With the outbreak of war in 1914 came a total change of direction. As expected under the terms of the loan agreement MAURETANIA was requisitioned by the Admiralty for possible use as an armed merchant cruiser, a role she was never to undertake. It was soon realised that a very large liner like MAURETANIA would be totally unsuitable as an auxiliary warship. Her sheer size and the need for frequent coaling would make her vulnerable to attack. The sinking, early in the war, of two converted German liners by the Royal Navy drove the message home.
MAURETANIA was laid up and appeared to be unable to play a part until the Gallipoli campaign required large numbers of troops to be moved to the Eastern Mediterranean. After a hurried conversion into a troopship she carried 10,000 soldiers to Lemnos for onward transport to the beaches of Gallipoli during the summer months of 1915. After surviving a torpedo near miss she was converted into a hospital ship, a role her large public rooms made her ideal for. During the last three months of 1915 MAURETANIA transported over 6000 wounded soldiers in three voyages from Mudros to Southampton.