FOR A few minutes, Queen Elizabeth was allowed to take control of the Queen Elizabeth.

It was Tuesday, October 8, 1946. the Queen and her daughters, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, had boarded the luxury Cunarder at Gourock as it underwent its first official trials at a mean speed of 30 knots. She had launched the liner eight years earlier, before the outbreak of war.

After the ship’s captain, Sir James Bissett, had given her permission to take the wheel as it was speeding on the measured mile off Arran, the Queen declared: “It was a wonderful thrill to control such a huge ship.” Captain Bissett told the Glasgow Herald reporter on board: “Her Majesty was a grand quartermaster and kept the ship on a very steady course. The rudder weighs 140 tons, and she was surprised that the ship was so easy to handle.” The real quartermaster also spoke admiringly of the Queen’s skill.

Meanwhile, the princesses, in blue dustcoats and white gauntlet gloves, visited the engine room to meet the chief engineer, J Swanson, and see the firemen with sweat rags around their throats. “I wouldn’t have missed this for the world,” said Elizabeth.

During the war, the liner had served as a troopship, and its ballroom had been used as a hospital. The royals inspected the handrails on the boat deck, where GIs who had been transported to Britain had carved their names so deeply that not even planing could remove them.