Tributes paid to final QE2 Captain who was 'loved by all'

David Perkins was the final captain of the QE2 

David Perkins was the final captain of the QE2 - Credit: Supplied by family

To be taught how to play backgammon by Omar Sharif, and to host and meet with such prominent individuals as HRH Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Phillip, Nelson Mandela and Princess Diana does not normally fall to many of us.

Yet such events formed a part of the career of David Perkins from Bury St Edmunds, who rose from deck officer cadet at the age of 18, to be appointed as the last captain of the world’s most famous passenger cruise liner, the QE2. 

Captain Perkins was loved by all

Captain Perkins was loved by all - Credit: Supplied by family

In that role not only did he ensure that his passengers had an enjoyable and safe experience aboard but he was always attentive to the best welfare of his crew.

He was renowned for his genuine care and empathy, his warm sense of humour, his ability to light up any room with his presence and for always finding time for his family and friends, his passengers and crew.

Always having his crew’s best interests at heart and working to get them home to family in times of need. His lifelong friendships spanned all walks of life, and he was known as genuine, funny, caring, modest, and loyal. 

David William Perkins, the third of four children, was born in Kingston, Jamaica on the April 26 1956. His father had sailed out from the UK to take up the position of director of public works and the first five years of David’s life were spent on the island; the family returning to the UK to live in Grantham, Lincolnshire and later, Woodbridge. 

With a life spent at sea, he joined Cunard as a deck officer cadet when he was 18 and took his first command as captain of Cunard’s Caronia in 2001; serving within the Cunard, P&O and Princess Cruises fleets, the Royal Viking Sun, the Queen Mary 2 and as the last appointed captain of the QE2. 

The QE2 in the open sea after passing the QM2 at Southampton. The end of an era in cruising was bein

The QE2, of which David Perkins was the final captain - Credit: PA

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Having been trained at the Warsash Maritime Academy at a time when it was vital to navigate a ship by Mariners Compass, he was well prepared to navigate the challenging Trans-Atlantic runs from Southampton to New York and the long World Cruises.

He was renowned for his knowledge of South American ports, taking ships along the Amazon and Orinoco rivers in addition to the Arctic Circle where he was honoured by membership of the Scott Polar Institute and received a further award following his service during the first Gulf War on board the Cunard Princess.

When he sailed the QE2 on her final world cruise in 2008 into Sydney harbour, alongside the Queen Mary 2, the ships brought the city to a standstill in admiration. 

David was a keen fisherman, and was known to join the crew as they fished from the mooring decks while in port.

When possible, he would arrange fishing trips for crewmembers and himself around the world including Norway, Panama, the Seychelles, and the Caribbean; bringing the catch back to be cooked on-board by the chefs. 

Knowing how important it was for the crew and passengers to see the football World Cup Final while docked in Algeria in 2004, Captain Perkins walked to the nearest restaurant and asked if they could use the TV for the afternoon, he and another officer having to climb up and adjust the aerial. David led a procession of over 80 crew and passengers to sit down and enjoy the match. 

David, Lucy and Lawrence at Lawrence's Masters Graduation at the London School of Economics in 2018

David, Lucy and Lawrence at Lawrence's Masters Graduation at the London School of Economics in 2018 - Credit: Supplied by family

Although David spent much time away from his home, he was a devoted family man having met Louise- Lucy, an occupational therapist, through Melton Young Farmers.

In 1992 their son Lawrence was born, David was justly proud of him and his achievements. The family sailed together frequently and enjoyed their time together; the splendid ships, the company of their many friends among the crew and passengers, and the wonderful sights as they travelled around the world. 

Captain Perkins was well loved by both passengers and crew and retired to his lovely home in Bury St Edmunds in 2012 after 39 years of safe and commanding navigation; having brought his ship, crew and passengers home safely through all weathers and situations.

In retirement David was able to spend time indulging in his favourite sport of fly-fishing on the Tweed, the Spey and the Miramichi River in Canada alongside being an active member of the St. Edmundsbury Bowls Club and sailing his 1m Model Sailing Yachts competitively around the UK.

In May 2019 David and Lucy celebrated their 40th Wedding Anniversary on a warm sunny day in their garden, surrounded by family and friends. 

Captain David Perkins passed away on the January 14, 2021 having lived a wonderfully full and happy life and his untimely death, whilst leaving his family and friends deeply saddened, also leaves truly happy memories of a man who achieved greatness and who was loved and respected by all. 

Lucy-Louise Perkins said: "David was a devoted family man, we married in 1979 and our son, Lawrence, was born in 1992.  

“We celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary on a warm, sunny day in May 2019 surrounded by family and friends.  

“David took great care, love and joy in his family, enjoying holidays and family time together.

"His time with friends, family and colleagues and his hobbies of fly-fishing, walking Ash his dog, green bowling and model yacht sailing gave him great pleasure and contentment.

"A man with many friends and family; he was loved by all and we are honoured to have shared his life.” 

Captain Perkins’ son Lawrence said: “I don't think I'll ever be able to express how grateful I am for my father, for how accepting, loving, kind, caring and funny he was.  

“My aim has always been to make him proud, as without him I wouldn't be the person I am today." 

Captain Perkins’ friend Terry Waite said: "The unexpected loss of a good friend is hard to bear. I first met David when he was in command of the QE2 and I was lecturing on board.  

“We sailed together many times and he was always unfailingly helpful to both passengers and staff. His knowledge of the oceans of the world was unrivalled.  

“In retirement he played an active part in his local community and will be sadly missed by many not least by myself."