Elizabeth spent her first years as a troop carrier during World
WarII. It was refitted in 1946 and both Harry Leather and John Dempsey,
who before the war had worked on the
Queen Mary, were appointed
to the new liner, together with a young boy, Tommy McDonald, as
assistant. The liner was in no condition for luxury cruising.
There was dirt, dust and workmen everywhere: joiners,
carpenters, fitters... Nobody knew where the Turkish bath was but
we eventually found it under the first class restaurant. We
cleaned and scrubbed the place until it began to look something
like a Turkish bath. Whatever we needed for stores had to be
ordered…the same Knights
Castile soap, '365' Cologne for alcohol rubs and bottles of olive oil.
Turkish bath was situated below the restaurant, there was no balcony overlooking the swimming pool
from which one could enter the Turkish bath—unlike the layout of the
Queen Mary. Instead, the entrance was
directly opposite the lift from the promenade and sun decks, past the
squash courts and gymnasium, and straight down to the level of the
facilities provided were, in general, similar to those on the earlier Queen,
though the furnishings were, perhaps, a little softer. John Dempsey
describes the Turkish bath suite as consisting of
a long corridor with
various rooms on either side. The first door on the right opened into
the electric therapy room with radiant heat and ultraviolet. The door
opposite led to the swimming pool. On the right of the corridor was our
locker room and lavatory and to the left were eight cubicles with
curtains, beds and lockers…
of the corridor, some 25'6"x10'0" was, in effect, the frigidarium—a far
more utilitarian space than the lavishly furnished rooms in the
Olympic and the
was also an electric bath, although this was so little used that it was
soon converted into a linen store. The three showers, with jets of ice cold or
hot water, were considered most successful though no-one seems to have
considered the difficulty of using a beautiful balance-type weighing
machine on a ship which was prone to roll.
The massage room had two
up-to-date tables with chrome surrounds and a two-inch armoured glass
surface. This made it extremely easy to clean up any surplus massage oil which
might seep through the clean towels on which the bathers lay.
Next to the
massage room was the Turkish bath itself, comprising three hot rooms: the tepidarium (150ºF)
and caldarium (175ºF),
each 14'0"x10'6", and the much hotter laconicum (200ºF)
which was only 7'6"x10'6".
To complete the
picture there was a
Russian bath which used steam instead of dry heat in order to work up a
The [whole] place
was completely tiled in magnolia and we had plenty of wonderful soft
carpeting which was easy on the feet. It was a very light colour so
shoes were banned and we didn't like people coming straight in from the
baths were open each day from 7 till 10, and from 2 till 7 for the male
passengers, and from 10 till 2, under the direction of Mrs Wilson (the
masseuse) for female passengers. The return trip took from eleven to
thirteen days and crew members would work five consecutive trips with
the sixth taken as leave.
passengers had enjoyed a Turkish bath on board, they tended to return
again, encouraged also by the reduced rate for tickets valid for the
whole voyage. In the words, again, of John Dempsey,
usually booked the Turkish bath for the whole voyage and, most often, at
the same time every day. They didn’t come down because they wanted to
lose weight or were suffering from some ailment or muscle disorder but
because it formed part of their entertainment aboard ship. We were well
known for our stories and general bonhomie. It was an opportunity
for them to leave their cabins and the upper decks filled with lounges,
smokerooms and restaurants to let their hair down for a while. They
usually told a few stories and had a pint of beer with us. Occasionally
they came down just for a snooze in one of our cubicles. It was fun.
Dempsey was to stay on the Queen Elizabeth for fourteen years before he
decided to move to Bermuda where he had been asked to run the Turkish
bath in a newly built hotel.
time, leisurely crossing of the Atlantic by sea was in decline,
increasingly affected by the growing popularity of jet air travel.
Passenger numbers fell and Cunard began seriously to examine the costs
of every aspect of their liner operation. The financial return on the
provision of Turkish baths on the Caronia and the two Queens
must have made
memorandum from the Cunard General Manager's Office, dated 6 May 1963,
noted that on the Queen Elizabeth, the cost of the Turkish baths
staff—two males, one female, and a boy—exceeded the receipts by
£1,971.5.0. This was a considerable loss (though less than that being
made on the Queen Mary).
analysis of the previous year's voyage receipts showed that on the
Queen Elizabeth, able to accommodate 823 First Class passengers, the
average number of 'treatments' given per sailing day was only 13.7
writer, Mr T Laird, asked whether any overtime was being worked and
suggested that if the staffing could be reduced by one person, and the
charges to the passengers raised, then the service 'might be put on a
not known whether any changes were made, but by this time Cunard must
already have been considering whether to continue the liner in service
after the launch of their new project, the QE2.
Special Collections and Archives,
Sydney Jones Library, University of Liverpool
The original page
and thumbnail pictures which can be enlarged.
All the enlarged images, listed and linked below, can also be printed.
jinks in the Turkish bath
John Dempsey adjusts the
heat lamp in the therapy room
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