She was one of the largest and grandest ships on the Transatlantic run. The Queen Mary was launched at the John Brown Shipyard in Clydeback, Scotland, on September 26 1934.
She sailed on her maiden voyage from Southampton on May 27, 1936 under the command of Sir Edgar T. Britten. She reached New York on June 1.
That August, Queen Mary received the Blue Riband from the French liner Normandie, with a speed of 30.14 knots.
Her interiors featured two swimming pools, beauty salons, libraries, children's nurseries, and tennis courts. The first class dining room, known as the Grand Salon, was the largest room aboard. Three stories high and supported by large columns. There was a large map decorated on the wall that showed the transatlantic routes for both spring and winter seasons. There was also a Verandah Grille at the upper aft of the ship.
In August of 1939, with war looming on the horizon, the Queen Mary was making a return voyage from New York and was escorted by the British battlecruiser HMS Hood. After arriving safely in Southampton, she sailed out again for New York on September 1. The Second World War broke out and the Queen Mary was ordered to remain in port along side the Normandie and Queen Elizabeth until further notice.
In March 1940, Queen Mary departed New York for Sydney, Australia, to be converted into a troopship and transport Australian and New Zealand soldiers to the United Kingdom. Her hull, superstructure and funnels were painted grey. Her dull color and fast speed earned her the nickname the "Grey Ghost."
On October 2 1942, tragedy struck when Queen Mary accidentley rammed one of her own escort ships, the HMS Curacao, off the coast of Ireland. She sliced right through the cruiser, splitting her in half. British sailors who managed to escape the sinking Curacao found themselves in the water struggling to stay afloat, but the draft from Queen Mary sucked many back under. Some even went right through her propeller blades. Despite what happened, Queen Mary was under strict orders not to stop for anything and sailed onward packed with hundreds of American troops. 239 of the Curacao's 338 crewmen were lost after she sank. The survivors were picked up by another escort.
From July 25-30 1943, Queen Mary carried 15,740 soldiers and 943 crewman. A record for most passengers ever transported by a single vessel. During this trip, she encountered a gale 700 miles off Scotland. She was struck by a 92 ft. rogue wave and nearly capsized. American Paul Gallico was on board during the incident and inspired him to write a novel he entitled 'The Poseidon Adventure,' which would later be made into a feature film.
After the war and returning to service, Queen Mary made her fastest crossing ever. After delivering war brides to Canada, she returned to Southampton in just three days, 22 hours and 42 minutes.
On New Year's Day 1949, she ran aground off Cherbourg, France. She was refloated the next day.
By the late 1950's, the transatlantic liners were becoming outdone by jet planes flying across the Atlantic, putting Cunard Line into competition. By 1965, the fleet was at a loss. Cunard announced that Queen Mary would be retired from service and sold off. Just before she was considered being scrapped, the city of Long Beach, California had bought her for $3.45 million.
On September 27, 1967, she completed her 1,000 and final North Atlantic crossing. On October 31, under the command of Captain John Treasure Jones, she departed Southampton for the last time, with 1,093 passengers and 806 crew. She arrived in Long Beach on December 9. Queen Mary had officially retired from service and was permanently moored as a hotel, museum and tourist attraction.