Author Topic: My time on the QE2 Acceptance Trial, 23 December 1968 to 2 January 1969  (Read 1460 times)

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Offline Pat Newman

Hello again folks
In this interim period I have been delving into my QE2 paperwork and am now able, with its help, to answer some more of your questions, my memory having been ‘jogged’!


What was my most abiding memory? Probably something that you will find strange. Whilst not completely claustrophobic I do not like being in a room without a window. My cabin was in the middle of the ship (4180), a complete ‘box’ BUT on one wall was a curtain rail and curtain, an illusion, but enough to let my imagination believe there was a window behind the curtain. Doubtless I had to sleep with some sort of ‘chink’ of light but I do remember that I thought how interesting that such a small thoughtfulness could make such a difference to me.

But of course, the whole ‘adventure’ was one I shall never forget. I had been on a cruise in 1960, on a ship called the Stratheden which had been used in the war! In the main rooms there were still pipes on the ceiling. The difference on the QE2 therefore was enormous. I know as a while the ship wasn’t ‘finished’ and there were a lot of problems that trip, but where I was able to go, the Restaurants and the ballroom were already luxurious. Well, to me anyway! And, of course, the wonderful entertainment, the opulence. I was greatly impressed, another type of life. I remember it took me 10 minutes to walk to the Britannia Restaurant (I try not to use lifts as you can imagine!). The food was delicious, so much of it, and so much choice. And, of course, the wonderful entertainment, the opulence. I have not been on a cruise since the QE2 Acceptance Trial, finding cruising not particularly my ‘cup of tea’, but have retained an interest in the life of the QE2 itself. I have enjoyed returning to my memories of my time on her and am finding the recent TV programme of her as a hotel very interesting. 

My duties on board! I have found amongst my papers a handwritten diary of the first few days of the trial. It seemed that I worked at different times setting the menus and daily programmes. Why there was a difference in time I don’t know. (Not quite 9 to 5!) Perhaps the menus were not always ready for setting in the morning. I cannot remember ever typing anything other than those two things. Whether some of the other paper items on board, like the little note pads or party invitations, were typed on board by the printers after I had left the shop I really don’t know. Or they would be something that could easily be set elsewhere. The typesetter I used was called the VariTyper 720 (one up from the typewriter and pre-computer!). Cunard had purchased the printing machinery from a company called Addressograph-Multigraph, for whom I worked at that time and the VariTyper was one of their typesetters. Typesetting is all I did. I did not get involved with the printing or anything else in the print shop. The setting for the Daily Telegraph newspaper articles was done in Fleet Street and transmitted to the ship’s radio room I understand, where it was converted to paper tape and then fed into an A-M phototypesetter.  I was not involved with that either and not nosey enough to find out! Mind you, the shop was small, the lads were probably glad when I got out of it!

Once I had typeset the menu or programme a metal plate would be made of it and ‘run off’ on the printing machine. I would then go up on deck and became like any other ‘passenger’, other than my duties as a guinea-pig!

I am hoping to include photos of some of the items I have one day but am having some difficulty with the transferring of them to the computer, hence this delay. In the meantime I will select the sections of the articles that I think will be of interest to you. The items below were originally just typewritten, presumably in a Cunard office.
“QUEEN ELIZABETH 2” – Acceptance Trials (information sheet)
The revision of the dates of the Trials has altered, the embarkation arrangements and passengers will now join the ship by tender from Gourock Pier on Sunday evening, 22 December, the ship sailing on Monday, 23rd December, at 10.00am. (There follows instructions re times of the special trains to Glasgow, Baggage Allowance etc.) Embarkation: Passengers will not be allowed to embark before 6pm, nor can they embark on the Monday morning. Arrival Southampton: The ship is due to berth at the Ocean Terminal at 9.30am.

The Technical Trials: We shall be testing the main and auxiliary machinery, simulating breakdowns, exercising damage conditions, etc.
We shall overload equipment intentionally and this could result, for example, in temporary light failure in some sections of the ship. We shall hope to give you ample warning. We did not expect failures, but when testing newly installed machinery, we must expect occasional breakdown. A large number of people are involved in these trials, but they will not, in general, be concerned with the ‘hotel’ exercises.

Exercising the hotel facilities: As you know, QE2 can carry 2,025 passengers and 1400 people can sit down at once in her restaurants. There are only 570 of us taking part in the ‘hotel’ exercise, and with that number we have to simulate a full shop. We plan to do this by asking groups of you to turn up at specific times for particular functions.

Each passenger will be given a number from 1 to 570. This is your Guinea-Pig number and will be shown with your name on a pin-on card. (My number was 480 and I have a note that they couldn’t find mine so I had to make one for myself!) We would ask you to wear this card for any exercise in which you, by your number, are specially invited to take part, for this will assist the monitoring officers to assess the exercise properly.

Your next day’s activities, and whether they are compulsory or not, will be shown in the Daily Programme which will be placed in your cabin during the evening. We have tried to keep the compulsory items to a minimum and also to spread the load fairly amongst all those taking part.

There follows in four pages: Information on what Guinea-Pigs duties/instructions will be in respect of Cabins/Breakfast/Restaurants/Deck Buffet/Public rooms/Theatre/Evening entertainment/ Photographing QE2 (this took place in Las Palmas)/Coffee shop and snacks in Public Rooms after 9pm/Hairdressing, laundry etc./Safety.
NB For Example - ‘Restaurants’:
The Britannia Restaurant will normally operate two sittings of about 800. In the section of the restaurant we shall use there will be only one sitting, but to simulate a full ship we shall ask you to arrive at a different time on certain days and always to turn up for your meal within a 15 minute period.
In order to test the Columbia Restaurant (seating 500) and Grill Room (seating 100) to capacity, you may be requested to take empty places at tables already occupied by guests.

Did I stay in touch with the trainees? I did for a short while after the trial, visiting them in Southampton when the ship docked there, but once it started cruising, we lost touch.

Did too many people show up at one time and overwhelm the staff? As you will have read above we, the Guinea-Pigs, were given instructions to show up at certain bars or restaurants etc. at specific times. These instructions were duly followed but I really don’t know the ‘official’ outcome.


23rd December: 10.15am Went on deck to see ship leave at 11.15. Took photos of ship, Polaris Subs, Holy Lock Mountains. Down to cabin to collect papers to find flooding of loo pipe. Message over the tanoid, then 7 men arrived! 3.00pm Had to put on Mai Wests to go to Boat Station for Passenger Boat Drill.
Otherwise mostly about working in the Print Shop or the evening’s entertainment.

I hope you find the above interesting and will close now. I hope you are finding the QE2 in Dubai on TV programme fascinating. How things have changed, but she is still beautiful and “Long May She Reign”.

Working in the Print Shop during the Acceptance Trials, 1968-69.

Offline June Ingram

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These are great remembrances, Pat ! Many thanks and please write more when and as you can ! June  :)
QE2 - the ship for all of time, a ship of timeless beauty !

Online Isabelle Prondzynski

What an excellent story! Thank you so much for these memories. Looking forward to more of them, and to your photos when you can get them.

How did you come to be on this trial voyage? How were you approached and selected?

Do you have memories of her open decks, of watching the sea as she sped along? And listening to her whistle?

Offline StuM

Wonderful history, Pat. My parents were also on that trial voyage; the only Americans in the passenger group. Dad was a Cunard Mgr in NY and the Cruise Mgr, at the time. Sadly, I was not invited. They were allowed to place a ship to shore call, to test that system and the call came to me, in the States.  As already a ship-geek kid and having grown up with QE2 from concept to operation, I was thrilled. I would see her upon her maiden arrival in NY in May 1969 and soon sailed on her, in June of that year.

Offline Pat Newman

Hello again folks,

I’m nearly coming to the end of my story and thought I’d concentrate this post on my ‘story’, how I came to be on the Trial and why, and what I did whilst there! Most of these things I’ve been through in my earlier July and August posts but I will go through the gist of it again as I have been asked more questions on these subjects.

Why I was on the Trial in the first place, and why was I selected to go:
Cunard had bought their typesetting and printing machinery from the company I worked for at the time, Addressograph-Multigraph. Their typesetter was called a VariTyper 720, and this is what I operated when I was on board. The printers had come to Acton to attend a course on how to operate this machine. At the time, I had been their instructor. So I had met them all before the Trial and they knew they could count on me to help.

When it was time for the ship to sail they had asked for some help on the VariTyper as they found this a difficult machine to operate, not having worked as ‘typists’ before. 

My boss, Dave Gilbert, was asked to help in the Print Shop on that trip, and was going with his wife and four children, but he had to back down. At the last minute, he was informed that his children couldn’t go. He felt he couldn’t leave them at Christmas. Hence he offered me, his second in command, the trip.”

Reliving the moment, I remember my mother coming into the living room where I was lounging on the settee … “Dave’s on the phone for you”. She said. “How would you like to go to Las Palmas for Christmas?” he said. This was about a week before the trial – you can imagine how much of a rush it was for me to get things ready … surprising what you can do when the treat on the end is worth it, isn’t it?

What were my duties on board?
Whilst on board my duties in the Print Shop were to typeset the Daily Programmes and Menus.

I was Guinea-Pig No.480!
When I was not working in the print shop I became one of the ship’s ‘guinea-pigs’. Here again I have written about this before so will not bore you with it all again. The instructions for guinea-pigs I mentioned in my 9 August post.

As a general ‘passenger’ I enjoyed the great food on board. Went to the cinema on board at least on one occasion. Every evening attended the dance, or concert, or whatever was on in the Queens Room. Walked around the decks during the day, doubtless looked overboard and watched the world and the sea go by. But I have to be honest such things have not remained much in my memory – I can’t even remember what the sea was like on that terrible Christmas Eve when everyone was ill. I remained in my cabin after I’d finished my duties in the Print Shop. And even there I was typing a bit and then running to the sink but at least I got the Daily Programme typeset, a task for which I understand I was given a definite ‘pat on the back’ (if you pardon the pun!).

I will leave it here for today but, to whet your appetites, I have quite a few newspaper cuttings, and have sorted them out for my next post, so it won’t be so long coming through.

(I haven’t forgotten … I am still working on sending over some photos of my collection of bits and pieces. I am playing with the computer, trying to produce decent copies to post, and getting them from iPad, to computer, to paper in a state worth viewing, is proving to be a trial. (There are times when I could throw one or other out of the window!)  So please bear with me.)

Working in the Print Shop during the Acceptance Trials, 1968-69.


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