3rd April 1934 – work restarts on Hull 534

QM bow view on stocksOn the 3rd April 1934, after 27 months of enforced idleness, the first of the shipyard workers, some 400 men, returned to the yard, at 7.00am, escorted by pipers from the Dalmuir Parish Pipe Band in full regalia. The first thing they had to do was clean off rust – around 130 tons of it – and birds’ nests and bird droppings from the hull of liner 534 – later better known as Queen Mary. Lloyd’s surveyors inspected the structure, and reported that overall the state of the steelwork was quite remarkable. The other major concern was whether or not the hull had suffered any distortion from sitting on the stocks for so long. To everyone’s relief, the construction had been sufficiently thorough to support the hull throughout the period of enforced idleness and she passed a Lloyd’s inspection. On 26th May 1934, official permission was received from the Govern­ment to resume construction. Soon thousands of men were back at work, in the yard and the many outside suppliers.

QM aerial view on holdWork had been suspended on 11th December 1931, when Cunard ran out of money, at the height of the Great Depression. Apart from a few men retained for essential maintenance, thousands were laid off, along with several thousand more at the various suppliers of components and parts. Finally in October 1932 the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Neville Chamberlain, asked Lord Weir to look into the problem and make recommendations. As a result, Cunard and White Star merged, in return for which the UK government agreed to provide financial assistance for the completion of Hull 534 – later Queen Mary – with enough for a later sister ship. The North Atlantic Shipping (Advances) Bill was approved in the Houses of Parliament on 27th March 1934, and signalled the start of the end of the Depression.