Author Topic: The 'Queens' as WWII Troopships  (Read 9496 times)

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Online skilly56

The 'Queens' as WWII Troopships
« on: May 08, 2010, 03:34 AM »
Extract from Wikipedia

"On 2 October 1942, Queen Mary accidentally sank one of her escorts, slicing through the light cruiser HMS Curacoa off the Irish coast, with the loss of 338 lives. Due to the constant danger of being attacked by U-Boats, on board the Queen Mary Captain C. Gordon Illingworth was under strict orders not to stop for any reason, the Royal Navy destroyers accompanying the Queen were ordered to stay on course and not rescue any survivors."



The note below was part of an e-mail sent to me recently on another topic. It gives an insight into how the Maritime Rules get thrown out the window in wartime. It also comments on how the ships were only escorted when in home waters, (but doesn't mention that Queen Mary actually rammed a Royal Navy cruiser, cut it in two and sank it, without an appreciable loss of speed).


"Events of the period echo in life today. In a few weeks I will be going with my wife to Long Beach where the Cunard ship Queen Mary is preserved. It's a sort of homage to my father in law, Noel, who was First Officer of the Queen Mary in the war years, when she spent so much time ferrying troops from US to UK in preparation for the North Africa and D-day campaigns. With her sister ship Queen Elizabeth, the two "Queens" enabled D-day to happen in 1944 and not in 1945. The limited number of other troop ships were smaller, and usually had to travel in slower escorted convoys because of the submarine threat.

At that time, an uncomfortable fact of life for Noel and the allied military commanders was that the urgent need to move the troops to Britain for the invasions, and the limited time available, required the military to increase the ships capacity in the calmer North Atlantic summer from 10,000 troops and equipment to 15,000. A very high level decision was needed to authorise this expansion because the ship had no space for more or larger life boats while those extra 5,000 troops were aboard. Between them, the two Cunard ships moved 10,000 or 15,000 troops per week, every week, without major break downs. The two ships always sailed alone and un-escorted except in home waters near Britain, where the risk of U-boats and Luftwaffe patrol aircraft were too high. Across the rest of the ocean the ships relied on their speed, continual zig-zag manoeuvres and signal intercepts to keep them out of range of U-boats.

It was also true that neither the British or US navies had sufficient escort vessels that were able to accompany the ships at their operating speed if the weather broke. The two troop carrying liners had been built to maintain a year round trans-Atlantic schedule in peacetime, whatever the weather, but most naval vessels were not built sufficiently strong or seaworthy to maintain the service speed of those two liners in bad weather."


The only damage sustained by 'Queen Mary' was a crushed stem - the plating actually folded back on itself, so was essentially 'self-sealing', and thus enabled the ship to continue on at speed.


Just had another thought on this - maybe it is the biggest difference between 'Liners' and 'Cruise ships'. When ships are "STUFT"ed during wartime, the liners can always go faster than the (enemy's) warships, but the cruise ships can't!

Might be worth remembering that next time war breaks out and you want to travel somewhere safely.
 
Interesting reading,
Skilly
« Last Edit: May 08, 2010, 04:48 AM by skilly56 »

Offline Joseph Navin

Re: The 'Queens' as WWII Troopships
« Reply #1 on: Jun 24, 2013, 09:42 AM »
I feel sad for the people who died on that escort ship   :'(

Offline CAP

Re: The 'Queens' as WWII Troopships
« Reply #2 on: Jul 16, 2013, 05:27 PM »
I've just been reading a short recollection of events by one of the survivors of the incident.  It appears he spent sometime isolated and drifting in the seas before to his apparent surprise and joy being rescued by one the escorts.  The Queen on the other hand proceeded to Gourock where the troops disembarked and temporar repairs undertaken.  Her next crossing saw the ship put into Boston for dry docking and permanent repairs.

During both Queens trooping exploits throughout the war they were under strict rules not to stop on any account

Offline CAP

Re: The 'Queens' as WWII Troopships
« Reply #3 on: Aug 05, 2013, 07:37 PM »
Extract from Wikipedia

"On 2 October 1942, Queen Mary accidentally sank one of her escorts, slicing through the light cruiser HMS Curacoa off the Irish coast, with the loss of 338 lives. Due to the constant danger of being attacked by U-Boats, on board the Queen Mary Captain C. Gordon Illingworth was under strict orders not to stop for any reason, the Royal Navy destroyers accompanying the Queen were ordered to stay on course and not rescue survivors

During WWI the same type of incident occurred, on this occasion Aquitania was involved along with the USS Shaw. In similar circumstances as to QM, Aquitania was zig-zagging when she was joined by her escorts. One of the vessels, USS Shaw went ahead of the transport and also began to zig-zag but unfortunately her steering gear jammed whilst on a converging path with Aquitania.  The Shaw was cut in two around her bridge area.  Although 12 lives were lost the rear of the destroyer manage to make it to port, a distance of some 40 miles. 

Unlike the QM/Curacoa incident, the subsequent Naval investigation concluded that no blame could be attached to either vessel.
« Last Edit: Aug 07, 2013, 06:51 PM by CAP »

Offline Jeff Taylor

Re: The 'Queens' as WWII Troopships
« Reply #4 on: Aug 05, 2013, 08:28 PM »
On the National Geographic special "Superliners" they have an interview with Willie Farmer, later to be Chief on QE2, who rode with QE throughout most of the war.  He stated that QE went straight from fitting out (incomplete) to its first flat out transatlantic dash for safety to NY with no chance to work up the plant or even conduct trials, and that she went through the war with virtually no engineering problems.  I suspect we all knew that before, but you have to wonder what kind of a toll that took on the plant that might have shown up later in her career.  At least QM was well broken in when the war hit.

Offline Alan Snelson

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Re: The 'Queens' as WWII Troopships
« Reply #5 on: Aug 05, 2013, 09:59 PM »
On the triple DVD set "the liners" which I posted about on the 'books video and DVD' board there is one disc mostly devoted to the Queens contribution to WW2. It seems their first mission was a sprint to Australia to pick up troops for transport to North Africa. They continued with several trips between Australia and the Med. It was only later in the war, 1942 I think, when they saw service on the North Atlantic.

Queen Elizabeth's solo dash to America was part of an elaborate deception. A rumour had been subtly circulated that she was to go to Southampton for her final fitting out, but only a handful of people knew the truth. Once at sea the Captain opened his sealed orders which told him to proceed at full speed to New York, even the Americans were unaware of the plan and they first found out about it when she appeared off the Ambrose light.

The deception was so complete that German fighter-bombers were reported over the Solent on the day when she might have been expected to arrive in Southampton.
« Last Edit: Aug 06, 2013, 11:46 AM by Alan Snelson »
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