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With Reuben Goossens
Maritime Historian, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer, Author & Lecturer
“Orient Steam Navigation Company”
All images on this page are from the author’s private collection, unless marked otherwise
In 1914 Orient Line was the proud owner of a fleet some eight fine liners that operated on their Australian service. However, by 1919 they were left with just three as well as the new RMS Ormonde, thus they were in need of further ships urgently! In order to re-establish Orient Line to their full strength they needed to obtain some suitable ships and to so three surrendered German liners were obtained to fill the gap. The SS Orcades (I) was the second of these.
the 9,764 GRT (Gross Registered Ton) SS Orcades (I) was not built for Orient
Steam Navigation Company, but she was built in 1903 at the Bremen Vulkan Ship
Yard at Vegesack for the North German Lloyd. She was launched as the SS Prinz
Ludwig on May 12, 1906. She was operated on
conclusion of the War, as part of the war reparations the SS Prinz Ludwig like
other German ships came under control of the British Shipping Controller in
1919 and she was managed for the British Government by P&O. As the War had
concluded there were countless thousands of Australian soldiers to be
repatriations from Europe and she made several voyages to
In 1921 the Prinz Ludwig was purchased outright by the Orient Steam Navigation Company (Orient Line) when she was given an extensive refit and was became SS Orcades (I).
SS Orcades (I)
After her refit she accommodated a comfortable 599 passengers, 123 First Class and 476 Third Class, and she commenced on that very busy Australian service on October 21, 1921. Due to her slower speed she operated on a secondary service, which was separate from the “mail service” thus she being prefixed SS and never RMS. Although she was never the best arrangement for Orient Line, but she was a stop gap until Orient Line could built their new fleet of ships, the first being to be scheduled to come into service in 1924, the next in 1925 and then the SS Orcades could be withdrawn.
Specifications: Length: 492ft - 150m, Width: 58ft - 17.7m, Draught: 26.9ft - 8.2m. Motive Power: Quadruple Steam Expansion Engines. Screws: Two, Speed: 15 Knots.
23, 456 GRT - RMS Orcades (II) was a fine British liner built by Vickers
Armstrong Ltd, at
main reason she was built was to operate on the
RMS Orcades (II) - 1937-1942
She was an improved version of her earlier sister the RMS Orion
interest, Orcades (II) as well as her sister ship, RMS Orion’s interior
décor and fittings had been designed by
But, with the war having commenced, in 1939, she was requisitioned by the British Government to be refitted to become a troopship and she was given the prefix of HMT (His Majesty Trooper) in that same year. She served valiantly however tragically disaster awaited this superb liner/trooper within a short few years.
During 1940, 41 and 42 the HMT Orcades carried troops to the various theatres of war, and wherever they were needed.
Here we see Australian and British troops on board the Orcades (II) in 1941
Australian War archives
Orcades under the commanded of Captain Charles Fox departed Liverpool on a grey
day in the early autumn of 1942 for a voyage to
had a complement of 1,067 on board, after the sinking there was a loss of 45
lives, but thankfully there were a good 1,022 survivors who were picked up by
the SS Narvik being a Polish steamship of 7,000-tons. Apparently the U-172 was
a 9C type submarine, commanded by Captain Carl Emmerman was born in
For comprehensive details of the attack and sinking of the HMT Orcades (II) please visit: www.uboat.net/allies/merchants/2258.html.
Orient Steam Navigation Company (Orient Line) 1948-1966.
The order to build the new
Orcades was given once more to the builder who had constructed Orcades (II),
which had been completed in 1937 being Vickers Armstrong Ltd at
She was launched in October 1947 and was completed just over a year later on November 14, 1948. She underwent her deep sea trials that same month and achieved a respectable 24.74 knots. The cost to build the RMS Orcades was £3,418,000.
Here we the Launching of the Orcades on October 14, 1947.
Orcades seen during her sea trails
The Orcades was the very first post war passenger liner built for Orient Lines and it should be known that she shared her hull with the P&O Lines Himalaya (1949), however Orcades’ superstructure was quite different indeed, for this ship commenced had a commenced a totally new look for Orient Line liners, considering that now the bridge had been located almost amidships and it was crowned by a tripod mast with an upright funnel, that had just a slight angle that sat up high directly aft of the tripod mast.
A view of her amidships Bridge, the tripod mast and funnel
The vital part of the ship located amidships is Orcades’ Bridge
In addition the traditional two tall (main) masts were also been done away with, instead there were four king posts forward and aft with their respective derricks to handle cargo. All this combined with a new glazed in first class Stadium Look-out forward of the Stadium sports deck, and this gave her that unique look of the new Orient liners of the 50s!
This is the first artist impression released of Orient Lines new liner RMS Orcades revealing the new look of the Orient Line liners without their traditional tall masts
was no doubt that the Orcades set a new standard in style externally at the
time, but also she offered high standards in her facilities and accommodations.
She offered many fine lounges as well as other facilities such as shops, hair
saloons, hospital, swimming pool, and a vast range of cabin choices.
There was no doubt that the Orcades set a new standard in style externally at the time, but also she offered high standards in her facilities and accommodations. She offered many fine lounges as well as other facilities such as shops, hair saloons, hospital, swimming pool, and a vast range of cabin choices.
Countless immigrants sailed to Australia ton the Orcades and they have emailed the author regarding her delightful style and that feeling of “old world style of luxury” that they experienced whilst they were on board, regardless if they where in First or Tourist, or even later when she had become a One Class ship! But as built she was a Two Class ship and offered accommodations for 773 First Class, and 772 Tourist Class passengers.
Before we continue with her history and even with her maiden voyage, let us go on board and discover this understated, yet elegant liner!
Please Note: all exterior images of the ship are of her prior to the 1959 refit & the funnel extension!
Minus the ssMaritime data, which the author added … this was the Original poster promoting Orient Lines and their two new liners
… RMS Orcades and the soon to arrive RMS Oronsay new
Main Lounge - looking aft to the Lobby and Galleries on both sides leading into the Ballroom
The Gallery between the Main Lounge and the Ballroom
Main Lounge – looking forward
The Ballroom – looking forward in the Galleries
Further aft is the Tavern
The ever popular Bamboo Room
Far forward is the Stadium and the glazed Look-out far forward, which in later ships became the “Crows Nest”
Games deck was very spacious
Up on Stadium Deck the Grill Restaurant and its special Lounge was located far aft
The Grill Restaurant overlooked the aft decks
The Flat is one of the deluxe suites, this is just the bed room, and there is also a spacious lounge as well as a lobby
An outside twin bedded cabin
Inside twin or three berth cabin
The Tourist main entrance and the Pursers Office
The pool was originally the first class pool until the 1959 refit
Inside/outside single/two berth cabin
Inside/outside twin/three or four berth cabin
The RMS Orcades was certainly a powerful ship as she was fitted with powerful steam geared turbines, built by the ship builders, which combined with the twin screws gave her an excellent speed of 24.74 knots, but she operated at a comfortable service speed of 22 knots when in service.
on her maiden voyage from Tilbury on December 14, 1948, being her first voyage,
Amazingly the Orcades was the very first brand new liner to reach
You will have noticed that the Orcades was prefixed RMS, thus obviously she was employed on the mail service between Britain and Australia, in addition she would carry government, business and general full fare paying passengers who were either on vacation or visiting friends or relatives in Australia or New Zealand. Being a British ship she also had a contract to operate as an immigrant transport ship, with most of these passengers being accommodated in Tourist Class, either in the larger cabins, or at least four berth cabins. She carried immigrants from her very first (maiden) voyage.
is seen in
During her time on this service sailing via the Suez Canal to Australia, the only incident to mar her perfect record occurred on May 7, 1952 when she ran aground in Port Philip Bay, Melbourne, however, she was soon pulled free by four tugs and there was no damage whatsoever and she continued her voyage!
But in 1954
both Orient Line and P&O introduced new services having some of their ships
sailing across the Pacific. Thus with Orcades having arrived in Sydney from the
UK, she departed Sydney on December 17, 1954 and operated a “Circle
Pacific Voyage,” cruising via a variety of ports to San Francisco where
she arrived on January 6, 1955. She then returned to
An Orient postcard showing her prior to her upcoming refit, minus the new funnel fitting
in 1955 Orient Line decided to change her service altogether and operate the
Orcades on an around the world service westwards, thus she departed London for
her very first sailing to New Zealand and Australia via the Panama Canal on
August 22, 1955 and having arrived in Australia she would then return to the UK
sailing via the Suez Canal. During the Olympic Games in
her 1959 refit she went to the Harland & Wolff shipyards in
First black and white postcard of the Orcades showing her “Stovepipe” “Top-Hat”
Internally air-conditioning was extended throughout the entire ship, which was a massive improvement to the comfort to all passengers, considering the time she spent in tropical waters. In addition a brand new First Class Tavern and a new swimming pool were built, whilst the former ones were now allocated to Tourist Class. Upon completion her new tonnage was now officially registered as being 28,399 GRT.
SS Orcades seen at
Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O) 1960-1972.
The Orcades and she returned to her regular around the around the world services, but in 1960 Orient Line came into the ownership of P&O Line after they had taken over the balance of the Orient Line shareholding. The order came that all Orient Line ships were to change their livery to all white as soon as possible, but somehow the now designated SS Orcades managed to hold out for a good four years, thus retaining her original Orient Line corn coloured hull until 1964, being her next refit.
This photograph shows the many sheltered decks available to passengers on a real ship
something that is missing on the modern floating cruise (square) apartment/resort vessels/boxes!
Photographer unknown – Please photo notes below
P&O colour postcard of the SS Orcades available on board
During this refit the idea was to change her two class configuration and change her into a One Class ship with accommodations for 1,635 passengers. In addition her former First Class Grill Lounge was rebuilt into a Cinema with 157 seats and the actual Grill became the Cinema Lounge with a view over the aft decks. The First Class Main Lounge was renamed the “Riverina Room” only other changes would be minor, such as soft furnishings, etc.
The most obvious external change would be her external livery, for Orcades traditional Orient Lines corn hull would disappear and become the typical P&O all white hull and superstructure with red boot topping, but thankfully the corn/yellow funnel with its black cover and “top-hat” remained!
The new look cruise ship SS Orcades
Having been completed, the all white SS Orcades departed Tilbury on her first voyage in May 1964 and continued on her regular Australian Line voyages sailing westward. However, with the airlines taking over the migrant trade it became obvious that line voyages were suffering and that it was the cruises that were making the most money for the big shipping companies, thus the SS Orcades soon became better known as a happy and an excellent cruise ship, rather than having been a traditional liner. Hough she still operated the occasional voyage to and from the UK and Australia, but they were more like relocation voyages for upon arrival at her destination she would commence a series of summer cruises out of Sydney, then 4 months or so later return to the UK and operate further cruises from there, as well as out of the USA.
Australian cruises proved to be very popular, be they those to the South
Pacific or the longer Asian cruises. However on April 17, 1972 during one of
these cruises whilst Orcades was in
Here we see the Orcades heading towards the end of her days
it turned out that this fine ship was heading towards her final days and
although she did operate further cruises, she departed
The RMS Orcades, the ship that was considered to be a ship of the future during her day, had been taken over by far superior ships such as the great and ultra modern SS Oriana and elegant and super sleek SS Canberra. All too soon the still beautiful Orcades was sold to “Nan Feng Steel Enterprises” being Taiwanese ship-breakers.
departed on December 28, 1972 with just a skeleton crew on board bound for the
ship breakers in
Orcades is seen here at the breakers yards as they are dismantling her interiors
But soon the blow torches will cut her up and she will be no more
Photographer unknown – Please photo notes below
SS Orcades (III) Specifications:
Built by: Vickers Armstrong Ltd, at
Launched: October 14, 1947
Tonnage: 28,164 GRT / 1959 - 28,399 GRT (Gross Registered Tons).
Dead Weight: 11.140 d.w.
Length: 709ft – 216m.
Width: 64ft – 27.6m.
Draught: 30.5ft – 9.4m.
Motive power: 6 x single reduction steam gear turbine engines by her builders.
Screws: Twin – 24,000 BHP.
Speed: 22 Knots – Max 24.74 at trails.
Passengers: 1948 - 773 First Class & 772 Tourist Class / 1964 - 1,635 One Class.
1948 - Partial Air-conditioned / 1959 - Fully Air-conditioned.
trust that this RMS/SS Orcades feature will have provided you with some good
memories, regardless if you sailed on her or not. She was a wonderful sight to
behold whenever she was in port, be it in Australian,
But for those who sailed on her, I am sure you will have enjoyed looking at some of those original interior photographs of her lounges and other venues, which were taken during the days she was still a two class liner. Sadly I do not have much of her after her refit in 1964, except for the exterior images.
A superb painting by a
Orcades (III) made countless voyages to
(III) was a ship that is still greatly loved by so many and she will be
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Commenced in the passenger Shipping Industry in May 1960
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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. 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!
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