TODAY IN HISTORY: RMS Queen Elizabeth burns and sinks (Jan. 9, 1972)
The Cunard Line, then known as the Cunard White Star Line launched the RMS Queen Elizabeth in 1938. Named for Queen Elizabeth (not the current Queen but her mother) the RMS Queen Elizabeth was the largest passenger liner ever built, a record she held for 56 years. During World War II she was pressed into service as a troopship along with her sister vessel, the RMS Queen Mary. The great ship entered service as an ocean liner after the war, sailing the transatlantic passenger route from England to New York City. The Queen Elizabeth was retired by Cunard in 1959 and was replaced by the RMS Queen Elizabeth 2, better known as the QE2. Purchased by a Hong Kong businessman who owned the Orient Overseas Line, the Queen Elizabeth was sent to Hong Kong to be retro-fitted into a Semester at Sea vessel. But on January 9, 1972 a series of five mysterious fires broke out on the ship. Firefighting teams from the harbor patrol were unable to quell the flames and the ship collapsed and capsized. Salvage was not an option and the ship was dismantled and sold for scrap. Portions not recovered became a part of the landfill for the new Hong Kong International Airport.