Named after the fertile valley and salmon fishing waters around the Strath of Loch Naver, the first of the class RMS Strathnaver, was built by Vickers-Armstrongs.
RMS Strathnaver was launched at Barrow-in-Furness on 5th February 1931, by Lady Janet Bailey, second daughter of P & O (Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company) Chairman Lord Inchcape. The RMS (Royal Mail Steamer) designation was applied to all seagoing merchant vessels that carried mail, under contract to the British Royal Mail.
After a period of fitting out and the completion of her luxurious interior at Tilbury, she set sail on her maiden voyage on 2nd October that same year. It was appropriate that her first voyage would be to Australia, given that Lady Bailey was Patroness of the Ladies' Harbour Lights Guild of Melbourne.
From the start, RMS Strathnaver presented the very highest standards on board, calling at Marseilles, Suez, Bombay, and Colombo to collect and deliver mail and provisions whilst providing a truly luxurious travel experience. She boasted accommodation for 498 First Class Passengers, together with Tourist Class Cabins for a further 670 people. At 22,547 gross rated tonnes, she was one of the largest passenger liners in the P & O fleet.
Upon her arrival at Sydney, she was greeted with much excitement and celebration. The Sydney Harbour Bridge was still under construction at this time and all work stopped for the explosion of fireworks and streamers that greeted her first arrival into port.
On her return to Tilbury in March 1932, a special dinner was held on board to commemorate the completion of her maiden return voyage. The occasion was even marked by the BBC, who broadcast the various speeches as a test broadcast for their new BBC World Service, which came into full operation just 9 months later.
In the middle of her voyages between England and Australia, RMS Strathnaver would conduct short holiday excursion cruises around the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, whilst in 1938, additional refrigeration was installed, enabling her to carry chilled beef, lamb and other commodities from Australia to the UK.
Whilst the majority of her career would be spent in a passenger liner role, the outbreak of World War II saw her requisitioned as a Troop Carrier in 1940. Her bright white paint was replaced with ‘Battleship Grey’ and she commenced embarking Australian and New Zealand troops before transporting them to fight in the Middle East.
On 11th November 1942, she took part in Operation Torch (the invasion of North Africa), delivering troops to the Port of Algiers. Within 24 hours however, she was playing a more dangerous role as she ferried survivors from the P & O Company SS Cathay, as well as the British India Company Karanja, both of whom had been bombed by German aircraft during the early stages of the operation.
RMS Strathnaver took part in numerous support operations including acting as a ‘Training Vessel’ for the brave troops preparing for the Italian landings in 1943, as well as those at Anzio in the latter part of the conflict.
At the end of the war, she was retained as a troop carrier until 1948, and in almost nine years of military service, she would steam in excess of 352,000 miles and carry over 129,000 troops.
Post war, she underwent a refit at Harland & Wolff in Belfast, where both dummy funnels were removed, bringing her appearance more in line with her surviving younger sister ships. She returned to her original London-Australia service in January 1950, continuing a two-class service carrying some 573 first and 496 tourist class passengers back and forth at least 3 times a year.
A further refit in 1954 saw her converted to a one-class ship, carrying 1,252 passengers. That year also saw her re-designated from RMS (Royal Mail Steamer) to TSS Strathnaver (Twin Screw Steamer).
In 1960, P & O merged with the Orient Line, but her career would not last long within the new company as the following year, the Australian Government cancelled forward bookings for supported emigration, rendering the TSS Strathnaver surplus to requirements.
This grand ship was sold in February 1962 and sailed to Hong Kong where she was scrapped.
Other Ships of the class (click to visit individual web pages)
Specifications (RMS Strathnaver)
|Launch date||5th February 1931|
Gross Registered Tonnes (GRT)
638.7 ft (194.7m)
80.2 ft (24.4 m)
29 ft 2 in (8.9 m)
33.1 ft (10.1 m)
Turbine Electric 6,315 NHP
22 kns (41 km/h)
|Capacity at Launch||498 1st Class / 670 Tourist Class|
|Special features||Direction Finding - Echo Sounding - Gyrocompass|