Cunard Line Limited

Cunard Line Limited

August 11, 2005 05:55 ET

Cunard - Queen Mary 2 Commemorates VJ Day and Receives Highest Accolade From City Of Southampton

LONDON, ENGLAND--(CCNMatthews - Aug. 11, 2005) - At a special celebration in Southampton on Monday 15 August 2005 Cunard Line's flagship Queen Mary 2, the largest, longest, tallest, widest and most expensive passenger liner ever, will mark the 60th Anniversary of VJ Day and the role the original Queen Mary played in announcing the end of the War to the citizens of Southampton. At the same time Queen Mary 2's Master, officers and crew will receive the Freedom of the City of Southampton from the Mayor, Councillor Edwina Cooke.

VJ Day Commemoration

Sixty years ago on 15 August 1945 Queen Mary sounded her whistle - audible for ten miles - to announce to the citizens of Southampton that the war was finally over and that the Japanese had surrendered. During the commemoration at 12 noon next Monday Queen Mary 2 will mark this anniversary when the Mayor of Southampton, Councillor Edwina Cooke, sounds the whistle - one of those originally on Queen Mary and used in 1945!

Freedom of the City

Cunard will also have the great privilege of the Freedom of the City bestowed on the Master, Commodore Ron Warwick, officers and crew of Queen Mary 2.

It is a double honour for Cunard as the company's other ship Queen Elizabeth 2, the world's most famous and fastest passenger liner, received the honour in 1990 on the occasion of Cunard's 150th Anniversary.

Carol Marlow, Cunard's European Director, says:

"We feel immensely privileged that the crews of both the company's liners have been granted Freedom of the City status: such a distinction establishes more than anything else could, the close, continuing and beneficial relationship between Southampton and Cunard."

Notes to Editors

Cunard's War Efforts

Cunard ships have served with distinction in most major conflicts Great Britain has been involved in. The earliest was Crimea, for which Sir Samuel Cunard was rewarded with his baronetcy, and the most recent being the Gulf War in 1991 when the crew of Cunard Princess witnessed Iraqi scud missiles overhead as their ship served as a rest and recuperation ship.

Cunard's Crimean War effort may have earned Sir Samuel an honour, but it nearly finished the company as Cunard's absence from the Atlantic - thanks to 14 of its 16 ships serving in the war - allowed foreign competitors, unhindered by a commitment to disputes in faraway places, to garner for themselves most of the lucrative transatlantic business. After the war, Cunard struggled to regain its pre-eminence and finally did so through major investment and a little luck. But the war effort gained it the nation's respect as the company's contribution included not just the transporting of 100,000 troops, but also that of 7,500 horses - including all those that charged with the Light Brigade.

In the years that followed, Cunard ships took troops and stores to Canada, to South Africa for the Zulu War and both Boer Wars, and to Egypt.

But they came into their own spectacularly in the First World War when they carried over one million troops. In addition to transport, Cunard vessels served as hospital ships, prisoner-of-war ships, food and munition transports, and as armed merchant cruisers. It was in the latter role that Carmania took the first German casualty of the war when she sank the Cap Trafalgar - ironically disguised as Carmania - off South America in November 1914.

Campania, meanwhile, was equipped with a 240-foot platform to serve as a forerunner of today's aircraft carriers.

The First World War resulted in the loss of 22 Cunarders, including the Lusitania which, unarmed and still in service as a passenger liner, was torpedoed off the Old Head of Kinsale with the loss of 1,198 lives.

The Second World War saw Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth - the company's newest ships and largest ever built at that time - in service as troop carriers. After trooping from Australia and New Zealand, both began in 1942 to ferry one million American GIs to Europe unescorted and at full speed. In summer, 15,000 were carried on each voyage - such a huge number they had to sleep and eat in three shifts and observe a strict one-way system on board. Queen Mary's master, Commodore Sir James Bisset, noted that the number of soldiers on board was such that it made the ship difficult to handle, to such a degree he was concerned about her stability - especially when the British coast was sighted and there was a movement of people to starboard. All told, Queen Mary made 28 such trips - and Queen Elizabeth a similar number - taking soldiers eastbound and prisoners-of-war and child evacuees westbound.

On three occasions Queen Mary was the nerve centre of the Empire as Sir Winston Churchill crossed the Atlantic to see President Roosevelt. And, according to Churchill, the trooping record of the two Queens, along with the Aquitania (which had the distinction of being the only passenger ship to serve in both world wars) and Mauretania reduced the duration of the war by at least a year.

But not all Cunard ships survived the war; ten were lost, most tragically the Lancastria which was bombed in Saint Nazaire harbour as she was embarking retreating Allied troops. The actual death toll will never be known, but it was almost certainly in the region of 3,000.

And more recently QE2 was involved in the Falklands Campaign. Of course, QE2 was not the only Cunard ship to go to the Falklands - the Atlantic Causeway and Saxonia were there; the Cunard Countess and the England were used in the months afterwards. However, a special mention must go to the Atlantic Conveyor in which six Cunard officers and crew, including Captain Ian North, died when she was sunk.

While it is to be hoped Cunard ships will never need to undertake such duties in future, if they are called upon to serve the nation again in time of war that is what they will do - just as they have so often in the past.

The Freedom of the City

Freedom of the City is the greatest honour a city can give and it publicly declares that the recipient of the honour is a person or organization of distinction who has rendered eminent services to the city. Southampton is our homeport and our ships, including all of the great Cunard Queens, have been based in this city since 1921.

Freedom of the City is an award whose roots date back to 1835. In many cities and towns custom prevailed - and by-laws were made to enforce this custom - that no person other than a freeman could keep any ship or carry on any trade of gainful occupation.

There were three ways in which a person could become a freeman - being apprenticed to a freeman, by purchase (rarely allowed) or by being presented with the status.

In 1835 the Municipal Corporation Act was passed and section 14 of that Act abolished these exclusive rights of trading, but being presented with the status was retained and continued.

The Local Government Act 1972 empowers the Council to create honorary freeman. The decision to give this award is made as a special council meeting with the support of all the political groups represented on the council.

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