Randolph Churchill helps celebrate RMS Queen Mary’s 80th anniversary
The legendary Royal Mail Ship Queen Mary celebrated a major milestone on May 27 for this was the 80th anniversary of the maiden voyage from Southampton to New York in 1936.
Little did they know, at the time, what adventures would await the fastest and most spectacular ocean liner of the day.
The media had an opportunity to preview a new documentary about the illustrious history of the ‘grey ghost’ albeit with a special introduction of another rather well-known name, Randolph Churchill – the great grandson of Sir Winston Churchill.
For this reporter, the occasion was rather sentimental as my family including yours truly) sailed from Southampton to New York aboard the RMS Queen Mary in May of 1965. And, of course, Sir Winston Churchill was indeed one of Great Britain’s most beloved politicians.
My father was promoted to foreign correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph, one of the UK’s largest daily newspapers and the entire Miller clan was whisked away via the Queen Mary to new adventures in New York.
The epic five-day crossing was the most remarkable voyage of my life (the Atlantic certainly wasn’t in a good mood that May . . .) however my younger brother and I didn’t get seasick and in fact had the run of the ship as most passengers and staff were seasick and confined to their staterooms.
Talking to others who traveled on the ship all said the same thing . . . it was always a rough crossing, partially, due to the lack of advanced stabilizers that modern ships boast.
The documentary marks the 80th anniversary of the legendary ocean liner the RMS Queen Mary’s maiden voyage, in a co-production for BBC Scotland, BBC Four and Smithsonian Channel. Churchill is interviewed in the documentary and at one point quips that the Queen Mary was a “damn sight better, really . . .” when asked if the ship was Britain’s equivalent of Air Force One at the time.
The documentary explores the life of the Clyde-built ship that was an art-deco playground for America’s Hollywood elite, a troop carrier that brought an Army to Europe, and used by Churchill frequently during the Second World War as he traveled to meet with Allied forces. Viewers will learn that the liner played such a key role during the Second World War that Adolf Hitler offered a bonus of £250,000 and the Iron Cross to any U-boat captain who could sink the Queen Mary.
Built in Clydebank, the liner was an engineering marvel which, during its wartime service, safely transported more than 800,000 Allied personnel to Europe, followed by thousands of war brides and families. Viewers will hear from some of the Queen Mary’s first passengers, troops who traveled on the ship, and past crew members who tell about the glories of this wonder of the seas.
The documentary will also explore the ship’s darkest day when, on Oct. 2, 1942, it accidentally collided with the HMS Curacoa, her escort vessel, slicing her in two. Ordered not to stop under any circumstances, the captain of the Queen Mary had no choice but to steam on leaving 338 men to drown.
After the war, the liner continued in service up until 1967 and is now a floating luxury hotel and museum docked in a custom made lagoon in Long Beach.
In addition to the celebrations of the Maiden Voyage, Randolph Churchill also dedicated a new exhibit of his great grandfather’s paintings.
No other ship of its era remains in public service, or is recognized around the world for its engineering and design advances, or continues to attract thousands of visitors each month as does the esteemed Queen Mary (www. queenmary.com).
Launched by King George V and his consort Queen Mary on Scotland’s River Clyde in 1934, the world’s most advanced passenger ship of the time endured over two years of fitting-out before making its debut on the world stage. It is estimated that over 60 million people have been personally touched by the ship since that premiere sailing – or Maiden Voyage.