March 31, 2021|Reports

“RMS Queen Mary: From Launch to Maiden Voyage” – Stephen Hoadley

When King George V was playing golf with a senior Cunard executive, he asked what their famous new cruise ship was to be called. On hearing it was suggested it should be named after Britain’s most famous Queen he replied that his wife Mary would be absolutely delighted… and so the Queen Victoria became the Queen Mary. The story is apocryphal, but Cunard did have a tradition of naming their ships with an “ia”ending so who knows!

On Tuesday March 23rd fifty three members of Wickham History Society travelled with Stephen Hoadley to New York, despite lockdown, on the maiden voyage of one of the worlds most famous ships. The Queen Mary nearly never happened. In the 1930s as Britain was in the depths of the depression, Cunard had run out of money and halted construction work. It was only a government loan of £3.5 million (worth 300-400 million today) that saved both the ship and many livelihoods on the Clyde. The Queen Mary went on to be a national icon, winning the Blue Riband for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic and with exquisite Art Deco design by leading artists of the day – right down to the 1st Class children’s playroom.

The ship was built for speed as well as luxury, travelling much faster than today’s cruise ships at an average speed of 39mph on its maiden voyage in 1935. The downside was the roll – well remembered by many travellers and once reaching 44½ degrees. Nonetheless everyone who was anyone travelled (1st class) on the Queen Mary, while thousands of emigrants travelled in 3rd class and all enjoyed the very high standards of Cunard service and cookery.

Several of our members reminisced on their experiences on the Queen Mary, a rather different experience in post war austerity sailings. Stephen received a well deserved round of applause for an excellent, well researched talk on a lost era of travel.

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