Author Topic: Tuesday 19 September 1967 - the eve of the launch  (Read 4213 times)

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Online Michael Gallagher

Tuesday 19 September 1967 - the eve of the launch
« on: Sep 18, 2017, 04:49 PM »
Text is © Michael Gallagher 2017 and no part of it may be re-used without permission.

On the evening of Monday 18 September 1967 Cunard Chairman Sir Basil Smallpeice and his Deputy, Ronald Senior, met to agree the final choice of name for the New Cunarder in Cunard’s London offices.

Sir Basil and took three names (decided in May 1967) from a safe where they had been since May: Queen Elizabeth, Princess Margaret and Princess Anne. Elizabeth had joined the list last after the decision to retire the Queen Elizabeth had been made.

When the choice was made, a message was sent by scrambler telephone to The Queen through her private secretary, Sir Michael Adeane, in Balmoral.

They were the only four to know the name.

A sealed envelope containing the name was dispatched to the New York office – it was to be opened if there were any problems with the live launch transmission on the day.
« Last Edit: Sep 20, 2017, 01:17 PM by Rob Lightbody »

Online Lynda Bradford

Re: Tuesday 19 September 1967 - the eve of the launch
« Reply #1 on: Sep 18, 2017, 05:48 PM »
Although it was unfortunate that the Queen Elizabeth was retired, I cannot think of a better ship to have taken the name than QE2. 
I was proud to be involved with planning QE2's 50 year conference in September 2017 in Clydebank

Online Michael Gallagher

Re: Tuesday 19 September 1967 - the eve of the launch
« Reply #2 on: Sep 19, 2017, 08:21 AM »
Text is © Michael Gallagher 2017 and no part of it may be re-used without permission.

On the day before the launch, Tuesday 19 September 1967, Cunard announced that agreements had been reached in the discussions with the Board of Trade concerning the provision of additional finance for the completion and putting into service of Q4.

The existing loan agreement under which the Government would make available a loan of £17.6 million on delivery of the ship by the shipyard to Cunard was to be replaced with a new arrangement. Under it the Government was now prepared to lend in the neighbourhood of £24 million which Cunard could draw as may have been necessary in advance if delivery.

The original arrangements for Cunard borrowing from a consortium of banks to enable progress payments for to be made while the ship was under construction was therefore to be brought to an end as soon as practicable.

The new Government loan was to be in two parts. Cunard intended to set up a separate subsidiary company to own the passenger ship fleet (including Q4) and other assets necessary for the operation of the transatlantic and other passenger services. At the option of the Cunard board, up to £14 million (including £2 million for working capital) could be lent to this subsidiary company. The security for this part of the loan was confined to the assets of the passenger subsidiary company, and would not require any guarantee by Cunard or any other member of the Cunard group.

The terms of this part of the loan provided for interest of 4½ per annum until the end of three years from delivery of Q4 and thereafter at a rate to be agreed; for repayment to be completed by the end of 12 years from delivery.

The remaining £10 million of the loan was made to the Cunard Steamship Co. Ltd. The rate of interest was 4½ per annum throughout and repayments of the loan would not necessarily be in equal amounts but would be completed within five years of the first drawing.

This new loan arrangement relieved Cunard at a time of continuing trading difficulties, of the strain in its cash resources involved in putting Q4 into service.

A secret internal memo dated 28 July 1967 discussed those who should attend the launch. For financial reasons, invitations to company staff to attend the launch were being severely restricted and would be restricted to all Cunard Line Directors and their wives and senior members of the shore and sea staff from the three main areas: Southampton (12 invitees), London (two invitees) and Liverpool (two invitees). The senior managers (whose wives would also be invited) would be balloted and would also have to meet the criteria of being in receipt of a salary of £2,250 and above and have 15 or more years’ service with the company! To the disgruntlement of several of the designers an invitation would not be extended to them.

It was planned that Q4 would glide toward the river at 22 miles an hour with the last shore fetters, the massive drag links, running out in a thunderous roar.

There were ten bundles of them on each side of the ship. Each weighed 70 ton – 1,400 tons in all to steady the liner’s journey to the river and so to the sea. The ship was expected to hit the water pushing away 20,000 tons of water – her own launching weight. 150 men would be aboard the empty shell that was Q4 ready for any emergency while 161 would work ashore to ensure a smooth launch.

The intricate launching calculations had been worked out by a computer – a week’s work reduced to 30 minutes compared with the normal methods with the slightest error having to be eliminated. Many factors had to be considered for the river was narrow and the ship was long.

The problems of a launch of this size were enormous. Very early on, the yard had to decide the width and slope of the slipway on which the liner would slide down to the water. The effects of temperature on the launch lubricant grease mixture had to be considered and a host of other factors had all to be checked, evaluated and re-checked.

John Starks, Assistant Managing Director heading John Brown’s design team:

“The first step is, obviously, to make sure that it will move. When it starts to move the first things that starts to happen is that the stern begins to lift. As it does so pressure on the forward end of the slipway is increased very considerably as it is taking the whole weight of the ship, apart from any buoyancy that the water is taking. One must, therefore, make sure that the ship is then strong enough to take the stress at the forward end.

“You also have to ensure by calculation that the ship will float off the slipway as opposed to dropping off and you also have to make sure that it is waterborne while it is reasonable clear of the slipway. The next thing that you have to decide is how far the ship can be expected to travel and you have to decide what drag chains you are going to attaché at what points to prevent the ship from going too far.

“What most people do not appreciate is that the ship takes a very rough ride during its launch. She bends during the course of the launch and we have to make sure that all her structure is absolutely sound. We, therefore, inspect the ship very carefully. She probably gets far more local stresses during the launch than she ever will during the course of her working life.

“The most critical factor by far in the launch is the depth of water available at the aft end of the slipways. The River Clyde is extremely temperamental; sometimes the water is deficient and sometimes is it excessive. If we have too much water, the danger is that the ship will really be afloat before she is clear at the end of the slipway and the danger is that, since high water is usually associated with high wind, if she is not clear at the end of the ways she could damage herself on one of the cranes. The problem usually solves itself because if the wind and water are that high, it is obviously no condition in which to launch a ship. This happens very infrequently and is obviously something to be avoided, but nevertheless the problem is still there.

“We, therefore, watch the weather forecasts very carefully before the day. We also measure the heights of the tides for a good many days before the launch to check whether the river is running true to form, under prediction or over prediction. We also measure the river in Greenock and Glasgow as a precaution and we are halfway between the two we can get a very good idea of what the river is doing. Having obtained this information we then can, within certain limits, ballast the ship to aim off for weather conditions, but obviously in a ship of this size the resources pen to us are limited”.

The man responsible for the slipway was Robert Craig, head foreman shipwright. He had worked at John Brown’s since he left school in 1918 and Q4 would be his 47th launch. He built the slipway from the information given to him. Its declivity (downward inclination towards the river) was ½ inch to the foot. Every square foot of the sliding and standing (fixed) ways to bear a weight of more than two tons – he claimed for Q4 it was 2,089 tons.

He used 16,300 feet of 12” square timber to build the supporting poppets (cradles) at each end of the ship. Once the ship rested on 300 keel blocks but these had now been knocked away; the berth had been stripped of the huge shores like tress trunks, bilge blocks and wedges.

Q4 rested on two sliding ways, each formed of 25 lengths of timber 30 feet long, six feet wide and 12 inches thick. The sliding and standing ways had been greased with a concoction of nine tons of tallow compound, 70 gallons of sperm oil, 14 cwt. of soft black soap and seven gallons of fine spindle oil. Robert Craig took responsibility for this.

Q4 was held by six mighty triggers, each with its eight inch wooded tongue set into the sliding ways. Wires trailed from a tiny electrical device to the button on the high platform where the Queen would perform the launching ceremony. As the Queen pressed the button the powerful trigger arms would snap back in their pits with a report like an artillery salute. Then Q4 would glide towards the river; and just in case the liner is reluctant to leave the berth, two hydraulic rams would give her a nudge – a push with the power of 1,200 lbs. per square inch behind it.

In the river six tugs would be waiting to handle the ship – three at the fore and three at the aft. Another will be standing by for any emergency. Lines would be rocketed from the tugs to the new Cunarder and towing lines would be secured and the new ship would move towards her fitting-out berth.

Prior to launch George Parker, shipyard director, said:

“I am personally very proud to have had some part to play in the building of this liner, an intimate part to play, being connected with directing the construction of the liner. Secondly, I’m very proud not only to be connected with building the ship but also to perpetuate this very long tradition of John Brown’s. It is my belief; it is my aim, to make this Cunarder the best one that Brown’s ever built over a long, long number of years of this close connection with Cunard”.

The name Princess Margaret became the 4-1 favourite on the eve of the launch when it was announced at the last moment that she would also be attending the ceremony and she duly arrived at the yard the day before the launch. Workers had chalked the Princess Anne on the liner’s hull – that was the name Captain Warwick liked. Prince Charles carried the shortest odds.

Captain Warwick said:

“I have already said in the past that I would not like the name ‘Queen’ to be given to this ship”.

More than 15,000 bets had been placed with the bookmakers and a Glasgow bookmaker was offering the following odds:

      3 – 1      Sir Winston Churchill
      4 – 1      Prince of Wales
            Prince Charles
            Princess Margaret
      5 – 1      Britannia
      6 – 1      Princess Anne
            John F Kennedy
      8 – 1      Queen Victoria
      10 – 1      Aquitania
      12 – 1      Mauretania
      14 – 1      Queen Elizabeth II      
            Prince Philip
            Atlantic Princess
      25 – 1      Clyde Princess
            British Princess

Other suggestions included Queen of the United States, New Britain, Queen of Britain, British Queen, Great Britain, Ocean Queen, The Crown and Anchor, Rose of England, Twiggy, The New Elizabethan, Gloriana, Windsor Wave and Donald Campbell (he had been killed a few weeks earlier). Housewife Helen Gormley suggested ‘Helen Gormley’. Over 400 names were suggested with the last suggestion, Francis Chichester, arriving in the last 48 hours.

The many uncertainties surrounding the shipyard’s future were temporarily forgotten as thousands of people flocked to the yard and the opposite bank of the river in time honoured fashion to take one last look at the liner on the slipway.

The Prime Minister Harold Wilson issued the following message:

“This is a proud moment in the history of Clydeside and of British shipping.

“Cunard’s Q4 represents the best in modern shipbuilding, technology and design. It is a credit to John Brown’s yard and to its many specialists, advisers and suppliers of components.

“As everyone knows, Q4 could not have been built without financial help from the Government. Cunard received a £17,600,000 loan under the Shipbuilding Credit Act, 1964, and yesterday the Government announced agreement in principle to provide a further £6 million as a basis of new arrangements for financing and operating Q4.

“This represents effective and timely assistance for this long-established famous company, whose new ship is to be launched and named by Her Majesty The Queen.

“I am confident that Q4 will justify this help and for years to come will add to the prestige of British shipbuilding and ship operations”.

The jackup rig Gulftide was removed from the fitting out basin and held midriver by the three Clyde Shipping tugs Flying Mist, Flying Spray and Flying Foam to make it easier to maneouvre the new liner into her fitting out berth after the launch.

All was set for the next day and the Big Event.

« Last Edit: Sep 24, 2023, 10:07 AM by Lynda Bradford »

Online Thomas Hypher

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Re: Tuesday 19 September 1967 - the eve of the launch
« Reply #3 on: Sep 19, 2017, 08:41 AM »
A quick Google search has revealed that the jackup rig "Gulftide" has quite a history of her own! She was one of the pioneers of Norway's North Sea oil and natural gas industry. As far as I can see she was last operating off West Africa (specifically the Ivory Coast) from about 1995/6 after a conversion.

Sorry for going off topic here, just thought this might be of interest too!

« Last Edit: Sep 24, 2023, 10:07 AM by Lynda Bradford »
First sailed on QE2 in August 2003 aged 6 years old. Last sailed on QE2 in July 2008. Last saw the seagoing QE2 in person from the decks of QM2, on QE2's last Transatlantic crossing (Eastbound tandem) in October 2008. Visited QE2 in her new life, in Dubai, in January 2020 and August 2022.

Offline Clydebuilt1971

Re: Tuesday 19 September 1967 - the eve of the launch
« Reply #4 on: Sep 19, 2017, 01:19 PM »
Thanks for that Michael - love this sort of information.

I'm no naval architect (land lubbing elec engineer) but I've always thought the forces on the fwd end of the hull as the after end begins to float must be enormous - probably why most if not all large vessels are floated out of building docks rather than a dynamic launch from a slipway.


« Last Edit: Sep 24, 2023, 10:07 AM by Lynda Bradford »

Offline June Ingram

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Re: Tuesday 19 September 1967 - the eve of the launch
« Reply #5 on: Sep 19, 2017, 02:48 PM »
Thank you very much, Michael, for this detailed information.   :)
« Last Edit: Sep 24, 2023, 10:07 AM by Lynda Bradford »
QE2 - the ship for all of time, a ship of timeless beauty !

Offline cunardqueen

Re: Tuesday 19 September 1967 - the eve of the launch
« Reply #6 on: Sep 19, 2017, 09:59 PM »
Tomorrow we will all burst with excitement...
Thanks Michael ! :)
« Last Edit: Sep 24, 2023, 10:08 AM by Lynda Bradford »
From the moment you first glimpsed the Queen,
 you just knew you were in for a very special time ahead.!


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