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Mary, Mary? Quite The Contrary

May 2024
1min read

Some observant Anglophiles have Owritten in to take issue with one of the captions that accompanied “When Does This Place Get to New York?” in our June/July, 1979, issue. That caption identified “Queen Mary herself” on page 87 visiting the Queen Mary . Not so, these readers point out. The visitor in question (see photo at right) is in fact the then Queen Elizabeth, consort of King George VI, and the mother of today’s Queen Elizabeth II.

There were other responses to the article, which related the career of the Queen Mary in peace and war. One such was from Joseph L. Glenn of Falls Church, Virginia, who was on the vessel on October 2,1942, when it rammed the British cruiser H.M.S. Curaçao : “The caption accompanying the picture on page 88 is in error. The Curaçao and her men did not go to the bottom of the North Sea. Instead, it was in the North Atlantic off the coast of Northern Ireland; you could faintly see land on the horizon. … We left New York the morning of September 27 and docked in Scotland early Saturday morning, October 3. We were supposed to land on October 2, but the accident delayed us. When we first arrived, we had to wear the same clothes for over two weeks, because our barracks bags got wet in the hold.”

The Reverend William B. Holberton of Rochester, New York, boarded the ship in New York on September 18,1944, and on the trip to the British Isles got a glimpse of Winston Churchill: “Rumors flew left and right … including the rumor that there was to be a VIP aboard. We sailed on Wednesday, September 20, early in the morning in a dense fog. All troops had to be below decks with the portholes secured. Some men said later that we paused momentarily in the Lower Bay in order for the VIP to board from a destroyer. Exactly how he boarded I do not know, but the next story making the rounds was that Winston Churchill was aboard, on his return to England from the Quebec Conference just concluded. My first view of this great wartime figure occurred the next evening when a showing of the film Wilson was scheduled. … All the replacement officers were on hand in the Main Salon, and the ‘brass’ began to make their appearances. Finally, the doors opened and in walked Mr. Churchill and his most gracious and attractive wife, together with a large group of his working party. Amidst the applause and cheers of the assembled officers, Mr. Churchill waved a cheery greeting, and we noticed that he was cigar-less! The strict ‘no-smoking’ rule for the makeshift theater applied even to him.

“I have always wished that he had checked with me when he wrote in his memoirs about the trip. This highlight of my wartime career was described by Churchill himself in Triumph and Tragedy in rather flat terms: ‘The voyage home was without incident.’”

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