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RMS Queen Elizabeth

At the end of the roaring twenties, the Cunard and White Star fleet had merged, and most of the ships were over twenty years old. Cunard had sought to update the fleet and the idea of two liners running a true weekly transatlantic service.  

The second of the two ships, the RMS Queen Elizabeth was able to benefit from an updated design over her predecessor, the RMS Queen Mary. As the ship neared completion in 1938, WWII engulfed Europe and construction halted and preparations for an escape were made to transition into a troopship. During WWII, the HMS Queen Elizabeth served alongside the Queen Mary in transporting millions of soldiers millions of miles.

After the war ended, the ship was reunited with her sister as a liner providing weekly service between NYC and Southampton. Near the end of her career, cut short due to fuel cost volatility and jet competition, the ship was sold off. First as a hotel and casino then to a sea based university, the ship caught fire during a refit in Hong Kong. The wreckage can be seen as the MI6 headquarters in James Bond - Man with the Golden Gun.

RMS Queen Elizabeth steamship ocean liner
RMS Queen Elizabeth steam ship ocean liner sailing ito port

The Largest Passenger Liner, Ever

Slightly larger than the Queen Mary, the Queen Elizabeth held the title of largest passenger liner for over 50 years. During the construction in Scotland, work was nearing completion when tensions began to rise.


As work started on warships, focus turned away from the Queen Elizabeth. However, both sides saw the significance of the liner. German spies were reportedly tracking the ship. In order to thwart any plans, the Admiralty decided to announce the ship would move to be fitted out, whereas at dawn the ship quietly slipped out and made a run for the neutral United States. 

Queen Elizabeth During WWII

Cruising in the golden age of ocean liners, the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, both of Cunard, competed against the Normandie of the French Line, shown to the right docked in New York at the onset of WWII.

Usually sailing alone, the Queens were determined to be fast enough to outrun any threat, allowing support ships to focus their efforts on other more vulnerable targets.

Painted a wartime grey, the ship was usually sprinting from theater to theater, transporting troops and supplies to wherever was needed. 

RMS Queen Mary RMS Queen Elizabeth SS Normandie docked together in NYC
HMS Queen Elizabeth troopship ww2
A Partner on the High Seas

After the war ended, the ship was returned to Cunard to operate again as passenger service. The ship enjoyed over two decades of superiority on the high seas.

The Queen Elizabeth in her later years, was overhauled to provide both transatlantic and cruise ship service. The air conditioning was modernized, and exterior deck improvements were also performed. However, the deep draft of the ship as well as the overall width hindered the ship's ability to access smaller ports, and was too large for the Panama Canal at the time.

RMS Queen Elizabeth Seawise University wreckage

Sold in 1967 due to increased operating costs, the Queen Elizabeth was first bought by American businessmen to become a hotel casino in Ft. Lauderdale FL. Unfortunately, increased maintenance costs due to Folrida's inhospitable climate, the ship was auctioned off to a Chinese tycoon to become a floating university. Coaxed along, the Elizabeth completed a final voyage from Liverpool to Hong Kong and began the transformation to Seawise University.

During the transformation of the ship in 1972, a fire broke out, engulfing the entire ship in Hong Kong Bay. Either communist conflicts or an insurance scheme have been determined likely cause of arson. Located in  a shipping channel, the wreck was dismantled, scrapped and the remaining hull could be found at the bottom of the harbor, but has subsequently been covered by a land reclamation project in the 1990's.

Seawise University, 007 MI6 HQ 
Queen Elizabeth

RMS Queen Mary Ship Facts

83,673 GRT
Number of Decks:
Cruising Speed:
28.5 Knots (32.8 mph or 52.8 km/hr)
Max Speed:
33 Knots (38mph or 61km/h)
Port of Registry:
Maiden Voyage:
March 3, 1940
Years in Service:
Current Status:
1972 a fire erupted in Hong Kong harbor, the ship sank and has since been scrapped
RMS Queen Elizabeth elevation drawing
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