Dominion Monarch

Flag

Introduction

Dominion Monarch was completed by Swan, Hunter & W. Richardson in 1939 for Shaw, Savill & Albion Co. Ltd. She was one of a kind, the pride of Swan Hunter and probably the last 'First Class only' passenger liner to be built. In her time she set many records and was built for the service between Britain, Australia and New Zealand. During WW2 she was stripped down to basics and served as a troopship. At the end of the war she was engaged in repatriating troops, including many who had been taken prisoner, to Australia and New Zealand.

She returned to her previous role in 1947 after a complete refit. She spent her last few months as a floating hotel at the Century 21 Exposition in Seattle in 1962 and was then taken to Japan to be scrapped.

Dominion Monarch
Dominion Monarch - Location and date not known. [46]

Basic Data

Item Value
Type Passenger/Cargo Ship
Registered owners, managers and operators Shaw, Savill & Albion Co. Ltd.
Builders Swan, Hunter & W.Richardson
Yard Wallsend
Country UK
Yard number 1547
Official number 166828
Call sign GRGG
Classification society Lloyds
Gross tonnage 27,155
Net tonnage 15,813
Deadweight N/K
Length 657.6 ft
Overall Length 582.1 ft
Breadth 84.8 ft
Depth 44.4 ft
Draught N/K
Engines Diesel: Four 2-stroke cycle single acting 5 cylinder oil engines (2S.C.SA) with cylinder bore 28 9/16" and stroke 88 9/16".
Engine builders 2 engines by Swan Hunter & W. Richardson; 2 engines by Wm Doxford & Sons Ltd
Works Newcastle and Sunderland
Country UK
Boilers 4 double-ended boilers operating at 100 psi
Power 5056 MN
Propulsion Four screws
Speed 20 knots
Cargo capacity 650,000 cubic feet
Crew 385 (when operating as a passenger vessel)
Passengers Built to carry 508 First Class passengers

Additional Construction Information

  • Construction costs of this luxury vessel were £1.5 Million.
  • 3 decks with 4th deck in foreward holds and 5th deck in No. 1 hold
  • Cruiser stern
  • Decks and butts of topside plating electrically welded - a new technique in British shipyards at the time - but the remainder of the vessel was constructed by riveting.
  • Fitted with gyro compass
  • She was fitted with radio direction-finding and echo sounding equipment

The image below shows a plan of the vessel.

Click on the image to see an enlarged version.

Dominion Monarch
Dominion Monarch Plans [120]

The following photos show Dominion Monarch at the Swan Hunter shipyard.

Dominion Monarch
Dominion Monarch under construction [120]
Dominion Monarch
One of Dominion Monarch's engines under test [120]
Dominion Monarch
Dominion Monarch launch party 1938 photographed by J.H.Cleet - Ref. DS.SWH/4/PH/4/1547/14 [121]

Swan Hunter was rightly proud of Dominion Monarch and used her image on advertisements shortly after her completion.

Dominion Monarch
Swan Hunter advertisement - circa 1939 featuring Dominion Monarch [91]

Career Highlights

Date Event
July 1937 Keel laid down
27 July 1938 Launched with naming ceremony performed by Eleanor, Lady Harrison, wife of Frederick Lewis 1st Baron Essendon and chairman of Furness Withy.
2 February 1939 Completed
August 1940 Requisitioned by the UK Government as a troopship
July 1947 Returned to owners
1962 Sold to Mitsui & Co. of Osaka and renamed Dominion Monarch Maru
25 November 1962 Broken up by Mitsui & Co.

Service Before WW2

Dominion Monarch left King George V Dock on the Isle of Dogs on 17 February 1939 for Southampton for her maiden voyage to Australia and New Zealand. She called at Tenerife, Cape Town, Durban, Fremantle, Melbourne, Sydney and reached Wellington NZ on 24 April 1939. Records set during this trip included fastest passage from the UK to Australia via the Cape of Good Hope, largest ship to Australia and largest ship to New Zealand.

Pathe News had a short news item about the departure from Southampton.

A regular service ensued with the standard time for the passage from the UK to New Zealand being 35 days with fares from £58. Due to the time taken in loading and unloading cargo she was only able to make three round trips per year.

Dominion Monarch Dominion Monarch
Dominion Monarch arriving in Wellington - probably 1939 - with tug Toia assostomg [117]

Service in WW2

With the outbreak of WW2, the crew started painting the vessel grey and on 8-9 September she was fitted with an old 6" naval gun and an anti-aircraft gun at Sydney. For some time she continued the service to Australia and New Zealand but, with the advent of submarine attacks, there was little demand for the service and additional cargo was carried in lieu of passengers.

In August 1940, Dominion Monarch was requisitioned by the Admiralty as a troopship. Her luxury accommodation was stripped out over a six week period at Liverpool and she was configured to carry 142 Officers and 1,341 'other ranks'. She was immediately put into service and took an anti-aircraft regiment to Egypt via the Cape as the Mediterranean was too risky due to submarine attacks. In November she was altered further in Sydney with an increase in armament and reconfiguration of the accommodation.

Troopship duties included bringing troops from Australia, New Zealand and Canada to the UK and taking troops to Singapore. Unfortunately most of those taken to Singapore ended up as prisoners of the Japanese following their invasion. She was also heavily involved in bringing US troops to the UK in preparation for D-Day and carried German prisoners of war to Australia. At the end of the war she carried large numbers of troops back to their home countries.

Dominion Monarch took part in many convoys and a very large number of independent voyages during WW2 according to information shown in the table below which is provided courtesy of Convoyweb [4]. Further details of the individual convoys can be found on Convoyweb.


Departure Convoy/Independent Arrival
Fremantle, Sep 2, 1939 Independent Melbourne, Sep 6, 1939
Melbourne, Sep 7, 1939 Independent Sydney NSW, Sep 8, 1939
Sydney NSW, Sep 9, 1939 Independent Wellington, Sep 12, 1939
Wellington, Sep 28, 1939 Independent Auckland, Sep 30, 1939
Auckland, Oct 7, 1939 Independent Sydney NSW, Oct 10, 1939
Sydney NSW, Oct 17, 1939 Independent Melbourne, Oct 20, 1939
Melbourne, Oct 22, 1939 Independent Fremantle, Oct 26, 1939
Fremantle, Oct 26, 1939 Independent Durban, Nov 5, 1939
Durban, Nov 7, 1939 Independent Capetown, Nov 9, 1939
Capetown, Nov 10, 1939 Independent Freetown, Nov 17, 1939
Freetown, Nov 18, 1939 Independent Downs, Nov 28, 1939
Southend, Jan 9, 1940 Independent Capetown, Jan 24, 1940
Capetown, Jan 25, 1940 Independent Fremantle, Feb 4, 1940
Fremantle, Feb 5, 1940 Independent
Fremantle, Feb 7, 1940 Independent Melbourne, Feb 9, 1940
Melbourne, Feb 11, 1940 Independent Sydney NSW, Feb 12, 1940
Sydney NSW, Feb 23, 1940 Independent Melbourne, Feb 25, 1940
Melbourne, Feb 28, 1940 Independent Capetown, Mar 16, 1940
Capetown, Mar 18, 1940 Independent Downs, Apr 1, 1940
Independent Fremantle, Apr 27, 1940
Southend, Apr 28, 1940 Independent Capetown, May 14, 1940
Capetown, May 15, 1940 Independent
Fremantle, May 28, 1940 Independent Adelaide, May 31, 1940
Adelaide, Jun 1, 1940 Independent Melbourne, Jun 2, 1940
Melbourne, Jun 5, 1940 Independent Sydney NSW, Jun 6, 1940
Independent Melbourne, Jun 18, 1940
Melbourne, Jun 21, 1940 Independent Capetown, Jul 5, 1940
Capetown, Jul 7, 1940 Independent Freetown, Jul 20, 1940
Freetown, Jul 20, 1940 Independent Liverpool, Jul 29, 1940
Liverpool, Sep 10, 1940 AP.3/1 (Liverpool - Suez) Capetown, Oct 4, 1940
Capetown, Oct 6, 1940 AP.3/1 (Liverpool - Suez) Suez, Oct 22, 1940
Suez, Oct 28, 1940 SW.2A (Suez - Dispersed)
Independent Colombo, Nov 6, 1940
Colombo, Nov 7, 1940 Independent Fremantle, Nov 14, 1940
Fremantle, Nov 15, 1940 Independent Melbourne, Nov 19, 1940
Melbourne, Nov 21, 1940 Independent Sydney NSW, Nov 22, 1940
Sydney NSW, Dec 3, 1940 Independent Wellington, Dec 6, 1940
Wellington, Dec 19, 1940 US.8 (Wellington - Colombo) Sydney NSW, Dec 22, 1940
Sydney NSW, Dec 28, 1940 US.8 (Wellington - Colombo) Fremantle, Jan 3, 1941
Fremantle, Jan 4, 1941 US.8 (Wellington - Colombo) Trincomalee, Jan 12, 1941
Colombo, Jan 16, 1941 US.8/1 (Colombo - Suez) Port Said, Jan 29, 1941
Port Said, Jan 31, 1941 Independent Suez, Feb 3, 1941
Suez, Feb 6, 1941 SU.1A (Suez - Dispersed)
Mombasa, Feb 16, 1941 Independent Capetown, Feb 22, 1941
Capetown, Feb 25, 1941 Independent Liverpool, Mar 18, 1941
Liverpool, Apr 24, 1941 Independent Clyde, Apr 25, 1941
Clyde, Apr 26, 1941 WS.8A (Clyde - Freetown) Freetown, May 9, 1941
Freetown, May 14, 1941 WS.8A (Clyde - Freetown) Durban, May 27, 1941
Durban, Jun 17, 1941 Independent Wellington, Jul 2, 1941
Wellington, Jul 5, 1941 Independent Auckland, Jul 7, 1941
Auckland, Jul 22, 1941 Independent Balboa, Aug 6, 1941
Cristobal, Aug 7, 1941 Independent Curacao, Aug 10, 1941
Curacao, Aug 11, 1941 Independent Halifax, Aug 16, 1941
Halifax, Aug 26, 1941 TC.12B (Halifax - Clyde) Liverpool, Sep 1, 1941
Liverpool, Sep 29, 1941 WS.12 (Clyde - Freetown) Freetown, Oct 14, 1941
Freetown, Oct 19, 1941 WS.12 (Clyde - Freetown) Capetown, Oct 29, 1941
Capetown, Nov 5, 1941 WS.12 (Clyde - Freetown)
WS.12J (to AT SEA - Colombo) Colombo, Nov 23, 1941
Colombo, Nov 24, 1941 WS.12V (Colombo - Singapore) Singapore, Nov 28, 1941
Singapore, Dec 10, 1941 Independent Auckland, Dec 22, 1941
Auckland, Jan 8, 1942 Independent Balboa, Jan 25, 1942
Cristobal, Jan 27, 1942 Independent Halifax, Feb 3, 1942
Halifax, Feb 11, 1942 NA.3 (Halifax - Clyde) Liverpool, Feb 19, 1942
Liverpool, Mar 22, 1942 WS.17 (Oversay - Freetown) Freetown, Apr 6, 1942
Freetown, Apr 9, 1942 WS.17A (Freetown - Durban) Capetown, Apr 19, 1942
Capetown, Apr 24, 1942 Independent Bombay, May 6, 1942
Bombay, May 15, 1942 Independent Colombo, May 17, 1942
Colombo, May 18, 1942 Independent Fremantle, May 26, 1942
Fremantle, May 26, 1942 Independent Sydney NSW, Jun 2, 1942
Sydney NSW, Jun 9, 1942 Independent Auckland, Jun 12, 1942
Auckland, Jun 22, 1942 Independent Wellington, Jun 24, 1942
Wellington, Jun 26, 1942 Independent Balboa, Jul 6, 1942
Cristobal, Jul 8, 1942 Independent Halifax, Jul 14, 1942
Halifax, Jul 21, 1942 NA.13 (Halifax - ) Liverpool, Jul 29, 1942
Liverpool, Aug 26, 1942 Independent Clyde, Aug 27, 1942
Clyde, Aug 29, 1942 WS.22 (Clyde - Freetown) Freetown, Sep 9, 1942
Freetown, Sep 13, 1942 WS.22 (Clyde - Freetown) Capetown, Sep 25, 1942
Capetown, Sep 29, 1942 WS.22 (Clyde - Freetown)
WS.22B (to AT SEA - Bombay) Bombay, Oct 17, 1942
Bombay, Oct 24, 1942 Independent Fremantle, Nov 3, 1942
Fremantle, Nov 3, 1942 Independent Sydney NSW, Nov 9, 1942
Sydney NSW, Nov 14, 1942 Independent Auckland, Nov 16, 1942
Auckland, Nov 28, 1942 Independent Balboa, Dec 13, 1942
Cristobal, Dec 14, 1942 Independent Liverpool, Dec 28, 1942
Liverpool, Jan 20, 1943 Independent Clyde, Jan 21, 1943
Clyde, Jan 24, 1943 WS.26 (Clyde - Freetown) Freetown, Feb 6, 1943
Freetown, Feb 9, 1943 WS.26 (Clyde - Freetown) Durban, Feb 25, 1943
Durban, Mar 1, 1943 WS.26 (Clyde - Freetown)
WS.26B (to AT SEA - Bombay) Bombay, Mar 17, 1943
Bombay, Mar 27, 1943 Independent Durban, Apr 7, 1943
Durban, Apr 8, 1943 Independent Durban, Apr 12, 1943
Durban, Apr 13, 1943 Independent Wellington, Apr 30, 1943
Wellington, May 14, 1943 Independent Fremantle, May 23, 1943
Fremantle, May 26, 1943 US.19 (Fremantle - Colombo)
Escorted Aden, Jun 7, 1943
Aden, Jun 8, 1943 Independent Suez, Jun 11, 1943
Suez, Jun 16, 1943 Independent Colombo, Jun 26, 1943
Colombo, Jun 28, 1943 Independent Capetown, Jul 10, 1943
Capetown, Aug 4, 1943 CF.13 (Capetown - Pointe Noire)
CF.13A (Pointe Noire - Freetown) Freetown, Aug 24, 1943
Freetown, Aug 25, 1943 CF.13B (Freetown - Gibraltar) Gibraltar, Aug 31, 1943
Gibraltar, Aug 31, 1943 MKF.22 (Port Said - Clyde) Liverpool, Sep 9, 1943
Liverpool, Oct 16, 1943 KMF.25 (Liverpool - Alexandria) Port Said, Oct 31, 1943
Port Said, Nov 2, 1943 XIF.3 (Port Said - Taranto) Augusta, Nov 6, 1943
Augusta, Nov 6, 1943 MKF.25A (Port Said - Clyde) Liverpool, Nov 25, 1943
Liverpool, Dec 7, 1943 Independent New York, Dec 18, 1943
New York, Dec 29, 1943 UT.6 (NYC - Clyde) Liverpool, Jan 8, 1944
Liverpool, Jan 26, 1944 Independent New York, Feb 7, 1944
New York, Feb 11, 1944 UT.8 (NYC - Clyde) Liverpool, Feb 23, 1944
Liverpool, Mar 5, 1944 Independent New York, Mar 13, 1944
New York, Mar 23, 1944 UT.10 (NYC - Clyde) Liverpool, Apr 3, 1944
Liverpool, Apr 15, 1944 Independent New York, Apr 26, 1944
New York, May 3, 1944 CU.23 (NYC - Liverpool) Liverpool, May 14, 1944
Liverpool, Jun 12, 1944 Independent Clyde, Jun 13, 1944
Clyde, Jun 18, 1944 Independent New York, Jun 27, 1944
New York, Jul 2, 1944 CU.30 (NYC - Liverpool) Clyde, Jul 11, 1944
Clyde, Jul 18, 1944 Independent Liverpool, Jul 19, 1944
Independent Clyde, Aug 2, 1944
Liverpool, Aug 2, 1944 Independent
Clyde, Aug 20, 1944 DS.56 (Clyde - Iceland) Iceland, Aug 21, 1944
Iceland, Aug 22, 1944 SD.56 (Iceland - Clyde)
Gareloch, Aug 24, 1944 Independent
SD.56 (Iceland - Clyde) Clyde, Aug 25, 1944
Independent Clyde, Aug 25, 1944
Independent Gareloch, Aug 28, 1944
Clyde, Aug 28, 1944 Independent
Clyde, Oct 5, 1944 UC.40A (Liverpool - NYC) New York, Oct 16, 1944
New York, Oct 22, 1944 CU.44 (NYC - Liverpool) Plymouth, Nov 1, 1944
Plymouth, Nov 4, 1944 Independent Liverpool, Nov 6, 1944
Liverpool, Nov 18, 1944 UC.45B (Liverpool - NYC) New York, Nov 30, 1944
New York, Dec 9, 1944 CU.50 (NYC - Liverpool) Southampton, Dec 21, 1944
Southampton, Dec 23, 1944 Independent Liverpool, Dec 25, 1944
Liverpool, Jan 19, 1945 UC.53A (Liverpool - NYC)
Independent Cristobal, Feb 2, 1945
Balboa, Feb 4, 1945 Independent Sydney NSW, Feb 21, 1945
Sydney NSW, Mar 5, 1945 Independent Wellington, Mar 8, 1945
Wellington, Mar 15, 1945 Independent Balboa, Mar 30, 1945
Cristobal, Apr 1, 1945 Independent New York, Apr 6, 1945
New York, Apr 8, 1945 CU.65 (NYC - Liverpool) Liverpool, Apr 19, 1945
Liverpool, May 17, 1945 UC.68A (Liverpool - NYC)
Independent Panama, May 29, 1945
Balboa, May 30, 1945 Independent Sydney NSW, Jun 17, 1945
Sydney NSW, Jun 21, 1945 Independent Melbourne, Jun 22, 1945
Melbourne, Jul 1, 1945 Independent Balboa, Jul 19, 1945
Cristobal, Jul 21, 1945 Independent Trinidad, Jul 23, 1945
Trinidad, Jul 24, 1945 Independent Liverpool, Aug 2, 1945
Liverpool, Aug 31, 1945 Independent Port Said, Sep 8, 1945
Suez, Sep 9, 1945 Independent Sydney NSW, Sep 27, 1945
Sydney NSW, Sep 28, 1945 Independent Wellington, Sep 30, 1945
Wellington, Oct 1, 1945 Independent
Lyttelton, Oct 2, 1945 Independent Sydney NSW, Oct 4, 1945
Sydney NSW, Oct 18, 1945 Independent Fremantle, Oct 22, 1945
Fremantle, Oct 24, 1945 Independent Suez, Nov 7, 1945
Port Said, Nov 8, 1945 Independent Southampton, Nov 15, 1945
Southampton, Nov 17, 1945 Independent Tyne, Nov 18, 1945
Tyne, Dec 12, 1945 Independent Southampton, Dec 13, 1945
Southampton, Dec 17, 1945 Independent Naples, Dec 23, 1945
Naples, Dec 23, 1945 Independent Taranto, Dec 25, 1945
Taranto, Dec 26, 1945 Independent Port Said, Dec 29, 1945

One of the last tasks of the WW2 period was the repatriation of Allied POWs. The photo below shows Dominion Monarch arriving at Darling Harbour Sydney with 710 Australian troops being returned from POW camps in Germany.

Dominion Monarch
Dominion Monarch arriving at Darling Harbour on 17 June 1945. Image Ref. 109554. [18]

And another trip brought members of the Maori Battalion home to New Zealand.

Dominion Monarch
Dominion Monarch arriving at Wellington Harbour on 23 January 1946. Image Ref. 1/4-001633-F. [116]

Service After WW2

Dominion Monarch Passenger Accommodation After the 1947 Refit

When Dominion Monarch was returned to Shaw Savill in 1947 she was taken to Swan Hunter and refitted as a luxury liner. The work cost £1.5 Million (as much as the original construction costs) and took 15 months. She was then ready to carry 508 First Class passengers. Her first voyage after the refit left the UK on 16 December 1948 for Australia and New Zealand.

I am grateful to Marian Moll-Sanders of the Netherlands who kindly sent me a surviving copy of a Shaw Savill brochure from circa 1957 which gives details and photos of the refitted liner. This is reproduced below in full and shows the passenger part of the vessel.

Dominion Monarch Dominion Monarch Dominion Monarch Dominion Monarch Dominion Monarch Dominion Monarch Dominion Monarch Dominion Monarch Dominion Monarch Dominion Monarch Dominion Monarch Dominion Monarch Dominion Monarch Dominion Monarch Dominion Monarch Dominion Monarch Dominion Monarch Dominion Monarch Dominion Monarch Dominion Monarch Dominion Monarch Dominion Monarch Dominion Monarch Dominion Monarch Dominion Monarch Dominion Monarch Dominion Monarch Dominion Monarch Dominion Monarch
Dominion Monarch brochure by Shaw Savill estimated date 1957 [113]

Dominion Monarch even had a children's dining room; presumably for very well-behaved children or those with nannies.

Dominion Monarch
Children's dining room aboard Dominion Monarch [118]
Dominion Monarch
Dominion Monarch at a wharf in Australia - date not known. Photo by Thomas Issell, Ref. 1825789. [115]
Dominion Monarch
Dominion Monarch at a wharf in Wellington New Zealand in the 1940s. Photo by William Hall Raine, Ref. 1/4-020617-G. [116]

Final Days

Shaw Savill ordered Northern Star as the replacement for the ageing Dominion Monarch and the latter left Wellington for her last trip with them on 30 December 1961. She discharged her passengers at Southampton around 22 April 1962 and her cargo at London. On 10 July 1962 Northern Star took over her route; Dominion Monarch having been sold to Mitsui for breaking for £400,000 in February 1962.

Before she 'went to meet her breaker', Dominion Monarch, renamed Dominion Monarch Maru, had one last set of passengers - she was leased as a floating hotel and entertainment centre for the Century 21 Exposition in Seattle arriving there on 29 May 1962.

Seattle World Fair
Aerial view of the exhibition site. Dominion Monarch Maru was berthed at the quays to the top right of the image [91]
Seattle World Fair
View of the exhibition [91]
Dominion Monarch
Dominion Monarch Maru berthed at Seattle in 1962 [122]

The exhibition closed on 21 October and she was taken to Osaka on 25 November 1962 to be scrapped.

Ephemera

The Crew's Perspective

At least some members of the crew had a different view of the vessel. She was referred to as the 'DM', the 'Dominion Maniac' and 'The Bucket of Blood'. In contrast to the luxury enjoyed by passengers, the crew accommodation has been described as unbearable in the tropics. As a result it is said that many crew members were those that could not get jobs elsewhere due to their poor records. The 'Bucket of Blood' epithet apparently came from the fighting amongst members of the crew and the regular need for medical intervention.

Further details about the later voyages of Dominion Monarch can be found on the New Zealand Maritime Record website - [87].

Appearance on Stamps

Dominion Monarch has appeared on at least two postage stamps - one from New Zealand and one from Australia.

Dominion Monarch
Dominion Monarch on a 50 cent Australian stamp from 2004. [114]
Dominion Monarch
Dominion Monarch on a 5 pence New Zealand stamp of 1946. The ship on the left is H.M.N.Z.S. Achilles. [114]

'Call the Midwife'

Dominion Monarch featured as a backdrop on a highly popular UK TV series 'Call the Midwife'. The original was a photograph of the vessel seen from Saville Road whilst berthed at the King George V dock at Silvertown in London where the series was set.

Dominion Monarch
Dominion Monarch seen from Saville Road, Silvertown on 10 March 1950. [119]