The demise of the historic liner Queen Elizabeth in Hong Kong harbour

RMS Queen Elizabeth In Cherbourg (Normandy, France) 1966

RMS Queen Elizabeth in Cherbourg, Normandy, France, 1966 Source: Wikipedia

The ship Queen Elizabeth was an ocean liner operated by Cunard Line. In tandem with the Queen Mary both ships provided a weekly luxury service between Southampton in the U.K and New York via Cherbourg, France. Whilst being constructed in the mid-1930s by John Brown and Company at, Clydebank, Scotland, the build was known as Hull 552. Hull 552 was launched on 27 September 1938 and named in honour of Queen Elizabeth, the wife of King George V1.

Queen Elizabeth Under Construction At Clydebank

Queen Elizabeth under construction at Clydebank Source: Wikipedia

During her service in World War 2 as a troopship, Queen Elizabeth carried more than 750,000 troops, and sailed some 500,000 miles.

In late 1968 Queen Elizabeth was sold to the Elizabeth Corporation, with 15% of the company controlled by a group of Philadelphia businessmen and 85% retained by Cunard.

The vessel was sold at auction in 1970 to Hong Kong tycoon Tung Chao Yung. Tung the head of Orient Overseas Line, intended to convert the vessel into a university for the World Campus Afloat program (later reformed and renamed as Semester At Sea.) Following the tradition of the Orient Overseas Line, the ship was renamed Seawise University, as a play on Tung’s initials (C.Y’s).(1)

Hong Kong authorities and insurance company investigators announced today [10 January 1972] that they would begin an investigation into the cause of the fire that destroyed the liner Queen Elizabeth in Hong Kong Harbor this weekend.

Seawise University On Fire

The Seawise University on fire Source: Wikipedia

Officials said destruction of the 83,000 ton vessel, the largest luxury liner ever built, could result in one of the largest insurance losses – around $8 million. Lloyds of London said the biggest claim was $16.9 million for the 207,000 ton Dutch tanker Marpassa which went down off North Africa on Dec. 15 1969.

The 1,031 foot Queen Elizabeth, which began service as a troop transport in World War 11, burned for 24 hours and then turned slowly over on her side this morning.

Hints of the possibility of arson came from the director of the Hong Kong Marine Department and from officials of the Cunard Line in London, the former owners under whose auspices the Elizabeth and her sister ship, the Queen Mary, became monarchs of the ocean until jet passenger service forced their retirement.(2)

The Wreck Of The Seawise University, The Former Queen Elizabeth

The wreck of the Seawise University, the former Queen Elizabeth Photo: Wikicommons


  1. Wikipedia
  2. The New York Times 10th January 1972

This article was first posted on 29th February 2024.

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