Author Topic: Cunard before QE2  (Read 17035 times)

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Offline Ron Baxter

Cunard before QE2
« on: Apr 03, 2016, 03:59 PM »
I was a Junior Engineer on RMS Queen Elizabeth, I joined her on March22nd 1960 for my first run to New York, that was exactly fifty six years ago.  The QE2 didn't exist back then but I noticed the names of two of her Senior Engineers as I browsed through the forum.  Chief Engineer Bill Farmer and his deputy John Grant, I sailed with both these gentlemen when they were somewhat less Senior, I wondered how many of the Engineers of my time made it to the upper echelon of the Company, especially among the lads of my age, most of whom were only there because it was that or National Service.

Offline Twynkle

Re: Cunard before QE2
« Reply #1 on: Apr 03, 2016, 07:29 PM »
Hello Mr Ron Baxter,
Greetings and a very warm Welcome!
Here are the Chiefs on QE2
https://www.theqe2story.com/forum/index.php/topic,1990.msg27018.html#msg27018
You may find names of your colleagues if you put them into the search window top right of the home page here.

You must have some wonderful, as well as possibly scary memories!
Did you sail with Commodore G T Marr?
Your good ship took my husband to New York in September 1961, he spent a year there, returning on the Carinthia
Just a brief mention regarding Chief Eng. Bill Farmer - his wife Denny is still a 'regular' passenger on board each of the three current Queens!
We've met several times, she loves the social life on board!

There are many mentions of RMS Queen Elizabeth here on the forum -
and more of your memories (specially of life below with steam!) will be treats to read!
https://www.theqe2story.com/forum/index.php/board,54.0.html

With all good wishes
Rosie
 


 
QE2 had been waiting alongside in Dubai for nearly 12 years.  Please restore her Lifeboats and Tenders to where they truly belong - she looks naked without them - please spare her this ignominy.

Online Lynda Bradford

Re: Cunard before QE2
« Reply #2 on: Apr 04, 2016, 10:38 AM »
Hello Ron, interesting to hear that your were onboard Queen Elizabeth as a Junior Engineer and looking forward to hearing if you find any information about the other engineers onboard at the time and whether they went on to other Cunard ships. 
I was proud to be involved with planning QE2's 50 year conference in September 2017 in Clydebank
www.qe2event.com

Offline Ron Baxter

Re: Cunard before QE2
« Reply #3 on: Apr 04, 2016, 07:12 PM »
Hello Twynkle, thanks for the welcome.
I have to admit that I'm struggling with the technology, it has taken me nearly two weeks to get my message onboard.

Yes, I did sail with Commodore Marr but he was Staff Captain, Commodore D.M.Maclean was the boss man, we Engineers had little to do with the Deck Officers but we had to take our turn doing the rounds on Captain's Inspection and I can remember accompanying Captain Marr on one of those inspections.

I never met Bill Farmer's Wife but I did meet his beloved poodle.  Willie, as we knew him then, was not the easiest man to get on with, he seemed to hate all us Juniors but I bumped into him in Southampton one afternoon when we were both on leave.  He had the most impressive, brown coloured, Standard Poodle with him, my Wife and I had our white miniature poodle with us, Willie was delighted. After that we had at least one thing in common.

Cheers, Ron Baxter

Offline June Ingram

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Re: Cunard before QE2
« Reply #4 on: Apr 05, 2016, 05:32 PM »
Hi Ron - Welcome to The QE2 Story Forum.  It is fascinating to hear about your associates and it would be great to hear more both of Lizzy and those you met and with whom you worked !  June   :)
QE2 - the ship for all of time, a ship of timeless beauty !

Offline Ron Baxter

Re: Cunard before QE2
« Reply #5 on: Apr 05, 2016, 08:16 PM »
Just spottted another name from my Cunard past, Ronnie Bateson, great guy, he joined us from the "Brittanic" which I think was the last of the White Star vessels.  She broke a crankshaft and languished alongside Pier 89 for some time before limping home to Liverpool and on to the scrapyard.  Ron was Aft Engine Room Platform Second, I sailed with him quite a few times as my boss, he was like a breath of fresh air, you could talk to him, he was sociable and he liked a laugh.  I would definitely have put money on him reaching a senior rank in the Company.  I'm a bit late but "Well done Ron".

I also noticed another name, "Yeoman". There was a Second on the Lizzie named Yeoman, Charlie Yeoman, could they be related?.  Charlie was from Liverpool originally but I think he had gotten a bit "Southernised" over the years.  He still had his scouse twang and it usually came to the fore when we were in port and the machinery spaces were quiet, then you could hear him coming along singing his favourite song, "Lay that pistol down babe". It would be great to know there was a Yeoman dynasty in the engine department, a bit of competition for the Warwicks.  Towards the end of one particularly rough, winter crossing I remember I said to Charlie that I would be glad when we were home, he replied "We used to pray for weather like this during the war, the U-boats left us alone".   


   

Offline Twynkle

Re: Cunard before QE2
« Reply #6 on: Apr 06, 2016, 12:50 AM »
Hi Ron
(if I may!)

Paul Yeoman was Chief on board QE2!
I'm unsure as to whether he's related to the Yeoman's of Queen Elizabeth
Others will know!
(I believe that he comes from t'other side of Pennines!)
He's also been Chief on Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria.
I believe he may also be doing the rounds on P&O as well!

I bet you loved reaching New York, although I guess that you were kept busy downstairs for arrivals and departures...
- on her routine Trans-Atlantics, did the ship spend more than one night over there?

Your comment about the U-Boats being 'fair weather' ships in interesting.


QE2 had been waiting alongside in Dubai for nearly 12 years.  Please restore her Lifeboats and Tenders to where they truly belong - she looks naked without them - please spare her this ignominy.

Offline Ron Baxter

Re: Cunard before QE2
« Reply #7 on: Apr 06, 2016, 08:45 PM »
You call me Ron and I'll call you Rosie.
(Formalities over).
Going to New York nowadays is no big deal, jump on one of those big jet aircraft and it will whisk you over the Atlantic in eight hours or so.  In 1960 going to New York on one of the most famous liners of it's day was beyond the wildest dreams of most people.  I joined the "Lizzie" on March 22nd 1960, we sailed the following day, I was most Junior of all the Juniors, 2nd. Junior 8th. Engineer, the very bottom of the heap, my title was Tunnel Engineer, my area was the shaft passages.  I kept an eye on the bearings of all the four propeller shafts, pumped the water out of bilges of the Fwd. and Aft. engine rooms and the tunnel spaces plus I filled the Cabin class swimming pool every morning and heated it to a usable temperature and I drained it every evening.  That first trip was a little difficult, I didn't know anybody, I was trying to learn the job and the ship's routine, the weather was foul, I was sea-sick and the noise of the four propellers pounding away on the other side of the metal hull was unbelievable, no wonder I'm hard of hearing today.  I was on the four to eight watch that first trip, that meant I worked the four hours from 4.00am to 8.00am then had eight hours off before starting again at 4.00pm and working until 8.00pm, this was my daily routine.  We were given a wake up call before each watch, forty minutes before the start of your watch followed by a back up call twenty minutes later, one of the mornings the chap calling me said,"This is your first trip, isn't it?", I replied it was and he told me we were just approaching Battery Park, Lower Manhattan, he said "Nip up topside and have a look before you go down on watch".  I took his advice, went up to the top deck and there it was, New York City, twinkling with lights, just as I had seen it in so many films, still basically the 1930's skyline, it was half past three in the morning, the street lights in Barrow-in -Furness, my home town, went out at mid-night.  It was just so crisp and clear and colder than anything I had previously encountered.  One of my most favourite memories.     


Cheers, Ron B.



Offline Ron Baxter

Re: Cunard before QE2
« Reply #8 on: Apr 07, 2016, 08:28 PM »
I watched the documentary about the QE2's last voyage, shown a couple of night back on BBC4.  The Captain had his say, naturally, as did the Hotel Manager,(Officers with white in their gold braid were known as Pursers in my day) and the Head Chef but I didn't see or hear anything from anybody wearing white overalls with beads of perspiration dripping off their noses, namely the Engineers, the lads who toil way down deep in the ship making sure all the magic happens.  I did once catch a documentary that gave Bill Farmer a bit of the lime light, he was interviewed in the engine room of the QE2 dressed in his number one uniform, gold braid up to his elbows and later he was to be seen relaxing in the sunshine on his yacht the "Franconia".  The QE2 documentary gave a resume of the ship's past life and it mentioned the mid Atlantic bomb threat she encountered.  In 1960 there was a seaman's strike which stopped the Queen Mary sailing, the Queen Elizabeth came in from New York and did a quick turn around.  We were preparing to depart, stand by had been rung, I was in the Aft Engine room, Rodney Wise was Platform Second, he took a phone call and then called us all together, he said very calmly, "Gentlemen, I have just been informed by the Bridge that it is possible a bomb has been planted somewhere on the ship, we need to search the machinery spaces", talk about looking for a needle in a haystack and the Lizzie didn't have the cleanest of engine rooms plus the ship was manoeuvring by then and things were hotting up.  Eventually it was decided the phone call had been a hoax.

Ron B.     

Offline Twynkle

Re: Cunard before QE2
« Reply #9 on: Apr 08, 2016, 01:59 PM »
Hi Ron

Thank You! What a wonderful record, not many might remember such interesting details, or have the great ability to make the ship smell and rock again!
Early days must have been mega-tough at the beginning - it's bad enough for new passengers to decipher where things are up-stairs, can't imagine any of it being easy for a young lad, sea-sick, home-sick (probably trying to be tough without feeling it!!) and alien huge machinery, and as you say noise - pumps all over the place - by the way, did Queen Elizabeths prop shafts have doormats tied on too? 
By the way - Did you know that Comm Marr used to get dreadfully sea-sick all his life?
Also, have you read his great book?
(I know that Deckies and the Engineers have always - shall we say 'debated' about who actually "runs" the ship; my ambition has always been to be one of each - not many are female and dual-qualified, however time's overtaken these aspirations! ;)  )

There is a very good photo of your ship on Facebook  - taken in '68, not sure of the month - just wonder whether she was waiting for orders - or been sold by then, even...Did she used to get dressed overall often?
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10153996429598805&set=gm.1011208745611277&type=3&theater

Good that you saw QE2's final trip East on TV- would it have been surprising to find some of your previous ship-mates on board then too? Her Officers wore white boiler suits, and the 'rest' wore a very good blue :)
Did you sail on board her? Hoping you won't mind my asking!
Rosie.
« Last Edit: Apr 08, 2016, 02:09 PM by Twynkle »
QE2 had been waiting alongside in Dubai for nearly 12 years.  Please restore her Lifeboats and Tenders to where they truly belong - she looks naked without them - please spare her this ignominy.

Offline Ron Baxter

Re: Cunard before QE2
« Reply #10 on: Apr 10, 2016, 08:11 PM »
Hello Twynkle,

You've "Outed me",(What sort of expression is that?), yes I was homesick on my first trip, very homesick, I didn't mention it because it didn't sound manly and yes we did have doormats on the prop shafts.  Actually we used heavy duty, hessian sacks,two lengths of  stout twine were  attached to the corners of the sack which was then thrown over the revolving shaft and the other ends of the twine were secured to the guard rail, a squirt of oil was applied to the now taut sack.  The strings could be moved along the guard rail as required, "Hey Presto" a nice polished propeller shaft to keep the "Walking Second" happy.  That's the Senior Second of the watch I'm referring to, the man in overall charge, he patrolled all the machinery spaces during the watch, there was a "Walking Second" on each watch.

We had a rather alarming incident on the homeward run on one trip, a greaser was adjusting one of the sacks when he got entangled and was thrown over the shaft and jammed, upside down, between the outer bulkhead and the shaft revolving at 175 r.p.m., the tunnel Engineer sprinted up to the Aft. Engine room platform in a hell of a flap and blurted out what had happened.  The Second immediately rang stop engines on the star-board telegraph and I should imagine that caused a twitter on the bridge, they usually telegraphed orders to us.  He did the same with the telegraphs to No3 and 4 Boiler rooms, no doubt giving them a stomach churning moment.  Stopping the "Lizzie" when she was "Full away", in an emergency situation, was something that we didn't practice, the throttles were wide open and there were six boilers supplying full power that suddenly we no longer wanted.  The Second started to close the manoeuvring wheel, there was alarms going off everywhere then it was suddenly realised that the man had fallen over the star-board outer shaft and that was powered by the Fwd. engine which, in turn, had six boilers of it's own.  Eventually it was all sorted out, I think they stopped both fwd engines and kept the aft engines ticking over.  The medical staff came down into the engine room to attend the casualty, I can remember one of the Nursing Sisters reeling backwards when she was hit with a blast of very hot air as she passed between the feed water tanks,(They weren't called Hot Wells for nothing).  Getting the man out was an awkward job, he was over the far side of the shaft sort of doing a hand stand in a very tight spot, amazingly he wasn't too badly hurt, he had friction burns to his chest and legs, he was badly shaken but no bones broken, he was extremely lucky.  Panic over and it was "Full away" once more.

As they say nowadays, "Just another day at the office".

Cheers, Ron B.


   

Online Isabelle Prondzynski

Re: Cunard before QE2
« Reply #11 on: Apr 12, 2016, 12:38 PM »
Hello Ron, you have fascinating stories and are giving us a wonderful read! Looking forward to more as your memories get stimulated by the discussion here :) .

I think the engineers do a fabulous job and if I were ever to work on a ship (totally unlikely!) this is where I would most like to be. The other advantage is that one does not have to look after the passengers!  ;)

Offline Ron Baxter

Re: Cunard before QE2
« Reply #12 on: Apr 12, 2016, 08:17 PM »
Hello Isabelle,
Thank you for your kind words but why on earth would you want to enter the dark labyrinths of a ships engine room? you're a Global Moderator for God's sake............,what is a Global Moderator by the way?.  I have yet to work out the titles we are given but mine, "Pavillion Snacker", might have a ring of truth about it.  One of the things we loved to do, whilst on watch, was to roast potatoes on the main stop valves.  The first requirement was a light fingered Greaser or Fireman, one who could duck and dive and lay his hands on some spuds and some butter, just occasionally one such person would be on your watch.  In the Aft Engine Room of the old "Lizzie" the main stop valves were high above the Control Platform, these are the valves that allow super heated steam to pass through to the turbines driving the propeller shafts, needless to say they are hot, extremely hot.  They were covered with a thick asbestos(Yes, I said asbestos) jacket which we used to open slightly then place the spuds on top of bare metal of the valve, in next to no time they were done and the smell was delicious.  We put them in a special card board box that we saved to carry them down to the main platform below, here they were doused with butter, liberally or otherwise, depending on how light your Greasers fingers were, a good sprinkle of salt and Mmmmmmm!............ wonderful.  Just up the ladder and along the working alleyway were some of the finest chefs in the world but "Main Stop Tatties" took some beating.

Cheers, Ron B.
 

Offline June Ingram

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Re: Cunard before QE2
« Reply #13 on: Apr 13, 2016, 02:54 AM »
Hi Ron -

Your stories are indeed fascinating and please continue to tell us more !  I am especially enjoying them having been acquainted with a former Cunard Commodore, who had been Captain of both Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. 

I agree with Isabelle that the engine room would be the place for me !

And from your description, I can smell and taste those potatoes as I am sending my reply !  Sometimes things that seem to be simple pleasures will give us the most enjoyment and the most lasting and pleasant memories.

June    :)
QE2 - the ship for all of time, a ship of timeless beauty !

Offline Twynkle

Re: Cunard before QE2
« Reply #14 on: Apr 13, 2016, 09:22 AM »
Ref your post on April 10th - Thanks so much, your writing is absolutely Brilliant!

Phew, Ron - How scary was that...
it sounds as if it would have been not only the guy 'who was thrown over the shaft' who must have been both terrified and seriously shocked, the others of you must have had either confidence of cast-iron strength, or at the least the ability to adopt a disguise of veritable "manly-ness" to work in that same area day in, and day out.

The bridge must have been more than a little twitter-fied - by the way, did anyone from up there ever come down to your decks?
Love the idea of a 'Second Walking' - Did he ever get to 'sit down' - thus giving you a break!?!

With steam, is it accurate to think that the engine rooms and adjacent areas were on the whole, very much more dangerous than the ERs in ships powered by diesel electric? (Ssh - am fairly well acquainted with the sights, sounds, shakes and judders of a newish diesel electric ER, and ECR, these seemed to be clean as well as apparently reasonably safe (even in an ice-breaker of nearly 40yrs) - and now just wondering if the prop-shaft area in one of these (inc QE2) would have been less potentially dangerous as the layout evidently was in your Lizzie?

(btw - hoping it was forgivable to mention home-sickness?!
Feeling home-sick as a 'youngster' is one of the worst things in the world,
can't say more here other than at quite a young age, it was just about the worst thing ever to need to get through...
Getting letters from home could be something dread-full!)

So - back to the days of steam - please may I ask, did you ever get to see the innards of a Huge ship before signing up?
I guess - that if not, the experience must have been almost worse than Anything else on earth!
Thank you again, hoping very much that you don't mind my un-brainy questions - and that you are ok with the techie side of posting here...?
Cheers
Rosie
(PS - Sometimes, maybe we could talk about the Liverpool side of things as 'used to be' pre-the Pier Head Railway?!
Did you know the "Mersey Mission"?)
« Last Edit: Apr 13, 2016, 09:31 AM by Twynkle »
QE2 had been waiting alongside in Dubai for nearly 12 years.  Please restore her Lifeboats and Tenders to where they truly belong - she looks naked without them - please spare her this ignominy.

Offline Ron Baxter

Re: Cunard before QE2
« Reply #15 on: Apr 13, 2016, 07:05 PM »
Hi June, nice to meet you,(Albeit electronically).

What is it about you Global Modulators?, Isabelle and yourself seem hellbent on signing on for the Engine Room.  You're out there globally modulating and you want to trade it in for the oppressive heat of the Stoke-hold, just think on, we Engineers were unseen, unloved and we didn't get any tips, we only got glimpses of the blue sky when we looked up through the engine room sky-light and on the Queen Elizabeth that was only possible in the Aft engine room.  Don't be thinking you'll be getting roast spuds every night either.

You have been warned,

Cheers, Ron B.

Offline June Ingram

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Re: Cunard before QE2
« Reply #16 on: Apr 13, 2016, 07:12 PM »
Hi Ron -

Thanks very much for your post and hope all is well today !  Good to meet you too !   :)

Yes, we have been warned, but just think, you in the engine room(s) are the ones who made/make the ship(s) go.  I have been fascinated by motors and engines, the bigger the better, since before I can even remember. 

Please tell us more !

Thanks,

June

QE2 - the ship for all of time, a ship of timeless beauty !

Online Isabelle Prondzynski

Re: Cunard before QE2
« Reply #17 on: Apr 14, 2016, 12:55 AM »
Hi Ron!

I suspect June and I, multitalented as we are, could easily modulate before or after sweating in an engine room :) .

If you ever get the chance to travel to Rotterdam and visit the SS Rotterdam, you will find a ship with her engine room largely intact, and if you hit the right day, some volunteers on duty who know the place from personal experience. A treat in store perhaps -- and if you do get to go, you might let me know  ;) !

I loved the story about the spuds -- very lucky though that you did not get an asbestos splinter caught in your throat...

Offline June Ingram

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Re: Cunard before QE2
« Reply #18 on: Apr 14, 2016, 01:50 PM »
It is problematic if one in interested in all things "ship" !  A person needs one life to be an engineer, another life to be a deck officer, another life to be a musician aboard, another life to train in sail, another life to be a shipbuilder, another life to be a ship designer...
QE2 - the ship for all of time, a ship of timeless beauty !

Offline Ron Baxter

Re: Cunard before QE2
« Reply #19 on: Apr 14, 2016, 08:07 PM »
Hello Isabelle,

SS Rotterdam, remember her well from my Southampton days, she was a good looking ship, futuristic with her twin stacks set aft.  That was a style the Canberra carried off so well.  How nice it would be to have a vessel like the Rotterdam to wander around on a Sunday or whenever.  Some years ago a ship belonging to British Railways(That may give you some idea of just how many years ago I'm talking about) came and laid up in the dock here at Barrow.  She was the TSS Duke of Lancaster.  The berth where she lay was accessible to the public and one day my young Daughter and I were walking along the quayside looking up at the somewhat neglected vessel.  She had been painted white but the paint was peeling and there was a lot of rusty streaks all over her, I would have loved to have looked over her, there was a gang plank but no security guard probably because they had erected a steel mesh over the access door in the ship's side and it was secured with a thick chain and padlock.  What's it like on a ship Dad?" my Daughter asked and I started to tell her.  "See these little windows, well each one is a cabin, a room for the people travelling on the ship, you have a bed, only its called a bunk ".  She liked the idea of sleeping on the ship and was wide eyed when I told her about the restaurants and the swimming pools and the cinemas and the far away places you could sail to.  The Duke eventually left Barrow and the next time I saw her was on one of those "Coast" programmes on TV, she was in Wales somewhere and it looked as if she had been dragged inland somehow, apparently some entrepreneur had bought her and was intending to open her up as a shopping mall to beat the Sunday trading laws in Wales.  By this time she looked even sadder than she had in Barrow.

It's tragic what happens to some ships at the end of their service lives, don't you think?

Cheers, Ron B.

 

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