Did You Know?
- ss Queen Elizabeth

Model of ss Queen Elizabeth

The second of the Cunard Line "Queens", ss Queen Elizabeth was ordered from the John Brown shipyard which had built the ss Queen Mary in 1936. The ship was launched on 27 September 1938 by Queen Elizabeth, wife of King George VI. She was 83,673 tons and was 987 feet long.

Fitting out was to follow but the outbreak of WW2 meant that instead of being a luxury liner she was painted grey. On 3 March 1940, in utmost secrecy, she left her anchorage at Greenock and sailed for New York, berthing beside the Queen Mary, the Mauretania and the Normandie. Her speed was so great that she left her escorting ships behind - but the German U-Boats could not give chase either.

The ship later went to Singapore where she was fitted out as a troop carrier and began ferrying troops from Sydney to Suez - and taking German and Italian POWs back on the return trip. Plans to convert the Queen Elizabeth into an aircraft carrier were abandoned and instead her troop carrying capacity was increased to 10,000. For much of the rest of the war she ferried troops from New York to Gourock in Scotland. By the end of the war she had carried over a million troops to Europe. She was also used to repatriate US and Canadian troops until March 1946.

ss Queen Elizabeth
After an extensive refit, the Queen Elizabeth made her maiden voyage in Cunard colours on 16 October 1946. During her years of service she carried many famous passengers but the growth of air travel meant that she was withdrawn from the trans-Atlantic service in 1962 and began cruises to the Bahamas. In 1966 she returned to Greenock for a major refurbishment (pictured above) but continuing losses forced Cunard to withdraw her from service in November 1968.

For a time she was berthed at Port Everglades in Florida but was then sold to a Hong Kong shipping group to be converted to a floating university. As the five million pound refit was nearing completion, arsonists started fires on a number of locations on the ship and she sank in the harbour on 9 January 1972 and was later scrapped.

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