The RMS Queen Elizabeth, was one of the two superliners built by John Brown & Company in Clydebank, Scotland, in the 1930s and definitely one of the most elegant ever built. During construction, she was known as Hull 552 and was later named in honor of Queen Elizabeth II.
Launched, on 27 September 1938, the RMS Queen Elizabeth (1,031 feet long and 118.5 feet wide) was the largest passenger liner ever constructed.
With the beginning of World War II, she was sent to New York and docked alongside her older sister, RMS Queen Mary as the British were afraid that she might be destroyed by German bombs. Although she was originally constructed as an ocean liner, in February 1940, the RMS Queen Elizabeth entered service as troop transport ship and was released from war duty about six years later.
It carried up to 15,000 soldiers and during this period it is said that she carried nearly 1 million soldiers and sailed over 500,000 miles. When World War II ended, the RMS Queen Elizabeth was finally able to return to commercial service.
In October 1946 the RMS Queen Elizabeth left on her maiden passenger voyage and for the next 20 years, she was one of the dominant transatlantic carriers.
The RMS Queen Elizabeth crossed the Atlantic for the last time on 5 November 1968 before it was sold to a group of Philadelphia businessmen whose plan was to turn it into a tourist attraction in Port Everglades, Florida.
Only two years later, the ship was deemed a fire hazard and was closed down by the local authorities. Hong Kong businessman Tung Chao Yung, who wanted to convert her into a floating university purchased the RMS Queen Elizabeth at auction in 1970.
The new owner renamed the ship to Seawise University and sent it to Hong Kong Harbor to be repaired. The original interiors were removed and new machinery was added but just before it was completed a fire broke out. It quickly spread everywhere and although many fireboats did eventually arrive and worked hard for 24 hours in order to extinguish the flames but there was nothing they could do and the ship was completely destroyed.
No one knows for sure what caused the fire and some say that the fires were set deliberately as part of insurance fraud. What led to this rumors is the fact that Tung Chao Yung bought the ship for $3.5 mil, and had insured it for $8 million. However, he was never charged.
It was the largest passenger shipwreck and remained like that until the Costa Concordia disaster on 13 January 2012. Two years later, the wreck of what was once the RMS Queen Elizabeth featured as the MI6 Headquarters in the James Bond film, “The Man with the Golden Gun”.
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It remained in Hong Kong Harbor for a number of years before it finally received a proper burial in the late 1990s during the construction of Container Terminal – land reclamation finally covered the last pieces of the wreck.