With Reuben Goossens

Maritime Historian


R.M.S. Queen Mary

A Tribute to the Grandest Queen of all!


Page Three

Photo Album - The Grey Ghost at War

Also … The Bill Duggan Story


The once graceful looking Liner now looks the part of a real troop ship!

Author’s private collection

RMS Queen Mary departed Southampton with a complement of 2,332 passengers on Wednesday August 30, 1939. Little was it known, but this would be her last scheduled departure from Southampton for the next six years. By the time she approached New York, it had been officially declared on September 3, that World War 2 had broken out. Queen Mary was laid up on pier 90, with her newer sister Queen Elizabeth on the other side, whilst opposite was the French liner the Normandie.

Left to Right: Normandie, Queen Mary & Queen Elizabeth

University of Liverpool Archives

Both Queens awaited their call up for duty by the Royal Navy. Queen Mary served under the British Royal Navy from 21 March 1940, when she left New York and headed for Sydney Australia for conversion, until 27 September 1946 when she returned home to Southampton.


Queen Mary is seen here being refitted for her war duties

Australian National Archives



Above & Below: Australian soldiers board the ship that became known as the “Grey Ghost”

Australian National Archives


 Australian National Archives


 Lounges were filled with bunks, up to the ceiling!



Lining up in the First Class Main Lounge



Queen Mary Departs Australia with US flags flying ashore

Australian National Archives




Above & below: The “Grey Ghost” at Sea packed with troops

Author’s private collection




Queen Mary the Trooper seen in Hobart Australia

Australian National Archives




Above & below: Two Photographs of Queen Mary at war

Author’s private collection




The Grey Ghost in New York 

Author’s private collection

 The Bill Duggan Story

Back in July of 1944, aged 20, I was a member of Battery C, 132nd AAA Gn Bn, I was privileged to have spent ten or eleven days on the Grey Ghost, Queen Mary. We embarked on NYC’s Hudson River terminal on the 18th or 19th of July, 1944.

Picture of Bill in uniform and it was taken on 28 January1944, being his wedding day.

“Fortunately,” said Bill, “I removed that ridiculous ‘Sam Brown’ belt before the ceremony!”

Photo provided by Bill Duggan

The record of the embarkation was done by a unit member and he mentioned how tiring the boarding process was. We were dropped off some distance from the actual boarding location (wharf) and we were loaded down with all of our gear, then after walking the distance and climbing up three flights of stairs to reach the level boarding site, which was about halfway up the ship as I remember.

Finally came the day to depart and I recall that the Captain backed this huge ship away from the berth without the aid of any tugboats. It was simply magnificent!

As I recall, we spent five days crossing the Atlantic totally unescorted. We zig zagged across the Atlantic changing course every seven minutes, finally arriving July 28th in Gouroch, Scotland. I recall the day well for it was my younger brother’s 16th birthday.

After we boarded the ship, our Battalion Commander announced that our battalion would be on KP duty for the entire voyage and believe me he was booed. There were at least 15,000 troops aboard, along with 400 nurses, and about 3,000 British Crew members; all led by an officer we called "Ole Two Pips & a Crown"  We had to ":fall out" every day.

The KP Badge Bill wore during the Voyage

Provided by Bill Duggan

KP duty turned out to be a good thing for the British didn't feed us very well, but we managed to secure extra food for ourselves every day. And with the KP badge that we wore (which I still have) we were allowed to visit any deck except the topmost deck being Sun Deck, which was reserved for the nurses and other females on board. The other troops on board were divided into three zones; Red, White and Blue. They were restricted to their particular part of the ship.

Whilst on board the Queen Mary from day one I was in accommodated in an area which was, what seemed like what had been a hold, and it was certainly not much above the water line, and I was surrounded by tons of 100lb bags of potatoes, which I attempted to peel by hand. I remember thinking, but surely, there must be other guys there as well? But somehow I don’t remember them.

Many people may not aware, that on some of the return voyages Queen Mary transported captured German soldiers for interment in the United States. About a year ago, there was a story in a local (American) paper by a lady who had a German family background who lived on a farm in Minnesota, and the US Government sent a number of these captured German Soldiers to work on her family farm. As they spoke German reasonably well they got along quite well and I am led to believe that some of these soldiers even opted to stay in the US after the war.

After the war ended; I was involved in the release of German soldiers from the camps. Soldiers that had no Gestapo or SS connections, I would cram about 40 or so into my GMC 2 ton ten wheel truck and drive them to their Kreis (county location) and let them find the rest of the way home. I trucked hundreds of them that way. They tended to be pretty docile, so I stopped carrying my Thompson .45 sub with me. But one day I was late in arriving to the release point and I got stuck with transporting a load of ex SS troops who were being sent to another prison camp. I did have another soldier with this time, an 18 year old kid who had only just arrived from the States. Neither one of us was carrying a weapon, but we did have a couple of Infantry guys following us in a jeep with a .30 ca. machine gun on it. I asked them what I should do if these SS guys tried to escape, and they said that we should stay in the truck and that they would fire on either side of us. Now that is all fine, but then we came to a small lake with a ferry boat that could not take both us and the jeep on it. So when we reached the other side, I told the young soldier to stay on one side of the truck and I would take the other side. I said “Put your hands in your pockets and try to look tough!” I imagine the SS guys got a kick out of that. Oh the memories!

All in all, I have very fond memories of my time on board the RMS Queen Mary and even in the war zone and the days following. Sadly, I have never visited the ship which is now located in California, however my youngest daughter Anita has been to visit her and she sent me a wonderful post card, which has a prominent location in my home.

In conclusion: I consider myself just one of the millions of men and women that served in WWII. At war’s end there were 11 million in uniform just in the USA. I also wish to point out that I consider my overseas duty was in support of the guys who were doing the real fighting, the men in the infantry & tank units!

Bill Duggan

An old AA Machine Gunner.


PS: May 8 was VE Day, which received no attention in the local press. On that day I was across the Elbe River some 60 miles from Berlin!


 Postcard of the Queen Mary with her funnels freshly repained in the Cunard colours, meeting her new Atlantic running mate

Author’s private collection


Page One History page – From Birth to Berth

Page Two Photo album – The Trans-Atlantic Liner

Page Three Photo album - The Grey Ghost (trooper) & the Bill Duggan story

Page Four Photo album 3 – Queen Mary at Long BeachPage One

Page Five Hotel Queen Mary - Long Beach Page Two – View New Film

Page Six Specifications page


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Photographs on ssmaritime and associate pages are by the author or from the author’s private collection. In addition there are some images that have been provided by Shipping Companies and private photographers or collectors. Credit is given to all contributors. However, there are some photographs provided to me without details regarding the photographer/owner concerned. I hereby invite if owners of these images would be so kind to make them-selves known to me (my email address may be found on only), in order that due credit may be given. I know what it is like, I have seen a multitude of my own photographs on other sites, yet these individuals either refuse to provide credit or remove them when asked, knowing full well that there is no legal comeback when it comes to the net. However, let us show these charlatans up and do the right thing at all times and give credit where credit is due!

This notice covers all pages, although, and I have done my best to ensure that all photographs are duly credited and that this notice is displaced on each page, that is, when a page is updated!




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