Photography: 98 for 98 - The century in photographs Today 1934

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Indy Lifestyle Online
This photograph of the huge bow of the Cunander "545", named the Queen Mary, protrudes forward in a powerful image which illustrates its ability to hold sway over the Atlantic Ocean. Ocean liners had grabbed the public's attention with their embodiment of invincibility, and hundreds of people lined the docks of the Clyde to watch the Royal launching ceremony on 25 September 1934. The importance of a liner such as the "545" was manifold: it was an optimistic show of employment opportunities for hundreds of people. As the world's largest liner it gave an affirming nod to Britain's pursual of modern technology, and in the race to break records which was a characteristic of modern development, the liner won the Blue Riband for Britain when it crossed the Atlantic in the record time of three days, and 23 hours, more than half the time of the previous record set by the French liner the Normandie.

The Queen Mary was billed as "Britain's masterpiece". Two American companies made daily broadcasts during its maiden voyage, and the British press promised that "scenes on board will be described from every conceivable angle".

A reorganisation of some industries now took place, based on the belief that fewer but larger firms would be better able to compete with foreign firms. The Government had set up the National Shipbuilders Security in 1930, and this bought up shipyards and closed them down until the number of yards equalled the volume of work available. Aid to industry was through loans like the pounds 9.5 million provided to help in the building of ships for the North Atlantic service, such as the Queen Mary.

Throughout the year, newspapers were peppered with "lowest prices ever" headlines for standard foods like eggs, butter and potatoes. There was also evidence of a housing boom, with the majority of building in the private sector, encouraged by the workers in the new industries who had money to spare for house buying.

The shadow on the horizon was the imminent prospect of war. The possibility was now well known, and the year opened with Churchill saying in a radio interview: "We have never been so defenceless as we are now." By the end of the year, he was even more wary and declared that Britain could be "tortured into absolute subjection".

`Photo 98' is a series of high profile national events and exhibitions. For information events and exhibitions; call 01484 559888 or refer to www.photo.98.com

Current Exhibition: `The New Ukraine'. Yorkshire is home to the largest expatriate community of Ukranians. Tim Smith's photographs alongside historical images and personal testimonies explore the Ukranian culture and people. At The Piece Hall Art Gallery, The Piece Hall, Halifax HX1 (01422 358 087).

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