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Cunard Lines

RMS Queen Elizabeth

RMS Queen Elizabeth was a steam-powered ocean liner of the Cunard Steamship Company ( then the Cunard White Star Line ). She first entered service as a troopship for World War II, and later served in her intended role as an ocean liner until her retirement in 1968. Following a fire, she was scrapped in Hong Kong in 1975.


The Queen Elizabeth was launched at the John Brown & Company shipyard at Clydebank, Scotland, on 27 September 1938, and retired from service in 1968. Queen Elizabeth was the largest passenger steamship ever constructed and held the record for the largest passenger ship of any kind until being surpassed in 1996 by the Carnival Destiny. The ship was named for Queen Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother), the wife of King George VI of the United Kingdom and queen consort at the time she was built.

"The Breakout"

Having been launched only a year before the outbreak of World War II, the ship was still being fitted out at the start of the war. Because of her vulnerability to being bombed while still on the Clyde, it was decided that the ship should be moved. It was announced that she would sail for Southampton to complete fitting out. On 3 March 1940, the Queen Elizabeth sailed - however, on opening his sealed orders, the ship's Master, Captain Townley, found he was to take the Queen Elizabeth to New York. At the time she was due in Southampton, the city was bombed by the Luftwaffe. On arrival in New York, the Queen Elizabeth found herself moored alongside her running mate Queen Mary and the Normandie, the only time all three of the world's biggest liners would be pictured together.


Refitted for naval use in Singapore and Sydney, the Queen Elizabeth and her running mate, the Queen Mary, were used as troop transports during the war. Their high speeds allowed them to outrun hazards, foremostly German U-boats, allowing them to travel without a convoy. During its naval career, Queen Elizabeth carried more than 750,000 troops and sailed some 500,000 miles.


Following the end of the war, the Queen Elizabeth was able to be put to the use for which she was built; as part of Cunard White Star's two ship, weekly service to New York.

According to Chronicle of the 20th Century (Longman: Chronicle, 1988 ISBN 0582039193), the ship ran aground on a sandbank off Southampton on 14th April, 1947, and was refloated the following day.

Together with the Queen Mary, and in competition with the SS United States, the Queen Elizabeth dominated the transatlantic passenger trade until their fortunes began to decline with the advent of the faster and more economical jet airliner in the late 1950s. For a short time, the Queen Elizabeth served a dual role; when not plying her usual transatlantic route, the ship cruised between New York and Nassau. Cunard retired both ships by 1969 and replaced them with a single, smaller ship, the RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 ( the QE2 ).

Final years

The wreck of the Seawise University, the former Queen Elizabeth.In 1968, the Queen Elizabeth was sold to a group of Philadelphia businessmen who intended to operate the ship as a hotel and tourist attraction in Port Everglades, Florida, similar to the use of RMS Queen Mary in Long Beach, California) Losing money and forced to close after being declared a fire hazard, the ship was sold in 1970 to Hong Kong tycoon C.Y. Tung.

Tung, head of the Orient Overseas Line, intended to convert the vessel into a university for the World Campus Afloat program (later reformed and renamed as Semester at Sea). Following tradition of the Orient Overseas Line, the ship was renamed Seawise University, as a play on Tung's initials.

During the conversion however the vessel was gutted by a fire that broke out at several different places onboard, believed to be caused by arson. The ship toppled in shallow water in Hong Kong harbor on 9 January 1972. The wreckage was scrapped on the spot in 1974-1975, before the project could ever be truly realised.

The wreck was featured in the 1974 James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun, as a covert headquarters for MI6.


31 January 1968 Cunard officially announced that Queen Elizabeth will be retired by the end of the year.

6 April 1968 It was officially announced that Queen Elizabeth will become a tourist attraction in Port Everglades, Florida similar to Queen Mary in Long Beach, California. The ship would be moored between piers 24 and 25 for approximately six months before being towed stern first to her final home along Ellen Drive, about a mile south of piers 24 and 25. This would be completed by January 1969.

28 November 1968 Queen Elizabeth departed Southampton on her last voyage to Port Everglades.

7 December 1968 Queen Elizabeth arrived off the coast of Florida, but took a tour along the coast so final preparations could be made for the piers at which she will be moored.

8 December 1968 Queen Elizabeth arrived with great fanfare into Port Everglades. At 11:54AM EST, the ship was moored at her temporary home between piers 24 and 25.

January 1969 Queen Elizabeth was moored at her permanent home along a parking lot that runs parallel to Eller Drive in Port Everglades.

February 14, 1969 Queen Elizabeth opened her doors to the public, incidentally on Valentine's Day.

May 1969 Cunard, which still oversaw operations of the Queen Elizabeth in Port Everglades, became displeased with revenue and offered the Queen Elizabeth to the highest bidder.

19 July 1969 Cunard ceased to be the "parent" of Queen Elizabeth, selling her to the group of men who oversaw the original plan by which ship came to Florida.

August 1969 It is discovered that a security guard aboard Queen Elizabeth set four fires during the month of August inside the ship to receive attention for discovering them. The small fires were all put out with little damage to the interior of the ship.

31 October 1969 A fifth fire was discovered and extinguished on the Queen Elizabeth.

11 November 1969 Port Everglades Fire Chief John Gerkin was shocked by the poor safety measures in place after touring the Queen Elizabeth. Concerned that the ship's condition which could endanger the welfare of the staff and public, he ordered Queen Elizabeth closed to the public.

December 1969 Queen Elizabeth reopened to the public.

Winter 1969-1970 The owners of Queen Elizabeth were faced with a multitude of debts.

25 May 1970 Hurricane winds up to 70 mph cause Queen Elizabeth to snap her mooring lines and drift approximately one hundred feet into the Intracoastal Waterway before being warped back into her berth by Navy crews of nearby vessels.

9 September 1970 Queen Elizabeth was put up for auction. Her owners are buried in debt.

16 September 1970 Queen Elizabeth was opened for the last time to the public in Port Everglades.

17 September 1970 After being purchased by C.Y. Tung of Hong Kong, Queen Elizabeth was officially closed to the public.

1 January 1971 After a change in ownership and in crew, the ship was prepared for her journey to Hong Kong.

10 February 1971 Queen Elizabeth, now renamed Seawise University, departed Port Everglades for Hong Kong. The voyage takes six months due to mechanical problems.

August 1971 Seawise University arrived in Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour and was docked in water outside the harbour's piers. The process of converting the ship to a floating university commenced.

9 January 1972 Early in the day several fires broke out almost simultaneously, and attempts to put them out flooded the ship. It is believed the fires were arson because of the number and their suspicious origins. No culprits were ever found. Seawise University rolls over onto her starboard side by the afternoon.

1973 Footage was filmed of the wreck of the Seawise University for the James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun as the secret location of MI6 headquarters.

1974 The Man with the Golden Gun debuted in theatres worldwide.

1975 Seawise University - The remains of Queen Elizabeth were scrapped on the spot. Portions of the hull that were not salvaged were left at the bottom of the bay and were later incorporated into landfill for the new Hong Kong airport.

Please Visit Jeffs Big Birthday Surprise From his Wife Marianna
Short Trip on the Queen Mary 2 - Lovely Photographs > > >

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