SHE WAS the luxury Southampton-based liner used by Hollywood stars whenever they needed to cross the Atlantic.

Built more than 20 years before the dawn of the jet age, RMS Queen Mary and her sister ship, RMS Queen Elizabeth, were Britain's answer to the super-liners built by France and Germany.

The Queen Mary began her maiden voyage from Southampton on May 27 1936 and went on to become one of the world's most iconic vessels.

Considered by many to be the height of sophistication she set the standard by which other liners were judged.

But experts are warning that the 81-year-old ship, now moored at Long Beach in California, could sink without massive repairs costing more than £230 million.

The liner is said to be so badly corroded that she is danger of falling apart, allowing water to flood into the hull, unless urgent action is taken.

During its heyday, the Queen Mary carried Hollywood legends such as Bob Hope and Elizabeth Taylor, royalty including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and dignitaries such as Winston Churchill.

She also spent several years ferrying 765,000 Allied troops during the Second World War, when the heavily camouflaged ship was dubbed the Grey Ghost.

Now a survey has found that liner needs extensive repairs that are likely to take five years.

Reports circulating in the US say the hull is severely rusted and certain parts of the ship, including the engine room, could be prone to flooding. The bilge system is said to be inoperable, preventing large amounts of water from being pumped out in an emergency.

About 75 per cent of the repairs needed by the famous vessel are deemed to be "urgent".

The Queen Mary, which has been moored at Long Beach since 1967, is now a floating hotel with shops, restaurants and other facilities. Every year the liner attracts more than one million visitors every year eager to walk the decks once trod by the rich and famous.

City officials are said to be holding urgent talks with the ship's current leaseholder, Urban Commons.

Last year Long Beach approved plans to spend $23 million on the most urgent repairs and more funding is being sought to finance the rest of the work.

Politicians in Scotland, where the Queen Mary was built, are calling for an international fundraising campaign to be launched to save the former Cunard liner.

They have urged Prime Minister Theresa May to put pressure on the US government to step in and save what they describe as a maritime treasure.

Passengers on the liner's maiden voyage included Heather Beagley, who was 14 when she and her parents embarked on a round trip to New York.

Their fellow passengers included silver screen legend Olivia de Havilland and Scottish actor Jack Buchanan.

Speaking to the Daily Echo two years ago Heather, then 93, said: "Lots of friends came down to see us off just in the hope of touching the ship."

US documentary-maker Dan McCue added: "The Queen Mary is the world’s most cherished ocean liner - the only ship of its kind."