Author Topic: 50 Years Today - Leaving The Yard for the first time  (Read 1867 times)

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Online Michael Gallagher

50 Years Today - Leaving The Yard for the first time
« on: Nov 19, 2018, 07:31 AM »
At dawn on Tuesday 19 November 1968 QE2 was lit from stem to stern as she lay in the fitting out basin. The yard hummed with activity as men reported for work. The only potential issue was winds gusting above 12 mph as that would have stopped the operation but the forecast was for a typical Glasgow weather – a lot of industrial haze but little wind – at the time of year.

By 0800 hours a distinctly chilly-looking Prince Charles was on board after taking the overnight train from London to join the ship and shortly afterwards QE2 left her birthplace for the first time and headed for the Firth of Clyde Dry Dock at Greenock on her first outing. Originally the presence of the Prince was to have been kept secret until the day before but the secret leaked out – perhaps Cunard had been shrewd enough to realise that a Royal visit would ensure the yard remained focused! Prince Charles was on the Bridge as the new liner gave three blasts of her whistle. Captain Warwick would recall how the Prince’s eyes lit up when he was asked if he would like to press the button to sound the whistle.

A special holiday had been declared for the locals and thousands assembled on the fields and shores along the Clyde. Six tugs eased her from the fitting out berth, almost imperceptibly at first, where she had been since 20 September 1967, and she moved ahead, using her own engines for the first time. A total of seven tugs would escort her to Greenock and the Clyde was closed to other shipping for three hours.

As QE2 left the fitting out basin she nudged the wooden wharf-side and scraped about 20 feet off her paint causing a plume of smoke because of the friction of the liner’s hull against the wharf; the ship was undamaged. John Brown’s Special Director for QE2, John Rannie, would later tell reporters that QE2 was giving a farewell kiss to her birthplace and a welcoming kiss for the sea. The “kiss” would produce a long scar clearly visible12 feet above the waterline.

There was great cheer from those in the yard as QE2 finally eased into the river centre where she gathered her first seagull escort.

Thousands of people gathered along the Clyde and QE2 responded to their cheers with whistle blasts throughout the journey. There was a seven-mile queue of cars on the main Renfrew-Port Glasgow Road. The ship made six knots for the 10-mile journey and navigated the narrow bends of the river as dozens of men watched ashore and on board to make sure her passage was safe.

John Rannie and Cunard Chairman Sir Basil Smallpeice escorted Prince Charles who lunched on board and spoke with some of the shipyard workers during an hour-long tour which avoided unfinished areas of the ship. The Prince returned to London on a flight from Glasgow.

Internally, the ship looked most incomplete – about 100 cabins remained incomplete and several hundred workmen were on board working continuously to finish them - but Cunard were confident that by 19 December (her scheduled final departure from the Clyde) she would be reasonably completed and, by 17 January (her scheduled Maiden Voyage), she would be in a reasonable condition. John Rannie claimed to the press and on TV that QE2 was ahead of schedule by about 11 days and despite having “a lot to do” he claimed the ship would be completely finished when she sailed from the Clyde on 10 December.

Upon arrival in Greenock QE2 lost some more paint as she gave a slight lurch to starboard and a few feet of orange paint was scraped away when her starboard side came into contact with the dock entrance.

The pilot, Captain Peter Thomson, explained the second mishap: “She leaned on a knuckle – normal maneouvre to bring her round to make her entry”.

QE2 entered the Inchgreen Drydock that evening. Cunard would later call the departure from the yard and the drydocking “a significant achievement” for the yard.

Until 1964 there was no dry-dock on the Clyde capable of accommodating the large passenger ships built on the river. Cunarders such as Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth had to go elsewhere for dry docking before their trials.

Captain Warwick: “She behaved like a great ship – she came under her own power, ably assisted by the tugs. It was her first time on her engine, and she went like a daisy. I was most agreeably surprised. There were no flaps, and everything went very well.”

Until this date the intensity of work in progress had abounded and numerous labour stoppages had occurred and it was evident that a number of these had been engineered by politically motivated men. Cunard expressed its concern at the volume of outstanding work and pressed for improved organization and supervision on the part of the Builders but the situation deteriorated rapidly after the arrival in the drydock. The Builders arbitrarily dismissed 500 tradesmen in the key trades (joiners and electricians) which precipitated a ban on overtime working and meant that the ship was desperately short of labour on her return from technical trails.

At Greenock, John Rannie addressed his men, exhorting them to do their utmost to carry the work on to completion.

The following information could now be confirmed for QE2:

Official Number         336703
Gross Tonnage         65,862.91 tons   
Net Tonnage         38,243.54 tons

While in dry dock the remains of her launch gear was removed, her bottom plates were cleaned and painted and inspections were carried out on her underwater hull. Each day hundreds of workmen were transported from Glasgow and Clydebank to Greenock.

QE2’s preliminary sea trials commenced two days later than planned due to severe gales; the delay confusing the onboard situation even more with the labour on board being inadequately organised which would result in little being achieved in terms of finishing during the trials.

At 1700 hours on Tuesday 26 November 1968 QE2 left the dry-dock in Greenock for preliminary sea trials which would allow a normal working-up procedure of the gearing.

On 26 November 1968 QE2 would sail in open waters for the first time - who would have thought that exactly 40 years later, on 26 November 2008, she would spend her last day in open water!

Offline Clydebuilt1971

Re: 50 Years Today - Leaving The Yard for the first time
« Reply #1 on: Nov 19, 2018, 01:18 PM »
Michael - you've done it again!!

Brilliant piece.

And Firth of Clyde Drydock (or Inchgreen as it is now known) is only a couple of miles from my house. Sadly under utilised these days but still one of the largest drydocks in the UK.

Thanks again


Online cunardqueen

Re: 50 Years Today - Leaving The Yard for the first time
« Reply #2 on: Nov 19, 2018, 04:22 PM »
  On 26 November 1968 QE2 would sail in open waters for the first time - who would have thought that exactly 40 years later, on 26 November 2008, she would spend her last day in open water! 

Was it planned this way or just happened...;)
From the moment you first glimpsed the Queen,
 you just knew you were in for a very special time ahead.!

Offline Thomas Hypher

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Re: 50 Years Today - Leaving The Yard for the first time
« Reply #3 on: Nov 19, 2018, 04:34 PM »
Thank you Michael for your, as usual, excellent information!
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.


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