Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hull #534, the Cunard White Star ship that would be called a name that solved a problem

The proposed White Star vessel Oceanic III
The proposed #534 of the Cunard Line

In 1930 there were two major ocean liner companies in England. One was Cunard, the other was the White Star Line. Both companies were hurting, both needed to do something. What took place over the next few years changed the careers of both companies.

First off the White Star Line had never been in good shape since the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, and then the loss of her sister the Britannic in 1916. It was a rough road to follow in the 1920's as the White Star Line used a batch of ill matched ships as their major carriers. These ships were the Titanic's other sister the Olympic, also joined by Majestic, lastly the Homeric.

By the late 1920's they had built several medium sized liners, however there was a need for a major liner in the company. They ordered a new massive liner to be built. It was announced and stated to being called the Oceanic III.

The Cunard Line was in better shape than White Star, but that did not mean much either as they were hurting too by 1930. They were luckier as they had some really good ships in their collection. Ships like the Mauritania, Aquitania, Berengaria, But by the late 1920's, Cunard had not built a major liner since 1914. Also the Mauritania was over 20 years old. Therefore in 1928 a new vessel was designed and ordered in 1929.
In 1929 there was large economic slowdown. By 1930 it was apparent that White Star could not afford the build the Oceanic III, although her keel had been already laid. It was also very clear that Cunard could afford to build their vessel either.

In fact operations stopped completely on the building of 534 in late 1931. The world started in a terrible economic depression that would not end till the beginnings of World War 2. It lead to a stalemate in which the government had to come to the aid of the shipping industry and decide what to do.

The end result was a massive loan that would allow for the completion of 534 and 552. It also forced the two companies to merge and also forbid the construction of the Oceanic III. The new company was called Cunard White Star.

In 1934 construction began again on the rusty hull of 534. However, there was a big problem that caused a few red faces. The White Star Line always used "ic" on the end of the names of their ships. The Cunard Line always used "ia" on the end of the names of their ships. So now they were together as a new company...What do you do for name that did not offend each side of this new company?

It was solved in a very interesting fashion, if indeed this story is true.

The company Representatives went to King George to ask his permission to name the new Cunard White Star steamship after Brittan's greatest Queen. His response was basically that his wife would be delighted. His wife was named Mary, and she was the Queen.

Now it is said that the name selected had been Victoria, but that flies right in the face of the new partnership. The Queen Mary was the perfect choice. It had not a ic or ia in it.

Therefore 534 became the Queen Mary. It took 6 years for her to go from start to finish and yes 552 was the Queen Elizabeth. As I am sure you were wondering about that number.

The Queen Mary became the greatest ship of her age, and still exists in a form in California.