25 January 2009

An Anxious Voyage

Departing Suez on this day in 1943, Commodore James Bisset undertook what was one of the most perilous journeys the Queen Mary had yet faced in her War career. Commanding a convoy that included her fellow Cunarder, the Aquitania, as well as the Ile de France, the Nieuw Amsterdam, and the Queen of Bermuda, Bisset was charged with delivering Australian troops to their home country, which was under threat of invasion by Japanese forces. 

While the Mary averaged around 25 knots during most of her military career, because she was part of a convoy, she could go only as fast as the slowest ship -- which meant she was traveling through treacherous waters at a painfully slow 15.74 knots.  Bisset knew that without her biggest asset, speed, she was a prime target for lurking u-boats, eager to not only wipe out the ship and its cargo of able-bodied soldiers, but to collect the bounty put upon her by Adolf Hitler. Fortunately, the Mary's luck held. The convoy arrived in tact three days later in Massawa, Eritrea, after traveling 1,050 miles, and the Grey Ghost would make six more stops before arriving safely home in Gourock, Scotland.

Recording the experience in his journal, Commodore Bisset wrote it was "the most anxious voyage that I made in the Queen Mary, and the biggest responsibility that I have ever had thrust upon me." 

Pictured above is an autograph he signed the previous year while visiting Blackpool, England. 

Sources:
Queen Mary by James Steele
Gray Ghost by Steve Harding
 
Photo:
© Karen Clark

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