April 30, 2022|Reports

“RMS Queen Mary: From War To Retirement” – Stephen Hoadley

This was the second of two talks on the history of the Queen Mary – the first was on Zoom, so it was a real pleasure to welcome Stephen Hoadley in person to finish his excellent history of one of the world’s iconic ocean liners.  Fifty-one members and visitors attended on Tuesday 26th March, including an ex-Queen Mary engineer and several visitors and members who had travelled on her.

Stephen gave an excellent talk and had a great display of photos of the liner, in her World War Two grey – she was known as the ‘Grey Ghost’ – and after her post war refurbishment. During the war she was absolutely packed with troops and, with her sister ship Queen Elizabeth, transported over one and a quarter million troops across the Atlantic. Queen Mary travelled at speeds of up to 35 knots on a zig zag course to avoid submarines, and this combination of changing course and speed led to tragedy when she cut HMS Curaco in two with the loss of over a hundred lives: due to the risk of U-boat attacks, she was forbidden to stop to offer help.

After the war Queen Mary returned to her glory days of Atlantic crossings.  Anyone who mattered travelled on her and the Starlight Room, which even first-class passengers paid a supplement to enter, was the place to meet the stars.  By 1955 Cunard had fitted stabilisers – much needed as the Queen Mary apparently achieved a 52 degree roll on one crossing! The writing was on the wall however as planes could now cross the Atlantic and the day of the ocean liner was over.

The last crossings took place in 1967 but the Queen Mary was saved from scrap by Long Beach, a town in California, where she was reborn as a floating hotel and convention centre, complete a with London Bus which travelled round Cape Horn on the retiring Queen.  She is still there today and one of our visitors, a Wickham resident who had been an engineer on board, used to give talks about her history on board at Long Beach.

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