Beth's Book Review

Queen Mary and the Cruiser

db42e33a46cc486b9bef_Queen_Mary.jpg
db42e33a46cc486b9bef_Queen_Mary.jpg

Queen Mary and the Cruiser by David A. Thomas and Patrick Holmes (Naval Institute Press, 1997)

“Had the forenoon watch and after eating went out onto the fo'c'sle. Just arrived at the top of the ladder by the PO's heads when the wave hit me---waist high---and knocked me over. Looking astern---through the bulkhead door which was open, saw the stern of a ship sticking up out of the water . . . then looked down and realised it was the stern of our ship which now had nothing abaft B gun. Very frightened. We were listing to starboard about 30 to 40 dgrees. Clambered (too steep to walk) p the port side fo'c'sle and stood by the guardrail for perhaps thirty seconds.” (p. 103)

And then Able Seaman (Radar) Norman Blundell was dumped into the North Sea and prayed to be rescued from the sinking of the HM cruiser Curacoa, which had been sliced in half by the great Cunard liner, Queen Mary, on October 2, 1942. 338 men died in the tragedy and fewer than 100 lived to tell the harrowing story of how the noble Curacoa, built between 1916 and 1918, through a series of miscalculations and grievous mistakes, was torn apart by the ship it was her duty to escort during World War II.

Sign Up for E-News

This fascinating, though little known story, was reconstructed as the fruit of the labors of naval historian, David A. Thomas, and one of the Curacoa survivors, Patrick Holmes. Through meticulous research, the two authors reconstructed an authentic account of how the incident occurred, including detailed accounts by eye-witnesses on the Queen Mary as well as survivors of the Curacoa.

At the time of the tragedy, the Queen Mary was steaming toward Britain with over 10,000 American soldiers aboard, as well as 900 crewmen. Due to the fact that the British were at war already with Germany, there was a huge concern over the possibility of U-boats being in the area. Both the Queen Mary and the Curacoa were travelling in zigzag paths to make it more difficult for the U-boats to find their massive British target. However, when two ships are zigging and zagging, and the seas are tumultuous and high, it is not difficult to understand how they got in each other's way.

As the behemoth and the small cruiser came closer to each other, Leading Signalman Donald Eaton was on the bridge. He called to his friend Telegraphist Allin Martin over the voicepipe. Martin recalls, “Shortly afterwards, the upper bridge speaking tube clanged my “opp” indicated that any camera was to hand a particularly good view of the Queen Mary was available. Unclipping the bulkhead door, I stepped outside, where to my horror, I saw the enormous bulk of the Queen Mary bearing down onn our port quarter at about fifty yards range.” (p. 90)

The collision, which tore the cruiser in two, was barely felt as a bump on the huge liner. Men onboard the Curacoa immediately jumped overboard into the icy waters, many of them drowning immediately from the oil drenched water. Unfortunately for the sailors aboard the cruiser, the Queen Mary had strict orders not to stop no matter what happened, so she kept chugging toward the coast of Ireland, and quickly called for other ships in the area to rescue the men who had been dumped into the sea.

There is no simple explanation as to what caused the disaster, and it took years of wrangling with maritime law to figure out what had actually occurred, as the captain of each ship, Captain C.G. Illinworth of the Queen Mary and Captain John Wilfred Boutwood of the Curacoa each had his own perspective on the other's culpability in the fatal accident.

The Queen Mary and the Cruiser is a fascinating read, which I recommend, particularly if naval history intrigues you.

The young sailor quoted at the beginning of this review, Norman Blundell, managed to survive the sinking of his ship by laying across the seat of a motor boat which he found bobbing in the water. Although he was very frightened, seasick, and found the fuel oil particularly nasty (“He tasted it for months afterwards and remembers its taste to this day” p. 104) did survive and is actually the reason that I was aware of the story of the Curacoa.

Norman Blundell was my son-in-law's maternal grandfather, and the tale of his miraculous survival has continued to astonish our family each time we have heard the details. It was Ros, Blundell's daughter, who informed me of the existence of the Queen Mary and the Cruiser and I purchased it on Amazon as a holiday gift for my son-in-law. This thrilling gem of a book is a wonderful testiment to the brave men who gave their lives on that frigid October day in 1942.

Beth Moroney, former English teacher and administrator in the Edison Public School District, specialized in teaching Creative Writing and Journalism. Recently Moroney published Significant Anniversaries of Holocaust/Genocide Education and Human/Civil Rights, available through the New Jersey Commission on the Holocaust. A passionate reader, Moroney is known for recommending literature to students, teachers, parents, and the general public for over forty years. Moroney can be contacted at trackdak19@hotmail.com.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

South Plainfield

The Athlete of the Week Samantha Pullen Girls’ Spring Track

The South Plainfield High School Girls’ track team is off to another great start in the 2018 season.  Their record currently stands at 3-0. This past week, the Lady Tigers defeated divisional rivals Metuchen and Middlesex by the scores of 80-56 and 75-56.  They then went on to dominate Bishop Ahr by a score of 112-24.  Much of the Lady Tigers success has been due to the ...

The Athlete of the Week Tatianna Sutor Girls’ Lacrosse

The South Plainfield High School Girls’ Lacrosse team is off to a fantastic start to their 2018 season with a record of 2-0. This past week, the Lady Tigers crushed division rival Bishop Ahr by the score of 14-2, and then went on to beat Boonton 6-3.  A huge part of the success for South Plainfield has been due in a large part to the contributions of senior goalie Tatianna ...

Obituaries

Victor Kochmann, 92, passed away on Wednesday, March 21, 2018 surrounded by his loving family in ...
Read more

Letters to the Editor

Letter Welcoming Mike Zushma to Politics

April 19, 2018

Dear Editor, 

I'd like to welcome Mike Zushma to the world of politics and congratulate him on being selected as the town's Democratic Chairman.

 

I've served as Republican chair since 2009, and I've always enjoyed spending my time helping good people get elected to office.  In South Plainfield, it's never about party:  People work together and try ...

Natalie Stilo Signs with Drew University Golf Team

April 20, 2018

Natalie Stilo, Senior at Bishop George Ahr High School, has signed with Drew University's golf team. Currently, Natalie is on Bishop Ahr's golf team. Golf became her passion after her 10 year career in gymnastics ended. She has been working on her golf game and is excited to have the opportunity to play for Drew. She will attend Drew University in the Fall, majoring in Molecular Biology ...

Community Happenings

South Plainfield High School Hall Of Fame Is Seeking Nominees

April 19, 2018

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - The South Plainfield High School Hall of Fame Committee is again holding their search for candidates for induction into the SPHS Hall of Fame.  The Hall of Fame was established at South Plainfield High School to recognize outstanding graduates as leaders in their fields who could serve as role models for current and future students.

Candidates will be evaluated on ...

Kennedy School Welcomes Author Lisa Mullarkey

April 19, 2018

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Teacher and children’s author Lisa Mullarkey stopped by John F. Kennedy Elementary School on April 18. 

“This year’s guest author was very well received by our students and staff. Mrs. Mullarkey spent the day motivating our students to be future writers," said Kennedy Principal Kevin Hajduk. "It was a privilege for our students at ...

Holy Savior Academy to Hold Open House on April 24

April 18, 2018

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Holy Savior Academy, an AdvancedED accredited Middlebrook Deanery Catholic School located in South Plainfield, will hold an open house the evening of Tuesday, April 24.At this time, prospective students and their families in pre-K3 through 8th grade will have the opportunity to tour the school, meet teachers and register. 

“Holy Savior ...

Elks Lodge #2298 Hosted Princess Breakfast

April 19, 2018

The South Plainfield Elks Lodge #2298 Youth Activities Committee recently hosted a Princess breakfast, in conjunction with the South Plainfield Summer Drama Workshop.   On the menu we featured only the BEST breakfast in town.  Our lil princesses were able to come down to have their pictures taken with their favorite Disney characters. 

The South Plainfield Elks Lodge #2298 ...

Part Time Position in Municipal Court

The South Plainfield Borough is seeking to hire a part time person with strong customer service skills to perform detailed Municipal Court clerical work.

Responsibilities include but are not limited to:

Answering telephone and walk in inquiries, data entry, maintaining files and records for accuracy, processing payments, related duties as required.

Successful candidates should process ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_bad097ae8b2fe018094c_mayors_wellness

Sat, April 28, 9:00 AM

South Plainfield

Spring Wellness Health Fair - Mayor's Wellness

Carousel_image_5cb3a344be063f4eef87_hf_2018_updated-page-001

Sat, April 28, 9:00 AM

South Plainfield

South Plainfield's Annual Health and Fitness Fair

Carousel_image_540ba92b7ee7d0a56fba_elvis_tribute_final

Sat, April 28, 7:00 PM

South Plainfield

A Tribute to our Veterans - Jim Barone

Carousel_image_7869a9df10fb5a82bf59_autismawareness18-page-001

Sun, April 29, 2:00 PM

South Plainfield

Autism Awareness Event on April 29th

Carousel_image_655bff643922e36ca526_color_me_flyer_final_cut__3_-page-001

Sat, May 5, 9:00 AM

Sewaren

Color Me Run to End Domestic Violence

Columns

Retro Review: Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo

Retro Review: Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo (Citadel Press, 1970)

 

How does a reviewer do justice to a book called “the great American novel”? I first read Johnny Got His Gun during the Viet Nam war, when young people, nationwide, were protesting fighting in a war that was a senseless waste of life; a war in which the United States had no business participating.

Bookmarks

Your library is a hub of education and entertainment that is available to you not just when the library is open, but at all hours, thanks to our great online resources.  

If you want to brush up on your computer skills, or learn something new, try Learning Express.  You can access it through the library’s website. Once you’ve registered (you’ll need ...

Press Releases

High School, College Students Sought For County Youth Conservation Corps

April 23, 2018

MIDDLESEX COUNTY, NJ - Middlesex County is looking for high school and college students who want to improve and protect our environment and don’t mind lifting, bending, and getting dirt under their fingernails.

Applications are now being accepted for the Middlesex County Youth Conservation Corps, whose mission is to protect and preserve the more than 8,000 acres of Open Space ...