During World War II a meeting between the leaders of the primary Allies, being the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union, required a sea voyage. Churchill being an exception, these leaders rarely flew aboard an aircraft due exposure to enemy aircraft as well as, and probably a heavier weight on the scale, the relatively high number of fatalities associated with air travel at that time.
As my infatuation is primarily with Churchill I have focused on two of the watercraft, Duke of York and The Queen Mary , that whisked him to and from a smattering of these top secret meetings.
On December 7, 1941, a day that will live in infamy, Churchill undertook a dangerous transatlantic journey on the HMS Duke of York. Churchill was dining at Chartwell with the US special envoy Averell Harriman and the US Ambassador John Winant. The radio was on, and the three men were suddenly attentive to the announcement of the newsreader that the Japanese, Axis allies of Germany and Italy, had attacked Pearl Harbour. Churchill immediately phoned the US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, asking for confirmation. “It’s quite true,” FDR said. The prime minister then said he would come to Washington for talks. He arrived in America on December 22, in time to spend Christmas at the White House. On December 26, Churchill gave an historic address to a joint session of Congress to win support for his concept of the war. As always I have supplied a few interesting facts:
- HMS KING GEORGE V-Class Battleship ordered from John Brown, Clydebank under the 1937 Build Programme on 28th April 1937.
- She was launched as DUKE OF YORK on 28th February 1940 by HM Queen Elizabeth
- She was so named to commiserate the association of HM King George VI with the Royal Navy before his accession to the throne when Duke of York.
- Surprisingly, there are few photographs of the Duke.
- John Brown & Company, LTD., of Clydebank, Scotland, was annouced as the selected as builder of the new liner, dubbed “Job 534” on May 28, 1930.
- Job #534 is launched on September 26, 1934, and named THE QUEEN MARY by Her Majesty Queen Mary. She was a luxury liner.
- Length of Anchor Chain: 990 ft.
- Weight of Anchor Chain: 45 tons (45.818 kg.)
- Cruising Speed: 28.5 knots (55.17 km./hr.)
- Rivets: Over 10 million
- Her final peace time departure was from Southampton. She was carrying her largest number of passengers: 2,552, including Mr. & Mrs. Bob Hope and millions in gold bullion.
- May 5-11th, 1943 Winston Churchill was transported from Gourock to New York, to meet with President Roosevelt. 5,000 German prisoners of war were also on board.