The Queen Mary
Legend has it that the board of directors at Cunard had decided to name the ship the Queen Victoria, which would have been in keeping with the tradition of Cunard ships having the "ia" suffix (Mauretania, Aquitania and Berengeria). As per protocol, legend states that the Cunard directors went to ask King George his blessing of the ship's proposed name saying, "We have decided to name our new ship after England's greatest Queen," meaning Queen Victoria, the King's Grandmother. Upon which the King is reported to have stated, "My wife (Queen Mary) will be delighted that you are naming the ship after her."
On May 27, 1936, the Queen Mary departed from Southampton, England embarking on her maiden voyage. She boasted five dining areas and lounges, two cocktail bars and swimming pools, a grand ballroom, a squash court and even a small hospital. The Queen Mary had set a new benchmark in transatlantic travel, which the rich and famous considered as the only civilized way to travel. She quickly seized the hearts and imaginations of the public on both sides of the Atlantic, representing the spirit of an era known for its elegance, class and style.
For three years after her maiden voyage, the Queen Mary was the grandest ocean liner in the world carrying Hollywood celebrities like Bob Hope and Clark Gable, royalty like the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and dignitaries like Winston Churchill. During this time she even set a new speed record, which she held for 14 years. But when the Queen Mary docked in New York in September 1939 that would be the last time she would carry civilian passengers for many years.
As World War II started, the Queen Mary's transformation into a troopship had begun. She was painted a camouflaged grey color and stripped of her luxurious amenities. Dubbed the "Grey Ghost" because of her stealth and stark color, the Queen Mary was the largest and fastest troopship to sail, capable of transporting as many as 16,000 troops at 30 knots. After the end of WWII, the Queen Mary began a 10-month retrofitting process, which would return the ship to her original glory. On July 21, 1947, the Queen Mary resumed regular passenger service across the Atlantic Ocean, and continued to do so for nearly two more decades.
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