Through his camera lens a Southampton photographer captured the A list celebrities who made up the star-studded cast of passengers crisscrossing the Atlantic from Southampton to New York.

They included Hollywood royalty and our own royal family like the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, who were the Harry and Meghan of their day.

The late Frank Eaton was part of the team who worked for Ocean Pictures which had the sole concessionaires on board the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth for whole of their maritime service.

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It was a passport to the rich and famous who enjoyed the luxury of many days at sea before life got a whole lot faster and the jet plane was the favoured mode of travel.

On January 11, 2023 Queen Mary 2 will sail from Southampt0n on a 102-night world cruise celebrating the centenary of Cunard's maiden voyage of the globe.

During that milestone trip the famous shipping line will be reviving many memories of the bygone age of cruising including the late forties and fifties heyday of the transatlantic passenger liners.

With so many famous faces on board, each voyage became a photographer's dream.

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In an earlier interview, Frank Eaton – father of former Daily Echo journalist Duncan Eaton - recalled: “There was always a buzz when you picked up the passenger list because so many famous names bounced off the page.”

Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson became regular A list passengers on transatlantic liners like the Queen Mary and enjoyed mixing with Hollywood's royalty.

Frank managed to snap Edward and his American divorcee sweetheart as they were taking a stroll on the boat deck during a trip from New York to Cherbourg.

They had been attending the ship's Sunday morning church service and decided to take some air on deck.

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When the young ship's snapper asked if he could take a photograph they were charming and cooperative. He chatted to the couple for nearly an hour and recalled: “They did not discuss their private life but talked mainly about the ship. They were going back to their home in France after being on holiday in the states."

The controversial couple were among a tantalising list of subjects which included Noel Coward, Elizabeth Taylor, Clark Gable, David Niven, Laurel and Hardy, Bing Crosby, Gracie Fields and Winston Churchill.

Photographers worked around the clock in challenging conditions. The constant roll of the ship at sea was not ideal for developing photos but the photographers still produced work of the highest calibre.

Ocean Pictures, one of the early pioneers of shipboard photography, was founded in 1929 by Casimir Watkins following a casual conversation in a bar with a Cunard director.

Jane Hunter-Cox was the first female photographer to join Ocean Pictures in 1972 and her book Ocean Pictures: The Golden Age of Transatlantic Travel 1936 to 159 is a nostalgic voyage back to the golden era when crossing the Atlantic was a more stately affair.

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It is a unique collection of previously unpublished material dating largely from the 40s and 50s, the pinnacle of transatlantic passenger travel when the Queen Mary and Elizabeth reigned supreme.

The Queen Mary was the first merchant ship to be launched by a member of the Royal Family when eight-year-old Princess Elizabeth accompanied her grandparents King George V and Queen Mary.

And the iconic liner was a favourite with Premier Sir Winston Churchill who crossed the Atlantic three times to see President Roosevelt.

After the war cruising became the golden age of transatlantic travel and the stunning Art Deco of the Queen Mary and Elizabeth was a magnet for Hollywood stars, royalty, politicians and international high society.

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Around the captain's table was practically every night a Who's Who of household names.

With their night club atmosphere the Verandah Grills were one of the most popular ports of call on ship and jazz stars like Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, crooners Perry Coma, Nat King Cole and Tony Bennett took their turns at the microphone. Karaoke does not come much better than that.

The liners were the perfect catwalk for high fashion with designers showcasing their latest styles.

Actress Marlene Dietrich, accompanied by playwright Noel Coward, made sure her entrance at dinner had a full audience and when the ship docked in New York she was always resplendent in Christian Dior's latest fashion sensation.

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As the sixties drew to a close so did the cruising boom with transatlantic travel switching to the skies with jumbo jets replacing those graceful liners.

It has gone full circle and cruising is very much back on the travel mode map with Southampton again at the epicentre. The pandemic has currently left the cruising industry high and dry but hopefully it won't be long before it sets sail again.

And the world cruise marking Cunard's centenary will be a chance to bring out those Ocean Pictures which captured the days when passenger lists were bristling with Hollywood's royalty.

Ocean Pictures The Golden Age of Transatlantic Travel 1936 to 1959 is published by Webb & Bower