Largs Bay was launched in 1921, as a mixed passenger/cargo ship. During WW2 she took part in a large number of convoys. She survived the war and was scrapped in 1957 so had a service life of 36 years. Her sister ships were Jervis Bay, Moreton Bay, Esperance Bay and Hobsons Bay. She carried many passengers to Australia to start new lives after WW2. One of her last uses was as a film set for some of the interior scenes in the 1958 film "A night to remember" about the loss of Titanic.
|Registered owners, managers and operators||Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers, Adelaide|
|Engines||Four steam turbines geared to 2 shafts|
|Engine builders||W. Beardmore & Co. Ltd.|
|Boilers||3 double boilers operating at 220 psi|
|Passenger capacity||As built: 12 First class and 712 Third class
After 1931 refit: 550 Tourist class
After 1948 refit: 290 Tourist class
The Lloyds Register entry for Largs Bay for 1940-41 has the following additional information about her:
- Two steel decks and a shelter deck with a 3rd deck in forward holds
- She was fitted with echo-sounding and radio direction-finding equipment
|20 June 1921||Launched|
|22 December 1921||Completed|
|4 January 1922||Maiden Voyage|
|1928||Sold to White Star Line London|
|1931||Rebuilt to 14,184 grt. And converted to 550 single class tourist berths.|
|1932||Sold as part of the Aberdeen Line to Shaw, Savill & Albion following the collapse of the Kylsant shipping group.|
|1933||Transferred to Aberdeen and Commonwealth Line, London|
|1936||Transferred to Furness Withy & Co. when they took control of Shaw, Savill & Albion|
|August 1941||Requisitioned as troop transport in WW2|
|1948/9||Refitted and returned to Aberdeen and Commonwealth Line for “all tourist class” passengers|
|22 August 1957||Broken up at Barrow|
Largs Bay was built for the London to Australia route and her maiden voyage was on 4 January 1922 from London to Australia via Suez. Destinations were Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
Involvement in Labour Dispute
Shortly after her maiden voyage, Largs Bay became entangled in a bitter dispute between the Australian Seaman’s Union and the Australian Government.
The following is a transcript from The Times of 9 March 1922:
Australian Ships Threatened - Sydney Union Obdurate
(From our own correspondent Melbourne March 8)
The humiliations to which the Federal Government has been subjected by the Seamen’s Union in Sydney over the Commonwealth-owned liners Moreton Bay and Largs Bay are causing it seriously to consider whether it can continue the business of shipbuilding.
The British-shipped crew of the Moreton Bay had to be sent back as passengers and an Australian crew substituted, and similar tactics have been adopted with regard to the Largs Bay. Not only was a new crew shipped, but no freedom of choice was allowed in their selection.
The captain refused to accept one man as boatswain, although he was taken on as an able seaman next day, which was the day of sailing from Sydney. The management of the line were informed that if men nominated by the union were not accepted, no crew would be available. The chief steward having objected to some men who offered their service as stewards, the union declared that if the chief steward were retained no stewards would sign on: consequently the chief steward was relieved of his duties and taken as a passenger, Eight junior engineers were treated similarly and replaced by other engineers nominated by the institute.
"These men," said the Prime Minister, in giving the report of his officers, "are creating a situation which makes it absolutely impossible to carry on. The Government will have to consider its policy in regard to shipbuilding; there is only one course open. These liners are equipped with special life-saving apparatus which it requires expert knowledge to manipulate. The engineers were practically placed in the ship by the builders; most of them had been employed on building the ship. The union has taken them out and compelled the acceptance of men who know nothing of the engines; this affects not only the safety of the ship but its speed. This is how the union acts towards a great enterprise in which £10,000,000 of public money is invested."
Mr. Hughes claims that the Government is forced to yield owing to the valuable cargo and its obligations to passengers. The departure of the Largs Bay was delayed for many hours while the dispute continued. When from an adjoining wharf a British-owned passenger steamer left her berth exactly at the time fixed for the Largs Bay the passengers who were standing about in the rain cheered enthusiastically.
The situation appears to have been no better in June based on this report from The Times dated 29 June 1922:
No Crew for Largs Bay
(From our own correspondent - Melbourne June 28)
The efforts of the management of the Commonwealth Shipping Line to obtain a trade union crew for the Largs Bay have failed and the other sections of the steamer’s complement are being paid off.
Mr. Hughes, the Prime Minister, is satisfied that something like a reign of terror exists, whereby men willing to offer their services are being deterred by threats of violence or "blacklisting." Unless the management can exercise absolute freedom of choice among the members of the men’s union, the Government will immediately pay off and lay up, not only the Largs Bay, but all the Government ships, The union, Mr. Hughes considers, is attempting to establish a system of Sovietism which the Government cannot tolerate.
Most of the complement of the liner Largs Bay had been secured in Sydney for the return voyage to London via Brisbane, when the Seaman’s union took exception to the boatswain who the officers had engaged and the steamer was held up. Our correspondent at Melbourne, telegraphing on Sunday, stated that each of the Commonwealth Government liners involved the Government win heavy expense over industrial complications.
On 5 July 1922 the London Times newspaper carried this follow-up article:
Largs Bay to have a crew
(From our own correspondent)
The Seamen’s Union at Sydney has withdrawn the boatswain who was the primary cause of the dispute over the Commonwealth liner Largs Bay, and has offered to supply a crew. Mr. Hughes expresses his pleasure that the Union is showing signs of returning sense, but says that it is not enough to have retreated from its untenable position; the Commonwealth Line must have a definite understanding that its vessels will in future be manned by members of the Union without friction or delay.
The dispute over Largs Bay arose because the Seaman’s Union objected to the boatswain who had been engaged as a member or the crew for the voyage from Sydney to London and insisted that another man, whom it nominated, should be engaged. When the management of the line refused to submit to this dictation the Union made it impossible to sign on a crew. The Government strongly supported the management in its stand against what Mr. Hughes described as an attempt to establish a system of Sovietism.
The newspaper archives carry no further articles that I have discovered so it is to be presumed that this was the end of the dispute.
New Route Announced
On 29 January 1929 the London Times had an announcement informing readers that the “Bay” ships will be departing for Australia from Southampton with 14 sailings to Brisbane during the year calling at Malta, Port Said, Columbo, Freemantle, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney. Largs Bay would have been one of these ships.
At the outbreak of WW2, Largs Bay was in transit from Australia to Britain with passengers and cargo. She unloaded her cargo at Malta and made it safely back to Britain with her passengers. She continued to be used for commercial purposes until being requisitioned as a troopship in August 1941.
Largs Bay took part in 38 convoys plus various independent voyages according to information shown in the table below which is provided courtesy of Convoyweb - see External Ref. #4. She was deployed as a troopship in August 1941 and transported troops from Singapore amongst other places.
|Port Said, Sep 9, 1939||BLUE.1 (Port Said - Gibraltar)||Gibraltar, Sep 19, 1939|
|Gibraltar, Sep 26, 1939||HG.1 (Gibraltar - Liverpool)||London, Oct 7, 1939|
|London, Nov 14, 1939||Independent||Gibraltar, Nov 21, 1939|
|Gibraltar, Nov 21, 1939||Independent||Malta, Nov 24, 1939|
|Malta, Nov 24, 1939||Independent||Port Said, Nov 27, 1939|
|Suez, Nov 28, 1939||Independent||Aden, Dec 2, 1939|
|Aden, Dec 2, 1939||Independent||Colombo, Dec 9, 1939|
|Colombo, Dec 10, 1939||Independent||Fremantle, Dec 19, 1939|
|Fremantle, Dec 20, 1939||Independent||Adelaide, Dec 26, 1939|
|Adelaide, Dec 27, 1939||Independent||Melbourne, Dec 28, 1939|
|Melbourne, Dec 30, 1939||Independent||Sydney NSW, Jan 1, 1940|
|Sydney NSW, Jan 2, 1940||Independent||Brisbane, Jan 4, 1940|
|Brisbane, Jan 8, 1940||Independent||Newcastle NSW, Jan 9, 1940|
|Newcastle NSW, Jan 10, 1940||Independent||Sydney NSW, Jan 11, 1940|
|Sydney NSW, Jan 13, 1940||Independent||Melbourne, Jan 15, 1940|
|Melbourne, Jan 17, 1940||Independent||Adelaide, Jan 18, 1940|
|Adelaide, Jan 19, 1940||Independent||Fremantle, Jan 23, 1940|
|Fremantle, Jan 24, 1940||Independent||Colombo, Feb 3, 1940|
|Colombo, Feb 4, 1940||Independent||Aden, Feb 10, 1940|
|Aden, Feb 10, 1940||Independent||Suez, Feb 14, 1940|
|Port Said, Feb 16, 1940||Independent||Malta, Feb 20, 1940|
|Malta, Feb 21, 1940||Independent||Gibraltar, Feb 24, 1940|
|Gibraltar, Feb 25, 1940||Independent||London, Mar 2, 1940|
|London, Mar 30, 1940||Independent||Gibraltar, Apr 4, 1940|
|Gibraltar, Apr 4, 1940||Independent||Malta, Apr 7, 1940|
|Malta, Apr 7, 1940||Independent||Port Said, Apr 10, 1940|
|Suez, Apr 11, 1940||Independent||Aden, Apr 15, 1940|
|Aden, Apr 15, 1940||Independent||Colombo, Apr 21, 1940|
|Colombo, Apr 22, 1940||Independent||Fremantle, May 1, 1940|
|Fremantle, May 2, 1940||Independent||Melbourne, May 6, 1940|
|Melbourne, May 8, 1940||Independent||Sydney NSW, May 10, 1940|
|Sydney NSW, May 15, 1940||Independent||Brisbane, May 16, 1940|
|Brisbane, May 21, 1940||Independent||Sydney NSW, May 23, 1940|
|Sydney NSW, May 28, 1940||Independent||Fremantle, Jun 5, 1940|
|Fremantle, Jun 6, 1940||Independent||Colombo, Jun 16, 1940|
|Colombo, Jun 17, 1940||Independent||Bombay, Jun 20, 1940|
|Bombay, Jul 4, 1940||Independent||Mombasa, Jul 12, 1940|
|Mombasa, Jul 12, 1940||Independent||Capetown, Jul 20, 1940|
|Capetown, Jul 21, 1940||Independent||St Helena, Jul 26, 1940|
|St Helena, Jul 26, 1940||Independent||Freetown, Jul 31, 1940|
|Freetown, Aug 2, 1940||SL.42 (Freetown - Liverpool)||Cardiff, Aug 21, 1940|
|Cardiff, Sep 14, 1940||Independent||Liverpool, Sep 15, 1940|
|Liverpool, Sep 25, 1940||OB.219 (Liverpool - Dispersed)|
|Independent||Capetown, Oct 21, 1940|
|Capetown, Oct 23, 1940||Independent||Fremantle, Nov 7, 1940|
|Fremantle, Nov 7, 1940||Independent||Adelaide, Nov 11, 1940|
|Adelaide, Nov 13, 1940||Independent||Melbourne, Nov 14, 1940|
|Melbourne, Nov 16, 1940||Independent||Sydney NSW, Nov 18, 1940|
|Sydney NSW, Nov 24, 1940||Independent||Brisbane, Nov 25, 1940|
|Brisbane, Nov 30, 1940||Independent||Sydney NSW, Dec 2, 1940|
|Sydney NSW, Dec 10, 1940||Independent||Melbourne, Dec 12, 1940|
|Melbourne, Dec 14, 1940||Independent||Fremantle, Dec 19, 1940|
|Fremantle, Dec 20, 1940||Independent||Durban, Jan 4, 1941|
|Durban, Jan 7, 1941||Independent||Capetown, Jan 10, 1941|
|Capetown, Jan 12, 1941||Independent||Freetown, Jan 22, 1941|
|Clyde, Feb 8, 1941||not reported||Avonmouth, Feb 13, 1941|
|Avonmouth, Mar 5, 1941||Independent||Swansea, Mar 8, 1941|
|Swansea, Mar 15, 1941||not reported|
|Clyde, Mar 21, 1941||Independent||Freetown, Apr 4, 1941|
|Freetown, Apr 8, 1941||Independent||Capetown, Apr 19, 1941|
|Capetown, Apr 21, 1941||Independent||Melbourne, May 9, 1941|
|Melbourne, May 12, 1941||Independent||Sydney NSW, May 13, 1941|
|Sydney NSW, May 24, 1941||Independent||Brisbane, May 26, 1941|
|Brisbane, May 31, 1941||Independent||Sydney NSW, Jun 1, 1941|
|Sydney NSW, Jun 2, 1941||Independent||Wellington, Jun 5, 1941|
|Wellington, Jun 10, 1941||Independent||Balboa, Jul 1, 1941|
|Cristobal, Jul 2, 1941||Independent||Curacao, Jul 4, 1941|
|Curacao, Jul 5, 1941||Independent||Halifax, Jul 11, 1941|
|Halifax, Jul 16, 1941||HX.139 (Halifax - Liverpool)||Clyde, Jul 31, 1941|
|Clyde, Aug 31, 1941||WS.11 (Liverpool - Split Into Ws11f & Ws11s)|
|WS.11F (to AT SEA - Freetown)||Freetown, Sep 13, 1941|
|Freetown, Sep 18, 1941||WS.11 (Liverpool - Split Into Ws11f & Ws11s)||Capetown, Sep 30, 1941|
|Capetown, Oct 3, 1941||WS.11 (Liverpool - Split Into Ws11f & Ws11s)|
|WS.11X (to AT SEA FM WS 011D - Bombay)||Bombay, Oct 22, 1941|
|Bombay, Oct 27, 1941||WS.11X (to AT SEA FM WS 011D - Bombay)||Colombo, Oct 31, 1941|
|Colombo, Oct 31, 1941||WS.11X (to AT SEA FM WS 011D - Bombay)||Singapore, Nov 6, 1941|
|Singapore, Nov 15, 1941||Independent||Sydney NSW, Nov 27, 1941|
|Sydney NSW, Dec 12, 1941||Independent||Auckland, Dec 17, 1941|
|Auckland, Dec 18, 1941||Independent||Balboa, Jan 8, 1942|
|Cristobal, Jan 10, 1942||Independent||Curacao, Jan 12, 1942|
|Curacao, Jan 13, 1942||Independent||Bermuda, Jan 17, 1942|
|Bermuda, Jan 18, 1942||Independent||Halifax, Jan 21, 1942|
|Halifax, Jan 30, 1942||NA.2 (Halifax - Clyde)||Clyde, Feb 8, 1942|
|not reported||Clyde, Mar 17, 1942|
|Clyde, Mar 22, 1942||WS.17 (Oversay - Freetown)||Freetown, Apr 6, 1942|
|Freetown, Apr 7, 1942||AS.2A (Freetown - Capetown)|
|Freetown, Apr 9, 1942||WS.17A (Freetown - Durban)|
|AS.2A (Freetown - Capetown)||Capetown, Apr 19, 1942|
|WS.17A (Freetown - Durban)||Durban, Apr 22, 1942|
|Durban, Apr 25, 1942||Independent||Capetown, Apr 28, 1942|
|Capetown, May 4, 1942||Independent||Buenos Aires, May 17, 1942|
|Buenos Aires, May 18, 1942||Independent||La Plata, May 19, 1942|
|La Plata, Jun 3, 1942||Independent||Buenos Aires, Jun 4, 1942|
|Buenos Aires, Jun 5, 1942||Independent||Montevideo, Jun 6, 1942|
|Montevideo, Jun 8, 1942||Independent||Freetown, Jun 20, 1942|
|Freetown, Jun 21, 1942||Independent||Clyde, Jul 5, 1942|
|Clyde, Jul 29, 1942||WS.21 (Clyde - Freetown)||Freetown, Aug 10, 1942|
|Freetown, Aug 15, 1942||WS.21 (Clyde - Freetown)||Durban, Aug 30, 1942|
|Durban, Sep 1, 1942||Independent||Port Elizabeth, Sep 2, 1942|
|Port Elizabeth, Sep 10, 1942||Independent||Capetown, Sep 13, 1942|
|Capetown, Sep 18, 1942||CF.5A (Capetown - Freetown)||Freetown, Sep 29, 1942|
|Freetown, Sep 30, 1942||CF.5B (Freetown - Clyde)||Belfast Lough, Oct 12, 1942|
|Belfast Lough, Oct 12, 1942||not reported||Avonmouth, Oct 14, 1942|
|Avonmouth, Oct 27, 1942||WS.24 (Liverpool - Bahia)||Durban, Dec 5, 1942|
|Durban, Dec 9, 1942||Independent||Capetown, Dec 12, 1942|
|Capetown, Dec 19, 1942||Independent||Freetown, Dec 29, 1942|
|Freetown, Jan 1, 1943||Independent||New York, Jan 15, 1943|
|New York, Jan 30, 1943||HX.225 (NYC - Liverpool)||Liverpool, Feb 13, 1943|
|Liverpool, Jun 19, 1943||KMF.17 (Clyde - Algiers)||Algiers, Jun 27, 1943|
|Algiers, Jun 28, 1943||MKF.17 (Algiers - Gibraltar)||Gibraltar, Jun 30, 1943|
|Gibraltar, Jul 4, 1943||RS.7 (Gibraltar - Freetown)||Freetown, Jul 11, 1943|
|Freetown, Jul 15, 1943||Independent||Lagos, Jul 19, 1943|
|Lagos, Jul 23, 1943||Independent||Freetown, Jul 28, 1943|
|Freetown, Aug 1, 1943||Independent||Takoradi, Aug 5, 1943|
|Takoradi, Aug 6, 1943||Independent||Lagos, Aug 7, 1943|
|Lagos, Aug 8, 1943||Independent|
|WS.32 (Clyde - Freetown)||Capetown, Aug 18, 1943|
|Capetown, Aug 19, 1943||WS.32 (Clyde - Freetown)||Durban, Aug 22, 1943|
|Durban, Aug 28, 1943||WS.32 (Clyde - Freetown)||Bombay, Sep 10, 1943|
|Bombay, Sep 26, 1943||Independent||Aden, Oct 2, 1943|
|Aden, Oct 3, 1943||Independent||Suez, Oct 7, 1943|
|Port Said, Oct 17, 1943||MKF.25 (Port Said - Clyde)||Cardiff, Nov 5, 1943|
|Cardiff, Dec 12, 1943||Independent||Clyde, Dec 13, 1943|
|Clyde, Dec 16, 1943||KMF.27 (Clyde - Port Said)||Oran, Dec 25, 1943|
|Oran, Dec 25, 1943||not reported||Algiers, Dec 26, 1943|
|Algiers, Dec 27, 1943||not reported||Oran, Dec 28, 1943|
|Oran, Dec 29, 1943||NSF.11 (Oran - Naples)||Naples, Jan 2, 1944|
|Naples, Jan 18, 1944||NV.16 (Naples - Augusta)||Augusta, Jan 19, 1944|
|Augusta, Jan 20, 1944||GUS.28 (Port Said - Hampton Rds)||Bizerta, Jan 22, 1944|
|Augusta, Jan 26, 1944||MKS.38 (Port Said - Gibraltar)||Gibraltar, Feb 1, 1944|
|Bizerta, Feb 1, 1944||GUS.29 (Port Said - Hampton Rds)||Gibraltar, Feb 5, 1944|
|Gibraltar, Apr 6, 1944||GUS.35 (Port Said - Hampton Rds)||Baltimore, Apr 22, 1944|
|Baltimore, Jun 11, 1944||Independent||New York, Jun 13, 1944|
|New York, Jun 24, 1944||CU.29 (NYC - Liverpool)||Clyde, Jul 5, 1944|
|Clyde, Aug 3, 1944||UC.32 (Liverpool - NYC)||New York, Aug 14, 1944|
|New York, Aug 27, 1944||CU.37 (NYC - Liverpool)||Liverpool, Sep 7, 1944|
|Liverpool, Sep 19, 1944||UC.38A (Liverpool - NYC)||New York, Sep 30, 1944|
|New York, Oct 15, 1944||CU.43 (NYC - Liverpool)|
|Independent||Plymouth, Oct 25, 1944|
|Plymouth, Oct 30, 1944||Independent||Clyde, Nov 2, 1944|
|Clyde, Nov 16, 1944||Independent||Liverpool, Nov 17, 1944|
|Independent||Stavanger, May 6, 1945|
|Liverpool, May 6, 1945||Independent||Clyde, May 7, 1945|
|Clyde, May 8, 1945||DS.65 (Clyde - Iceland)||Iceland, May 12, 1945|
|Iceland, May 12, 1945||SD.65 (Iceland - Clyde)||Clyde, May 15, 1945|
|Clyde, May 22, 1945||Independent||Tromso, May 26, 1945|
|Tromso, May 29, 1945||Independent||Christiansand, Jun 7, 1945|
|Stavanger, Jun 7, 1945||Independent|
|Chritiansand, Jun 8, 1945||Independent||Oslo, Jun 9, 1945|
|Oslo, Jun 10, 1945||Independent||Trondheim, Jun 17, 1945|
|Trondheim, Jun 18, 1945||Independent||Faslane, Jun 21, 1945|
|Faslane, Jun 27, 1945||Independent||Port Said, Jul 9, 1945|
|Suez, Jul 10, 1945||Independent||Bombay, Jul 18, 1945|
|Bombay, Jul 24, 1945||Independent||Karachi, Jul 26, 1945|
|Karachi, Jul 26, 1945||Independent||Basra, Jul 30, 1945|
|Basra, Aug 1, 1945||Independent||Karachi, Aug 5, 1945|
|Karachi, Aug 7, 1945||Independent||Bombay, Aug 9, 1945|
|Bombay, Sep 2, 1945||Independent||Singapore, Sep 15, 1945|
|Singapore, Sep 23, 1945||Independent||Darwin, Sep 29, 1945|
|Darwin, Sep 29, 1945||Independent||Brisbane, Oct 6, 1945|
|Brisbane, Oct 8, 1945||Independent||Sydney NSW, Oct 9, 1945|
|Sydney NSW, Oct 17, 1945||Independent||Darwin, Oct 24, 1945|
|Darwin, Oct 26, 1945||Independent||Singapore, Nov 1, 1945|
|Singapore, Nov 7, 1945||Independent||Calcutta, Nov 12, 1945|
|Calcutta, Nov 19, 1945||Independent||Rangoon, Nov 21, 1945|
|Rangoon, Nov 24, 1945||Independent||Port Swettenham, Nov 27, 1945|
|Port Swettenham, Nov 27, 1945||Independent||Singapore, Nov 29, 1945|
|Singapore, Dec 5, 1945||Independent||Madras, Dec 10, 1945|
|Madras, Dec 18, 1945||Independent||Singapore, Dec 23, 1945|
|Singapore, Dec 26, 1945||Independent||Rangoon, Dec 30, 1945|
|Rangoon, Dec 31, 1945||Independent|
Stan Mayes served on Largs Bay from 10 June 1943 to 5 November 1943 and accounts of his voyages during that period can be found in the Benjidog Recollections website HERE.
Damaged by Mine
According to External Ref. #38, Largs Bay struck a mine on 2 January 1944 on entering Naples harbour but there is no information recorded about this against convoy NV16 or the extent of the damage - though it must have been relatively slight as she left Naples within two weeks.
Repatriation of Servicemen
At the end of the war, Largs Bay was used to repatriate those who had fought in the war.
The distinguished involvement of the Australian 2/26th Brigade in Singapore is described at the Australian War Memorial at External Ref. #18. The survivors of the brigade had been taken prisoner by the Japanese when Singapore had to surrender on 15 February 1942; they were in captivity for three and a half years.
Largs Bay is also mentioned in an article about Captain Frank Cahill in External Ref. #17. Captain Cahill was a Medical Officer in the Australian 2/9 Field Ambulance. He was taken prisoner by the Japanese in 1942. Over the next three years he cared for the POWs in appalling circumstances and was:
.... liberated from Changi camp on the 14th September 1945 and repatriated to Australia on the troop ship Largs Bay”.
Australia and Emigrants
Largs Bay carried many emigrants seeking a new life in Australia and is mentioned in “Ten pound Poms” - External Ref. #16 which refers to a fire on board in 1949:
Arab politics and society were misunderstood and ridiculed by British migrants but the Arab world could also be deeply threatening. Ports were closed because of the "troubles"; soldiers with machine guns patrolled the docks; Arabs threw stones and made rude gestures as the migrants visited their ports or sailed through the Suez Canal. Mostly the meetings were brief and the migrants could escape to the security of the ship, but just occasionally the threat felt very real. In 1949 Bunty Davis was sailing with her family on the Largs Bay when it caught fire in the Suez Canal. The passengers were put ashore in Aden for three and a half weeks and housed in an army barracks where women and men were in separate quarters: "it was quite dangerous because it was - the Arabs used to try and invade the women's quarters so they eventually had to separate us into families".
This paints a very unpleasant picture of Arab-European relations at this time, which is of course not long after the partitioning of Palestine. It demonstrates that Largs Bay was transporting migrants to Australia at this time.
There are further references to this fire at External Ref. 20, as follows:
Mr.S.T.Roker wrote on this website at 2007-08-05 12:10:35
My mother and father meet each other when they came from England to Australia in 1949 on the Largs Bay. The ship left England in August of 1949 after delays. The ship caught fire near Suez and the passangers were off loaded in Aden for some weeks. To put the fire out the ship was flooded and sunk. They then refloated it and after repairs continuied to Australia in Oct 1949.
bourkie wrote on the same website at 2008-08-29 11:32:27
I was actually aboard the SS Largs Bay during the Suez Incident. I was however just 9 years old and on my way to Australia with my family. I am not sure exactly why we were kept in the Suez Canal but we were there for around 4 weeks. I can also remember having Arab soldiers aboard (all very frightening for a 9 year old) It was not a pleasant voyage at all as we also broke down several times and I recall one time being somewhere in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
Helen Sowada described her experiences as a migrant in 1956 on the NSW Migration Heritage Centre website - External Ref. #19. Helen travelled to Australia towards the end of the life of Largs Bay and makes the following observations:
When I saw the ship I nearly had a heart attack. I was expecting a big fancy liner, like the Queen Mary, and it was this dreadful looking tub of a ship and it wasn’t very big. I thought, “I don’t believe I’m going all that way in that”. The ship really looked as though it had seen better days, and it had because it was scrapped the year later. The Largs Bay was built in the ’20s.
We left from Tilbury in London on 14 August 1956. Initially it was going to be Portsmouth - we were supposed to go through the Suez Canal but because of the [Suez Crisis] they had to change. We went round South Africa instead and it took twice as long. The ship was a freighter carrying 300 passengers and a cargo of motor cars and so our port stops were long. We stayed three days [each] in Cape Town, Durban and Fremantle. We stayed about the same amount of time in the Canary Islands, picking up cargo.
I got on quite well with the crew and they were all good fun. We had a library, we had a lounge. Most were young people on this ship. We were very lucky on that voyage because we had several well-known Australian actors on board and sitting at my table were Slim DeGray and Frank Wilson.
It took six weeks to get here, it was 26 September in Melbourne, 1956. John McNabb met the ship and took me to a church hostel for country girls. I made quite a few friends there and wasn’t alone. They had their dining room, their own cooks, so I didn’t have to worry about food.
Sandra Nagel contacted me as another "Ten-pound Pom". Her family emigrated from Harrogate in Yorkshire in 1948. She kindly shared the following description and some photographs taken during the voyage:
The voyage was incredibly long due to Maritime disputes with the unions at Freemantle, Melbourne and Sydney. We were billeted out for a few days at Melbourne. I think the wharfies were striking over the loading of barbed wire in Freemantle, West Australia.
We came to at Dallarnil, Queensland Australia (literally 'the back of beyond'). It was quite a shock finding ourselves so far from people and activities. Dallarnil, a country area, was 30 miles from the closest town, Childers, which was a village. In retrospect, we would have been better staying in Sydney!
It has all worked out for me now however. The 'Ten-pound-Pom' has survived the rigours of Australian life and loves being an 'Aussie'.
Largs Bay was destined to provide a service from Southampton to Australia until her last commercial trip in April 1957 after which she made her last trip to Barrow where she was broken up.
There is a reference to another fire in 1957 at External Ref. #20 in a contribution to the thread by someone named Bob. By this time Largs Bay was clearly on her last legs and it seems was lucky to complete her last voyage at all.
I was on the last voyage of the Largs Bay to Australia in 1957. We came around the Cape of Good Hope because the Suez was blocked after Prime Minister Eden ordered the bombing of shipping there.
There was a reported fire in the Indian Ocean but it turned out to be lit by some of the passengers in a porthole well - they were cooking sausages. The bosun saw flames shooting through an open porthole and, because the ship was otherwise in darkness, it appeared to him like a very big fire. It was doused with half a can of beer! The ship was then running on a back-up generator, the main system having been put out of action when hit by a storm.
There was a near riot on the wharf when we reached Fremantle, the passengers and crew, threatening a sort of mutiny. (No great threat really.) The engine failed again in The Bight and the skipper rigged a sail during that night. Someone has a picture of the ship with a sail rigged! I'd love to see it.
Still unable to steer, we nearly ran into Kangaroo Island and eventually made it to Adelaide. We never reached our destination - Sydney. I seem to recall one of the passengers threatening to sue the shipping company because he was deprived of his 10 year wish to sail under the Harbour Bridge on returning home.
Film Set for Titanic (1958)
According to External Ref. #21, in the last days before she was scrapped, Largs Bay was used as a set for some of the scenes in the 1958 film about the Titanic called “A night to remember”. Most of the exterior sets used Austurius, but Largs Bay is believed to have been used for interior shots. Given the descriptions above she was unlikely to have been used for any of the scenes involving First Class accommodation!
- By courtesy of Stan Mayes and digitally enhanced by the site owner
- By courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald
- From John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 158560 where it is described as “copyright free”.
- By courtesy of Sandra Nagel