The Great Liners:











Modern Cunard Ships:



RMS Queen Mary's Career


Her Specifications

  • Gross Tonnage - 80,774 tons
  • Dimensions - 297.23 x 36.14m (975.2 x 118.6ft)
  • Number of funnels - 3
  • Number of masts - 2
  • Construction - Steel
  • Propulsion - Quadruple screw
  • Engines - Single reduction steam turbines
  • Service speed - 29 knots
  • Builder - John Brown & Co Ltd, Glasgow
  • Launch date - 26 September 1934
  • Passenger accommodation - 776 cabin class, 784 tourist class, 579 3rd class


The construction of the RMS Queen Mary represented the zenith of passenger ship building for Cunard. Plans began for a new record breaking liner to replace the Mauretania as early as 1926. It was not until 1930, however, that Cunard announced that a new 1000 ft, 81,000 ton liner was to be built by John Brown & Co Ltd. The keel of the ship was laid down on 31st January 1931. The building proceeded well and the launch was scheduled for May 1932.

On 11th December 1931 the Cunard Board announced that work on the ship was to be suspended. The world economic depression had hit the shipbuilding industry and Cunard were forced to pay all outstanding bills and lay off the Clydeside workforce indefinitely.

It was during 1931 that Cunard had started negotiations to buy out its main rival, the White Star Line. Although these early attempts failed Cunard entered negotiations with the Government in 1933. In December 1933 an agreement was reached whereby the two companies would merge to form Cunard White Star Ltd and the Government would lend the company £9.5 million. The majority of this sum was to be used to complete the Queen Mary and build a sister ship. In April 1934 work began again on the ship. The work was completed by August and the ship was launched on 26th September by Queen Mary. Then it was taken to its fitting out berth.

Cabin Smoking Room

Cabin Children's playroom

Cabin Dining Saloon

Cabin Observation Lounge & Cocktail Bar

Main Cabin Shopping Centre

Cabin Swimming Pool

The work on the ship was completed in March 1936 and it sailed out of the Clyde as far as Arran for preliminary trials. After sailing to Southampton to be painted, the RMS Queen Mary was handed over to Cunard on 11th May. The passenger accommodation emphasised the first two classes, cabin and tourist. The propulsion machinery of the ship produced a massive 160,000 SHP and gave it a speed of over 30 knots. It made an inaugural cruise from Southampton on 14th May and then made its maiden voyage, on the Southampton-Cherbourg-New York route, on 27th May. Despite expectations that the ship would try to break speed records on its first voyage a thick fog destroyed any hope of this. RMS Queen Mary spent a short time in drydock during July whilst adjustments were made to the propellers and turbines. When the ship returned to service, in August, it made a record voyage from Bishop's Rock to Ambrose light and took the Blue Riband from the SS Normandie.

The ship went into drydock in December and alterations were made to the bulkheads. By May 1937 the Queen Mary had completed one year's service and had carried a total of 56,895 passengers. In August 1938 it regained the Blue Riband from the SS Normandie and set new records for both the eastbound and westbound crossings. She made her last commercial voyage from Southampton on 30th August 1939 and then remained berthed at New York until the end of the year whilst it was decided what role the ship would play in the war.

On 7th March 1940 the newly completed RMS Queen Elizabeth arrived to join the Queen Mary, Mauretania and Normandie at New York.

On 21st March the RMS Queen Mary left New York under orders to sail for Cape Town and Sydney. On arrival work began converting the ship into a troopship. The luxury furnishings were removed and tiers of bunks and hammocks were fitted. Although small calibre guns were fitted on the ship its main protection was to be its speed.

On 4th May the ship left for the Clyde with 5,000 troops of the Australian Imperial Force on board. It arrived there on 16th June and then sailed for Singapore carrying troops to bolster the defence in view of Japan's increasing threat. After an overhaul there it returned to Sydney and then made trooping voyages between there and India for the rest of the year.

The ship was dry-docked again in February 1941 and then sailed between Australian Ports and Singapore and Suez until November. As the Indian Ocean was becoming increasingly dangerous, with war looking imminent in the Far East and Pacific, the Queen Mary sailed to Boston. Here its trooping capacity was increased to 8,500 and it was fitted with heavier calibre guns and antiaircraft cannons.

The RMS Queen Mary's future role was to be on the North Atlantic; however, one urgent trip carrying US troops to Sydney was the priority. By late July 1942 she had returned to New York. In the following months she sailed to the Clyde and Suez and then returned to the USA with a complement of German POW's.

On 2nd August 1942 she began making fast eastbound voyages carrying between 10,000-15,000 US troops at a time. On one of these voyages the ship had the worst collision of its career.

Part 2

  © TPD Turner 2001 - 2014