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On this day – September 20, 1967: A gentle push and the QE2 slowly slides into oceans of the world

© PAThe Queen, in blue coat, passes the QE2 and huge crowds as she launches the liner in 1967
The Queen, in blue coat, passes the QE2 and huge crowds as she launches the liner in 1967

They came in their droves, cheering as Queen Elizabeth II arrived in Glasgow for the launch of the QE2, the luxury ocean liner built in her honour in Clydebank.

It was a historic occasion and one that is all the more cherished following the death of Her Majesty, the Queen.

Back in September 1967 however, millions of TV viewers across the UK watched live coverage of the event at John Brown’s Shipyard.

Excitement mounted as, at 2.30pm, the Queen approached the 963ft long, £30 million vessel, cutting the ribbon and smashing the ceremonial champagne bottle. Then seconds passed and…nothing happened.

Newspapers of the day reported that the huge ship did not move. One wrote: “Workmen high up on her deck leaned over and shouted: ‘Give her a shove!’ Shipyard director George Parker joined in.

Bowler-hatted, he sprang to the bows and gave the liner a shove. And jubilantly waved his bowler when, by coincidence, she began to move. Great cheers rose up as the QE2 elegantly slid into the water.”

The launch of the QE2 (Pic: PA)

As the Queen announced: “May God bless her, and all who sail in her,” the crowd burst into wild applause. But the QE2 was not named after the late Queen. Instead, the number two in her title indicated that she was the second ship named Queen Elizabeth.

The Cunard Line-operated vessel would go on to notch up more than 5.9 million nautical miles during her many decades of service. She carried an estimated 2.5 million passengers and made 804 voyages across the Atlantic Ocean.

The great and good who graced her decks included South African President Nelson Mandela, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Beatle George Harrison, and film star Elizabeth Taylor. But her greatest devotee was 89-year-old widow Beatrice Muller from New Jersey, who lived on board for nine years after the death of her husband in 1999. She claimed it was cheaper than a retirement home.

The QE2 reportedly covered more distance than any other ship, the equivalent of travelling to the moon and back 13 times. She completed 25 world cruises.

The Queen launches the QE2 (Pic: Shutterstock)

In 1971 she was back in the headlines when she rescued passengers from another ship, the Antilles, after it ran aground. A year later, the SAS and bomb disposal officers were scrambled to the ship 1,000 miles from land, in response to a bomb threat, which later turned out to be a hoax. The vessel later embarked on a cruise to Israel to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the state’s founding.

In 1982 the vessel was requisitioned as a troop carrier for the Falklands War and, with 3,000 troops on board set sail for South Georgia.

A decade later the QE2 hit uncharted rocks off Massachusetts but stayed afloat. She also survived being hit by a 95ft wave after running into Hurricane Luis in September 1995.

It celebrated its 40th birthday with a round-Britain cruise in September 2007. The ship conducted a farewell tour of the UK before setting out on its 805th, and last, transatlantic crossing to New York in October 2008. Now, the 13-deck ship is moored in Dubai where she is an established luxury hotel.

The new 150,000-tonne Queen Mary 2 took over the QE2’s role as Cunard’s flagship in 2004.