Captain George E Smith

As many of you will know my father, George Smith, was a Cunard man. Born in Grimsby, Lincolnshire in 1914, he went to sea when he was 15. He studied at the Grimsby Nautical College and joined the New Zealand Shipping Company as a cadet. He had been round the world 7 times before he was 21.

After the cadetship he joined the United Baltic Shipping Company and eventually Cunard White Star Line as it was then called. During World War II he served on both the Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth and after the war he was assigned to the Queens, which resulted in my parents moving in 1946 to Southampton, where my sister Elizabeth and I grew up.
In those days wives of serving officers were not allowed to travel with their husbands which meant that my father was away from my mother and the family for long periods. While on the Queens it was not so bad for my parents as the transatlantic runs meant that my father would be home for 2 days every 2 weeks while the ship turned round in Southampton.

My father also served on the Sythia, Media, Parthia, Mauretania, Caronia, Saxonia (later renamed Carmania), Ivernia (later the Franconia), Carinthia and Sylvania. It was the Caronia that I remember really well because my father loved that ship, but it did take him away from us for long periods of time. I am talking about the Caronia that was affectionally known as the Green Goddess (in service between about 1949 and 1965) and not the Caronia of later years (which was the renamed Vistafjord). There is a model and display about the old Caronia in the Chart Room on QV.

What I remember well was his return after he had been away for 6 months on the Caronia, initially on cruises out of the US to the Caribbean followed by a World Cruise again out of the US. I guess that I was 8 or 9. Of course it was good to see my father again after all that time, but it was the large additional suitcase that he brought back that was more exciting. He had bought and been given momentos of the various magical places he had been to around the world and it took us 2 days to open all the gifts while listening to the stories about the places where he had acquired them.
The point I was intending to make was that one item he brought back for me was an envelope bearing a Pitcairn Island stamp, duly franked and signed by Fletcher Christian, a descendant of the original mutineer of that name, and at that time the Chief Magistrate on the island. 
We are due to sail by Pitcairn on Sunday 16 February. We understand that some, if not all, of the 50 residents of the island will come aboard QV that day and will set up stalls in the Queens Room. We will not be able to go ashore. The island could not cope with so many people.
What I have not told you is that a few years after being given the Pitcairn stamp I stupidly swapped it with another boy for what I mistakenly thought was something better. But I did keep Fletcher Christian’s signature.
I think my father was a Chief Officer at that stage. He went on to become the penultimate Captain of the old Queen Elizabeth and the second ever Captain of QE2. His last ship before retirement was the Franconia which ran between New York and Bermuda on a weeky basis. 36 hours at sea from NY to Bermuda and then 3 days tied up on Front Street, Hamilton and then 36 hours back to NY and a day to turn round.


9 Replies to “Captain George E Smith”

  1. Hello Richard!
    I used to have piano lessons in Grimsby in the 1980s with Edith Smith – my Grandma used to tell me that her brother was a Captain of the QE2 – so I’m guessing she would be Aunt! We have been on a couple of Cunard cruises over the past couple of years and it reminded me of this.

    1. Fiona. I have only just seen this. Fantastic! Yes Ede Smith was my favourite Aunt. What a character! We used to drive up to Grimsby a couple of times a year when we were young to visit the Hewsons (my mother’s side of the family) and the Smiths. Sometimes I sat in on lessons in that front room at 102 Bargate listening to the way in which my aunt taught. So which ships did you sail on and where did you go? How did you find my blog? Richard

      1. Hi Richard. Thanks for replying! My parents still live in Grimbsy – it is where I was born and bred. I went to school at St Martin’s across the road from 102 where I used to hop across once a week for my piano lesson. Edith was a fabulous piano teacher – if you’d missed 1 days practise – she’d know! I remember she loved the garden birds and sometimes in the middle of Beethoven or Bach she would suddenly surprise you by stopping you mid-sonata to look at whatever bird had landed in the bird bath! Fantastic times! So far we have been on a Fjords cruise on the QV which I loved and then a trip around the Canaries last October on the QE. We were hoping to book something this year but obviously events have not permitted. We booked a Bruges cruise on the QM2 for November but that’s now been cancelled too. I had started to do a bit of research on captains as I’d been chatting to my mum again about Edith’s brother and out of curiosity did an internet search and then came across your blog and put 2 and 2 together! I seem to remember when we went on the Canaries cruise that when I picked up the cocktail menu in the Commodore club there was a feature on past captains and your dad was one of them. I wish I’d taken a photo of it! Good to hear from you! Let’s hope we can get cruising again soon! Fiona

        1. Good to hear from you Fiona. I remember St Martins and that over the years my aunt taught many pupils from the school.
          If you look at recent entries on my blog, Grimsby and Cleethorpes get mentions in December 2019!

          My wife Jane and I should have been on a Med cruise on QV now, but that, of course, was cancelled. We are having considerable difficulty in getting places on 2021 voyages. Jane has MS and we need an adapted wheelchair friendly cabin but there are not many of them and they get snapped up. So we are on Wait lists for a variety of trips. May be we will meet one day!

          Rather than publishing our messages on the blog perhaps any future communications should be on email – mine is

          Best wishes

          1. Fiona – I noticed that St Martin’s ranked third in a recent table of Prep schools nationally. Was it the Sunday Times? It reminded me of our emails on the blog. Incidentally do your parents remember the Palfeys who lived on Bargate roughly opposite Aunt Ede. The Palfreys were related to Eric Turner who was married to Kath, my mother’s sister. My mother was Winifred Smith (nee Hewson).

          2. Hi Richard,
            Hope you are well.
            I asked mum & she’s not aware of the Palfreys. I should think my Grandma who was Eve Dalton may have known them.
            Yes St Martin’s is doing well which is good to see!
            We took a chance & have booked a short cruise on QM2 for next December to Bruges. I hope by then we will be back to some kind of normality.
            I hope you have a good Christmas & best wishes for the New Year.

  2. Lovely to find this. Miss Smith was my piano teacher for several tears until 1977 when we moved away to Wiltshire. I too studied at St. Martin’s where my mother also taught. I was not a dedicated student and Miss Smith expressed obvious frustration with me as she asserted “you’re so talented Diana but you must practise”. I’m 62 now and have never forgotten her. I hope she would approve of the fact that I play in a contesting brass band these days. The discipline she tried to instil in me as a youngster now comes into it’s own.

  3. Hi Well I was thinking about Miss Smith and googled her name plus relevant details and this was one of the results.

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