RMS Morea 1908 UK

15th December 2005, 23:39
Basic Data from P&O Website: URL http://portal.pohub.com/portal/page?_pageid=71,207389&_dad=pogprtl&_schema=POGPRTL

Type: Passenger liner
P&O Group service: 1908-1930
P&O Group status: Owned by parent company
Registered owners,managers and operators: The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company
Builders: Barclay, Curle & Co Ltd
Yard: Whiteinch, Glasgow
Country: UK
Yard number: 471
Registry: Glasgow, UK
Official number: 128235
Signal letters: HNJF
Call sign: GLVJ
Classification society:
Gross tonnage: 10,890 grt
Net tonnage: 5,960 nrt
Length: 164.53m (540.0ft)
Breadth: 18.65m (61.2ft)
Depth: 7.53m (24.7ft)
Engines: Quadruple-expansion steam engines
Engine builders: Barclay, Curle & Co Ltd
Works: Glasgow
Country: UK
Power: 13,000 ihp
Propulsion: 2 screws
Speed: 16 knots
Passenger capacity: 407 first class, 200 second class
Cargo capacity:
Crew: 307
Employment: UK/Australia or UK/India services

05.11.1907: Keel laid.
15.08.1908: Launched by Mrs Russell Ferguson, wife of the Managing Director of Barclay, Curle & Co Ltd. Morea is an alternative name for the Peloponnese peninsula in southwest Greece.
02.11.1908: Registered.
03.11.1908: Ran trials.
04.11.1908: Delivered.
06.11.1908: Left builders. She cost £309,692. Although considered the best
looking of the 10-strong ‘M’ class (of which she was the 6th), and handling well, she creaked and groaned a great deal until her propellers were changed.
04.12.1908: Left London on maiden voyage to M@rseilles, Suez, Colombo,
Melbourne and Sydney.
1909: Fitted with “Marconi system of wireless telegraphy.”
1911/1912: Two voyages extended to Auckland.
09.1911: Offered assistance to Ellerman steamer Perim, disabled between Ushant and Plymouth, but steamer San Remo took the tow instead.
26.07.1914: Heard news of outbreak of war by radio from Cocos Island.
07.09.1914: En route for London from Sydney, her Lascar deck crew refused to serve west of Bombay, to which port she had been diverted to pick up mails and passengers owing to the exploits of the German light cruiser Emden. A company of Royal Engineers who had embarked at Colombo were utilised for mooring and unmooring, and passengers kept the public decks clean all the way to Tilbury.
End 1915: Taken up as an ambulance transport and Australian Expeditionary
Force troopship.
03.1916: Returned to P&O for three return voyages UK/Australia.
19.05.1917: Requisitioned as an armed merchant cruiser (7 x 6-inch guns).
05.07.1917: Commissioned. Spent her time on convoy escort between Devonport and West Africa.
14.05.1918: Visited Rio de Janeiro on convoy duty, her only visit to the Americas.
19.05.1919: Refitting delays on the Clyde caused her to be nicknamed “HMS
Neversail.” The Government redelivered her to P&O with a lump sum for refitting, and the Company moved her to Avonmouth for completion.
17.10.1919: Made P&O’s first post war passenger voyage on its own behalf
03.09.1930: Sold to Summers & Co, Kobe for demolition.

16th December 2005, 06:09
Not sure what this is trying to achieve Benjidog?
If info available on another site,why not lead the researcher directly into what he is looking for.

16th December 2005, 23:51
Hi R651400,

What I had in mind was to build up the information about this vessel which I have a particular interest in. The intention was to put the basics in first, then add the detail - I think putting in the URLs and what is there is a good idea rather than copying all the detail. However a disadvantage of that approach is that websites come and go. I rather hoped that SN would have a bit more staying power than most websites so would be a good place to store this kind of information to make it available to others over a longer timescale.

Anyway I will proceed as I had intended, and see how it works out. Perhaps my efforts will lead to someone producing a better approach if only by setting an example of how not to do it.

There is a vast amount of information already in SN forums but it it rather scattered around and difficult to locate. Tagging it by ship name will hopefully provide a degree or organisation. That is my view anyway.


16th December 2005, 23:53
I have uploaded a number of pictures of RMS Morea and these can be accessed by looking at my Gallery on SN. I will continue to add pictures as I get hold of them.


Doug Rogers
17th December 2005, 00:27
Thanks Benjidog, your approach sound emminently sensible and I think its utilisation would be a great assett to the site as it builds further. What we currently need to do is to prove that people want it and are prepared to use it for everyone elses benefit.
If we do that then changes will certainly be made, but hopefully all that will come with time.

17th December 2005, 09:46
Benjidog, thanks for above. Not wishing to start another tedious copyright forum, my query was based on the ethics of transcribing from any one website to another, ie written word having the same protection as image.
Directing researchers via url to the original website, and what they are looking for, surely would circumvent this?

18th December 2005, 09:15
I noticed in the info about RMS Morea, she had "Signal letters" HNJF and "Call Sign" GLVJ. What was the significance of the "Call Letters"? In latter days, as far as I know, only the "Call Sign" was used - the initial letter indicating the nationality of the vessel. Is this a hangover from none radio days?

By the way, I posted a query about SS Stokesley in Ship Research after the first "Test" post by Steve. Should I move it here or what?

John T.

24th December 2005, 00:56
The note in the P&O entry with which I started this thread says "07.09.1914: En route for London from Sydney, her Lascar deck crew refused to serve west of Bombay, to which port she had been diverted to pick up mails and passengers owing to the exploits of the German light cruiser Emden. A company of Royal Engineers who had embarked at Colombo were utilised for mooring and unmooring, and passengers kept the public decks clean all the way to Tilbury."

So what was this all about?

The story of the Emden is a true naval epic with a finale as twisted as the tale of Captain Bligh after the Mutiny on the Bounty in its own way. The full story is told online in the Military History magazine - URL

The light cruiser Emden was built in Danzig (now Gdansk) and launched on 26 May 1908 - 3 months before Morea. She was funded by public subscription and built over a two year period - as a result her design was a bit behind the times. The last piston-engined cruiser to be built in Germany she had a fastest speed of 24 knots and 4.1 inch guns. By contrast Britain's light cruisers had 6inch guns which could overwhelm Emden's armour. She also had two transverse torpedo tubes capable of launching 17.1 inch torpedos.

Emden was commanded by Lt. Cmdr. Karl Friedrich Max von Müller. At the end of July 1914 the number of countries involved in what became "The Great War" was increasing and Müller left China so he could prepare for whatever was coming his way. On Aug 2nd he discovered that Germany had declared war on Russia, and the next day France had declared war on Germany. On Aug 4th Emden came across the Russian mail steamer Ryaezan en route to Nagasaki and captured her after firing shots across her bow - the vessel was kept for future German use. Emden then ran across a group of 5 French cruisers who mistakenly thought she was part of Vice Admiral von Spee's fleet and backed off. Next Britain declared war on Germany and Japan was brought into the war by an alliance with the British. This left Emden in a very difficult situation basically surrounded by enemies, so after recoaling and resupplying she rendezvoused with Spee's fleet north of Guam in the middle of the Pacific. Spee confered with his captains about what to do next and Müller proposed that Emden should operate in the Indian Ocean causing as much disruption as possible to the enemy (i.e Britain).

This proposal was accepted and Emden proceeded taking one collier Markommannia - and would also make use of any vessels captured to get coals and supplies in a very hostile area. Using intelligence and guile, Emden succeeded in making a nuisance of herself by first taking over the Indus, which was found to have a cargo of soap - which was taken aboard as were running out of soap! After playing cat and mouse with the British, Emden next captured and blew up the steamer Trabboch - the crew were taken off and later deposited on the Kabinga after promising to take no further part in the war against Germany. Next on the list was the Clan Matheson, whose crew were later transferred to the (neutral) Norwegian cruiser Dovre followed by an artillery raid on Madras where 130 shells were fired at the oil storage tanks. This caused a degree of panic for a while with people fleeing before the "mystery ship" returned. Between Sep 25th and Oct 19th Emden captured 13 ships. A false funnel was fitted to make Emden look like HMS Yarmouth and she steamed into Penang early in the morning flying British colours, only raising the German flag at the last minute and demolishing the Russian light cruiser Zhemchug with two torpedos, Zhemchug's captain had gone ashore to visit a ladyfriend the night before leaving the ship's torpedos disarmed, minimal ammunition to hand and no extra watch. He was later sentenced to 3 1/2 years and stripped of his rank and status. Taking flight from Penang involved further engagements and Emden escaped to the open sea and lay low for a while.

Emden's next target was a British communications centre on the Cocos Islands - at which several communications cables converged and there was a large wireless tower. The attack started on November 9th. Those on the Islands were initially fooled by the false funnel but realised they were under attack and managed to send a signal out "SOS - Emden here". Emden had been listening to the radio transmissions and believed the nearest ship to be at least 200 miles away but this time their luck had run out. The signal got to a convoy only 53 miles away and HMAS Sydney was dispatched to deal with Emden. Meanwhile the onshore raiding party led by Hellmuth von Mücke was doing as much damage as possible. Becoming aware of the threat, Emden's whistle was sounded but the time von Mücke's party got back Emden was steaming away.

Müller saw no alternative but to make a fight of it and steamed full-tilt towards Sydney. Emden's accurate firing took out Sydney's fire controls, but her captain Glossop opened the distance between the vessels to take advantage of his superior firepower and the 6inch shells which then caused devastating damage. Müller ran his ship onto the reef at North Keeling Island. On Nov 10th Glossop went to pick up Mücke's demolition party but found that they had commandeered Ayesha a 97ton vessel and left. However the demolition work was not effective as the British also had something up their sleeve - a hidden cache of spares which was rapidly used to restore communications.

Glossop then requested that Müller surrendered and, after an unsucessful attempt to blow up Emden, he did and the crew were taken on board. A picture of Emden after this can be found at http://www.gwpda.org/photos/bin07/imag0689.jpg. Although this was the end of Emden, a number of the key German players managed to get back to Germany by methods that would make a brilliant film - maybe there was one made that I have not heard of. It will take too long to recount this tale here but I recommend that readers follow the story up at the URL that I have already provided.

So who would blame the Lascars for not wanting to crew Morea in its travels in the Indian Ocean in the middle of this lot going on? - not me for one!

There is a separate account about what happened on board the ship in an account provided by F.O. Bower, F.R.S., Regius Professor of Botany in the University of Glasgow, in a Royal Society paper. He had been on a trip to Australia and was on the return voyage when Morea got to Columbo and the Lascar crew refused to go any further. The URL for this document is http://www.journals.royalsoc.ac.uk/link.asp?id=dcgk9dlup6xxwvj0 . Bower seems to have been a miserable S.O.B and describes Morea as a "creaky and noisy ship—not so well planned for passengers’. He disliked the Australians because of their "democratic" way of speaking (he manages to use the word democratic in a derogatory sense). "His language has a strong cockney twang, and there is seldom any evidence of breeding about him. The town population (he is talking of Sydney) is clearly the product of plebeian stock, flourishing under very favourable surroundings’. - Whingeing pom lui?

I don't think many of us would have got on with Bower, but he did leave an account of his experiences and a description of the passengers helping with keeping the decks clean etc.


22nd January 2006, 17:52
Today you can get all kinds of memorabilia onboard passenger ships and it seems that the tradition has been going on a very long time - I have no idea how long but clearly it was fully operational in the time of RMS Morea.

This is the first of two posting about Morea memorabilia that are in my possession.

1. A Christmas card that was sent in 1913 - pics attached of front and inside

2. A decorated miniature lifebelt decorated with the legend S.S. Morea, the Union Flag and Red Ensign. It has a picture of Morea in the centre covered in glass.
This was kindly donated to me by SN Member Paedrig in view of my interest in Morea. (Applause)

Paedrig is of the opinion that it was made by one of the Indian crew for sale to the officers and passengers rather than by P&OSN. He could be correct - maybe someone else knows more about this? Since getting this item I have been digging around and found references to souvenir lifebelts for other vessels - but none had the glass and picture in the middle. Another possibility is that the basic lifebelt souvenir was produced by P&OSN and then modified by adding the glass and picture to make it more attractive.

22nd January 2006, 17:58
This is the second of two postings about Morea memorabilia in my possession.

When I first joined SN I posted a picture of an enamel badge I had purchased and asked members what they thought it was. The consensus was that it had once been attached to a souvenir napkin ring. On further investigation I found a picture of an intact napkin ring for another P&O vessel. Pictures of both shown here to keep all the Morea information in this thread.

22nd February 2006, 16:41
Apologies to Trotterdotpom for not replying to posting #7 on this thread.

The call sign is of course the group of letters used in radio transmissions for identification of ships - originally via morse code.

Signal letters were used in the days before radio; each merchant ship was assigned four letters for identification with the use of signal flags.

Now what I don't understand is why these should be different - you would have thought that the old signal letters combination would have been carried forwards for use as the call sign.

I suspect that a different body was set up to issue the call signs when radio came into being. I don't know how it worked in the UK, but there was a law passed in the US August 13, 1912 "An Act to regulate radio communication" and presumably similar laws in other countries. I am not sure either how they arranged internationally to make sure there were no duplicates.

Here is an extract:

"Provided,........ every Government station on land or sea shall have special call letters designated and published in the list of radio stations of the United States by the Department of Commerce and Labor. Any person, company, or corporation that shall use or operate any apparatus for radio communication in violation of this section, or knowingly aid or abet another person, company, or corporation in so doing, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and on conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars, and the apparatus or device so unlawfully used and operated may be adjudged forfeited to the United States."

The penalty of $500 would be a huge amount in today's money so this was serious stuff. Of course you couldn't just nip into your local electrical store and pick a radio transmitter up. Apart from anything else, the things were huge, temperamental and could only be used by trained operatives.


Ron Stringer
22nd February 2006, 19:35
Call letters were assigned in each country by the authorities responsible for radio communications. In the UK that was the General Post Office until British Telecoms was created and took over. The authorities selected the ships' call letters from a block of such letters assigned to that country by the International Telecomunications Union in Geneva. The UK had the four groups letters beginning with 'G' and with 'M'; i.e. GAAA to GZZZ and MAAA to MZZZ. Countries in the formeer British Empire started with 'V' and 'Z'. The USA had 'K' 'N' and 'W'.

As more states were created (with decolonisation) the letters ran out and groups of letters and numbers were introduced.

Aircraft have 5 letters.

Ron Stringer

22nd February 2006, 22:48

Thank you for filling in the missing bit - I thought it would be something like that.

Interestingly the same approach was adopted more recently in computing with the allocation of IP addresses for the Internet and the same problem (running out of the possible combinations) is with us in computing right now. It will be addressed eventually with a new IP addressing system with longer addresses.



23rd February 2006, 08:55
Referring back to Benjidogs account of the "Emden". I read a book some years ago called "The last voyage of the Emden". It was in the public library but I can't remember the auther. It was a fascinanting read, I'd recommend it if anyone can find it.

23rd February 2006, 14:22
Thanks Jeffers - strangely enough I have just placed an order with Amazon for a couple of books - one is The Last Cruise of the "Emden" [Paperback] by Edwin Hoyt - which may be the one you are referring to, and the other by our very own TMac about "Ships form the archives of H&W".


23rd February 2006, 19:33
Um... err... yes... oh 'ek!! I hope you like the book, I'd sign it for you but it would be worth less then. (Read)

chris larkin
16th April 2009, 23:39
great summary account of the emden - try reading "Dreadnought" for a good nautical historical round up of the situation preceeding World War 1 and "Castles of Steel" for the World War 1naval actives both by American historian Robert k Massie - fasinating reads and inspite of the 1000 pages of each I will read both again