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A detail of the Queen Mary plans estimated at £3000-4000 at Ewbank’s.

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Costing just £25 in 1996, the plans are now estimated at £3000-4000 at Ewbank’s auction in Send, Surrey, on March 26.

The owner said he bought them after learning that the vendor intended to put them on a bonfire when he got home if they did not sell.

The full set of plans relating to the requisitioned RMS Queen Mary – one of the three grandest liners of the period – comprise 14 individual sheets (see picture below for an idea of length), packed with intricate details of how the ship was stripped to make way for nearly 17,000 men including the crew.

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Ewbank’s head of valuations Jack Wallis, left, holds up one of the 11ft long Queen Mary plans with Ewbank’s partner Andrew Ewbank.

The Queen Mary arrived in New York as Britain declared war against Germany on September 3, 1939, and remained there in berth alongside the Normandie for the next six months before being joined by the Queen Elizabeth, which had made a dash across the Atlantic from Clydebank.

The plan was to use the ships as troop carriers, but the Normandie was destroyed in a fire during the conversion process. The Queen Mary left for Sydney in Australia where the Admiralty’s plan for conversion went ahead with a view to her transporting troops from Australia and New Zealand.

On October 2, 1942, as she set off with thousands of American troops to join the Allied forces in Europe, the Queen Mary accidentally ploughed a course directly across the deck of her cruiser escort, HMS Curacoa off the Irish coast. The Curacoa sank with a loss of 239 lives.

Passengers record

Just under a year later, the Queen Mary set a record for the largest number of passengers ever transported on a single vessel when she carried 15,740 soldiers and 943 crew. Further duties included carrying Prime Minister Winston Churchill across the Atlantic to the US for meetings.

When the war came to an end, the Queen Mary was refitted and went back to her duties as an Atlantic cruise liner. She is now moored in Long Beach and used as a hotel.

ewbanks.co.uk