The disastrous weekend fire aboard the former trans-Atlantic liner Queen Elizabeth brought the 30-year history of the ship -- once the world's biggest -- to a sad but spectacular end.
AERIAL VIEWS (407/72) Queen Elizabeth on fire and listing (6 shots)
(PB 786/38) MV, SV, & GVs Queen Elizabeth launching ship and ship down slipway into water (10 shots)
(14597/45) Ship at anchor at Greenock, GIs walking down gangplank into ship (6 shots)
(4148/65) AERIAL View ship in dock at Southampton
SV & MV Waiters serving food in dining room
AERIAL VIEW & SV.. ship docking as Captain looks on (3 shots)
(12279/68) Queen Elizabeth escorted by small craft as crowds watch from beach in Florida (12 shots)
(13617/71) LV, MVs and SVs ship in Hong Kong harbour and men working to renovate super-structure (14 shots)
Initials ES. 1727 ES. 1800
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: The disastrous weekend fire aboard the former trans-Atlantic liner Queen Elizabeth brought the 30-year history of the ship -- once the world's biggest -- to a sad but spectacular end.
With little chance of the liner being turned into anything but scrap, Visnews has compiled this history of one of the greatest of all steamships.
Not all of it is library film. The opening sequences contain the latest original film from Hong Kong of the Queen Elizabeth's end -- shot from an aircraft while the fire was still at its height.
There is black-and-white film of the ship's beginnings -- launched by Queen Elizabeth, wife of King George VI, in her name in 1938 -- of her immediate role as a high-speed troop carrier, followed by passenger service on the trans-Atlantic run. Colour coverage includes the ship arriving in the United States to be converted into tourist attraction; and work in progress in Hong kong where she was to be turned into a floating university.
SYNOPSIS: In Hong Kong Harbour, one of the world's greatest ships came to a sad but spectacular end this week. Shortly after this film was taken, the mighty Queen Elizabeth rolled over on her side and settled on the bottom. The ship that for thirty years was the pride of Britain's merchant fleet, and the last word in Trans-Atlantic luxury, has been converted to eighty-three thousand tons of scrap metal.
She was launched at a Scottish shipyard on the Clyde in 1938. Queen Elizabeth, wife of George the Sixth, gave her own name to the magnificent new flagship of the Cunard line. The liner was to have been fitted out as a floating palace for millionaires and the aristocracy; she was designed to carry over twenty-two hundred passengers, with a crew of twelve-hundred to look after them. But World War Two intervened. In a message at the launching ceremony, King George spoke of the dark clouds hanging over the world -- but looked to the new liner to improve friendship between Britain and the United States. It was a prophetic comment.
There was no maiden voyage for the Queen Elizabeth. After two years of fitting out, the ship sailed for New York to start work as one of the world's biggest troop carriers. She carried eight-hundred thousand men across the Atlantic, and Hitler offered a cash reward and the iron cross to the U-boat captain who could sink her.
She came through the war unscathed -- too fast for U-boats and most surface vessels, as well. Now, as a liner, she started to offer new standards of luxury on the trans-Atlantic run. She soon proved immensely popular, and in one year earned over two-and-a-half million pounds profit. But already she was facing increased competition from air services across the Atlantic which had only started at the time of her launching.
By the mid-sixties, such ocean giants were no longer economical to operate. In 1967, Cunard sold the Queen Elizabeth to a United States company. The following year she sailed to a new berth in Port Everglades, Florida. It had originally been intended to turn her into a Philadelphia convention centre. But at Port Everglades the ship was simply turned into 2 tourist attraction. She was condemned as a fire hazard and as a source of pollution. Then the owning company went bankrupt.
In 1970, the Queen Elizabeth was auctioned and bought to Hong Kong. Shipping magnate C.Y. Tung purchased the liner for one-and-quarter million points, then set about spending another four-million in converting the liner into a floating university and cruise ship. Fourteen-hundred workers set about renovating and re-equipping the ship, which was renamed Seawise University. No expense had been spared in trying to recrate the original luxury -- with the addition of oriental touches -- and she was due for her first Pacific cruise next March. But in one respect, the ship had suffered badly. Hong Kong's fire chief said that fire-fighting equipment aboard had fallen into disrepair while she was moored in Florida. Once last weekend's fire took hold, there was no stopping it.