Departures of the Queen Mary were usually made early in the morning or late in the evening to take advantage of high tide and screen the liner’s movements from view. As a precaution against Axis attacks, the ship never followed the same route twice. Even the ship’s Captain didn’t know her exact course until leaving port. A group of four or five destroyers escorted the liner for some 150 miles, and were then relieved by Navy patrol planes or blimps.
Once aboard ship life for the troops was regulated by the ships Standing Orders and the routine Daily Orders. Two meals were served aboard the Queen Mary daily, each in six staggered sittings with breakfast available from 6:30 to 11:00 am and dinner from 3:00 to 7:30 pm. The rotational system that governed meals also applied to sleeping arrangements. Only two thirds of the embarked troops could be accommodated in the liners 12,500 bunks, so 2,500 men were assigned sleeping areas on the ship’s deck. A regular rotation ensured that no one spent more than two nights “topside”. Many of the GI’s preferred the deck to the crowded spaces below, where the bunks were stacked six high in every available area and separated by only 18 inches. Understandably, most troops felt claustrophobic in such cramped quarters and felt that a man sleeping on deck had a better chance of survival should the ship be torpedoed.
After the Queen Mary was safely moored at the port of Gourock the soldiers would be loaded aboard waiting British Army trucks. The vehicles, forming a convoy that often stretched for miles, then wound through the streets of Gourock toward staging areas outside Glasgow. From there Bill and his fellow American troops would be sent to camps throughout Britain and, ultimately to the battlefronts of Europe.