This page is Captain John W. Cole's article about the British India ship Kenya. Please see this site's HOME PAGE for information about the background to content republished here.

Note: I have not checked any of the statements in the article for accuracy and republished it as presented - apart from changes to the presentation style.


Kenya was the first of two ships ordered from Barclay, Curle in 1949 for the London-East African Service, she was designed under the supervision of Captain R. Liddle, the Company's Nautical Advisor. She was launched by Lady Currie, wife of Sir William Currie G.B.E., Chairman of British India, on the 28th November 1950. Kenya had two continuous decks with a combined poop and long Bridge with raised Forecastle.
  • Built: 1951 by Barclay, Curle & Co. Ltd., Glasgow.
  • Tonnage: 14, 437g, 8, 042n, 9, 720 dwt
  • Dimensions: 539.8 O.A. x 71.4 x 38.5dft 27.5ft.
  • Engines : 2 x 3 Stage Parsons Turbines, 11, 200 SHP. 19.16 Knots at Trials.
  • Passengers: 174/150 First Class and 99/128 Tourist. Class, from March 1967 309 One Class.
  • Refrigerated Space: 25, 000 cu ft.
  • Launched 28th November 1950, completed 12th July 1951, Yard Nos. 719.
Kenya [1]
On Kenya's completion the Company Chairman Sir William Currie remarked that the builders were to be congratulated on a fine piece of workmanship 'They had', he said, 'produced a bestseller'. Prior to going into service Kenya had a shakedown cruise from Glasgow to Tilbury via the Minch and Pentland Firth during the cruise there was a moderate swell and although in light ship state she was remarkably steady with no vibration noticeable.
Sir William Currie [1]
In command at the time was Captain D. R. P. Gun-Cunninghame who had served in British India Ships since 1917 joining as a Cadet after serving in HMS Conway. His career progressed from that of Third Officer in 1920, Second Officer in 1922, Chief Officer in 1928 to that of his first command in 1940. He served in both Troopships and Store ships during the war and his command before that of Kenya was the Madura. The Chief Engineer was Mr. Thomas A. Hide who's previous ship had been the Karanja. He'd joined the Company as a Junior Engineer Officer in 1924 and had risen through the ranks before being finally promoted to Chief Engineer in April of 1945. The Chief Officer was Mr. D. J. Bardsley who had joined the Company in 1923, he was Chief Officer on the Malda when she was sunk by Japanese Warships in the Bay of Bengal in April of 1942. For his war services Mr. Bardsley had been awarded an MBE. The Purser was Mr. Lawrence Lidington who had joined the Company in 1926. Kenya sailed on her maiden voyage from London on the 25th August carrying approximately 275 passengers in two classes calling at Port Said, Port Sudan, Aden, Mombasa, Tanga, Dar-Es-Salaam, Zanzibar and Beira where she was scheduled to arrive on the 27th September. With a service speed of sixteen knots Kenya would have outperformed her predecessors the 'M' Class by some two weeks for the round trip.
Captain Gun-Cunninghame [1]
Kenya at Durban [1]
Kenya possibly at Capetown [1]

Design and Construction

Kenya Kenya Kenya Kenya
Kenya plans [1]
There was a lower deck at the sides of the Engine Room and in the three forward holds, a further two holds were aft of the machinery spaces. A tunnel flat was situated in No. 5 hold and a fresh water tank was situated between the shaft tunnels. Her outward appearance was extremely graceful having one large raked funnel, two masts, a curved raked stem and a counter stern.

The cargo holds had a total capacity of 415,000 cu ft of which 25,000 cu ft was refrigerated separated with five insulated compartments. Heavy cargo was handled by one 30 ton derrick supplemented by further 5 ton and 8 ton derricks; these were served by sixteen electric winches.

Navigational Equipment

Navigational equipment included Marconi Marine radar and radio including 'Oceanspan' and 'Relience'transmitters with 'Mercury' and 'Electra' receivers, 'Radiolocator' radar, 'Loadstone' directional finder and 'Visagraph' echometer. A Marconi 'Oceanic' sound reproducing receiver and amplifier provided news and entertainment throughout the Ship using 44 loudspeakers, microphones provided the facility for making announcements and passing orders throughout the aforementioned system.
Kenya navigational equipment [1]

Main and Auxiliary Machinery

Main propulsion was provided by two sets of Parsons steam turbines each having H.P., I.P. and L.P. turbine driving through single-reduction double-helical gears. The H.P. turbine was of the impulse reaction type and when maximum S.H.P. was required a nozzle belt was fitted, the I.P. and L.P. turbines had reaction blading throughout, the propeller shafts at service speed was 125 r.p.m. The astern turbines were designed to give 63% of normal service power, there being an H.P. astern impulse wheel in the I.P. ahead casing, separated from it by a diaphragm, the L.P. Astern turbine was incorporated at the exhaust end of the L.P. ahead turbine. The turbines were operated by manoeuvring valves, both ahead and astern valves set in one casting with a separate master shut off valve on the astern range, the very latest Aspinall governor gear was also fitted.
Kenya boilers [1]
Steam was provided by three Babcock and Wilcox boilers at a working pressure of 480lbs per sq. ins. With a total heating surface of 21,117 sq ft. Forced draught air was supplied by three Howden fans one for each boiler and one single induced fan dealt with the exhaust gases of all three boilers. The closed feed system was of the G & J Weirs design with motor driven extraction pumps.

Auxiliary power was provided by five W. H. Allen and Son 5 cylinder generators each capable of providing 390 KW at 220 volts D.C.: maximum electrical load was provided by three generators with the remaining two on stand by a more than adequate safety margin. The generator compartment was situated between the main Engine Room and the Boiler Room. The switchboard was situated behind and on the same level as the main engine control platform. All the main engine circulating pumps, ballast, bilge, fresh water and sanitary were supplied by Drysdale and Co. Ltd. and had emergency stop buttons situated on the Boat deck in the event of abandoning ship. The hot and cold fresh water worked on the Pneupress system unlike most modern ships which work on a closed feed system.

Public Areas

Kenya promenade deck [1]
The accommodation comprised a large Promenade Deck which was totally enclosed at the forward end by an Observation screen fitted with large sliding windows and was devoted to First Class public rooms. The lounge was situated at the forward end where it conformed to the wide sweep of the Bridge, the front part was slightly raised in the form of a false deck giving extra observation capabilities and also add character to the already attractive room. The circular effect was emphasised by bow windows at the sides, double glazed doors led aft on the Port side to the card room which itself had a bow window on the outboard side.

Note: The original article included the images shown below and, although it did make this clear, I believe the intention was to show that the accommodation was decorated with these images of ships.

Kenya Kenya Kenya Kenya
Kenya decorations (see note above) [1]
The colour scheme of the lounge was worthy of the setting; rose, green and fawn were used for the furnishing, the rose being a deep shade which had a hint of yellow, the green had a suggestion of blue, whilst the fawn was patterned. The carpet was of a deep rose with a beige pattern which was complimented by the sumptuous velvet cushions. Over the mantelpiece was a painting by John Leigh-Pemberton who's title 'The Grand Tour' gave a hint of its romantic flavour.

On the starboard side opposite the card room was the writing room which had a built in and concealed altar piece and was furnished with double writing tables and chairs that were upholstered in blue and pale fawn.

Aft of these rooms was the impressive Entrance Hall which had a wide staircase leading to the decks below. The Hall had corridors port and starboard which led to the Smoke Room which was square in shape and had deep recesses on each side for casement windows.

Aft over the fireplace was a painting of Mount Kenya by Mr. Strom Gould, and forward there was a buffet sideboard over which was a marquetry map panel. Settees and chairs were covered in blue, ivory and rust leather, the cushions and curtains carried the same colours of varying designs and there was a small cocktail bar which adjoined the Smoke Room.
Kenya's First Class dining room [1]
The First Class dining room was air-conditioned and situated on 'C' Deck forward, extended the full width of the ship and could seat 176 persons, a central raised roof was used for decorative effect. Around the raised roof were scantily clad damsels dressed as nymphs and shepherdesses, on an earlier visit Lady Currie, who was a staunch Presbyterian, had remarked as to their suitability. Her remark did not go unnoticed because when the Kenya's sister ship Uganda was completed, the scene depicted in her Dining Saloon was that of a far more sombre Dar-Es-Salaam. Armchairs of light-coloured green leather with ivory piping blended well with the korkboard floor covering which had a green and ivory marble tile pattern. Aft on the port side was the children's dining room which seated forty, this room could if required be divided into three private dining rooms; access was either by a staircase from 'B' deck forward of No. 3 trunked hatch or by lift from the decks above.
Kenya's tourist class lounge and smoke room [1]
The Tourist Class Smoke Room and Lounge were situated aft on 'A' Deck on which the whole deck space was available to the Tourist Class passengers including the Promenade and swimming pool. A large nursery and play area was provided forward of the lounge on the starboard side.
Kenya's tourist class dining saloon [1]
The Tourist Class Dining Saloon was situated on 'C' Deck and could accommodate 126 diners seated in armchairs, the walls of the Saloon were covered in weathered sycamore. Both classes of passengers were provided with ironing and drying rooms, a shop and hairdressing salon was provided on 'B' Deck.
Kenya staircase [1]
Several marquetry panels were situated in the public rooms and were fine examples of the craft. In the card room the subject was the reverse of ancient playing cards, chessmen, dice and a chequer board, in the making up of the panel over 739 separate pieces were used some of them from very rare species, altogether 38 different types of wood were used. A map in the Smoking Room featured the eastern part of Central Africa and adjoining lands with detailed pictorial representation one such of a British India ship which alone was made up of over 50 pieces. In the top corners of the map were cupids each made up of hundreds of pieces, the following are a selection of some of the woods used : Acacia, Amboyna, Kingwood, Olive, Barbary, Tulip, Padook, Beefwood, Indian Greywood, Laburnum, Mulberry, Orange, Yew and satinwood. Many of the woods used were extremely rare and were cut before the First World War commenced.
Cabin Accommodation
Kenya's - a First Class cabin [1]
The whole of 'A' Deck and part of 'B' Deck was devoted to first Class cabins. They were either single or double berth cabins and some were fitted with private bathrooms. Tourist cabins were of two, three or four berth; the upper bunks in the three or four berth cabins could be removed when not required giving more room to the occupants.
Kenya's ballroom [1]
Access to the veranda ballroom was on both port and starboard the brightly appointed room had screens at the side which could be opened to the after part of the Promenade deck, it had a boarded dance floor and doubled as a cinema. A flush deck cover over number four hatch extended the promenade Deck aft to the First Class swimming pool and a Nursery was provided on the boat and sports deck above.
Kenya's galley [1]
And finally the galley which has a six oven electric range, deep fat fryer and electric grill, adjoining was the butcher's shop and food preparation department. The baker had a two deck electric oven which could produce 180lbs of bread in each batch, he was also equipped with a dough mixer, griddle plates and much else. Next door was the dairy which produced its own ice cream and had the ability to produce thirty gallons of milk in less than two hours, including pasteurisation. The scullery with its enormous dishwashing machine could cope with up to three thousands pieces an hour. The laundry was equipped to cater for passengers and crew alike, it was all electric and had all the usual equipment.

Notes on Service History

Kenya inward bound suffered a fire in Number Five hold on the 11th May 1952 and had to put into Plymouth.

In 1953 she represented British India at the Spithead Review commemorating the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and in October of the same year her sister Princess Margaret was entertained to dinner after attending the opening of new deep water berths at Dar-Es-Salaam.

Due to a fall in passenger numbers attributed to East African countries Independence, increased Airline competition and the closure of the Suez Canal in 1967, Kenya was withdrawn from service in 1969 and was broken up by S.A. Cantieri Di Portovenere at Spezia.

Image Credits

  1. By courtesy of Captain John W. Cole