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Peter's Memories

Peter sent us this story - but asked that we post it...

I knew in 1968 that Queen Elizabeth would be ceasing her trans-Atlantic voyages in October. This would be an of an era and I knew that I had to participate so when I had the possibility of a business trip to Belgium at that time I went to the Cunard agents on High Street, Belfast and booked a first class ticket on QE for 6-7 October 1968 Cherbourg to Southampton.

After my business I took the train from Brussels to Paris and then to Caen where I hired a car to ''do'' some of the Normandy campaign of 1944. I left the Avis hire-car back in Cherbourg on Sunday morning the 6th and then went to the Gare Maritime. Here I was told that QE had been delayed 10 hours because of a dock strike in New York. So I explored Cherbourg and arrived back at the Gare Maritime in the evening. To save time QE was anchored out in the harbour and we were to go out on the tender.

This is where I missed out badly! I certainly had heard of Titanic, who hasn''t, but I don't think at that time that I had ever heard of Nomadic. Her being named Ingenieur Minard didn''t help. By the time we were to board it was pitch dark and raining hard. I remember boarding at the port bow gangplank and waiting in a saloon out of the rain. I remember her being immaculate with the French crew communicating with walkie-talkies and with very obvious pride in their ship. On the way out to QE I remember looking down a hatch and seeing a reciprocating steam engine working away. Looking back, what a tragedy it was that I did not know that she had been built in Harland & Wolff in 1911 I would have been all over her! I might have remembered how she looked inside and what the decor was like. Was she still coal fired then or had she been converted to oil? Etc., etc...?


I cannot remember how long it took to get from the Gare Maritime to QE. We boarded QE through a door low down in her port side via a gangplank from the ter''s starboard bow. This might have been nearly midnight. I was able to get something to eat on board and then went to my cabin. I say cabin but it was actually a suite of three rooms: a sitting room, a bedroom and a bathroom, very comfortable. The ship was so huge and it was so late at night that I only had a minimal opportunity to look round. I got up early on the Monday morning as we were going up Southampton Water. I remember tugs waiting to help us to the berth.


There was definitely an air of sadness on QE. The crew were generally ''going through the motions'' not helped by it being so late at night. As I said above there was the consciousness of it being the end of an era. There were not a large number of passengers. I was never conscious of there being any class distinctions - my voyage would not have been long enough for that.


From Southampton up to London by train and then to the British European Airways terminal on Cromwell Road and then back to Belfast. All in all a fascinating episode I wish I was able to remember more of it.