RMS Queen Mary
RMS Queen Mary, Job No 534, was launched on September 26, 1934, from John Brown's Shipyard in Clydebank, the first keel plate having been layed in December 1930. A year later work on her almost complete hull stopped as the depression meant Cunard could not secure further loans to complete the job. In March 1934 the Treasury financed her completion, one condition of which was the amalgumation of Cunard and the White Star Line. The fitting out took a further year and a half and when she sailed down the Clyde for her trials she ran aground twice despite extensive dredging.
She had three funnels, a displacement of 81,961 tons, was designed to carry 2,139 passengers, and travel at 30 knots. Before 534 could take on her name, agreement had to be obtained from the owners of the existing Queen Mary, a turbine powered steamer already operating on the River Clyde. This was obtained, and the existing vessel was renamed the Queen Mary II, releasing the name for use by the new liner.
In September 1939, after disembarking her last civilian passengers,including Bob Hope in New York she sailed for Sydney, Australia for conversion to a Troop Ship. Her luxuries were replaced with more useful items such as an underwater sound detection system, single four-inch gun, mine sweeping paravane system (a towed, underwater glider which snagged mine cables, causing detonation at a safe distance), and a degaussing girdle to provide protection from magnetic mines. Later enhancements to her armament and anti-aircraft defences included a 40 mm cannon, single-barrel 200 mm cannon, six three-inch high/low angle guns, and four sets of two-inch rocket launchers. None of these weapons were ever fired in anger.
On her first war time trip she was escorted by a Cruiser, HMS Curacao. West of Jura on October 2nd, 1942 due to a mix up over zig zag patterns the Queen Mary rammed the Curacao and she sank with a large loss of life. The Queen Mary was under orders not to stop for anything and sailed on leaving a Destroyer, HMS Branham to rescue survivors.
The Queen Mary was the largest and fastest troopship to sail, capable of transporting 15,740 troops and 943 crew a total of 16,683 bodies - a figure that has never been exceeded to this day - at a speed of 30 knots. Even Adolf Hitler couldn’t stop her, despite his offer of $250,000 and the Iron Cross to any U-Boat captain that would sink her. She came to be known as The Grey Ghost. Most sailings were to New York transporting US and Canadian troops but she also transported Australian troops to the Clyde.
Mockups of sections of the Mary and Elizabeth were constructed at Camp Kilner and the troops trained to board the ships. Films were made and used to combat mistakes. Every troop knew where to go, where to store his rifle, where to stow his kit and which was his bunk before they ever saw the ship. These exercises started in daylight and continued under darkness as when the time came to board the ships it was done at night with no lights to avoid spies reporting how many troops had boarded.
On July 31, 1947, the Queen Mary resumed regular passenger service after trips to New York returning US and Canadian troops and GI Brides to their homelands.
On October 31, 1967, the Queen Mary departed on her last Great Cruise. Arriving in Long Beach on December 9, 1967, she was removed from British registry and officially turned over to her new owners, the City of Long Beach, California on December 11, 1967.
- The Dunoon Observer. April 2, 9, and 16, 2010.
- A River Runs to War. John D Drummond. 1960.
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