Southampton Says Goodbye To Queen Elizabeth 2
The 11th November 2008 truly was the end of an era.  It was the day the people of Southampton lost their girl after 39 years, 6 months and 9 days.  As I am just 7 months and 11 days younger, I've always felt an affinity with my fellow 1969 girl.  I grew up with her after moving here in 1972.  She's something special which no other ship can come close to.  Therefore it surprised me that Cunard really were a bunch of bastards over this.   Lizzie was the last of her kind still in service and they sold her for thirty pieces of silver.  Yes, she had to go by mid-2010 but how could they cause confusion by selling a fake 40th, meaning now all dopey journalists who have degrees in laziness and stupidity say she's 41 rather than have her REAL 40th next year?  Are they that desperate for their own Mary to be the longest serving Cunarder?  A so-called liner who doesn't do winter crossings but Caribbean cruises.

So here it was, the day we all dreaded.  Back in June when I did the Fjords cruise with Rowan, Amy and Jason, this day seemed such a long way off.  When I did my last on the 22nd October, it still was unreal.  As it ticked by, the hours were slow but the days flew until it had arrived.  Cunard were bad enough having a night departure, but to have her arriving in the dark too at her usual time, give or take, was unforgiveable.  Then it was changed to 7am from 7.15am, 6am then finally 6.15am.  It was ridiculous.  The specially commissioned painting unveiled by the Queen on the 2nd June 2008 had her arriving in daylight flying a long pennant.  What was the point of that then?  Totally misleading.  We had booked
Shieldhall for the arrival, meeting her at Calshot, and Red Eagle for the departure, going with her to Cowes.  I had watched Canberra arrive from the window due to flu and bitterly regretted it all these years.  There was no way I would miss this.  It was an early start, as Shieldhall was sailing at 5am with boarding at 4am.  We'd booked a taxi for 3am which turned up ten minutes early.  It was bitterly cold and fairly windy.  Mark, from the Ocean Liner Society and who I'd met on the OLS Norwegian Gem cruise in October 2007, was already waiting on the dockside.  In all the years she'd been here, I had never sailed on Shieldhall.  I did consider the OLS charter that evening but it was more expensive than normal trips.  Turned out to be the right decision but more of that later.
The sticker was left over from filming on the 27th October, when she doubled as pirate radio station Radio Neptune, which was for a future episode of the ITV series, The Royal.

As we waited to cast off most were inside having hot drinks and bacon butties.  Not good if you don't eat bacon like me.  I just had to go hungry!  It was a good atmosphere onboard and a Scottish bloke at our table had seen her launch in 1967 then moved down here in 1968.  He was quick to point out he wasn't following her.

We talked to a very nice couple as we waited to leave but were delayed.  Barry J. Eagles was aboard, as well as reporter Allen Sinclair and cameraman from BBC South.  It turned out to be a very eventful morning, as was anything connected with that old diva we were waiting to greet.  Amy was watching every available webcam back in Los Angeles as well as the AIS and keeping me updated on goings on. At 5.09am I received a text saying, "She's stopped at Calshot waiting for her flotilla."  I checked the AIS and there she was doing 0 knots.  Mind you, there were also no tugs.  We kept getting announcements saying Lizzie was delayed but no details.  Two tugs, Sussex and Lyndhurst,  went down around the time of my text, followed soon after by Lady Madeleine and Bentley.  We later tried to cast off but the wind was very strong, blowing us back onto the berth.  It also tried to rain at one point but thankfully didn't last long.

Allen Sinclair contacted transport correspondent Paul Clifton at 5.30pm, who seemed to think Lizzie had run aground.  I was getting slightly jealous the people on the Blue Funnel boat, Ashleigh R had a grandstand view while we were stuck, going nowhere.  It was beginning to get light, just what we wanted!  Looks like Lizzie did too instead of sneaking in the way they wanted.  It was confirmed she had hit a sandbar at Bramble Bank.  So the BBC, never ones to waste an opportunity, interviewed everyone on board.  Allen Sinclair loved my dad's balaclava and said it had to be on TV but he refused.  He took some persuading then wouldn't shut up!  The cameraman was having trouble with his light so when they came to me they did it without.  We weren't going anywhere now until Lizzie was docked.
The tugs freed her with the help of high tide and she was on her way again by 6.30am but was being brought up slowly.  At 7.11am we spied the head of a beauty between the car carrier and grain silo.  How inconvenient for that beast to be blocking the view today of all days.  Everyone rushed to the stern of Shieldhall when an announcement was made a few minutes later but we had the prime positions already.
We were going to get the best seat in the house because she had to turn right behind us.  We would be totally still so get great shots while Ashleigh R's passengers had to move to a safe distance and had the rough sea, as well asthe wash from Lizzie and the tugs, rocking them about a bit.  I wasn't jealous at this point!.  The four tugs were still attached, guiding her safely into her home for the very last time. Surprisingly she wasn't flying the pennant as depicted in that painting.  I was still hoping she'd have a real one kissing her funnel when she left.
Just before 7.55am we were all told to move so the tug could attach which would pull us out.  We would finally be sailing and, as they had the tug booked for three hours, would return in time for the poppy drop.  Everyone was given the option of gettig off if they chose to but I don't know if anyone did.  Despite us having a taxi booked to pick us up at 8.30am and no one answering the phone in the office, we stayed.
After a pleasant little jaunt at 4 knots to Calshot, we turned around and headed back to berth 48.  It was still pretty windy and cold but not as bad as it had been hours before.  Onboard they had a shop so my dad bought a First Day Cover of the leaving of Southampton which, for some dozy reason, had a picture of 'The Leaving Of Liverpool' on it!
We had company as an Itchen Marine tug appeared to attach itself and take us back.  It had been a pleasant little jaunt and I'm glad we still got to go out after the disappointment of the intended arrival plans.
For one time only Hythe Ferry had both running at fifteen minute intervals.  They had done great business this year when Lizzie was in with so many tourists and locals wanting to see her at least once before she went.  Of course, Hotspur IV (right) is the best for photographs due to the deck space.  Great Expectations (left) may carry more passengers but the outside is very small.  I expect the Red Funnels were making a profit as well, with many coming over from the island to witness events.  Great Expectations unusually went around us to return to the pier, giving the passengers some terrific Lizzie shots. Security was very tight due to the Duke of Edinburgh's visit, with both harbour master vessels guarding our girl.
As it was also Armistice Day, 90 years since the guns fell silent in World War I, Lizzie's stern flag was flying at half mast.
Queen Elizabeth 2 in the Queen Elizabeth II for the very last time.  They say the terminal was purpose built for her yet it was opened in 1966.  Also when she first arrived, she used the old Ocean Terminal. QEII will forever be the home of the QE2 and it won't be the same without her there after all these decades.
They were using one of her lifeboats for the divers to check for damage after the grounding.  Personally I wouldn't be surprised if she'd really broken down since she wasn't moving at least fifteen minutes before she hit anything.  The timings don't add up for when she was without power and grounding from those I've spoken to who were aboard, not to mention the media giving an even later time.  It would be perfectly logical for her engine to fail.  Has before, twice on cruises in the last eleven months I was on.  With the strong winds she could have easily been pushed towards land as she had no power to fight against it with.  Engine failure would be more embarrassing to Cunard on her last homecoming than running aground.
As we were docking, the planes arrived for the poppy drop.  Originally it was a Tiger Moth but that must have been cancelled because of the wind.  Instead we had a DeHavilland Beaver and an Auster.  They flew right over us as they got into position.  Such a shame again that car carrier was in the way since again, it had said they would be dropped over the ship.  Perhaps that's unwelcome presence caused them to change their mind.
My then partner, Patrick Patton (piano player on Lizzie), had called to say he would meet me at 48 since it was just down from the ship, only wasn't there.  He rang again, asking where I was so I told him. He said he couldn't find it so was waiting at Town Quay for me.  Typical!  Back to Hythe on the packed ferry while my dad went home by taxi to feed the dogs and pick up another jumper for me.  I was freezing.  I would have preferred Hotspur but wasn't so lucky.  It was chaos at Town Quay and the ticket machine was so overworked it kept breaking down.  As we passed I got the lifeboat and noticed the Royal Standard was flying from the top of the mast.  Patrick, meanwhile, had gone from not wanting any photos ("I have plenty already") to getting his phone out and trying to take some over heads which made me laugh, especially considering how tall he is.  Wish I'd got a photo of that!
After walking around Hythe and a very nice lunch in Hobbits with Patrick, my dad reappeared and we all went to the marina for the fly and sail past at 1.40pm, such as it was.  There is no doubt if it hadn't been for the date, none of this would be happening.  Lizzie, for all her greatness, wasn't respected for her meagre Falklands action.  Canberra received warships escorting her, a Canberra bomber and the Red Arrows when she arrived for the last time.  What did Lizzie get?  A Harrier giving a salute (probably more for the Duke than ship) and a small naval posse of Mounts Bay and three training vessels so small they blended in with the small boats on the water.
The Harrier was actually quite good, albeit over quicker than you could blink.  Now it was the turn of the navy.  Mounts Bay moved forward and as she passed Her Majness blasted which was reciprocated. She did it some more too and was replied to.  Patrick noted it was like a duck and ducklings.


© Patricia Dempsey 11th November 2008
Not to be reproduced without permission