Daily Event for September 27

September 27, 1938: The Cunard liner Queen Elizabeth was launched. It was scheduled to be completed in the spring of 1940 however, World War 2 interrupted the maiden voyage of the QE when she was requisitioned by the Admiralty. Instead of fitting her out for the comfort of paying passengers she was painted gray and was prepared for war. With the newest liner sitting in the fitters yard in the Clyde the British government decided she would make a fine target for German aircraft so, to keep her from being sunk and to clear up room for warship construction she was sent to New York.

She arrived in New York in March 1940 and stayed there until November when she set sail for Singapore. There she was fitted out as an armed troop ship. Her first trooping voyage was from Sydney to Suez and she would remain on this duty for the remainder of the war. There was a proposal to convert both of the "Queens" (Mary & Elizabeth) into aircraft carriers but this was quickly rejected due to the capacity of troops they could carry. By the time the war was over the QE had transported over 750,000 troops and sailed over half a million miles.

After an extensive refit the now commercial passenger liner, painted proudly in the familiar red, black and white of the Cunard line, was ready to make her first paying passenger run, eight years after her launch. On October 16, 1946 she made her way out of Southampton bound for New York, finally carrying passengers in peaceful waters instead of zigzagging to avoid U-boats. She sailed the cross Atlantic route until 1963 when the great north Atlantic liners could no longer compete with air travel. The ability to cross the ocean non-stop by air was now and forever the preferred way to travel. She was used as a cruise ship from 1963 until 1968 when she was withdrawn from service and sold to a group of Philadelphia businessmen. They sent her to Port Everglades, Florida and opened her to the public but, was closed by the local authorities by the end of the year, in 1970 the once proud Queen was sold at auction to C.Y. Tung of Hong Kong. Her new role was to be a floating university being renamed Seawise University in 1971. She was taken to Hong Kong and a £5 million refit was begun.

With the refit nearly complete on January 9, 1972 in Hong Kong harbor an arsonist put an end to the once great liner. A ship that once helped the war effort and served passengers for twenty two years finally succumbed to the flames and the tons of water  poured on to her, she rolled on to her side and gave up the next day. Her career almost at an end but not completely over, she had one more brief glimpse of life.

In 1973 she made a "cameo" appearance in the James Bond film Live and Let Die, as a secret outpost for MI-5. After this her useful life was finally done. In 1975 she was broken up and disappeared forever.

© 2005 Michael W. Pocock

Queen Elizabeth


Queen Elizabeth as a troopship


Seawise University burning in Hong Kong Harbor