RMS Queen Mary

RMS Queen Mary
RMS Queen Mary
RMS Queen Mary in Long Beach, California
History
Name: Royal Mail Ship (RMS) Queen Mary
Namesake: Mary of Teck
Owner:
Port of registry:
  • Liverpool (1936–1967)
  • Long Beach (1967–present)
Route: Southampton, New York, via Cherbourg (normal transatlantic voyage East and West bound)
Ordered: 3 April 1929
Builder:
Yard number: 534
Laid down: 1 December 1930
Launched: 26 September 1934
Sponsored by: Queen Mary
Christened: 26 September 1934
Maiden voyage: 27 May 1936
Out of service: 9 December 1967 (retired)
Identification: Radio Callsign GBTT
Status: Hotel / restaurant / museum ship
General characteristics
Type: Ocean liner
Tonnage: 81,237 GRT
Displacement: 81,961 tons
Length:
  • 1,019.4 ft (310.7 m) LOA
  • 965 ft (294.1 m) LBP
Beam: 118 ft (36.0 m)
Height: 181 ft (55.2 m)
Draft: 39 ft (11.9 m)
Decks: 12
Installed power: 24 × Yarrow boilers
Propulsion:
  • 4 × Parsons single-reduction geared steam turbines
  • 4 shafts, 160,000 shp (120,000 kW)
Speed: 28.5 kn
Capacity: 2,139 passengers: 776 first (cabin) class, 784 tourist class, 579 third class
Crew: 1101
RMS Queen Mary
RMS Queen Mary is located in California
Coordinates
NRHP Reference # 92001714[1]
Added to NRHP 15 April 1993

RMS Queen Mary is a retired ocean liner that sailed primarily on the North Atlantic Ocean from 1936 to 1967 for the Cunard Line (known as Cunard-White Star Line when the vessel entered service). Built by John Brown & Company in Clydebank, Scotland, Queen Mary along with her running mate, the RMS Queen Elizabeth, were built as part of Cunard's planned two-ship weekly express service between Southampton, Cherbourg, and New York City. The two ships were a British response to the superliners built by German and French companies in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Queen Mary was the flagship of the Cunard Line from May 1936 until October 1946 when she was replaced in that role by Queen Elizabeth.

Queen Mary sailed on her maiden voyage on 27 May 1936 and captured the Blue Riband in August of that year; she lost the title to SS Normandie in 1937 and recaptured it in 1938, holding it until 1952 when she was beaten by the new SS United States. With the outbreak of World War II, she was converted into a troopship and ferried Allied soldiers for the duration of the war.

Following the war Queen Mary was refitted for passenger service and along with Queen Elizabeth commenced the two-ship transatlantic passenger service for which the two ships were initially built. The two ships dominated the transatlantic passenger transportation market until the dawn of the jet age in the late 1950s. By the mid-1960s, Queen Mary was ageing and, though still among the most popular transatlantic liners, was operating at a loss.

After several years of decreased profits for Cunard Line, Queen Mary was officially retired from service in 1967. She left Southampton for the last time on 31 October 1967 and sailed to the port of Long Beach, California, United States, where she remains permanently moored. Much of the machinery, including one of the two engine rooms, three of the four propellers, and all of the boilers, were removed. The ship serves as a tourist attraction featuring restaurants, a museum, and hotel. The ship is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has accepted the Queen Mary as part of the Historic Hotels of America.[2]

Contents

  • Construction and naming 1
  • History (1934–1939) 2
    • Interior 2.1
  • World War II 3
  • After World War II 4
  • Queen Mary in Long Beach 5
    • Conversion 5.1
    • Queen Mary as a tourist attraction 5.2
    • Meeting of the Queens 5.3
    • W6RO 5.4
    • Rumors of hauntings 5.5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9

Construction and naming

With Germany launching Bremen and Europa into service, Britain did not want to be left behind in the shipbuilding race. White Star Line began construction on their 80,000-ton Oceanic in 1928, while Cunard planned a 75,000-ton unnamed ship of their own.

Overhead view of Queen Mary docked at Long Beach in 2008

Construction on the ship, then known only as "Hull Number 534",[3] began in December 1930 on the River Clyde by the John Brown & Company shipyard at Clydebank in Scotland. Work was halted in December 1931 due to the Great Depression and Cunard applied to the British Government for a loan to complete 534. The loan was granted, with enough money to complete Queen Mary and to build a running mate, Hull No. 552, which became Queen Elizabeth.[4]

One condition of the loan was that Cunard would merge with the White Star Line, which was Cunard's chief British rival at the time and which had already been forced by the depression to cancel construction of its Oceanic. Both lines agreed and the merger was completed on 10 May 1934. Work on Queen Mary resumed immediately and she was launched on 26 September 1934. Completion ultimately took 3 12 years and cost 3.5 million pounds sterling.[4] Much of the ship's interior was designed and constructed by the Bromsgrove Guild.[5]

The ship was named after Victoria, in keeping with company tradition of giving its ships names ending in "ia", but when company representatives asked the king's permission to name the ocean liner after Britain's "greatest queen", he said his wife, Queen Mary, would be delighted.[6] And so, the legend goes, the delegation had of course no other choice but to report that No. 534 would be called Queen Mary.[6]

This story was denied by company officials, and traditionally the names of sovereigns have only been used for capital ships of the Royal Navy. Some support for the story was provided by Washington Post editor Felix Morley, who sailed as a guest of the Cunard Line on Queen Mary‍ '​s 1936 maiden voyage. In his 1979 autobiography, For the Record, Morley wrote that he was placed at table with Sir Percy Bates, chairman of the Cunard Line. Bates told him the story of the naming of the ship "on condition you won't print it during my lifetime." The name Queen Mary could also have been decided upon as a compromise between Cunard and the White Star Line, as both lines had traditions of using names either ending in "ic" with White Star and "ia" with Cunard.[6]

History (1934–1939)

There was already a Clyde turbine steamer named TS Queen Mary, so Cunard White Star reached an agreement with the owners that the existing steamer would be renamed TS Queen Mary II, and in 1934 the new liner was launched by Queen Mary as RMS Queen Mary. On her way down the slipway, Queen Mary was slowed by eighteen drag chains, which checked the liner's progress into the Clyde, a portion of which had been widened to accommodate the launch.[7]

When she sailed on her maiden voyage from Southampton, England on 27 May 1936, she was commanded by Sir Edgar T. Britten, who had been the master designate for Cunard White Star whilst the ship was under construction at the John Brown shipyard. Queen Mary had a 80,774 gross tonnage (GT).[8] Her rival Normandie, which originally grossed 79,280 tonnes, had been modified the preceding winter to increase her size to 83,243 GT (an enclosed tourist lounge was built on the aft boat deck on the area where the game court was), and therefore kept the title of the world's largest ocean liner.[9] Queen Mary sailed at high speeds for most of her maiden voyage to New York, until heavy fog forced a reduction of speed on the final day of the crossing.

A Queen Mary baggage tag.

Queen Mary‍‍ '​‍s design was criticised for being too traditional, especially when Normandie‍‍ '​‍s hull was revolutionary with a clipper-shaped, streamlined bow. Except for her cruiser stern, she seemed to be an enlarged version of her Cunard predecessors from the pre–World War I era. Her interior design, while mostly Art Deco, seemed restrained and conservative when compared to the ultramodern French liner. Queen Mary proved to be the more popular vessel than her larger rival, in terms of passengers carried.[6][10]

"It's Men That Count", a late 1930s promotional poster for the Cunard Line.

In August 1936, Queen Mary captured the Blue Riband from Normandie, with average speeds of 30.14 knots (55.82 km/h; 34.68 mph) westbound and 30.63 knots (56.73 km/h; 35.25 mph) eastbound. Normandie was refitted with a new set of propellers in 1937 and reclaimed the honour, but in 1938 Queen Mary took back the Blue Riband in both directions with average speeds of 30.99 knots (57.39 km/h; 35.66 mph) westbound and 31.69 knots (58.69 km/h; 36.47 mph) eastbound, records which stood until lost to United States in 1952.

Interior

Among facilities available on board Queen Mary, the liner featured two indoor swimming pools, beauty salons, libraries, and children's nurseries for all three classes, a music studio and lecture hall, telephone connectivity to anywhere in the world, outdoor paddle tennis courts, and dog kennels. The largest room onboard was the cabin class (first class) main dining room (grand salon), spanning three stories in height and anchored by wide columns. The cabin-class swimming pool facility spanned over two decks in height. This was the first ocean liner to be equipped with her own Jewish prayer room – part of a policy to show that British shipping lines avoided the racism evident at that time in Nazi Germany.[11]

The cabin-class main dining room featured a large map of the transatlantic crossing, with twin tracks symbolising the winter/spring route (further south to avoid icebergs) and the summer/autumn route. During each crossing, a motorised model of Queen Mary would indicate the vessel's progress en route.

As an alternative to the main dining room, the Queen Mary featured a separate cabin-class Verandah Grill on the Sun Deck at the upper aft of the ship. The Verandah Grill was an exclusive à la carte restaurant with a capacity of approximately eighty passengers, and was converted to the Starlight Club at night. Also on board was the Observation Bar, an Art Deco-styled lounge with wide ocean views.

Woods from different regions of the British Empire were used in her public rooms and staterooms. Accommodation ranged from fully equipped, luxurious cabin (first) class staterooms to modest and cramped third-class cabins. Artists commissioned by Cunard in 1933 for works of art in the interior include Edward Wadsworth and A. Duncan Carse.[12]

Queen Mary Art Deco Interiors
Mural in the main dining room, or "Grand Salon" on which a crystal model tracked the ship's progress 
First class dining room, now known as the "Grand Salon." 
The Observation Bar lounge. The windows were once part of the enclosed Promenade Deck turnaround; the lounge was extended forward after 1967. 

World War II

Arriving in New York Harbor, 20 June 1945, with thousands of US soldiers – note the prominent degaussing coil running around the outer hull.

In late August 1939, Queen Mary was on a return run from New York to Southampton. The international situation led to her being escorted by the battlecruiser HMS Hood. She arrived safely, and set out again for New York on 1 September. By the time she arrived, the Second World War had started and she was ordered to remain in port alongside Normandie until further notice.

In March 1940 Queen Mary and Normandie were joined in New York by Queen Mary‍‍ '​‍s new running mate Queen Elizabeth, fresh from her secret dash from Clydebank. The three largest liners in the world sat idle for some time until the Allied commanders decided that all three ships could be used as troopships. Normandie was destroyed by fire during her troopship conversion. Queen Mary left New York for Sydney, Australia, where she, along with several other liners was converted into a troopship to carry Australian and New Zealand soldiers to the United Kingdom.

Queen Mary‍ '​s forward superstructure, shown here in Long Beach. When she came to Long Beach the Sun Deck windows were enlarged and an anti-aircraft gun was placed on display astride the foremast to represent the World War II days of the great liner.

In the WWII conversion, the ship's hull, superstructure and funnels were painted navy grey. As a result of her new colour, and in combination with her great speed, she became known as the "Grey Ghost." To protect against magnetic mines, a degaussing coil was fitted around the outside of the hull. Inside, stateroom furniture and decoration were removed and replaced with triple-tiered wooden bunks, which were later replaced by standee bunks.

Six miles of carpet, 220 cases of china, crystal and silver service, tapestries and paintings were removed and stored in warehouses for the duration of the war. The woodwork in the staterooms, the cabin-class dining room and other public areas was covered with leather. Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth were the largest and fastest troopships involved in the war, often carrying as many as 15,000 men in a single voyage, and often traveling out of convoy and without escort. Their high speed made it difficult for U boats to catch them.

On 2 October 1942, Queen Mary accidentally sank one of her escort ships, slicing through the light cruiser HMS Curacoa off the Irish coast with a loss of 239 lives. Queen Mary was carrying thousands of Americans of the 29th Infantry Division[13] to join the Allied forces in Europe.[14] Due to the risk of U-boat attacks, Queen Mary was under orders not to stop under any circumstances and steamed onward with a fractured stem. Some sources claim that hours later, the convoy's lead escort returned to rescue 99 survivors of Curacoa‍‍ '​‍s crew of 338, including her captain John W. Boutwood.[15][16][17] This claim is contradicted by the liner's then Staff Captain (and later Cunard Commodore) Harry Grattidge, who records that Queen Mary‍‍ '​‍s Captain immediately ordered the accompanying destroyers to look for survivors within moments of the Curacoa‍‍ '​‍s sinking.[18]

In December 1942, Queen Mary carried 16,082 American soldiers from New York to Great Britain,[19] a standing record for the most passengers ever transported on one vessel.[20] During this trip, while 700 miles (1,100 km) from Scotland during a gale, she was suddenly hit broadside by a rogue wave that may have reached a height of 28 metres (92 ft). An account of this crossing can be found in Walter Ford Carter's book, No Greater Sacrifice, No Greater Love.[19]

Carter's father, Dr. Norval Carter, part of the 110th Station Hospital on board at the time, wrote that at one point Queen Mary "damned near capsized... One moment the top deck was at its usual height and then, swoom! Down, over, and forward she would pitch." It was calculated later that the ship rolled 52 degrees, and would have capsized had she rolled another 3 degrees.[19] The incident inspired Paul Gallico to write his novel, The Poseidon Adventure (1969) and carry the incident to a fictional extreme. This was adapted as a 1972 film by the same name, in which the SS Poseidon is turned upside-down, and the trapped passengers try to escape.

During the war Queen Mary carried British Prime Minister Winston Churchill across the Atlantic for meetings with fellow Allied forces officials on several occasions. He was listed on the passenger manifest as "Colonel Warden".[21] The ship was also used to return American troops from Europe after the war.

After World War II

Queen Mary on the North Sea - 1959.
Queen Mary at New York, c 1961.

From September 1946 to July 1947, Queen Mary was refitted for passenger service, adding air conditioning and upgrading her berth configuration to 711 first class (formerly called cabin class), 707 cabin class (formerly tourist class) and 577 tourist class (formerly third class) passengers.[22] Following refit, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth dominated the transatlantic passenger trade as Cunard White Star's two-ship weekly express service through the latter half of the 1940s and well into the 1950s. They proved highly profitable for Cunard (as the company was renamed in 1947).

In 1958 the first transatlantic flight by a jet began a completely new era of competition for the Cunard Queens. On some voyages, winters especially, Queen Mary sailed into harbour with more crew than passengers, though both she and Queen Elizabeth still averaged over 1000 passengers per crossing into the middle 1960s.[23] By 1965, the entire Cunard fleet was operating at a loss.

Hoping to continue financing their still-under-construction Queen Elizabeth 2, Cunard mortgaged the majority of the fleet. Due to a combination of age, lack of public interest, inefficiency in a new market, and the damaging after effects of the national seamen's strike, Cunard announced that both Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth would be retired from service and sold off. Many offers were submitted, and the bid of $3.45m/£1.2m from Long Beach, California beat the Japanese scrap merchants.[24]

Queen Mary was retired from service in 1967. On 27 September she completed her 1,000th and last crossing of the North Atlantic, having carried 2,112,000 passengers over 3,792,227 miles (6,102,998 km). Under the command of Captain John Treasure Jones, who had been her captain since 1965, she sailed from Southampton for the last time on 31 October with 1,093 passengers and 806 crew. After an epic voyage around Cape Horn, she arrived in Long Beach on 9 December.[25] Queen Elizabeth was withdrawn in 1968 and Queen Elizabeth 2 took over the transatlantic route in 1969.

Queen Mary in Long Beach

Queen Mary from the Northern side of Long Beach harbour.

Queen Mary is permanently moored as a tourist attraction, hotel, museum, and event facility in Long Beach. From 1983 to 1993, Howard Hughes' plane Spruce Goose, was located in a large dome nearby. The dome was later repurposed as a soundstage for film and television.[26] The structure is now used by Carnival Cruise Lines as a ship terminal, as a venue for the Long Beach Derby Gals roller derby team[27] and as an event venue.[28]

Since drilling had started for oil in Long Beach Harbor, some of the revenue had been set aside in the "Tidelands Oil Fund." Some of this money was allocated in 1958 for the future purchase of a maritime museum for Long Beach.[29]

Conversion

The Queen Mary from the stern.

When Queen Mary was bought by Long Beach, the new owners decided not to preserve her as an ocean liner. It had been decided to clear almost every area of the ship below "C" deck (called "R" deck after 1950, to lessen passenger confusion, as the restaurants were located on "R" deck) to make way for Jacques Cousteau's new Living Sea Museum. This increased museum space to 400,000 square feet (37,000 m2).

It required removal of all the boiler rooms, the forward engine room, both turbo generator rooms, the ship stabilisers, and the water softening plant. The ship's empty fuel tanks were filled with local mud to keep the ship's centre of gravity and draft at the correct levels, as these critical factors had been affected by the removal of the various components and structure. Only the aft engine room and "shaft alley", at the stern of the ship, would be spared. Remaining space would be used for storage or office space.

One problem that arose during the conversion was a dispute between land-based and maritime unions over conversion jobs. The United States Coast Guard had final say. Queen Mary was deemed a building, since most of her propellers had been removed and her machinery gutted. The ship was also repainted with its red water level paint at a slightly higher level than previously. During the conversion the funnels were removed, as this area was needed to lift out the scrap materials from the engine and boiler rooms. Workers found that the funnels were significantly degraded and they were replaced with replicas.

A passageway in First Class accommodation, now part of the onboard hotel.

With all of the lower decks nearly gutted from R deck and down, Diners Club, the initial lessee of the ship, converted the remainder of the vessel into a hotel. Diners Club Queen Mary dissolved and vacated the ship in 1970 after their parent company, Diners Club International, was sold, and a change in corporate direction was mandated during the conversion process. Specialty Restaurants, a Los Angeles-based company that focused on theme-based restaurants, took over as master lessee the following year.

This second plan was based on converting most of her first- and second-class cabins on A and B decks into hotel rooms, and converting the main lounges and dining rooms into banquet spaces. On Promenade Deck, the starboard promenade was enclosed to feature an upscale restaurant and café named Lord Nelson's and Lady Hamilton's; it was themed in the fashion of early-19th-century sailing ships. The famed and elegant Observation Bar was redecorated as a western-themed bar.

Queen Mary‍‍ '​‍s bridge, now open to visitors.

The smaller first-class public rooms, such as the Drawing Room, Library, Lecture Room and the Music studio, would be stripped of most of their fittings and converted to commercial use. This markedly expanded retail space on the ship. Two more shopping malls were built on the Sun Deck in separate spaces previously used for first-class cabins and engineers' quarters.

A post-war feature of the ship, the first-class cinema, was removed for kitchen space for the new Promenade Deck dining venues. The first-class lounge and smoking room were reconfigured and converted into banquet space. The second-class smoking room was subdivided into a wedding chapel and office space. On the Sun Deck, the elegant Verandah Grill would be gutted and converted into a fast-food eatery, while a new upscale dining venue was created directly above it on Sports Deck, in space once used for crew quarters.

The second-class lounges were expanded to the sides of the ship and used for banqueting. On R deck, the first-class dining room was reconfigured and subdivided into two banquet venues, the Royal Salon and the Windsor Room. The second-class dining room was subdivided into kitchen storage and a crew mess hall, while the third-class dining room was initially used as storage and crew space.

Also on R deck, the first-class Turkish bath complex, the 1930s equivalent to a spa, was removed. The second-class pool was removed and its space initially used for office space, while the first-class swimming pool was used for hotel guests. Combined with modern safety codes and the structural soundness of the area directly