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.

103 Replies to “RMS Orion / SS Orion”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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

  11. 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?

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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

  20. 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.

  21. 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

  22. 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

  23. 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

  24. 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.

  25. My father travelled on the RMS Orion from Sydney (I think) to London in 1953 as assistant surgeon. I have a book in which he has inscribed his name, position on the ship and the date 4 August 1953. He then returned about a year later. Can anyone give me any details of the outbound trip?? Thanks

  26. Good afternoon, I have searched and searched. Could you please advise how I can obtain a passenger list for S.S. Orion, leaving Southampton and arriving in Sydney, Aust 1959. My name is Martin Raymond Bushnell DOB 25/2/49. I travelled with my mother Joan and brother Daniel. I need the list to apply for a government benefit

    Many thanks

  27. My mum and the rest of her family travelled to Australia in 1959 and returned in 1963.

    I wonder if anyone remembers the Fraser family: Bill and May and their children David, Joan (my mum), May, Dianne, and Kevin.

    She was there from the age 9 to 13 so they must have left after June 1959 – only one of the journeys was via the Suez canal.

    I have a signed dining card for Thursday, 14 February 1963 on the SS Orion Landfall dinner and another from the same ship, 26 September 1962 which I assume was a connecting journey from or to Perth where they also were. Here’s a link to the heavily autographed one on twitter: https://twitter.com/DeborahJNoel/status/1096891105499582464?s=19

    Does anyone recognise their own handwriting?!

  28. My mum and the rest of her family travelled to Australia in 1959 and returned in 1963.

    I wonder if anyone remembers the Fraser family: Bill and May and their children David, Joan (my mum), May, Dianne, and Kevin. They left after June 1959. I know only one of the journeys was via the Suez canal, the other via the South African Cape. Mum and family lived in Adelaide most of the time but I know that they also were in Perth though I don’t know how for how long.

    I have a dining card from Thursday, 14 February 1963 SS Orion landfall dinner and another from the same ship, 26 September 1962 which I assume was a connecting journey, I assume from or to Perth.

    Here’s a link to the heavily autographed one on twitter : https://twitter.com/DeborahJNoel/status/1096891105499582464?s=19

    Does anyone recognise their own handwriting?!

  29. Wonderful to read the post by Lloyd Lewis about being on the Orion as it evacuated us from Singapore to Fremantle (where we got off) – I was on the same voyage as a five year old with my mother & sister – my father remained to help with demolition work before the enemy arrived & subsequently perished in a POW camp in Sumatra. Unfortunately most shipping records from that time until the end of the war have been destroyed – we returned to UK later that year but I am happy to report I have been living in Australia for more than 40 years now.

  30. Does anyone know what date the Orion left Singapore in January/February 1942 as I have a cousin who was on board and she wants to know the exact date. It sailed to Fremantle and then on to Melbourne. Cheers Andrew Atkins

  31. Where can I require a crew list for SS Orion from tilbury to Australia 1961,
    I worked as a laundry boy on board aged 16 years of age, I loved ever minute of my time at sea.

  32. Where can I require a crew list for SS Orion from tilbury to Australia 1960 December. March1961
    I worked as a laundry boy on board aged 16 years of age, I loved ever minute of my time at sea.

    If any one can remember me from the laundry department please contact me.

  33. To John Adams who had his birthday on Orion in June 1953, I believe myself & my family were on that same voyage as we were at sea all the month of June. Very fond memories of trip & one of my younger sisters was also five years old when we left. Seeking confirmation of departure date from Tilbury.

  34. My Grandad Doug Sharkey was a Second Chef on the Orion in the 1950’s. If anyone knew him or was working on the ship around that time please contact me. Thanks , Kelly

  35. I emigrated to Australia in May 1960. Great holiday for a 10 year old. (we had to have school lessons for an hour a day but they gave us time off to view the Cocos Islands.)
    Wonderful ship, I was sad to hear that she was broken up, as I was told she was turned into a floating hotel.
    Was she the first passenger ship to use the Suez Canal after the Suez Crisis.?That’s what I was also told.
    I didn’t know her military history, grand old Lady!
    I returned to the UK in 1976, but I don’t regret my time in Australia.

  36. I was on the Orion 0}as a crew member straight from Gravesend sea school as a stewards boy then a commis waiter then a topside steward (1st class } fine ship with great mates I remember the head waiter was Harry Mewburn happy memories
    I later joined the Oronsea on her maiden voyage another great ship

  37. My family sailed on her last Voyage to Sydney on February 28th 1963. I was 10 years old. Did not remember much. Came down with Colic shortly after sailing then Measles when a passenger brought it on board at Greece. So many people on board had Measles they were sleeping on the decks and using the decks as a hospital. I was one of the worst as I had already been ill. I can remember the Captain visiting me while I lay on a stretcher bed. Did not recover until ship arrived in Fremantle. Departed ship in Sydney and lived in East Hills Hostel for 9 months. Father could not find steady work so we moved to NZ.

  38. Dear Orion watchers.
    On December 30th 1947 we left from Tilbury for Melbourne Australia. A family of-five, my parents brothers age 5 and 10 and myself 7.
    My father a Merchant Navy Master had lost his left arm in accident at sea in 1936, but served as an air raid warden in Hounslow.
    We left two days after my Aunts wedding- she was intending to come with us but married her fellow instead.(but managed a trip 1987)
    I recall: the Gilly Gilly men, getting ashore in Aden- a limited distance, Mt Lavinia in Columbo (I have been to 2 or 3 times since) winning a fancy dress prize, as an English rose – made from crepe paper by my mother, the water in the bath sliding up and down! and the life jacket made of? canvas stuffed with
    When the ship docked in Perth my father keen to revisit Perth after 15 years- engaged a driver to take us touring -( we think he really wanted to disembark in Perth) we just made it back to the ship. It was about 103F my mother was not enjoying it at all.
    My father bought with us many belongings including a Lanchester car- which was ‘dropped’ when unloaded in Melbourne (but survived)
    MY mother returned to visit her parents in 1956 on the ill fated Ortranto- the last ship to go through Suez before it closed the first time.
    She returned via the Cape can’t remember which ship.
    I travelled to UK on the Oriana in1967- to visit family- and many other places.- I was blessed with my fathers love of exploring places.
    A little reminiscing I hope someone enjoys it.
    PS. according to the digital passenger list for the journey- we are not here! Its Cabin class only- were we Tourist Class.?

  39. I know that 2 family members arrived on Orion to Tilbury on the 22nd August 1947. I want to know when it left Melbourne. Is there somewhere that shows the sailing dates for Orion?

  40. I was a catering boy on the Orion from October 16th 1956 until January 23 1957, that was the trip when we were almost entering the Suez Canal when the troubles started, a couple of warships escorted us back to the Med , then we finished the journey to Australia via Capetown. Great memories .

  41. I was an 8 month old baby on Orion disembarking at Wellington on 23 Oct 1961 with my parents and two older siblings.

    I don’t remember anything of the trip but do remember some of the stories that were told, as follows.

    The families were split into women and children in combined cabins and the men in other cabins [must have been trying for the mothers not only having to share with their own kids and others’ kids as well]

    Going through the Red Sea I apparently was in great demand as only mothers with babies could sleep in the air-conditioned dining halls – the only air conditioned areas on the ship.

    Arrangements started getting better after Freemantle when people started leaving the ship.

    Coming into Wellington Harbour my father commented on the lovely yellow flower covered hills, only to be told bluntly that it was “bloody gorse”!!

    I have got a copy of the disembark lists from NZ archives in Wellington for 23 Oct 1961

  42. I was a two year old when I came to Australia from England with my parents. I think we left from Southampton in December 1961and spent Xmas at sea. We went through Sue’s canal and stopped in Aden where Dad ought me a battery operated cat that walked, meowed and his eyes lit up. We stopped in Bombay where I have vague memory of falling over in the toilet and a fella with a turban offered me his handkerchief. I wish I could remember more of the voyage. We stopped at Fremantle then Sydney then Brisbane on Australian day 26 January 1962 we spent 6 months at Wacol Immigration Centre until my parents bought a house. Wonder if anyone out there was on this voyage too?

  43. Anyone else out there share this journey on SS Orion from December 1961 to January 1962

  44. I was 7 yrs old when we left England in May of 1961 to travel to Australia on the S.S. Orion. We disembarked in Adelaide and made our home there for 2 yrs before moving onto Victoria then when I was almost 14yrs old we moved to Redcliffe, Brisbane Queensland. I’m wondering if anyone can help me? I would like to know the actual date that the ship arrived in Adelaide as I only have one document of entry into Australia and the date stamp is smudged. I know it was June 1961 but don’t have an actual date. Would be very grateful for any help.
    Thank you in advance

  45. Hello! A relative died aboard the Orion on 21st April, 1961. Can anyone tell me – or tell me how to find out – whether he was sailing to or from his home in Australia? Any more deatils of the route would be great, especially if he was nearing home. Many thanks.

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