Two small flyers and a substantial booklet all promote the availability of radio service on board Cunard liners. The small folders each have an illustration of the radio room on board the RMS Berengaria, and carry the reassuring titles of ‘Keeping in touch with home and business’ (Figure 1) and ‘Your friends on the sea’.
These small foldover booklets apparently predate a larger booklet which features radio access for those travelling on the RMS Queen Mary, which went into service in 1936. Among many photographs in its 16 full-size pages, there is a photograph of the Radio Room (Figure 2).
The date of this larger booklet, titled ‘R.M.S. Queen Mary Radio Souvenir’ is clearly just after the Queen Mary’s Maiden voyage in May, 1936 because it carries a tipped-in printed note that during the Maiden Voyage the ship handled the following Radio traffic: over 175,500 words of Radio Telegrams; 291 Radio
Telephone calls; and 40 Programmes broadcast to countries around the world, occupying 16 hours and 19 minutes.
The booklet was produced by the International Marine Radio Co., Ltd., which had supplied the radio equipment. This contrasts with the two smaller, earlier booklets which were products of Cunard itself to promote use of its services – which were not free!
For business people, radio accessibility could be a critical resource. The stock market crash was within the preceding decade, so nervous investors on board could feel comfortable about being able to manage their investments – or their business – in a nimble and responsive manner.
‘Nimble is a relative description, and my memories of films where a bellboy or cabin boy seeks out and delivers messages personally to passengers on deck (the 1960s Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr film An Affair to Remember leaps to mind) were shattered when I came across the card pictured in Figure 3, left in a cabin to tell the passenger that he or she should pick up a radio message at the radio Office.
Hopefully a business passenger would be checking for messages regularly, but he should not expect a crew member to search him out on board the ship.
A number of the passengers would have been alive when the Titanic went to her fate some 25 years earlier, so this was likely an attempt to also soothe their safety concerns while on board ship. Controversy over the usefulness of Titanic’s radio messages might have been in their minds as they recalled the terrible stories of just over two decades earlier. Images of ship radio rooms are not easy to find, so these booklets are a very useful resource.
Dating of the Berengaria images is facilitated by the fact that Berengaria went out of service in 1938, and the Cunard White Star nomenclature did not come into use until the merger in 1934, so this is likely from the pre-1934 period since they refer only to ‘Cunard’.
The Sayers Collection. John G. Sayers, January, 2017