Two of the greatest Queens in cruising history made landmark voyages for Liverpool’s Cunard line in the 1960s.
The much-loved Queen Mary made her final transatlantic crossing in September 1967, while the shiny new liner Queen Elizabeth 2 embarked on her maiden voyage in May 1969.
Crowds gathered along the coast to wave the RMS Queen Mary goodbye. After becoming the flagship of Cunard’s fleet in May 1936, she captured the coveted Blue Riband for the fastest Atlantic crossing three months later.
The 82,000-ton liner was converted into a troopship in the Second World War, often carrying as many as 15,000 men in a single voyage.
She was far too quick for any U-boat to catch and often travelled without a convoy or escort.
The Queen Mary often carried Winston Churchill to America for wartime meetings. He was listed on the passenger manifest as Colonel Warden.
Nobody imagined the Queen Elizabeth 2 would see active service. But she did precisely that in the Falklands conflict of 1982.
More than 650 Cunard crew members volunteered to transport 3,000 members of the Fifth Infantry Brigade to South Georgia. The ship was painted battleship grey and two helipads were added.
The perilous wartime voyage was certainly a far cry from the carefree days of expectation in 1966, when the new liner would open up a new era in cruising for Cunard.
Back then, the QE2’s first master, Commodore William E. Warwick, was only too happy to pose for publicity shots. In our photo, we see him back on the Mersey aboard the Carinthia with Miss Liverpool Maureen Martin.
The QE2 wasn’t the only ship launched by Cunard in the 1960s. Cammell Laird built the 7,500-freighter Scythia, along with its two sister ships the Samaria and Scotia, for the North Atlantic cargo run.
The Scotia was equipped with a specially strengthened hull and an icebreaker bow to allow her to reach Quebec in the winter.
Workers at Cammell Laird’s Birkenhead shipyard were dwarfed by the Scythia as she slid down the slipway to the Mersey in August 1964. The ship was launched with the traditional bottle of champagne cracked on the bow by Mrs. Philip R. Bates.
One of the most unusual cargoes loaded at the Merseyside Docks in the 1960s was the world famous locomotive the Flying Scotsman.
Businessman Alan Pegler was shipping it to the United States in September 1969 to lead a trans-America exhibition tour of British goods.
The engine was swung aboard the Cunard freighter Saxonia by the Mersey Docks and Harbour floating crane Mammoth.
The trip did not end well for Pegler. The British Board of Trade decided the loco was too old-fashioned and conveyed the wrong image. They even discouraged businesses from taking part!
Pegler was left so broke that he worked his passage back as an entertainer on a cruise liner.
Creditors could have seized the Scotsman and sold it for scrap but for the last minute intervention of enthusiast William ‘Bill’ McAlpine.
He swiftly organised a rescue package and discreetly paid off all debts. In January 1973, the stranded loco was loaded on to the California Star at Oakland Docks bound for Liverpool via the Panama Canal.
The Flying Scotsman was coming home.
*Many more unmissable photos feature in Clive Hardy’s brilliant book Around Liverpool and Merseyside in the 1960s.