Largs Bay

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Introduction

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.

Largs Bay
Largs Bay from the port side. Date and location are not known. [1]

Basic Data

Item Value
Type Passenger/Cargo Ship
Registered owners, managers and operators Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers, Adelaide
Builders Beardmore
Yard Dalmuir
Country UK
Yard number 616
Registry London
Official number 137225
Signal letters N/K
Call sign GSMR
Classification society N/K
Gross tonnage 14,182
Net tonnage 8,477
Deadweight N/K
Length 530.9 ft
Overall Length N/K
Breadth 68.3 ft
Depth 39.9 ft
Draught N/K
Engines Four steam turbines geared to 2 shafts
Engine builders W. Beardmore & Co. Ltd.
Works Dalmuir
Country UK
Boilers 3 double boilers operating at 220 psi
Power 1,977 NHP
Propulsion Twin screw
Speed 16 knots
Cargo capacity N/K
Passenger capacity As built: 12 First class and 712 Third class
After 1931 refit: 550 Tourist class
After 1948 refit: 290 Tourist class
Crew N/K

Additional Construction Information

Additional Construction Information

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

Career Highlights

Date Event
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

Service Pre WW2

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.
Largs Bay
Largs Bay
Largs Bay
Largs Bay
This is an article from the Sydney Morning Herald 30 June 1922 - External Ref. #15. Note that the Unions are now describing this as a case of "victimisation". [2]

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.

Service in WW2

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.

Convoys

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.

Departure Convoy/Independent Arrival
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.

Service post WW2

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”.

Largs Bay
Largs Bay from the starboard side. Date and location not known. [1]

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

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

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'.
Sandra Nagel
Passengers on the deck of Largs Bay during Sandra Nagel's passage in 1948. [4]
Sandra Nagel
Sydney Harbour Bridge looming into view from the deck of Largs Bay during Sandra's passage in 1948. [4]
Sandra Nagel
Sandra's house on arrival at Dallarnil. [4]
Largs Bay
Largs Bay docked - presumably in Australia judging by the source - but the date is unknown. [3]

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!

Image Credits

  1. By courtesy of Stan Mayes and digitally enhanced by the site owner
  2. By courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald
  3. From John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 158560 where it is described as “copyright free”.
  4. By courtesy of Sandra Nagel