HMS Curacao


Cruiser Curacoa

The Queen Mary’s Wartime Disaster Story

By James Donahue

Berthed as a floating luxury hotel at Long Beach, California, the once great Cunard liner Queen Mary is now considered among the most haunted historical ships in the world. A little-known collision with the British Naval cruiser Curacoa off the North Irish coast in 1942 might have something to do with this. The massive liner sliced the smaller cruiser nearly in half, sinking it and taking 338 crew members to their deaths.

The world was at war then and the disaster, among the worst of the war, gained little if any press coverage. Thus the story was not fully told until years later, long after the war was over and military secrets were unlocked for the historical record.

The Curacoa was a two-stacked C class cruiser launched in 1917 for duty in World War I. She was only 451 feet long compared to the eight-year-old Queen Mary, which measured a giant 1,019 feet in length.

Nicknamed “The Grey Ghost,” because of its grey camouflage paint, the great liner served successfully throughout the war as a troop carrier. Even though the Nazi U-boats sought her, they never had a chance to sink the Queen Mary because of her great speed and the fact that she, like all of the other allied ships on the Atlantic, practiced a zig-zag course that made it difficult for submarines to get a broadside shot.

Even though she did not need a consort, the Queen Mary was steaming off Ireland’s coast on the morning of Oct. 2, 1942, with the cruiser Cuarcao while carrying over 15,000 American servicemen from New York to Gourock. The two ships were positioned about two miles apart, both about two miles off the coast, when the Cuarcao apparently zigged when it should have zagged. It steamed right into the path of the liner.

The 83,500-ton cruiser, steaming at a full 28 knots, slammed into the hapless Curacao on the starboard side, breaking open the hull amid ships. The cruiser sank almost immediately, taking most of its crew to the bottom with it. Those that dove into the icy Atlantic expected the Queen Mary to turn around and pick them up. But this was wartime, they were in dangerous submarine infested waters, and the ship was on orders to continue on.

There were 102 survivors. They were rescued by two destroyers that were operating in the area.

The Queen Mary steamed on to the Clyde where she safely docked and the bow was temporarily repaired. They said the steel bow was badly bent and not fully repaired until the cruiser returned to  a Boston shipyard

So if you choose to stay at the hotel at Long Beach, and happen to see strange shadows, or hear strange noises and voices while prowling the lower regions of the old liner, this story may help explain why the Queen Mary is haunted.

Great And Lost Ships Of The World