August 16, 2005

QM2 and VJ day

Queen Mary 2 Commemorates VJ Day 
At a special celebration in Southampton on Monday 15 August 2005 Cunard
Line's flagship Queen Mary 2, the largest, longest, tallest, widest and
most expensive passenger liner ever, will mark the 60th Anniversary of
VJ Day and the role the original Queen Mary played in announcing the
end of the War to the citizens of Southampton. At the same time Queen
Mary 2's Master, officers and crew will receive the Freedom of the City of
Southampton from the Mayor, Councillor Edwina Cooke.

Sixty years ago on 15 August 1945 Queen Mary sounded her whistle -
audible for ten miles - to announce to the citizens of Southampton that the
war was finally over and that the Japanese had surrendered. During the
commemoration at 12 noon next Monday Queen Mary 2 will mark this
anniversary when the Mayor of Southampton, Councillor Edwina Cooke, sounds
the whistle - one of those originally on Queen Mary and used in 1945!

Cunard will also have the great privilege of the Freedom of the City
bestowed on the Master, Commodore Ron Warwick, officers and crew of Queen
Mary 2. It is a double honour for Cunard as the company's other ship
Queen Elizabeth 2, the world's most famous and fastest passenger liner,
received the honour in 1990 on the occasion of Cunard's 150th

Carol Marlow, Cunard's European Director, says: "We feel immensely
privileged that the crews of both the company's liners have been granted
Freedom of the City status: such a distinction establishes more than
anything else could, the close, continuing and beneficial relationship
between Southampton and Cunard."

As part of the announcement, Cunard relesaed the following overview of
Cunard ships participation in military action:

Cunard ships have served with distinction in most major conflicts Great
Britain has been involved in. The earliest was Crimea, for which Sir
Samuel Cunard was rewarded with his baronetcy, and the most recent being
the Gulf War in 1991 when the crew of Cunard Princess witnessed Iraqi
scud missiles overhead as their ship served as a rest and recuperation

Cunard's Crimean War effort may have earned Sir Samuel an honour, but
it nearly finished the company as Cunard's absence from the Atlantic -
thanks to 14 of its 16 ships serving in the war - allowed foreign
competitors, unhindered by a commitment to disputes in faraway places, to
garner for themselves most of the lucrative transatlantic business. After
the war, Cunard struggled to regain its pre-eminence and finally did so
through major investment and a little luck. But the war effort gained
it the nation's respect as the company's contribution included not just
the transporting of 100,000 troops, but also that of 7,500 horses -
including all those that charged with the Light Brigade.

In the years that followed, Cunard ships took troops and stores to
Canada, to South Africa for the Zulu War and both Boer Wars, and to Egypt.

But they came into their own spectacularly in the First World War when
they carried over one million troops. In addition to transport, Cunard
vessels served as hospital ships, prisoner-of-war ships, food and
munition transports, and as armed merchant cruisers. It was in the latter
role that Carmania took the first German casualty of the war when she
sank the Cap Trafalgar - ironically disguised as Carmania - off South
America in November 1914.

Campania, meanwhile, was equipped with a 240-foot platform to serve as
a forerunner of today's aircraft carriers. The First World War resulted
in the loss of 22 Cunarders, including the Lusitania which, unarmed and
still in service as a passenger liner, was torpedoed off the Old Head
of Kinsale with the loss of 1,198 lives.

The Second World War saw Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth - the company's
newest ships and largest ever built at that time - in service as troop
carriers. After trooping from Australia and New Zealand, both began in
1942 to ferry one million American GIs to Europe unescorted and at full
speed. In summer, 15,000 were carried on each voyage - such a huge
number they had to sleep and eat in three shifts and observe a strict
one-way system on board. Queen Mary's master, Commodore Sir James Bisset,
noted that the number of soldiers on board was such that it made the ship
difficult to handle, to such a degree he was concerned about her
stability - especially when the British coast was sighted and there was a
movement of people to starboard. All told, Queen Mary made 28 such trips -
and Queen Elizabeth a similar number - taking soldiers eastbound and
prisoners-of-war and child evacuees westbound.

On three occasions Queen Mary was the nerve centre of the Empire as Sir
Winston Churchill crossed the Atlantic to see President Roosevelt. And,
according to Churchill, the trooping record of the two Queens, along
with the Aquitania (which had the distinction of being the only passenger
ship to serve in both world wars) and Mauretania reduced the duration
of the war by at least a year.

But not all Cunard ships survived the war; ten were lost, most
tragically the Lancastria which was bombed in Saint Nazaire harbour as she was
embarking retreating Allied troops. The actual death toll will never be
known, but it was almost certainly in the region of 3,000.

And more recently QE2 was involved in the Falklands Campaign. Of
course, QE2 was not the only Cunard ship to go to the Falklands - the
Atlantic Causeway and Saxonia were there; the Cunard Countess and the England
were used in the months afterwards. However, a special mention must go
to the Atlantic Conveyor in which six Cunard officers and crew,
including Captain Ian North, died when she was sunk.

While it is to be hoped Cunard ships will never need to undertake such
duties in future, if they are called upon to serve the nation again in
time of war that is what they will do - just as they have so often in
the past.

According to Cunard, Freedom of the City is the greatest honour a city
can give and it publicly declares that the recipient of the honour is a
person or organization of distinction who has rendered eminent services
to the city. Southampton is our homeport and our ships, including all
of the great Cunard Queens, have been based in this city since 1921.

Freedom of the City is an award whose roots date back to 1835. In many
cities and towns custom prevailed - and by-laws were made to enforce
this custom - that no person other than a freeman could keep any ship or
carry on any trade of gainful occupation. There were three ways in
which a person could become a freeman - being apprenticed to a freeman, by
purchase (rarely allowed) or by being presented with the status.

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