Orient Line RmS Ormonde -1918 to 1952

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With Reuben Goossens

Maritime Historian, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer & Author

Commenced in the Passenger Shipping Industry in 1960

 

Please Note: All ssMaritime.com and other related maritime/cruise sites are 100% non-commercial and privately owned. Be assured that I am NOT associated with any shipping or cruise companies or any travel/cruise agencies or any other organisations! The author has been in the passenger shipping industry since 1960, but is now retired and having completed well over 700 Classic Liners and Cargo-Passengers Ships features, I trust these will continue to provide classic ship enthusiasts the information the are seeking, but above all a great deal of happy memories and pleasure!

 

*Photographs and images on this page are from the Author’s Private collection, unless otherwise noted.

1. Construction of a New Orient Liner:

With some six 12,000 GRT (Gross Registered Ton) liners already operating on the London / Australia service, Orient Line decided to build a ship of a relatively similar design, but at almost 15,000 GRT. Thus, on October 21, 1913 the keel of the new Orient liner was laid in Yard 425 at the John Brown & Co Ltd, shipyards at Clydebank. However, with a war imminent all work was halted in August 1914 and the un-named ship remained unfinished in the yard.

Yet due to the war being very close, there was a demand for troopships thus early in 1917 work on the ship recommenced and she was completed with spartan quarters suitable for troops. On February 10, 1917 she was launched without a ceremony, or any fuss, and she remained un-named, and she was towed to the John Brown Fit-Out Berth where she would be completed.

Then in October 1917, she was officially requisitioned under the “Liner Requisition Scheme” as a Troop Transport ship. A month later, on November 3, 1917 the completed troopship was delivered to the Orient Line. On December 5, she was officially registered at Glasgow in the ownership of the Orient Steam Navigation Company Co. Ltd., London as Ormonde, with a tonnage of 14,853 GRT.

2. The Great War - World War One:

November 19, 1917 Troopship Ormonde sailed from Glasgow and she headed for Australia, she then operated a voyage filled with the “First AIF” Battalion to Egypt and the Gulf, and she returned to Sydney. In Sydney she boarded, amongst others, the 49th.Battalion and on March 2, 1918 the Troop Ship Ormonde departed Sydney and she headed via Africa for Southampton where she arrived on May 15, 1918. During 1918 and 1919 operated in rapid Mediterranean convoys and during the war she carried over 30,000 troops up to March 1919.

Troopship RMS Ormonde is seen in Australia

Photo from the State Library of Victoria

During her service, the trooper, Ormonde was attacked on three occasions by U-boats, yet she survived each attack! Ormonde’s last Government voyage departed on April 8, 1919 and she repatriated wives, and families of serviceman from India.

3. RMS Ormonde:

Once the Ormonde had completed her trooping duties on June 14, 1919 she returned to John Brown’s Fit-Out berth at Clydebank where she would be completely refitted into what she was originally meant to be a fine Passenger liner! She was fitted with spacious lounges, saloons and dinning rooms and accommodations for; 278 First Class, 196 Second Class and 1,017 Third Class passengers.

Her First Class public venues were traditionally fitted out in true British style of the time, with rich timbers, marble, fine carpets, incorporating the best furnishings and the Main Lounge features a grand partially stained glass dome in the centre of the venue, as well as a grand stairwell going down aft of the room. The Dinning Room was blessed with a great deal of light due to the many large windows, thus it was a bright and a fine venue to dine in. The ceilings were superbly embossed and the chairs were of the highest quality and ensured great comfort. Cabins also were well designed, offering from deluxe suites to twin bedded staterooms to single bedded cabins. Second Class public venues were similar to First Class, although of a somewhat lesser grandeur. Cabins also were of a high standard, but offering from single, twin, up to four berth cabins. Third Class was to say the least very humble, as this class was essentially for the migrant service, and although there were some four, six, and eight berth cabins, but also larger dormitories. Public venues were simple halls with bench seating and dinning rooms very similar, bench seating with long tables.

Photographs: Please note, these photographs come out of a very old catalogue that has both the Deck Plan of the Ormond, which can be seen on Page Two, and some of these images, others are also from my collection. I am sorry for their imperfect state, but it is better than nothing, and I have tried to improve them as much as was possible. I commence with First Class and then to Third Class as sadly I only have a single image of a Second Class cabin. Enjoy!

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Left we see the First Class Main Lounge far forward on Promenade (B) Deck - Right we see the Dinning Room forward on E Deck

 

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Left is the First Class Smoking Room aft on Promenade (B) Deck – Right is the Drawing room forward but just aft of the Lounge

 

A typical First Class two bedstead cabin with a window

 

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Left we see the Third Class Lounge aft on E Deck - Right the Third Class pleasant Dinning Room aft on F Deck

Sadly to date, I have no photographs of any Second Class venues

 

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Left; a Second Class two-berth cabin – Right; a Third Class ingle bed cabin

They are amazingly similar, but you will note certain differences as the 2nd.class is superior.

 

An early Orient Line postcard of the R.M.S. Ormonde

RMS stands for “Royal Mail Ship” as these British ships operated a postal service

4. Her Commercial Maiden Voyage:

Having completed and finally the RMS Ormonde was a full-fledged Passenger Liner, she departed on her first commercial “Maiden Voyage” on November 15, 1919 London to Brisbane. The Ormonde was the very first new passenger liner to enter the Australian service after the War! She rapidly gained a reputation for strength and ease of handling, both on the Australian service and later on cruises.

The RMS Ormonde steams on her way to Australia

Her schedule was as follows: London (Tilbury), Gibraltar, Toulon, Naples, Port Said, Suez, Colombo, Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane. Whilst her northbound voyages were with fare paying passengers, and in addition she would also make a call at Plymouth when required.

After the Ormonde having been north to Brisbane in Queensland, she returned to Sydney to collect

full-fare paying passengers and her we her departure as family and friends come and wave goodbye!

On April 2, 1920 the Ormonde struck the bank whilst in the Suez Canal, which damaged two blades of her port propeller, yet, she was able to continue to Colombo, Ceylon at a reduced speed. Having arrived there she was dry-docked, and her propeller was rapidly changed and she continued to Fremantle, and to Sydney and Brisbane.

In 1922 Orient Line offered the British public the very first programme of cruises to Norway on the almost new liner, RMS Ormond, and the programme proved to be very successful and cruising would be continue throughout her lifetime.

5. A Time of Change:

Considering her the Ormonde was built as a coal fired ship, but Orient Line had decided to convert her to burn a more economical oil fuel, which was done in April 1923.

She returned to service and her new oil burning fuel system rapidly proved to be cost effective! The Ormonde just happened to be in Sydney on Australia’s most special Day of the year in 1931, as it was “Foundation (or Regatta) Day” that just four years later in 1935 officially became known as “Australia Day” and is a public holiday. However, it was a long established custom to have a regatta of vintage vessels and yachts sail from Sydney Heads and sail under Sydney Harbour Bridge.

RMS Ormonde is seen at anchor in Sydney Harbour fully decked out for the festive day, Monday January 26, 1931

Then the Ormonde was given yet another change in 1933, as she was given a refit to become a One Class Liner, accommodating just 770 Tourist Class passengers and she was listed as being 14,983 GRT. She returned to duties, but this time operating together with the veteran RMS Orsova, which commenced her maiden voyage on June 29, 1909.

The 12,036 GRT - RMS Orsova was sadly broken up just three years later in 1936

Their new schedule was as follows.

London (Tilbury), Gibraltar, Toulon, Naples, Port Said, Suez, Aden, Colombo, Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne, Burnie, Sydney, Brisbane. Her northbound voyage following much the same port, with the following alternatives; also visiting Plymouth, but occasionally via Hobart and Villefranche.

A fine view from the Bridge of the starboard side of A (Boat) Deck looking aft

Some three years later, on September 23, 1936 the RMS Ormonde caught small fire between Melbourne and Sydney and she put in to the old whaling anchorage at “Twofold Bay” and remained overnight and continued to Sydney the next day.

RMS Ormonde is seen in Sydney Harbour late in the 1930s

This is a fine stern view of the ship!

Photographer is unknown - Please see the photo notes at the bottom of the page

 

A superb photograph of her Sports Deck in her early days

Photograph was sourced from a glass negative purchased at an UK flea market

& is owned & kindly provided to ssmaritime by Fredrik Thorsen

6. World War Two:

November 1939 with World War Two commencing, she was once again called upon by the Admiralty, who requisitioned her to become a troop transport ship once again. She was again refitted at her builder’s yards receiving 1,560 berths for troops.

She was despatched on May 30, 1940 to assist with the withdrawal from Narvik, north in Norway.  Then on June 16, 1940 she took onboard elements of British Expeditionary Force from St Nazaire, France. With was followed up in July by landing a Garrison in Iceland.

During 1941/1942 the Ormonde operated trooping services to South Africa, Egypt and India, as well as invasion exercises.

During WW2 she retained her regular black hull livery, as this photo was taken during the war

Photograph by & John Currin

In November 1942 the Ormond landed troops in Algiers, Oran and Bone during “Operation Torch, and in July 1943 there were landings of troops in Sicily. The Ormonde continued her services with great efficiency! Next in 1945 the Ormond landed troops in Malaya and then she continued to repatriate prisoners-of-war from Burma.

7. Return to Commercial Services:

Having steamed over 300,000 miles and transported more than that 120,000 troops the Ormonde was released from government services and the head for the Cammell Laird shipyards at Birkenhead in April 1947. However, Orient Line had decided that they no longer wish to use her for regular services again, thus she was chartered to the British Ministry of Transport to operate her on government-supported emigrant voyages to Australia with a capacity of 1,052 One Class passengers. The complete refit came at a cost of 270,000.

On October 10, 1947 the RMS Ormonde departed London bound for Australia with 1,052 migrants on board, and this being the first Liner to make a voyage under the joint agreement between the British and Australian Governments to transport British emigrants on chartered ships.

She is seen here in the Port of Melbourne

Photo from the State Library of Victoria

Upon her return voyages to the United Kingdom she took full fare paying Tourist class Passengers at good fares, making her a popular choice and a good way to get to England!

Here we see the Orient Liner RMS Ormonde and the Peninsular Orient (P&O) Liner RMS Strathaird

berthed together at Station Pier Melbourne on February 28, 1948

Photographer is unknown - Please see the photo notes at the bottom of the page

In March 1950 the Ormonde was chartered to Dutch government to help evacuate their citizens who were escaping the troubled from Indonesia. In November she headed for Wellington New Zealand to collect New Zealand troops bound for the Korean War.

A large crowd farewell‘s the Ormonde at Wellington’s Aotea Quay

as K-Force troops head for Korea in December 1950

Photo from the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand

However the Ormonde continued her regular line voyages to and from Britain and Australia until 1952.

8. Specifications RMS Ormonde:

Type:……………………………………….Passenger liner.

P&O Group service:…………………1918-1952.

Registered owners:…………………Orient Steam Navigation Company Ltd.

Managers:……………………………….Anderson Green & Company Ltd.

Operators:……………………………..Orient Line.

Builders:………………………………….John Brown & Co Ltd, Clydebank 1918.

Yard number:………………………….425.

Registry:………………………………….London, UK.

Official number:………………………141866.

Signal letters:………………………….JRQF.

Classification Society:…………….Lloyd’s Register.

Gross Tonnage:………………………14,853 GRT as built.

1933:………………………………………14,983 GRT after refit in 1933.

Net Tonnage:………………………….9,053 NRT.

Deadweight:……………………………8,113 tons

Length:…………………………………..599.1ft - 182,5m.

Breadth:………………………………….66.7ft - 20.32m.

Draught:…………………………………27.4ft - 8.327m.

Propulsion:…………………………….4 Geared steam turbines, by John Brown.

Power:………………………….…………2,120 NHP, 15,000 SHP.

Propellers:………………………………Twin Screws

Service Speed:……………………….18 knots, Max 24.6 knots.

Passengers:…………………………….278 First, 196 Second & 1,017 Third Class.

1933:………………………………………779 Tourist Class.

1949:……………………………………..1,052 One Class.

Crew 1919:…………………………….497.

Cargo Capacity:………………………370,398 cubic feet - including …

……………………………………………….101,635 cubic feet Refrigerated Space.

Livery:…………………………………….Black hull, buff funnels, red boot topping.

Employment:………………………….UK to Australia service.

……………………………………………….Troopship operations WWI & WW2.

9. RMS Ormonde’s Final Five Years:

Between October 1947 and the end of 1952, the RMS Ormonde operated 17 emigrant voyages, which saw a good 17,500 British emigrants come to Australia and the ship was a good old liner but her machinery was aging, yet the ship generally was in good shape, but Orient Line had commenced building magnificent new and much larger liners! Thus soon it was her time to say Good Bye.

The Ormonde departed London for her very last ever voyage to Australia on Thursday August 21, 1952 and she returned to the United Kingdom, arriving at Tilbury for the final time on Wednesday November 19, 1952.

A sad departure as the Ormonde flew her long payoff pennant on November 19, 1952

Her long payoff pennant can be clearly seen flying from her aft Mainmast revealing her many years of service

The wonderful and a successful career of the RMS Ormonde was sadly over for upon arrival it was announced that the 35 years old liner had been sold to the “British Iron & Steel Corporation” to be broken up.

It was on Thursday December 5, 1952 she headed to Dalmuir with W. H. Arnott, Young & Co in charge, and demolition of the Ormonde was completed at Troon by “West of Scotland Ship Breaking Co Ltd” on Tuesday May 5, 1953.

 Remembering a Fine Old Liner ~ RMS Ormond!

 

Go to Page Two for a copy of an Original RMS Ormonde Deck Plan 

 

“Blue Water Liners sailing to the distant shores.
I watched them come, I watched them go and I watched them die.”

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Photographs on ssmaritime and associate pages are by the author or from the author’s private collection. In addition there are some images that have been provided by Shipping Companies and private photographers or collectors. Credit is given to all contributors. However, there are some photographs provided to me without details regarding the photographer/owner concerned. I hereby invite if owners of these images would be so kind to make them-selves known to me (my email address may be found on www.ssmaritime.com only), in order that due credit may be given.

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