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RMS Queen Elizabeth 2

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Queen Elizabeth 2, Inchgreen Dry Dock, Greenock, 1970, Fox
Queen Elizabeth 2 1970
Inchgreen Dry Dock Greenock

The RMS Queen Elizabeth 2, or QE2, was launched on September 20, 1967. The vessel was Job No 736 at John Brown's shipyard, where it was also referred to as Q4. There had been plans for a replacement of the Queen Mary during the 1950s, the Q3, but this was eventually cancelled. The name of the new ship remained a closely guarded secret until launch ceremony of 1969, by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The QE2 was not named after Queen Elizabeth II, but after the previous RMS Queen Elizabeth. Since Roman numerals are always used to denote monarchs, the Arabic numeral 2 was used to distinguish the new ship's name from that of the reigning monarch. When Queen Elizabeth II launched the ship, she referred to it as "Queen Elizabeth the Second", although it is normally referred to as "Queen Elizabeth 2" rather than "Queen Elizabeth the Second", and more usually shortened to "QE2".

The ship's original steam turbines were of a novel design which, on their maiden voyage to Southampton, proved to be faulty. Redesigned and rebuilt, they operated well until 1982, when they were replaced by nine turbocharged diesel engines driving alternators which drove twin screws via electric motors. This reduced fuel consumption by something like 50% and increased speed to 34 knots. This refit was also the reason for the fitting of new and larger funnel, a single item (originally painted white, but reverted to Cunard colours in 1983) with an air scoop located on each side which served to lift exhaust gases above the aft decks.

Cunard Line sold the QE2 to Dubai World, for $100 million. The ship was to be delivered to its new owners in November 2008, for conversion into a luxury hotel, complete with retail and entertainment complex next to the Palm Jumeirah, Dubai, then the largest man made island in the World.

War service

During the Falkland's War of 1982, the Government requisitioned the QE2 to carry troops to the conflict. The ship emerged unscathed, and once refitted and re-engined, returned to service as a liner.

Emotional ties to the Clyde

In 1967, the Scottish shipbuilding industry was aged and disintegrating, much of the machinery used to build the QE2 dated back to the 19th century, and the yards found themselves increasingly unable to compete with more modern foreign shipyards. Q4 would the last big ship built on the Clyde and Glasgow folksinger Matt McGinn wrote a song in her praise entitled "The Ballad of Q4", which contained the immortal line "We'll never see the likes of her again!" Clydesiders up and down the river and firth took the QE2 to their hearts, so much so that on her 40th anniversary cruise to Greenock on September 20, 2007, thousands of people turned out to see her departure. The main street through Greenock came to a virtual standstill for most of the day, and by the time she came to leave even the back streets had come to a stop.

Final visit to the Clyde

On Sunday, October 5, 2008, the QE2 made her last visit to the Clyde when she visited Greenock Ocean Terminal on her final round the country tour prior to sailing to Dubai to become a floating hotel. Escorted by the destroyer HMS Glasgow, and an armada of small ships and boats, she made her way to the terminal. As usual, thousands of people had turned out to see her.

She sailed for her final Scottish port, Queensferry on the Firth of Forth, at 22:00 BST following a firework display to mark her departure. Again, thousands of people waited in the cold and dark to watch her leave the Clyde for the last time.

Departure for Dubai

On Tuesday November 11, 2008, the QE2 sailed from Southampton to the accompaniment of a massive fireworks display. Her final visit to Southampton had been somewhat traumatic - she hit a sandbank in the Solent on the way in and had to be pulled off by tugs.

On the November 13, 2008, The Daily Express revealed plans for the liner once in Dubai. The paper stated that the ship would undergo massive works to satisfy the requirements of the new owners. The funnel was to be removed to allow the engine room to be stripped out, with the machinery being lifted out through the hole left by the funnel. A smaller replica of the original funnel was to be constructed elsewhere on the upper deck, where it was to feature as the entrance to the ship/hotel. All the lifeboats were to be removed, and massive internal alterations made to the accommodation areas to suit the liner's use as a floating hotel.

The paper claimed this came as a surprise to most people, who were said to have wrongly assumed that the ship would be preserved, in outward appearance at least.

On the November 26, 2008, the lunchtime BBC News showed live pictures of the QE2 arriving in Dubai, and confirmed that the above alterations to the ship would be taking place. It was also noted that this was the 40th anniversary of her launch.

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