular with White Star passengers in the post-war era.’

‘RMS Majestic: The ‘Magic Stick’ has 96 pages, is crammed with photographs, very informative and easy to recommend as a good read.’ – Ed Coghlan. White Star Journal 2007: Volume 15 Number 3: Pages 6-7.

‘I was given this book as a Christmas gift. I would have never bought it myself. It seems to be an excuse to cram in as many small images of the ship as possible. There seems to have been no thought to use a few stunning images for maximum effect instead. The layout of the illustrations is dull and unimaginative and whilst I am sure that the text is well detailed, where I have dipped into it, it is an uninspiring read. It does not make me want to begin at page 1 and absorb the RMS Majestic story all the way through to the end – indeed, it seems as heavy and ponderous as the ship herself. This book, I fear, will soon be making its way to the charity shop. ’ – Clive Harvey. December 30th 2008. Amazon.co.uk


Although the White Star Line’s flagship throughout the 1920s, the largest and fastest liner that the company ever owned, Majestic’s story is often overlooked. In her heyday, her popularity was immense when she frequently carried more passengers than her competitors. This heavily-illustrated account of her career goes a long way towards remedying that.