1902-1925: RMS ORONTES, an occasional troopship of the Great War - Dennis Brook.
4240. This is an image of the Orient Line steamer RMS ORONTES, produced here on a Next of Kin request from the family of a WWI AIF serviceman who travelled on her to Europe in 1916.
Links to images and details of one or two other troop ships related to the same request will follow with the next image.
ORONTES [not to be confused - as it is in AWM records - with the two-funnel P & O ship of the same name launched in 1929], was launched by the Fairfield shipbuilding yard in Glasgow on May 10, 1902, and began her maiden voyage to Australia on October 24 that year.
She was 9028 tons gross, 530 x 58ft [161.5m x 17.6m], and had an average speed of 18.8 knots on trials. As built she had accomodation for 200 first class, 200 second class and 600 third class passengers - 1000 passengers in total.
After the outbreak iof WWI she initially remained on the UK-Australia service.
She is not listed as one of the 74 ships taken over by Australia's Commonwealth Government for use as troopships during WWI, but is on a list of a further 39 Royal Mail vessels chartered by the Commonwealth on an occasional basis for that purpose.
In October 1916 ORONTES was formally taken over by the British Admiralty and converted to a troopship, and commenced her war service with two further voyages from Britain to Australia, and then spent considerable time on the Africa run, during which she also made several trips from South Africa to France.
She was relinquished by the Admiralty in August 1917, and returned to the Australia trade so her refrigerated spaces could be used to carry dairy products and meat to Britain.
She subsequently passed through the Panama Canal and made several trans-Atlantic voyages between New York and Boston and Liverpool. No longer up to the standard of later passenger ships after WWI there were two proposals to convert her to a British trade exhibition vessel, but neither came to fruition. She was broken up in 1929.
Photo: Dennis Brook, it appeared in Malcolm R. Gordon's book 'From Chusan to Sea Princess: The Australian Services of the P & O and Orient Lines [George Allen and Unwin, Australia 1985] p 131.
There is another photo of her in the State Library of Victoria Collections here: