The contract to build Cunard's replacement for the Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mary was signed between Cunard Line and John Brown (Clydebank) Limited on 30th December 1964. However it was not until September 1967 that her enormous hull was ready to slide down the spillways into the Clyde, launched by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York commenced on 2 May 1969. Consistently rated as offering among the finest service, accommodation and facilities in the world Queen Elizabeth 2 has, during her 39 years welcomed some 3 million passengers aboard. The ship sailed 5.5 million nautical miles including 24 full world cruises and has become the longest serving Cunard express liner in the company's history. To this day she remains the fastest merchant ship in operation.
Queen Elizabeth 2 in war zone
When hostilities broke out between Britain and Argentina over the Falkland Islands in April 1982, few envisaged a role for Queen Elizabeth 2. However, the Government announced that she was to be one of several merchant ships requisitioned for war duties. The extensive conversion work, preparing her for troop carrying duties, began immediately. Her open decks were cleared of their varnished steamer chairs and sun beds, decks were strengthened to allow helicopters to land and major structural alterations were begun. Lounges became dormitories while most of the ship's removable décor including paintings, furniture and historic items together with crockery and glassware were packed away and stored in shore side warehouses. Carpets were protected with hardboard and military experts installed their own top-secret communications equipment in a specially adapted room behind the bridge.
Fifth Infantry Brigade
After just eight days and nights of frantic activity, troops started to embark. With a volunteer crew of 650, she sailed from Southampton on the afternoon of May 12 with 3,000 members of the Fifth Infantry Brigade settling in to their new surroundings. Sea King helicopters joined as the ship headed down the Solent and the 8,000-mile voyage to the South Atlantic in support of the Naval Taskforce was well and truly underway.
RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 and Falkland Islands
As she approached the war zone news reached those on board that the Atlantic Conveyor had been lost following an air strike by Argentine forces. She started to weave rather than maintain a straight course. The ship's radar had been turned off and full blackout implemented to lessen the risk of detection by enemy forces. Without radar to assist navigation and with thick mist and fog forming, icebergs became a serious threat. After consultation with military commanders QE2's Captain, Peter Jackson, reactivated the ship's radar. In the hours that followed, more than 100 icebergs were picked up by ship's radar.
After the ice threat passed, plans were made for Queen Elizabeth 2 to rendezvous with other naval vessels to commence the transfer of troops. On the evening of May 27, Queen Elizabeth 2 dropped anchor in Cumberland Bay, South Georgia about a mile from the former whaling station which weeks earlier had witnessed the start of the entire conflict. Troops and equipment were transferred under the safety of the close mountains to a variety of vessels, including SS Canberra, for the final leg to San Carlos waters some 200 miles to the East.Survivors from three sunken Royal Navy ships, HMS Ardent, HMS Antelope and HMS Coventry were taken on board Queen Elizabeth 2. Finally, on June 3, orders were received for Queen Elizabeth 2 to start her long journey home with the survivors still on board.
Isle of Wight
Just 8 days later, back in more familiar waters off the Isle of Wight, a tumultuous welcome home awaited with HM The Queen and HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia leading the official recognition of Cunard Line's contribution to the Liberation of the Falkland Islands.
Queen Mother welcomes RMS
A message from the Queen Mother was flashed to Queen Elizabeth 2. It read: "I am pleased to welcome you back as Queen Elizabeth 2 returns to home waters after your tour of duty in the South Atlantic. The exploits of your own ship's company and the deeds of value of those who served in Antelope, Coventry and Ardent, have been acclaimed throughout the land and I am proud to add my personal tribute." Captain Jackson replied with the words: "Please convey to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, our thanks for her kind message. Cunard's Queen Elizabeth 2 is proud to have been of service to Her Majesty's forces. "The two messages have been engraved in silver and can be seen on board.
Historic passing QE2
Queen Elizabeth 2 was home after a mission, which took her almost 15,000 miles in just under 30 days. After refitting she returned to transatlantic duty within two months.
The Queen Elizabeth 2 first visited the Falkland Islands on 22 January 1993 during a "Round the World" voyage. Being too large to enter Stanley Harbor, she had to settle at anchor in Port William.
The Queen Elizabeth 2 had scheduled a final visit to the Islands in 2007 but unfortunately, due to the poor weather prevailing at the time, she was forced to sail past. However, the Royal Air Force stationed at the military air base at Mount Pleasant ensured that her final journey past the islands did not go unnoticed. SAC Trish Brown, in a Tornado F3, photographed and witnessed the historic passing of the grand old lady of the seas as she glided past the coast continuing on her final "Round the World" voyage. The fly past, acknowledging her service to the islands, is recorded as the local rate stamp.
In 2007 it was announced that The Queen Elizabeth 2 was to end her days as a Middle Eastern hotel at The Palm Jumeirah in Dubai. After a final visit to Liverpool in October 2008 she will be delivered to Dubai in November, where she will cease her role as an ocean-going passenger vessel and be adapted to become a luxury floating hotel, retail and entertainment destination at The Palm Jumeirah.
The top value stamp and First Day Cover portray the simple elegance of the Queen Elizabeth 2, illustrated by Leslie Taylor. Taylor describes himself as a 46 year-old and an "old school" self taught graphic artist and draughtsman, from the days of pen and ink. Converting to digital artwork over the years has been more of a hobby activity than a paying one, and he continues to gain pleasure from portraying things that he likes (such as beautiful ships) in digital form.
Postage stamps in detail
Issue: Falkland Islands, 21 November 2008
Designer: Derek Miller
Printer: Cartor Security Printing
Process: Stochastic Lithography
Perforation: 13 per 2cms
Stamp size: 35 x 35mm (23p, 27p, 65p) and 35 x 70mm (200p)
Sheet layout: 50 (2 x 25)
More information Postage Stamps
Postage Stamps 2008
Falkland Islands' coastline
Port Louis on Falkland
Southern Elephant Seal