Macedonia (1904)



Although there have been many ships named Macedonia, the name was only used once by P&O.

Macedonia was the fourth of 10 'M Class' P&O passenger ships to be built before the start of WW1. Like the third Marmora, she was built by Harland & Wolff. Macedonia was a strange choice of name in that it was an area involved in a struggle between the Ottoman Empire and various revolutionary groups including Greeks, Bulgarians and Serbs. In WW1 the area would become a military theatre of war as the Macedonian or Salonika Front. My grandfather served there in the Royal Garrison Artillery. The area is still contested in the 21st Century.

Macedonia served with P&O as a passenger liner until being requisitioned by the Admiralty in 1914. After conversion to an Armed Merchant Cruiser, she served as HMS Macedonia during WW1, survived, and was returned to service with P&O until broken up in 1931.

Macedonia. Allan C. Green Identifier H91.325/2161 [20]

Basic Data

Item Value
Type Cargo/Passenger Ship (Ref)
Original Owners and Managers The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation
Country First Registered UK
Shipbuilder Harland & Wolff Ltd
Shipyard Belfast
Country where built UK
Yard Number 355
Official Number 116012
Call Sign signal letters VNBT
Classification Society Lloyd's Register
Gross Tonnage 10,512
Deadweight (DWT) 7332
Net Tonnage 5,244
Length 530.4 Ft
Overall Length N/K
Breadth or Beam 60.4 Ft
Depth 25.5 Ft
Draught 28 Ft 8.5"
Engine Type Quadruple-expansion Steam Engine
Engine Details 2 engines each with cylinders of bore 29", 42", 60", 85" and stroke 54"
Engine Builder Harland & Wolff Ltd
Engine Builder Works Belfast
Engine Builder Country UK
Boiler Details 5 double-ended and 2 single-ended boilers operating at 215 psi
Propulsion Type Twin Screw
Power 1,799 NHP
Maximum Speed 18
Cost of Vessel £344,296
Crew Total 327: 75 deck crew, 116 engineroom, 149 purser’s dept
Passengers 367 first class, 187 second class
Cargo Capacity 196,580 cubic feet)
Postcard showing P&O liners Persia and Macedonia at Port Said [14]

Additional Construction Information

  • 2 decks and spar deck
  • Fitted with refrigeration machinery
  • Fitted with electric lighting

The launching of the ship was announced in the 'Belfast News-Letter' on 10 July 1903.

Cutting from the 'Belfast News-Letter' [30]
Postcard showing Macedonia at an unknown location [14]

Career Highlights

Date Event
9 Jul 1903 Launched
20 Jan 1904 Completed
12 Feb 1904 Maiden voyage to India
3 Aug 1914 Hired by the UK Admiralty for use as an Armed Merchant Cruiser (AMC)
Nov 1916 Requisitioned by the UK Admiralty - this action was contested by the company
Feb 1917 Ownership returned to P&O but vessel continued to be used for war duties
1920 Returned to P&O
21 Oct 1921 First post-war voyage
Nov 1931 Sold and sent to be broken up in Japan
Postcard showing Macedonia at an unknown location [14]

Service Pre-WW1

Macedonia was registered in Belfast in January 1904 and P&O advertised her maiden voyage to Bombay and Kurrachee leaving Tilbury Dock on 12 February 1904 in several newspapers including 'The Homeward Mail' (though strangely some newspapers give the date as 11 February).

Cutting Cutting
Cuttings from 'The Homeward Mail' [31]

With the maiden voyage successfully completed, Macedonia took up her duties on the Australia route and left on her first trip 'down under' on 29 April 1904. On her return she brought along the crew of the P&O liner Australia of 1892 that had become stranded at Point Nepean near Melbourne on 20 June 1904 and was destroyed by fire on 15 July 1904 before she could be salvaged.

In 1907 she made an experimental voyage from China to Bombay to London and in 1908 set a record for a trip from Fremantle to Columbo completing this in 7 days and 20 hours.

Postcard presumably posted from a passenger aboard Macedonia postmarked Marseilles 1908 [14]

She was fitted with wireless equipment in May 1910.

In February 1913 one voyage was extended to Auckland in New Zealand.

In early 1914 the plating under the bridge was raised as she was considered a very 'wet' ship forward.

Service during WW1 has logs of the voyages of HMS Macedonia from which a lot of this information is derived. [32]

On 3 August 1914 Macedonia was requisitioned by the Admiralty and taken to Tilbury to be converted to Armed Merchant Cruiser (AMC) HMS Macedonia. The refitting took nine days and included fitting eight 4.7" guns.

By 12 August 1914 she was ready for deployment and set off for the West Indies where she was put on patrol duties off the coast of Brazil. The log for 13 September 1914 has an unusual entry stating that sacks of flour removed from German vessel Santa Catharina after interception some time earlier by HMS Glasgow was stowed alongside the engine casing to protect against shellfire. Given that flour can become explosive under certain conditions this seems a risky idea.

HMS Glasgow
HMS Glasgow before WW1: Imperial War Museum Ref. Q21286 [24]

The log entry for 3 November 1914 notes that the crew were stripping out the vessel's wooden fittings as they were considered to be a fire risk. It is interesting to note just how many log entries related to coaling.

On 8 December 1914, HMS Macedonia took part in the Battle of the Falkland Islands between the Royal Navy and the Imperial German Navy. The British had been defeated at the Battle of Coronel on 1 November 1914 and sent a large force to track down the German cruiser squadron. It is not apppropriate to condense this big topic here so I will just observe that HMS Macedonia and HMS Bristol were dispatched to destroy the German colliers Baden and Santa Isabel. Both vessels were stopped, the crews taken aboard HMS Macedonia, and the colliers sunk by gunfire. HMS Macedonia patrolled the South American Coast for most the the remainder of WW1.

HMS Bristol
Postcard showing HMS Bristol in port - details unknown [33]

In common with other vessels requisitioned by the Admiralty, HMS Macedonia was compulsorily purchased by the government in November 1916 but this was challenged by P&O and ownership reverted in February 1917.

At some time during her war service the 4.7" guns were replaced with 6" guns but I can find no information about when and where this was done though trial of 11" howitzers and 6" guns in mentioned in the log for 9 September while at Devonport where she was from 7 July 1918 until 10 September 1918.

From 20 March 1918 HMS Macedonia was redeployed as a convoy escort between West Africa and the UK and later served as a troopship.

Service Post-WW1

The ship was returned to P&O around 1920 and her name reverted to Macedonia. She joined a queue of ships being refitted and was taken to the Naval Dockyard at Portsmouth for this in 1921.

On 21 October 1921 Macedonia commenced her first postwar voyage from Tilbury to Bombay and afterwards worked mainly on the routes to India and the Far East making one last trip to Australia in 1924.

On 18 September 1931 Macedonia made a final trip to the Far East and was sold £25,000 to Amakasu Gomei Kaisha of Yokohama Japan for breaking.

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