This book was the prize in the January photo competition, and is about to be sent to harev, the prizewinner. Before it leaves my bookshelf, however, I would like to write a little review about it.
This book was published in 1969, just as QE2 started her active life. It is now available only as a second-hand book, or, if it can be found new, it would be very expensive. Mine, interestingly, used to belong to Cheshire County Library, where it was registered with number 387.243 on 21 January 1969 (i.e. they must have bought it as soon as it came out). It was later (no date given) officially withdrawn for sale from the library, and I bought it through Amazon Marketplace.
This is one of the most interesting QE2 books that I have read. It is about all the history leading up to QE2 finally starting off on her career, and begins with the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. In the earlier chapters, it sets out the need to replace these beloved liners, the arrival and growth of transatlantic air travel, the financial situation of Cunard and any possible help that might come from the British government.
A regular transatlantic liner service would no longer be profitable in the changed circumstances brought about by jet travel. It would be necessary to build a smaller ship that could provide a liner service in the summer season and would cruise during the winter months.
After carrying out many design studies they concluded that a ship of 75,000 tons was the only answer; being the smallest and slowest vessel capable of meeting their Atlantic requirements throughout the whole year.
I was somewhat surprised to read "smallest and slowest" -- not the adjectives we normally associate with QE2!
The reader is taken through numerous studies, first on the type of ship required, and then on the design of the ship, the number of classes to be provided for (three or two), the shape of the ship, the shape of the funnel, and much more. It is a fascinating read, very well written, and despite all the details, a real page-turner.
Economics and finance intervene on several occasions. Cunard were in increasing financial difficulties. They sold off the two Queens, but that was not enough to finance the new liner. More ships had to follow, and finally only the Franconia and Carmania survived as their sole passenger ships while QE2 was being built. The seamen's strike of 1966 only served to increase the financial losses even more. Cunard ended up by putting all their eggs into the one basket, i.e. QE2. Government loans had to be negotiated with difficulty, but were finally received and used.
In these circumstances, it is extraordinary how QE2 was built to be the absolute best. The best designers were chosen, the best materials, and again lots of studies and experimentation to get it all perfect. The more I read, the more I regretted that I never saw the outcome of all these plans and all this work.
If anyone thinks that building a super, sophisticated liner is something like an artist creating a vast canvas with a few majestic sweeps of the brush, perhaps this [story] will have disillusioned you. It is something which takes years, as we have shown, years of planning, of discussion, of argument, of creation; years of the most meticulous drawing and attention to minute details.
Both crew and passengers of the other Cunard ships significantly contributed to the design. They came up with lots of ideas to make the ship more pleasant, more beautiful and above all more economical. This allowed the ratio of crew to passengers to be considerably reduced in comparison with the older ships, without taking away from the luxury and the service offered.
QE2 really was all new. An experiment in the best way to counter jet travel, and an experiment in anticipating the future fashion of resorts on ships, of using a ship not so much as a means of transport, but a resort worth travelling to.
All this can only give a flavour of the book. It is full of contemporary quotes, well researched, and a pleasure to read. I would go so far as to say it should be an essential part of one's QE2 library.
What this book does not mention, is the pilfering of inventory by the workers fitting her out. Nor does it mention the turbine trouble on QE2's shaking-down cruise.
Michael will be able to tell us whether other mentions are missing, and whether the facts are correct. But it certainly reads very well researched, and in addition it is "The Authorised Story", so a good deal of fact checking must have gone into it.