Blue Funnel Line - T.S.S. Nestor & Ulysses of 1913

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Please Note: All ssMaritime and other related maritime sites are 100% non-commercial and privately owned, thus ssmaritime is NOT associated with any shipping company or any other organisation! Although the author has worked and been involved in the passenger shipping industry for well over 60 years, but due to his old age and poor health, he was forced to retire. Yet, he has completed well over 1,365 Classic Liners, Passenger-Cargo Liners as well as humble converted C3 converted Migrant Liners, which has transported countless thousands folk to the new world, as well on vacations’. I trust the features online will continue to provide Classic Liner and Ship enthusiasts both the information they are seeking, but more so provide a great deal of pleasure and relive many happy memories!

 

 

Please Note: Postcards, photographs & other images are either from the author’s private collection.

A special thanks to the ssmaritime supporters for sending their most welcome Photos & images

Dave Hart (AU), Michael Donovan (UK), Peter West (AU)

And a special ‘thank you’ to the “Australian War Memorial”

 

I am sorry but some of the interior images shown below are not of the highest quality, but they are the best available

 

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Blue Funnel Line

(Alfred Holt & Co. - Ocean Steamship Co.)

 

 

 

Introduction to the Company:

It is a long and a good history, but I will keep it a little shorted than I wish, and mostly concentrate on Alfred Holt’s beginnings and the “Blue Funnel Line’s” last major passenger-cargo liner.

Alfred Holt as a boy was fascinated with steam engines and he even served an apprenticeship as a mechanical engineer with the “Liverpool & Manchester Railway”. In those days, the steam locomotive stood for the cutting edge of the then modern technology, as it used boiler pressures far higher than those employed in marine as well as other engines. However, due to a recession in the railway business in 1851 Alfred Holt joined the “Lamport & Holt” shipping line which commenced with their first ship in 1845 and was operated by his older brother George Holt. He became involved with fitting the engines in the “L&H” S.S. Orontes and he decided to join her during the ship’s maiden voyage which was to the Mediterranean.

In 1852, at only 23, he had the confidence to set himself up in Liverpool as a consulting engineer. But his horizons were broader, and Holt became part owner of the steamer “Dumbarton Youth”.

Alfred certainly proved his remarkable talent as a marine engineer and as a result, in 1852 he became the manager and engineer of the steamer “Dumbarton Youth” which was a ship jointly owned by his father and a Thomas Ainsworth, who he would soon go into business with. Alfred Holt being a great success and having an amazing business mind he joined forces with Thomas Ainsworth in that same year.

The “Dumbarton Youth” became the very first ship ever to be given a blue funnel and, as a result of the profits made from her voyage, Alfred was able to persuade his father and Thomas Ainsworth to advance the capital for the laying down of a second ship, the 391 GRT (Gross Registered tons) S.S. Cleator, to operate on the iron ore and coal trades. However, by the time she was delivered in 1855, the “Crimean War” had broken out, and thus she was chartered out to the French Government and was used throughout the Crimean War.

But considering she had been obtained by the French at such a low “outrageous rate” it did cause Alfred to suffer a degree of moral discomfort. However, this did not stop him from investing the profit from the “Cleator” in the construction of a larger ship, the “Saladin”. Then suddenly peace was declared in the Crimea and the “Cleator” was sold, and so he and his brother Philip used the profit and placed the S.S. Saladin in the West Indies service. With the success of the “Saladin” Alfred and Philip decided to expand their fleet and, with financial help and encouragement from their father, ships like the “Plantagenet”, “Talisman”, “Askalon” and the “Crusader” were added within the next few years.

However, considering the ever increasing and massive competition from established companies, they pulled out of the West Indies service and in 1864 they commenced operations to China and the Far East, and have since become the major British company serving the region. In 1865 Alfred and Philip Holt were in the garden of their father’s home at Liverpool and it was there they founded the “Ocean Steam Ship Company, Ltd” (O.S.S.C.), and they registered it.

The 2,279 GRT - S.S. Agamemnon (1) was completed in 1866, and she was the first ship built for the (O.S.S.C.), which was followed up by her sister the 2,280 GRT - S.S. Achilles (1).

S.S. Agamemnon (1)

In 1891, a Dutch subsidiary company, the “Nederlandsche Stoomboot Maatschappij Ocean” (N.S.M.O) was formed in order to compete with the very powerful and large number of Dutch companies serving the East Indies. (O.S.S.C.) also formed the Singapore based “East Indian Ocean Steam Ship Co” in the same year. Then in 1902 the “China Mutual Steam Navigation Co” was taken over including their fleet of 13 steam ships and their route between China and the West Coast of Canada and the United States.

The last major passenger-cargo liner the 8,262 GRT (Gross registered tons) M.S. Centaur made her maiden voyage on January 20, 1964, and operated a popular service between Fremantle (Perth) Australia to Singapore and back. She also operated 28 day Round Asian Cruises later in her days.

The delightful and much loved M.S. Centaur

But sadly the service finally ended when she departed Fremantle on September 15, 1982, on a wet and windy day, the “Centaur” departed Fremantle for her final official voyage to Singapore. This departure is recorded in Australian Maritime History for her being the very last ever liner departure out of AustraliaHaving arrived in Singapore, she was chartered out to “St Helena Shipping Company” for a 12 month period, after which she returned to Singapore, and she was laid up. The “Centaur” remained idle until 1985, but she was then sold to the “China Ocean Shipping Co”, who renamed her “Hai Long” and placed her on the Hong Kong to Shanghai service. Which brought to an end of the “Blue Funnel Line” as such!

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Introduction to the two featured Ships:

These two fine ships, the “Nestor” and “Ulysses” were built at a cost of 248,250 UK Pounds each, to be placed on the UK to Australia service by the “Ocean Steam Ship Company” and would be operated by the “Blue Funnel Line”. The ships were typical Passenger-Cargo liners, and although they were all First Class ships they offered the best of everything, but obviously their accommodations could not compete with the large luxury lines, such as the Cunard Line, etc. Each ship had a capacity of 350 passengers, with a Lounge, Library and a Writing Room, Smoking Room, and a Drawing Room, Dining Room, and a covered partially open Verandah. But what these ships lacked in sheer luxury, they gained in an intimate voyage, with excellent service and cuisine, etc. they were powered by “Triple-expansion Steam Engines” and with their twin screws they operated at a speed of 13.5 knots. They had seven Cargo Holds, No 1 and a tween deck space were fitted with refrigeration for meat, dairy as well as fruit to be shipped back to the UK. Their Cargo Capacity was a total of 147,180 cubic feet of refrigerated space. Blue Funnel ships were well known for their exceptionally tall blue and black topped funnels. The reasoning for the great height was to keep soot off their decks for the comfort of passengers and crew. However, these two sisters were given the highest funnels to date! As built each ship had twelve lifeboats, but this was changed in 1926 when her passenger numbers were reduced to 250, and they had ten lifeboats.

An excellent photograph of the T.S.S. Nestor in her early days sailing to Australia with her 12 lifeboats

 

The T.S.S. Ulysses is also seen as built in 1913 with 12 lifeboats

Their engines were Two Triple Expansion Turbine Engines producing 7,750 HP and with their Twin-Screws they were capable of speeds up to 13.5 knots. Their length was 563.2 ft, with a breadth of 68 ft, and a depth of 40.2 ft. Also both ships were fitted with radio direction-finding equipment.

An early advertisement promoting the T.S.S. Nestor

Mini-Photo Album:

Below I only have some images being a sample of accommodations onboard both ships. Some images are sadly not of a great quality, but they are mostly from 1913, and several from a later date.

The T.S.S. Nestor seen later in her career after her passenger numbers had been lowered as there are now

only 10 lifeboats, for aft of Boat Deck there is just one, the that was directly aft it having been removed

 

An outside two berth cabin with a sofa

The Cabin images were kindly provided by Peter West

 

An outside single bed cabin with a comfy cane chair

 

An Inside single ‘cot’ style bed cabin

 

The Deluxe Georgian style outside Stateroom on the “Ulysses”

 

A Deluxe outside Stateroom on the “Nestor”

 

A promotional poster on the two ships

Please Note: You will note that this feature on these two fine “Blue Funnel Line” Passenger-Cargo Liners is in Two Main Parts as I cover these ships undependably, even though they are identical sisters. However, they had very different experiences during their days at sea, thus I will cover them in order of their launch and delivery dates, and the T.S.S. Nestor was the first of the pair. Enjoy!

Officer’s button’s had the Alfred Holt logo on them

 

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Part One … T.S.S. Nestor III

T.S.S. Nestor - 1913 to 1950:

The 14,629 GRT Passenger-Cargo Liner being the third ship to be named the T.S.S. Nestor, certainly had a long and a profitable life. As built she accommodated 350 passengers in an all First Class configuration.

Built by “Workman, Clark & Co”, Belfast at a cost of 248,250 UK Pounds and she was launched on December 7, 1912 for the “Ocean Steam Ship Co” (O.S.S.C.) operating as the “Blue Funnel Line”.

Having been delivered to (O.S.S.C.) at Liverpool, after a successful speed trial; she departed on her maiden voyage on May 13, 1913 sailing from Liverpool via Cape Town, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney to Brisbane. She returned to the UK arriving on September 19, 1913 having been on a four month round voyage.

A postcard of the T.S.S. Nestor sailing up the Brisbane River in 1913

She continued her scheduled voyages to Australia sailing via Cape Town until World War One commenced in June 1914, although she did manage to sail in until September 1915, when she was laid up, but she would soon be called up by Australia for active duties.

A fine stern view of the “Nestor”, again seen in Sydney Harbour

Thank you “State Library of New South Wales”

World War One:

T.S.S. Nestor was officially requisitioned by the Australian Government to operate as a troopship from October 11, 1915 through until February 28, 1918. She operated A.I.F., and other military services voyages, as well as some for the British Army. For Australia she was now prefixed H.M.A.T. Nestor A71.

A List of H.M.A.T. Nestor A71 Departures:

This is just a partial list of her departures.

On October 11, 1915 a Convoy of 13 vessels departed Melbourne with 2,032 A.I.F. and Medical Officers

Then on April 9, 1916 a Convoy of 19 ships departed Sydney with 1,554 A.I.F. as well as the 2nd Infantry Battalion 16th Reinforcements, Medical Officers and 5 Nurses.

On October 2, 1916 a Convoy of 25 ships departed Melbourne with 2,040 A.I.F. including the 4th Light Horse Regiment, 21st Reinforcements and Medical Officers.

Then on April 5, 1917 a Convoy of 30 vessels departed Melbourne with 1 Imperial Trooper.

On November 21, 1917 a Convoy of 35 ships departed Melbourne with 196 A.I.F., and the 4th Light Horse Regiment, the 30th Reinforcements & Medical Officers.

Then on February 28, 1918, in a Convoy of 37 vessels she departed Melbourne with 165 A.I.F., and the 3rd Infantry Battalion, also the 26th Reinforcements & Medical Officers.

H.M.A.T. Nestor A71- WWI Photo Album:

Here we see an anti-submarine gun onboard H.M.A.T. Nestor A71

 

Australian Officers waiting to board the H.M.A.T. Nestor A71 on April 6, 1915

Grateful thanks to the “Australian War Memorial” in Canberra for some of their fine images in this section!

All that have been sourced from them are marked as “Australian War Memorial”

 

The H.M.A.T. Nestor A71 is seen in Sydney taking on a large number of troops bound for Egypt on April 6, 1915

 

Photograph above: Here we see a group of A.I.F. Officers onboard the H.M.A.T. Nestor A71 whilst they were on their way to Port Said in 1915. One of these was Captain Arthur Ross Clayton who was one of them that served at the 1st “Australian General Hospital” at Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt.

H.M.A.T. Nestor is seen departing filled with troops on October 11, 1915

 

H.M.A.T. Nestor A71 arrived in Sydney late march 1916 and her funnel and ventilators would be painted all grey whilst there

On April 9, 1916 the "Nestor" in a Convoy 19 vessels departed Sydney with 1,554 AIF personnel, as well as the 2nd Infantry Battalion 16th Reinforcements, with some Medical Officers and 5 Nurses, all bound on her for Egypt, but would be transferred in Alexandria to another ship, bound for England.

 

H.M.A.T. Nestor A71 about to depart Sydney on April 9, 1916

The Sydney departure with the 17th Battalion onboard (seen above) took them across the Indian Ocean, then through the Suez Canal arriving at Alexandria in Egypt. There they were transferred to the S.S. Megantic that departed Alexandria on May 28, 1916 and she arrived in Plymouth, England on June 7, 1916. There they were given further extensive training in preparation for what lay ahead for them on Western Front. This continued until September 5, 1916 when they departed England and landed at either Le Havre or Boulogne.

She was kept busy, but early in October 1916, she would be in Sydney and take on another full load of troops.

Australian soldiers seen on the bow area onboard H.M.A.T. Nestor A71 on October 2, 1916.

 

The tall grey funnel of the “Nestor” during 1916, not sure when it was returned to her regular colour

 

The “Nestor” is seen departing Melbourne on October 2, 1916

Note that her funnel is now painted grey

 

 

Above & below: A card sent from the “Nestor” by Private J. L. McIntyre to his family

 

 

H.M.A.T. Nestor A71 filled with troops of the 17th Battalion, is about to depart Melbourne on February 28, 1918

Back to Civil Duties:

With her trooping days over, she was refitted once more to make her fit again for passengers sailing to, or from Australia in comfort.

Then in 1926 after a refit her passenger numbers were reduced to 250, but then in 1935 there was another reduction and she would now carry just 175 passengers.

A fine stern view of the T.S.S. Nestor as she departs Brisbane Australia heading home to the UK in 1927

 

Schedule from June 1927 to March 1928

The schedule above showed she would be sailing from Liverpool and via Tenerife or Las Palmas, Cape Town, Durban, Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney to Brisbane, and return via the same ports to Liverpool.

In 1936 whilst sailing homeward between Melbourne and Adelaide she assisted the “Australasian Steam Navigation, Company” (AUSN) a 3,351 GRT - cargo ship named the S.S. Mungana, which was in trouble as she was drifting and heading onto rocks near South Australia’s “Cape Jaffa” (east of Adelaide). The “Nestor’s” crew managed to get a tow line to her by using their very last rocket across to the ship. The T.S.S. Nestor then towed her for some 170 miles to the port of Adelaide being the Capitol of South Australia.

The AUSN S.S. Mungana

 

Schedule from June 1939 to March 1940

The “Nestor’s” schedule from 1939 was as follows; from Liverpool via Madeira, Cape Town, Durban (only on outward voyages), Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney to Brisbane, and return via the same ports to Liverpool.

The Nestor is seen at Station Pier Melbourne together with the S.S. Ormonde in February 1940.

World War Two:

The “Nestor” was again requisitioned in 1940 for Government service and it was decided to return her passenger numbers to 250. She departed Liverpool and headed for her regular destination the city of Brisbane in the State of Queensland Australia. On this departure she transported British children who were being evacuated to Australia due to the dangers in the UK as the Germans would be attacking with air attacks.

Amazingly, there is very little information available on the H.M.A.T. Nestor’s activities during WW2, but what I have is included below.

Late in 1940 the T.S.S. Nestor carried Australian sailors from Australia to England as they were to man a new 5-N Class Destroyer.

It was on November 8, 1940, a group of Australian naval marines joined the H.M.A.T. Nestor in Sydney. One of these men was marine “Kenneth (Ken) James Brown” who would sail on the “Nestor to Cape Town and there they were transferred to the troopship H.M.T. Orontes which landed them at Portsmouth where the new N-Class Destroyer was being built.

In Portsmouth Ken and all the other naval marines would become the very first crew of newly built 5-N Class Destroyer being completed by the Royal Navy and she had been officially allocated to the Royal Australian Navy for the duration of the war. Her name was, amazingly the H.M.A.S Nestor GO2.

 

Above & below: This young marine became the highly decorated,

Lieutenant Commander Kenneth (Ken) James Brown, and he is seen below when somewhat older

 

 

H.M.A.S. Nestor GO2

Sadly the days of the H.M.A.S. Nestor GO2 would be relatively short, for at 1800 hours on June 15, 1942, being with a convoy just off the south west corner of Crete (3336N, 2430E), the H.M.A.S. Nestor was straddled by a number of heavy bombs that caused serious damage to her No.1 boiler room and killed four of her personnel. She was taken in tow by the H.M.S. Javelin but sadly she continued to take on water, thus at 0530 hours the next morning (June 16) the destroyer went down by the bow, permission was sought to scuttle her. After the crew had been transferred to the “Javelin” she was sunk at 0700 hours after a depth charge was used to get her to the bottom of the sea.

But the H.M.A.T. Nestor operated further troop transport services from Australia to England during World War 2. Then in 1941 she operated a voyage to Singapore and onboard the “Nestor” was a Ruth Bratt who worked for Radio Malaya.

With the H.M.A.T. Nestor being in Hong Kong, she departed from Hong Kong and headed for Liverpool, sailing via Semarang, Singapore, Cape Town and Halifax, arriving at Liverpool on November 5, 1941.

The “Nestor” was retained and operated voyages during WW2, until she was released back to her owners.

Post War:

After the war T.S.S. Nestor resumed her regular service to Australia, departing from Liverpool, sailing via Las Palmas, Cape Town, Durban, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney to Brisbane and return via the same ports to Liverpool.

Interestingly mid 1940’s her voyage would change, for back in 1913 a round voyage to Australia took just four months, but by the mid 1940’s the same voyage took five months and twenty days, and this was not due to her age or then inferior quality of bunker coal, but due to congestion, delays and ongoing labour disputes in Australian ports in those days.

Sadly T.S.S. Nestor’s days were rapidly coming to an end, as the Company had decided to sell her. Thus her final voyage to Australia left on December 23, 1949, during which she even made a visit to Hobart in Tasmania, Australia. When she returned to the UK late in May 1950, she was laid up and placed on the market. Soon she was sold to “Metal Industries Limited” being a Scottish breaker, and she headed to Faslane, Scotland, where she arrived on August 8, 1950 and breaking up commenced on August 11.

In Conclusion:

After 37 years of excellent service, the T.S.S. Nestor, the ship with the tallest funnel in the world, had completed 68 round voyages to South Africa and Australia, steaming a remarkable 2,111,602 miles.

For interest, her Captains were as follows; T. Bartlett - R. D. (Daddy) Owen - G. K. Houghton - W. Christie - F. Adcock - J. J. Power - J. H. Blythe and Captain E. W. Powell.

T.S.S. Nestor is seen in Tasmania’s Capitol Hobart in 1950 - this is Australia’s south-eastern Island State

 

The T.S.S. Nestor Ships Bell

 

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T.S.S. Nestor Specifications & Details:

Name: T.S.S. Nestor.

. H.M.A.T. Nestor A71 - WW1 & WW2.

Type: Passenger-Cargo Ship.

Owner: “Ocean Steam Ship Company, Ltd.”

Managed by: “Blue Funnel Line.”

Registered: Liverpool, UK.

Official Number 135456.

Call Sign GPYX.

Shipbuilder: “Workman Clark”, Belfast.

Yard Number 318.

Launched: December 7, 1912.

Maiden Voyage: May 13, 1913.

Tonnage: 14,509 GRT, 9,116 NET.

Length: 563.2 Ft.

Beam: 68.4 Ft.

Depth 40.2 Ft.

Engine Type Triple-expansion Steam Engines, 7,750 IHP (Indicated Horse Power).

Engine Details: Two engines each with cylinders of bore 26”, 44”, 74" and stroke 51’ - by Workman Clark.

Propellers: Twin Screw

Speed 13.5 knots, 14 knots maximum.

Passenger Decks: 3

Accommodations: 350 all First Class passengers.

. 1926 - 250 passengers.

. 1935 - 175 passengers.

. 1940 - 250 passengers.

. Crew: 190.

Fate: Sold to “Metal Industries Limited” arrived at Faslane on the August 8, 1950.

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Part Two … T.S.S. Ulysses IV

T.S.S. Ulysses - 1913 to 1942:

This is the fourth ship to be named T.S.S. Ulysses and she was identical to her sister the “Nestor”, but the Ulysses was 14,499 GRT. She also featured that one extreamly tall funnel, with two tall masts, and as she was also powered by “Triple-expansion Steam Engines”, with her twin screws she operated at a speed of 13.5 knots. She offered accommodations for 350 First Class passengers and had the same cargo configuration as the “Nestor”.

A fine portside view of the T.S.S. Ulysses seen as built

The T.S.S. Ulysses was built in Belfast by Workman Clark and she was launched on July 5, 1913 for the “China Mutual Steam Navigation Co”, of London. On October 22, 1913 she departed on her maiden voyage from Glasgow, sailing via Liverpool to her final destination of Brisbane Australia, and returned the same way to Liverpool. This was a four month round voyage.

T.S.S. Ulysses is seen passing under the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge

She like her sister the “Nestor” became relatively popular as they offered an interesting voyage, and they became known for their great service and facilities that satisfied their guests.

 

She continued on her regular service until the “Great War” came around, when she would be taken over by the “Australian Royal Navy” and become a troopship in 1915.

World War One:

During 1914, she made a number of voyages containing high ranking officers and some troops and she was for those voyages the H.M.A.T. Ulysses (A38), although she would become that officially in the next year when she commenced fulltime trooping duties for the Australian Government.

Brigadier General Sir John Monash (left)and Major John Patrick McGlinn seen onboard H.M.A.T. Ulysses (A38)

Above: On December 22, 1914 he boarded the “Ulysses” in Melbourne having been selected by Colonel John Monash as Brigade Major for the 4th Infantry Brigade. He became officially “Brigadier General John Patrick McGlinn CBE, VD, CMG, OBE”. While serving at Gallipoli, he temporarily commanded the Brigade in Monash’s absence and during the evacuation, he removed 800 men of the 4th Brigade without any loss. For his service at Gallipoli, he was twice mentioned in despatches and appointed a “Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George” (CMG). He later served in Egypt and France, and was once again mentioned in despatches. However due to illness he was evacuated to the UK, and was restricted to home service served in England until 1920, returning to Australia in March 1920 and was placed on the unattached list as a Brigadier General in July 1920. But he sadly died on July 7, 1946

H.M.A.T. Ulysses (A38) is seen receiving modifications for her full time trooping duties on April 16, 1915

In April 1915 the “ Ulysses” was leased by the Australian Commonwealth” and continued through to August 1917 for the specific purpose of transporting Australian troops, comprising of various A.I.F. formations, the Light Horse Regiment to their respective overseas destinations, but mostly to Egypt. Although she would to continue to transport Australian soldiers until her arrival in Melbourne on August 30, 1919.

Troops waiting to embark the H.M.A.T. Ulysses (A38) at the Port of Melbourne

The photograph was taken from H.M.A.T. Euripides (A14)

As the H.M.A.T. Ulysses (A38) she made a number of voyages from Australia taking Australian soldiers to the Suez region. As a troopship she would usually sail in a convoy, together with other transport ships. In addition to her trooping duties, she also carried various commodity exports to Britain and France.

Troops pose aft of the H.M.A.T. Ulysses (A38) in Melbourne on May 8, 1915, bound for Egypt

Recorded Voyages with Troops onboard:

Melbourne to Liverpool December 22, 1914.

Melbourne to Port Tewfik (Suez) - May 8 - June (?), 1915.

Mudros to Alexandria - August 19 - 24, 1915 - as a Hospital Ship.

Port Tewfik (Suez) to Fremantle - September 30 - October (?), 1915.

Melbourne to Port Tewfik (Suez) - October 27 - November 26, 1915.

Lemnos to Alexandria - December 20 - 22, 1915.

Sydney to Alexandria - February 20 - April 25, 1916.

Melbourne to Plymouth - October 25 - December 28, 1916.

England to Fremantle - February 13 - April 12, 1917.

England to Fremantle - September 10 - November 4, 1917.

Port Said to Fremantle - February 15 - March 11, 1918.

Devonport to Fremantle - January 18 - February 24, 1919.

England to Melbourne - July 22 - August 30, 1919.

Photograph of officers and nursing sisters up on the top deck of H.M.A.T. Ulysses (A38) in Melbourne on October 27, 1915

 

H.M.A.T. Ulysses (A38), is seen in faded camouflage on Sydney Harbour, and she is seen at anchor with a small tender alongside

 

She is seen here laden with Australian soldiers arriving at Fremantle on Wednesday March 1, 1916 on her way to Alexandria

Note that like the “Nestor” her funnel was now also grey

 

H.M.A.T. Ulysses (A38) ready to depart Melbourne for Alexandria on October 25, 1916

On August 15, 1917 management of the “Ulysses” was passed over to the British Admiralty and she was then used to transfer American troops across the Atlantic.

Back to her Civil Duties:

In September 1920 T.S.S. Ulysses resumed her commercial duties now sailing from Liverpool, London, Southampton, Tenerife or Las Palmas, Cape Town, Durban, Fremantle, Albany, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney to Brisbane and much the same on her return voyage to Liverpool.

In 1926 during a refit her passenger accommodation was reduced to 250 First Class and this happened again in 1936 when it was reduced once more to just 175 First Class.

She is seen here at sea after her passenger number change, thus she now has 10 lifeboats

World War 2:

The Hong Kong & Singapore Incidents:

In 1941 the “Ulysses” was in Hong Kong for a refit. Her Captain at the time was ‘James Appleton Russell’ and for obvious reasons her crew was billeted ashore. Then in September 1941, as she was almost complete she was damaged during a typhoon. Having been towed out to a buoy in the harbour, and was moored both fore and aft, but in the storm she suddenly broke her moorings and ran aground on Green Island, which was at the western entrance of the harbour. This of course meant further repairs and it delayed her departure from Hong Kong.

In the meantime, all those in Hong Kong realised there was a huge threat of a Japanese invasion since Japan had already invaded Manchuria in 1931 and the rest of China in 1937. In 1940, many of the British women and children who were resident in Hong Kong were safely evacuated to Australia.

On the evening of 6th December, the officers and crews of the merchantmen in harbour were recalled to their ships, and the passengers for the “Ulysses” told to be onboard within 12 hours. The Ulysses sailed that fateful Sunday, while the Japanese were preparing to attack the American fleet at Pearl Harbour and to invade Hong Kong, Malaya and the Philippines. After one day's passage from Hong Kong, and whilst heading for Manila, all onboard heard the news by wireless that the Japanese war had begun, and sadly Manila was already under attack. Captain Russell decided to change course and head for Singapore. Early one morning the ship’s siren sounded as a loud explosion was heard. The passengers rushed up to the Boat Deck only to find that a Japanese aircraft had passed overhead and dropped some bombs, but were all misses and thus no damage had been done. The next day another Japanese aircraft strafed H.M.S. Ulysses with machine guns, but once more, no serious damage or injuries were obtained. The destroyers H.M.S. Scout and H.M.S. Thanet that had left Hong Kong on Monday evening December 8, bound for Singapore had been ordered to keep an eye on the Ulysses, after they received her distress signal that stated that she was under attack by Japanese aircraft. They looked for her, but could not locate her and there was simply no sign of her. 

The “Ulysses” finally arrived at Singapore, and it obviously caused a huge surprise, for it was thought that she had been sunk, as nothing more was heard after having sent the distress signal, apparently the ship maintained radio silence. She remained in Singapore for a week, where she was given new repairs, whilst the passengers, were accommodated for the week at the “Raffles Hotel”. Soon Singapore was being bombed as the Japanese were fighting their way through Malaya and heading rapidly toward Singapore.

Off to Australia and USA bound:

Just before Christmas the “Ulysses” departed Singapore and headed for Fremantle (the port for Western Australia’s Capital Perth. Having embarked many women and children all being evacuees, she departed Fremantle and headed for Adelaide a good port for repairs, after which she headed back to the UK, but this time she sailed via Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane and then crossed the Pacific Ocean, and passed through the Panama canal, and soon she was on the Atlantic.

Another view of the “Ulysses”

As the Ulysses steamed up the coast of Florida she was involved in a collision on April 8, 1942 when she collided with the Panamanian tanker “Gold Heels” causing a hole in her hull below the waterline and major damage to her bow. The “Ulysses” was forced to sail at a slow speed, which made her a target for German U-boats that roamed the Atlantic.

The Fate of the T.S.S. Ulysses:

But finally on April 11, Ulysses’ luck had finally ran out for at 22.31 hours the unescorted H.M.S. Ulysses with her Captain now being James Appleton Russell, the “Ulysses” was suddenly hit in the stern by a single stern torpedo from the German U-160, some 45 miles south of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Then another in the engine room by a torpedo at 22.53 hours.

The German U-Boat - U-160

With torpedoes having hit the ship, but she settled slowly giving sufficient time for her life boats to be lowered and her crew of 195, which included the five gunners, and her 95 passengers were all safely in lifeboats

The above image shows the H.M.S. Ulysses boilers blowing up not long before she sank. This photo was taken by a US aircraft being the first to reach the scene. The presence of an aircraft could well have been the reason that the U-160 departed so rapidly. An hour or so later, the US destroyer, U.S.S. Manley arrived, and with their scrambling nets having been lowered, the survivors were able to come up on her deck, thus all from the “Ulysses” were taken onboard by the American destroyer.

Even though all had already abandoned ship, the U-boat came around to the other side after their last torpedo had been fired at 23.27 hours, but then the U-160 fired a third torpedo hitting her directly amidships and caused the “Ulysses” to sink within 30 minutes.

All the survivors were landed in Charleston and then were taken to New York, where they took passage on S.S. Myrmidon, being another “Blue Funnel Line” ship, returned to England.

S.S. Myrmidon

From what I have been told by a reliable source, that it was … “the Captain who had disobeyed an order, which would have taken her through safe waters”.

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T.S.S. Ulysses - Specifications and Details:

Name: T.S.S. Ulysses.

. H.M.A.T. Ulysses (A38) - WW1 & WW2.

Type: Passenger-Cargo Ship.

Owner: “Ocean Steam Ship Company, Ltd.”

Managed by: “Blue Funnel Line.”

Registered: Liverpool, UK.

Official No: 135509.

Call Sign: GQBZ.

Shipbuilder: “Workman Clark”, Belfast.

Yard: 319.

Launched: July 5, 1913.

Maiden Voyage: October 22, 1913.

Tonnage: 14,499, 9,123 NET.

Length: 563.2 Ft.

Breadth: 68.4 Ft.

Depth: 40.2 Ft.

Engine Type: Triple-expansion Steam Engine, 7,750 IHP (Indicated Horse Power).

Engine Details: Two engines each with cylinders of bore 26”, 44”, 74" and stroke 51’ - by Workman Clark.

Propellers: Twin Screw.

Speed: 13.5 knots, 14 knots maximum.

Passenger Decks: 3.

Accommodations: 350 First Class passengers.

. 1926 - 250 passengers.

. 1936 - 175 passengers.

. 1940 - 250 passengers.

Crew: 190.

Fate: Torpedoed and sunk by U-160 on April 11, 1942.

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The T.S.S. Ulysses a starboard view in 1924

 

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Photographs on ssmaritime and associate pages are by; the author or from the author’s private collection. In addition there are some images that have been provided by Shipping Companies and private photographers or collectors. Credit is given to all contributors. However, there are some photographs provided to me without details regarding the photographer/owner concerned.

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