RMS Bloemfontein Castle 1950-59 sold to become the Chandris Lines - RHMS Patris 1958-1980

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With Reuben Goossens

Maritime Historian, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer, Author & Lecturer

Please Note: All ssmaritime as well as my other related maritime & cruise sites are 100% non-commercial and privately owned sites. Be assured that I am NOT associated with any shipping or cruise companies or agencies or any other organisations! The author has been in the passenger shipping industry since May 1960, but although retired and unwell, I occasionally attempt to write an article now and then, in order to bring enjoyment and pleasure to ship enthusiasts past passengers and crew

Chandris Lines

RHMS Patris

ex Union Castle Line RMS Bloemfontein Castle

Later, Mediterranean Island / Mediterranean Star 1980-1987

Terra for breakers delivery voyage


A Union Castle Line released postcard of the RMS Bloemfontein Castle

Please Note: Postcards & photographs from the author’s private maritime collection, unless mentioned otherwise

Part One - RMS Bloemfontein Castle

The Bloemfontein Castle the first of an identical quartet, and was built by Harland & Wolff at Belfast. Her duties were to take emigrants from England to Rhodesia. However, due to the cancellation of assisted passages, it was decided to complete her, but changed her design.

On August 25, 1949, Bloemfontein Castle was launched by Mrs Leif England being the wife of the High Commissioner for the Union of South Africa in London. She was completed in March 25, 1950. Although based on pre war Union Castle Liners having identical hulls and similar superstructures, such as the Dunnottar Castle, there were differences between her and past Union Castle Liners, one being that she was the first one class liner to be built for Union Castle. Also, her original design had two masts, which was changed to a single mast located directly aft of the bridge, in additions she was given a flush foredeck. She had five hatches, two forward and three aft, served by six 10 ton and four 5 ton derricks. Her cargo spaces were insulated to transport fruit, and general cargo. However, other compartments were refrigerated for frozen produce.

Aerial photograph of the RMS Bloemfontein Castle at sea

Her main public rooms were located on promenade deck. The Main Lounge was located forward and occupied the full width of the ship, making it a particularly spacious room. Next was the library and writing room, which was connected by a gallery to a large smoking room. The Dining Room was located on Upper deck, with seating for 386 passengers, thus requiring two seating’s to accommodate her complement of 730 passengers. It was considered that her standard appointments were better than first class on many of her pre war sisters, and she became a popular ship I her early days.

Bloemfontein Castle departed London on April 6, 1950 for her maiden voyage from London to Rotterdam, Las Palmas, Ascension Island, St. Helena, and Walvis Bay concluding in Cape Town. She returned via Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban, Maputo and Beira, after which she undertook a series of sailings and cruises, but never successfully.

Here we see the RMS Bloemfontein Castle returning to London from her maiden voyage to Africa on June 10, 1950

Photograph provided by a ssmaritime supporter, but photographer is unknown …

Please see my Photo Notes at the bottom of this page

Bloemfontein Castle uneventful service with Union Castle would be remembered for just one incident. On January 8, 1955 she received a distress call from the Dutch liner Klipfontein, which was located off Mozambique. She rescued her 116 passengers and 118 crew.

In 1959, due to the ever declining loadings, Union Castle decided having a number of smaller ships, to consolidate their operations and decided to place several ships including the Bloemfontein up for sale. She was soon purchased and she returned to Southampton on November 9, and she was handed over to her new owners.

Specifications RMS Bloemfontein Castle:

Builder: Harland & Wolff, Belfast

Tonnage: 18,400 GRT (Gross Registered Tons)

Length: 594.6ft – 181m

Beam: 76ft - 23.1m

Draught: 29ft – 8.8m

Propulsion: Two Burmeister & Wain Diesels – 20,000 BHP

Screws: Two

Speed: 18 knots.

Decks: 5

Passengers: 730 one class


RMS Bloemfontein Castle seen in Cape Town

Part Two - RHMS Patris


An early Chandris postcard of the all white RHMS Patris

The Greek Chandris Lines (England) purchased her for their Australian service. Chandris renamed her Patris (Mother Country or Homeland in Greek); she was taken to North Shields where she was given a three week refit, for her new role sailing from Greece to Australia. Cabins were built and others were extensively remodelled, now able to accommodate some 1000 Tourist Class and 36 First Class passengers. In order to accomplish this, extra cabins were built down on D (Doric) Deck. In addition a second dinning room was built. She received a new all white livery with red boot topping. Her funnel was blue with a black top and a large white X, being the company’s insignia. X is ‘Ch’ in the Greek alphabet and obviously stood for ‘Chandris.’

Upon completion, her ownership was changed to the National Greek Australia Line and she headed for Piraeus.

Her decks were now named from the top, Aegean, Mediterranean, Ionian, Corinthic, Cretan and Doric.

Here we see another postcard of the Patris but with a blue ribbon added

She departed Piraeus on December 14, 1959 for her maiden voyage to Australia, sailing via the Suez Canal to Fremantle, Melbourne, and Sydney, where she arrived on January 9, 1960. After several voyages, later that year, Patris ran aground in the Suez but was soon pulled off the sand bank and she continued on her voyage.

A superb photograph of the Patris in Sydney ready for a cruise

Patris seen during her Australian cruise duties

Due to the closure of the Suez Canal between 1967 and 1972, she sailed to Australia via Cape Town, returning via the Panama Canal. During the late sixties and early seventies, Patris operated a number of cruises out of Sydney, as well as Trans Tasman voyages. RHMS Patris made a total of 91 voyages to Australia between 1959 and 1975, bringing countless thousands of Greek Migrants to Australia to start a new life Down Under.

The Patris is seen berthed at the Passenger Terminal Circular Quay in Sydney in 1960’s

Photograph by & Neil Bernard restored with permission by the author of ssmaritime

Dutch Evacuees in 1962 from West New Gunea:

In 1962 Geoffrey Luck was an ABC's News Editor in Port Moresby, responsible for its Papua New Guinea services. After the Indonesian confrontation and threatened invasion of Western New Guinea (WNG), the Bunker Plan that was forced on the Netherland’s by the Kennedy administration, led to the handover, via a temporary United Nations administration, to Indonesia. The timing was that the Dutch handed over to UNTEA on October 1, 1962, and in turn they handed over WNG to the Indonesians on May 1, 1963. When this “settlement” was announced, all but about 700 of the 2,500 Dutch administration staff opted to leave, and they did so as quickly as possible. They knew there was no future for them in WNG and feared Indonesian reprisals. Most left by air, boarding DC3’s to fly to Biak from where KLM repatriated them home to the Netherland’s. The last Dutch Governor Mr. P.J. Plateel departed on a DC3 on September 28, 1963.

At some time or other the Patris must have been arranged at short notice to have her available in Hollandia at the end of September 1962, as she sailed before October 1, although Mt Luck did not retain the actual date of the departure.

It is obvious, that the Netherland’s seems to wish to keep that time as a blank in their history as they really wanted to forget all about the sad episode of WNG and the humiliation that was forced on the Dutch by the U.S. as part of its geopolitical struggle against the USSR. There is so much more to this tragic political mess, but that is not for me to tell! In this feature, as it is all about the MS Patris’ involvement.

It seems that this voyage of the Paris’ evacuation of the Dutch evacuees from Hollandia is recorded anywhere, not in any of the Chandris literature, or any other history books. Thus it seems it has been written out of history as part of the shame of the forced WNG surrender.

On that September day in 1962, Geoffrey Luck was quay side as the Patris departed from Hollandia, West New Guinea with 600 Dutch families being evacuated, and he took three photographs as she slowly left her berth and these are seen below.

The Photograph above and the two below were taken by & Geoffrey Luck



Times are-a-changing:

Like most shipping companies of the day, Patris started to suffer low loadings, thus alternative routes were sought out and Chandris decided on a new idea and the Patris commenced a Fremantle to Singapore service, as a cruise ship. With cheap airfares available from Singapore, Patris commenced to operate an inexpensive Fly/Cruise operation to and from the UK and Europe. Although at first it seemed to go well, but sadly the popularity of this venture rapidly declined, for cheap airfares became available from Australia.

Sadly two years later in 1974 the Patris was laid up in Singapore for a short time, but Chandris decided to try again and gave her another refit and recommenced a Fremantle to Singapore service. However on Christmas day 1974 cyclone Tracy hit and almost destroyed the Australian Northern Territory City of Darwin. Chandris offered to charter the Patris to the Australian Government for her to be used as a floating hotel in Darwin, for the countless people that had lost their homes. She arrived in Darwin on February 14, 1975 and continued her hostel duties there until November 1975. After departing Darwin in November, the Patris said goodbye to Australia and this once much loved ship would never return to our shores again.

A nice view of a well built ship at sea

Altered specifications for RHMS Patris:


Tonnage: 16,259 GRT

Passengers: 36 First & 1000 Tourist, then 1,550 One Class

Mediterranean Star 750

Crew: 325 (Patris)

Patris the Passenger Car Ferry:

After her time in Darwin, Patris was in a poor state, thus Chandris sent her to Greece and refitted her to become a passenger car ferry. She could carry 260 cars in garage space in what was Doric deck, which had all her cabins and service areas ripped out. Cars were loaded through large side-loading doors cut into her hull. Patris commenced her new service early 1977, under the joint operation of Chandris & Karageorgis Lines on the Venice, Ancona to Patras service. She operated some cruises, but these were not successful.

Looking very attractive in her new livery as the Karageorgis Lines Mediterranean Star

Photographer unknown – Please see the Photo Note at bottom of page

Two years later, in 1980, Chandris Lines sold her outright to Karageorgis Line who renamed her Mediterranean Island. In 1981 Karageorgis changed her name to Mediterranean Star and placed her on the Piraeus-Alexandria run. Although still under the ownership of Karageorgis Line, she was registered under the Star Navigation Corp banner and later she transferred within the Karageorgis group of companies, Consolidated Ocean Transports. In 1982 she suffered a major fire in her engine room fire, causing all passengers and most of her crew to abandon ship. With a reduced crew, she was sent to Perama for repairs, yet she remained laid up.


Above and below: We see her still as the Mediterranean Star but her days were coming to an end!

Photographer unknown – Please see the Photo Note at bottom of page


Finally in 1987, this once proud Union Castle and Chandris liner was sold was sold to a St Vincent owner for breaking up. They renamed re-named her “Terra” for her voyage to Karachi in Pakistan, where she was duly broken up.

Enter RHMS Patris Page Two

Robert Mills’ 14 night Cruise to Melbourne & New Zealand - December 1970



Also Online … 


S.S. America & Australis INDEX:

Page One ………….. ….S.S. America History Page 1940 to 1967.

Page Two ………….…….Photo Page.

Page Three ………….1940 Deck Plans.

………………………………….S.S. Australis INDEX:

Page Four ……………….S.S. Australis History Page from 1964 to her sad end in 1994.

Page Five …………….Brochure & Photo & Page One.

Page Six ………………….Brochure & Photo Page Two.

Page Seven ………….Deck Plans.

..Other Chandris Ships INDEX:

MS Patris …………………Ex Union Castle Lines RMS Bloemfontein Castle.

SS Ellinis ………………..Ex Matson Lines liner SS Lurline.

SS Britanis ……………..Ex Matson Lines SS Monterey, but renamed Lurline & Matsonia.

Please Note: Not all pages have been updated and completed as yet.


“Blue Water Liners sailing to the distant shores.
I watched them come, I watched them go and I watched them die.”


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