By the late 1920s the directors of Cunard realised that their current fleet was becoming dated, and that marine engineering and technology was moving forward. It was time to have a fresh look at the needs of the modern trans-Atlantic passenger. After an extended design and research period, in early 1929 they put out a tender call to various UK shipyards. The successful bid was from John Brown’s on the Clyde, and on 1st December 1930 the contract was signed. At that time the hull was known simply as 534.
The slip used for Aquitania was lengthened and reinforced ready for the massive new liner. The first keel plate was officially laid on 27th December 1930. Work was underway on what was to become one of the world’s best-known liners – RMS Queen Mary. Work was halted by the Great Depression and Cunard’s faltering finances, but following the UK government’s intervention with a massive loan, she was eventually launched on 26th September 1934. Once fitting out was completed and the trials passed successfully, she left on her maiden voyage on 27th May 1936, to begin a hugely successful career, both as a trans-Atlantic passenger ship and as vitally-important troopship.
She gained the Blue Riband, and fought France’s Normandie several times before World War II, finally retaining it. Her war service saw her entering many areas of the world for which she had not been designed, and the lack of air conditioning aboard made many troops suffer when she was in the tropics. Refurbished after the war, she went on to forge a successful partnership alongside Queen Elizabeth, until the advent of jet aircraft and declining passenger numbers forced her withdrawal in 1967. Subsequently sold to Long Beach, California, she is permanently moored there as a memorial to the glory days of trans-Atlantic liners.