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This information in this article is the first time it has appeared outside the ship whether in book form or Internet to my knowledge. It is from the Special Commemorative Issue of ARCADUS the ships crew newspaper on her 21st birthday published on board on Sunday 12th May 1974. I took part in compiling this edition along with other crew. I was the shipping -correspondent using the name Medic. So this series will be extracts from the Commemorative Issue.

When I realised that Arcadia was soon to be 21 when compiling one of my articles for Arcadus, I suggested to her master, Captain A.H.W Dallas that we have a party. He had not realised she was soon to be 21, and thought it a great idea, putting the wheels in motion, and me and a few others a lot of writing and research to do.

Not too sure about copyright, but since I compiled some of it myself there should be no problem. However, I would not want to see any of the following copied on other Internet sites or indeed in book form.

Although copied, I will add up to date input where applicable.

The word Arcadia comes from the Greek Arkadia, a region of the Peloponnese, which as a place of simple pleasure and quiet, the ideal of rural felicity and pastoral simplicity. The Arcadia of the Ancient Greece was often chosen as the background for pastoral poetry. The native of Arcadia was known to be the one who led a quiet and simple life.

Fred the Bread, who many former Arcadia crew member may remember, produced a birthday cake which was displayed in the forward Library on the Promenade Deck on the day of her birthday. The cake represented about forty hours work. It was made up of marzipan, flour, sugar, mixed fruits and spices, eggs, brown almonds, Fred the Breads Secret, plus half a bottle of rum, which totalled 55 pounds of material.

On Tuesday 14th May 1974, passengers were given a special menu. I will try to copy this into the gallery.


Arcadia built by John Brown and Co Clydebank at an estimated cost of £5 million on 14th May 1953, was launched by Mrs D.F. Anderson, wife of one of P&O’s Deputy Chairman.

Ships under construction at shipyards are seldom known by name, but from their works number, which simplifies the supply of parts and prevents confusion. Arcadia was 697.

She shared her birthplace with the Royal Yacht Britannia launched almost exactly a month earlier than Arcadia by Her Majesty The Queen.

Arcadia was designed for the United Kingdom/India/Ceylon/Australia service, with a passenger capacity of 670 first-class and 735 tourist-class (though these figures may vary slightly from different sources). That was 455 passengers over her total as of May 1974. Her crew totalled 778 in the beginning with 558 in May 1974.

Her original crew total included 12 Deck Cadets, 2 in May 1974. 38 Bell Boys was reduced to 16. But musicians, comprising the Entertainment Staff increased from four to about 40 confirming that cruise ships employed a far larger compliment of entertainers than ships plying line voyages.

On the same day at Barrow-in-Furness the opposition; Orient Lines Orsova was launched also bound for the UK/Australia service.

Arcadia’s gross tonnage was 29,871, 271ft long and 91ft breadth. Her single reduction turbines developing a maximum of 42,500 shaft horse power giving Arcadia a service speed of 22knots. The fresh water distilling plant was able to produce 500 tons of water daily. The hold carried a measurement of 153.813 cubic feet of refrigerated cargo space. It was estimated that as of her coming of age, Arcadia in excess of a quarter of a million passengers over a distance of two million miles.

Great efforts were made with Arcadia to incorporate into her design all the latest ideas and improvements. Her funnel, known as the ‘Clydebank’ funnel was designed especially by John Brown the builders and Thermotank Ltd, in who’s wind tunnel the smoke tests were carried out to carry the fumes well aft of the ship and prevent them falling on the after open decks. Arcadia’s funnel at the time of building and launching was something of a revolutionary design and it excited a good deal of comment.

If the funnel casing were empty three double deck busses could be driven through abreast. The casing itself weighed forty tons, and was measured together with the uptakes and all the fittings the weight was increased to 85 tons. New metals were also introduced in her building. All the ship’s ladders were constructed from an alloy which proved as strong as the old metal ladders in previous ships. Arcadia being the first P&O ship to try this new alloy material.

A waterline model of her hull was built for experiments on upper deck arrangements and how she would look at sea. A set of cabins were built ashore where various fittings, furniture and colour schemes were tried out, and the same model ideas were used on a mock up bathroom and shower.

For many weeks, prior to the launching of Arcadia special work gangs were called in to build the cradle on the sliding ways. One of the tasks of this work gang was the shoring up with great bulks of timber of the fore part of the ship to take the tremendous strain that it placed on the hull when the after end first becomes waterborne and the forward end is still pressing on the launch way.

After launching on 14th May 1953, Arcadia was fitted out at a berth in John Brown’s Clydenabk yard, alongside the Royal Yacht Britannia. Arcadia’s internal work was behind schedule supposedly because of the direction of labour to the Royal Yacht as the priority job. Ultimately, Arcadia sailed on her maiden voyage to Australia carrying some 50 workmen, carpenters and plumbers, to complete her internal works. These workmen were paid for 24 hours, 7 days a week for the duration of the voyage.

On 20th January 1954, under the command of Commodore G C Forrest (who was her captain for the maiden voyage, and who remained in command until his retirement some two years later) she sailed to Liverpool where, in dry dock at Gladstone Dock, her Denny Brown stabilizers were fitted. She was the second P&O ship to be fitted with these fins, Chusan being the first.

From Liverpool, Arcadia returned once more to the Clyde where, off the famous Tail Of The Bank, she ran her acceptance trials.

Arcadia sailed on her maiden voyage from the Tilbury Landing stage on 22nd February 1954, bound for Port Said, Aden, Bombay, Colombo, Fremantle, Melbourne and Sydney, arriving in Sydney on 27th March, and later returning to England by the same route. Immigrants to Australia filled the Tourist Section of the ship.


The mural decoration of classical subjects at the after end of the forward restaurant was entitled ‘Arcadia’ and represented the following:

1. Hercules decoration the Erymanthian Boar
2. Hercules and his friend the Centaur Chiron whom he accidentally shot.
3. Pan and the Nymphs
4. Artemis Goddess of Naples
5. Hercules subduing Mares of the Thracian Diomedes
6. Hercules capturing the Arcadian stag
7. Hercules destroying the Stymphalian Birds

Even in those days, P&O featured Artemis Goddess of Naples, now one of their cruise ships heading off on her first world cruise under her new name.

The painting on five sheets of glass at the forward end of the same restaurant depicted Hermes arriving at the town of Megaloppolis in the country of Arcadia. These paintings were by John Churchill.

Written at the time of cruising in 1974, this is what I wrote:. The public rooms have changed since her maiden voyage. To start with there was a Cinema on the starboard side of the (now) Camelot Room. The projection room was directly above on the Boat Deck. The Dorchester Room was known as the Verandah Café, and the Pool Bar, not so differently as the Pool Café. There was a dance space on the port side of the Cinema. The rest of the public lounges were named by function – Tourist Gallery, and Smoking Lounge – rather than the more evocative (now) Bell Inn and Raleigh Room respectively. Some things that stayed the same: Commodore Forrest, a sailing enthusiast, had a sailing dinghy manufactured in fibreglass on board. He allowed his officers to sail it. The dinghy was launched from the Captain’s Deck by hooks under the starboard Bridge wing being used as davits. One of the officers who doubtless took his turn at sailing Commodore Forrest’s boat was Deck Apprentice Foster – now Harbour Pilot at Fiji. It was he who piloted the ship in and out on our call on May 2nd this month, and he mentioned that he has been a cadet under Commodore Forest on her maiden voyage. Captain Dallas now has his own boat on board of course.

Another field where Arcadia has changed little is the cricket pitch. Our very active cricket teams on board at the moment are by no means a new thing. In July 1954 a ship’s team under the captaincy of First Officer J.M Chester played against Warsash School of Navigation. Our team reached the venue in one of the ships launches, and won the match by nine wickets. Whereupon the ‘Victory Carriage’, a 1925 Rolls Royce, drew up and bore away and assortment of 18 team and Warsash cadets – four of them on the roof – to sherry and dinner as guests of the College. The triumphal return to Arcadia at Southampton was once again by ships’ launch.

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Monday 25th October 1954 at 2249 the weather was fine and hazy with little wind, and a temperature of 47F. Arcadia was undocking from Tilbury Dock and shifting to the Landing Stage. The tug attending aft, Cervia, capsized, drowning five of the eleven crew members. The tug was apparently changing from one quarter to the other when the wash from Arcadia’s engines going astern, combined with the list of Cervia caused by weight on the line, turned her over. She went down so fast that even the axeman on stand by had no tine to sever the cable. The tug settled upright on the river bed. She was subsequently salvaged .


The First Plumber was standing next to one of the Assistant Chippies on the forecastle head, chatting seeming quite normal. Quite suddenly Plumbs said: “Well that’s it, goodbye old chap”, and jumped over the rail at the port bow.

The alarm was immediately raised, and within minutes, a Williamson turn had been completed and Arcadia was steaming along a reciprocal course searching for the man by the light of searchlights from the Bridge wing. It was fairly choppy at the time and all the spots picked out were a couple of sharks sculling around attracted by the moving glow of lights.

Two of the ships boats were sent away to search further back along the ships track, but to no avail. Both Bridge lifebuoys which had been thrown over when the alarm was raised were recovered by the lifeboats.

The man was not found, and just over one hour later the ship resumed her course for Fremantle presuming he had drowned. He had a history of mental disturbance going back for some time, but it was thought his imbalance had improved until this incident.


Arcadia, bound from Las Palmas to London 29th December 1956 was on the homeward leg of her voyage. There had been some trouble with her stabilizers so it was resolved that they would not be extended unless it became really necessary. It did become a necessity when the Surgeon had to perform an appendectomy shortly after the call at the Canary Islands. When it came to the time to retract the stabilizers a snag occurred as had been feared, and one of the fins jammed out by about two feet. The Chief Engineer was unwilling to try to extend the stabilizers again in case they jammed out completely, which would mean the ship was unable to dock alongside on arrival at UK. In those early days of stabilizers it had not become apparent that one fin could be utilised without the other, and heading for a sizeable storm in the Bay of Biscay.

On the particular evening in question shortly before dinner the vessel began to roll very heavily in the weather and Captain Bodley decided to heave to. As he executed this manoeuvre and put the ship to heave to, shortly after everyone had sat down to dinner, Arcadia lurched sickeningly and the Bridge recorded a roll of 39° to port and 43° to starboard.

All the furniture, piano’s – the lot- was thrown from one side of the ship to the other. In the restaurants there were no carpet in those days and the people were skidding around sitting in their chairs, and being thrown out of them. Everything in the Galley went flying, and the passengers finally ate bread rolls and apples for their meal some hours later.

When the Second Engineer, now Chief Engineer John Howell, reached his office he found that his trunk-type lid opening fridge had decanted all over the deck, and all his papers and files were swilling around in a lake of ginger ale and tonic.

It was a miracle that there was only one injury sustained. A very large lady of ample proportions further increased by being seven months pregnant rolled from one side to the other in the Somerset Room, and fractured her forearm in the process.

The ship remained hove to all night and by eight the following morning the weather had abated sufficiently for her to resume her passage at full speed for Tilbury, where she arrived a little late and none the worse for her pounding.

Fast forwarding a few years, we hit a force 12 between Vancouver and Honolulu in 1973. We did not heave to then, ploughing through like the grand old lady she was. I lost my breakfast one morning over the railing. My Crew & Isolation Hospital was on the after end of C Deck. A narrow deck, the either side of the Nursery led to my hospital divided by a heavy door from passenger accommodation. As I rested my tray on the railing to open the door, Arcadia listed to starboard heavily, and I lost the lost having to go back for more. D Deck was under water at the after end below my hospital, so I had to go through the Public rooms. Ropes were put around the ship for passengers to hang onto, and once again there were not many injuries other than than a few wrist fractures common in heavy seas or slipping. On this trip, was the American group the Platters who gave a crew show in the Bell Inn. Later, we caught the end of the Cyclone that destroyed Darwin, and one again the grand old lady coped well as did the passengers and crew.

A hole was torn in Arcadia’s bows as she was arriving at Tilbury Docks on 22nd December 1962. A very strong wind was blowing at the time and the anchor was lowered in an effort to hold her, but the force of the wind turned the ship onto her anchor which fouled the bow and gouged a giant hole about 19 feet across clean through the stem. The damage took two days to cement and repair and she eventually sailed on 24th December.

On 30th August 1963, the two liners Arkadia (Greek Line) and Arcadia caused some confusion to embarking passengers by being berthed alongside each other at the same Tilbury wharf.

2nd of June 1964, on passage from Aden to Colombo, Arcadia went to the assistance of the Greek tanker Parnis whose Messboy was suffering severe appendicitis. The boy was transferred to Arcadia, operated on in the ships hospital, and subsequently landed at Colombo for repatriation.

16th August 1964 on passage from Honolulu to Vancouver a seaman from the US vessel Lykes Lines Frederick Lykes was transferred to Arcadia seriously ill. He was treated on board and landed to hospital in Vancouver.

In 1964 Arcadia left Port Said to transit the Suez Canal. Due to very strong winds blowing and heavy squalls she was grounded twice on entering the Canal. She was, however, able to winch herself off on both occasions.

The next editions will see the ship back track a bit as I plough through all the pages of print of her 21st birthday as well as a few Arcadia firsts that many people may not be aware of, plus famous people she carried.

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Is anyone enjoying the first 21 years of Arcadia?. There has been 58 hits, but this only tells me people have read it. It would be good to know what people think because compiling this is both time consuming and indeed painful having to sit so long at computer before copying to the site. I am only too happy to do this despite the discomfort, but it would be nice to have some comment rather than viewing figures which tell me nothing other than that people have read it. Just because 58 people have read it so far, it does not neccessarily mean they like it. David

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Yes, I am absolutely enjoying your history!. I lived in Williamstown in Melbourne, and from my home could see the 'Mail Boats' at Station Pier, Port Melbourne. Arcadia was well known to me. Keep going Pompy.

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Keep it coming

Hi Pompeyfan,
This is the sort of stuff that doesn't go into the official histories and is what makes the forum worthwhile. Accounts of ship dimensions and how many tons of bananas get loaded per trip are all well and good but this much more interesting.

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Pompeyfan said:
Is anyone enjoying the first 21 years of Arcadia?. There has been 58 hits, but this only tells me people have read it. It would be good to know what people think because compiling this is both time consuming and indeed painful having to sit so long at computer before copying to the site. I am only too happy to do this despite the discomfort, but it would be nice to have some comment rather than viewing figures which tell me nothing other than that people have read it. Just because 58 people have read it so far, it does not neccessarily mean they like it. David
David, it's a cracking account of an interesting history/saga. I'm glued.

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you cant stop in the middle of these very interesting tales it is like watching a soap opera i cant wait for the next installment keep it going
thanks tom.

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·

In the old days when cruising to Venice, it was not unusual for one of the ships boats to be taken out on an exploratory trip round the canals of the city. Much to the annoyance of the local gondoliers the ships launches would chug past creating enough wash to cause discomfort to the gondolier and his craft’s occupants, so much the boats’s passage would be accompanied by muck Latin gesticulation, waving of arms and shaking fists. The coxswain of the boat would fine a lamp post convenient to a local bar, make fast, and the remainder of the exploration would be liquid too, but of a different content. However, on one occasion the expedition set forth in usual style, but at low tide, under the Bridges of Venice. When it came to the return trip, the tide was up and the boat wouldn’t fit under the same arches. So the aid of some-bewildered some-amused passers-by was enlisted, and with all the extra weight of dozens of Italians added to the boat trippers the freeboard was sufficiently reduced to squeeze the launch under the bridges and home to the ship in time for sailing.

The 21st October 1957 the Chairman of P&O addressed the stockholders at a luncheon on board Arcadia shortly after she had completed a series of five cruises between line voyages carrying a total of 5,486 passengers, and on the day she departed on her next scheduled line voyage to India, Ceylon and Australia with 1,345 passengers aboard.

Easter time 1959, Arcadia cools it to air conditioning. From the time of building to date only certain sections of the ship were air-conditioned. Amongst these were the Verandah Café, the Restaurants, Telephone Exchange, the Bureau, Leading Hands and European Mess Rooms, and Hairdressing and Barber’s Shops, plus all the inboard cabins. Air conditioning will be mentioned again when one of the crew aboard Arcadia for the longest gives his stories of the ship including hosing passengers down on the deck her were too hot. Looking around the ship now(May 1974) all the rooms with the old fashioned round silver coloured air blowers had air conditioning at the time of building, and the small Thermotank punkah louvers were 1959 editions. It is noticeable in the poem SS Arcadia by J.H. Gough Wilson that there is a special mention of the air conditioning in specific areas. From Easter 1959 the entire ship benefited from the instillation of Harland and Wolff’s Belfast yard of Thermotank Air Conditioning.

June 1961, Arcadia was on the rocks. At about 0900 under pilot on her way into Honolulu on one of her earliest calls there she became firmly lodged upon a coral reef. The pilot had embarked first, followed shortly afterwards by a troupe of Polynesian dancers for the passengers entertainment. Whilst embarking these dancers from their launch Arcadia must have drifted, or possibly she was badly position before hand, but on getting under way again and heading for the entrance channel she failed to make the tight turn necessary and found herself stuck fast with a starboard list of something like 7 degrees. Divers were sent down to inspect the hull and they confirmed there was little damage. Efforts to release her with the aid of tugs on the first high tide fails, and so she sat there for about 12 hours until the second attempt at the evening tide successfully dislodged her from her perch. She then proceeded into Honolulu to disembark and embark her passengers who had been waiting all day in hope that their ship would come in.

Captain Dallas gave us a story for the 21st birthday edition of Arcadus which was another man overboard incident which happened on 10th September 1971. The alarm was raised by a passenger on C Deck aft. Word reached the Bridge at 1225 and by 1235 the ship completed a Williamson turn and was steaming on a reciprocal course. Action by the Officer of the Watch had been swift – buoys over, whistle sounded, telegraphs to stand by, and the Accident Boat crew quickly mustered.

The ship was homeward bound, four days out of Cape Town on a bright and sunny afternoon with a moderate South Westerly swell and not much wind. But who, if anybody had gone over?.

A passenger reported seeing an Asian looking man with a red band round his head swimming strongly away from the ship. So the first thoughts was one of the Indian Deck Crew but none had been working near the side rail, and were soon all accounted for. The Og Wallah Serang counted his men, and then a Goan man was reported missing.

The passenger had thrown a lifebuoy over the side right away, and two more went as his message sped to the Bridge, and there was also the smoke float lifebuoy. By now the ship had turned half a mile beyond the lifebuoy and was slowly steaming north again. All the lifebuoys that had been thrown into the water were counted. Life had been going on as normal down below and the correct path was confirmed by a trail of garbage and cardboard cartons. Masthead, bow and Bridge lookouts were now augmented by the passengers lining the rails, endeavouring to be helpful, anxious; like all those on board desperately hoping to sight the man. Some false reports came up from them, which usually turned out to be one of a number of large grey-brown sea birds which seemed have appeared from nowhere.

Four times Arcadia went down the line of buoys, all stretching and straining with Captain Dallas postponing a decision to abandon the search thinking of what it would be like for a man in the water, to see the ship not turn again and steaming away. A ‘CQ’ message was sent for any ships in the vicinity and two altered course to pass fairly close by.

It was 1500, and word by now had come that, knowing the missing man, apart from the shock, there was no great surprise at what he had done. So it was with heavy heart at 1510, that Captain Dallas called off the search.

That night, a simple but moving service was conducted by the Chief Pantryman in the Goanese Mess, ending what must have been one of the saddest days in Arcadia’s chronicle as written by Captain Dallas himself.

In 1972, again on the homeward voyage, the newly-wed bride of a tanker Radio Officer was transferred to Arcadia for medical aid, and she was later landed in England. By coincidence this transfer took place at the same spot, four days out of Cape Town homeward bound, as the search for the Goanese man overboard on the previous voyage.

Thanks for all the messages of support. Next episode very soon.

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·

On 9th February 1972 at Nassau, Arcadia was berthed alongside QE2, who for some 3¾ hours joined the P&O fleet. After one, or possibly two, lunchtime gins, Third Officer Mark Hoddinott, aided by the Third Radio Officer and abetted by the First Officer and Co boarded the QE2 with the P&O House Flag secreted about the person. Successfully dodging various Officer of the Watch (Cunard Division) armed to the teeth with sextants and binoculars, our gallant duo found their way to the Queens Monkey Island (Gibraltar?) and proceeded with full pomp and ceremony to hoist the P&O House Flag, which unfurled and fluttered bravely from the masthead.

A hasty retreat was successfully beat with all tracks covered, and back to Arcadia and onto the gins again!.

Come sailing time, Arcadia was due to leave her berth at 1800. So, with P&O pomp, the sunset ceremony was carried out, sailing music softly breaking the evening stillness as Arcadia slid from her moorings. QE2, anxious to keep up with the P&O Joneses was askance to find, at HER sunset ceremony. That she had seemed to have crossed the house (Trafalgar!)

Captain (Noah) Dallas was the proud owner of a photograph of the Captain of QE2 standing, arms akimbo, on his Bridge wing, striking a Cunard pose, oblivious of the fact that above his head flutter the unmistakeable colours of the Peninsular and Oriental Gang!.

On 16th February 1972, Arcadia was at anchor in Acapulco Bay. At about 1400 it was observed from the Bridge by the Officer of the Watch that the Fourth Engineer, Ted Miller was enjoying a spell of water-skiing. This in itself would have excited no comment, except that Ted, full of bonhomie and Black Label, and with P&O’s best advertising interests at heart, was speeding around the Bay dressed in full whites including cap, bearing the P&O House Flag fluttering from a broomstick. Mr Miller then completed a ceremonial ski-past salute to Captain Dallas. How he disembarked from his skis rather – er – dampens the story!.


A very drunk and very belligerent Goanese crew member who had entered into too much spirit, or rather Guinness had to be removed forcibly and detained in the lock-up ward in C Deck Hospital aft. It took five men to escort him to the After Hospital, these five being David Tomalin (Catering D P) Peter Binns (Baby Doc) Gordon Rennison (Dispenser) Fred (Hosp Att) and Joe (Hosp G S). As these five manfully struggled to keep the miscreant under control they entered the ward, and carried the man to the bed. The heavy steel door swung to and shut behind them. The door had no handle on the inside, and closed with a self-locking device.

This happened in the early part of the evening Christmas Day. Some five hours later a puzzled Coxswain, wondering at the hammering and yelling, released the five prisoners whilst on his late night rounds of the ship. During their evening’s confinement the five not only missed their Christmas Dinners, but also the Captains Party, the Purser’s Party, and their share of Christmas spirit that our Goanese friend had consumed earlier.

This happened before myself and Les Massey took over from Fred, Hospital Attendant and Gordon Dispenser in June 1973. I was told this story, so was very careful when I went into the lock-up cabin whether empty or with an occupant in there, although the lock-up cabin on Canberra was similar. I was Hospital Attendant on Canberra Christmas 1972, and her Christmas Cruise also had a lot of incident even more so than Arcadia. That is a story for another day however, but Christmas 1972 had incidents on at least two P&O ships.


January 26/February 2nd 1960
Sir William Slim, Governor General of Australia, flew his personal standard on board.

Early 1960
Dame Pattie Menzies sailed from Sydney to UK in Arcadia on her way to launch Canberra at Harland and Wolff Belfast, a special trip made specifically for the launching.

Famous Australian historian Sir Keith Hancock KBE, sailed

The King and Queen of Malaysia – Raja Permasuri Agong and Yang Di Pertuan Agong.

Rt Hon Sir Robert Menzies and his daughter sailed on a south Pacific cruise, leaving Dame Pattie behind in Canberra, the Australian capital, not the ship.

January 1969
Australian Prime Minister Rt Hon J. G Gorton and his wide sailed from Suva to Sydney as part of their return trip from the Prime Ministers Conference in London.

Miss Evonne Goolagong Australian World Tennis Champion took a cruise from Sydney for a rest prior to participating in the Wimbledon Tournament.

June 1973 onwards
ME!, No my boss actually, Major General P.R. Wheatley, D.S.O R.A.M.C (rtd) M.R.C.S L.R.C.P F.R.C.S F.R.S of MED Q.H.S. Formerly Director of Army Surgery and Consultant Surgeon to the Army. Presently serving as Ship’s Surgeon. He was once Orthopaedic Surgeon to Her Majesty the Queen.

With Doc Wheatley as Surgeon, we had quite a medical team because the Dispenser who joined with Doc Wheatley and myself in June 1973 was a retired Naval Lieutenant serving 32 years in the RN getting from Sick Berth Attendant to commissioned Officer. Between him and the Surgeon, they not only had more medals that any crew member on board, but possibly more that anybody in the P&O fleet. When wearing blues, their entire top pocket was full of ribbons indeed going way below the pocket much to the envy of Merchant Navy Officers on board who looked quite stupid compared to these two most with little more than two medals. Les earned the M.B.E while in the RN, no small achievement along with every medal going including the Order of St John. I learned so much from these two men during my time working with them that I still put to good use today. Even the Captain referred to Doc Wheatley as Sir!.

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·

One of the contributors to the Special Commemorative issue of Arcadus, Jim (Curley) Cannell PRS, like myself, came from the Isle of Wight. So when getting to his story in the issue, I looked his name up in the phone book to see it he was still around. To my delight he was, and had a long talk to him. Now in his 90s, his memory is not so good, but he told me that when the weather is better, he will dig a few things out about his years with P&O and indeed Arcadia. Anyway, because I kept the Special Commemorative issue, I can retell Curly’s story just as he told it at the time much to his delight.

Curley was a deck steward on the Arcadia 1964/5. One afternoon another steward sidled up to him and pointed to a white haired passenger asleep in a deck chair: “ I say Curley”, he said, “Just look at him with his mouth wide open catching flies”. “That gentleman”, Curley replied “ is Sir Robert Menzies, Prime minister of Australia”. When Sir Winston Churchill died in January 1965 Sir Robert had to cut short his holiday and fly to England from Los Angeles to attend the funeral.

Speaking of Australian Prime Ministers Curley recalled John Gorton travelling on Arcadia in 1969 and how he used to love getting on the bandstand to sing, the passengers simply lapped it up.

Among other famous passengers Curley had the pleasure of serving on the ARC was Jack Peterson, European and British heavyweight boxing champion of the late 1930s. On one occasion he had collected the top Bingo prize in the lounge. Curley recalled that he was so delighted you’d have thought he had won a 15-round bout.

The last of Curley’s personalities but by no means the least was Grecia Farfel, the late Billy Cotton’s solo trumpet player. During the time he was on board he gave concerts in the ships ballroom and on several occasions sat in the ships orchestra, thereby infusing life and sparkle into the combo. He amazed his audience one night by just taking his trumpet mouthpiece in one hand and an ordinary mineral water bottle in the other and proceeded to play popular melodies in the bottle. He was one hell of a musician Curley recalls and was a personal friend of his. He first met Grecia in 1943 when Curley himself earned a living playing the trumpet.


In each edition of Arcadus we ran a What’s My Name column asking readers if they could work out who it was. So we did the same for the Commemorative issue by finding a crew member who had been on board longer than anybody else. Some SN members who worked on Arcadia may remember this chap, but even if you don’t know him he came up with some classic memories in the history of Arcadia.

He was often seen, during a free moment leaning over the rail with his large eyes fixed on the horizon. What was he thinking of?. Do his thoughts go back to when Arcadia was only three years old?. For this man has been steadily in the ARC for 18 years (as written in 1974). In the beginning he liked Arcadia, and he requests to be reassigned have always been honoured.

As I wrote this, momentarily the air conditioning was off in my section of the ship. How was it in those days before air conditioning?. And when was it installed?. In those days the ship made three trips yearly to Australia, and did six English cruises. It is true that the restaurants and the writing rooms were cooled, but my friend described other parts of the ship as HOT. In those day the scuttles were open, the wind-chutes out, and there were curtains at the doors. All off duty time was spent on deck looking for a breeze, and scarcely finding it.

Most of the crew, and even some of the passengers, slept on deck until hosed off by the Laskas. Actually, the ship was not fully air conditioned until she started sailing to the States.

My friend recalled the time when the ARC ran into a whale. Obviously it was sleeping on the surface and with a terrible crash and bang it landed right on the bow. Its tail was flipping, and in order to get it off the ship had to go astern. That was in the Indian Ocean, and it was a hot and clear night – one not to be forgotten.

Then there was the day our friend recalls when somebody pushed the wrong button. Made fast at Suva, Arcadia suddenly shot forward at what seemed full speed. The ropes and hawsers were snapping and popping, and the Police band scattered. A yacht sailing slowly past in the light airs when suddenly, it seemed, set upon by Arcadia, who came so close, that all the occupants of the sailing boat decanted in fright into the water and started swimming to safety. It was a miracle that no-one was hurt because there were passengers actually going down the already rigged gangway at the time the ship moved forward along the quay. The local scuba diving club dived to ascertain the damage, and cut away 17 turns of wire rope around the propeller. The Company, in gratitude for their efforts, presented the Scuba Club with a new aqualung set. Our friend never did know who pushed the wrong button.

Our subject served many notables, amongst whom were Field Marshall Sir William Slim, ex Governor General of Australia; Sir Robert and Dame Pattie Menzies; Lord Nuffield; Dame Edith Evans, the famous actress; Spike Milligan, and Mr Coleman responsible for the wonderful English mustard. There were the Sheiks and Sultans, Air Vice Marshall’s, Colonel’s and Captain’s, and all ranks going to and from England, to Aden, Singapore and India. Even Mr Shanks of toilet fame was aboard, from the sublime to the ridiculous they all travelled in the ARC. Some of these were not mentioned in the famous people carried on Arcadia in the last edition.

Some of the captains our subject served under aboard Arcadia were, Dallas, Biddick, Chapman, Harrison, Le Fevre, Blois, Green, Wild, Gowen, Wacher and Forrest. I am sure a few SN members who worked for P&O remembers some of these captains?.

This chap, What’s His Name, hails from Halifax in Yorkshire. He was originally a Utility Steward, then a Winger, and then a BRS his present job of many years standing. He is a coin collector, and also has a fine collection of sea shells, for which he has paid anything from a few cents to $50.00 (that was a museum for a Cowrie shell, which he wouldn’t sell at any price.

He was asked if he could give Arcadia a really fine birthday present what would it be?. He replied:” A new diesel engine, so she could use less fuel, but most off all since were now based on the west coast of America, the occasional trip to the UK to store up with English goodies, especially Allsopps!”.

How many SN members reading this know what Allsopps was?. Was it unique to P&O, or did all companies use it when being stored from the UK?. For those who do not know, I will tell you later. But have a guess if you do not know?!.

The man in question is BRS, Stanley Adey who’s cabins are on A Deck.

Marjory Walker, Escort, Posh Hostess and Passenger Relations Officer served aboard Arcadia and other Company ships when Arcadia was based on the west coast of America wrote the following before she moved to her new home port in Sydney: I’ve said goodbye to Arcadia before, very sure I would not return. I even wrote a farewell to my friends one and all for Arcadus. That was a couple of years ago, and here I am once again. This time it would surely seem that I shall not tramp her decks again. No longer will I find my way to the Lookout Bar for a great view on all sides. I shan’t have the opportunity to work with the friendly young people in the Bureau. The cabin and the dining room stewards who have taken such good care of me will be missed. The Entertainment Staff and all those super artists (including the wonderful members of the crew show) will be fondly remembered. The boys who work in the Public Rooms (Barmen and Stewards) will become part of my memory.

Memory has a way of backtracking. I remember when I first went to sea with P&O. It was aboard Canberra, and Commodore Dunkley was the Master. Then there was Captain Riddlesdale.

I was aboard Canberra during the Seaman’s strike in London and we were there for weeks and weeks. I was also on Canberra when we but hours out of Suez, when war broke, and we turned around and home via South Africa.

I was aboard Oronsay during the typhoid when those on board didn’t worry so much about typhoid but cirrhosis of the liver!. I was privileged to be aboard Arcadia when she did the first seasons cruising to Alaska. Captain Gowen was the Skipper and Captain Dallas Staffie. There was Chusan and Iberia and Oriana and Orsova and later Spirit of London. The years marched on, or perhaps I should say they sailed by.

Of all the ships Arcadia has been my favourite. I wonder why?. I really don’t know. Perhaps it is because when I come on board I feel at home. I can’t help wishing it wasn’t Arcadia heading towards Australia as her home port. A part of my heart will go with her.

From where I sit it looks as though there will be no more Circle Pacific Cruises, no more Around The World from Port Everglades, where I used to fly to join the ship. But if the ARC ever comes back to the States, you can bet you last dollar that some way, some how I shall be aboard even if I come as a passenger.

Next episode, a few Arcadia firsts.

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Arcadia's first 21

Ind-Coop and Allslops BEER right Pompeyfan? (Applause)

At least in the London area it was Ind-Coop and Alsops. Of course we had to play on the Allslops word.

Still enjoying your yarns mate. ATB.........Peter

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·


Arcadia was the first P&O ship to have an Observation Lounge at the forward end of the Boat Deck, immediately beneath the Bridge. The bar counter was decorated at each end with a figurehead of a sailing ship, and a mural on the after bulkhead (since painted over) bore representations of the first Arcadia, the William Fawcett and the Cutty Sark. Most of the other nautical and maritime decoration including globes are still there today (May 1974) in the Lookout Bar.

Arcadia was the first P&O ship to carry P&O (and not Marconi) employed Radio Officers.

Whilst cruising from Bergen in August 1954 Arcadia passed through Karm Sound, a channel of no more than 200 yards in width, to the cheers and whistles of local children lining the nearby shores. A bridge under construction at the time, and long since completed, by reason of its insufficient height, meant that Arcadia was not only the first P&O ship to pass there, but also the last large ship to transit these narrows.

In November 1959 Arcadia became the first passenger liner to land passengers at Picton New Zealand whilst on a cruise between line voyages.

22nd December 1959, Arcadia’s first call at Honolulu.

12th October 196, Arcadia’s first call at Seattle.

1970 Arcadia was the first P&O ship and largest passenger liner to cruise to Alaska and Glacier Bay.

On 14th July 1973 saw P&O’s and indeed Arcadia’s first call at Anchorage Alaska. Now a full time cruise ship, the call of such a large passenger vessel on a cruise at a port so far north caused quite a stir in the local Anchorage press. I still have this newspaper somewhere in my loft. We made the front the page, and there was a picture of her Captain Chapman (relief captain to Captain Dallas), standing on the bridge.

This was part of Arcadia’s Summertime Great Circle Pacific Cruise as Arcadia set off now based on the west coast of America and quite a new crew many of us joining for the first time a month earlier flying out to San Francisco by TWA with champagne on the way out, a far cry from Dan Air when we moved to Australia some 16 months later. Setting off from San Francisco, having signed articles on 18th June 1973 we set off for LA to pick up passengers before heading north to Vancouver arriving on 9th July 1973. From there we headed further north to Ketchikan, then onto Glacier Bay and Anchorage. From Anchorage we headed for warmer climes reaching Yokohama 9 days later on 23rd July 1973. On 25th July we reached Kobe staying there for two days.

28TH July 1973 saw another P&O and Arcadia first when we called at Kagoshima, Japan.

After Kagoshima we visited my favourite port Hong Kong where both the ship and crew had a wash and brush up with a new coat of paint on our three day visit and most of us with new made to measure suits, shirts, shoes, new glasses and goodness knows what else in the most amazing place you will ever find. From there we headed to Guam. If memory serves me right, Chitral was there with us. After that we headed down to Rabaul where, again if memory serves me right, our water tanks filled from an old submarine itself filled with water to serve anchoring ships.

From there it was onto Sydney, Noumea, Suva, Pago Pago, Papeete, Nuku Hiva arriving back in LA on 2nd September 1974 and San Francisco on 3rd September 1973.

While down in the South Pacific on 10th August 1973, Arcadia anchored off Niuafo’ou Island known as ‘Tin Can Island’ because ships have to post their mail by tin can. Niuafo’ou is one of the outlying islands of the Kingdom of Tonga, 400 miles from Tongatapu Island, on which Nuku’alofa, the capital of Tonga is situated. It is about 3½ miles long, 3 miles wide, and is of volcanic origin. The last volcanic eruption took place in September 1946 (as written in 1973), and when this happened, the home and properties of the 1,300 inhabitants were almost wiped out, and so they resettled on Eua Island, south of Tongatapu. About 200 villagers returned to Niuafo’ou in 1958, and the population was about 600 as of 1974.

Passengers and crew posted letters here with a special insertion with details of the island (as copied below) which they could write on the other side plus an envelope printed on the outside: SS Arcadia Summertime Great Circle Pacific Cruise August 1973 Dispatched By Tin Can Mail at Niuao’ou Island, Tonga August 20th, 1973. Due to this and the unusual way it went ashore it would become a collectors item.

Niuafo’ou is better known by its nickname ‘Tin Can Island’ because, as there is no good anchorage, at one time the regular means of mail delivery was for the ships carpenter to seal mail in 40-pound biscuit tins and throw them overboard, to be towed ashore by waiting ‘postmen’. Hence the name ‘Tin Can Island’.

The outward mail was made up ashore into several parcels, and tied to the ends of sticks about three feet long. Two or three natives usually swam out, each with a stick topped by a parcel of mail, supported by poles of Fau wood of six to seven feet in length. These poles were buoyant and easily carried the weight of a re***bent body. The parcels of outward mail were place in buckets lowered from the deck of the steamer.

The letters posted from Arcadia was sealed in a canister which was thrown overboard off Niufo’ou Island, picked up, and taken ashore for forwarding to the addressee.

As the government owned vessel in which the mail is conveyed to Nuku’alofa only sails at 5 weekly intervals, it is likely that letters could take up to 3-4 months to reach their destination.

I have pictures on slides of natives in rafts picking up the can dropped by one of our lifeboats. When, and if I treat myself to a slide scanner I will post these pictures.

On later cruises we called at Nuku'alofa picking up mail left by other ships in our lifeboats from natives in their rafts. Again if memory serves me right, we pick up mail left by one of the Royal Vikings who passed a few days before us.

November/December 1973 First passenger ship in P&O, and first since Queen Elizabeth during World War 2 to be refitted and dry-docked at Esquimalt, Victoria BC. We flew home on leave from Vancouver on KLM, after a very pleasant trip by ferry to the mainland.

2ND January 1974 Arcadia’s first call at Le Guaira.

7TH January 1974 Arcadia’s first call at Aruba in the Netherlands Antilles. This was part of her Christmas Cruise to the Caribbean from Vancouver, San Francisco and LA. A poor lady from Vancouver spent the entire cruise in the passenger hospital.

May 1994 Arcadia called at Portland Oregon being the first P&O passenger ship to call there.

First time for Arcadia to hold the Oriana Trophy, and the first P&O streaker!.
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