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.

57 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.

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