Mongolia (1903)



The name Mongolia was used by P & O Line for two ships:

  • A passenger/refrigerated cargo ship completed in 1903 and described on this page.
  • A passenger/refrigerated cargo ship completed in 1922.

Mongolia was the second of 10 'M Class' P & O passenger ships to be built before the start of WW1 of which half were built at Greenock by Caird & Co. Mongolia was built for the route between the UK and Australia which she followed for all her working life. Unlike many of the other members of the 'M Class' vessels she was not requisitioned by the Admiralty. She sank in 1917 after striking a mine off Bombay.

Mongolia at a wharf with a tug alongside. Ref: Allan C. Green H91.108/1581 [20]

Basic Data

Item Value
Type Passenger Ship
Original Owners and Managers The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation
Country First Registered UK
Shipbuilder Caird & Co Ltd
Shipyard Greenock
Country where built UK
Yard Number 302
Official Number 117383
Call Sign Signal letters VGSW
Classification Society Lloyd’s Register
Gross Tonnage 9,505
Deadweight (DWT) 5401
Net Tonnage 4,936
Length 520.9 Ft
Overall Length N/K
Breadth or Beam 58.3 Ft
Depth 33.5 Ft
Draught 26 Ft 4"
Engine Type Triple-expansion Steam Engine
Engine Details Cylinders of bore 33", 52.5" 84" and stroke 54"
Engine Builder Caird & Co Ltd
Engine Builder Works Greenock
Engine Builder Country UK
Boiler Details 3 double-ended and 4 single-ended boiler operating at 185 psi
Propulsion Type Twin Screw
Power 1,588 NHP
Maximum Speed 16.5
Cost of Vessel £336,024
Crew 370
Passengers 348 first class, 166 second class
Cargo Capacity 206,794 cubic Ft. including 74,281 cubic Ft. insulated
Postcard showing Mongolia [14]

Additional Construction Information

  • 3 decks - spar deck
  • Fitted with refrigeration machinery
  • Fitted with electric lighting

According to Neil McCart [1] the layout of the vessel was much the same on all the 'M Class' ships and as described below:

There were five passenger decks, the uppermost being the boat deck with the midships section for the use of 1st Class passengers. Below this was the promenade deck with once again 1st Class accommodation amidships with the aft area reserved for 2nd Class Saloon passengers. Below this was the hurricane deck where most of the public rooms for both classes were situation. The 1st Class lounge, music room and smoke room were amidships and the 2nd saloon, music room and smoke room aft. Next came the spar deck which ran the whole length of the ship and on which were situated the dining saloons for both classes and the galleys. The main deck was beneath this and here there were some passenger cabins for both classes.
Postcard showing Mongolia [14]

On 29 October 1903 a group of dignitaries were taken for a trial trip in Mongolia and the event was recorded by a long article in the 'Greenock Telegraph and Clyde Shipping Gazette' on the following day:

Cutting from the 'Greenock Telegraph and Clyde Shipping Gazette' [2]

Career Highlights

Date Event
13 Aug 1903 Launched
29 Oct 1903 Completed
20 Nov 1903 Maiden voyage London to Bombay
23 Jun 1917 Sank after striking a mine

Service Pre-WW1

Mongolia left on her maiden voyage from London to Bombay on 20 November 1903. Passengers included Lady Cromer, wife of the Comptroller General of Egypt, Sir William Preece who was responsible for the introduction of the telegraph service into England, and Prince Ranjitsinghe an Indian aristocrat. The outward voyage went without incident but the vessel encountered severe weather in the Bay of Biscay on the return trip which caused minor damage to the ship and injuries to several members of the crew.

During the next voyage to Sydney Mongolia was intercepted by Russian warships in the Red Sea. The Russians were looking for Japanese vessels following the outbreak of war between Russia and Japan a few weeks earlier. After inspection she was allowed to proceed.

For the rest of her life, Mongolia would work the UK to Australia service. In January 1905 she managed a record trip from Marseilles to Fremantle in 23 days 16 hours.

On 6 March 1908 she arrived in Marseilles with a fire in one of her holds. Although it was extinguished, heavy damage was done to the cargo and baggage.

on 28 December 1908 she rammed and sank the Customs tug Blackeyed Susan at Fremantle. One member of the tug's crew was drowned.

On 25 June 1911, Mongolia took part in the review of the fleet by King George V at Spithead. Although the event comprised mainly of warships, it seems there were five merchant ships to carry 'the great and the good' including members of the Houses of Lords and Commons and various dignataries from around the world. A number of Indian Princes were amongst those aboard Mongolia.

Service during WW1

Mongolia continued to operate on passenger services during WW1 until her loss.


On 23 June 1917 Mongolia struck a mine laid by the German raider Wolf about 50 miles South by West of Bombay, and sank in thirteen minutes. She was en route from London to India, China and Australia with passengers and mails. Three passengers, 3 engineers and 14 other crew members died in the explosion. Efficient boat drill enabled all the 450 or so survivors to leave the ship, although two crew were drowned when landing from the boats, and another died later from injuries sustained in the blast. Despite the monsoon the boats all made the coast at or near Janjira, apart from one which landed at Bombay.

Details of the merchant seamen that lost their lives can be found on the Benjidog Tower Hill website HERE.

The loss was reported in most UK newspapers including the 'Derby Daily Telegraph' which had a slightly more detailed account on 28 June 1917.

Cutting from the 'Derby Daily Telegraph' [21]

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