Troop Transport in War

 

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US troops aboard Queen Mary in World War Two

fascinating article in Maritime Executive on service of Cunard Line passenger ships in war:

Cunard Pays Tribute to War Service

Cunard ships have answered the call of Great Britain in every major conflict from Crimea in 1853 to the first Gulf War in 1990………….

 

In September 1939 the fleet was again quickly requisitioned for war service. One of the most daring voyages of the war was the secret Atlantic dash of the unfinished Queen Elizabeth in 1940 in order to remove her from Scotland and prevent her being a target for German air attacks.

The captain put to sea, with workmen still on board, and once out of the Clyde opened his sealed orders which he expected to instruct him to go to Southampton. Instead, he was told to head at full speed to New York. The secret dash was done with the launching gear still affixed to the underside of the ship, and without proper fitments inside. Men who expected to be going home by trains from Southampton within days did not get home for years.

After trooping from Australia Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth began bringing American GIs across to Europe in 1942 at full speed and unescorted. Not only were they faster than the U-Boats whose crews had been offered £100,000 by Hitler to sink either of them, but they were faster even then the torpedoes.

In summer, 15,000 soldiers were carried on each voyage – such a huge number that the men had to sleep in shifts, observing a strict one-way system on board. Queen Mary’s master, Commodore Sir James Bisset, noted that the ship was so difficult to handle under such circumstances that he was concerned for her stability. On one voyage Queen Mary carried over 16,000 which is still a record today.

All told she made 28 such trips, taking soldiers eastbound and prisoners-of-war westbound, with Queen Elizabeth undertaking a similar number. On three occasions Queen Mary was the nerve-center of the Empire as Sir Winston Churchill crossed the Atlantic to see President Roosevelt.

The closest the enemy ever got to him was when he was travelling on Queen Mary as prisoners of war would be transported to the States on the decks below Churchill’s Main Deck Suite – unbeknown to those prisoners at the time. Naked flames were not allowed in cabins at any time but special allowance was made for Churchill to have a candle lit at all times – for his cigars.

The entire article is here:

http://www.maritime-executive.com/features/cunard-pays-tribute-to-war-service

Grendier Guards Rehearse for Trooping the Colours

If you perform in public, you have to  rehearse no matter what it is.

 

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CSM Steve Williams and CSM Matthew Brooks at Wellington Barracks
Photo by Heathcliff O’Malley courtesy of London Telegraph.

(CSM is the acronym of company sergeant major)

According to the official British Army website, a Company Sergeant Major is classified as a Warrant Officer Class 2. “This is a senior management role focussing on the training, welfare and discipline of a company, squadron or battery of up to 120 soldiers. WO2s act as senior adviser to the Major in command of the sub-unit and may also be selected for a commission as an Officer.”

http://www.army.mod.uk/structure/32321.aspx

 

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Guardsman Simon Edis uses a clothes brush on Guardsman David Shelvey’s tunic at Wellington Barracks.

Photo by Heathcliff O’Malley courtesy of London Telegraph

 

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The men are wearing their thick wool ceremonial uniforms so they are hot that is for sure. And it gets really hot under those bearskins. Previously made from the pelts of Canadian black bears, the “bearskin” hats have been made of synthetic bear fur for decades.

 

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19 May 2010: A guardsman collapses on Horseguards during rehearsals for Trooping the Colour in celebration of the Queen’s Birthday on June 12.

Photo by Heathcliff O’Malley courtesy of London Telegraph

 

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The Grenadier Guard is taken off the parade ground by stretcher bearers

Photo by Heathcliff O’Malley courtesy of London Telegraph

 

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Daily Telegraph photographer Heathcliff O’Malley captured these behind-the-scenes pictures of the rehearsals at Horseguards Parade and Wellington Barracks.

 

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The battalion of Foot Guards on ceremonial duties in London are housed in Wellington Barracks in London situated only three hundred yards from Buckingham Palace. The short distance allows them to reach the palace quickly in an emergency to reinforce the guards on duty.

(Photo by Lewis Clarke courtesy of Wikipedia)

 

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Members of the Scots Guards take part in the rehearsals for Trooping the Colour

Photo by Heathcliff O’Malley courtesy of London Telegraph.

“Trouping the Color” is now carried out on the Queen’s official birthday. Unless a sovereign was born in the summer, the nation celebrates the sovereigns official birthday in the summer when the weather is apt to be better. The military ceremony of trouping the color  “dates back to the early eighteenth century or earlier, when the colours (flags) of the battalion were carried (or ‘trooped’) down the ranks so that they could be seen and recognised  by the soldiers.”

explanation from the official website of the British monarchy

www.royal.gov.uk/royaleventsandceremonies/troopingthecolour

Titanic’s Sister Ship Arrives New York City Without Sinking

 

RMS Olympic

 

White Star liner RMS Olympic arrives in New York for the first time 21 June 1911.  

Photo courtesy US Library of Congress

Most British passenger liners were built with a subsidy from the Royal Mail to fulfill a secondary but very important role of carrying mail to the USA, Canada and the far flung British Empire.  Hence, RMS stands for “Royal Mail Steamer.”

(After the First World War, most small airlines in the US were subsidized by the US Post Office and that was the beginning of air mail)

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White Star line RMS Olympic and her sister ship RMS Titanic probably taken circa 1911.

(Photo credit Titanic Wiki)

The RMS Titanic was her sister ship and built after RMS Olympic. The third ship in the series, originally to be named, Gigantic, had her named changed to Britannic prior to being built. I think this was a good idea, certainly from a PR point of view.

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Above is HMHS Britannic in her hospital livery. According to author Sean Munger: “photographs of the Britannic are pretty rare. Here is one, taken about 1915, of the ship decked out in her hospital colors. The funnels would have been painted tan.”

photo courtesy of Sean Munger

Mr. Munger is an authority on these ships and his website can he found here:

http://seanmunger.com/

Unfortunately, the name change didn’t bring luck. Just after completion, Britannic was requisitioned by the British Government on the outbreak of World War One to serve as a hospital ship and given the prefix “HMHS (His Majesty’s Hospital Ship) Britannic”  She hit a mine in the Aegean on 21 November 1916 and sank.

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HMHS Britannic on the bottom of the Aegean Sea. The ship is a war grave since 30 0f the 1,066 passengers and patients aboard perished leaving 1,036 survivors.

(Photo credit Titanic Wiki)

The following info comes from  Titanic Wiki whose website is here: http://titanic.wikia.com/wiki/HMHS_Britannic :

The ship sank in water only 119 meters deep (390 feet),….the ship was almost 900 feet in length……So it is no surprise that–

“…..Britannic’s bow hit the bottom whilst her stern is was above the surface. The last few men who were below decks by now, had left the ship. Fifth Officer Fielding estimated the stern rose  some 150 feet into the air. With all her funnels detached, Britannic finally completed her starboard roll, causing heavy damage to the forward bow area. Britannic slipped beneath the surface almost an hour after she hit the mine.”

[I have changed the tense in the original quote above from present to past]

Since the ship was in the service of the British Government at the time it sank it remains the property of the British government and can’t be dived on without the permission of the British Government. In my mind, far too many warships are explored by divers who do not respect them as war graves and who often seize such equipment as engine telegraphs and other items which can easily be pried off and stolen. There are many details of this in the book Shadow Divers.

As you will recall, RMS Titanic had her unfortunate encounter with an iceberg in 1912 and sank.21 November 1916, and sank 55 minutes later, killing 30 people.

Fortunately, RMS Olympic enjoyed a long and safe life as a passenger steamer and temporary hospital ship and sailed from 1911 to 1935 without a mishap.

As much as we associate Atlantic liners of the era with the wealthy, the shipping firms actually made their money carrying immigrants to the US and Canada. When that stopped so did cash flow. In January of 1934, both the White Star Line and the Cunard Line were about to go under financially. The British government promised to lend them money to build several new ships if they would merge which the two companies did with “almost indecent haste.”

The new ships became the famous Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth which played a major part in World War Two transporting troops. Each ship could carry an entire US Army division of more than 15,000 men. Most US troops sent to Europe were transported on one of these ships. Indeed, so many American military personnel were transported to Europe by the Queens, that the US Government paid the entire operating costs of the ships.

Both liners retained their original Cunard Line officers and crew but their designations changed from RMS--Royal Mail Steamer–to HMT–His Majesty’s Transport–since the two ships were officially taken over my the British Ministry of War Transport.

A very large number of changes were made including a permanent ship’s police force mainly comprising US MPs who were assisted in maintaining order by the MPs assigned to each unit. There was little trouble form the soldiers, most of whom were seasick and were bunked in with their non-commissioned officers who had strict orders to keep everyone in their quarters.

In reasonable weather, the passage took less than four days since both the Queens steamed at maximum speed which was roughly 32 knots…………

You couldn’t walk around the ship as you pleased, not even the Army officers could do that.

Source: Warrior Queens: the Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth in World War Two by Daniel Allen Butler.