Jimmy Muir
5th February 2010, 04:07
I am hoping to learn something about how the Monowai operated as a passenger ship between N Z and Sydney, especially in the late 1940's through to the mid 1950's.

One question I have is: Did it dock at Lyttelton? Anything I have read so far just mentions Wellington.



5th February 2010, 07:57
Hi Jimmy

The Monowai was a much loved ship in NZ in the 50's when I knew her. I tried to ship out on her as deck crew but it was not to be as crew changes were few.
However I did a couple of 'ring bolts' on her in 1953 to Sydney as I used to drink with the crew in Wellington. In those days if you knew the crew you could easily get a free passage as she rarely had a full passenger list and there were often three or four seamen 'in the know' who would be crossing the Tasman. The officers turned a blind eye in those days and would have a drink with you. The stewards would keep an eye on you and give you an empty cabin.
I don't recall that she ever sailed to Lyttelton, but she did take her passengers to view Milford Sound.
I don't know much about her history, but I do know that she was refitted as an armed cruiser during the war and carried troops. I recall that there was one seaman aboard who had claimed that he served on her during that time.
She was a classic ship, green, with a white stripe and I think two funnels.
You have brought back some memories here.


John Crossland
5th February 2010, 20:21
Hi Jimmy,

Built in 1925 for P&O as Razmak.

Sold to Union Company in 1930 to replace Tahiti which sank in August 1930.

She was renamed Monowai and placed on the Sydney to San Francisco run, also calling at Wellington, Rarotonga & Tahiti.

She did some trips to Vancouver in 1933, replacing Aorangi for survey, then was placed on the Sydney to NZ passenger trade.

After WWII she was on the Wellington to Sydney run.

She went to the breakers in Hong Kong in 1960.

The only photos I have seen of her, where you can identify the port, are at Sydney, Wellington, Auckland, Napier (during WWII) & Honolulu.

For the complete history, see :- (

5th February 2010, 20:48
I was in Colombo harbour in Ceylon just after the Japs surrendered - I was 4th Mate in Brocklebanks. As some will know ships tied up to buoys in columns in the harbour. The Monowai came in and tied up in the next column . She was carrying the first POWs from Changi jail in Singapore to the UK.

I shall never forget the skeletal condition of the men who had suffered such privation at the hands of the Japs. I woul never buy a Japanese car although I have weakened recently !

Jimmy Muir
6th February 2010, 09:40
Good on Taff. Much appreciate your memories.



Jim sargent
11th February 2010, 01:12
Hi Jimmy,
I did most of my deckboy's time in Monowai...May 1954 - February 1955.
She operated on the Sydney - New Zealand run and varied the Kiwi ports between Auckland and Wellington. Sailing day was always Friday and we were always "singled up" fore and aft by 2.45. At 3.00pm. six bells from the bridge was answered by six bells from the fo'c'sle, the lines were cast off and we were away. Arrival time was always 8.00a.m. on Tuesday and. in the time I was on her, we were late only once. Arrived in Auckland at 8.20 a.m after a really brutal crossing where we down to half speed at times. Made up hours of lost time only to be held up by two silly buggers fishing from an anchored dinghy in the middle of the main channel off North Head. The Master, Frank Young, was definitely NOT impressed and told them all about it over the loud hailer and nearly blew them out of the water with the ship's whistle, but we were still late coming alongside.
If you go to the website of the USSCo of N.Z. you will find loads of information about Monowai . There are also some photo sites that have some great shots of her and I will post the proper names of these for you later.

Though not big when compared to today's passenger ships / cruise liners she was a graceful old lady and much more popular than her Australian counterpart on the Tasman run, the Wanganella.

By the way, was dad also named Jim?.....I seem to recall a steward from the Second Class saloon as Jim Muir. Tall with dark wavy hair as I remember. Sorry I can't be more accurate than that but it was a long time ago.
All the best,
Jim Sargent

11th February 2010, 05:54
She was a fine ship in her time and I believe that at the time of her scrapping she was the biggest twin screw reciprocating steam engined ship afloat.
One story often told about the Monowai , true or false I never knew, but she went into the Calliope dry dock during the war for part of her re fit as an armed merchant cruiser and while in dock the grand piano went missing to be never found,
I must of heard that story a dozen times and I wonder if others have heard it as well?


Jim sargent
12th February 2010, 00:10
If you go to you will get a very complete history of Monowai.
Further photos of her are available at
Jim Sargent

29th December 2012, 01:46
hi jimmy;the monowai.most of your questions have been answerd but i thought i would mention my time on a great ship,i was on her in1952.second ships cook,only did a few voyages,never went to south interesting bit of history is on my desk as i type(one finger ) it is a menbers card for the monowai social,it expires 30th,april.1953. im a bit behind with my menbership fees.i was reading about the artic convoys in the threds about a medal to the men sailed on them.i must tell a yarn about mate ken.passed away many years ago.was chief baker on the monowai ,they have captains inspection,where he has a look around and says good day.i dont know if it was the captains birthday.but my mate said ,and the skipper heard him.i would wish him in came as a suprise to those near him.and the skipper heard him.he remained the gentlman he was,and asked ken what had upset turned out that ken had been aboard on the murmanks convoys.had got drunk ashore.was still drunk when they sailed for the uk.he was not pleased being left in russia.he eventually got home on another ship.the captain told ken he was sorry he carried that grudge so long but he a lot lives to worry about and could not delay for one man.somehow ken accepted this and never mentioned it again.pardon my rambling but there may be an oldy out there who knew ken.all the best ben27

29th December 2013, 12:17
REG MERRILL worked on the T S S Monowai 1954 - 1959
also the Matua during those years. Is there anyone that remembers him as I am writing a journal for his son (our daughter died this year) and our grand children.
Reg was at sea for 10 years with the Union Co. (USS.Co) who love to hear if there is another oldie out there with memories