Carrying Hollywood celebrities like Greta Garbo and Clark Gable, royalty like the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and dignitaries like Winston Churchill, the Queen Mary was one of the most magnificent ocean liners in the world.
However, only three years after her maiden voyage, the Queen Mary was commandeered as a troopship. In 1939 she was painted in camouflage grey and divested of her opulent creature comforts. Nicknamed the “Grey Ghost,” the Queen Mary was the largest and fastest troopship to sail, transporting as many as 16,000 troops at 30 knots—34 mph.
Though Adolph Hitler offered $250,000 and the Iron Cross to any U-boat captain that could sink her, Winston Churchill still considered the Queen Mary his headquarters at sea. He was a passenger three times during World War II, along with his dedicated bodyguard, Walter Thompson, at his side. Avoiding German U-boats, the ship sailed in a zigzag course and under blackout conditions.
After WWII, the Queen Mary went through a 10-month long renovation to be restored to her original glory. On July 21, 1947, regular passenger service across the Atlantic Ocean was reinstated, and continued to serve the public for nearly two more decades.
Retired in 1967, the Queen Mary is now a living landmark and hotel in Long Beach, California. This week there will be several onboard events commemorating the 80th anniversary of her maiden voyage.
Produced by the Queen Mary, this excellent video gives us a unique glimpse into the illustrious era of the Queen Mary and Winston Churchill.