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Shipboard Radio Communications


The Queen Mary had state-of-the-art radio equipment installed on her for its maiden voyage in 1936. On that one voyage, radio traffic included:

  • Radio Telegrams: Over 175,500 words

  • Radio Telephone Calls: 291 (Including Australia, South Africa, Austria, etc.)

  • Broadcasts to all parts of the world: 40 programs occupying 16 hours, 19 minutes.


The cost of radio-telegram depended on how they were delivered (costs are not adjusted for inflation).

A full-rate radio-telegram is delivered as soon as possible. To London, the message cost 11d. per word (~23 cents). To New York, they cost 1s. 2d. (~46 cents) per word.

A ship letter telegram is sent by radio to a land station and then forwarded by the post. The cost varied depending on the destination. A ship letter telegram to Great Britain cost 3d.  (~ 6 cents) per word with a minimum charge of 5s (~$2.08).

Charges for radio-telephone calls depended on the destination and whether the ship was more than 500 miles from shore. As examples:

Under 500 miles        London       12/- per minute (~$3)     Minimum £1/16/- (~$9)

                                    New York   $3/minute                       Minimum $9

Over 500 miles          London        24/- per minute (~$6)   Minimum £3/12/- (~$18)

                                    New York    $6 per minute               Minimum $18

Additional details on radio operations can be found here:

The Queen Mary’s Wireless – Article from Wireless World, May 29, 1936 

Souvenir Booklet put out by International Radio Marine Company describing the wireless installation on the Queen Mary

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