Retired CIP brings aircraft carrier back to life
Retired Chief Inspector David Weaver has finished a self-published book on the history of HMS Queen, a World War II escort aircraft carrier commissioned in Vancouver in early 1944. It has taken Mr Weaver eight years to produce what he calls the first book on an aircraft carrier of the Ruler/Smiter class.
Mr Weaver said his book "has almost brought the ship back to life" and "tells the whole life of the ship from beginning to end."
Following years of research and communication with former crewmembers of HMS Queen, museums, libraries and public record offices all over world, starting in 1995, Mr Weaver's book came off the press in December 2004 in the form of a package, which contains, among others, a 260-page glossy art paper book of B4 size with a landscape format, hard back, and stitched spine, a DVD film of the 853 Squadron which operated onboard the "Queen" in early 1945 and a CD-Rom of the entire book, plus some large-scale drawings, tables and other historical information not contained in the book.
A one-man job
Production of this self-contained package was a one-man job, with Mr Weaver doing everything by himself, from layout, book jacket design and video editing to research around the world and communication with 62 former crewmembers.
Mr Weaver's book has earned him the compliments of Admiral Sir Alan West (the First Sea Lord) of the Ministry of Defence in the UK and the Royal Navy Historian, Mr Tony Drury. In his letter acknowledging receipt of Mr Weaver's book, Sir Alan described his work as "a labour of love", and congratulated him on "a fine and enduring reminder of our naval heritage."
The Admiral also sent his regards to Mr Weaver's father, who started serving on HMS Queen as a "Writer" in September 1945 when she assumed her trooping role. The senior Mr Geoff Weaver is now living in retirement in Spain.
Part of Mr Drury's letter to Mr Weaver reads: "......but what you have produced is outstanding, and in my experience only ever seen as a limited edition commemorative special put out by large publishing groups. I think you have set new standards here David."
Mr Weaver's interest in HMS Queen could be traced back to the efforts by a former crewmember of the ship, Mr Phil Rogers, to gather all his former colleagues through advertisements in magazines. He managed to locate about 60 members, but there are still many more men alive who are unaware of what had occurred over the years.
Mr Rogers organised the first reunion in 1997 and the second in 1999, but the third one never took place because of his death. Fortunately he had created an address list of the men who had responded to his call, thus allowing Mr Weaver to re-establish contact with most of the crewmembers attending the reunions.
Mr Weaver explained why he had taken on his project: "I attended the second reunion. I could see that every year all the men were getting older, but they still had the enthusiasm to get together. It cost them a lot of money to travel to a rendezvous point in England for a one-night stay in a hotel. I thought that for the cost of the book, they would never have to travel to any more reunions because everything they wanted to know about the ship had been written down!"
Mr Weaver, therefore, started working on his book on a part-time basis in 1995, and devoted full time to get it finished after his satellite TV business stopped in 2001.
Mr Weaver's book contains a lot of interesting articles, anecdotes and photographs provided by former crewmembers, entries in the Log and photographs from other sources. "Many of the photographs from the crew members have never been published before, and they're coming into the public domain for the first time in 60 years!" he noted.
Hong Kong connection
HMS Queen does have a Hong Kong connection. According to Mr Weaver, she stopped over in Hong Kong shortly after the War. She was trooping from Singapore to Hong Kong and then taking the usual route home to the United Kingdom. This would be Hong Kong, Singapore, Ceylon, Suez Canal, Gibraltar and then the UK.
An extract, published in Mr Weaver's book, from the South China Morning Post and Hong Kong Telegraph, indicates that HMS Queen called at Hong Kong in July 1946. The extract reported that seven men were fined $10 each at the Marine Court after pleading guilty to approaching within 100 yards of HMS Queen and other warships, confirming the post-War situation where local sampan operators loitered around visiting warships to barter trade.
The book also carries the photo of the legendary "Jenny" and her side party boat, which provided painting services for visiting warships in the Victoria Harbour. Mr Weaver believes Jenny's grandson is now working in Marine Region. In addition, it also features many "now" and "then" photos of Hong Kong's skylines, shorelines and famous landmarks in the early post-War years.
HMS Queen was originally built as a merchant ship in Tacoma, Seattle, by the U.S. Government in March 1943, and later leased to the Royal Navy. In December that year, it was delivered to the RN and was converted to RN specifications in Vancouver, Canada, and commissioned in February 1944. Her first job was to ferry aircraft from the USA to Britain and Casablanca. She later took part in mining and bombing raids off the Norwegian coast. "Queen" was given a lengthy refit to make her ready for the Pacific War, but her voyage was cancelled on VJ Day.
After completing her trooping duties, HMS Queen was returned to the U.S. Government in October 1946, which later sold it to a Dutch shipping company. After operating as a merchant ship for many years, the former aircraft carrier ended up in a Taiwan scrap yard in the mid-1980's.
HMS Queen's history has given Mr Weaver so much satisfaction that he is working on his second book - this time on terrorism. "The theme of this book will be fact, fiction, humour and seriousness!" he noted.
Mr Weaver can be contacted for more information about his book on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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