31 July 2016

A Patch of Sunlight

On this day in 1947, the RMS Queen Mary, her murals uncovered and her staterooms restored, resumed passenger service after serving as a troop ship for the previous seven years. To celebrate the occasion, crowds of well-wishers turned out to wave good-bye, and a local band played Rule Britannia as the giant Cunarder departed the Southampton docks.

The last time she departed as a passenger ship, it was 1939 and the world was a different place. Gone, at least on this first voyage, was the glitter and decadence of the illustrious passengers who so commonly were found in the ship's salons in the pre-War years. Many of the travelers now were parents of British girls who had moved to the United States after marrying American soldiers. And among the first-class passengers, more than a few were going overseas for the first time--though there was a modest sprinkling of lords, politicians, and prominent business types aboard as well.

On the bridge for the Mary's return was Captain Cyril Gordon Illingworth. Despite his 44 years at sea, the captain still found occasions for exuberance. Maintaining his position on the bridge as the ship approached a fog bank, he exclaimed, "Look at that patch of sunlight. Did you ever see anything like it?" Some in those post-War years would see the Queen Mary in exactly the same way.

No comments:

Post a Comment