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With Reuben Goossens

Maritime Historian, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer & Author

Please Note: All ssMaritime and other related maritime/cruise sites are 100% non-commercial and privately owned. Be assured that I am NOT associated with any shipping or cruise companies or any travel/cruise agencies or any other organisations! Although the author has been in the passenger shipping industry since 1960, although is now retired but having completed over 700 Classic Liners and Cargo-Passengers Ships features I trust these will continue to provide classic ship enthusiasts the information the are seeking, but above all a great deal of pleasure!


PLEASE NOTE: Photographs & images on this feature are from the author’s private collection - Unless stated otherwise.


Page One


Cunard Line White Star Line had a history of many great and wonderful Atlantic liners in the past and usually they would operate at least three ships on the service, but when they commenced planning of what would become the 81,237 GRT RMS Queen Mary in 1928, they were looking towards a two ship operation! She was laid down on December 27, 1930, but she was not completed until April 15, 1936. The main reason for the delay was that Cunard was in financial difficulties that were in due course sorted out!

On the very day that the RMS Queen Mary set sail on her maiden voyage on May 27, 1936, Cunard’s chairman, Sir Percy Bates, informed his ship designers to commence designing the second ship, but in order to compete with the ever competing European market, especially the French liners, such as the magnificent SS Liberty with is grandiose lounges, that this new Cunard liner had to be larger and more modern than even the Queen Mary!

The great RMS Queen Mary seen departing from New York



Hull 552:

But before this new liner could even become a reality, considering what occurred during the time the Queen Mary was built, there had to be extended negotiations between Sir Percy Bates and the Government to formulate a formal contract and assistance with finance. Thankfully the Treasury agreed to advance £5 million Pounds to Cunard, and tenders were quickly called out for. The contract was won, not surprisingly, by John Brown & Co, being the very same builders of the Queen Mary and her order was officially signed on October 6, 1936. The next big event was just under two months later, being the official laying of her keel that took place in Yard 552 on December 4, and the building of hull 552 was underway!

Here we see her keel laid and her frame well on the way

John Brown Image


We see a close up of her completed hull

John Brown Image


A fine view of the new ship from a distance showing her grandeur over the local homes!

John Brown Image

However, as the building of this mighty new ship was well underway, it became obvious that the German Chancellor, Adolf Hitler and his new ideology of a Third Reich was becoming more and more dangerous. England was by now well aware of the possibility of a great conflict was about to explode, for there were already some terrible things happening in Europe as reports had reached London of many Jews being murdered and later on November 9-10 1938 there was the horrors of Kristallnacht, that saw so many dead and synagogues burned, full of men, women and children locked inside! Thus the situation certainly looked like it was becoming a serious threat to the rest of Europe, if not the world. But, building of Hull 552 was at a point where it was ready to be launched.


The Launching of a Queen:

HM King George VI was to launch the ship that was going to be named after his wife, however for some reason, he was unable to do so, and thus her Majesty Queen Elizabeth arrived at the John Brown shipyards to launch the new Queen Elizabeth on September 27, 1938.

Scenes on the main podium prior the launching, the two Princesses are notable, especially Princess Elizabeth, our future Queen!

John Brown Image


The queen is greeted by Sir Percy Bates of Cunard

John Brown Image


The front cover of the official launching booklet for the “Queen Elizabeth”

Even though a great war seemed to be inevitable, but before doing the honours and letting the bottle smash against the bow and sending the new ship into the water, Her Royal Highness chose to speak of peace instead of war. She said:

“The King has asked me to assure you of the deep regret he feels at finding himself compelled, at the last moment, to cancel his journey to Clydebank for the launching of the new liner. This ceremony, to which many thousands have looked forward so eagerly, must now take place under circumstances far different from those for which they had hoped.

I have, however, a message for you from the King. He bids the people of this country to be of good cheer in spite of the dark clouds hanging over them and indeed over the whole world. He knows, too, that they will place entire confidence in their leaders, who, under God’s providence, are striving their utmost to find a just and peaceful solution of the grave problems that confront them.

The very sight of this great ship brings home to us how very necessary it is for the welfare of man that the arts of peaceful industry should continue, arts in the promotion of which Scotland has long held a leading place. The city of Glasgow has been for Scotland the principle doorway opening upon the world. The narrow waters of the Clyde have been the cradle of a large part of Britain's mercantile marine, so it is right that from here should go our foremost achievement in that she is the greatest ship that plies to and fro across the Atlantic, like a shuttle in a mighty loom weaving a fabric of friendship and understanding between the people of Britain and the peoples of the United States.

It is fitting that the noblest vessel ever built in Britain and built with the help of her Government and people, should be dedicated to this service. I am happy to think that our two nations are today more closely linked than ever before by a common tradition of freedom and a common faith.

While thoughts like these are passing through our minds we do not forget the men who brought this great ship into being. For them she must ever be a source of pride and, I am sure, of affection. I congratulate them warmly on the fruits of their labour. The launch of a ship is like the inception of all great human enterprises, an act of faith. We cannot foretell the future, but in preparing for it we must show our trust in a divine providence and in ourselves. We proclaim our belief that by the grace of God and by man's patience and goodwill order may yet be brought out of confusion, and peace out of turmoil. With that hope and prayer in our hearts, we send forth upon her mission this noble ship.”

After the speech there was a pause, whilst she was presented with an album of photographs of the ship in seen being built so far. However, just then the microphone went dead, yet Her Royal Highness took the pair of gold scissors, the very same one that HRH Queen Mary had used to perform the naming ceremony of her namesake the Queen Mary, and she cut the red, white and blue ribbon and sent the bottle of Empire wine crashing to break just in time against the liners already moving bow. With great presence of mind she said with a strong voice, “I name this ship Queen Elizabeth and wish success to her and all who sail in her,” as the ship continued her way into the Clyde!

The Queen slips down the slipway

John Brown Image


Finally she is finally in the water and ready to be completed

John Brown Image


The tug Flying Eagle and other tugs tow the giant Queen to her fit-out berth

John Brown Image

There was no doubt, but the launch was a great success, and as the now officially named Queen Elizabeth was in the water, she was towed to her fit-out berth on the River Clyde. But work had to be suspended frequently, due to the oncoming war as many of the nation's Navy and other ships now required refurbishments for active duties.

Please Note: On this page you will discover many photographs of her exteriors in her various guises, be they pre war, as a troop ship and as a liner, as well after her aft decks were extended, etc. However, on Page Two you will find all he interior images, as well as a few other photographs. The link to that page is located at the bottom of this page, and when you have read fascinating history then you will want to see what she looked like, first in her early days, and then after her later refits. Enjoy!


World War Two:

On September 1, 1939, was officially day one of World War Two, for Hitler marched into Poland, and thus he made enemies of Britain and all her allies. As the discord grew, sadly the Queen Elizabeth remained unfinished and Cunard waited for a decision to be made about workers to complete her. On September 16, 1939 the ship was paid a secret visit by HM King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at her fitting out berth in Glasgow.

But some action needed to be taken for she could be of great use during the war and she could be converted into a troopship. However, this work could not be done in the Britain mostly due to the possible threat of German bombers as well as, who knows, saboteurs? Obviously being the grand liner she had been promoted previously as the largest that was to be built, the Queen Elizabeth would a target for German Luftwaffe, for if any of their pilots could drop a bomb on this huge ship and sink her would have a double effect, one it would be a massive hit against the British, but secondly, it would give great pride to the Nazi and they would commence a huge propaganda campaign! But, England had other plans in hand! With her engines already installed, on February 26, 1940 the almost completed liner left her berth under her own power and she sailed from the Clyde to an anchorage just off Gourock.

The Queen Elizabeth leaves the Clyde for her anchorage off Gourock

Then on March 3, 1940 she left her anchorage without notice and sailed out to sea. To confuse agents and spies, the story had been circulated that this was Queen Elizabeth’s positioning voyage to Southampton, but the truth is that only the very few ashore in the hierarchy of the Admiralty knew of her true destination, but not even the captain on the Queen Elizabeth knew anything as well!


The Great Escape:

Only once she was out at sea out at sea, Captain John Townley was allowed to open his safe and he took out the sealed orders, which told him to head directly at full speed for New York, which he did with a crew of just 400 personnel on board. Not surprisingly, later that day, a squadron of Nazi bombers were spotted over the Solent, where the Queen Elizabeth would have been berthing at that time, had she been heading for Southampton, thus the deception had worked rather well.

What could be called her first maiden voyage of sorts, but amazingly she did not even had her official deep sea speed trials as yet, but her voyage did prove that her engines were working beautifully! The rather dull looking Queen Elizabeth, considering she had been painted in wartime grey, arrived in New York harbour on March 7, 1940.

Queen Elizabeth passes the Statue of Liberty at New York on March 7

A Coast Guard cutter escorts the Queen in the Hudson and to her berth

As no one was expecting her, with this being very much a secret voyage, she caused quite a surprise some excitement amongst the maritime community and ship lovers! Many lover her modern look, such as the ship not having a well deck, and her cleaner cut bridge that that of the Queen Mary, then there were those two majestic large funnels, rather than three. It all meant a new and a more refined package to the American Maritime community, even though she was in her rather dull looking livery!

Amazingly, during March of 1940 there were four of the world's finest liners, such as the Mauretania, Normandie, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary, were all berthed alongside each other, including three of the world’s largest Ocean Liners!

New York March 1940, L to R: SS Normandie, RMS Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth

On March 21, the Queen Mary departed New York as she was bound for Sydney, Australia, where she would be transformed into a full scale troop ship, capable of accommodating up to 5,000 soldiers. She became known in Australia and by others as the “Grey Ghost!”

However, Queen Elizabeth remained in New York and for a considerable length of time as she needed to have some further work to be carried out whilst there, such as additional electric wiring and light fittings. In addition they still had to remove her launch gear that was still attached to her hull and some other work needed.

The Queen Elizabeth departed New York on November 13, 1940 and sailed for Singapore, via Cape Town. There she received the first part of her refit into becoming a troop ship that was done in graving dock at Singapore. Suitable defensive armament was fitted, such as anti aircraft guns, etc. Internally it was fitted out to carry troops as it had now been requisitioned by the Ministry of War Transport.


Queen Elizabeth the Trooper:

On February 11, 1941 she departed Singapore for Sydney, where she arrived on February 21. Once the fitting out into a troop ship was completed, she the Queen Elizabeth joined the Queen Mary, and made her first voyage transporting Australian troops to the Middle East and spent the next five months carrying troops from Sydney to Suez, whilst returning with German POW's. After the US entered the war and sailed to Esquimalt in Canada, and carried troops to Sydney.

Postcard of the Queen Elizabeth after having been fully fitted out as a troop ship and is now in service

However, one major problem was that sailing in this region was very much warmer, if not very hot at times, than what these ships were actually constructed for. They had no air-conditioning and worse still there was hardly any ventilation inside, for that was just not needed on the Atlantic! Thus, the so-called luxury Queens were far from being comfortable, and they did not provide the soldiers a great way to be shipped, for these were extreme and harsh conditions! All too frequently fights would brake out among the troops and they could get very rough, for the men were sick of the hot and harsh conditions, yet they had no idea what awaited them, which would be much worse, for sadly most would not come home, and we could not provide them with a decent cool bed there?

But thankfully the Admiralty saw some reason at last, and by the end of 1941, for finally something occurred that would put both the Queen’s back on the North Atlantic and that is where they should have been all the time!

Unbelievably, there were even some plans in 1942 by the Admiralty who had plans drawn up to convert both the Queens into aircraft carriers, but thankfully this stupid idea was later abandoned, and that was only because it was considered that their current role as troopers was simply far too important as they were able to move huge numbers per ship!

It was in April 1942 that the Queen Elizabeth was relocated from Sydney to New York. It was there where the troop accommodation was altered to make its capacity to a mammoth 10,000 soldiers. In June 1942 it began to make voyages from New York to Gourock Scotland and then to Suez, sailing via Cape Town.

A fine aerial view of her stern and the over crowding is rather obvious!

In August it began a shuttle service between New York to Gourock and that is regardless the relentless threat of U-boats, but somehow the great Queen somehow continued her service and remained untouched. However, there was a loose report in the German press at one stage that the English liner Queen Elizabeth had been hit by a torpedo from one of their U-boats.



With World War Two having finally concluded the Queen Mary was retained in her trooping service, keeping her and all grey livery except that her funnels were once again repainted in Cunard’s regular Red and black top colour’s. In fact she continued in this role for one further year as she did transported returning troops and G.I. brides to the United States, etc.

Apparently by the end of the war in Europe, the two Queens had transported around one million troops to the fighting zones and one wonders how many of them came back? But of course, now came the next job, and that was to repatriate the troops and redeploy them for the war against Japan. The transporting of American troops continued until October 1945 when the Queen Elizabeth was officially released from US service and re allocated to the repatriation of Canadian troops.

However on March 6, 1946 she returned to Southampton and the world’s largest passenger liners was released from Government duties as the need for troop movements had diminished. During the war she had carried transported just 750,000 troops and sailed a 500,000 miles or 804.672 kilometres.

This great ship had never seen a single day being the great passenger liner since the day of completion, and now she required a massive overhaul and refit to make her the ship Cunard had intended her to be an Atlantic luxury liner!

This work would be carried out on the Clyde and also at Southampton. On March 9, 1946, before she departed for the Clyde, there was a fire on the promenade deck, but as it was spotted quickly, it was extinguished rapidly, yet it still caused considerable damage to the area. It was always thought that the fire was arson, but there was never any proof.

At the end of March Queen Elizabeth departed Southampton for the “Firth of Clyde Dry-dock” in Greenock by the John Brown Shipyards. There she was repainted in the traditional Cunard livery and her machinery was completely overhauled. By June 17 she returned to Southampton for her extensive interior refurbishments.

This was taken just before Queen Elizabeth’s sea trails, having been completed and fully repainted in Cunard livery

Whilst we see The Queen Mary still in hew war colours as she was just concluding her war duties on this day

This very special photograph was taken on September 27, 1947, and a souvenir postcard was made from it


Considering the great Queen had been for six years of heavy war service, yet, there had never been time to take her on an official measured speed trial, but now with the work fully completed at the Clyde by John Brown and interiors at Southampton, this was the opportunity to do so, and she departed under the command of Commodore Sir James Bisset and she sailed to the Isle of Arran and her trials were finally carried out.

Here we see her grand Bridge with her Captain in command!

I have no date for this image

However, for her trails the ship was greatly honoured, for onboard was the ship's namesake, no less than HRH Queen Elizabeth herself, as well as her two daughters, Princess Elizabeth and Margaret. During the voyage her Majesty Queen Elizabeth even took the wheel for a short time, whilst the two Princesses recorded the two measured runs with their stopwatches that they had been given especially for the occasion. Commodore Sir James Bisset was under strict instructions from Sir Percy Bates that the only thing that was required from the trails was two measured runs of no more than thirty knots and that she was not permitted to attempt to sail a higher speed than that of the Queen Mary, even though the Queen Elizabeth was capable of doing a greater speed, in fact around 32 knots or more! The trails concluded at Southampton.

At the conclusion of her trails she returned to Southampton to be made ready for her maiden voyage


Advertising was going ahead at full steam for Britain now had the world’s largest passenger liner!

And let’s face it: “Getting there is Half the Fun!”



The Trans-Atlantic Liner:

Cunard had already announced that the world’s largest Passenger Liner ever built would finally depart on her first ever passenger Trans-Atlantic voyage to New York from Southampton on 16 October 1946.

The result from all the advance media was that the Queen Elizabeth was completely booked out as were her forthcoming voyages, in addition, if anyone looked at the First Class passenger lists for a good number of the Atlantic voyages there would be countless famous passengers, well known names from European Royal houses, high society, movie stars, great actor’s from the theatre and some the world’s finest vocalists!

The moment has finally arrived as RMS Queen Elizabeth departs on October 16, 1946 for her official Maiden Voyage to New York


The Queen Elizabeth is about to arrive at New York on her maiden visit as a passenger liner October 21, 1946

The original photograph was clearer and the New York skyline could just be seen in the distance

But the copy that was passed down to me from my travel agency was badly damaged and I had to clean it up & it looks quite good now!

Photograph by the Port of New York Authority

Obviously, although she had visited New York and many occasions in her wartime grey livery, she was not a Royal Mail Ship (RMS), this time when she arrived she was in addition she looked like a brand new ship! New York gave her a grand welcome with all the usual water cannons and ships blowing their horns, for she had become one of the Great War heroes, but now she was indeed the world’s largest Trans-Atlantic Liner.

A delightful early postcard of the Queen arriving at New York sailing up the Hudson River

She sailed on with great pride, however, on April 17, 1947 she ran aground on Brambles Bank whilst approaching Southampton in extremely thick fog. Whilst there was no damage to the ship, in order to move her off the bank all passengers had to be disembarked onto boats and go ashore, as well as the bulk of the fuel being pumped out before the Queen could be refloated the next day. Of course then there is always the human element, such as industrial disputes like in 1948 that left the great she was stranded at New York for two whole weeks.


Queen Elizabeth’s Cargo & Provisioning Procedures:

In order to provide an example, I will take New York on how the system would work, and this would much apply for both the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. Queen Elizabeth would usually arrive on a Tuesday and would remain there no longer than twenty four hours. Obviously during this time up to 2,283 passengers would have to disembark as well as all their baggage, and that includes some heavy baggage for those who have arrived in the US on a permanent basis! All this would be completed including any cargo from her two forward holds on Tuesday! Both on Tuesday and early on Wednesday the stewards and cleaners would be busy with house keeping and making sure that every inch of the passenger accommodations and all lounge areas and decks was spotless and ready for their arrival!

I happen to have a list from Cunard White Star Line and it makes interesting reading: There would be an inventory for 4,100 blankets,  31,000 sheets, and the same number of pillow slips, 21,000 tablecloths, 92,000 linen napkins, 2,400 bathmats,  2,200 afternoon tea cloths, and 7,900 aprons.

Obviously Wednesday it would be a complete reversal to a day earlier, as new baggage would arrive as well as the new passengers, but more so the ships massive amount of provisions required for the Atlantic voyage. The requirements were for the freezers and the massive storerooms for the five day voyage meant some 20 tons of meat, 4,000 chickens and ducklings, 20 tons of fish, 70,000 eggs, 4,000 pounds of tea and coffee, 30 tons of potatoes, 4,000 pounds of vegetables, 600 crates of apples and oranges, 4,000 gallons of milk, 3 tons of butter, 2,000 pound of cheese, 10,000 pounds of sugar 60,000 bottles of mineral water, 10,000 bottles of fine wines, 40,000 bottles of beer. In the Galleys there were over 800 saucepans and even an electric stove that was 16 feet long. A breakfast menu could include 20 types of cereal, 18 kinds of bread and rolls and 15 different jams and marmalades. Cunard was most proud about their bacon and the ever spoke of it in their publicity material that they had 8 different kinds of bacon available for breakfast. Thus all this would come on board on Wednesday. Also it would be on Wednesday that Queen Elizabeth would on some 7,000 tons of bunker fuel.

In relation to cargo, it is true that every major Cunard liner carried some cargo, be it baggage, but also mail, diplomatic items, antique cars, famous artworks, but and also gold bouillon.

By September 1951 the Queen Elizabeth had made its 100th.Atlantic crossing. Despite being a huge success many asked why did she never break any of the speed records, for that was done by the Queen Mary. But what people did not know that Cunard White Star chairman Sir Percy Bates demanded that the Queen Elizabeth compete against the Queen Mary’s “Blue Riband” speed record of 1938 of 31.69 knots, and that is why she was not permitted to go over thirty knots during her speed trails! Of course later the great American liner, the SS United States took the “Blue Riband” speed record of 1952! Although the Queen Elizabeth was capable of a good 32 knots!


Overhauls and Refits:

During January 1952 she received an overhaul as well as the ship's fuel capacity being increased and finally air-conditioning fitted throughout the ship. However, once again several mysterious fires broke out in several of the passenger cabins but thankfully were quickly extinguished and completely refurbished. Then in January 1955 came one of the more welcome additions, regardless of her size, but to be fitted with Denny Brown stabilisers was a godsend during those winter months! But, times were’a’changing as slowly people were taking to the sky as planes became a status symbol with the wealthy, and First Class traffic was the bread and butter for Cunard Line! Thus even these improvements, were not quite enough for these grand luxurious passenger liners to compete with air travel, and by the time of the late 1950s sadly, now there were more people crossing the Atlantic by air than by sea and not just the rich!

A wonderful bow angle taken from the air of the RMS Queen Elizabeth

Things did not get better as on July 29, 1959 the Queen Elizabeth was involved in a collision with the ‘American Hunter,’ being a United States Lines cargo ship. The collision occurred in the Ambrose Channel when both ships were outward bound from New York. During thick fog it was the American ship that struck the starboard bow of the Queen Elizabeth but, luckily, damage to both ships was not too great, but the Queen was holed just above the water line and temporary repairs were quickly carried out at New York.

There was no doubt that the great Queen Elizabeth became the ship to sail on in the 1950s and 60s and besides Royalty it would be the British, European and especially the American greatest artists of their time who would book on her, and of course they would make sure that they were not only seen on her but photographed by the media, as we will see in the photographs below!

Here we see the Duke and Duchess of Windsor ready to board the Queen Elizabeth with one of their pug dogs

This would have been in the late 40s or at least before 1952


The talented and sublimely beautiful Elizabeth Taylor with her dog in her arms is seen with her husband Conrad “Nicky” Hilton


As the great Queen is ready to depart, we see at her railings from left to right:

Frederick Brisson, his then wife wonderful Rosalind Russell-Brisson, Gregory Peck and his wife Mrs. Peck


The lovely Vivien Leigh and one of the greatly talented Lawrence Olivier on board the Queen

In those days to be invited to the Captain’s Table was a very special honour and regarded as one of the great social events. For those from the world of high society it was ver much expected to be invited one or another of these special dinners! If there was ant Royalty on board, be it from one of the European countries they would dine at this table, like other important guests, whilst should there be British Royal guests, then they usually would dine with the Captain in his private spacious Dinning Room. Thus in those days this table was only available to six important guests and should there be more a second event would be held.

In the photograph below we see the six from left to right clockwise from the ships Captain Charles Musgrave Ford are; Lady Enisdale and Lord Enisdale, Mrs. MacDonald and Mr. Ian MacDonald, Captain H. Harrison-Wallace and Mrs. Harrison-Wallace.

Here we see the Captain’s Table with his official guests as per above list!

From 1960 onwards, she received progressive improvements and modernisations to all three classes that saw lounges, cabins and general facilities improved.


Queen Elizabeth the Cruise Ship:

But the decline in passenger numbers became so great, that at times there were more crew than passengers on board the ship, in fact on one voyage considering there was a crew of 1,200, there were only 200 passengers on board. Considering the situation in 1962 Cunard made an announcement that the Queen Elizabeth would commence cruising in 1963.

She departed on her very first pleasure cruise in February 1963 from New York to Nassau and these proved to be popular. Whilst on one of these cruises there was a rather unusual incident as a light aircraft crashed into the sea not that far from the stern of the ship. I am told that this occurred south-east of Cape Hatteras. Sadly the pilot died upon impact. Obviously, the ship notified the coastguard.

Fare and sailing schedule for February to December 1964, after which she would cruise in America

Then in March 1965 it was announced that the Queen Elizabeth would be receiving a major overhaul. She arrived in Greenock on December 5 and the work commenced. The main chances would include extensive redecoration of her public rooms and her accommodations, as well as enhancing the air-conditioning system. Externally there would be the extension of the aft deck, being the creation an extensive Lido Deck with a brand new open-air swimming pool added with glazing along the sides the two aft decks. Although the work was completed by April 1966, although there was a several weeks delay due to a seamen's strikes. Her new tonnage was listed as 82,998 GRT. Thus now the great RMS Queen Elizabeth would operate Trans Atlantic voyaged during the summer months and cruises to the warmer climates during the winter.

This is a superb areal image looks at her new extended aft decks and her new swimming pool. I took it from a 1967 Cruise brochure from my collection. Sadly these days, modern cruise ships just do not have such spacious open deck spaces, and many do not even have a full walk around Promenade Deck anymore! The photograph is from the author’s private collection.

RMS Queen Elizabeth arrives at New York on April 4, 1966, but here she shows of so beautifully her new aft Lido deck and pool

Photograph by the Port of New York Authority

Thus soon she sailed looking simply splendid with her new aft section and her interiors were better than ever before and from all reports passengers fell in love with the great Queen Elizabeth all over again, and bookings were doing quite well. But, costs and her rather deep draught was a big problem, for she simply could not get her anywhere near some of the most popular ports and islands, and that is just where so many people desired to go, for they had heard of these places in advertisements in brochures from other cruise companies and other ships visited there on a regular basis, thus that caused a bit of a problem for Cunard, but it could have been worse, but there was big competition from Italian and other lines from around the world, but not by other English ships!

In this rather unique photo we see the both the great RMS Queen Elizabeth and America’s greatest ever liner built

the SS United States, which Thankfully remains with us today, and she will be restored in due course!

I would assume that this excellent photograph was taken sometimes in the mid sixties.

This photograph was sent in by a supporter, but the photographer is unknown - *Please see photo notes at bottom of page!

Then suddenly there was an official announcement on May 8, 1967 that the RMS Queen Mary would be withdrawn from duties later that year and on August 18 that year she was sold to the city to Long Beach, California to be refitted as a Hotel. The great liner departed Southampton on a special extended cruise packed with ship lovers from around the world sailing for Long Beach, being her very last ever voyage. Having arrived there and after a long conversion she was laid up and became ‘Hotel Queen Mary’ and she remains so to this day!

There was one big problem that had been ongoing for Cunard, and it was with great sadness that it was also announced on the very same day of the Queen Mary’s announcement of her demise, on May 8, 1967 that the Queen Elizabeth would also be withdrawn, but much later in 1968. Some have asked, “What in reality was the final nail in the coffin for the great Queen?” Let me try to explain what was a huge problem of the times, for after her massive refit in 1965 that was followed by the various seaman strikes that was so common in those days, this cost Cunard White Star Line a mammoth £14 million Pounds, and let’s face it that kind of money is hard to recover for that is a massive loss, especially in the nineteen sixties, thus sadly it would be the seaman’s union’s doing that aided in killing the great RMS Queen Elizabeth before her time! I am all for the sailor, always have been, but I am afraid there are some unions that have a great deal to answer for, shame on them! Here in Australia the seaman’s union have completely destroyed our own seaman’s industry, and now we have just a few bare bones left in the industry and frankly I am ashamed of what is left! But the British Unions are known worldwide as being the worst in the world!

If you wish to view the R.M.S. Queen Elizabeth’s’ Deck Plan, may I suggest that you visit the following excellent Website on her,

but on this one in particular you will also discover her entire deck plan!

Please ensure that your pointer is pointed directly on the RED letters to open each deck - I did find that “C Deck” did not open!



The Queen’s last Atlantic voyage and at Port Everglades:

The great liner, the RMS Queen Elizabeth made her rather sad and final Atlantic crossing from Southampton to New York on November 5, 1968, few knew that she had already been sold to a group of Philadelphia businessmen who had commenced the “Elizabeth Corporation” for £3.25 million Pounds, but Cunard Line retained an 85% controlling interest in the Corporation. Once she arrived in New York she headed for Port Everglades, where she arrived on December 8, 1968.

Here we see the great Queen arriving at Port Everglades on December 1968

This photograph was together with the article shown below

Photo sent in by Russell L. Weaver and article found by Wendy Lueder when going through old newspaper clippings

The purpose of the great liner being in Port Everglades was become a convention centre and a major tourist attraction and she was partially opened to the public in February 1969.

Page one of an article in the “Florida Profile issued in March or May 1969

Sent in by Russell L. Weaver and article found by Wendy Lueder when going through old newspaper clippings


Here we see the Queen Elizabeth berthed at Port Everglades in November 1969

This image was sent in by a supporter, but the photographer is unknown - *Please see photo notes at bottom of page!

However months later, on July 19 she was sold to Queen Ltd of Port Everglades, and she was simply rename “Elizabeth.” They, like her previous owners also used her as a tourist attraction and intended to greatly upgrade her according to the authorities’ requirements.


Above & below: this the “the Elizabeth” brochure released by Queen Ltd in 1969, I also have an ashtray from the ship


However, just after a year of trading, in August 1970, Queen Ltd went into bankruptcy and soon the liquidators placed the great Queen up for auction!


SS Seawise University:

The great Chinese Ship Owner Mr. C.Y. Tung, who over the years obtained many fine liners and operated them all successfully, he heard late in 1970 that the great ex Queen Elizabeth was up for auction thus he decided he wanted her for his new floating university! Being the successful bidder under the name of Seawise Foundation Ltd, the Elizabeth was renamed Seawise University and she sailed for Hong Kong on February 10, 1971.

Elizabeth, renamed Seawise University is seen just prior to her departure from Port Everglades

This image was sent in by a supporter, but the photographer is unknown - *Please see photo notes at bottom of page!


SS Seawise University departs Port Everglades for Hong Kong on February 10, 1971

This is a new item found in the local new paper detailing the ship being “a flop” locally

However, during her rather unexpected lengthy voyage the SS Seawise University encountered ongoing boiler problems, therefore she did not arrive in Hong Kong until July and upon arrival she was placed at anchor just off Tsing Yi Island near Kowloon, for it would be there where she would be converted to hr new owners needs!

The Seawise University arrives at Hong Kong in July 1971

Mr. C.Y. Tung desired to utilise the great ship in a dual role, as a floating university, but also as a luxury cruise ship. With this in mind, work soon commenced with a massive £5 million Pound (for the day overhaul and refit of the ship into a university and cruise ship. Thousands of labourers descended upon the ex Queen Elizabeth to carry out the task of converting the ship.

The Seawise University undergoing her refit at Tsing Yi Island

Photographer is unknown - *Please see photo notes at bottom of page!

The ship was stripped down and built back up. Modern equipment was installed to ensure safety at sea, and certain areas of the ship were given a decidedly ‘oriental’ décor. By December 1971, the work was close to being completed, thus there was great happiness in the Tung family and all that had worked so hard on board, for they had done a very good job indeed!


Tragedy Strikes the old Queen!

From all reports that I have heard, the security on board was close to non existent, for let’s be honest, the only people that came on board were the workers and staff, visitors had to have an official pass, and there were several security men on board, but it was far from being a CIA operation, for the ship was at anchor and not at a berth!

On January 9, 1972, the ship so close to completion and she was scheduled to sail for Japan quite soon where she would be a dry docked and from there she would go on her maiden voyage. But sadly that was not to be, for the whole of Hong Kong was about to be awakened with a massive funeral pyre as five separate fires were discovered around the ship. These fires spread very quickly and the ship burned throughout the night. It was immediately obvious that these fires had to be purposely lit by an individual, or individual, yet it had never been officially been proved.

Then on January 10, the great lady commenced to keel over to starboard as the hulk continued to burn and smoulder for over a week. There was just one casualty, but the Seawise University was in bad shape and now only suitable for the breakers.

Seawise Queen is seen ablaze in Hong Kong Harbour

Photograph South China Morning Post



Below, is the text of a Letter sent from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother to Mr. C.Y. Tung.

“Clarence House.


13th January 1972.

Dear Mr Tung,

I am to tell you how deeply distressed Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother is at the disaster which has overtaken the liner which was launched by Her Majesty and bore her name. Ever since Her Majesty learnt of the plans you had for Seawise University, Queen Elizabeth had felt a very keen interest in your enterprise and hoped from her heart that the great liner would have many years of useful service. Alas, it seems that this is not to be and the Queen Mother asks me to send you her very sincere sympathy in the tragedy which has anyhow temporarily dashed your hopes.

Yours sincerely,

Martin Gilliat.
Private Secretary to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother”


An enquiry in July 1972 confirmed that it had been the work of an, or arsonists, however the criminal(s) was never found. In December 1973 it was decided to scrap the hulk and Japanese breakers would do the job. However, during this time, the wreck was used during the filming of the 1974 James Bond movie “The Man With the Golden Gun” that portrayed the ship as the MI6s Hong Kong’s headquarters.

Seawise University seen keeled well over in Hong Kong Harbour in July 1972

Photograph by & © Barry Loigman

But then there was the ship's final protest on November 5, 1975 when she rolled over and she spewed out several tons of oil that polluted the surrounding waters as well as some of the beaches. The official position of wreck is: 22°19.717'N 114°06.733'E? / ?22.328617°N 114.112217°E, also? / 22.328617; 114.112217 the RMS Queen Elizabeth held the title of “largest passenger shipwreck,” well that was until the recent MV Costa Concordia disaster in 2012.

I was sent this item of interest by one of my readers, although I am unaware of its source: “Parker pens produced a special edition of 5,000 pens made from material recovered from the wreck in a presentation box and these are highly collectible Two of the ship's fire warning system brass plaques were recovered by a dredger and these are now on display at The Aberdeen Boat Club in Hong Kong within a display area about the ship. The charred remnants of her last ensign were cut from the flag pole and framed in 1972, and it still adorns the wall of the officers' mess of marine police HQ in Hong Kong.”

Although a great deal of the Grand ex RMS Queen Elizabeth was scrapped and removed, a remnant did remain and you may ask – “Where is the that part of wreckage today?” The following is from the South China Morning Post – January 6, 1997.

Almost exactly a quarter of a century after a mystery blaze destroyed the Queen Elizabeth in Victoria Harbour, the once-proud ocean-going liner is to find her resting place buried under Container Terminal Nine (CT9).

Reclaimed land on which the terminal will be built is to extend over the area where the wreck of the once majestic liner lies.

Arsonists who started the fire off Tsing Yi Island on January 9, 1972, have never been identified.

And the reason why she was set alight as shipping boss C.Y Tung, the father of Chief Executive-designate Tung Chee-Hwa, moved to turn her into a $30 million floating university has never been explained.

Early CT9 consultancy studies raised concern over the effect the wreckage might have on the project and shipping in the area.

But now, with only months before the before the head of the famous shipping family takes control of the territory, the mystery of his late father’s pride and joy is to be buried forever.

In the coming months the section of Tsing Yi will become reclaimed land, eventually housing the southern berths of CT9.

The Port Development Board’s commercial consultant Peter Glass said: “Original studies looked at the wreckage of the Queen Elizabeth as a possible problem but that is no longer the case. The reclaimed land will extend over the area where her wreckage is sited.”




Bulder:                     John Brown and Company Clydebank, Scotland.

Slipway:                   4 – Hull number 552.

Laid down:               December 4, 1936.

Launched:                 September 27, 1938.

Port of Registry:        Liverpool, United Kingdom.

Maiden Voyage 1:      March 3, 1940, entering her wartime duties.

Maiden Voyage 2:      October 16, 1946, being her first ever passengers service!

Gross Tonnage:         83,673 GRT - 82,996 in 1965. 16,881 d.w.

Length:                    300.94m - 987.4ft.

Breadth:                   36.14m - 118.6ft.

Draught:                   12.07m – 39.6ft.

Engines:                   Parsons single reduction steam turbines, by John Brown – 160,000 SHP.

Screws:                    Quadruple screws.

Speed:                     29 knots – Max 32 knots.

Passengers:              2,283 passengers.

                               823 First Class, 662 Cabin Class and 798 Tourist Class.

Crew:                       1,296.

Names:                    1. Queen Elizabeth. 2. Elizabeth. 3. Seawise University.

                               1. 1939–1969. 2. 1969–1970. 3. 1970–1972.

Owners:                   1939-1949: Cunard White Star Line.
1949-1968: Cunard Line.
1968-1969: The Queen Corporation.

                               1969-1970: Queen Ltd.

                               1970-1972: C.Y. Tung - Seawise Foundation Ltd, Hong Kong.


Part of Queen Elizabeth’s engine room



The Other Queens - RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 – QE2:

The replacement for the two older liners came in the form of a far more modern liner, being the RMS Queen Elizabeth 2, or the ship that became so lovingly known worldwide as the QE2! This wonderful looking steamship was launched by HRH Queen Elizabeth II on September 20, 1967, and she sailed on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York on  May 2, 1969, whilst the ex RMS Queen Elizabeth was still berthed in Port Everglades.

The long and sleek Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) seen as built

The 63,868 GRT QE2 had a troubles from the start as she suffered problems during her Media and agents run in voyage, as Cunard put it mildly “teething troubles” with her steam turbines. Thus her official delivery was delayed by four months. Later she received new engines and became a motor ship, thus became a far more economical ship, as well having fewer problems in the future! In additions, she had a number of looks from her slim line tall black funnel encased by a white sleeve that surrounded it with only the forward part showing, but this would aid the removal of any smoke from the decks. Her hull colour changed from black, shell grey and a royal (dark) blue. Her funnel also changes where the white received the red and black stripes, but later she was given a shorter, thicker new funnel that made her a better-balanced looking ship. In addition luxury suites with verandas were added topside and her aft decks extended.

The final version of the QE2 is seen at Sydney’s International Passenger Terminal – Circular Quay, a great view of her aft decks!

Photo by & © the author

Over time she became one of the most popular cruise ships in the world, and operated her annual around the world cruise visiting both Australia and New Zealand, making her a regular visitor here! Amazingly it was on 5 November 2004 that the QE2 became Cunard Lines longest ever serving ship, as she on that day surpassed the RMS Aquitania’s record 35 years However, her days came to an end in 2008 after she made her farewell voyages.

The great Queen Elizabeth 2 photographed during her final visit to Liverpool on October 3, 2008

Photograph by & © Alex Naughton

The QE2 left Southampton for the very last time on November 12, 2008, with a massive fireworks presentation, escorted by a massive flotilla of smaller craft and a there was crowd of people along the shore that was estimated to be in the thousands. However, earlier that day, the QE2 amazingly had run aground on a sand bank whilst coming into the port, but diving inspections revealed no damage. It was like she demonstration, “I do not want to leave!” But she had to as the American Carnival Corp, who owns Cunard had already been sold for a massive US$100 million, which in truth she was not worth, although to us ship lovers, she was worth much more! She went to Dubai, where her original plans came to nothing and she remains in lay-up However what did sadden me was that she was registered at Port Vila, being the capital of the small Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu, close to Australia, but thankfully she is well maintained and looked after! But we do not know what her future holds?


Above & below: The author took these two photographs of the QE2 at Dubai on September 21, 2009




MV Queen Elizabeth:

OK, let me be honest from the outset, I absolutely loathe this all American designed Vista Class ship! Thus I cannot be more truthful that that. She departed on her maiden voyage on October 12, 2010.

We need to understand that Cunard has always been mostly owned by the Americans with some English ownership, but it has always been portrayed as being ever so frightfully British! But that has now been totally changed, for today Cunard is wholly owned by the American Carnival Corp, that is a company that has, what we may say has no class, or style and sadly this is a company that has just a single mind-set. You may ask, well what is that? It is simply this: How to extract or fleece every single Dollar or Pound out of their passengers! That is how they have designed all their new ships and they will do just that.

Genuine ship lovers and maritime experts will all know that Vista Class ships are the most criticised ships in the world, and my many friends who are respected maritime engineers and ship designers around the world, who have built some of the finest ships, although I must say, sadly there are dwindling, but they all say the same thing. These ships are the most hideous vessels to hit the water and that include the RCI giants, which are just not ships at all! Thus Cunard built that ugly and phoney Queen May 2, which is in reality an oversized Vista Class ship that has a flat stern, but they welded on a rounded dummy stern for looks, but her real stern can be seen at the waterline! Then they even did the typical Disneyland thing and painted in black looking deck forward of her superstructure, so that for afar she could look like the old Mary with her decks forward, do they think we are all mad? It is just black paint! Then came the MV Queen Victoria which is 100% Vista and she was followed but the almost identical MV Queen Elizabeth, also a Vista Class square box, or what is known in most circles as an apartment (Condo) block!


Above & below: The hideous looking MV Queen Elizabeth, no need to say anything else!

The Americans certainly do no justice to the grand Dame RMS Queen Elizabeth and the delightfully beautiful QE2

Personally, I believe that no further ships with the name of “Queen Elizabeth” should have been built!

Certainly not a Vista Class ship, which is like invite Her Majesty to a Classical Concert, but have the “Sex Pistols” play Mozart!


Departing Sydney February 23, 2011

I am not saying that their interiors ate not beautiful, for obviously they are, otherwise passengers would not book! But, as you know Carnival is so good at adding so many optional extras everywhere, optional dinning, optional this and that, we will add tipping to your account every single day, thus we will take your money. Yes, you can lower the amount if you wish, but be assured that you steward will have a list of every passenger, and he will know just what they have given, thus, if you think, he does not know, well guess what, they do. It is just that the company does not tell you this, but I will! Then there are many other features that they will push and push for you to spend on, be it the art auctions, the Spa and every day the shops will have special’s that are never really specials!

This non Cunard style ship departed on her maiden voyage on October 12, 2010.


In Conclusion:

Although we have briefly covered the wonderful RMS and then the cruise ship MV Queen Elizabeth 2, which was without a doubt one of the last great liners built and a fine ship, and she did the company proud! The QE2 gave many a wonderful ocean voyages and provided them the experience of a lifetime! She was the last Queen to be built that I will never sail on, not even if Carnival/Cunard would give me a free deluxe suite on her, would I go for she is a disgrace to the great company it used to be, for it was a company with class back then. But tragically Cunard and its previous American owners completely sold out lock stock and barrel to Carnival a company that just does not understand what class is! Another company that sold to Carnival is Holland America Line (HAL), however, they did something totally different to Cunard, P&O UK and Princess ships, etc, who just sold out! HAL, although the did sell to Carnival, but they retained their complete independence and their ships will remain registered in Rotterdam Holland, not like the Cunard and the other company’s, which are all being re registered in the Bahamas! HAL will retain their Dutch staff and Indonesian and Pilipino combination crew, which works so well! In addition, they are not sold or marketed by Carnival, but by Holland America themselves as they operate their own offices and have their own marketing teams. Now, why were they able to manage to do all that, and not Cunard? I can tell you that very simply, the Dutch have a great deal of audacity and great business knowledge, whereas the British, I am afraid to say, just had no guts and very little negotiations and just let the whole thing slip through their hands to the Americans, Thus nu guts, no glory! I am sorry, I know there will be those who will not like what I have just said, but, at least I am honest and I speak my mind. You can write and complain, but do not expect an answer, for there will be none!

The great 1939 RMS Queen Elizabeth was a true and a genuine beauty, a ship with a wonderful silhouette and a grandiose stature. Just looking at the Queen gave you that intense desire to board her and roam her interiors, especially her wonderful lounges. She was a true British Beauty from bow to stern!

As I have stated earlier Page Two is dedicated to her interiors and a few other images, which I know you will enjoy!

But let me close this page by remembering this great liner, for I am sure she is and will be remembered for all the right reasons, be it for her brave and admirable wartime duties, or her excellent liner services, and in her latter days as a wonderful cruise ship! She certainly was the finest of the old stock of great ships, and I for one, and I am sure you the reader will never forget her!

The perfect photograph to conclude this page!


RMS Queen Elizabeth is seen departing on another voyage; do you not wish you could book a voyage on her today?


Farewell Wonderful Queen, the QE2 did well to Continue the Tradition in a Modern way

But the R.M.S. Queen Elizabeth was Special and she will Never be Forgotten!



Page One             The History Page with Images.

Page Two             Interiors & much more!

Page Three          Advertisements and Brochures.


“Blue Water Liners sailing to the distant shores.
I watched them come, I watched them go and I watched them die.”



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