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With Reuben Goossens

Maritime Historian, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer & Author


Shaw Savill Line

QSMV Dominion Monarch

The largest Liner of its kind ever to be built


Dominion Monarch seen at Cape Town 

At the time of her building, the QSMV (Quadruple Screw Motor Vessel) Dominion Monarch was the most powerful motor liner of her kind in the world and certainly the largest ship operating full time on the Australasian trade. Shaw Savill already had a great deal of experience in operating an all first class only passenger service and they were able to assure their passengers a voyage that would be the ultimate in luxury and in surroundings of style and elegance. The 27,155 ton Dominion Monarch accommodated just 525 passengers, and this combined with her crew of 385, her passenger ratio offered a service that is unequalled to this day.

A 1938 Swan, Hunter & Wigan Richardson advertrisment re the building of the Dominion Monarch

From the author’s private collection

Some time back I received an interesting email from Jo Garrett, whose Father Eddie had worked for over thirty years at the famed Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson shipyards and he was involved in the building of this great liner as well as many other ships. The images presented below originate from a commemorative book that was released and distributed amongst the staff and workers at the yard and it contains some the best possible information and many an image library of the ship, which is the best I have ever seen. These include the lounges and all areas, but they were all taken prior to her entering service. This book and a number of other items that were kindly sent, including some original drawings by Mr. Eddy Garret, being a cabinet designer and designed the captains and other cabins, etc. These are now part of the ssMaritime Museum. Currently there are four photographs of her being built to her launching and further images will be included in due course. I am most grateful to Jo Garrett for this gracious generosity of sharing all this of us in memory of Jo’s Father!

The keel was laid in one of Swan Hunter’s glassed roofed West Yards on July 14, 1937

Provided by Jo Garrett –


By October 15 the hull was more than half framed

Provided by Jo Garrett –

At the top we see a funnel being constructed and bottom right the forward funnel lifted into place.

Bottom right we see the forward well deck being completed

Provided by Jo Garrett –

Dominion Monarch was named and launched at 3.30 p.m., on July 27, 1938, by Lady Essendon, the wife of the Chairman of Furness Withy and Company Ltd. QSMV Dominion Monarch was the largest ship built on the Tyne since the Mauretania.

Here we see the launching party: From left to right. Mr & Mrs J Macmillan MD of Shaw Savill, Lord Essendon Chairman Shaw Savill,

Mr. J. Denham Christie, Lady Essendon and Mr. C. S. Swan Chairman of Swan Hunter

Provided by Jo Garrett –


The “Dom” finally slips into the water!

From the author’s private collection (part of the advertisement)


After launching, Dominion is moved to her “Fit Out berth”

 From the author’s private collection

She was an unusual ship as her design was that of a large passenger-cargo liner, with a relatively small passenger complement considering her large size. To this day, Dominion Monarch remains the largest (all first class) cargo passenger liner ever built. Many larger, faster passenger liners would later operate on the Australasian service, however, with the eventual demise of the Dominion Monarch, the era of deluxe traditional sea travel ended. She departed from the Australasian and New Zealand waters in 1962 being a victim of larger passenger liners carrying greater passenger numbers in multiple or as became more popular in a one class configuration, and the newer ships were more economical to operate as well as having a far greater passenger complement.


Builder Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson, Wallsend-on-Tyne, England

Built for Shaw Savill Albion

Launched 27 July 1938 (by Lady Essendon)

Completed January 1939

GRT 27,155 tons

Length 207.8 m / 682 ft

Width 25.9 m / 84 ft, 6 inches

Draught 34 feet

Propulsion 4 Doxford 5 cylinder opposed-piston Diesel engines

Screws Quadruple

Service speed 21.5 knots

Passengers 525 passengers (508 in 1947), all first class

Passenger decks 6

Crew 385

Port of registry Southampton

Livery Black hull, white superstructure, buff and black funnels

red boot topping

Holds 6, carrying around 3,600 tons of general cargo, and 12,800 tons

of frozen meat or dairy produce

Maiden voyage 

The Dominion Monarch was completed late in January 1939, she completed her sea trials off St Abbs Head, after which she was delivered to Shaw Savill Line and she was manned, stored up and made ready for her duties. She would soon be ready to receive her first passengers who would experience the ultimate voyage on what was indeed one of the finest and grandest ships on the service!

On February 17, 1939 under the command of Captain W. G. Summers (however, some sources state that it was Captain W. H. Hartman who was in command??), she commenced her seven week maiden voyage from the King George V Dock, London. Her first port of call was at Southampton, where her Australian and New Zealand bound passengers boarded. Her next port of call was Tenerife, where she arrived on the 21st of February 1939.

Dominion Monarch seen off Tenerife on February 21 during her maiden voyage New Zealand bound

Photograph - Tenerife Port authority

Her voyage continued via Cape Town, Durban, and Fremantle where she arrived on March 11, 1939. she then set a new record for the ‘Cape’ route, to Melbourne and Sydney. The service was promoted as “The Clipper Route,” with fares commencing with 58. On April 25, she departed from Wellington for Sydney and her return voyage to the UK. A service that would continue until 1962, but sadly as we would understand this would be rudely interrupted by World War II when she would serve as a troop ship!


The grand lady is seen here at sea

From the author’s private collection

Public facilities and accommodations

Accommodation on board was certainly on a lavish scale for the 525 first class passengers (after her refit in 1947 it was reduced to 508 passengers). There were 160 single berth cabins, as well as 182 multiple berth cabins, including two deluxe suites, having a double bedroom, sitting room, bathroom, with a lobby and many cabins had private facilities. Passengers had the use of six decks - Games deck – Lounge deck – Promenade deck & A - B & C decks.

PS: All images in this interior/exterior collection are from the author’s private collection.

The spacious Main Lounge --

The public rooms consisted of a Lounge, Drawing Room, Writing Room, Smoke Room, Palm Court, Verandah, Cinema, and the Restaurant. Majority of the public rooms were located on the Lounge Deck with the Entrance Foyer forward. Aft of the Foyer was the spacious Lounge.

Aft again was the Writing Room on the starboard side, whilst the Drawing Room was on the port side. Aft again was the classic Smoke Room, which was in a dramatic period style featuring a large fireplace, complete with a shield and swords above. Aft on Lounge deck was the delightful Verandah, which doubled as the cinema.


The classic Smoke Room

Forward on Promenade deck was the popular Palm Court overlooking the bow. Aft of the room was the bar, which had a mural depicting the English countryside. Aft of the Promenade deck was the 24 ft x 16 ft swimming pool as well as the gymnasium.

The Restaurant on C deck was fully air-conditioned, with seating for 300 passengers.

 Writing Room


 Dine in style in the fully air-conditioned Restaurant


Ships Pool


The Doxford Diesels is what made the ship tick like clockwork!



World War II

A sad looking ship, during even sadder days

Author’s private collection

During her second voyage, Great Britain and France declared war with Germany. John Carver who was a Bellboy on this voyage told ssMaritime, “Dominion Monarch was outward bound going through the Australian bight when war broke out. An announcement was made over the tanoy just as dinner was being served.”

Dominion Monarch bellboy, John Carver is seen on the right

Provided by John Carver

She was despatched to Sydney were she was fitted with light armament and returned to the UK via the hazardous Indian and Atlantic Oceans. Upon arrival, Dominion Monarch was she was laid up, as it was considered that she was far too luxurious to be used as a trooper. She returned to her Australasian service until August 1940, when the British Government requisitioned her. She was stripped of her fine fittings and was fitted out with 3,556 berths. She was painted grey and commenced her service as a trooper. In all she carried over 29,000 American and British military personal and brought thousands of wounded soldiers home.

Dominion Monarch the trooper seen in Wellington New Zealand

Author’s private collection

I received the following interesting E-mail from one of the troopers who sailed on her in October 1943:

“Although I did not have the pleasure of voyaging on this superb liner, the Dominion Monarch in it's heyday, but I did sail on her whilst she was a troopship. We embarked at Liverpool and sailed to Port Said in the month of October 1943. The most exciting thing about this journey was the fact the Geraldo and his Orchestra were on board as they were bound for the Middle East to entertain the troops. Therefore we were entertained each night which certainly relieved the apprehension of what could have been a dangerous voyage.

All or most of us travelled to Alexandria by train, where we were dispersed as drafted. However, I eventually finished up on a minesweeper which was berthed in Malta. John Curtis.”

Seen toward the end of her war service

Author’s private collection

Troopship Dominion Monarch’s final voyages took place between April and June 1947 as she departed Melbourne Australia in April although details are not available. But we are aware that by July she was in Alexandria, Egypt and sailed to Port Said, sailed through the Suez Canal. Made a visit to Mombasa and continued to Durban, then sailed to Cape Town and completed her voyage to London’s King George V Dock, arriving on July 21, and she was officially released from government transport duties. Soon afterwards she sailed North to her builder's yard at Newcastle to be completely refurbished. During her 15 month restoration for her passenger service her machinery was stripped out and completely overhauled and her luxurious accommodation was restored to its former glory she would now accommodate 508 passengers, being 17 less than prior to the war.

An interesting email from Gerald Buttigieg South Africa.

“My father Joseph and his nephew boarded the Dominion Monarch in Port Said on June 7, 1947 and they sailed to Durban, stopping on the way at Mombasa. I have forwarded a photograph of then on the wharf and also included what is written on the back of the photo, which dates the photo and the name of the ship. I have forgotten most of my Italian but from what I do remember it confirms that it is the Dominion Monarch. The photo is addressed to my Mother. I do not know how my father managed to get a berth on the ship at that time and as he has passed on now the details have gone with him. However there were other families were on board who had boarded in Alexandria, thus it would have been some special scheduled voyage.” Gerald Buttigieg - South Africa.

My Father Joseph Buttigieg is standing on the right, with his nephew Frank Saliba, who travelled with, is seen him in the middle. The gentleman on the left is unknown.

Behind them is the Dominion Monarch seen in Port Said on June 7, 1947

Provided by Gerald Buttigieg - South Africa


On the back of the photo above is this message in Italian to Mrs. Buttigieg from Joseph (can anyone translate it please?)

Provided by Gerald Buttigieg - South Africa



Back in Service

Dominion Monarch looking her grand self, departing Cape Town
Provided by Ian Shiffman of … - Email Ian at


A superb study of a great liner

*Photographer unknown - *See special photo notes at bottom of page

Dominion Monarch was returned to Shaw Savill in 1948, after a refit she recommenced her regular duties. On many occasions, whilst Dominion Monarch was in Wellington New Zealand during the early sixties, the youthful author, employed in the shipping industry as an office boy, spent a great deal of time on this fine liner, enjoying the beauty of her classic appointments. I recall the joyful departures with the brass band playing and colourful streamers thrown by passengers leaning over the rails saying goodbye to their loved ones on the quay.

A rare encounter, Dominion Monarch and the Southern Cross

berthed side by side in Wellington New Zealand

Author’s private collection

The John Kelk Story.

Dominion Monarch actually had Bellboys and John Kelk was one of these. One of his main duties on the liner whilst she was at sea was to open the door to let passengers into the dining room at meal times, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Then after each meal he and the other Bellboys would have to sweep up all the spills in the dinning room. John was located, he told me on the portside door together with a lad by the name of Peter. Whilst, one of the other boy’s named Cato was on the starboard door. John recalls that the best job he had whilst on board was when they were in Wellington for three weeks and he was given the job as the lift boy.

John boarded her on 26 February 26 and completed his duties on June 21 1958. The master of the ship was Captain K .D. G. Fisher. As John states “It’s a time I will never forget.”

This photograph of John was taken on May 20, 1958

Photograph provided by John Kelk

Sadly, during the mid sixties the Australasian luxury passenger market was rapidly declining. And all too often, she would depart with a small complement of passengers, therefore the time came when Shaw Savill decided that their grand and much loved liner had sadly become too uneconomic and it was with gread sadness the decision was made to place her on the market.

Arriving at Circular Quay Sydney

 Author’s private collection

A popular illustration

Author’s private collection


Here we se the black and white version of an artist impression of what was a colour version

I took this from a Shaw Savill postcard that had the ships details at the bottom

Author’s private collection


On December 30, 1961, the Dominion Monarch departed London for her last voyage Down Under. Her farewell departures from New Zealand and Australasian ports were such sad occasions for past passengers as well as ship lovers, including the author who was present as she sailed away!

Dominion Monarch is seen here in Lyttleton (Christchurch) New Zealand during her farewell visit in February 1962

*Photographer unknown

I was dockside as this great liner, which I had boarded so many times, departed Wellington for the very last time and she looked as majestic and grand as ever. Lasting memories for me were her three long blasts on her horn and her sailing majestically out of Wellington Harbour. The largest Liner of its kind had finally left; and there have been few other ships that has had the same impact on ship enthusiasts as she had. The Dominion Monarch had a graceful beauty, a style and beauty that has not been seen since. I took many photographs of her departure, but, one box was lost when I moved to Australia in 1965 and all my shipping photographs and memorabilia just happened to be in that box. It was never recovered, then several years ago to my joy I found a old photo packet with two negatives and one was of the Dominion Monarch departing that day, and I include it below! Thus, one of mine survived, although I did have another online previously, as there were countless of people there taking photographs and where I was standing it was packed!

Here we see the Dominion Monarch depart Wellington New Zealand on March 15, 1962 for the final time
It was a sad moment not only for me, but also for the thousands that lined the docks to see her go!

Photograph by the author

The End of a great liner

She was leased from June to November 1962 as a hotel ship for the Seattle World Fair. She was moored at Pier 51, Elliot Bay. Towards the end of her Seattle stay, her funnels were painted by her new owners painted, featuring a diamond shaped insignia of and was renamed Dominion Monarch Maru. The Dominion Monarch Maru departed Seattle with her dignity intact and sailed for Osaka where she arrived on November 25, 1962, where she was broken up.

With her name changed to Dominion Monarch Maru
see is seen here in Seattle prior her departure

Author’s private collection


Heading for the breakers

Author’s private collection

A Lasting Memory

Dominion Monarch had a dignified 24-year career, even though it being a short life compared to most other liners, she remains one of the most impressive and luxurious of all first class passenger cargo liner ever to be built! She was a one of a kind, the kind of grand and graceful liner that will never grace our seas again!

Reuben Goossens.

The magnificent Dominion Monarch preparing for departure – Australia bound!

Author’s private collection


View Items of QSMV Dominion Monarch - Memorabilia


Also read about other Shaw Savill ships on

SS Southern Cross - SS Corinthic-Athenic-Ceramic-Gothic


“The Big Blue Water Liners sailing to the distant shores.
I watched then 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 only), in order that due credit may be given. I know what it is like, I have seen a multitude of my own photographs on other sites, yet these individuals either refuse to provide credit or remove them when asked, knowing full well that there is no legal comeback when it comes to the net. However, let us show these charlatans up and do the right thing at all times and give credit where credit is due!

This notice covers all pages, although, and I have done my best to ensure that all photographs are duly credited and that this notice is displaced on each page, that is, when a page is updated!




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