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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited by Moderator)

  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Basic Data
  • 3 Career Highlights
  • 4 Build and Launch
  • 5 Morea before WW1
  • 6 Morea during WW1
    • 6.1 On the outbreak of war
    • 6.2 War Service
    • 6.3 A near miss from a torpedo
  • 7 Postwar return to P&O
  • 8 Breaking
  • 9 Footnotes
    • 9.1 Cutting from The Daily Telegraph (UK) 17 February 2006 page 6.
  • 10 Pictures
  • 11 External resources
  • 12 Contributors

RMS Morea was the 6th of the P&O M Class Passenger Liners. The earlier vessels were Moldavia (I) launched 1903; Mongolia(II) launched 1903; Marmora launched 1903; Macedonia launched 1904; and Mooltan (II) launched 1905. Most of the earlier and later M Class ships were built either by Caird or by Harland & Wolf. Ultimately RMS Morea turned out to be the only one of its class built by Barclay Curle & Co. at their yard at Whiteinch on the Clyde.UK

RMS Morea was generally considered to be the best-looking of her class and, like her sisters, was built for long distance mail services to India and Australia. Many of the images available are from postcards and the ship is sometimes referred to as RMS (Royal Mail Ship) and sometimes SS (Steam Ship).

Basic Data[edit]
  • 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: MMF (GLVJ from 1927)
  • Classification society: N/K
  • Gross tonnage: 10,890 grt
  • Net tonnage: 5,960 nrt
  • Deadweight: N/K
  • Length: 164.53m (540.0ft)
  • Breadth: 18.65m (61.2ft)
  • Depth: 7.53m (24.7ft)
  • Draught: N/K
  • 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: N/K
  • Crew: 307
  • Employment: UK/Australia or UK/India services
Career Highlights[edit]

The data below is from a photocopy of an unknown source held in the Caird Libray at the NMM Greenwich

  • 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 Marseilles, Suez, Colombo, Melbourne and Sydney.
  • 1909: Fitted with Marconi system of wireless telegraphy. See Early ship radios
  • 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 the first P&O post war passenger voyage on its own behalf London/Bombay/Adelaide/Melbourne/Sydney.
  • 03.09.1930: Sold to Summers & Co, Kobe for demolition.

Supplementary information from P&O held in Caird Library at NMM:

  • Engine:Twin screw, two quadruple expansion. Cylinders 30.5 inch(77.47cm), 44 inch (111.76cm), 61 inch (154.94cm) and 87 inch (220.98cm). Stroke 54 inch(137.16cm), 13,000 IMP, 1,842 NIP. Steam pressure 215lbs. Four single-ended and 4 double-ended boilers. Engine by builders.
  • Hull Steel, two decks, passengers 1st 407, 2nd 200. Fcsle 92 ft.(28.04m), Bridge 277 ft.(84.42m), Poop 108ft.(32.92m)
  • 1908: Maiden voyage - Tilbury, Colombo, Melbourne
  • 1915: Converted into hospital ship
  • 1916: May - Transport for part of the Australian Expeditionary Force
  • 1918: April - Converted into an armed merchant cruiser. Served as HMS Morea with seven 6inch (15.24) guns
  • 1919: October - returned to Australian route and later served on the Far East Service
  • 1930: Sep Bill of Sale/Oct: Arrived in Japan for breaking up
Build and Launch[edit]

Cutting from Shipping World 19/08/1908 (held at the Caird Library NMM Greenwich)

Barclay Curle and Co Ltd., Clydebank launched on Saturday the large twin-screw mail and passenger steamer Morea which they are building to the order of the Peninsular and Orient Steam Navigation Company. This vessel is one of the three new steamers which are to form a new type of the M Class. The keel of the Morea was laid on Nov 6 of last year, so that the construction of the vessel up to the launching stage has occupied only a little over nine months. It is intended that she will be handed over to her owners before the end of October and will be ready for service within one year of the laying of the keel.

Press Cutting from Shipping World 02/11/1938 (held at the Caird Library NMM Greenwich)

Heading: Thirty Years Ago - from The Shipping List 04/11/1908

Messrs. Barclay Curle and Co Whiteinch have done a very creditable piece of work in having completed a vessel of the size and with the elaborate fitting of the new P&O liner Morea within a year. The keel of Morea was laid on No 5 1907 and the official trials of the vessel will take place this week Weds and Thurs Nov 5. The vessel was launched as recently as August 15 and when it is said that she is the largest and most sumptuously fitted-up ship of the entire P&O fleet, it will be understood that the builders have lost no time in the fitting out of the Morea.

Morea before WW1[edit]

1909: RMS Morea, Barrel Mail and the Cocos Islands
The Cocos (Keeling) Islands are a group of coral islands that were discovered (at least by Westerners) in 1609 and uninhabited until settlement started with ex East India Company people in 1826. The islands were annexed by Great Britain in 1857 and the Clunies Ross family were granted a perpetual lease. In 1908 Direction Island (one of the Cocos group) became a station on the cable route from Indian to Australia. However it was still very much off the beaten track when it came to shipping.
In 1909 RMS Morea notified the cable station on Direction Island that it would be making a delivery. A barrel was dropped containing supplies and mail for them to pick up. This Barrel Mail delivery started a practice that continued until 1954 with deliveries only interrupted by WW2. The service was then superseded by air delivery. The way this worked was that after getting the notification, staff would set out in their two jukongs 'Matey' and 'Diana' to collect the barrel and hopefully get their own mail on board. The barrel was lowered over the side of the ship to waiting cable station staff or on occasion dropped over the side with a marker flag.

200px-Cocos_Island_stamp_showing_Morea.jpg The Barrel Mail service was comemmorated on a stamp as shown to the right.

For further details of Barrel Mail see Other Resources Reference 2.

1910: Wreck of lighter Jules Marie
From Encyclopaedia for Australian Shipwrecks:
Jules Marie. Barque, lighter, 271 tons. # 79251. Built Chantenay, France, 1868; reg, Melbourne 1882. Lbd 107.6 x 26.6 x 13.3 ft. Badly damaged during a storm, was broken up, 27 April 1910. She had been lying next to RMS Morea, broke away, and struck the stern of RMS Orvieto, putting a hole in the lighter's bows, and hence sinking. The salvage boat Endeavour and two tugs assisted in moving her away from the mail steamer. The Jules Marie was broken up shortly after.

Morea during WW1[edit]

On the outbreak of war[edit]

The note in the highlights section dated 7 September 1914 deserves a full explanation:

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 and also in the excellent book The Last Cruise of the Emden by Edwin P Hoyt Pub: Macmillan 1966.

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 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?

There is a separate account about what happened on board the ship 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 do***ent is . 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.

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.

The exploits of Emden were commemorated on a series of stamps issued by the Cocos Islands as shown below:

War Service[edit]

The following list shows voyages of RMS Morea transporting troops from Australia according to the Digger History website

26/08/1915 Adelaide Transported 9th Light Horse Regiment, 3rd Light Horse Brigade 8th reinforements
11/05/1917 Melbourne Transported 8th Light Horse Regiment, 3rd Light Horse Brigade 26th reinforcements
22/02/1917 Adelaide Transported 9th Light Horse Regiment, 3rd Light Horse Brigade 26th reinforcements
26/02/1917 Freemantle Transported 9th Light Horse Regiment, 3rd Light Horse Brigade 26th reinforcements
26/02/1917 Freemantle Transported 10th Light Horse Regiment, 3rd Light Horse Brigade 26th reinforcements

The following image is the January 1919 Entry in the Navy List for HMS Morea:


Deaths on board in WW1
The following deaths were reported aboard Morea during WW1:

25950 SCUTTY WALTER GREASER, Mercantile Marine Reserve 848863 MOREA 20/10/17 DROWNING
9728 JONES PERCIVAL FIREMAN, Mercantile Marine Reserve 867881 MOREA 07/08/18 ILLNESS
6629 ARNOLD GEORGE TRIMMER, Mercantile Marine Reserve 971592 MOREA 01/03/19 ILLNESS

A near miss from a torpedo[edit]

This story comes from:

Published in London in 1921, The Best 500 Cockney War Stories comprised, in the words of its newspaper publisher (The London Evening News) a remembering and retelling of those war days when laughter sometimes saved men's reason.
It contains the following quote:
Five to One Against the Tinfish
H M.S. Morea, on convoy duty, was coming up the Channel when the silver streak of a "tinfish" was seen approaching the port side. The Morea was zig-zagging at the time, so more helm was given her to dodge the oncoming torpedo.
The guns' crews were at action stations and were grimly waiting for the explosion, when a Cockney seaman gunner sang out, "I'll lay five to one it doesn't hit us.
This broke the tension, and, as luck would have it, the torpedo passed three yards astern.
J. Bowman (R.N.), 19 Handel Mansions, Handel Street, W.C.1

More information to follow

Postwar return to P&O[edit]

Press Cutting: Journal of Commerce 17/10/1938 (held at the Caird Library NMM Greenwich)
Heading: Today in the past
On October 17 1919, The P&O liner Morea left London for Australia after reconditioning. She was a twin-screw ship of the M Class built in 1909 and during the war had been worked very hard as a hospital ship, transport and armed merchant cruiser. As a result she wanted an extensive overhaul before she could go back onto the mail and passenger service, and this was the responsibility of The Admiralty. They sent her up to the Clyde for the work to be done, but it was so much delayed by the joiners strike that eventually she was handed back to P&O Line with a lump sum for the company to carry out the necessary work, which was to be done at Avonmouth. While she was still in naval hands on the Clyde, a notice was discovered one morning at the foot of her gangway neatly painted - HMS Neversail - Come on board and draw your pay.


After an active life of 22 years, Morea was sold for scrap. A copy of the deed of sale to Summers & Co of Kobe Japan is held in the folder P&O/63/6-15 in the Caird Library at the NMM. The date of the deed of sale was 17 June 1930. (This folder also includes copies of the deeds of sale for disposal of Mantua built 1909 and sold to China Shipbreakers Ltd. of Shainghai.)

The deed contained an interesting appendix as follows:

The submarine signalling apparatus is also excluded from the sale, and will be taken out of the vessel before the transfer is effective.

It would be interesting to know more about this submarine signalling apparatus - what was available in 1930, who made it, and to what purpose was it put if fitted to a passenger ship?


Cutting from The Daily Telegraph (UK) 17 February 2006 page 6.[edit]

Heading: MPs want state funeral for last First World War veteran.

The text describes a compaign supported by a cross-party group of MPs led by former Tory Leader Ian Duncan-Smith to provide the last surviving serviceman from WW1 with a state funeral. This idea seems to have been rejected. The point of noting this here is that the article includes a list of survivors as of the date of printing. Included among them is Kenneth ***mings, 105 who lived in Great Bedwyn, Wiltshire. He is described as Midshipman on cruiser HMS Morea escorting convoys in East Africa. It adds that he became a captain for P&O. If you check out the War Service section above, Mr ***mings appears in the Navy List entry for January 1919 as a Midshipman.


Note: All images of postcards in this section are from scans from the collection of SN member Benjidog and date from approximately 1908-1929)

The image below is from a postcard showing RMS Morea at the entry to the Suez Canal at Port Said.


The image below is from a postcard showing RMS Morea being manouevred by tugs at an unknown port.



External resources[edit]
  1. The State Library of Victoria Australia: The Allen C Green Collection of glass negatives has two very clear photos of RMS Morea which cannot be copied here without paying a fee but can be viewed online here after doing a search on Morea:
  2. Website with information on the history of the Atlantic Cable and Underseas Communication:
  3. University of St Andrews Photographic Archive has a photograph of RMS Morea leaving Freemantle in 1914. Go to the following URL and put Morea in the search box to locate it: . I have requested permission to include this image on the site and will attach it if approval is given.

  1. User Benjidog created the original entry

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