Life Vest 003 Life Vest 002 Life Vest 001

During World War II, Queen Mary was requisitioned by the British government to serve as a troop transport.  Her luxurious interiors were stripped and placed in storage in New York and Sydney, Australia and painted entirely in grey.  Gone was the famous black and white hull with orange-red stacks.  Since she was the fastest ship in the world, she could easily outrun any torpedo and deliver American soldiers to the European theater.  She transported troops in excess of 10,000 to 16,000 on single voyages from New York to Gourock, Scotland.  Hitler was infuriated.  He placed a contract out on the liner that any submarine captain who sank her would receive half a million dollars and the prestigious Iron Cross.  She sailed the Atlantic alone with lights out in a zigzag course to prevent a “wolf pack” of Nazi subs placing coordinates on her.  Because of her speed, she was only escorted in and out of ports with battle cruisers at her bow.

The only disaster the superliner ever encountered in her career was in October of 1943 when she ran over a cruiser named Curacoa. To this day, no one knows which ship missed which zigzag but the Queen’s giant bow sliced through her escort when the armour-plated battle cruiser crossed directly in front of her.  The severed sections of the cruiser sank alongside Port and Starboard and nearly 400 men lost their lives.  The British Admiralty had ordered that the liner not stop for any reason lest she be a sitting target for Nazi subs and horrified soliders on the liner hurled life vests overboard for the drowning sailors.  While the impact was the end of the world for Curacoa’s crew, the collision felt little more than running over a log on the liner.  She suffered only a bent bow.

This life vest was still aboard the liner when she retired to Long Beach, California in 1967.  As can be seen by the photos above, it is in remarkable condition.

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