Howard Smith Ltd - T.S.S. Canberra 1913 to 1947, then
owned by the Greek Line 1947 to 1954, owned by the Dominican
1954 to 1959
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attempt to write an article now and then, in order to bring enjoyment and
pleasure to ship enthusiasts past passengers and crew.
Canberra above is seen between the years after WWI and before WWII
are from the ssMaritime historic collection - unless stated otherwise
to thank the “State Library of Queensland” (SLQ) & “State
Library of Victoria” (SLV) for their wonderful contribution
Howard Smith Limited had a long and a proud
history in Australian shipping which goes back to the 1850’s when the
Englishman Captain William Howard Smith (born in Yarmouth, England in 1813)
together with and a friend, who was a marine engineer Mr. Skinner, obtained a
199-ton iron hulled single screw steamer, but was a fully schooner-rigged
vessel named “Express”, and he set off with his family for
Melbourne, Australia, where they arrived in May 1854. He and Skinner, the
marine engineer became involved with the Parker brothers and together they
played a big part in setting up the Australian coastal shipping company
“Huddard Parker Ltd”.
really desired his own coastal Shipping Company in Australia,
thus in 1862 he returned to England
in order to purchase a suitable ship to commence a new coastal trade in Australia.
S.S. You Yangs:
In the UK,
purchased in 1863 a steel hulled schooner rigged steam ship named
“Kief”, being 583-tons and Captain
renamed her “You Yangs”. Having been given a refit, she departed
and it was on May 14, 1864, ten years after arriving in Melbourne
the first time that Captain
had arrived on the “Express”.
“You Yangs” the very first ship under the Howard
name in 1883
However at that time she operated by the
current company name of “Melbourne Steam Ship Company” and she was
placed on a varied service, sailing between Melbourne,
Sydney and Newcastle,
New South Wales as well as voyaged to the
Island state of Australia Tasmania as well as South
Australia as required.
In November 1869 the “You Yangs”
was reregistered in Melbourne,
but then in 1871 she was given a comprehensive refit with her tonnage increased
to 672-tons, as well as having been given some additional passenger
accommodations, which were not always used. Then finally, in October 1883 she
was transferred to the new company, “W. Howard Smith & Sons
Limited”, and it was in this year, that “Howard Smith
Limited”, was really born!
Howard Smith & Sons Limited lifebuoy logo from the late 1880’s and
Then during a voyage south, the You Yangs
struck a rock, and was abandoned East of Kangaroo Island
(near Pelorous Island)
South Australia, on the June 14, 1890, she was badly holed thus she rapidly
took on water and began to sink. Her captain called for his crew of 20 to
abandon ship, and the captain was the last to leave the sinking vessel.
Obviously time has passed and there have been
other ships, but the S.S.
of 1904 was the first of a new and a larger series of passenger Cargo liners to
operate along the Australian coast.
The 3,540-ton Bombala was a steel steamship
built by Sir
& Sons at Deptford Yard 597, Sunderland,
for the Howard Smith & Company’s new Melbourne
to Fremantle (Perth)
service. She was launched on October 22, 1903 and completed in March 1904.
fine photograph of the S.S.
the forerunner of the Passenger, Melbourne
to North Queensland
She was powered by a four Cylinder Triple
Expansion Engine with four single ended coal fired boilers. As of 1913 she
mostly serviced the more popular Melbourne
Queensland service and she was
very popular with passengers.
Finally she was sold 1929 to London
interests, and was renamed “Aspasia”,
but six years later she was sold again in 1935 to Italian interests and was
however sadly she was scrapped in that same year at Savona
The 3,839-ton passenger cargo liner S.S.
was built by Alexander Stephens & Sons Ltd, Linthouse in 1907. She was
powered by one x 3 Cylinders Triple Expansion Steam Engine, with a single
shaft, and a single screw, with four coal fired boilers with a forced draught.
was the second of a Trio, but the next ship would be twice their size!
Howard Smith Ltd., Melbourne
placed her on the very popular Melbourne,
and North Queensland
port service accommodating passengers in two classes. She sailed as a service
speed of 15 knots. There was no doubt that she became a very popular ship on
that service with passengers who loved to sail on her!
One afternoon on July 7, 1926, the S.S. Cooma
departed Brisbane bound for Cairns, with some 250 passengers on board, music
was playing as they departed and every one was looking forward to warm and
sunny days ahead up north in Cairns during the Australian winter as it would be
cold down in Melbourne and Sydney! However, as she headed northward it was
later in that same day that several other Burns Philp ship the S.S.
received SOS calls coming from the much larger liner Cooma and two other Burns
Philp steamers the Morinda and Malabar did as well. The Burwah was on a voyage
sailing south from Rockhampton down to Brisbane
and thus she was the closest ship, and she headed for the troubled ship
arriving around 10 pm and discovered that the Cooma had been wrecked and
aground on North Reef which is located around 80 mls - 128.7 klms east of
Cooma’s Captain Maine sent a radio
message to Burwah’s Master that his “ship was making some
water”, but that she was not in immediate danger. However considering
that relatively heavy seas were running, thus the Burwah remained close by
during the night. Thankfully the next morning the seas proved to be calmer and
all of Cooma’s 250 passengers were transferred to the Burwah who were
safely taken to Port Alma. During the day the H.M.A.S.
which had also arrived, but her Commander reported that he felt that the S.S.
was a complete wreck, and that he had taken off all her crew. There were
attempts to secure and refloat her, and many tons of cargo worth at least
£20,000 had been removed from Cooma’s holds to another freighter, whilst
perishables had been tossed overboard. But finally she was declared a total
wreck and in May 1927 what was left of her was sold for the sum of £150. In
conclusion, Cooma’s Captain Maine was charged with lack of Caution, not
doing his job, for he should have
remained on the bridge, etc, etc, and his masters ticket was suspended for
(what?) just a lousy two months.
We have finally come to the ship that is the
main part of this feature, the magnificent, and one of the first “Fast
Passenger Liner” especially designed for the Melbourne,
Sydney, Brisbane, Mackay, Townsville to Cairns service and she was known to
have beaten the Sydney
rail service on a good number of occasions, that was until their shorter and
faster coastal railway service to Brisbane was finished.
The 7,710 GRT, T.S.S. “Canberra”
was built by Alexander Stephen & Sons at Linthouse
ship-yards in Scotland,
and she was launched on November 9, 1912, as soon she was in the water, she was
towed to her fit-out berth, where she would be finished, and amazingly she was
fully completed just four months later.
early publicity image of the T.S.S. “Canberra”
from Howard Smith Limited
The brand new T.S.S. Canberra headed to Plymouth
where passengers boarded, and on March 17, 1913, she departed on her delivery
voyage bound to Melbourne
She sailed via Durban
South Africa where she bunkered on April 7, and from there she sailed to Melbourne
arriving at her Yarra River Berth on April 23.
postcard of the T.S.S. Canberra departing Melbourne
for her voyage up north
Having been made ready in Melbourne
for her new service, her Australian Passenger and Cargo coastal service soon
commenced, and she joined the S.S. Bombala and the S.S. Cooma on the very
popular northward coastal service to North Queensland, sailing via Sydney and
Brisbane and other ports to tropical Cairns.
Canberra is seen departing Brisbane
on May 23, 1913
Library of Queensland
baggage sticker for your suitcase
Her Accommodations and Public
had excellent First Class accommodations for 170 First Class passengers; with
one, two and three berth cabins, all being superbly appointed, Second Class
offered mostly four berth cabins that were also of a high standard and it
accommodated 180 passengers, whilst Third Class had accommodations for 60
Her Public Venues were located on Promenade
Deck forward where there was a Lounge and a Smoking Room with a Bar and
Verandah as well as the First Class main Lobby, which fitted an elevator
(lift), outside where a Promenade Deck, and topside
was the spacious First Class Sun/Sports Deck.
The other two classes occupied the balance of
the ship, with a good number of lounges located aft on Promenade Deck and A
Deck, with spacious deck areas, both covered and exterior, as well as having
sport facilities; they shared the public facilities and Dinning Room.
Class Passengers seen on Promenade Deck
& below: Male passengers up on Sun Deck, above
forward, below far aft
B Deck also had cabins located both forward
and aft, whilst on C Deck cabins occupied the entire deck.
There were two Dinning Rooms, both located on
B Deck, one large Dinning Room located forward and a second one aft.
Sadly I do not have any photographs of her
interiors, if anyone have anything to offer regarding this wonderful ship,
please contact me. My mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
delightful painting of the T.S.S. Canberra
by & © John Allcot
T.S.S. Canberra offered a reliable service and
she became a much loved ship with those who used her as a transport ship, as
well as a cruise ship. She tended to depart Melbourne and Sydney fully booked
with passengers, many of whom would have booked a round voyage, much like
today’s cruises, and her holds would be full, thus financially she was
very successful, being such a fast ship for her days!
T.S.S Canberra is seen arriving and about to enter Port
and heading for Melbourne
of her is an unknown ship - the date is unknown
Library of Victoria
But sadly her days would end after four years
of operations as the war that was called “The Great War”, or
“World War One” was on the horizon and the Canberra
was required to serve!
Service during World War One:
Between 1917 and 1919 she served as an
Australia Troopship, but was placed under the management of the “British
India Steam Navigation Company”.
In October 1917 the Canberra
was requisitioned to become an Australian Troopship and she headed for
“Cockatoo Island Dry-dock” in Sydney,
where from October 16 to November 15, 1917 she was refitted to become a troop
transport ship, able to carry up to 1,080 troops.
With her conversion completed in Sydney the
H.M.A.T. Canberra was commissioned on November 15, 1917, and on November 16,
the Canberra embarked 723 “Australian Imperial Force” (AIF) personnel
as; 1st Field Artillery Brigade 32nd Reinforcements, 25th Infantry Battalion
21st Reinforcements, 1st Light Horse Regiment 33rd Reinforcements, 4th Light
Horse Regiment 33rd Reinforcements, 6th Light Horse Regiment 33rd
Reinforcements, 7th Light Horse Regiment 33rd Reinforcements, 12th Light Horse
Regiment 23rd Reinforcements, Camel Reinforcements (part), 1st Field Squadron
Engineers (August & September) Reinforcements, 1st Signal Squadron
Engineers (August & September) Reinforcements, 1st to 4th Signal Troops
(August & September) Reinforcements, Two Medical Officers (1 Major & 1
Captain), Dental Details, 6 miscellaneous, 2 Red Cross workers, 56 Nurses and
Two Chaplains. Her holds that were not used for troop accommodations, were
filled with equipment and stores and when ready, she departed for Western
She arrived at Fremantle, where on November
23, she embarked the 16th Infantry Battalion 27th Reinforcements, Railway Unit
(November) Reinforcements, Medical Corps General Reinforcements, Dental
Details, Nurses and One Chaplain, and she departed bound for Egypt. She was
then employed transporting troops between Mediterranean ports and the Persian
Gulf. After the German offensive on the Western Front,
in 1918 she was part of a convoy with fast, well known liners, all rushing
troops from Egypt
After the Armistice was signed at Mersin,
H.M.A.T. Canberra took on board released British prisoners from the “Kut
garrison. Thereafter she took British troops from India
to the UK
but at last she came home with Australian soldiers with their families.
Thankfully this fine Australian
passenger/Troop ship had suffered no damage during the war and thus she was
able to be returned to her owners in one piece, unlike so many other ships that
had been lost.
Back to Passenger Services:
Thankfully with WWI over, H.M.A.T. Canberra
had served valiantly, and she was returned to her owners on April 27, 1920 who
sent her to the ship-yards where she was completely and beautifully restored as
well as fully updated, etc. However, her exteriors saw quite a transformation,
from her old black hull days, as she came out of her restoration with her hull
having been repainted a shade of grey with a thin black ribbon up high on the
hull, located just below the B Deck port holes. In addition she had now become
a Two Class ship, with First Class accommodating 64 passengers and Second Class
having 646 passengers.
T.S.S. Canberra is seen after her restoration and arriving in Brisbane
Library of Queensland
was given her refit, and she now had upgraded First Class accommodations for
just 64 passengers; all her cabins were superbly appointed, and all located on A Deck. Whilst on Promenade
Deck forward were two public venues, the Smoking Room and Bar being
located far forward, and just aft was their main the Lobby, which also fitted
an elevator (lift), Doors aft of the Lobby led into the elegant Main Lounge,
come Music Room. Outside was a spacious Promenade Deck as photographs further
above have shown. Just above was the spacious First Class Sun Deck.
This Class now accommodated 646 passengers and
they occupied the balance of the ship, with a good number of lounges aft
located on Promenade Deck and A Deck, with spacious deck areas, both covered
and exterior, as well as having sport facilities, etc. B Deck also had cabins located both forward
and aft, whilst on C Deck cabins
occupied the entire deck.
Second Class offered two Dinning Rooms, both
located on B Deck, one large Dinning
Room located forward and a smaller one aft, the latter being mostly for the
A Deck Plan can be seen in her next
life as the Greek ship T.S.S. “Canberra”
for there had been almost no interior changes except the additions of four
The all new Canberra
certainly looked fresh and very much like a new ship, and soon she resumed her
regular duties, sailing from Melbourne,
then up to Cairns
And it seemed like she had never left the scene, as she was even more popular
Tragedy Strikes the T.S.S.
arrived in Sydney
from the Queensland
ports on Friday June 26, 1925, and she had berthed at the “Erskine
All local passengers had soon disembarked, and she was due to depart for Melbourne
on Saturday afternoon. But just prior to her departure, her Commander; Captain
W.C.T. Firth had logged several of his crew as being absent without leave in
his log book. This started what may be called a revolt within the crew, as the
crew demanded that he remove it from the log. After a meeting, there was a
stalemate and the ship was unable to depart. The majority of passengers decided
to leave the ship and catch the train for Melbourne.
The captain decided to leave the ship for the night, and he left his First
Officer in charge. However, suddenly around three in the morning smoke was seen
streaming from an open porthole, and a severe fire broke out that tore
throughout many parts of the ship. Alarm was given by a watchman and soon the
fire brigade arrived to put out the fire. Sadly after the fire was
extinguished, it was discovered that the ship was badly damaged, many Tourist
Class Cabins were damaged, as well as the First Class Lounges, but worse still
being daylight, the body of a steward was found in the corner of the Music
Room. The later enquiry never came to a conclusion of how or why it started.
Thankfully she was fully insured by Lloyds of London and she was sent to
“Mort’s Dock” to be repaired and refurbished with electrical
system having to be replaced, cabins having to be newly appointed, new floorings
laid with new rubber covering, as well as a considerable amount of new fine
woodwork having to be restored, and much of the furnishings having to be
However, she came out of the ship-yard looking
simply superb, but almost a year had been lost. She finally returned to service
in May 1926, and she returned to her northward voyages to the Tropic’s in
is a rather simple cover for Coastal voyages for Howard
T.S.S. Canberra &
for three other companies; Huddart Parker, Melbourne Steamship Co, & McIlwraith
fine photo of the Canberra
about to berth in Brisbane,
being under tow of the
twin funnelled tug “Coringa” (1914 to 1940)
Library of Queensland
T.S.S. Canberra sailed on for the next
fifteen years, and as she was getting older, and being a coal burning ship, her
stokers named her; “Hungry-Mary”. And like many coal burners, she
was famed for that black smoke emanating from her smoke stack!
World War Two:
T.S.S. Canberra once again went into service,
under requisition from the “Shipping Controller” from July 1941 and
she entered Woolwich Dry-dock in Sydney
for minor alterations for her trooping needs. Although she remained mostly on
her coastal duties, but periodically she would be trooping carrying about 650
personnel to Port
One of her voyages was from Townsville in March to Papua
New Guinea, and it was during this
voyage she was heavily strafed by Japanese aircraft when off Cape
York, but she
managed to escape any major damage.
These are the dates which I know for sure that
the Canberra was
Moresby; August 5, 1943, February
15, 1944 and March 13, 1944.
although having experienced enemy attacks, she survived the remainder of the
war, and she as returned to her owners in August 18, 1947 and considering she
required an extensive refit the company decided considering the ties and the
declining passenger numbers that it would be best to place her on the market.
Greek Line Deck Plan cover- plan is shown below
T.S.S. Canberra was sold just days later on August 21, 1947 to a
Singapore-based, Chinese syndicate for £100,000, who decided for reason of
cost, it was better to tow her from Sydney
rather than having to take an Australian captain and crew there and returning
them by air. Thus, with a skeleton crew on board she departed Sydney
under tow with the English registered 592 GRT ocean going tug SS Rumania on
Friday September 5, 1947 and she reached Singapore
on Tuesday October 28 and she was laid up.
She was rapidly resold to the “Ormos
Shipping Co” of London,
owned by a well known Greek “Goulandris” brothers but the “Canberra”
which retained her name was registered in Panama.
She headed under her own power to Piraeus,
where she was given a minor interior refit, although all her interior cabin and
public venues layout remained much unaltered. Except now on D Deck there
were four large dormitories two for men and two for ladies, two were located
far forward in the bow section, and two far aft in the stern section, both had
male and female WC and Bathing facilities. In addition there were some
additional lifeboats added, her hull remained grey, but her funnel now had the
traditional “The Greek Line” colours of Yellow (bottom), Blue
(Centre) and a Black Top.
early artistic postcard from The Greek Line revealing their newly acquired
With the “Canberra”
having been completed she was first placed on a regular emigrant service from
European ports to South
America, which continued until August 1949.
T.S.S. Canberra Returns to Australia:
Then on August 31, 1949 the Canberra
with some 766 migrants bound for Fremantle,
where she arrived on October 16, she then headed for Sydney
where she arrived later in October. Although her passengers had left the ship,
many Australians came to look at her as it was wonderful to see the much loved
T.S.S. Canberra once again in Sydney,
and she remained there for three days, when she made a rapid return to Europe
arriving in November.
Canberra seen back in Australian waters
for this photo, but the source is unknown
see my photo notes at the bottom of the page
Soon after her arrival in Europe, the Canberra
was given a major refit, including being converted to oil firing, as well as
becoming a Two Class ship with 52 First Class Passengers, and 752 Tourist Class
Passengers. Externally her hull was painted all white and she looked a fine
looked a fine ship indeed in this publicity aerial photograph
1949 T.S.S. Canberra
- Deck Plan
Upon completion, she commenced a new service
for the next five years operating from Greece
and later Germany
to the USA,
then exclusively to Canada.
The Greek Line brochure coving their Canada
ship with a back hull is also shown
Having been moved to the Canadian service, she
made a single trip from Piraeus
then on July 25 she made the first of three round voyages Montreal
Then on October 7, 1950 she made one round voyage Montreal,
Thereafter she returned to Bremerhaven
which became her new European terminal. Calls were made at Southampton, Cherbourg
On October 8, 1954 the Canberra
made her very last voyage for “The Greek Line” from
for it had been decided that she
would be retired and she was sold in that very same month.
Steamship Line - T.S.S.
By the end of October 1954, the Canberra was
sold to a famous architect who was born in San
Juan, Puerto Rico in 1986, Mr.
Trujillo, being the city that was later
renamed Santo Domingo
being the capital of the Dominican
where he was now a resident, and an owner of a Steamship
Company. Having acquired her, for the first time since being launched in 1912,
she was given her first name change, and she was renamed “España”, and re-registered in Santo
She operated services to Spain,
sailing via the West Indies with her holds loaded with sugar and passengers,
returning with cargoes as well as emigrants to Santo
T.S.S, España seen towards the end of her days
However, in due course the
“España” was transferred to Dominican Republic Navy and used for
troop transport movements with little to no details being available, this
continued until 1959 when she was sold to a local
ship breaker, and she was scrapped that year scrapped in the Dominican
& Specifications T.S.S. Canberra 1913 - 1954:
Built by: Alexander
Stephen & Sons, (Linthouse) Glasgow.
Built for: “Australian
Managed by: 1. “Howard
Smith Ltd” - 1913 to 1947.
“The Greek Line” - 1947 to 1954.
Official No: 132441.
Port of registry: Melbourne,
Launched: November 9, 1912.
Maiden Voyage: March 17, 1913.
Tonnage: 7,710 GRT, 6,665
Length: 410 ft - 125
Breadth 57.2 ft - 17.4
Draught: 33.3 ft - 10.14
expansion steam engine
Propellers: Twin screws.
Speed: 15 knots
service speed, 17 knots maximum.
1913: 170 First,
180 Second, 60 Third Class Passengers.
1920: 64 First,
646 Second Class Passengers.
1949: 52 First,
752 Tourist Class Passengers - “The Greek Line”.
including refrigerated space.
Conclude with a Beautiful Memory of the …
T.S.S. Canberra 1913 to 1954
1954 to 1959
of the Howard Smith Ltd, T.S.S. Canberra by & © - A.
“Blue Water Liners sailing to the
I watched them come, I watched them go and I watched them die.”
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