(1) 1908 to 1934 (Union Steam Ship Co, Ltd of New
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Historian, Author, Lecturer & Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer
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shipping industry for over 60 years, but is now retired, but hopes that you
will enjoy the articles on many classic liners and cruise ships that have been
covered, all done for past passengers and classic ship enthusiasts to relive
those wonderful days gone by!
A fine postcard of the S.S.
Please Note: Photographs are from the Author’s
private collection, and were obtained, when employed as a
manager at the Union Steam Ship Company in
Wellington New Zealand in 1963, unless stated
(I) became known as the very first “Union Steam Ship Company of New
Zealand Ltd”, (USSCo) ship that made a regular and a very important
regular link with many of the Pacific Islands,
which was greatly sought after by both the Polynesians and New Zealanders. Thus
she was designed to exclusively operate as a Passenger-Cargo
liner, with ample Cargo, with refrigerated space to transport meats, foods and
general goods, as well as mail to the Islands, whilst bananas and other fruits,
would be loaded from the Pacific
and were transported to New
Tofua I was constructed by “William
& Brothers”, at Dumbarton,
and early in 1908 she was launched, officially named Tofua and fitted out and
when she was completed she undertook her deep sea trails. During her speed
trials she proved to be very successful as she reached a fine 15.8 knots
maximum speed, although she would sail at a service speed of 14.5 knots.
Having been delivered to Liverpool, the Tofua
was made ready for her official delivery voyage to the USSCo in Auckland New Zealand.
The Tofua departed Liverpool on
Sunday April 12, 1908, sailing via South
and headed for Sydney
where she received quite a big welcome and whilst there several functions were
held on board, etc. She then departed Sydney
on June 23 bound for New
and upon arrival in Auckland
she spent some time, as she would be fully manned, as well as completely stored
up, and made ready for her maiden Pacific voyage and her regular round trips.
The Tofua is seen in Auckland
and she had excellent accommodations for 100 First and 44 Second Class
The 4,345 GRT (Gross Registered Ton)
Passenger-Cargo Liner S.S. Tofua would be taking over services from the
delightful 1904 built, smaller 2,930 GRT
although this ship never called on the Island nations of Samoa and Tonga,
which Tofua would now do on every single voyage as from now!
the ship the Tofua replaced on the Pacific Service
(I) departed Auckland
on July 22, 1908, and headed for Suva
Haapai and Vavau (all Tonga),
concluding in the Capital of Samoa “Apia”.
Then her return voyage was direct to Auckland
with just a single port of call, being the Fijian port
A delightful colour postcard with a painting of the Tofua
seen above a special Stamp was issued honouring the Pacific Mail ship S.S.
The Tofua remained on this service until 1915,
as time was about to change with a major war was about to commence.
1915 to 1919
The Tofua was taken over by the Admiralty
(under orders of the British High Command) and she was given a refit, which saw
most of her luxurious passenger fittings removed, and she was made suitable for
the job to become being a WWI Troopship.
Upon completion she was given the prefix HMNZT
(His Majesty New Zealand Troopship) Tofua.
A Record of HMNZT Tofua’s Transport Voyages:
Below is a list of HMNZT Tofua’s Wartime voyages, or “convoys”, many of
which were sailing with another ship and escorted by warships for protection. The
list was obtained from official Government WWI files, even though they were not
very complete with all the detail I wished for, but it was better than nothing!
You will note that all HMNZT Tofua’s convoy’s numbers are shown in bold, such as HMNZT Tofua #109.
August 14, 1915, as HMNZT Tofua #28 she
was placed in convoy with the Australian ship HMNZT Willochra 27, and they
with the 6th reinforcements, New Zealand Expeditionary Force, being a total of
2,363 troops and persons and headed for Egypt, where the arrived on September
Willochra 27 was an ‘Adelaide Steamship Co, Ltd’, an Australia
ship on loan to New
November 13, 1915, HMNZT Tofua #36 and
in convoy once again with HMNZT Willochra 35 departed New
with the 8th Reinforcement & 2nd Reinforcements Infantry to NZ Rifle
Brigade, a combined total of 2,585 troops commanded by Captain
who was on the Tofua and they were once again bound for Egypt, where they
arrived on December 18.
March 4, 1916, HMNZT Tofua #48 and in convoy
with HMNZT Willochra 47 departed New
with 11th Reinforcements NZ Expeditionary Force, 5th Reinforcements 1st, 2nd
Battalion NZ Rifle Brigade, 2nd Reinforcements 3rd & 4th Battalion. NZ
Rifle Brigade, a combined total of 2,222 troops commandeered by Captain
on board the Tofua. They arrived in Egypt
on May 3, 1916.
June 27, 1916, HMNZT Tofua #55 in
convoy with HMNZT SS Willochra 54 departed New
bound for Devonport the UK,
with 13th Reinforcements NZ Expeditionary Force, 7th Reinforcements to the 1st
& 2nd Battalion NZ Rifle Brigade & 4th Reinforcements to the 3rd &
4th Battalion NZ Rifle Brigade, a combined total of 2,123 troops. The convoy
was commandeered by Major Hickey aboard Tofua. Just several days out from Albany
the Willochra was diverted to Plymouth
whilst the Tofua arrived at Devonport July 27, 1916.
October 11, 1916, HMNZT Tofua #67
with part of the 18th Reinforcements NZ Expeditionary Force the other part was
carried by HMNZT Willochra 66 and the 9th Reinforcements Maori Contingent. They
arrived on December 28, 1916 at Plymouth
April 26, 1917, HMNZT Tofua #83 in
conjunction and convoy with HMNZT Turakina 84 departed New
- with the 25th Reinforcements New Zealand Expeditionary Force. Troops aboard
the Tofua were under the command of Captain
Both ships arrived at Plymouth
on July 19, 1917.
the Turakina was torpedoed and sank on August 13, 1917
November 13, 1917, HMNZT Tofua #98
with 29th, 30th, 31st, 32nd, 33rd & 34th Field Ambulance as well as the
Mounted Rifles Brigade. A total of 810 men were under command of Lieutenant
The Tofua arrived at Suez,
December 21, 1917.
March 2 1918. HMNZT Tofua #101 departed
with the 35th Reinforcements NZ Expeditionary Force and the 27th Reinforcements
Maori Contingent, a total of 932 troops under command of Capt.
She arrived in England
on April 8, 1918, having made calls at Suez,
August 1, 1918, HMNZT Tofua #109
with the 42nd Reinforcements NZ Expeditionary Force. There were a total of 856
troops on board all under the command of Capt.
and the ship was bound for the UK.
She arrived in London
on October 4, 1918.
During the years she served convoy #109
was her final troop transport duty, and she had served her country and this
hideous war well, having transported countless of thousands Troops, Medical
Staff, Military Bands and others to the Middle East and the United
Finally the time had come for her to be returned to the “Union Steam Ship
Company” late in October 1918.
returned to the USSCo:
She headed back to New
where she was given a comprehensive refit, bringing back all her wonderful
fittings and furnishings returning the ship as she was before the war, as well
as adding some fine new improvements. Upon completion she recommenced her
regular Pacific service in 1919. However, after just several return voyages,
she was called on to operate on the prestigious Trans-Pacific service; sailing
from Sydney (Australia), via Wellington (New Zealand), Rarotonga (Cook
Islands), Papeete (Tahiti), to San Francisco (U.S.A.) and return via the same
Pacific ports to Wellington and Sydney.
The reason the Tofua was chosen was due to
another liner having been taken out of service for an overhaul, and the Tofua
was considered to be a passenger ship with such high passenger standards and
luxuries, that she was perfect for the job!
Her First Class was without a doubt sheer
luxury to say the least, and even her Second Class Passengers sailed in
considerable style, so much so that her Second Class was closely compared to
First Class on most other ships!
I regret that I have no photographs of her
lounges or cabins. If anyone has any on board images they would be most
welcome, and if used, they will be credited!
Above: Here we
see a Clam Shell containing a remarkable painting of the S.S.
(I) by the late Frank
who was a maritime artist during the late 19th and early 20th Century in Wellington,
I obtained this image in 1963 whilst I was working at the HQ of the
“Union Steam Ship Company” in Wellington.
There is no doubt that the Tofua
(I) became an extremely popular ship for those who sought a relaxing vacation,
and many Australian’s and New Zealander’s booked a full Round
Voyage on her, thus enjoying what we call today a luxury cruise!
postcard of the Tofua seen in Auckland
photographed by Frederick
The Tofua sailed on very successfully for many
happy years, but eventually the time came that a new USSCo ship was built to
After 24 years of hard work on the Pacific
service, as well as a very tough WWI service, the time had came that the S.S.
was due to be retired.
The Tofua coming close to her final voyage of the Pacific!
She finally completed her last Pacific
run in 1932, and other ships, such as the 10,602 T.S.S.
and the magnificent 13,415 GRT R.M.S. Niagara took over the Pacific circuit for
several years few years until the USSCo’s new M.V.
was completed and made her maiden voyage to Tonga,
Samoa and Fiji
in August-September of 1936. The Matua continued until 1968, but the newer and
had joined her in 1951 being the very last Pacific Island Passenger-Cargo liner
to be built and operate on the Island
service!, The Tofua II finally ended her service and was sold in 1973, it was
an end to a fine era!
Final Tofua I Details: She was laid up in Auckland
on April 12, 1932, and was finally sold in 1934 to “Miyachi K.K.K”,
She departed Auckland
without any notice in 1934 and on board there were just a small and a basic
crew, as she headed directly to Osaka
where she was soon broken up.
Stat’s & Details:
Steamship Company, London
1908 to 1934.
Denny & Brothers, Dumbarton,
Type: Passenger/Cargo Steamship (Refrigerated).
Date Built: 1908.
GRT, 2,634 NET.
Length: 350.3 ft - 106.8 m.
Breadth: 48.2 ft - 14.7 m.
Draught: 20.5 ft - 6.25 m.
- two triple expansion engines.
knots service speed, 15.8 knots maximum speed.
First Class, and 44 Second Class.
Miyachi K.K.K, in
1934 & was scrapped in Osaka
delightful USSCo’s …
was not like the huge glamorous ships of today, but she was a delightful and a
much loved ship indeed!
visit the M.V. Matua Feature
the final USSCo Pacific Passenger-Cargo Liner - M.V. Tofua II
“Blue Water Liners sailing to the
I watched them come, I watched them go and I watched them die.”
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