Author Topic: The last six months aboard the Queen Elizabeth  (Read 2363 times)

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Offline Bryce Foundling

The last six months aboard the Queen Elizabeth
« on: Feb 01, 2015, 12:22 PM »
Working on the Queen Elizabeth

From July until November 1968 ( when we transferred to the Brand New QE2)  I worked on the Queen Elizabeth as a commis waiter mainly in the 1st Class restaurant and occasionally helping out at special events or giving cover as required in different areas of the ship.
Being a complete novice I was on a vertical learning curve assimilating information and trying to unravel the mysteries of how a world class cruise liner weighing over 80,000 tons and with a crew of over 900 plus, actually worked.
The organisation below decks was amazing with stores and departments throughout the length of the ship. The working gangway was a wide open passage running the full length of the ship which along its length had main stores, laundry etc and therefore acted as the main artery allowing crew easy access to each section of passenger accommodation and the main kitchen areas. The 900 crew were split into many groups each carrying out a specific roles from Engineering Officer to Cabin Steward, from Chief Barman to Entertainment officer, the list was endless
The first class restaurant was fantastic and famous worldwide for its food and service. From the Head Waiter to the 6 Section waiters ( All dressed in Tails) through to the 6 wine waiters, through to the section waiters and down to the commis waiters , in the main offering a wonderful experience to our passengers. The restaurant designed in the 1930’s included beautiful inlaid wood throughout and the fresh flowers and food sculptures’ which were changed every day ensured passengers felt they had arrived somewhere special.  Some of the crew had worked on the QE for over 30 years and together with their colleagues provided a very polished service. From the commis waiters bringing round warmed bread rolls and croissants at breakfast to the section waiters preparing “Steak Diane” or “Crepe Suzette) at your table for dinner. There was an additional restaurant available called " The Veranda Grill " which was only available to first class passengers but they had to pay for the privilege. The story went that if you ordered something and the chefs could not provide it the meal was free.
As a commis waiter I was not allowed to serve passengers a full meal but trained by serving members of the entertainment staff or junior engineering staff. On occasions I would be sent to other parts of the ship to help out on a temporary basis. One day I was sent to The Observation Bar. This was quite exciting as this was considered the classists’ bar on the ship. On arriving I was sent to the adjacent pantry and told to make up several trays of canopies and be ready to serve them later. In the pantry I found a selection of items to be used including various dried biscuits, packs of Pate de foie gras. Circular tins of beluga caviar and pre cut smoked salmon. I must admit I wasted no time in making sure I made the most of this unique opportunity. With hindsight I can strongly recommend one doesn’t try toast with one inch thick caviar spread on it. It’s a bit on the salty side!
On another occasion I was tasked to report to the Lookout Bar where I was to assist the barman to clear up after a big party. Whilst working away a passenger walked over and asked me if I would inform his wife who was in the lounge to join him in the bar for cocktails when she was ready. I of course told him I would be happy to and asked him his name. “ Richard Burton “ he replied. I then said “Mrs Burton, no problem sir”. He then said “my wife’s name is Mrs Taylor”
( I’m sure my face gave away a look of suspicion at this point, thinking there were some shenanigans going on))
I then replied “ Mrs Taylor, no problem sir “ I was  half way to the lounge when it hit me what I had done!   Oh to be 17 again!
My time on the Queen Elizabeth was in fact very short. I completed only 8 two week mail runs to New York finishing on her last trip on the 15th of November 1968. That short period I know had a major influence on me. At that time I did not realise that I had been witnessing ( and in a small way part of) the demise of the old style cruise ship. For over 30 years the Great cruise ships had battled it out each trying to offer the most luxurious and fastest North Atlantic crossing to the elite of Europe and America . By the mid sixties new options were available from the growing British Airways and Pan Am offering faster, cheaper modern ways to travel which would change the old ways forever.
That said I feel very privileged to have served on the Queen Elizabeth for her last 6 months.
Learning how great pride and enjoyment can be gained by providing a top rate service individually and as part of a team.

After we pulled into Southampton for the last time I along with most of the crew were given a month’s leave after which we were to join the new Queen Elizabeth 2 at Greenock on the 16th Dec 1968


« Last Edit: Feb 16, 2015, 08:23 PM by Bryce Foundling »

Online Rob Lightbody

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Re: The last six months abord the Queen Elizabeth
« Reply #1 on: Feb 01, 2015, 12:50 PM »
Great stuff Bryce, I really enjoyed reading that!

In Richard Burton's recently published diaries, he writes about his crossings on Queen Elizabeth, and I think he may even be writing about this crossing.  He says that he felt it was faded grandeur, and looking rather tired...
Passionate about QE2's service life for 37 years and creator of this website.  Worked in IT for 27 years and created my personal QE2 website in 1994.

Offline Alan Snelson

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Re: The last six months abord the Queen Elizabeth
« Reply #2 on: Feb 01, 2015, 02:37 PM »
Thanks Bryce for that fascinating glimpse in to the last few weeks of another classic ocean liner.

How did you feel when you went on to QE2 for the first time? It must have been quite a change from what you had experienced on the Queen Elizabeth. I imagine a lot of former Queen Elizabeth crew moved on to QE2 but was there any noticeable difference in culture between the two ships in those early days.
Don't just be part of her past, be part of her history!

Online Lynda Bradford

Re: The last six months abord the Queen Elizabeth
« Reply #3 on: Feb 01, 2015, 03:05 PM »
Wonderful story that gives an insight into your working life onboard Queen Elizabeth. 

Tell us more about how working on the very modern QE2 compared to working on Queen Elizabeth.
I was proud to be involved with planning QE2's 50 year conference in September 2017 in Clydebank
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Online Isabelle Prondzynski

Re: The last six months abord the Queen Elizabeth
« Reply #4 on: Feb 01, 2015, 03:13 PM »
Wonderful story and descriptions -- you had me right on board with you as I read!

She must have been a splendid ship, even towards the end, and the crew must have been rightly proud of her.

Looking forward to reading about your first impressions of QE2 -- how the two ships compared at that time.

Online cunardqueen

Re: The last six months abord the Queen Elizabeth
« Reply #5 on: Feb 01, 2015, 11:28 PM »
Great story and a wonderful insight into yesteryear...
From the moment you first glimpsed the Queen,
 you just knew you were in for a very special time ahead.!

 

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