Believe me, callsigns are a MAJOR PROBLEM!! For example, there are 200 vessels around the word with the name of AURORA, mostly yachts and other small craft, who hitherto, had "funny" callsigns unfamiliar to us experts, viz, four letters and a figure for example, whilst the larger Aurora's had conventional callsigns using just four letters. Not so anymore! 

{Before going on further, have a look at this page}

Just ask and if I am at home, my data base should know the answer.

In the meantime did you know that:


{Hows that for Great Britains Queen Mary}

BUT, it was previously owned/used by a less impressive ship.
During WW1 many ships were lost to enemy action, and a major rebuild was ordered to replace them. They were built in many allied countries and in the main, all to the same design where speed and economy were the governing factors.  One design dictated that many tens of ships would be called WAR [Something] and in this my story, SS WAR TAPIR was laid down in the Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson Limited yard at Wallsend on the Tyne. In 1917, when the Americans entered the war, they requisitioned all ships being built and only a few of the WAR ......class of ship were delivered with their original names. SS WAR TAPIR was completed as the SS BARBADIAN, and she was a dry cargo ship, had a speed of 11 knots with a single screw, had two decks, was 5289 gross tonnage, 400 foot long and with a beam of 52.4 foot.  She was owned by F. Leyland and Co., of Liverpool. Her crew was 5 and could carry 19 passengers. She was given the radio callsign GBQM which she kept until 1933, at which time she was sold to the Greek shipping family of Livanos and was registered on the Greek Aegean island of Chios. On the 28th March 1944 she ran aground and was a total loss. 

Although completely divorced from the snippet of information above, I found out that the above mentioned SS BARBADIAN's predecessor, also a "SS" [Steam Ship], was the very first steam ship in which Captain Lord, infamous or not depending upon your interpretation, served in.  Captain Lord was the master of the SS CALIFORNIAN who was accused of not assisting in the rescue of RMS TITANIC's passengers, and ignoring her distress signals in the tragedy of 1912. In 1899, Lord had a 'sail certificate' and worked for a shipping company which was bought out by F. Leyland and Co., of Liverpool [see above]. He was interviewed by Leyland's with a view to him being a 'steam certificated' officer, but  he was told that at the age of 20 he was too young for a position in the company, to which Lord replied that ".....this was a problem that he was remedying day by day". This quick wit impressed the company and he was employed by Leyland's as the 3rd officer in the SS BARBADIAN.  However, just before the ship sailed, he was posted as "a failure to join", a very serious offence and akin to our [Royal Navy] as AWOL/Missed Ship. He had in fact broken his leg and couldn't inform the master of the ship nor the shipping company offices. When it became known that the poor man had had an accident, his "failure to join" was quashed and six weeks later he was appointed as the 2nd officer of SS JAMACIANCaptain Lord, who incidentally, stayed as sea as a master for many years after the 1912 tragedy only retiring for health reasons. He enjoyed over 35 years in retirement dying in 1962. 

Thus, although obscure, there is a tiny link between the BARBADIAN [the 1917 version] and the QM2, brought about by the callsign GBQM. This chunk of metal [which cannot be changed until destruction or scrapping] launched as the BARBADIAN, subsequently, albeit with a new name and a new callsign [beginning with the letter 'S'], went aground and was lost. Let us always hope that this new and beautiful chunk of metal, currently called the QM2, has better luck with St Elmo's divine guidance. 




is now used by the MOD POLICE boat 'LOYALTY' which can carry 15 PERSONS: a bit different from 2000 passenger plus 1500 crew.
{NOTE: The ship - 1936 - now in California,  is STILL called the Queen Mary - good luck omen?}  

{NOTE: The name of the RMS Queen Elizabeth  - 1940 - was changed twice after Cunard sold the ship.  In Florida it became 'The Elizabeth' and in Hong Kong, it became the 'Sea Wise University'. Then it caught fire [in Hong Kong harbour] and sank. Changing a ships name! - a bad  omen?}



As a very crude reckoning therefore, her GROSS TONNAGE is somewhat less that her overall size in measurement terms, and 15 million cubic feet equates to approximately 90% of her length {1019'} x 50% of her height {118'} x 90% of her beam {122'} = 14,669,524 cubic feet.

However, when she is fully loaded with the her passengers {2620} and her crew {1253} plus all their baggage, food, wines, beer, spirits etc etc, she is very much heavier than her recorded Gross Tonnage. The point I am making is that an empty ship of a given size has the same Gross Tonnage as it does when it is fully loaded, and it is conceivable that a relatively smaller ship of a lesser Gross Tonnage, when fully loaded, can weigh more [displacement] that a larger but empty ship. This Gross Tonnage is used for all port and waterway charges levied for use of the facilities, so irrespective of how many passenger are embarked, the cost of transiting the Suez Canal [for example] is always the same for any given ship, this ignoring the inflationary increases.

Thus, when you see MERCHANT SHIPS with a Gross Tonnage stated, this is nothing at all to do with their WEIGHT.  As a general rule ONLY WARSHIPS state their WEIGHT, and that is ALWAYS expressed as DISPLACEMENT TONS: indeed, unless asked by civilian authorities what their gross tonnage is [for example when using the major canals of the world], warships never use the measurement of 
V O L U M E as a sailing criterion. The displacement of the QM2, were it ever an issue, would be well in excess of 200,000 tons WEIGHT.

The General class looks like this {just eight of them}:

FV Ship of a fishing fleet   NS Naval ship
GV Official service ship   PL Pleasure ship
MM Merchant ship   SV Rescue vessel
NF River vessel   XX Unspecified

In the Individual class, they list every conceivable type of ship possible, saying that the QM2 is [overall] a MM PAQ - a merchant ship and a LINER, whilst a smaller but nevertheless  smart cruise ship, is a MM PA - a merchant ship and a Passenger Ship. Warships are listed internationally as follows:

AUX Auxiliary ship   GS Warship
AVI Despatch vessel   HYD Hydrographic ship
COR Corvette   MOU Minelayer
CRO Cruiser   MTB Motor boat
DES Destroyer   PTA Aircraft carrier
DIV Ships used by divers   PTH Helicopter carrier
DMN Minesweeper   RAV Supply ship
ESC Escort ship   SAU Rescue vessel
EXP Research or survey ship   SLO Sloop
FPS Fast patrol boat   SMN Submarine
FRT Frigate   SRV Patrol craft

From the tables above, a Frigate could be a "NS FRT" or a "NS GS FRT" and an RFA could be a "NS RAV". Equally as simple I suppose, although I would like to see the OOD's face when the QM sights and reports that the ships motor boat is approaching the ship sir - 1 MTB red 40 !  Equally, engaging a PTA during a GUNEX could be embarrassing for the skipper of the Ark Royal, for example.