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A Sentimental Journey On Board Queen Mary 2

May 16, 2011

We Are Cunard

Posted in: Guest Stories, Updates

Recently we had a very special reunion on board Queen Mary 2, during her first Eastbound Transatlantic Crossing of 2011. 15 World War 2 brides, along with their families sailed back to England to celebrate the 65th anniversary of when they sailed to the USA and Canada to be with their servicemen husbands. From 1939 – 1945 Cunard carried more than 2 million serviceman and their families on board our fleet and we were credited by Sir Winston Churchill as helping to shorten the war by a year. For many of the ladies it was the first time they had returned to the UK after making that life changing journey all those years ago.

During the Crossing, guests attended lectures from Bev Tosh, a Canadian war bride’s daughter and accomplished artist. Bev has interviewed hundreds of war brides in USA, Britain, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and these have evolved into a major touring exhibition called ‘one-way passage’

Ed Moffat from Queen Mary 2 met the group during the crossing, here he is with a guest blog and some great photos from the original crossings:

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Guest Blog

Edward Moffat

Assistant Entertainment Director

Queen Mary 2

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The commissioning of Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary during World War 2 did not end at transporting brave troops to and from Europe as part of the war effort. They had an additional roll of the transportation of a very precious cargo; they were of course the ‘War Brides’, women who had married service men from either Canada or the US and later decided to settle down with their new loved ones.

A group of around fifty ladies (and a few sons) all originally born in the UK lead by Beverly Tosh relived their special journey on board Queen Mary 2 from New York to Southampton. After over 60 years making the return trip home by sea passage to share memories of the liners and of course visit families back in the UK.

Jean Fell, originally from Yorkshire, England sailed on board Queen Mary on 3 June 1946 to join her new husband in Canada where she still lives. Beforehand her husband had returned home to Canada on board Queen Elizabeth a few months before her arrival. The Queen Mary was of course still in Military refit and painted grey. Jean recalls “getting sea sick after 3 days into the journey and spending a few nights in the Hospital which was originally the First Class cocktail bar”.

“This was also the time when penicillin was first heard of and the doctor ask if I wanted a shot in my rear and thought he said ear to which I leaned forward to offer my ear for an injection to which young doctor whispered no, in your rear!”

When Jean was not in the hospital she remembers the room in which she slept ‘Having eight bunks in the one cabin.’ she also recalled that the particular crossing she was recorded as one of the fastest at that time.

Kitty Snyder also joined her new husband with their son on board Queen Mary in 1946 making the journey over to the US.

“The one thing I was curious about was seeing my husband in his Civvies, I, of course had only ever seen him in his army fatigues, both my son and I were invited to dine twice with the Captain, I guess he was intrigued to find such a young mother travelling only with her son”.

Whilst on board Kitty had received a cable from her dad wishing her a safe trip and hoping that everything was going well.

“The weather was so rough all I can remember was spending the whole trip in my bunk.” It was also common for the captain of the Queen Mary to wish all the new brides well in the new homes.

Kitty Flew back home October 1947 for 2 months and made the return trip to the US on board Queen Elizabeth. She also spent a year working for Cunard on 48/49 Broadway, New York as a typist.

Lillian Burgess sailed from Southampton to New York on board Queen Mary in June 1946 to join her new husband in Halifax Nova Scotia.  Also sailing on the same crossing was the Canadian Prime Minister McKenzie King “Mr. King personally welcomed all the ladies to Canada prior to our arrival there.

Joan James sailed on board Queen Mary from Southampton to New York in August 1946 with her 14th month old son. “There were so many other children on the trip, six years later we took a return trip back to the UK on The Sydney the children were looked after so well by the staff on board they were even treated to a tea party in First Class.”

Captain Paul Wright met the group and said:

“It was an absolute pleasure to welcome this group of women and their families aboard Queen Mary 2, Cunard and these women share a unique and proud history of providing service and dedication during war time.”

Thank you for a great guest blog Ed, what a special crossing that must have been! We’ll be back with more blogs this week, including Queen Mary 2 in Hamburg and we will reveal ‘Who’ was sailing with us to New York…

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  1. David A. Walker says:

    Peter, Peter, Peter,

    For a company with a tremedous pride in its long and illustrious history please get it right, you even publish historical data on Cunard’s own web site. That must have been a wonderful voyage for those elderly ladies who surely ‘some of their sons’ no daughters?

    Please do a little editing of your (and your guest’s) Blogs.
    - 1938-45, not ’35-45
    Then Ed goes on to say the two Queens were “commissioned” during WWII – No, only QE, QM had been round since her M/Voyage in 1936. Surely he meant commandeered?
    And you can clearly see in the cable that Kitty Snyder’s “Daddy” was more concerned about his grandchild, neglecting all else. Back then every word counted and was expensive – different age.
    An interesting blog with valuable images, it would be a good idea to send a copy of that blog to Elis Island’s museum and PIER 21 the immigration museum in Halifax. With corrections!

    Thanks,

    David

  2. paul clayson says:

    funny, my wife and I were on that voyage and heard nothing about it

  3. Chris & Margaret Rose says:

    Hi Peter,
    A fascinating blog.
    How wonderful for so many war brides to travel back to the UK on QM2.
    Certainly both RMS Queen Elizabeth and RMS Queen Mary did so much for the war effort,
    and both were so iconic.

    Sarah Nicol asks about Queen Elizabeth.
    We sailed on her from Fort Lauderdale to Los Angeles through the Panama Canal back in January.
    Whilst we are not “seasoned” Cunarders (we have sailed transatlantic on QM2) we found the ship to be fantastic.
    Yes, there were some new crew, but certainly all the crew who looked after us were fantastic from, cabin, to restaurant, to bars!
    The food was very much up to standard although we did prefer QM2′s food as we compared the Brittania Club Restaurants on both ships.
    We had the pleasure of meeting Alistair Greening and although he has, sadly, moved on, the entertainment was superb.
    Yes we did queue at the Lido but that was on the first day before we sailed, otherwise there were no problems.
    We are sure you will have a fantastc trip, the atmosphere on the ship is awesome!!

    Very best regards

  4. S. Nicol says:

    Thank you, Chris and Margaret, for your response to my earlier message. We love being at sea and are really looking forward to our cruise. However, I was a bit disappointed to read various negative things on the web. We look forward to posting positive comments ourselves after our own experience!
    Sarah.

  5. Peter Shanks says:

    David

    Thank you for correcting the detail of some of the historical facts – and I am impressed at your knowledge. Good idea about Elis Island – I am in New York in June so I think I should go down there and get a sense of our history for myself. I have always wanted to go there – but have not found the time yet. There is so much interest in ancestry these days – and we oursleves have our own extensive archives managed for us by Liverpool University. Thanks for your comment. Best Regards. Peter

  6. Tom Roesser says:

    Well, not quite, David. Queen Mary was still in service during 1939. Her very last crossing departed Southampton on September 1st, 1939, the same day Germany invaded Poland. Obviously, it was a very tense crossing and there are many “legends” surrounding it. Supposedly it was one of the most crowded in the ship’s history as people tried desperately to flee Europe before the start of the war. Even so, the Queen did not begin her new role as troop carrier immediately. She, along with the Normandie, sat idle at her berth in New York for months. Queen Mary finally left New York on March 21st, 1940, bound for Singapore where she would be converted to a troop carrier. It wasn’t until May 4th, 1940, that the Queen Mary started her war service, carrying her first 5,000 Australian troops to the Clyde.

    Queen Elizabeth is a different story. As you may know, she was still under-construction at John Brown’s. Queen Elizabeth was painted gray and subsequently sent on one of the most daring maiden voyages in history. Instead of heading to her intended destination of Southampton, in March 1940, the Queen was sent on a secret, high-speed run across the Atlantic. She met up fleetmate in New York on the 7th, and the Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, Normandie, and the second Mauretania sat together, dormant at their berths. There are a number of famous photographs showing the ships berthed together during that time. Queen Elizabeth also didn’t join the war effort immediately. She sat in New York for months before leaving on November 13th for her conversion in Singapore. Queen Elizabeth arrived in Sydney on February 21st, 1941, ready to start ferrying troops.

    Throw out 1939-1945, 1938-1945, and 1935-1945. The last one is especially puzzling since the Mary was still under construction in 1935 and the contract for Elizabeth hadn’t been signed yet. Cunard’s Queen Mary started ferrying troops in 1940, and it wasn’t until 1941 that both ships were utilized for troop transport. Additionally, Queen Elizabeth did not take part in ferrying war brides after the war. On March 6th, 1946, she was returned to Cunard and began her first peace-time maiden voyage on October 16th, 1946. Queen Mary was returned to Cunard on September 27th, 1946.

    1940-1946 is a much more accurate timeframe for the Queen’s war service.

  7. Lou Anne Busdieker says:

    Just wanted to comment on how exceptional the current pulication Cunarder was. Beautiful

  8. tony mac says:

    A GREAT STORY, IPRESUME THESE LADIES MET THE GUYS FROM THE U.S AND CANADA IN THE WAR, FELL IN LOVE AND SAILED TO A NEW LIFE. I WILL BE HOLDING A MERCHANT NAVY EXHIBATION IN SEPT AT RADIO LANCASHIRE, BLACKBURN, IF ANY ONE FROM LANCASHIRE CAN SEND IN STORYS AND PICTURES I WILL EXHIBIT THEM. CONTACT tonymac88@live.co.uk many thanks.

  9. Rob Holloway says:

    Hello Peter,
    It was nice to read of thi strip offered by Cunard and its involvement.
    In Canada, go to Pier 21 in Halifax for the stories and entries of War Brides and their familes.
    I was one of those War Brides children who left Liverpool for Pier 21 Halifax in 1945 though it was not on a Cunard ship, was on the SS Cavina. My twin and I were banished and leashed after rolling prized Toilet rolls down the ships corridors.
    http://www.pier21.ca/about/
    – quote: About the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21
    Pier 21 is a National Historic Site which was the gateway to Canada for one million immigrants between 1928 and 1971. It also served as the departure point for 500,000 Canadian Military personnel during the Second World War. Today, Pier 21 hosts the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. — End of quote

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