01 April 2009


The Queen Mary on her way to Sydney, Australia, April 12, 1940. 

From Time on April 1, 1940:

The City of New York was notified that water connections would not be required after a certain hour. The attendance at West Side waterfront pubs diminished, as employes of Cunard White Star Line went seriously to work in the Mauretania and Queen Mary* which had been tied up at the company's Manhattan piers since the war was a pup. New York's Finest (police) were relieved to hear that "The Maureen" and "The Queen" (Mary), which had caused them enough worry without having Queen Elizabeth piled in on top of them (TIME, March 18), were going to leave.

In the cold, rainswept evening of one day and the brave, bright morning of the next, first the 35,739-ton Mauretania and then the 81,235-ton Queen Mary, both in grim war-grey, moved down the Hudson estuary and out on the seas for war service—somewhere.

Everyone and his aunt speculated: where? For the Mauretania's, crew, new white uniforms had been bought. Did that argue trans-equator service? Any British crew signed on for more than six months is customarily provided with whites. So The Maureen was ready for a six-month hitch at least. Five days after leaving New York, the Mauretania had reached the Panama Canal.

About Mary there were no clues except that she needs her bottom scraped and cannot get through the Panama Canal. Chances were Canada had some men & munitions to be carried before another Australian contingent would be ready or needed, so Halifax seemed a likely spot to send the swift* Mary first. Germany might be launching another U-boat wave (see col. 1), but nothing last week would have better suited the fighting British heart, as well as Mr. Chamberlain's political necessities, than a gesture of defiance.

*To fill out the two ships' skeleton crews, 770 officers and men were imported in the Antonia but did not set foot in the U. S. 

*Queen Mary is capable of 32 knots, Mauretania of 22. Maximum for a submarine, on the surface, is 19 knots.

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