Transporting the troops

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Marine painting The QE2 visited Liverpool last year and I was among the thousands of people who trudged through the rain to see her moored at the waterfront. The QE2 served as a troopship during the Falklands war in 1982 when she carried 3,000 troops to the south Atlantic. The original Queen Elizabeth and her sister ship Queen Mary were two of the most famous converted troopships of the Second World War, ferrying many thousands of military personnel to different areas of battle. At Merseyside Maritime Museum there is an oil painting by Norman Wilkinson showing the Queen Mary and other ships on the Clyde. Although vast numbers of troops and military supplies sailed to and from Liverpool and other west coast ports, during the war the two huge Queens always used the Clyde Anchorage, off Greenock, Scotland. This was Britain’s main trooping port during the war. Also on display is an exhibition model of the 8,000-ton Marwarri of 1935. She was owned by T & J Brocklebank Ltd, managers for the Ministry of War transport. Marwarri, like other British cargo liners, was requisitioned by the British Government soon after the outbreak of war. After doing sterling service as a cargo carrier, she later carried both troops and equipment to support the invasion of Europe. The 1:192 model shows Marwarri in wartime grey. In 1944 she made seven return passages to the Normandy beaches, carrying thousands of troops and vehicles for the invasion. An oil painting of Marwarri was done by Sybil Rimmer in 1940 when she was working as a secretary with the Brocklebank Line. It shows the ship on a dull day in the Mersey, seen from the first floor of the Cunard Building at Liverpool’s Pier Head where Miss Rimmer worked. A photograph shows the Marwarri preparing to join a convoy taking men and supplies across the English Channel to support the Normandy landings. Another shows British troops resting in hammocks below decks en route to Normandy. Troopships, unlike landing ships, could not land troops directly on to the shore so had to use a seaport. Regular naval ships were originally used to carry troops overseas. As part of their plan to invade Britain, the French built a fleet of 2,000 barges during the Napoleonic Wars but they were never used. With the arrival of huge ocean liners in the 19th and 20th centuries, navies recognised their troop-carrying potential and began to charter them. The liners were painted grey and armed. Merseyside Maritime Museum is open seven days a week, admission free. A new Maritime Tale by Stephen Guy appears every Saturday in the Liverpool Echo.