Sketch by Jack Chalker

Homeward Bound

Homeward Bound

Now which way were we to go we were still a long way from home? We boarded a sleeper train for a week's journey right across America, from one side to the other. We were allowed off at various points and we changed coaches as we passed through different States eventually arriving in Halifax, Nova Scotia. This meant we had now completed a round trip of the world as we had left Halifax some four years previously.


RMS Queen Elizabeth in Wartime Colours

After a few days, on 1st November 1945 we boarded the ‘Queen Elizabeth’ that had been used as a troop ship during the war bringing American troops over to Europe. I was allocated a cabin next to ‘Wee’ Georgie Wood, a British actor and comedian who appeared in films he was a little person, only was 4ft 9in! The year after he was awarded the OBE for services to the entertainment industry.

The RMS Queen Elizabeth was constructed, in the mid-1930s by John Brown and Company at Clydebank, Scotland. When she was launched, on 27th September 1938, she was named in honor of Queen Elizabeth, Queen Consort to King George VI to become the Queen Mother in 1952. Slightly larger than her sister ship the Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth was the largest passenger liner ever built at that time and for next fifty-six years when the SS France took over the tittle. She first entered service in February 1940 as a troopship in World War II, and after the War in October 1946 she served in her intended role as an ocean liner.

In 1972, she caught fire under mysterious circumstances undergoing a 5 million refurbishment in Hong Kong harbor. The water used to fight the fire caused the ship to capsize. In 1973, her wreck was deemed an obstruction, and she was partially scrapped where she lay, finally declared a shipping hazard in 1974 dismantled for scrap between 1974 and 1975 around 40% of the wreck remained on the seabed.

The final remains of the Queen Elizabeth were buried in the late 1990s during the construction of Hong Kong Airport and now sit under Container Terminal 9. The Queen Elizabeth held the title of "largest passenger shipwreck" until the Costa Concordia capsized in 2012. Before it was dismantled, the charred wreck was featured in the 1974 James Bond movie “The Man with the Golden Gun”, as a covert headquarters for MI6. The Parker Pen Company produced a special edition of 5,000 pens made from material recovered from the wreck. Two of the ship's fire warning system brass plaques were recovered by a dredger and these are now on display at The Aberdeen Boat Club in Hong. The charred remnants of her last ensign were cut from the flag pole and framed in 1972, and it still adorns the wall of the officers' mess of marine police HQ in Hong Kong.

After a week long journey crossing the Atlantic and sailing through a really bad storm we arrived at Southampton on 5th November, to be met by the Salvation Army. We were given a gift of five cigarettes, where we had used to getting 200, still we were very thankful. An overnight stay there and I was issued with a travel warrant for train journey back home to Leeds.


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