Friday, August 21, 2009

About Bill's Queen Mary Crossing

According to a log kept by Colonel Dallas D. Dennis of the New York Port of Embarkation, Bill and his company of Replacements departed from New York harbor on Sunday July 23, 1944 and landed at Gourock, Scotland on the following Friday July 28. The passage took 4 days, 22 hours, and 18 minutes. Average speed for the voyage was 28.02 knots and the troop transport traversed 3,315 nautical miles of ocean. There were 12,009 troops and a crew of 1,130 for a total of 13,139 passengers aboard.

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.


  1. I talked to vets who took the Queen Mary across the Atlantic. The strategy was, rather than to put the great liner with 13,000(!) people on board in a slow convoy, the Navy gave her an escort of destroyers and basically put the hammer down. Twenty-eight knots was, hopefully, faster than any enemy torpedo.

    One thing the vets remembered was having to keep their gear with them at all times, sleeping, eating, waiting, in line, and in the heads.

    Can you imagine how long it must have taken to load and unload 12,500 soldiers? I would think that just following the trail of sewage would reveal the ship's course. Maybe they flushed just once or twice a day.

  2. Bill describes his crossing as "pleasant". Go figure. As I go through his letters I have so many questions that must remain unanswered. How I would love to ask him how the voyage REALLY WAS, but alas, I will have to guess.

  3. Bill had no time in his notes home from overseas for more detail and he probably worried about censorship. They probably avoided the storms of winter and therefore the voyage was "pleasant." The rest of the experience had to be just endurable.

  4. My grandparents took the Queen Mary to Europe in the 1950's. The ship was damaged by its own anchor when they set sail and they were delayed a day or tw for repairs, as I recall. It was quite an ocean liner.

  5. For the past 42 years the Queen Mary has been docked at Long Beach, California as a maritime museum and floating hotel. Sadly, I have heard that it is losing money and not being maintained properly. During WWII when it was being used as a troop transport it was known as the "Gray Ghost". Looking at the photo accompanying this post it is easy to see how it got the name.

  6. Hello Greg.

    I found your blog with great delight. I too found letters from my grandfather during WWII. I also found letters from short-wave listeners around the country who heard about his capture on German radio and then they sent word to his mother, my great-grandmother. These letters are treasures. Kudos to you for sharing them with us.


  7. Lisa,

    I have taken a look at your blog. What a great story! Thank you for sharing it and thank you for your kind comments about my blog dedicated to the memory of my dad's service to our country.


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