Friday 21 January 2022.

The ports are now coming thick and fast. We woke this morning as the QE was gliding into her berth. The view was wonderful as the sun rose.

After breakfast we went ashore, armed with the evidence that we were all fully vaccinated. We entered the terminal building expecting delays while the QR codes on our mobiles were inspected.

There was no sign of any official. Zero! Straight through!

Jane and I have been here a couple of times before. It’s a lovely town. Kim had the map and when I turned right out of the port, she corrected me and said we should be going left. It is not easy when there are 2 women telling a dominant male what to do. Not easy for the male is what I mean.

So we followed Kim’s lead and she led us to the Cathedral. It is a landmark that we had been aiming for and it was agreed that we would have coffee in the square. The best cup of coffee we have had so far. Cunard are not good in the coffee stakes at the moment.

We did the daily Sudoku sitting in the sun and after a while found that last nights Royal Court Theatre act – the exceptional singer Jenny Williams – was sitting next to us with tonight’s performer, the well known singer/comedian Allan Stewart who is a regular on Cunard ships. Let’s hope that covid has given him time to create a new act.

After coffee and Sudoku we set off for the Parque Genoves that Kim had spotted on the map. It was exceptional and we realised that we had been there in the past. I remember that on that earlier occasion a beautiful girl was taking part in a photo shoot. There are photos of her earlier in the blog!

We walked almost 5 miles in a clockwise direction and eventually arrived back at the ship in time for a late lunch.

Tomorrow we are in Gibraltar for the morning and in the afternoon we sail to Malaga where will arrive in the early evening. The itinerary has been changed to ensure that we are not late for Sunday lunch with Lord and Lady Freer. Queen Elizabeth will be in Malaga overnight on Saturday. Whether she will be at anchor or on the berth we are not sure.


En route to Cadiz

We are now back in cruise mode. This morning we all forgot to put our watches and clocks forward an hour, which meant that we missed a formal breakfast. Not a problem as the Lido is always open. It is more casual and more relaxed and the sun decided to shine in on us.

The sea is calm and Queen Elizabeth is sailing calmly towards Cadiz at about 20 knots.

We had afternoon tea in the Queens Room today with the Stafford twins. We first met Peter and John Stafford on the Queen Victoria World Cruise in 2014. They have sailed on the last 10 World Voyages! They are great raconteurs and very good company. We will meet up with them again for lunch later in the voyage.

Later, in the early evening a Frigate appeared to be tracking us. Nick Brewer will no doubt investigate.

Cark asked if I will be watching this weekend’s Saints match. I may pluck up the courage to find a seat in the Golden Lion!

Thank you all for your good wishes. I will not be able to respond to them individually because of the expensive internet time but you are all in our thoughts all of the time!

Tomorrow Cadiz.


Queen Elizabeth in January 2022

Success! Sunday and Monday were stressful. Forms to complete and packing to do. But the worry about failing the covid test at the terminal and being sent home, disappeared when Kim, Jane and I took early morning lateral flow tests at home that were negative.

When we arrived at the terminal at midday on Tuesday we found 10 testing bays in operation. It was very efficient and the negative results were sent through to our mobiles within 15 minutes. As we had checked in on line the rest of the process was painless and we were soon aboard Queen Elizabeth.

It is clear that the ship is only about half full, but that makes it a much safer place. There is plenty of room for people to move about freely.

For this cruise we have been upgraded to the Britannia Club restaurant and the food has been fantastic. I am in danger of putting on massive amounts of weight. Jane has had to endure food prepared by me for the last 2 years and has not enjoyed the experience but now she is eating much more and with a smile on her face.

We have just been notified that the order in which we visit the various ports has been changed. We do not know why. We were due to visit Lisbon on Friday but we are now told that we will be there on Thursday next week. Instead of being our first port it will now be our last. It’s entry rules were more stringent than the Spanish rules, so perhaps Cunard are hoping for a relaxation of the Portuguese rules to enable more people to get ashore in Lisbon without more tests and more Passenger Locator Forms! We will see.

I will now attempt to publish this. Two years with no blogging at sea has meant that I am finding my way again with WordPress. Preparing the words off line and then getting onto Cunard’s expensive internet to send it.


Captain George E Smith

I have from time to time mentioned my late father in my blog, but I have never put together the story of his career.

I have the time to do so now because the Covid 19 situation has led to the cancellation of 4 cruises that Jane and I were due to take in 2020 and 2021. And my 3+ year battle with the NHS for Continuing Health Care for Jane has been successfully concluded after an appeal to NHS England – that means more carers for Jane and a bit more time for me.

Like so many of my fathers generation, they talked very little about their war service and it is only in recent years that I have been able to piece together his career at sea. The main document that I have been able to work from is a copy of a handwritten record detailing the ships he was assigned to, the dates he was at sea and the dates that he was at home on leave. It starts on 18 June 1940 when he joined Cunard through to his retirement in May 1972.

Father went to Winteringham School in Grimsby, Lincolnshire, England and later the Grimsby Nautical College. I am not clear about when he decided to go to sea. His mother died when he was 14 and he joined his first ship 2 years later when he was 16. On his mother’s side of the family, one of his ancestors, Arthur Morgan, was a trawler skipper. Perhaps that influenced him, but of course Grimsby was, at the time that he was growing up, a flourishing fishing port.

Father was born on 6 April 1914 in Grimsby. His father was a butcher with a traditional butchers shop in the Bull Ring in the centre of Grimsby. Father was the youngest of 4 children. Tom, the eldest, eventually took over the butchers shop on his father’s retirement. Next was Gertrude (my Aunt Gert). She married another butcher, Bill Storr, who had his butcher’s shop in North Thoresby, a village south of Grimsby. Then came Edith (my Aunt Ede). She was a renowned pianist and taught piano from the house at 102 Bargate, Grimsby that she had inherited from her father (my Grandfather Frederick Henry Smith). And the 4th and youngest child was my father, George Edward Smith.

On 17 September 1930 he joined his first ship, the Westmoreland

At that time the NZ Shipping Co had 3 ships designated as training ships and each carried 20 or more apprentices or cadets as they were called. They were given a structured programme of training and in effect they took over the role of deck crew. The ships sailed between New Zealand and England and back again.

After a year aboard the Westmoreland, father joined the Devon for the next 2 years

All the images of NZ Shipping Company vessels have been kindly supplied to me by retired Master Mariner, Captain Roger K Blake, President of the New Zealand Shipping Company Association
The images above and below are of the Devon and the image below is from the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington.

On 30 September 1933 father joined Turakina

And after 6 months he moved to Northumberland – his fourth and last NZ Shipping cadet ship.

After passing his Second Mates ticket he joined the United Baltic Shipping Company and sailed on SS Baltara and SS Balteaco until he gained his Masters ticket.

SS Baltara

His ambition was to move to larger ships and he applied to 8 shipping companies seeking employment as a deck officer. Cunard apparently replied by return, offering him an interview and a rail ticket. That was the deciding factor and he joined Cunard on 18 June 1940.

Amongst father’s papers I have found a list, written by him, of the ships he had sailed aboard, and after the United Baltic ships there was another entry – SS Empire Seaman. I had not heard of her before, but I discovered that she was originally SS Morea, a German steel steamship captured west of Cape Finisterre early in the war on 12 February 1940. She was taken as a prize by the Ministry of Shipping.

Father must have sailed on her for only a short period after leaving United Baltic and before joining Cunard. SS Empire Seaman’s life under a British flag was a short one because on 30 June 1940, 2 weeks after father had joined Cunard, Empire Seaman was sunk as a blockship in Scapa Flow.

Scapa Flow was a major British naval base in both World Wars but the strong defences built in the First World War had fallen into disrepair and in 1939 Uboats attacked and sank HMS Royal Oak. Days later the Luftwaffe attacked and badly damaged HMS Iron Duke. Following that, new block ships including SS Empire Seaman were sunk to bolster defences. Churchill also ordered the construction of causeways to block the Eastern approaches.

This is where the Empire Seaman lies. I have been unable to locate an image of her.

Three days after joining Cunard, father was assigned to RMS Franconia. This was the Franconia that had been launched in December 1923 and was eventually retired in December 1956 (and not to be muddled with the Franconia that father commanded at the end of his career before retirement)

RMS Franconia had been requisitioned as a troopship in September 1939. Five days before father joined her, she was damaged by near misses from German bombs and was escorted to Liverpool for repairs. It was in Liverpool that father joined the ship as 3rd officer.

RMS Franconia – in Cunard’s fleet from 1922 to 1956

It was on 21 June 1940 that his Cunard career commenced. Through 1940 and 1941 Franconia was a troopship. She took troops to India and in 1942 after father had been promoted to Senior First Officer, the Madagascar issue arose. Franconia was one of the 3 troop ships involved in the successful landings.

Incidentally in 1945 the Franconia was the headquarter ship for Winston Churchill and the British delegation at the Yalta Conference. Jane and I visited Yalta on 21 September 2012.

This is the table at which the delegation sat.


In November 1942 the Franconia took part in Operation Torch in North Africa. Father was then promoted to First Officer and he moved to RMS Ascania on 7 February 1943 and he served on that ship for the next 20 months. She was modified into a Landing Ship Infantry and took part in the invasion of Sicily in 1943 and the Anzio landings and the landings in the south of France in 1944.


In October 1944 he was given 2 months leave and then, one week before Christmas 1944, he joined RMS Queen Mary as Senior First Officer.

Queen Mary during the war

Between May 1944 and April 1945 the Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth carried more than 250,000 troops to Europe. There was a vital need for replacements as the Allies were facing a manpower crisis towards the end of 1944.

On one voyage Queen Mary carried 15,740 troops as well as her crew of 950, which was the greatest number of people carried on a single ship at one time. That was exceptional but on every subsequent voyage until the end of March 1945 she carried at least 12,000 people.

Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth made their last eastern crossings laden with troops in March 1945. Then came the process of returning the American GI’s to their homeland which started on 10 June 1945 when Queen Mary sailed from Gourock with 14,750 GI’s aboard.

Queen Elizabeth in wartime

On Queen Mary’s return to Southampton on 5 July 1945, father was given leave to be at home for my birth in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire on the 30 July 1945!

On 22 August 1945 father joined Queen Elizabeth as Senior First Officer and he remained with QE for the next 5 years.

As well as returning GI’s and Canadian soldiers, both QM and QE were also taking home to North America thousands of wounded personnel. On the eastern runs they brought back expats and also thousands of children who had been evacuated to Canada in 1940.

Arrivals in New York and in Britain were magnificent events with hundreds of small boats and vast crowds welcoming home the ships and the returning folk.

This was Queen Mary with 15,000 GI’s returning home. Father is the officer in the white uniform on the starboard side of the after docking bridge.

In February 1946 QE was returned to Cunard and over the next few months she was transformed from troopship to the luxury liner that she should have been in 1940.

Queen Elizabeth.

Queen Elizabeth sailed on her maiden voyage as a passenger liner on 16 October 1946. The ship was fully booked. She settled in to the transatlantic routine and after Queen Mary had been handed back to Cunard and had been returned to her former glory the two liners operated the weekly schedule between Southampton and New York.

In 1946 my family moved from Grimsby to Southampton so that on the 2 days that the QE was in Southampton every fortnight, father could be at home with mother and Elizabeth and me.

That arrangement continued until November 1950 when father moved from the QE to the Mauretania. He sailed on her as Senior First Officer for a year. In the summer Mauretanla acted as a relief ship for the Queens on the transatlantic runs when one of them was undergoing maintenance. In the winter Mauretania was cruising out of New York.


During 1951 and 1952 he had spells on Ascania, Media and Scythia before moving back to QE in July 1952 on the transatlantic run.

On the day of HM Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, 2 June 1953, father was promoted to Chief Officer and joined the Caronia, affectionately known as the Green Goddess. HM Queen had christened the ship 6 years earlier when she was Princess Elizabeth.


Caronia had left New York on her Coronation Cruise on 5 May 1953 with 579 passengers aboard. She sailed to Funchal in Madeira and then Casablanca, Malaga, Lisbon and then a clockwise lap round the UK arriving in Southampton on 1 June.

Caronia was used as a floating hotel for the next two nights and passengers were taken on tours to Winchester and Salisbury and then on Coronation Day 2 June 1953 they were taken by Pullman to a special stand at Hyde Park Corner to view the coronation procession.

Although father officially joined the ship on 2 June, presumably the Captain gave him the day off because I can remember that we all spent the day at the home of friends of my parents who had a television.

Caronia then made 2 transatlantic voyages before departing on a North Cape cruise from New York. It is clear that Caronia was considered to be the height of luxury cruise ships at the time. There was enormous demand for the most expensive cabins. The wealthy were anxious to travel on her and she soon became a huge dollar earner for Cunard.

The North Cape cruise took the ship from NY to Iceland, the North Cape, then down the coast of Norway across to Scotland and then anti clockwise round Great Britain to Southampton.

The North Cape Caronia Cruise July 1953

Caronia arrived in Southampton on 3 August and remained in port until her departure to NY 5 days later. Father must have grabbed those 5 days at home with us before what was a long spell away from home and some magic ports and experiences.


Caronia was building up for the 1954 World Cruise named the Japan and South Pacific Cruise leaving NY on 9 February 1954. Cunard had decided on something different. This was the itinerary.

Two transits of the Panama Canal, calls at Easter Island and Pitcairn Island, Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand, Australia, Bali, Singapore, Manila, Japan, Hawaii, California. Acapulco and back to New York.

Clearly it was a wonderful itinerary and it was not surprising that exactly 60 years later in 2014 Cunard devised a similar World Voyage for Queen Victoria. Jane and I were aboard, leaving Southampton in January 2014 and returning 116 days later at the end of April 2014.

When I booked the 2014 World Voyage I knew that Pitcairn Island was

included in the itinerary and I knew that father had been there when I was a boy, but I had not realised how similar the itineraries were.

In 1954, the Caronia World Voyage started in New York, sailed through the Caribbean to the Panama Canal and after her transit she headed south to Callao in Peru. She then headed west across the Pacific to Easter Island and Pitcairn.

60 years later, in 2014, our Queen Victoria World Voyage started in our hometown of Southampton and then took us across the Atlantic to Florida, south to Barbados and then down the east coast of S America, round Cape Horn (yes we did – read my blog!) and then north to Valparaiso. After that we followed a course similar to the Caronia’s voyage 60 years earlier to Easter Island and Pitcairn.

Interestingly, some years ago, I bought on eBay a book issued by Cunard and Thos Cook as a momento of Caronia’s 1954 voyage. It is signed by the illustrators and is number 28 of 480 issued.

These are illustrations of the Panama Canal and Japan!

Easter Island was reached by the Caronia on 6 February 1954. On Queen Victoria we arrived there on 13 February 2014 exactly 60 years and one week later!

On neither occasion were passengers allowed ashore on Easter Island, but in 1954 the islanders were allowed aboard to trade and give an exhibition of dancing. Interestingly the Caronia’s passenger leaflet added “The islanders are known to be desirous of travelling through the world as stowaways, therefore a careful check system will be in force and passengers should not request islanders to go to their cabins”!

On Queen Victoria, islanders did not come out to the ship. We sailed round the island but the islanders appeared to show no interest in us or in the ship!

Caronia was then at sea for 2 days arriving at Pitcairn on 9 February 1954. QV matched the timing 60 years and one week later!

Back in 1954 there were 120 people living on Pitcairn. It was down to 50 in 2014. The format for the visit was the same and the islanders came aboard, selling their memorabilia and singing their local songs and hymns. Back in 1954 the passengers raised US$40,000 for a new roof for the Pitcairn Island church. I’m not sure that the QV passengers were quite as generous.

If you would like to read more about Pitcairn and the 2014 QV voyage please click on February 2014 on my blog.

After Caronia returned to the US on 2 May 1954 she stayed in NY for a week before embarking on her European Spring Cruise, which brought father back to Southampton for leave at the end of that voyage. I remember his return very well because he had an extra suitcase full of presents and momentos that he had bought or been given and the distribution to my sister Liz and me and mother took a couple of days!

After a months leave, father joined Ascania and then Scythia and then Samaria before joining Queen Elizabeth again in April 1955. He remained with QE until the end of that year when he was assigned to the job of “standing by” the construction of a new Cunarder – the Carinthia.

I am not clear what was involved, but I believe that his role included ensuring that navigational equipment was correctly positioned in the bridge. I am sure that there were many more aspects of her construction with which he was involved. He was with the build on the Clyde from December 1955 until June 1956.

We spent the Easter school holidays in 1956 in Scotland. We stayed in a B&B in Helensburgh and father would drive to the Clyde each day. Liz and I spent our days fishing on the pier and at weekends we toured the lochs. Glencoe was the highlight for me because the visit entitled me to some bonus points from my history teacher, Mr Wilson, at Oakmount School.

Cunard had decided to build new ships for the Canadian service. Two initially and later two more were built. Carinthia was number 3 and her maiden voyage was on 27 June 1956. Father was Chief Officer. He remained with the ship until the end of that year.

RMS Carinthia

In 1957 father served as Chief Officer on QM, Caronia and Mauretania and after leave in early 1958 he moved to Queen Mary as her Chief Officer and he stayed on her until the end of October 1959.

On 30 October 1959 George E Smith became Captain George E Smith. He was appointed Master of the Alsatia, one of Cunard’s cargo ships.


SS Alsatia was built for the Silver Line in 1948. The idea was that the ship would carry 12 passengers in style while the ship carried cargo around the world. Cunard bought her and her sister ship the Andria in 1951. They were both used for general cargo and the passenger accommodation was used by the officers – there were no passengers!

In early 1960 Captain George, after his initiation as the Master of a Cunard ship, returned to the passenger fleet on both Queens and the Mauretania as Staff Captain. He had another two spells as Captain of Alsatia and Arabia in 1961 and then in October 1962 he had his first command of a passenger ship, RMS Mauretania.

In early 1963 father returned to Queen Elizabeth and he remained with her all that year, until just before Christmas, when he transferred to the Caronia, the Green Goddess.

Caronia was having her Annual refit in Southampton and father enjoyed Christmas and New Year at home before the ship left on 6 January 1964 on a Caribbean cruise finishing in New York. Many of the passengers would have stayed aboard for the Great World Cruise

The voyage took Caronia south to Rio, then across the southern Atlantic to Capetown and Durban, across the Indian Ocean to Bombay and Colombo. After Singapore and Bangkok and Hong Kong she sailed north to Yokohama and then across to Honolulu and California and through the Panama Canal

and then on to New York. After a few days Caronia set off on her Spring Mediterranean cruise

arriving in Southampton on 10 June 1964 when father went on leave.

Father had a month at home and then a voyage on Mauretania and one transatlantic on QE before Captaincy returned. The Andania was another of Cunard’s cargo fleet and he had a month on her before spells as Captain of the Cunard passenger fleet the Franconia, then her sister ship Saxonia, the Mauretania and the Ivernia. He then returned to Saxonia as her Master for 4 months and then spells on Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth as Staff Captain.

After leave in mid June 1965 he returned to Queen Mary as Staff Captain. I have just realised that it must have been an organised move. I was off to the US for a working holiday in the summer vacation following my first year reading Law at University. I was entitled to travel at staff rates (£1 per day – a fiver for the trip!) and father must have persuaded someone to move him to QM for this voyage.

I didn’t see my father very much during the trip. He was working and I was enjoying myself. There were a large number of young American girls on board who had been doing the European tour with their parents.

I will report on this voyage and the 3 months in the US summer of 1965 later in the blog.

After working in Milwaukee for 6 weeks and then touring with 3 others around the USA for 10,000 miles in a 1957 Buick, it was back to New York and another wonderful voyage to Southampton on Queen Mary. Father by then had moved to the Mauretania. And for me it was back to year 2 of my law degree.

Later in 1965 father took command of Saxonia until March 1966 and then had spells on QM and QE as Staff Captain.

It was at this time in 1966 that Cunard found itself in financial difficulties. The National Seaman’s strike and legislation passed in the US that would prevent some of Cunard’s older ships from sailing with American passengers from their ports, meant that Cunard were losing massive sums every month. But the major problem was the development of air travel and the fact that people could fly the Atlantic in hours rather than spending 5 days on a Queen.

The Queen Elizabeth was not really suitable for cruising because of her size, but in 1967 she was deployed in that way. Father was aboard in the early part of 1967 as Staff Captain. The Captain was the Commodore of the fleet, Captain Geoffrey Marr. There had been a short cruise in the Caribbean in January 1967 and QE then set off on a long cruise from the US to the Mediterranean. It was fraught with problems because of poor weather. The Commodore was not well and towards the end of the voyage he slipped and fell on the deck, dislocating his ankle and fracturing a fibula and tibia.

Queen Elizabeth.

The Commodore travelled as a passenger for the rest of the voyage, handing command of Queen Elizabeth over to father. Captain George Smith had his first command of one of Cunard’s famous Queens. He finished the cruise as Captain, taking the ship back to New York and remained in command for the transatlantic back to Southampton.

It was at about this time that father was told that he was one of two Captains assigned to the new Cunarder being built on the Clyde. That must have been an enormous boost to my parents because in 1967 the Cunard board had decided that Queen Mary was to be retired and sold off at the end of 1967 and that Queen Elizabeth would suffer the same fate a year later.

It gave him a few more years at sea. Ships were being laid up and sold and senior officers were having to retire early. It was also a great honour to be part of QE2’s senior team.

After returning home as Captain of the original Queen Elizabeth, the flagship of the Cunard fleet, father moved to the Clyde where he ‘stood by’ the construction of what was to become the Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2). This role ‘standing by’ the ship during construction was the same role that he had had with the Carinthia back in 1956.

Captain William Warwick was to be the first Captain and father the first Staff Captain. The new plan was that when the Captain was on leave the Staff Captain would take over the Captaincy, rather than bringing in a more Senior Captain from another ship.

During the construction of QE2 there were delays and a financial collapse of the Clydebank shipyards. They were losing millions on the QE2 construction. There were problems with the turbines when QE2 was first delivered and Cunard refused to accept her. Eventually the problems were overcome and a shakedown cruise to the Canaries was organised.

Prince Charles visited the ship before she left the Clyde for her trials

Father welcoming Prince Charles aboard QE2
Queen Elizabeth 2

Spouses and dependant children of crew members were invited to join the shakedown cruise. I was a 23 year old articled clerk (these days they are called trainee solicitors) on £10 a week and was allowed to join the voyage. But we had to contribute by writing reports on cabins, checking whether or not they been finished properly. We had a schedule each day telling us where to eat and where to party. Cunard were checking that the crew could cope with pressure points. It was a great introduction for us to the QE2.

Jane and I did not sail on QE2 together until 2004 when we enjoyed a Norwegian cruise. Earlier that year we had managed to get a cabin on the Queen Mary 2 maiden voyage. Although Captain George Smith had died 20 years earlier I found that his name still carried considerable weight and we were entertained regally. It sold Jane on cruising.

We had a number of voyages from 2004 through to 2008 when we were lucky enough to be able to get a cabin on QE2’s final voyage to Dubai in November 2008.

QE2 – originally her funnel had been painted white but after a time it was repainted in Cunard’s colours.

Sorry, I digressed. I must go back to the QE2 in those early days.

When the Queen boarded QE2 in Southampton before her maiden voyage, Captain Warwick was missing. He had found a pile of sawdust on the route the Queen was to take, so he found a dust pan and brush and cleaned it up himself, but that made him late. Father was there and did the hand shaking.

Fathers first voyage as Captain of QE2 was on 12 June 1969. Although father clearly loved the ship, after a time I think that he found it difficult to move down to the Staff Captain position when Bil Warwick returned from leave. Officers of fathers seniority had their commands in other ships in the Cunard fleet and (although this is pure conjecture on my part) I think he probably wanted to get back to commanding ‘his’ ship.

What happened was that he moved to the Franconia in mid 1970. He had been in command of her back in 1964. In 1970 she was based in New York and running down to Bermuda on a weekly basis. He loved the ship – Franconia would leave New York and 36 hours later would tie up on Front Street in Hamilton, Bermuda. The ship would be a hotel for the passengers for the next 3 days and she then sailed for 36 hours back to New York.


Mother, who for most of father’s career at sea, had not been allowed to sail with him, could now do so. She used to stay in Bermuda with friends and spend the 3 days with him when the Franconia was in Hamilton. From time to time she would do the round trip from Bermuda to NY and back down to Bermuda.

In the summer of 1971, father arranged for me to spend 2 weeks in Bermuda. He sent me an airline ticket to get me to Bermuda and he had arranged for me to return on a chartered Cunard crew flight 2 weeks later. He had taken leave out there and had rented a house in Warwick on Shore Road.

Back then the rented house was in the middle of the picture, 50 yards from the beach. The rest of the development came much later.

I had just qualified as a Solicitor and I had interviews in Bermuda with Law firms there. A life as a lawyer in Bermuda seemed attractive but after my return to Southampton and a job offer from Paris Smith and Randall brought me down to Earth.

Father remained as Captain of Franconia through to October 1971 when the ship was laid up in Southampton as was her sister ship Carmania.

Carmania and Franconia laid up in Southampton

Eventually father sailed the two ships from Southampton to the River Fal, Cornwall where they were laid up until they were eventually sold.

The River Fal, Cornwall

Captain George E Smith retired from Cunard in May 1972 and sadly died on 9 July 1984.


It’s exactly a year since we were last at sea

On Saturday 16 November 2019 we returned to Southampton on Queen Victoria after a very happy voyage to the Canaries.

We had two cruises booked for 2020 but sadly they were both cancelled. Cunard refunded every penny that we had paid.

The cruise companies have had a disastrous year. Fleets of cruise ships are at anchor around the world. The majority of their crew have been returned to their homelands, some flown home, others by sea. Skeleton crews remain on the ships, keeping them ship shape and here on the south coast of England there are a multitude of Cunard, P&O, Holland America, Carnival, Royal Caribbean and other ships at anchor.

From time to time the ships leave their anchorages off Bournemouth and Weymouth and return to Southampton to revictual, change crew and then they return to the boredom of Bournemouth bay.

We are taking a positive line for 2021. The only way that we can have a really meaningful holiday is at sea. Not just because of my heritage but because Cunard make it easy for us.

An old friend from my Mudeford teenage years emailed me yesterday to tell me that she had remarried. I responded and this morning she sent me this photograph of Queen Victoria as it sailed up Southampton Water past her home in Warsash. It would have been a very quick turnaround by QV to minimise port charges.

As you will be aware Cunard were keen to exploit the Australian market and had based Queen Elizabeth there for 2020. Because of the pandemic they brought the ship back to Europe but their new itineraries for 2021 take her back to Australia. It is a shame because QE and QV are ideal for us and taking one of them away from Europe halves the number of choices we have.

The equipment that we have to take with us (a heavy motorised wheelchair, a folding wheelchair, a bathchair and a large hoist) makes flying to or from a ship impossible. With QE on the other side of the world, our Cunard choices are QV or QM2. The adapted cabins on QM2 are not great so that when batches of new cruises are released we have to make quick decisions to get one of the adapted QV cabins.

I mentioned Mudeford. Many of you will not know it. The place is pronounced Muddyford. It is near Christchurch in Dorset, England. My parents had a beach hut on Mudeford Sandbank during my youth. We used to call them chalets, not huts! They were (and still are) wooden buildings and the licence from the local authority allows the hut owners to live in them from March to October.

As my father was regularly away at sea, as soon as the school summer holidays started, mother would load up the car and we would set off to Mudeford for the 6/8 weeks school holidays. If father had leave during that time he would of course join us. We all loved it.

The chalet was fairly basic. Father built a double bed which folded into the wall and there were bunks in the back room for my sister Liz and me. There was a small kitchen area with a sink and that was it. Public loos were nearby. There was no running water to the hut (although after a year or two father did manage to get us linked up to the mains (illegally!). So large metal jugs were filled from standpipes nearby.

But it was great. We looked out to sea and to the Isle of Wight and behind us was Christchurch Harbour.

From day one we had boats. Initially it was a beautifully built clinker rowing dinghy. Someone lent me a small red spinnaker type sail with a mast, and I set it up with rope stays. The boat didn’t have any sort of centre board so I would row up the harbour into the wind, set up the mast and the sail and then turn so that the wind was behind me and roar back to the beach. I steered with an oar at the stern.

That’s how I learned how to sail. During the next winter father realised that Liz and I needed a proper sailing dinghy. Somehow we heard of a dinghy that was for sale near where we lived in Southampton. Father agreed to buy it and I can remember that it came with a trailer and we walked it home. I spent many hours rigging and unrigging it in the garden before it was taken to Mudeford.

Father was on leave during the summer term but knew that he would be away when the school summer holiday started. He wanted to get the new boat to Mudeford and to check that we could sail it before he went back to sea. Our respective headteachers gave permission for Liz and me to miss school for a day.

On that day we quickly rigged the boat and were ready to sail it when father said he wanted to sail it first to check it out. This was a man who at the time was a Chief Officer on the old Cunard Queens. He had probably not sailed a boat for 25 years (if at all!). It was a calm day with very little wind. He climbed in and we pushed him off. Within 2 minutes and no more than 50 yards from where we were standing waist deep, suddenly the boat tipped back and father fell backwards into the water. Liz and I swam out, righted the boat and brought it back to shore.

After bailing it, out Liz and I sailed the boat away without a problem.

To give my father full credit, many years later in 1965, after my first year at University, I was travelling on Queen Mary for a 3 month working holiday in the USA. Father was Staff Captain (now known as a Deputy Captain) and although I was travelling in Cabin Class (the middle one at the time – First – Cabin – Tourist) one night I was to sit at fathers table in First Class for dinner. My dinner jacket had been packed for the occasion.

Before dinner the passengers who were to sit at fathers table were invited to his cabin for pre-dinner cocktails. During that party he told the story against himself of the day in which he, the Master Mariner, had capsized his children’s sailing dinghy. The American guests loved it.


Back catalogue

Sam is a genius. He has sorted it out. We are live and you are being notified of fresh blogs.

I have written three posts since our last cruise in November and you won’t have been notified of them

18 December 2019 Great Grimsby

20 December 2019 Cleethorpes

16 February 2020 The Diamond Princess

Let me know how you coped with these revelations.


Early notice

Many of you are subscribed to this blog. You have added your email address to the Subscribe box on the Home page of . It means that when I write a piece about our latest cruise, you receive an email telling you that Smithy has written something. You click and read BUT the big problem is that it doesn’t work now.

WordPress operate the blog and Sam the guru looks after it, but it’s not working properly so he has asked me to publish something so that he can work out what is not working well. And this is it.

But what you should know is that Cunard is looking after us again in May and September 2020. More details to follow once the blog is ship shape.


The Diamond Princess – 3rd attempt at publishing

There have been numerous problems with the blog. Sam, who looks after these things for me, tells me that it’s because of ‘plugins’ being updated! Anyhow, as no one seems to have received this piece I will try to publish it once again. Sorry if you’ve seen it already. It would be great, if you do get an email telling you it has been published, if you could respond saying so!

This is the Diamond Princess, the ship that has been quarantined inYokohama for the last 2 weeks. She was our home for 6 weeks back in 2009. I had retired at the end of 2008. We had tried Princess Cruises the year before on the Sapphire Princess and had a great voyage from Auckland to Sydney.

The itinerary for 2009 looked really good if we put together 2 cruises back to back. The first was Bangkok to Anchorage in Alaska and the second from there down the coast of Alaska to Vancouver.

When the car came to Landfall to take us to Heathrow for the flight to Bangkok the driver asked us if we realised that the Foreign Office were advising against travel to Bangkok because of rioting in Bangkok. We knew of unrest but that was all. I rang Princess Cruises who said the ship would be leaving on time and if we weren’t there – bad luck.

So we went. We were booked into the Shangri La in Bangkok for 2 nights and when the driver arrived at the airport to collect us, I asked how we would get to the hotel. By then I knew that people had been killed and that the Red Shirts had surrounded Government House. Not a problem, he said. We just drive round it! And we did and when we settled into our room in the hotel all we could see was some smoke and little else. The protesters surrendered the next day.

After 2 days in Bangkok we boarded Diamomd Princess and set off for Singapore. Then it was some great places – Vung Tau and Ho Chi Minh City and Nha Trang – plenty of fake Ralph Lauren polo shirts and fake Rolexes – yes I know I’m still wearing some of those shirts! Jane bought me a real Rolex but I still wear the fake when I’m abroad.

Then on to Hong Kong for 2 days, Taipei in Taiwan and then Japan and China.

We were tracking back and forth between them. Beautiful Shanghai, the wonderful Beijing and the amazing Dalian.

And our first visit to Japan. Lots of form filling and fingerprinting. And this is where the similarity starts. There was a swine flu epidemic then. There is a coronavirus now – much much worse.

We had to go through a thermo scanning procedure in Kagoshima and Muroran. There were major delays before we were allowed ashore and in Muroran the Captain eventually announced that we were free to go ashore. As we poured down the gangways a little customs official ran up to the central gangway waving papers indicating that we were not to go ashore. He was ignored!

That was 11 years ago. We have to be sorry for the passengers who are now quarantined aboard that ship. Some of them in internal cabins.

In 2009 in between the Japanese ports we had a day in Pusan, South Korea and an amazing day in Vladivostok, Russia. In Vladivostok we stumbled on a full blooded military parade involving thousands of troops, heavy vehicles and tanks. It was celebrating the end of WW2. They were not happy that a group of us from the ship were watching and taking photos.

From Vladivostok we crossed the northern Pacific to Anchorage and then 7 glorious days down to Vancouver . The Alaskan ports of Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan are somewhat artificial but great fun.

We had booked 2 nights in the Pan Pacific in Vancouver but 2 of our dinner companions on the ship, Bruce and Moreen Rutherford, who we had dined with throughout the cruise, insisted that we cancelled the hotel and stayed with them. They were wonderful hosts and despite having been away from their home for some 10 weeks they treated us regally.

Then after a few days in Vancouver we flew down to stay with our good friends Mike and Maggie O’Connell in Sarasota, California.

As many of you will know, sadly Mike died in February 2013. We had arranged a Pacific cruise out of LA that February and the plan was to meet up with Mike and Maggie in Santa Monica, where we were staying, before boarding Queen Elizabeth, but sadly Mike died the day after we arrived in LA. He was a great man and we loved him very much.



Mention of my grandfather, Charles William Hewson and the town of Grimsby prompted some of you to ask why I ended up living in Southampton. It is stunning, exciting stuff.

Next door to Grimsby is the seaside resort of Cleethorpes. I was born there. That word appears in my passport. I used to keep quiet about it because Cleethorpes was regularly the butt of music hall comedians. I’m not clear why that was, except that I can recall that you could be sitting on the promenade and, if the tide was out, you couldn’t see the sea.

As a young boy I was taken out in a horse and cart to see the sea. And if you were far out, at the water’s edge, when the tide turned, the horse had to move at quite a pace to keep ahead of the incoming tide.

When I first went abroad in a school group, the lads saw that Cleethorpes was my place of birth and they thought that was enormously funny, without really know why. But I survived the banter.

When I was about one, my parents moved to Southampton as my father had been assigned to the original Queen Elizabeth on the Southampton – New York run.

But as all my relatives lived in Grimsby and surrounding villages, my sister Liz and I had to go to Grimsby at least once a year. It was usually in the Easter school holidays and if father was away, mother would drive us there. She didn’t like having to overtake large lorries, so that if we were stuck behind one, she would pull into a lay-by and give the lorry time to get well away ahead of us before she set off again.

I remember that one year mother announced that we would not do the trip in the usual one day, but would stay the night in the George Hotel, Kettering to break up the journey. We arrived there well before lunch and could easily have covered the rest of the 120 or so miles before tea but we had to mooch about in Kettering killing time.

I wrote this some time ago and had so much more to say, but I was unable to publish anything. Sam is investigating the problem but while he is working on outgoing I will try again!


Great Grimsby

On Friday morning, as I watched the election results coming in, I remembered some of my family history.

Great Grimsby had been won by a Conservative candidate for the first time in 74 years. The Conservatives had held the seat until 1945 when Labour won it and they then retained it at every election until now.

My Grandfather, Alderman Charles William Hewson, contested the seat in the October 1951 parliamentary election but lost to the Labour candidate. Famous Labour MP’s in the constituency in the subsequent years were Tony Crosland and Austin Mitchell.

Grandfather was an interesting man. As I recall it, both his parents were tenant farmers in Tetney, near Grimsby. Charles inherited the tenancy at a young age, both his parents having died before he was 21.

He built up a number of businesses. A haulage firm – CW Hewson – which had branches in towns up the north east coast, a butchery business with a number of butchers shops in Grimsby and Immingham, dairy farms in the area between Grimsby and the coast and a Ship Chandlery and Postmastership in the docks at Immingham.

He was married to my Grandmother Eliza Catherine Hewson and they had 4 children including my Mother, Lucy Winifred Smith.

Grandfather was a Grimsby Town Councillor, was made an Alderman of the Town and in 1944/45 was elected as Mayor.

I will continue with some of my Grimsby memories when I get a chance!