National Geographic : 1935 Aug
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE Britannia's ships be launched in a stream but little wider than itself is long? That is not so hard to understand. The Queen Mary was known as "534" because 533 ships preceded her at "John Brown's Yard." For miles the Clyde runs between cranes and cradles within which steel plates and castings become the stately ships and ocean tramps that carry the Union Jack across the seas (see page 145). After Queen Mary gave her name to 1,018 feet of Clydebank skill and craft, I rambled through the shops where stood some of the mighty machinery which will turn this graceful hull into a steamship. On that glad day, after years of delay and disappoint ment, the proud workmen were able to show their families around "The Yard." For months it had been easier to get into Buckingham Palace than into the precincts of "John Brown and Company, Ltd." But with the rattle of those mighty drag chains still in one's ears and the giant craft safely berthed in the fitting basin after a perfect launching, discipline was temporarily re laxed. I watched these Clydebank men posi tively petting the shiny metal that would some day drive this gigantic speedboat across the Atlantic. The day after the launching, I returned to Clydebank, for sunshine had replaced the downpour which added impressiveness to the ceremony. Once more the door of "John Brown's Yard" was closed. So I roamed the docks, seeking out Clydebank men who could give me their view of yesterday's his toric event. At such a time hundreds of platers are left without a job, hundreds of fitters set joyfully to work. The actual launching was the most im pressive ceremony I saw during six months in Great Britain. Color was blotted out by a pouring sky. Few bright trappings of pageantry were present. The thrill was inherent. Under the umbrellas there was an almost religious hush, broken only by the arrival of the Queen, closely followed by the King and the Prince of Wales, his head cocked sideways as he looked up at the bow which may cleave the Atlantic faster than any similar prow has ever done. When the brief speeches were over and the champagne foamed across the bows, "the bubbly" dripped down into cinema lens hoods which the operators had pointed upward only at the last moment because of the pouring rain. How six hydraulic rams started that huge mass of inert metal down the ways; how the unprecedented weight was transferred from earth to water without breaking the back of the half-built hull; how thousands of tons of drag chain so checked her that she did not sink her 150-ton rudder and four mighty propellers in the not-far bank of the Clyde that is a story for engineers and the movie camera. John Masefield, who knows the sea, wrote a poem to this so stately ship, "Long as a street and lofty as a tower, Ready to glide in thunder from the slip And shear the sea with majesty of power." But for me the verses which best fitted the occasion were written a century ago by an American who has a monument in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey: "Our hearts, our hopes, our prayers, our tears, Our faith triumphant o'er our fears, Are all with thee-are all with thee!" The ship is a mighty monument to "faith triumphant," for there were years when her skeleton rusted on the ways and Clydebank wizardry might have lost its cunning for want of work. This colossal speedboat may never earn her keep. The blue riband may go to a foreign rival. But during some of England's darkest days, she brought back hope to the Clyde when proud men with shapeless caps on their heads and canny craft in their fingers had come to hate "the dole" with all their hearts. To them, the Queen Mary is a "job" well done. Hardly had the steel shell come to rest in the Clyde before the vast crowd turned from the Queen Mary to their living Queen. Their hearts and hopes were turned toward a dem ocratic, hard-working, and beloved pair of rulers who, in their persons and in their acts, help keep alive the proud pageantry of Merry England-a calm and confident act of faith amid a disordered world. Westminster Abbey holds the bones of England's Unknown Warrior, but the petri fied patriotism of the Cenotaph stands un covered under the English sky-a silent example to the men who pass (page 149). On Armistice Day all Whitehall, packed with soldiery and subjects of the King, falls silent to listen to the "still, small voice." Around the world that hush of silence speaks. And there, before a chaste stone tower, the visitor bows before the most moving, sincere, and memorable of all of England's annual pageantry.