Cunard-White Star Line RMS Queen Mary 1936 to 1967

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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!

Cunard-White Star Line

R.M.S. Queen Mary

A Tribute to the Grandest Queen of all!


Page One


“From Birth to Berth”


A photograph of a model of the RMS Queen Mary


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

RMS Queen Mary was and is one of the grandest Passenger liners ever built. This giant of the sea offered luxury and a standard unequalled in shipbuilding history. During her remarkable career, from her maiden voyage in 1936 until this day, Queen Mary has played various roles, from an elegant Ocean Liner, to a WWII trooper, then after 1001 Atlantic crossings, RMS Queen Mary was preserved and became a fine hotel and tourist facility in Long Beach California.

This special Queen Mary presentation follows her history from “Birth to Berth.” These pages also contain a large number of high quality photographs, which are listed in the following categories:

RMS Queen Mary the Ocean Liner.

HMTS Queen Mary the “Grey Ghost” at War.

Hotel Queen Mary at Long Beach California with links to the “Hotel Queen Mary”.

The complete INDEX is located at the bottom of the page.

We trust that these pages will bring back happy memories for all who had the pleasure of sailing on her be it as a passenger or a member of the crew, as well as all those who stood dockside amazed by her grandeur.

I encourage all readers if possible to visit and spend some time on the “Hotel Queen Mary” for be assured, it will be a maritime experience of a lifetime!

“Queen M” Emerges



The building of hull # 534

Author’s private collection

RMS Queen Mary was conceived in the late 1920’s and she was the first of a pair of ships that was intended to provide a weekly service between Southampton and New York. Ten years later, in December 1930, construction finally began at the John Brown shipyard in Clydebank, Scotland on what was known as Hull number 534. However, a year later, on 11 December 1931 construction was halted due to a worldwide economic crisis, a time we all know as the “Great Depression.”

Hull 534 languished until 3 April 1934, when due to a combination of a government subsidy and a merger of the Cunard and White Star Line made it possible for construction to restart in earnest.

Here we see one of her giant screws being fitted

Author’s private collection


A Cunard-White Star pre launch poster of their Ne Liner the RMS Queen Mary

Author’s private collection

Then came the day every one was waiting for, on September 26, 1934, this huge ship was launched in the presence of His Majesty, King George V, and his consort, Queen Mary. The public were overjoyed to learn that the Queen officially permitted her name to be used on this grand liner.

The Day has arrived as the great hull waits to be launched


HRH King George V and Queen Mary is seen here at the launching ceremony

Author’s private collection


RMS Queen Mary slowly slides down the slipway

Author’s private collection


She finally enters the water

Author’s private collection

RMS Queen Mary historic maiden voyage to New York commenced on Wednesday 27 May 1936. She departed fully laden as bookings had been sold out long in advance. Apparently the passenger list read like a page from the “Who’s Who.” First class passengers included knights, ladies, dignitaries, and certain famous artists. During her maiden voyage there were even two stowaways found, they were retained and returned to Southampton to face justice, but at least they sailed on the great Queen Mary! Rolex Replica Watches

RMS Queen Mary seen on May 27, 1936 departing on her maiden voyage

Author’s private collection


Maiden Voyage - Passenger information booklet

Provided by Harris B Tuttle


 Maiden Voyage - Passenger List

Provided by Harris B Tuttle



Queen Mary heading for the Atlantic

Author’s private collection

RMS Queen Mary exuded the elegance of a luxury hotel, housing all the necessities to live a life full of style, fine dinning and the best of company. In addition to the multitude of Lounges and Bars, there were also were two chapels, a synagogue, a hospital, nurseries, and several children’s playrooms. A travel Bureau had been located onboard for passengers to make hotel reservations before their arrival at their final destination. Replica Watches

It would be precisely four days, 12 hours and 24 minutes that Queen Mary’s maiden voyage concluded, arriving amid the kind of reception only New York could generate. The harbour was filled with an awaiting armada of boats and fire tugs with their water spouts, in addition thousands of well-wishers that lined the shore. Her maiden voyage had a total compliment of 1,849 passengers and 1,186 officers and crew, thus she carried 3,035 souls across the Atlantic on her first voyage.

Another Queen Mary departure from the UK – circa 1939

Author’s private collection

During 1936 to 1939, Queen Mary enjoyed great popularity being the flagship of the great Cunard Line, which had now joined with the White Star Line. At her launch in 1934, King George V dubbed her as the “Stateliest ship afloat.” However, many testified that life aboard the newest and fastest North Atlantic liner was anything but staid, for it was well known that her five bars located on Promenade Deck alone were filled with revellers most of the day and night. Evenings were very much a gala affair with first class passengers were dressed and frequently looked more like if they were at an event at a Palace. Dinners was always formal eveningwear. Cabin class (or 2nd) was equally well presented, whilst Tourist class (or 3rd) had a more casual atmosphere. However, no matter the class, for each passenger on a voyage on the Queen Mary, it was an event!

Photo Album-1Page Two - RMS Queen Mary the Trans Atlantic Liner

A Queen at War


 Queen Mary was dubbed the Grey Ghost, due to her

Great speed enabling her to evading enemy ships and submarines

As the Queen Mary departed Southampton on August 30, 1939, sailing via Cherbourg France bound for New York. However, little did anyone know that this would be the great Queen’s last peacetime voyage, for the very next day the Nazis invaded Poland. On the 31st the captain was informed that for security reasons he was to run a zigzag course across the Atlantic and operate under blackout conditions in order to elude German submarines.

Amongst the celebrities on board were Bob and Delores Hope, although he was travelling solely as a passenger and was not onboard as an entertainer. It is said that that he continuously made light, even fun of the situation, and that it was not well received, especially by the British passengers.

Most passengers were very apprehensive for the next four nights as all exterior lights were extinguished, and lookouts were posted around the ship, and the helmsman continually steering a zigzag course making the ship a difficult a target for a torpedo. After four worrying nights for her passengers she finally arrived safely in New York on Monday, September 4, and she was laid up awaiting her orders, which would take another six months.

Then on March 1, 1940, official orders came from the Admiralty calling for the Queen Mary to sail for Sydney Australia where she would be refitted for war duties. Ten days later on March 21, 1940, Queen Mary departed Hudson Pier New York and steamed south to South America and then across the Atlantic to South Africa. She refuelled and took on supplies in Cape Town; she then steamed at a speed of 28 knots across the Indian Ocean to Sydney. Upon arrival, she was handed over to the Cockatoo Docks & Engineering Company where she was converted for her new role as a trooper.

The Grey Ghost fully laden with troops

Her luxurious furnishings were removed and replaced by tiers of bunks and hammocks. For protection, a number of small calibre guns were fitted, however, as it is said, her main protection was her impressive speed.

On May 4, 1940, she left for the Clyde with over 5,000 troops of the Australian Imperial Force on board, arriving on June 16. Thereafter she headed for Singapore carrying troops due to the Japanese threat of the region. After an overhaul in Singapore, she returned to Sydney after which she commenced her five-year long trooping duties, during which time she transported over 800,000 troops.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill credited the Queen Mary for shortening the war by as much as a year. At the conclusion of the war, she continued to transport troops, war brides and their babies home until 1946.

Photo Album-2 – Page Three - RMS Queen Mary the Grey Ghost (trooper)
Including the Bill Duggan story - member of Battery C, 132nd AAA Gn Bn

Back on the Atlantic

Painting of the two Queens meeting at sea

Author’s private collection

After completing her wartime duties, Queen Mary was refitted and recommenced her transatlantic service in July of 1947. However, she had lost the title of “flagship” as she was now joined by her newer and somewhat larger sister, RMS Queen Elizabeth.

The two Queens were the most successful and profitable ships in the history of the North Atlantic. Both departed Southampton and New York with a full complement during the 50’s. Passengers had to book many months in advance in order to guarantee a passage aboard the Queen’s.

Queen Mary is an imposing sight as she arrives in New York City

Author’s private collection

However, in the 60’s, air travel became popular and most transatlantic liners became the dinosaurs of the sea. By the mid 60’s, sadly there were many times that the Queen Mary was carrying more crew than passengers. Thus, with the ship no longer being profitable, Cunard placed Queen Mary on the market in 1967.

Photo Album-1 RMS Queen Mary the Trans Atlantic Liner


The Grand Lady finds a new Berth


Queen Mary in Long Beach - Painting by Chris Butler

Ship breakers quickly made an offer, but fortunately, the Californian City of Long Beach made a better tender of $3,450,000 for her. The city planned to turn the Queen Mary into a grand tourist attraction and a city icon. The result was the “Hotel Queen Mary,” convention and entertainment center and museum. As the Queen Mary was loved by millions around the world, she was responsible for placing the City of Long Beach on the world map.

For her final voyage to Long Beach, a New York travel organisation chartered her for what was officially classified as a cruise. She departed Southampton with great fanfare, as countless of thousands came to see the Grand Dame depart her homeport. Flying high from her aft mast was the long white banner, the length indicating her long years of service. Helicopters flew high above saying a sad farewell to RMS Queen Mary. Her departure remains in the annuls of British maritime history!

Queen Mary’s final call to New York

Author’s private collection

From Southampton she sailed around South America to Los Angeles. On 9 December 1967, forty days after departure, she arrived at Long Beach, her final destination.

A stately Queen arrives at her final destination

Author’s private collection

On 11 December, ownership was officially transferred from Cunard to the City of Long Beach. After thirty-one years, RMS Queen Mary was removed from the British Registry of Ships. Queen Mary underwent a massive three and a half year, $72,000,000 refit, seeing her giant propellers permanently removed. In May 1971, the stately ‘Hotel Queen Mary’ was officially opened. Her new berth has meant the preservation of this great liner and a venue that is a “must” for all holidaymakers from around the world!

Photo Album -3 – Page Four - Hotel Queen Mary at Long beach (2 pages)



Page One         History page – From Birth to Berth

Page Two          Photo album 1 – The Trans-Atlantic Liner

Page Three        Photo album 2 - The Grey Ghost (trooper) & the Bill Duggan story

Page Four         Photo album 3 – Queen Mary at Long BeachPage One

Page Five         Hotel Queen Mary - Long Beach Page Two – View New Film

Page Six           Specifications page


“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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Photographs on ssmaritime and associate pages are either by the author or from the author’s private collection. In addition there are some images and photographs that have been provided by Shipping Companies or private photographers or collectors. Credit is given to all contributors, however, there are some photographs provided to me without details regarding the photographer or owner concerned. Therefore, I hereby invite if owners of these images would be so kind to make them-selves known to me; my email address can be only be found at in order that due credit may be given.

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