RMS Orion / SS Orion

 

23,300 GRT, and 203m in length.

A postcard from Grant in South Australia.

Built as RMS Orion by Vickers Armstrong in 1934, she was the first single-funnelled ship to be built for the Orient Line since the turn of the century. She was also the first ship to be painted in the Orient Line’s corn-colored livery, sporting a pale yellow hull.

She was the first British ship to ever have air-conditioning. In fact her entire interior design was ground-breaking in that she departed from the formal english styles found in wealthy British homes of the time, and adapted a more open-air and spacious layout that was better suited to tropical cruising. Wide promenade decks, slideing glass doors, removable walls, and chromium / bakelite fittings made her feel roomier and breezier, which was a welcome relief in the hot ahd humid tropics.

She was launched by the Duke of Gloucester. But, unusually, he was in Brisbane at the time, and the ship was in Lancashire, UK. He launched the ship by pressing a button in Brisbane, which transmitted a radio signal to the dockyards untimatley causing the ship to slide down the slipway into the water – quite revolutionary for the 1930’s.

She served as a troopship during the second world war, and was involved in a damaging collision with Battleship HMS Revenge when Revenge’s steering gear jammed.

She had an extensive fit-out after the WW2, and voyaged to Australia and the USA.

The National Archives of Australia record that she brought many immigrants to Australia during the late 1940’s, and the 1950’s, eventually being broken up fopr scrap in 1963.

What a fascinating history.

77 comments to RMS Orion / SS Orion

  • Juliet

    Left Tilbury on the Orion in 1961. Had Christmas on board. We stopped at Piraeus, went through the Suez Canal then Bombay, Aden and then Freemantle, Adelaide, Melbourne and finally Sydney. We were at Bradfield Park Hostel for 6months then moved to Oatley. I was ten at the time but remember it like it was yesterday. Returned to the UK in 1972. My brother remained in Australia as he had married an Oz girl.

  • Maggie Cotner

    Have just found this most helpful site, as I’m trying to trace my cousin Elaine Georgina Risby. Have found her with my aunt Eileen Esther Risby on board the Orion that left London 29th April 1949 for Melbourne. Elaine would have been 9. Her father, my uncle George, had gone out 4 months earlier to get established before sending for them. I’ve found both George and Eileen repeatedly in Australian records for 50 years after their arrival, but there’s absolutely no mention of Elaine at any time. She doesn’t appear in marriage or death records, nor in postal registration and census documents. Way out as it seems, I’m beginning to wonder if she could have died on the voyage. She was a dearly loved, precious offspring, as I believe my aunt Eileen was unable to have any more children. Does anyone know how I can find any further information? I know she didn’t return to the UK as she doesn’t show up here in any records here either. I’d be most grateful for any guidance.

  • Derek " Bill " Swann

    I left Forest Hill, London, England on the 13th. September 1961 bound for Adelaide as a Ten Pound Pom. It was a marvellous trip for a 25 year old and I shared a cabin with 5 other single guys on Deck 10. When we boarded there were only six guys and two Australian ladies who were making their way Home to Oz on deck ten and we six very soon moved into other cabins for more space, that was nice for the first night but then the Steward told us that we were picking up passengers at Piraeus and much to our surprise we wound up with 288 young Greek ladies who were all going to Australia as Catalogue Brides and were all Chaperoned by a delightful Greek lady who tried desperately to find brides for us six !! I am now eighty one and still live in Melbourne,Australia and I still have great memories of that trip and the wonderful places that we visited on route. To date I have not been lucky enough to meet up with anybody from the passenger list but I still live in hopes.

  • Andy White

    I was on Orion’s voyage ex Tilbury December 1961 as a teenager travelling alone to restart my life in Australia I disembarked in Sydney and after a few days at The Big Brother Movement farm I travelled by rail to Finley NSW where I was driven to Mayrung for my first job on a dairy farm for a short while then I moved to Bunnaloo to a new job on a much larger property running cattle , sheep and growing rice and other cereal crops. I am still friends with my boss from Bunnaloo to this day along with many other friends I made there.
    I have moved 7 times since Bunnaloo finishing back in Sydney and have never been outside Australia since arriving here and have no ambition to return to the UK.
    From memory the voyage included stops at Piraeus,Aden, Port Said and Bombay.

  • Richard McCann

    I was 7 years old arriving in Sydney April 25 1958 (ten pound Pom) on SS Orion we met a lovely young woman from Melbourne on trip over.
    It would be nice to contact her again her name is June Baglan. She would now be in her late 70’s

  • David Reeves

    Sailed with family on the SS Orion, April-May, 1950 from Sydney to UK. Good memories of the voyage with stops at Perth, Ceylon and Port Said.

  • Peter Turnbull

    I migrated to Sydney on RMS ORION Nov-Dec.1955 I am now a great-grandfather in Sydney and would be interested to hear from fellow passengers Doreen Parfitt, Evelyn Arthur, Marlene Lloyd and Dorothy Raven.

  • I was a newspaper boy, working on the port Melbourne Piers in 1947/1949. An item I recall about the Orion is thay a section of the ship’s railing, had been preserved, in place, from he time of the ship’s role as a troopship in World War 2. The section of railing was full of initials, names, dates,military unit names, etc. Does any former passenger recall it. I wonder what happened to it in the orion’s final days.

  • Colin Wigglesworth

    I was an 11 year old boy when I sailed with my family from Tilbury to Sydney on the Orion departing February 1947 we stayed in Australia for 3 years before returning to England on the RMS Otranto.

  • John Adams

    I had my sixth birthday on the Orion in June 1953 while at sea. With my parents, Ken and Mary Adams, and three-year-old sister, Linda. We boarded the ship at Tilbury and disembarked at Outer Harbor which is the port for Adelaide in South Australia. To contact someone who remembers the ship or was on that particular voyage would be a dream come true

  • Thelma Crowhurst

    We set sail on the Orion on December 20th 1961 heading to Melbourne (been here ever since) I know we arrived around Australia Day but can’t remember the exact date, anyone know?

  • To andy white….l was a little brother on the same voyage with you. I remember Rex being our chaperone.
    I live in nerang qld and would enjoy hearing from you
    Regards johnclarke.

  • Dr Alan Whitcomb

    I was a crew member on the Orion for a few years from 1956, and from the age of just 15, although it was illegal to be a seaman below the age of 16! My important teenage years took place on the Orion. I was aboard her when she was turned back from the Suez due to the crisis that took place. We then had to sail around the Cape to Australia for a few years. I subsequently sailed on many other ships but the Orion was the happiest. We sailed from Tilbury and I was a boy rating on her for a couple of years. I worked in the first class area of the ship, mainly engaged in minor tasks such as operating the lift and cleaning. We carried many families that were emigrating to Australia, and Australians taking a Pacific holiday cruise.

  • Lloyd Lewis

    I was evacuated, as an infant, on Orion in early 1942, from Singapore. I believe JANUARY 1942. There was a time when I could find information about this voyage, on the internet…now, it is nowhere to be found. At one point, I found a passenger list of arrivals in Fremantle W.A. (we actually went on to Melbourne) My Aunt and Grandmother were listed, I was merely “Infant L” I gather the ship had been in a collision with HMS Revenge. It was being repaired in H.M. Dockyard Singapore. The vessel was hurriedly pressed into service for the evacuation.

  • I am sure I met up with Sylvia Morris on the September 1961 trip to New Zealand. I have a feeling you lived in the Hutt Valley for some time and may have gone to the College with my younger brother. You may have known a girl called Margaret Middleton who also settled in the Hutt Valley.? I also recall a Scottish girl called Margaret Ann, she also had an older brother, I cannot recall her surname.
    I often think about the great experience of travelling from Tilbury to Wellington and sadly loosing touch with the friends I made on the trip.

  • Shirley Booth

    I was on SS Orion in January 1961 (age 6) having left Tasmania after two memorable years there. My twin sister and I started school there. Travelled with our elder sister Valerie and parents.Anyone remember us returning ten pound poms? Janice (you went to Hastings)as did Derek Gibson I believe.

  • Martin Coleman

    I migrated to Sydney in 1958 (Jul-Aug) on SS Orion. I met a lovely family by the name of McDavitt on the trip which disembarked in Adelaide. I corresponded with Catherine McDavitt for a short time and would love to hear from her or of her whereabouts.

  • Stephen Martin

    My parents (Jack and Mary Martin) left Tilbury Oct 27th 1951 on the Orion with my sister who was about 18 months old at the time.
    They were heading for Melbourne where I was subsequently born.
    They were fortunate enough to be able to travel 1st call but I seem to remember my mother saying it was actually rather boring.
    I wish I knew the ports they actually stopped at.

  • geraldine jarrett

    I was 11 when i left Tilbury docks on the Orion with my parents and brother on 19 March 1958. We were 10 pound poms i remember the emotional departure as thestreamers finally broke and we were moving away from my grandparents. Many were seasick on the way to Gibraltar, our first brief stop.
    We continued onto visit Naples and collected some Italian migrants. Then we proceeded through Suzez canal and the Red sea to our next stop at Aden, which was politically unstable at the time.and then the exotic Colombo. Freemantle was our first point of disembarkment in Australia. My memory is of red corrogated iron roofs on the houses.
    Adelaide and Melbourne where we were delayed. Finally then onto our destination Sydney. The ultra small coathanger in the far distance seemed to take an eternity to reach. It was a lengthy diembarkment at Wooloomooloo. Then a train journey to Bellambi on the South Coast. When we arrived it was pitch black. We were nominOur adventure was just begining.
    Gym and Rfur two of the lovely staff in the red lounge on the Orion visited us at Austinmer

  • Brian Wyer

    How might I obtain a passenger list for the SS OION arriving Sydney 1954?

  • Brian Wyer

    How might I obtain a passenger list for the SS ORION arriving Sydney 1954?

  • Janet

    I was on the Orion September 13th from Tilbury to Brisbane with my parents Les and Beryl Heath and four brothers. We were all sea sick first day in Bay Biscay very rough. I have a miniature dictionary with SS Orion on cover. I met two twins on first day and had two other friends Jackie and Tracey. We arrived in October to a very hot Brisbane lived in Esk Roma Brisbane Toowoomba I have been in Sydney for.38 years.

  • maree

    aim looking for my mother (jean Murray (MUIR) cousin William Murray he arrived in Sydney with 2 mates he meat on the ship and stay in Sydney 1962 for are while then travel near Melbourne and that’s where stay we now he got marriage and he was are butcher and he would be in he’s 80 to 90 now somewhere in between he had two uncles that live in Kurri Kurri new one of the uncles was my mother father we wish I could find him

  • Phil Harris

    To Stephen Martin.

    My partner Carole (nee Baker) was on your parent’s ship with her mother Grace. From Carole, I understand that the journey took them through the Suez Canal to Aden, onward to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) where they stopped at Colombo. She believes the next stop was Perth, Australia, then Melbourne and finally Sydney.

    Cheers, Phil Harris

  • I’m finding this site fascinating as left Tilbury April 1949 bound for Melbourne. I was a toddler and my Mother in later years told me of a steward who entertained me sometimes, called Smithy, tho I said Smizzy. Mum was ill most of the trip and very glad when she arrived in Melb. I have newspaper cuttings from the Rievalle ( prob spelt incorrectly) newspaper with pics and also on board and arrival photos so very lucky. I also have the souvenirs same as everyone else and married another migrant later on who had same tourist loot.
    Happy days
    Susan Lendon

  • joseph kay

    Looking for a photograph of Maurice John Sarson , captain of the Orion in 1937

  • Heather Smith (nee Phillips)

    I lived in Calcutta, India from 1958 to 1960 together with my parents and elder sister. I was seven years old when we left Calcutta on the start of our return journey home to England. However, during a stop in Delhi and a visit to the Taj Mahal I was rushed into hospital for an emergency appendectomy. This caused us to miss our planned voyage home. On my discharge from hospital we were forced to return to Calcutta whilst we waited six weeks for the following available passage. This turned out to be a trip on SS Orion. The boat stopped at Piraeus, Marseilles, Gibraltar and others, we were one of the first ships to sail through the Suez Canal when it reopened. We saw several masts sticking out of the water from ships which had been sunk. What a wonderful, never to be forgotten six weeks. The onshore trips, the food, the entertainment and especially the exceptional crew are still very clear memories. There weren’t many children on the boat but my parent made friends with another married couple and a young lady making the journey on her own. We arrived in Tilbury in November 1960.

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