Anniversary memories of a Royal liner that couldn’t wait to be launched

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It’s a big anniversary for Cunard: 75 years ago today, on Tuesday 27 September 1938, HM Queen Elizabeth, with her daughters Elizabeth and Margaret at her side, launched Queen Elizabeth – at that time the biggest passenger ship ever built.
Her husband, King George VI was to have travelled to the John Brown shipyard on Clydebank with her, but at the request of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, he remained in London as the prospect of war loomed.
At the launch The Queen made a speech in which she said: “The launching of a ship is like the inception of all great human enterprises, an act of faith. We cannot foretell the future, but, in preparing for it, we show our trust in a Divine Providence and in ourselves…With that hope and prayer in our hearts we send forth upon her mission this noble ship”.
It was the first time the general public had heard the voice of The Queen, which was broadcast over the airwaves.
Following the speeches, proceedings were paused to allow the tide to reach its optimum state for the launch. But while The Queen was being presented with an album of photographs of the new liner at varying stages of construction, the ship decided to wait no longer, and began to move down the slipway.
The Queen and the officials around her looked momentarily startled but quickly she released the bottle of wine which fortunately still managed to break against the hull. As it did, she said: “I name this ship Queen Elizabeth and wish success to her and all who sail in her!”
After a daring dash to New York in 1940 Queen Elizabeth first entered service as a troopship. The contribution made by her, Queen Mary and Aquitania during the Second World War would see Churchill credit those three Cunarders as shortening the War by a year.
After the war both Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary dominated the Atlantic and were the most popular and famous ships in the world attracting celebrities, stars, politicians, businessmen and royalty.
Queen Elizabeth was the largest on the Atlantic and Queen Mary the fastest. In fact Queen Elizabeth was the largest liner ever built from 1940 to 1996 with the arrival of Carnival Destiny.
Queen Elizabeth (then The Queen Mother) maintained a close relationship with “her” ship; she crossed the Atlantic on her twice and visited before the liner’s retirement in 1968.
After a spell in Florida the ship was eventually destroyed by fire and sank in Hong Kong harbour in 1974 while being converted into a floating university.
Today also marks the anniversary of the association the present Queen has with Cunard. She was just 12 in 1938 and later launched the other two Elizabeths in Cunard history – QE2 in September 1967 and Queen Elizabeth in October 2010.
(WITH THANKS TO MICHAEL GALLAGHER, CUNARD”S OFFICIAL HISTORIAN)

By | 2013-09-27T11:25:34+00:00 27 September 2013|Cruise News, Cruise Ships|0 Comments

About the Author:

John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.

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