Author Topic: 1982 QE2 Pre-Falklands conversion  (Read 2877 times)

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Online Lynda Bradford

1982 QE2 Pre-Falklands conversion
« on: Jun 18, 2018, 10:49 AM »

This information is courtesy of Michael Gallagher, former Cunard Historian.  Please do not copy without permission from Michael Gallagher

Date: 4 – 12 May 1982
Timescale: 8 days
Contractor/Place: Vosper Thornycroft, Southampton


On 3 May 1982, news that the ship had been requisitioned by the British Government for use in the Falklands campaign was confirmed.

QE2 officially came alongside her berth at two minutes past midnight on 4 May and was immediately requisitioned for war service. The conversion work began on 5 May to prepare the ship for her trooping assignment. QE2 had become a ‘STUFT’ (Ship Taken Up From Trade).

Helicopter Platforms

QE2’s decks forward and aft were perfectly suited for helicopter landing platforms to be constructed.

Aft: The upper deck Lido was sliced off in line with the Q4 Bar as well as the associated superstructure (with several hundred feet of verandah windows) down to Quarter Deck level. This enabled the after end of QE2 to be converted into one huge landing pad and service area for helicopters.

The question of what would support the enormous weight of the steel pads and the 18,626 pounds (8,499 kilograms) of a Sea King helicopter plus whatever it might be called upon to carry was critical.

The two outdoor swimming pools aft were designed to hold tons of seawater and therefore could supply the foundation for the flight deck. Steel plates were laid over the bottoms of the pools to support and distribute the weight of a network of vertical girders. Originally it was intended to fill the pools with cement but this did not materialise.

Quarter Deck was well suited as the site for such work and the heli-pads were built level with the next highest deck both forward and aft.

Forward: the deck was extended towards the bow whaleback right over the capstans so that a third heli-pad could be built on the foredeck. This area had the benefit of strengthening as a transatlantic liner.

The heli-pads were pre-fabricated in the plate shops of the yard and then transported to the decks for installation which involved a floating crane.

Painting of the bare steel would take place while QE2 was en route to the South Atlantic.


- An independent radio station was specially constructed behind the Bridge.

- Small UHF aerials were fitted on both bridge wings.

- Satellite Communications Onboard Tracker domes, shaped like hot-air balloons, were installed aft of the Penthouse Suites on the uppermost deck.


As QE2 lacked the bunker capacity to make a round-trip voyage to the South Atlantic without refuelling, provisions had to be made for refuelling at sea. Feed pipes were installed so that she could refuel while underway by way of a connection inside the starboard midships baggage-handling port area on Two Deck immediately forward of the Midships Lobby’s gangway hatches to the huge tanks below.

Protection of Public Rooms and stairwells

Thousands of square foot of hardboard (fixed together with black tape) were laid over all carpets in public rooms, passageways, stairways and in some of the cabins. In addition the irreplaceable hide on D Stairway was also covered. In all 2,000 sheets of hardboard were purchased from Vosper Ship repair Ltd. The Hotel Manager was given responsibility for this task and an additional backup supply of hardboard and tape was stowed starboard Quarter Deck inside aft in order to provide any further protection and replacement as required once QE2 had sailed.

Main walkways in the Columbia Restaurant.
Main walkways in the Tables of the World Restaurant.
The Princess Grill received ‘maximum protection’.
Q4 Room (some protection as it was a thoroughfare to the open decks).
Queens Room
Double Down Room and upper level shops.
Thick securely fastened canvas was laid on stairways to protect carpeting.

Military equipment :

Tons of military equipment was placed on board (hundreds of extra life jackets, ammunition and additional safety appliances).Ammunition was placed in No 1 hold and in the kennel area.

The Military supplied 1,000 camp beds which were set up in passenger and crew accommodation areas as well as in the casino and Double Down Bar.

The Military supplied 1,000 stacking chairs.

To reduce the natural magnetic field of the liner and help protect her from influencing magnetic mines, a degaussing cable was fitted inside the ship and a low current of electricity was passed through the coil.

Giant maps of the Falklands and the South Atlantic were hung on Quarter Deck D Stairway (replacing the launch tapestries which were put into storage).

Sleeping arrangements

In all QE2’s capacity would have to be increased by 50% and this was achieved by installing portable cots wherever there was space for them in passenger and crew cabins as well as the by-then emptied Casino, Double Down Bar and parts of the promenade spaces on Upper Deck.

The Nursery was converted into a sleeping dormitory for 40 men.

The names of those billeted in each cabin were neatly hand lettered on the hardwood flooring outside its doorway by berthing officers before the troops embarked.

Dining Arrangements

   Queens Grill         Officers
   Princess Grill         Senior non-commissioned officers
   Columbia                 Troops
   Tables of the World      Troops

The Queens Grill and Lounge used by officers received minimal protection. The Princess Grill received maximum protection but the chairs and tables remained as they were. The main walks in the Columbia and Tables of the World Restaurants were covered and the chairs received loose covers.

The Double Room also became a mess with plain trestle tables and chairs being installed.

Public Rooms

The Q4 Room became an Officers’ Bar and some protection was provided as it was a thoroughfare to the open decks on each side.

The Queens Room was protected.

The Midships Bar became a storage room for shop stores (for later transfer to Canberra). All the existing furniture was removed.

The Theatre Bar became an NCO Bar and the furniture remained in place but the floor and settees were covered.

The One Deck Shop was converted into a Library and the floor was protected.

A NAAFI Shop was installed in the Shopping Arcade selling cans of beer.

The Cinema was rigged up for mass briefings.

The following areas became official meeting rooms: Card Room, Reading Room, Library, Tour Office, Double Down Suite, the Banks at F and G Stairways, the Manifest Office and the Security Office.

Items placed in storage:
Most of the decorative pictures and valuable furniture was removed from the ship and stored in the Pickfords warehouses ashore.

Six pianos, casino equipment, plants and high-cost food items (including 17,000 bottles of champagne and half a ton of caviar) were removed and stored ashore.

QE2’s own china, glassware and silverware was collected, packed and stored.

Deck furniture was placed in storage.

Chairs and stools were removed from cabins and stowed ashore to facilitate space for extra camp beds.   

Curtains and bedspreads were placed in storage.

The furniture in the Card Room was removed.

QE2 Crew - 650 volunteered to remain with the ship throughout her war service.


Work took place around the clock in order to complete the conversion.

On Saturday 8 May, captain Peter Jackson took Ralph Bahna (Cunard Chairman) around the ship to show him the “general devastation and new construction”. The Captain considered the Chairman to be “in a state of shock for a while”.

On 12 May, eight days after arriving in Southampton, the formal embarkation of 3,000 troops began; later that day, QE2 sailed for war.

Return to Southampton

On 11 June, QE2 arrived back to a spectacular welcome at her homeport. She had sailed a total of 14,967 miles with the cost of fuel consumption being $1,851,660
« Last Edit: May 17, 2022, 07:10 PM by Rob Lightbody »
I was proud to be involved with planning QE2's 50 year conference in September 2017 in Clydebank

Online Andy Holloway

Re: 1982 QE2 Pre-Falklands conversion
« Reply #1 on: Jun 18, 2018, 12:03 PM »
I was a Royal Marines Sgt at the time and had just taken up a new 'appointment' as Press SNCO for the RM Headquarters in Eastney Barracks,  Portsmouth that was responsible for NP 8901 - The Falklands RM garrison at the time.

The day it all kicked off, not only was the day i assumed my new responsibility but, was also the day my RM Officer was whisked away to sail as i/c News Team with the 'task force'. Also 'departing south', was my SNCO opposite number at the Cdo Forces Newsteam in Plymouth, his Officer was on his honeymoon in S/Africa at the time!

Finally, when peace was declared and the troops started to return home, we were part of the teams responsible for the press coverage of the two main returning troop ships, SS Canberra & QE2.
The main RM ship was SS Canberra, but we also had a small number of battle casualties onboard QE2, who had to be looked after.

Little did i know, as i stood on the dockside in S'ton that, one day in the future, i would be responsible for the Security on this huge and iconic ship!
Maybe that was the moment that i - 'subconsciously' - 'fell in love' with QE2.

Offline Joann Scott

Re: 1982 QE2 Pre-Falklands conversion
« Reply #2 on: May 27, 2021, 05:29 PM »
Thank you Lynda for giving the info about the Falklands. It was very interesting.

You and you staff do a great job keeping us informed in the QE2 :) :)

Joann Scott CTC
Joann Scott

Online Lynda Bradford

Re: 1982 QE2 Pre-Falklands conversion
« Reply #3 on: May 27, 2021, 05:41 PM »
Thank you Lynda for giving the info about the Falklands. It was very interesting.

You and you staff do a great job keeping us informed in the QE2 :) :)

Joann Scott CTC

Thanks Joann,   :) it is good to know that the information on the forum is appreciated.  We are very fortunate that Michael Gallagher former Cunard historian has given us lots of information on the history of the ship, such as the refit and conversion. 
« Last Edit: May 27, 2021, 05:52 PM by Lynda Bradford »
I was proud to be involved with planning QE2's 50 year conference in September 2017 in Clydebank

Online Lynda Bradford

Re: 1982 QE2 Pre-Falklands conversion
« Reply #4 on: May 04, 2022, 08:31 PM »
Forty years ago QE2 was removed from service STUFT (ship taken up from trade) and from 4 to 12 May work on converting the ship for troop carrier duties was carried out.
I was proud to be involved with planning QE2's 50 year conference in September 2017 in Clydebank

Offline June Ingram

  • Global Moderator
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  • Beautiful, elegant QE2 - forever Queen of the Seas
Re: 1982 QE2 Pre-Falklands conversion
« Reply #5 on: May 07, 2022, 07:08 PM »
And done at break neck speed !
QE2 - the ship for all of time, a ship of timeless beauty !


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