Seapost -> Farewell to the QE2

Farewell to the QE2

By Mike Dovey

Farewell Celebration 2008 Logo Queen Elizabeth 2 Alas in November 2008 the Cunard Line vessel Queen Elizabeth 2, or QE2 for short, was sold by her owners, Carnival Cruises, to new owners in Dubai where it will be moored and refitted as a hotel - a truly sad day for British Maritime history.

My Wife and I were very fortunate to cruise on the QE2 in November 2007 around the Mediterranean. Well, when I said cruise what I actually meant was that we sailed everywhere as if the ship was a greyhound as it seemingly refused to go anywhere at less than 28 knots and, even as a 40 year old vessel, she was well known to be the fastest liner afloat, which is not a bad recommendation for a ship so long in the tooth. Most of these new "floating hotels" can barely make 20 knots. While we only had the one chance to sail on board it was not very difficult to find other passengers who had cruised maybe 10, 20, or even 30 times just on this one ship.

So what made this vessel just so good to travel and cruise on ? Well it is a very simple and easy answer. This ship had a pedigree, this ship had a character, it seemed to have a body and life of its own - much like a steam engine had on the railways. It moved gracefully from port to port and gave its occupants a life that could not be equalled. The food was to die for, the service sublime, the surroundings surreal and, add to that, the fact that you could post covers and obtain a paquebot postmark as long as the wind was in the right direction!!

Newcastle-upon-Tyne paquebot mark
Newcastle upon Tyne (Hosking 163AA)
Southampton paquebot mark
Southampton (Hosking 219A)

I first encountered the QE2 in 1969 when she underwent Seagoing trials just prior to taking up her duties as a true transatlantic liner and, with the fall of such a service, I obtained covers in such profusion on various cruises and World cruises that by 1979 the Purser did a fantastic job and posted covers from every port the ship called at. In fact like postings from other cruise ships such as the Canberra and Arcadia etc it got to be a bit of a bore as so many covers came back and repeated themselves. It got to the point where I had to cut my expenses and find pastures new as these ships were becoming a bit repetitive.

Gibraltar paquebot mark
Gibraltar (A New Mark)
Naples, Italy, Paquebot mark
Naples (Hosking 1168B)

Having obtained various covers and World cruise covers for 1975, 1976, 1977, 8, 9 etc., I decided to go off and find new a venues to explore collecting paquebot covers. To that extent I did very well to the exclusion of what was fast becoming the dear old maid of the seas. Twenty five years passed and suddenly it was 2007 and Cunard stated that the QE2 was going to be retired and replaced with the Queen Victoria - a bigger ship more in keeping with cruising but so much slower that all the cruises from Southampton would now have to begin in Barcelona if the old schedule was to be adhered to.

And so to 2007. Here I was on board the QE2 posting covers from ports of call and planning what was going to happen before the demise of this great ship. Following my cruise I was fortunate to get the Purser to post covers and get paquebot postings on the last tour of the East coast ports of the USA with paquebot postings from Newport, Bar Harbour and Boston and failures from Saint John and Quebec.

Valletta , Malta, paquebot mark
Valletta (Hosking 1054A)
Cunard's Queen Elizabeth 2

The last tour of the British Isles and Eire produced paquebot covers from Southampton, Dublin, Newcastle upon Tyne with failures from Cork, Liverpool, Belfast, Glasgow, and Edinburgh - Heaven save us from the service of some Royal Mail offices!!

And so to the final cruise from Southampton through the Med to Dubai and her final resting place. Southampton - yes, Vigo - nearly, Gibraltar - yes, Cagliari - nearly, Naples - yes, Valletta - yes. Alexandria - no, Port Said - no, and Dubai - A very big No!! Many of my covers were bundled up with others and sent off to a collector in Germany - who fortunately I know. He advised me that he had my covers which he returned to me without any postmarks. Well, at least I can soak off the stamps for future use.

At the final resting place a paquebot cover was to be a non starter. The post office at Dubai refused to service the covers and so any of the ones I have listed up to and including Valletta are the last of a long line of covers available. During the 40 years at sea the QE2 has used a variety of ship cachets and the final pair are shown below as they should be as if they had been stamped from the pad in the Pursers Office - although I do have to say that the inkpad was rubbish and the cachets themselves had to be treated with the utmost care and a couple of tissues to get a good result!!

Purser's Cachet - Dubai Purser's Cachet - Dubai

I first began collecting paquebot covers in 1969 and by 1979 onwards you could get a paquebot cover from anywhere in the world due to the exploits of collectors who sent covers out on mass to numerous vessels and received postings from all over the world. The various post offices would fall over backwards to help and be of service to you. It is a sad reflection that the new attitude from post offices around the world is one of non co-operation (our Royal Mail being in the forefront of bad service and total neglect, with the exception of Southampton and Newcastle upon Tyne who are superb). It means that an endeavour to obtain a paquebot postmark from a ship today is a tough deed to accomplish to the point where a success is a treat and a rarity while in the 1970/80's it became nearly a way of life.

QE2 in Dubai

Oh, happy days, and off to Dubai is the flagship of our endeavour. The Queen Elizabeth 2 was truly a giant amongst ships and the trail of covers she has left behind will be sought after for years to come. I consider it a privilege to have had covers from such a vessel and my collection is certainly better for the efforts of those on board who gave such attention and help to us collectors. Long may she rest in peace in eternal sunshine and I am sure that we all consumed enough alcohol on board to keep her going for the next 20 years at least!!


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