Mooltan (1905)



The name Mooltan was used by P & O Line for three ships:

  • A passenger liner completed in 1861 that disappeared in the Atlantic in 1891
  • A passenger/refrigerated cargo ship completed in 1905 and described on this page
  • A passenger/refrigerated cargo ship completed in 1923 and broken up in 1954

Mooltan was the fifth of 10 'M Class' P & O passenger ships to be built before the start of WW1. Like the first two, this vessel was built at Greenock by Caird & Co. and was named after Multan - a town in the Punjab now part of Pakistan.

Mooltan served with P & O as a passenger liner and was not requisitioned by the Admiralty in WW1 like many of the other 'M Class' ships. She continued to provide passenger services until sunk by German submarine UB-27 south of Sardinia in 1917.

Mooltan. Allan C. Green. Accession No. H91.325/604 [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 Caird & Co Ltd
Shipyard Greenock
Country where built UK
Yard Number 306
Official Number 117397
Call Sign HDNQ
Classification Society Lloyd’s Register
Gross Tonnage 9,621
Deadweight (DWT) 7380
Net Tonnage 4,828
Length 520.4 Ft
Overall Length N/K
Breadth or Beam 58.3 Ft
Depth 24.7 Ft
Draught 29 Ft 5"
Engine Type Quadruple-expansion Steam Engine
Engine Details Cylinders of bore 30",48" 61", 87" and stroke 54"
Engine Builder Caird & Co Ltd
Engine Builder Works Greenock
Engine Builder Country UK
Boiler Details N/K
Propulsion Type Twin Screw
Power N/K
Maximum Speed 18
Cost of Vessel £314,982
Crew N/K
Passengers 348 first class, 166 second class
Cargo Capacity 192,800 Cub. Ft. inc. 68,478 refrigerated

Additional Construction Information

  • Fitted with electric lighting

First Class cabins were on the main deck amidships and Second Class on the same deck but further aft. The overall layout was much like the earlier members of the 'M Class' ships and the public rooms were once again designed by T.E. Calcutt.

Mooltan. Allan C. Green. Accession No. H91.108/1621 [20]

Career Highlights

Date Event
3 Aug 1905 Launched without a formal ceremony
4 Oct 1905 Registered and left the shipyard 4 days later
3 Nov 1905 Maiden voyage to India
19 Jan 1906 Transferred to the Australia service
26 Jul 1917 Torpedoed and sunk
Mooltan under construction with HMS Argyll alongside [37]

Service Pre-WW1

On 2 October 1905 P&O announced the departure of Mooltan on her maiden voyage to Bombay and Kurrachee on 3 November in a number of newspapers including the 'London Daily News'.

Cutting from the 'London Daily News' [35]

As with many of the previous 'M Class' ships, P&O made Mooltan available for public viewing before she left on her maiden voyage with the proceeds of the one shilling entrance fee going to a seaman's charity.

Cutting the 'East London Observer' [34]

Like the previous 'M Class' ships, the maiden voyage to India was followed by 'promotion' to the Australia service and Mooltan did just that on 19 January 1906 replacing the 1888 Oceana built by Harland & Wolff. This ship had been modernised in 1904 and was moved to the (presumably less-demanding) India service.

Oceana [33]

Oceana was badly damaged in a collision with four-masted sailing ship Pisagua - nearly a third of her tonnage - off Beachy Head on 16 March 1912 and foundered off Eastbourne whilst under tow. Her cargo had included gold and silver bullion worth £747,110 which was later salvaged. Seven passengers and two members of her crew died as the result of the capsise of a lifeboat that had been launched prematurely. The sailing vessel survived but was condemned, rebuilt as a whale factory ship but stranded at Low Island, South Shetland Islands on 12 February 1913.

Pisagua [15]

Mooltan settled into the Australia service and continued serving this route for the rest of her working life.

The photo below shows Mooltan near a pier which I believe to be Station Pier in Melbourne given it is from the State Library of Melbourne. Some of the passengers are letting out streamers - presumably in celebration of the end of a long voyage. Unfortunately the photo is undated. It is possible that this actually shows the departure of Australian troops bound for Europe.

Mooltan. Probably arriving at Station Pier Melbourne. Allan C. Green. Accession No. H91.108/2147 [20]

Service during WW1

Mooltan continued to make a limited number of voyages to Australia after WW1 started and carried Lord Kitchener and his staff to Port Said just before war was declared. She made a further trip in 1914, three more in 1915 and three in 1916. In February 1916 she encountered and was chased by two vessels, thought to be German, in the Bay of Biscay but out-ran them.

More information and photos of nursing staff and doctors from the WW1 period can be found on the The Old Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company website [37]


She made one more successful trip in 1917 but then her luck ran out ...

Mooltan departed Sydney on 12 Jun 1917, calling at Melbourne, Adelaide on 14 Jun 1917, then Fremantle on 18 Jun 1917 to take on other medical personnel, and set off for the UK via the Suez Canal and Marseilles. On 25 July 1917 she left Malta after an unexpected stop and headed for Marseilles accompanied by Messageries Maritimes vessel Lotus and two Japanese destroyers Kusunoki and Ume.

Messageries Maritimes vessel Lotus [38]
Japanese Destroyer Sakaki
Japanese Destroyer Sakaki of the class as Kusunoki and Ume [38]

At 19:15 on 26 July 1917 while at position 37° 56' N, 08° 34' E about 100 miles south of Sardinia, the track of a torpedo was sighted but evasive action was unsuccessful. It struck the starboard side creating a large hole under the water line. The attack was by German submarine UC-27 captained by Gerhard Schulz. This submarine sank 55 merchant ships and 3 warships during the war and damaged two further warships.

Mooltan's engine was quickly put into reverse, the ship stopped in her tracks and the order given to abandon her. The passengers and all but one member of the crew made it into the boats and were picked up by the other vessels and taken to Marseilles. The destroyers were unable to pursue the submarine as they still had the French ship to protect so it got away unscathed.

Information about the casualty can be found on the Benjidog Tower Hill website HERE.

The report below appeared in the Hobart newspaper 'The Mercury' on 1 August 1917 and notes that there had been 273 nurses on board who were bound for service with the British hospitals at Salonika; they were landed safely in Egypt. The vessel is reported to have been carrying a cargo including chilled beef, bales of wool and wheat.

Cutting from 'The Mercury' [36]

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