Queen of the Seas
Hearts will glow, with admiration,
When our new liner leaves the quay,
And the name, loved by the nation,
Will give her charm and dignity,
British labour gave its skill,
And it’s giving me a thrill,
Cause I’ve booked my trip forthe USA,
So when I go over the sea,
The Queen Mary takes me.
I’m happy and gay,
Cause I’m sailing away,
I’ve booked my trip for the USA,
On the finest ship in the world,
The Queen Mary, how’d you like to come with me?
The ship is all British, it’s wonderful too,
The ship is manned by a British crew,
So when I go over the sea,
The Queen Mary takes me,
There’ll be fun galore,
And people I adore,
That’s why I’m happy and gay,
Cause I’m sailing away,
On the finest ship in the world,~
The Queen Mary, Queen of the Sea.
Horatio Nicholls (aka. Lawrence Wright) certainly struck the right cords when he wrote the lyrics and composed the music for RMS Queen Mary’s Maiden Voyage in 1936. I wished I had a complete copy of this song.
You can listen to some of the words in this video clip of Queen Mary’s Christening: Doesn’t the song get you into the mood to pack your bags, step aboard, wave a flag, throw a garland into the big crowd onshore, listen to the band playing, all the while tug boats slowly move Hers Truly out of her berth; to embark on her maiden voyage, with the three massive one-ton whistles blasting the air and proudly flying the Cunard White Star flag?
The maiden voyage was sold out long in advance and included many celebrities. Even stowaways were caught during the crossing; one of them was Rohama Lee, daughter of Ida Siegel, founder of the first women’s Zionist group in Canada.
The ocean liner was filled with 2,000 expectant passengers and about 1,200 crew members. When she sailed out of Southampton on 27 May 1936, she was commanded by Sir Edgar T. Britten.
Click here to view Queen Mary leaving Southampton.
Her arrival in New York was a triumphant affair.
The Americans gave her a fantastic welcome, air planes flew overhead; one plane dropped thousands of white carnations on her decks. Admiring crowds watched her make her way to her berth as bands played her in and many paid a dollar to charity to see round her.
More original photos of the maiden voyage can be viewed on Flickr.
Queen Mary’s crossing time was 5 days, 5 hours, 13 minutes.
May 27, 1936:
Departs Southampton at 4:33pm, arrives in Cherbourg, France at 8:47pm and departs at 12:39am the following morning.
June 1, 1936:
Arrivals at Manhattan Pier 90, New York at 4:20pm.
On arrival in New York, each crew member received a pocket-sized Bible containing the New Testament; I am very lucky to own a copy in mint condition:
Atlantic crossings always bring with them the pleasure of fine dining, and to meet the demands of a hungry and exclusive crowd, careful planning is required by the food and beverage managers to make sure stocks are not running out before the arrival at destination. For the maiden voyage this was no different task, huge quantities of food were carried, to list just a few:
- Fresh Meat: 50,000 lbs
- Sausages: 2,000 lbs
- Bacon and Ham: 9,000 lbs
- Poultry: 20,000 lbs
- Fresh Fish: 17,000 lbs
- Vegetables: 50,000 lbs
- Fruit: 30,000 lbs
- Butter and Lard: 10,000 lbs
- Eggs: 50,000
- Ice Cream: 6,000 quarts
- Potatoes: 50,000 lbs
- Flour: 35,000 lbs
- Wine: 14,500 bottles
- Beer: 20,000 bottles
- Keg Beer: 6,000 gallons
- Cigars: 500
- Cigarettes: 25,000 packets
- General Stores: 200,000 lbs
On her arrival in New York where a special dinner was held onboard while docked in New York on June 3, 1936. Although there is no mention of attendees, the diners were probably city and steamship V.I.P.S. Imagine sitting down in the glorious First Class Dining Room and being served this:
- Caviar de Beluga
- Consommé Queen Mary
- Homard Thermidor
- Filet de Boeuf Pique Madere
- Peches Elizabeth and Corbeille de Fruit
The drinks trolleys carried some fine spirits:
- Pale Dry Royal Amontillado
- Clos Vougeot 1923
- Piper Heidsieck (1923)
- Hines’ V.V.S.O.P.
The menu has a sketch of the ship on the cover and one of the Statue of Liberty inside.
If you like to read more about dining board the luxury liner, I recommend his very interesting post on http://shipspeak.wordpress.com/2011/03/03/dining-in-1936/.
Cunard has a long tradition of giving passengers a selection of souvenir gifts of the voyage; it is still done on the World Voyages and on cruises of special occasions. Ship memorabilia have ever been so popular, and hardly any passenger leaves ship without buying a trinket or other item that serve as a memory of the time aboard. During the maiden voyage, some of them took matters into their own hand and carried away various items that were not fixed and easy to hide in their luggage. It is reported that every ashtray aboard disappeared. The 2.5 million worth of gold bullions Queen Mary was carrying across the Atlantic however safely made it to New York.
One item that was highly sought after were first day covers: Post cards or envelopes carrying the date stamp of the occasion. Many letters actually show the date of May 26, posted by the sender in time so it would make it on the ship for its first journey across the Atlantic. The enthusiasm of the passengers meant that £1,200 worth of stamps were bought in the first three days, with one old lady writing over 100 postcards before departing from Southampton. Nor surprise the crew was struggling with the 6,000 mail bags the Queen carried to New York.
First cover letter dated May 27, 1936
First cover letter dated May 26, 1936
Post card stating S.S. Queen Mary instead of R.M.S. Queen Mary
Other items passengers could obtain in the onboard shops was china ware and glasses. One only has to look at the photo below to realise that not much has changed: Collectors go after all sorts of nick and Kitch and onboard shops make sure they never run out of the popular items. The photo shows a maiden voyage teapot which sold for 3,800 US $. The rare teapot was made by the Midwinter Company, Burslem. On the bottom of the teapot under the glaze information is printed about the builder, launch date, test run date, maiden voyage date, passengers, crew and weight. The smokestacks function as handles for the lid while the glaze is hand painted. It incorporates on of the repeating designs on Queen Mary, the waves. You can find the wave pattern in many places on the ship and it is also engraved on the glassware. On today’s Mary, you find it woven into the pattern of the curtains and bedspreads used in the staterooms.
Below MC Turner painting was commissioned by Cunard. It has been reproduced numerous times on postcards, menu covers and in publications, and it is one of my favourite paintings of Queen Mary. When you compare it with a photograph of her sea-trials you can easily see why: Look at the spray from the bow of the Queen and how it cuts through the waves. It’s a display of her speed and power.
Queen Mary at sea trials in May 1936
Some of my favourite collectibles from her Maiden Voyage are shown below:
Illustrated London News was published on May 23rd 1936 just before the liner made her first voyage across the Atlantic. Within the pages there are diagrams of the ship in section and in detail; the history of Atlantic travel; pictures of the complementary facets of art and comfort which were united in the ship’ s accommodation and facilities; statistical details and the usual ‘amazing comparisons’. As a double page colour spread photograph of the ship at sea.
The souvenir booklet about the Radio Room is in remarkable condition and contains many photographs, facts and useful information about the radio room and its purpose.
Another wonderful booklet is this one about the cabin accommodations onboard. Again, many photos that show the original interior of the staterooms. The cover shows the wave pattern I mentioned above.
A booklet specifically about the Maiden Voyage:
To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Maiden Voyage, there will be a string of celebrations and activities including a fireworks display on Queen Mary in Long Beach the weekend of May 27th. If you happen to be in the area, you might want to put on your tux or evening dress and join the General Manager’s Reception, Commemorative Celebration and the Captain’s Dinner Buffet. It is recommended to make reservations, check out Queen Mary’s website for details.
If you are a shipnut like me but on the wrong side of the big pond this weekend, do it like I will do on Friday: Pop a bottle of champagne, sit back on your sofa and enjoy this wonderful film of the Maiden Voyage.
The film was made by Charles Chislett, the Bank Manager of Williams Deacons in Rotherham (later the Royal Bank of Scotland). The film runs 33 mins, is in black and white and a silent movie.
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