WWII plans to convert RMS Queen Mary into troop carrier used by Churchill could fetch £4,000


The secret World War Two plans to convert the RMS Queen Mary cruise ship into a troop carrier which ferried Prime Minister Winston Churchill across the Atlantic could fetch £4,000 at auction – after being bought for £25.

Grandfather-of-eight Francis Phillips, 73, bought the intricate plans at a car boot sale 25 years ago after learning they were destined for the bonfire. 

After carrying out research with the help of university experts, Mr Philips, from Gloucester, then learnt of the stunning provenance of the documents.

The Queen Mary was launched in 1934 and, during more than 30 years in service, ferried celebrities and royals including Elizabeth Taylor, Walt Disney, the Duke of Windsor and the Queen Mother across the Atlantic. 

After being converted to a troop carrier during the Second World War, the ship was used by Churchill on multiple occasions to get to the US for meetings.

Mr Phillips’s conversion plans are one of only two known surviving copies – the other set is locked away in the archives of the National Museums in Liverpool. They are being sold with a guide price of £3,000 to £4,000.   

The secret World War Two plans to convert the RMS Queen Mary cruise ship into a troop carrier which ferried Prime Minister Winston Churchill across the Atlantic could fetch £4,000 at auction - after being bought for £25

Grandfather-of-eight Francis Phillips, 73, bought the dog-eared plans at a car boot sale 25 years ago after learning they were destined for the bonfire

The secret World War Two plans to convert the RMS Queen Mary cruise ship into a troop carrier which ferried Prime Minister Winston Churchill across the Atlantic could fetch £4,000 at auction – after being bought for £25

The Queen Mary was launched in 1934 and, during more than 30 years in service, ferried celebrities and royals including Elizabeth Taylor, Walt Disney, the Duke of Windsor and the Queen Mother across the Atlantic

The Queen Mary was launched in 1934 and, during more than 30 years in service, ferried celebrities and royals including Elizabeth Taylor, Walt Disney, the Duke of Windsor and the Queen Mother across the Atlantic

Speaking of the moment he bought the plans, Mr Phillips said: ‘I thought it was worth a punt.

‘It was towards the end of the day at the car boot, and I knew this gentleman and his business was house repossession.

‘One of the perks is they can sell these things at car boots.

‘He was packing up and there was this tatty old cardboard box and I just flicked my hands through it briefly.

‘I just thought “ooh that’s interesting” and he “I’m taking them home to burn, they’re taking up too much room”.

‘There was no haggling over prices, it was the end of the day and I asked what he wanted for them.

‘He said “name a figure” so I offered £25, which seemed a bit rash in those days for me.’

Despite readily handing over his cash, Mr Phillips admitted he had no idea of the historical and monetary value of his find.

The ship was converted into a troop carrier during the Second World War. Pictured: The liner arriving in New York in June 1945, loaded with thousands of US troops returning from Europe

The ship was converted into a troop carrier during the Second World War. Pictured: The liner arriving in New York in June 1945, loaded with thousands of US troops returning from Europe 

After being converted to a troop carrier during the Second World War, the ship was used by the then Prime Minister Winston Churchill on multiple occasions to get to the US. Pictured: Churchill stands on the deck of the Queen Mary alongside Admiral Dudley Pound

After being converted to a troop carrier during the Second World War, the ship was used by the then Prime Minister Winston Churchill on multiple occasions to get to the US. Pictured: Churchill stands on the deck of the Queen Mary alongside Admiral Dudley Pound

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor were among the members of the royal family who either toured or sailed on board the Queen Mary

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor were among the members of the royal family who either toured or sailed on board the Queen Mary

Grandfather-of-eight Francis Phillips, 73

The plans for 'H Deck', which appear to show the workings of the ship's propellers. Savvy shopper Mr Phillips still goes to car boot sales two or three times a year but has never repeated his success of scoring such a bargain

Left: Grandfather-of-eight Francis Phillips, 73. Right: The plans for ‘H Deck’, which appear to show the workings of the ship’s propellers. Savvy shopper Mr Phillips still goes to car boot sales two or three times a year but has never repeated his success of scoring such a bargain

The RMS Queen Mary was launched in 1934 as a passenger ship, but was converted for war service five years later, and carried Winston Churchill to important transatlantic meetings.

The RMS Queen Mary: In statistics

Weight: 80,774 tonnes

Top speed: 28.5 knots (32.8 mph)

Length: 1,019.4 ft

Height: 181 ft

Decks: 12 

Capacity: 2,139 passengers: 776 first (cabin) class, 784 cabin (tourist) class, 579 tourist (third) class

Crew: 1,101

The retired ocean liner, which left service in 1967, is now moored as a tourist attraction, which includes a lavish art-deco designed hotel, in Long Beach, California.

Mr Phillips contacted specialists at the University of Liverpool who confirmed that he possessed the genuine copies of wartime plans. 

He said: ‘I was just a novice at this sort of thing but ever since then I got interested.

‘If they did go on the fire, they’d be lost [forever].

‘Having them still here is a chance for someone to enjoy them or take it a step further and study them a bit more.

‘It was the ship of its time, it carried more passengers than any other ship.’

Over the years, the dedicated Mr Phillips spent £750 digitising the series of 14 deck plans, which are 2ft by 11ft each.

He also displayed the originals at the annual Ocean Liner Society’s meeting in Westminster Hall.

Savvy shopper Mr Phillips still goes to car boot sales two or three times a year but has never repeated his success of scoring such a bargain.

He said: ‘I watch these programmes on television such as Bargain Hunt and think I would like to be the one to find something one day.

‘I have a loft and garage full of stuff, I may have to move to a smaller place and start thinning it out.’

Mr Phillips intends to put any money he makes from the sale towards a few treats in later life including the odd holiday. 

Speaking of the moment he bought the plans, Mr Phillips said: 'I thought it was worth a punt. 'It was towards the end of the day at the car boot, and I knew this gentleman and his business was house repossession'. Pictured: One of the pages from the plans. The page describes the converted ship's accommodation space on one of its decks

Speaking of the moment he bought the plans, Mr Phillips said: ‘I thought it was worth a punt. ‘It was towards the end of the day at the car boot, and I knew this gentleman and his business was house repossession’. Pictured: One of the pages from the plans. The page describes the converted ship’s accommodation space on one of its decks

Mr Phillips contacted specialists at the University of Liverpool who confirmed that he possessed the genuine copies of wartime plans. He said: 'I was just a novice at this sort of thing but ever since then I got interested'. Pictured: Another page from the intricate secret plans

Mr Phillips contacted specialists at the University of Liverpool who confirmed that he possessed the genuine copies of wartime plans. He said: ‘I was just a novice at this sort of thing but ever since then I got interested’. Pictured: Another page from the intricate secret plans

In total, there are 14 plans in Mr Phillips's collection, which was originally destined for the bonfire before he rescued it. Pictured: The folded documents laid out on the floor

In total, there are 14 plans in Mr Phillips’s collection, which was originally destined for the bonfire before he rescued it. Pictured: The folded documents laid out on the floor

Over the years, the dedicated Mr Phillips spent £750 digitising the series of 14 deck plans, which are 2ft by 11ft each. Pictured: The plans for the 'Sports Deck'

Over the years, the dedicated Mr Phillips spent £750 digitising the series of 14 deck plans, which are 2ft by 11ft each. Pictured: The plans for the ‘Sports Deck’

Mr Phillips intends to put any money he makes from the sale towards a few treats in later life including the odd holiday. Pictured: One page from the plans, showing the 'Squash racket court' as well as a series of cabins and the 'wireless receiving room'

Mr Phillips intends to put any money he makes from the sale towards a few treats in later life including the odd holiday. Pictured: One page from the plans, showing the ‘Squash racket court’ as well as a series of cabins and the ‘wireless receiving room’

When put together, the plans stretch to several feet and show the enormous ship from end to end. The lot will be auctioned by Ewbank's auction house on March 26th.

When put together, the plans stretch to several feet and show the enormous ship from end to end. The lot will be auctioned by Ewbank’s auction house on March 26th.

‘I have been so over enthusiastic with these plans all my life, it drives the rest of the family mad,’ he said. 

‘They are probably sick and tired of hearing about them.’

As well as the plans, Mr Phillips’ lot includes personal letters of a naval family found with them.

The lot will be auctioned by Ewbank’s auction house on March 26th.

The RMS Queen Mary: The luxurious cruise liner loved by Winston Churchill which was faster than a German U-boat and adored by celebrities and royalty

When she was completed in 1934, the luxurious RMS Queen Mary was the world’s largest ocean liner. She weighed more than 80,000 tonnes and was just over 1,000 feet long.

Around 3,000 men helped to construct the ship. Work began in 1930 in Clydebank, Scotland.

Six years later, she embarked on her maiden voyage to New York from Southampton, England, in 1936.

Along with her sister ship the RMS Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mary provided weekly luxury service to the US for the Liverpool-based Cunard White Star Line.

She had three classes of cabins, an opulent first class dining room, a ballroom, cocktail bars, a stage for music, two indoor swimming pools, a squash court, libraries, a telephone connection and a small hospital.

However, she sailed for only three years as a luxury liner before being transformed into a troop ship for the Second World War.

Because of her speed – she could sail at nearly 30 knots, faster than a German U-boat – she was the perfect vehicle to ferry the then Prime Minister Winston Churchill across the Atlantic.

Churchill loved the ship so much that he once referred to her as his ‘headquarters at sea’.

When she was completed in 1934, the luxurious RMS Queen Mary was the world’s largest ocean liner. She weighed more than 80,000 tonnes and was just over 1,000 feet long

When she was completed in 1934, the luxurious RMS Queen Mary was the world’s largest ocean liner. She weighed more than 80,000 tonnes and was just over 1,000 feet long

Around 3,000 men helped to construct the ship. Work began in 1930 in Clydebank, Scotland. Six years later, she embarked on her maiden voyage to New York from Southampton, England, in 1936. Pictured: The ship leaving Southampton on her maiden voyage in 1936

Around 3,000 men helped to construct the ship. Work began in 1930 in Clydebank, Scotland. Six years later, she embarked on her maiden voyage to New York from Southampton, England, in 1936. Pictured: The ship leaving Southampton on her maiden voyage in 1936

The status of the Queen Mary and Queen Elizbeth – which was also used as a troop ship – was so significant that Adolf Hitler ordered his naval chief to do everything possible to sink them.

Author Alan Packwood described in a TV documentary how the Queen Mary ‘delivered’ Churchill to the US and Canada for ‘top-level’ meetings.

‘It is the vehicle on which the early plans for Operation Overlord and D-Day are going to have been discussed,’ he added.

And because of her luxurious facilities, the ship also provided the perfect environment for Churchill to relax.

‘As wartime leader he is under almost constant pressure,’ Mr Packwood said.

Because of her speed – she was faster than a German U-boat – she was the perfect vehicle to ferry the then Prime Minister Winston Churchill across the Atlantic. Churchill loved the ship so much that he once referred to her as his 'headquarters at sea'. Pictured: Churchill with his military chiefs of staff on board what was then the SS Queen Mary, in May 1943

Because of her speed – she was faster than a German U-boat – she was the perfect vehicle to ferry the then Prime Minister Winston Churchill across the Atlantic. Churchill loved the ship so much that he once referred to her as his ‘headquarters at sea’. Pictured: Churchill with his military chiefs of staff on board what was then the SS Queen Mary, in May 1943

Author Alan Packwood described in a TV documentary how the Queen Mary 'delivered' Churchill to the US and Canada for 'top-level' meetings. 'It is the vehicle on which the early plans for Operation Overlord and D-Day are going to have been discussed,' he added

Author Alan Packwood described in a TV documentary how the Queen Mary ‘delivered’ Churchill to the US and Canada for ‘top-level’ meetings. ‘It is the vehicle on which the early plans for Operation Overlord and D-Day are going to have been discussed,’ he added

‘When he is at sea, in those few days going across to the US, that is an opportunity that he can take to relax, to think, to have more in-depth discussions with his chiefs of staff.

‘As someone who liked living well, was easily satisfied with the best, he really relished and enjoyed the top-level service on board the Queen Mary.’

He added that the ship had a special place in Churchill’s heart. ‘The very name of the ship and what it represented resonated for him,’ he said.

After the War, the ship returned to ferrying passengers. 

Elizabeth Taylor aboard the Queen Mary in 1950, during her honeymoon with her first husband, hotel heir Nicky Hilton

John F, Kennedy arrives at Southampton after sailing from New York on the Queen Mary on 2 March, 1939, 22 years before he came president of the US

Glamorous guests who sailed on the ship included Hollywood actress Elizabeth Taylor and future US President John F Kennedy

British film actor David Niven is pictured aboard the Queen Mary, on arrival in New York City while en route to Hollywood in 1937

British film actor David Niven is pictured aboard the Queen Mary, on arrival in New York City while en route to Hollywood in 1937

Comedian Bob Hope gives a performance on board the Queen Mary. He was among numerous celebrities who took the opportunity to sail on the ship

Comedian Bob Hope gives a performance on board the Queen Mary. He was among numerous celebrities who took the opportunity to sail on the ship

Glamorous guests who sailed on the ship included Hollywood actress Elizabeth Taylor, future US President John F Kennedy, author TS Eliot and comedian Bob Hope.

She was finally retired in 1967 after the emergence of jet airliners saw profits tumble. She made her final trip to Long Beach, California, where she remains to this day.

She has been preserved as a tourist attraction which boasts a museum, hotel and restaurants.

She was finally retired in 1967 after the emergence of jet airliners saw profits tumble. She made her final trip to Long Beach, California, where she remains to this day

She was finally retired in 1967 after the emergence of jet airliners saw profits tumble. She made her final trip to Long Beach, California, where she remains to this day

 

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