Pennant pride

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photo of a huge liner docked at Liverpool

Crowds flocked to see the QE2. Image courtesy of the Liverpool Daily Post & Echo.

I joined the thousands of people who braved wind and rain to walk to Liverpool’s Pier Head to say goodbye to the Queen Elizabeth 2.

This was the first and last time I saw her although I had followed her progress since building work began. I think the first article I read was in the Illustrated London News, a long-established weekly magazine still going strong in the 1960s

The QE2’s 39 foot long vivid red pennant flag is the longest in the history of the iconic Cunard shipping line. It was presented to the Lord Mayor of Liverpool during a commemorative concert at Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral on 3 October 2008 when the great ship last visited the port.

The pennant, featuring the Cunard crest, is on display in Merseyside Maritime Museum’s Life at Sea gallery.
A paying-off pennant is flown immediately prior to a ship leaving service and has one foot for every year of service. The QE2 (pictured) was built at the John Brown shipyard on Clydebank and launched in 1967.

She made her maiden voyage in 1969 and over the next 39 years became famous throughout the world. QE2 was Cunard’s flagship until she was succeeded by the Queen Mary 2 in 2004.

The 70,300-ton QE2 carried many famous passengers including film stars, members of the Royal family and world leaders.

She carried 2.5 million passengers during her long career and travelled an astonishing 5.6 million nautical miles, earning the distinction of being the longest-serving ship in Cunard’s history.

Liverpool enjoyed a close relationship with the QE2 as the original home of Cunard where the ship was designed in the Cunard Building at the Pier Head.

The QE2 had a long and distinguished career after being conceived in the 1960s when air travel took over from the liners that once regularly plied the Atlantic. She replaced the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth which both dated from the 1930s.

In 1982 she took part in the Falklands War, carrying 3,000 troops and 650 volunteer crew members to the south Atlantic conflict.

The QE2’s hull was extensively damaged in 1992 when she ran aground while returning from a cruise along the coasts of the United States and Canada. Two years later she was given a refurbishment costing millions of pounds.

QE2 is now berthed permanently in Dubai where plans to convert her into a floating hotel have not yet materialised.  

A new Maritime Tale by Stephen Guy appears every Saturday in the Liverpool Echo. A paperback – Mersey Maritime Tales (£3.99) – is available from the museum, newsagents, bookshops or from the Mersey Shop website (£1 p&p UK).