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R.M.S. Queen Mary

Queen Mary Color Profile Ac
Above: A colorized starboard profile of the R.M.S. Queen Mary. - Author's Collection

Ship Statistics:

John Brown Hull No. 534
Overall Length 1,019' 6"
Length B.P. 965'
Width 118'
Moulded Depth (to C Deck) 55' 3"
Tonnage 1936: 80,774
1937: 81,235
1947: 81,237
Displacement 80,677
Draught 38.8'
Engines 6 turbines (4 ahead, 2 astern), quadruple-screw
Shaft Horsepower 160,000
Service Career May 27, 1936 - December 11, 1967
   
Carrying Capacity, Maiden Voyage First (Cabin) Class 776
  Tourist Class 784
  Third Class 579
Crew, Designed 1,035
   
Total Carrying Capacity, Maiden Voyage 3,174

The Cunard-White Star liner Queen Mary was a legend right from the start. When she was laid out at the John Brown shipyards on the River Clyde, it was already clear that she would be something special, and she was the pride of the British maritime community. This was true even though she, at that point, did not even have a name. She was simply referred to by her shipyard designation of "Hull No. 534". Due to the Depression, however, Cunard ran out of money to finish her construction.

At this stage, the White Star Line was also building a 1,000-foot, 30-knot vessel at Harland & Wolff's Belfast shipyards, to be named Oceanic (III). Suffering from shockingly poor management during the twenties, White Star was already in a bind before the Depression hit; it quickly became clear that they, like Cunard, would be unable to complete their ship without financial aid.

Cunard approached the British Government; they had successfully attained loans and subsidies from Parliament in 1902 to build the Lusitania and Mauretania, and the collaboration had worked very well. Parliament agreed to subsidize construction only if Cunard and White Star merged. It was clear to them that in those lean times, two giant British rivals would not be able to survive.

Cunard and White Star entered into negotiations. The final deal put White Star as the significantly junior member, and the name of the new company hence became Cunard-White Star. Later, the "-White Star" suffix was dropped and the company reverted to its old name, "Cunard". This merger saw the end of the Titanic's old legacy; her sister Olympic was soon scrapped, and most of the other White Star ships went the same way in short order. The Majestic, White Star's old flagship - the former German liner Bismarck - went before Cunard's Berengaria. But old Cunarders, too, went fast. The Mauretania went even before the Olympic, and the Berengaria - by that time a tinderbox that was regularly catching fire - went not long after.

(The histories of this generation of Atlantic liners - the Olympic, Titanic, Britannic, the Lusitania, Mauretania, and Aquitania, and the Imperator/Berengaria, Vaterland/Leviathan and Bismarck/Majestic - are all covered in detail in Atlantic Liners: A Trio of Trios.)

When she first entered service, the Queen Mary was facing some stiff new competition. The Germans and Italians had built a succession of super-fast and ultra-modern liners during the late 1920's, whose ranks included the Bremen and Europa, the Rex and the Conte de Savoia. The French Line was also building a colossal new ship: the Normandie, which made it into service first and was - albeit debatably - the larger of the two vessels.

The Queen Mary's maiden voyage came in the spring of 1936. The political climate was growing ever more tense in Europe. In Germany, the Fascist Nazi party was flexing its newfound muscle, moving forward in its quixotic desire for territorial expansion and in its disgusting ideals of creating an Aryan master race by exterminating 'weaker' races. By the time the Mary had been in service for only three and a half years, Hitler had pushed too far. World War Two broke out on September 1, 1939 as Germany invaded Poland.

The beautiful Queen Mary, fastest ship in the world, now found herself in the middle of the most dangerous circumstances that would ever confront her; her Government service for the Allies over the next six years, when combined with the efforts of her younger, larger sister Queen Elizabeth, would quite literally change the outcome of World War II.....

A beautiful wartime view of the Queen Mary, her decks packed full of soldiers. This photograph was provided by Lorraine Boucher; her father Wilfred Boucher returned to the United States from military service, sailing from Southampton, England on October 11, 1945. He was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army on November 2, 1945. The author's grandfather, Walter Layton, serving in the United States armed forces during the conflict, was transported aboard this ship, as well. ~ Lorraine E. Boucher Collection.

A beautiful illustration of the Queen Mary at sea. ~ Author's Collection.

After the war, the Queen Mary was returned to civilian service with the Cunard Line, making her first post-war crossing in August of 1947. In 1958, she had special stabilizers installed to aid her notorious stability problems. Cunard continued to modernize and upgrade the ship in order to keep her competitive with commercial jet aircraft. Eventually, however, revenues continued to decline to the point where the Mary and the Elizabeth were no longer viable. In 1967, she was sold to the city of Long Beach, California. She is now a hotel and tourist attraction. She frequently serves as a shooting location for various films and documentaries depicting other liners, such as the legendary Titanic. Films such as The Poseidon Adventure and S.O.S. Titanic are included among these.

On Thursday, February 23, 2006, two Cunard legends met for the first time. The new Queen Mary 2 sailed into the port of Long Beach and greeted her historic namesake, the original Queen Mary. The two ships saluted each other with their one-ton signaling horns. ~ Destinations Long Beach Magazine.

 

Table 1: Captains of the Queen Mary

Captain: Date Took Command
Commodore Sir Edgar T. Britten December 1,1935
Captain George Gibbons January 29, 1936
Commodore Reginald V. Peel August 4, 1936
Commodore Robert B. Irving November 11, 1936
Captain John C. Townley March 30, 1937
Captain Peter A. Murchie April 19, 1938
Captain Ernest M. Fall April 9, 1941
Commodore Sir James Bisset February 23, 1942
Commodore Sir Cyril G. Illingworth August 10, 1942
Captain Roland Spencer July 29, 1944
Commodore Charles M. Ford March 11, 1946
Commodore George E. Cove December 6, 1946
Commodore Sir C. Ivan Thompson February 15, 1947
Captain John A. MacDonald March 6, 1947
Captain John D. Snow July 4, 1947
Commodore Harry Grattidge December 31, 1948
Captain Harry Dixon July 20, 1950
Captain Robert G. Thelwell August 13, 1951
Captain Donald W. Sorrell August 19, 1952
Commodore George G. Morris June 27, 1956
Commodore Charles S. Williams June 25, 1957
Captain Alexander B. Fasting September 11, 1957
Captain Andrew MacKellar August 26, 1958
Commodore John W. Caunce October 22, 1958
Commodore Donald M. MacLean June 24, 1959
Captain James Crosbie Dawson March 30, 1960
Captain Sidney A. Jones May 25, 1960
Commodore Frederick G. Watts August 9, 1960
Captain Eric A. Divers June 19, 1962
Commodore Geoffrey T. Marr May 7, 1964
Captain John Treasure Jones September 8, 1965
Captain William E. Warwick September 15, 1965
Captain William J. Law May 3, 1967
Captain John Treasure Jones In command for final round trip voyage, 9/16/1967 - 9/27/67, and for the final voyage 'round the horn to Long Beach, CA, 10/31/1967 - 12/9/1967. Captain Jones Officially handed the Queen Mary over to Long Beach on 12/11/1967, and her registry was cancelled.

Updates to this page's content are in progress - please be patient. For corrections, please contact me.

Please also remember: if you have photographic or technical data, or personal accounts of crossings on any of these ships or on the other liners contained on this site, and would like to see these items included on this site or in the upcoming volume, please use the contact page of this site to let me know.

 

 
     
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