BUILDER: John Brown & Co.Clydeback. Glasgow,ScotlandCOMPLETED:MAY 1936
GROSS TONNAGE: 81237DIMENSIONS: 1020 FT x 119 FT. DEPTH 74 FT
ENGINES: Sixteen steam turbines single-reductiongeared.
WATERTIGHT BULKHEADS: 18
SERVICE SPEED: 30 knots (Attained 32.84 during trails).
OFFICERS& CREW: 1285
PASSENGERS:711 First Class-707
Tourist.MAIDEN VOYAGE: Southampton-Cherbourg-New York
It began as a single line on a piece of paper as early as 1924.
On December 27th, 1930, after thousands of revisions, construction began on a project known only as job #534 in the John Brown shipyards in Glasgow, Scotland.
One year later work was suspended due to a world wide depression.In April of 1934, work resumed due to a merger between the Cunard Line and the White Star Line.Hundred of tons of rust needed to be removed fromthe unfinished hull due to exposure to the elements.On a rainy day, September 26th, 1934, King George V addressed a crowd of thousands at the John Brownyards. He pronounced, "Today we come to the happy task of sending on her way the stateliest ship now in being...no longer a number on the books, but a ship with a name." The king stepped aside; then his wife, Queen Mary, took the microphone. "I am happy to name this ship the Queen Mary. I wish success to her and to all who sail in her."Then the queen pushed a button which sent the ship's enormous hull down the launchways and afloat for the first time.The same day the ship was launched, a famous British psychic, Mabel Fortescue-Harrison, predicted that "The Queen Mary, launched today, will know its greatest fame and popularity when she never sails another mile and never carries another paying passenger."
After nearly two years of fitting out, work was completed in 1936.At 9:45a.m.,Tuesday 24, 1936, four blasts sounded from the ship's horn as she was ready to make her way down the Clyde.As the ship continued its tension filled trip, it was caught by a gust of wind that drove itaground in the middle of the river. It was not only in danger of being a total loss due to the out-going tide, but it would have blocked the river for years.By using her own engines and help from five tugs, the Queen was again free to continue her journey.After her speed trials proved to be a success, theQueen Mary was turned over to her owners on May 12th. Her commander, Commodore Sir Edgar Britten, who also helped during construction of the ship, was instructed to take her to Southampton for final inspections and preperations for her maiden voyage.From the 20th to the 22nd, the Queen Mary was open for public viewing. Nearly 15,000 visitors passed through the ship the first two days! The royal family even paid one final visit on the 25th.With a preperations completed, the Queen Mary began her career as a transatlantic liner at 4:30 p.m., May 27th, when she left her dock and set sail for New York.
It was hoped that the Queen would be able to take the Blue Riband (the trophy for the fastest crossing)from her French rival, the Normandie, on her maiden voyage. Unfortunately the Queen encountered fog that made Sir Percy Bates, chairman of the line, order the ship's speed cut so not to have a repeat of the Titanic disaster.On June 1st, 1936, the Queen Mary entered New York Harbor for the first time and was welcomed by hundreds of small pleasure craft. Owners of the ship had no fear that their new ship would one day take the Normandie's speed record. Even with the fog delay, the Queen averaged a speed of 28.74 knots.
However, they did have other concerns about their new flagship.It was once thought that a ship of the Queen's size wouldn't roll. However they were proven wrong by her first few trips. Also there was a severe vibration caused by the ship's over powered engines. To make matters worse, passengers were not amused when they were treated to a nice covering of soot anytime they strolled on the after decks because of the smoke stacks. Cunard feared what the public would think of their new liner once the press found out. Lucklythe press concentrated on the story of the Queen'srivalry with the Normandie and the upcoming speedrace.In 1937, after her first season, the Queen was put into dry dock. Hundred of workers descended on the ship to hopefully correct all of her operational problems. To best help with the rolling problem, handrails were installed where none had been before. Scrubbers were added in the ship's smoke stacks to correct the soot problem. However it took major reconstruction in the stern section of the ship to correct the vibration from the engines. In some sections workers had to strip rooms right to the steel frames. Stiffening supports were added. After all work was completed,the only real problem that had been corrected was the soot from the stacks. Cunard was disappointed to hear that the liner still had a vibration in the stern section. However it was not as severe as before. The Queen would always have a rolling problem until stabilizers were installed in 1950s. But the hand rails did help.
The Blue Riband would change hands three times in the Queen's first few years of service. Finally the Queen Mary took the speed record away from the Normandie for good in August 1938 crossing the Atlantic at a speed of 31.69 knots, a record that would stand for twenty two years.
The Queen Mary would continue her transatlantic service until August 1939, when she reached New York. She would remain there along with the Normandie until March 1940, when war was declared in Europe.By March of 1940, a new and ever larger ship was making its way up the North River after just completing its maiden voyage. Since it was painted a dull gray, people could just make out the name on this new ship: Queen Elizabeth.
For the next three weeks, the three liners sat silently until Cunard was informed by the British government that both ships were needed for the war effort. Like the Elizabeth, the Queen Mary was painted gray and was stripped of all interior furniture, wood paneling and art work. By May 5th she would begin her new duties as a troop ship with a new name, HMT Queen Mary.
From 1941 to 1946, the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth would follow a zig-zag course to avoid enemy U-boats. Thousands of Australian and American troops were transported weekly.The movements of both ships were kept secret to avoid enemy air or sea attack. After the war a shore worker said that he would see the Queen Mary in port on a Monday evening when he left work for that day. When he would arrive for work the next morning, the Mary would be gone and the Queen Elizabeth would be in port loaded with troops ready to leave port. Then he would watch as the giant troop transports would disappear into the fog. It was because of these kinds of movements that the ships were called gray ghosts.
Adolf Hitler knew how the Queens were hurting his march across Europe. He offered 250,000 dollars and the iron cross to any U-boat commander that could sink the Queens.
In spite of this, Queen Mary's troop transport duties continued with no problems until October 2nd, 1942, when she hit and sunk the HMS Curacoa, an escort vessel. The Curacoa was cut in two, and due to her orders she couldn't stop to pick up survivors or face being attacked herself. Troops on the deck of the Queen threw as many life jackets to the survivors as they could find. Still, over 329 lives were lost.
Once repairs had been made to the bow of the Queen, she continued transport duties. On July 25th, 1943, the Queen Mary would set the record for the most people to travel on a shipat 16,683! The record still stands.
The Queen transported troops until 1946 when the war ended. After that she transported war brides to the United States.
Winston Churchill felt that the Queens by themselves had shortened the war by at much as two years. He concluded that the world owed them a debt that would not be easy to measure...
On July 31, 1947, the RMS Queen Mary resumed her passenger duties.
There was sorrow when Sir Percy Bates, the man responsible for both Queens, was not there to see them resume their passenger service.
He had died during the war. The ship looked like new. She had been repainted in her peace time colors, all her interiors had been restored and all hand rails had been replaced due to sailors scratching their names into the old ones.
New Denny Brown stabilizers were installed in 1957 to correct the rolling problem.Liner business boomed. The Queen Mary carried 2,000 passengers on her first trip. Things never look better for the Queens or Cunard. Both ships sailed their regular routes for years.
Plans were in the works by Cunard's competition for new and even more exciting ships. In 1952 the United States Line launched the United States, which beat the Queen Mary's best Atlantic crossing record by as much 12 hours, at a speed of 35.59 knots.
However, not many people noticed that the Hales Trophy had changed hands. Why? Since the first customer transatlantic flight in the early 1950s, the transatlantic lines treated planes as nothing more than a fad. They couldn't believe people would give up the comfort of ship travel for a cramped single seat on a plane, a plane that could travel from New York to London in hours, not days.
On a 1961 November crossing, the Queen Mary was carrying only 470 passengers out of her capacity of 2,000! Crew members out numbered passangers at over 1,000! The Cunard line's back was to the wall. They started to cut service and annual overhauls. Plans were made to send the Queen Mary cruising to the Bahamas. With no air conditioning, however, this plan was scrapped. Still Cunard was losing millions of dollars a year due to the air travel.
By 1967 it was all over, when on May 9th the captains of both liners were instructed to open sealed letters that had been given to them by the board. The order had been given to end the careers for both Queens. The Queen Mary would go first. In fact it was only a matter of months.
On October 31st, 1967, the Queen Mary left Southampton for the last time, nearly 31 years to the day she began her career.During the lean times Cunard even made up a advertising slogan that "getting there is half the fun!" This could not forestall the jet age.
Before the ship ever left Southampton, Cunard had received dozens of offers from all over the world. They ranged from schools, hospitals, homes for the poor and casinos to scrapping. Cunard stated that the "Queen Mary must not be used for any undignified purpose."Then there was an interesting offer from a smalloil rich town in California called Long Beach. On July 24th Vice Mayor Robert F. Crow rushed to London where he had been had been authorized by the city to tender an offer of 3.45 million. Two days later they accepted his offer. Long Beach had plans to turn the ship into a floating hotel and convention center. Not a bad deal! Long Beach was able to pick up the ship for a fraction of what it cost to build her 31 years earlier. At the same time, they beat out larger U.S. cities like New York and Los Angeles.
On December 9th, 1967, the Queen Mary arrived in Long Beach from her 40 day "Last Great Cruise" filled with 1,040 American passengers. It was like her maiden voyage all over again. There were thousands of pleasure craft from Newport Beach, Long Beach and Los Angeles harbors to welcome her. Even an Ozark jet plane dropped flowers on the ship. Captain John Treasure Jones looked at the radar on the bridge of the Queen Mary. He stated there there were so many pleasure craft that the radar screen was just one large glowing blob. Later it was estimated that there were about 10,000 craft in all.
After making a round past Long Beach harbor, the Queen was escorted to Pier E. There she was handed over to the city by Captain Jones. The Cunard house flag was removed from the ship, her propellers were disconnected from her engines and her rudder was fixed to midships position. At the same time in England, the Queen Mary was removed from the Register of Ships. From that moment on, the Queen Mary was classified as a building.After nearly two years of refitting, the new Queen Mary opened featuring the Queen Mary Tour, hotel, restaurants, convention center, aquatic museum and a maritime museum.
Now they even have a Soviet Foxtrot class submarine on display and the Treasures of the Russian Empire.Yearly many people from all over the world travel to tour the ship.It sounds as if British psychic Mabel Fortescue-Harrison was right when she made that prediction on that rainy day back in 1934. "The Queen Mary, launched today will know her greatest fame and popularity when she never sails another mile and never carries another paying passenger."