Friday, November 25, 2022



They are grander things than all the art of towns,
Their tests are tempests and the sea that drowns,
They are my country’s line, her great art done
By strong brains labouring on the thought unwon, 
They mark our passage as a race of men,
Earth shall not see such ships as these again.

Ships, John Masefield

The prides of the Merchant Navy and exemplars of the British Ocean Liner during last five years of the 'thirties-- 
Queen Mary, Awatea, Orion, Capetown Castle, CantonMauretania, Andes and Dominion Monarch-- ushered in a Halcyon Era. It was an abbreviated apogee shortchanged by war, but the character, quality and presence of the ships endure to this day and their likes truly will never seen again when The Red Duster flew from them all as they coursed far-flung ocean highways on which they had no equal. 

Supreme on the longest of all Empire routes, that to New Zealand, was Shaw, Savill & Albion's Dominion Monarch of 1939.  What was the world's most powerful  motorship at her introduction, remains the largest and finest ship ever commissioned specifically for the route and the greatest ever combination cargo-passenger liner.  She was no less a Ship of State for the Dominions-- South Africa, Australia and New Zealand-- she served than was Queen Mary for Britain. Her wide ranging war service was capped by returning the Māori Battalion home in 1946 and she remains especially remembered in New Zealand. She had it all-- size, speed and style-- and a brief enough career to afford her a legendary status unique among Antipodean liners.  

On this, the 60th anniversary of her final landfall at the breakers on 25 November 1962, occasion to appreciate the one and only... 

Q.S.M.V.  Dominion Monarch 

Q.S.M.V. Dominion Monarch in Table Bay, by William McDowell (1888-1950), 1938. Credit:

The Once and Forever Sovereign of the Southern Cross, the peerless Dominion Monarch. Credit: Skyfotos. 

Whenever one considers the early history of our Empire, it is very necessary that proper regard should be paid to the long-established British shipping companies which have contributed so much to the early development of what are now our self governing Dominions, and in studying the early development of New Zealand it will be found that the Shaw Savill and Albion Co., Ltd., has played a very large part in the progress which has been made during the last hundred years in that Dominion. 

A.C. Hardy, Illustrated London News, 7 January 1939

Of the British Dominions, none is farther from the Mother Country than New Zealand, so far "Out East" and "Down South" by equal measure that her overseas maritime links derived little benefit from the Suez Canal and resisted the steam age longer that most routes. Dominion Monarch plied "The Route of the Clippers" and no other flagship had more right to call it her own, for her owners, Shaw, Savill & Albion, had roots in sail more than most any modern day British shipping company.  Sail, steam or motor, their ships were always most at home in the Southern Latitudes and it was old fashioned seamanship that achieved the ambitions of their owners over some of the longest and most challenging sea routes in the world. 

Arising from a desire to compete with Albion Line of Glasgow, operated by Patrick Hunderson & Co., and the pioneering fast sail line to New Zealand, Robert Shaw and Walter Savill started a rival line of sailing ships in 1858 from London to New Zealand, adopting the earliest ensign of the colony as their houseflag.  The discovery of gold in New Zealand spurred immigration and competition between Albion and Shaw Savill was keen with epic races between their clipper ships down to the Cape, then down into in the southern latitudes of the Indian Ocean to catch the Roaring Forties across to Australia and finally crossing the tempestuous Tasman to New Zealand. Homewards, it was across the Pacific and round Cape Horn and home via the South Atlantic so that each voyage was right around the world. It was the stuff of seafaring lore and legend, of record passages of 69 days, shipwrecks off the Tierra de Fuergo and commercial success for both firms which merged in 1882 as Shaw, Savill & Albion.  

Early leaflet for Shaw, Savill & Co, c. 1870. Credit: L.J. Holden via wikiwand.

Other than the Māori canoes and Cook's Endeavour, Albion's clipper ship Dunedin (above at Port Chalmers) was the most important ship in New Zealand history for she pioneered in February 1882 the successful carriage of frozen meat to England, creating the colony's main export trade. Credit:

In February 1882, Albion's three-masted clipper Dunedin (1874/1,320grt) left Port Chalmers with the first successful shipment of frozen meat which was unloaded in London in perfect condition 98 days later. With that, New Zealand's export trade was born and the "reefer" ship... first sail, then steam and then motor… became the classic New Zealand overseas vessel.  Thereafter, all the lines in the trade  had to balance the carriage of refrigerated meat and passengers either in the same vessel or independently. It was the true origin of Dominion Monarch, the greatest combination reefer/passenger ship ever built. 

The modern era of steam navigation began in earnest in 1884 when the New Zealand Government awarded a mail contract in 1884 to be shared by Shaw, Savill & Albion and the New Zealand Shipping Co. (1873) and the two maintained a cordial rivalry that was more cooperative than competitive to maintain a regular passenger, mail and cargo service to England. 

The impressive 4,367-grt Coptic inaugurated monthly Shaw Savill sailings between New Zealand and Britain in February 1884, the first of many White Star-owned and manned ships, but Shaw Savill managed ships on the run. Credit: Merseyside Maritime Museum. 

The mail contract thrust Shaw Savill & Albion into the Age of Steam and a long lasting relationship with Oceanic Steam Navigation Co. (White Star Line).  Whilst orders were placed with Denny of Dumbarton for a pair of new screw steamers for the route and the first sailing undertaken by the chartered 3,391-grt Westmeath from London for Auckland and Port Chalmers on 15 March 1883, it was White Star that provided the service with the newly-built 4,367-grt Coptic, Ionic and Doric which following a charter to New Zealand Steamship, were the first byproduct of the Shaw Savill & White Star cooperation. Under the arrangement, White Star ships remained manned by their officers and crew, flew both houseflags, but ran under Shaw Savill management. Even the livery of the ships of both lines was the same save the hull sheerline band was white on SSA ships rather than yellow-gold.  

By October 1884, the company maintained a monthly service from London calling at Plymouth, Tenerife, Cape Town, Hobart, Port Chalmers, Lyttelton, Wellington or Auckland outbound and homewards via the Pacific, round Cape Horn, and calling at Montevideo, Rio de Janeiro, Tenerife and Plymouth.

The handsome Arawa (1884) was the first mailship built for Shaw, Savill & Albion and shown at Otago in 1885. Credit: David Alexander De Maus photograph, National Library of New Zealand.  

The first of two new 5,026-grt sisters built for Shaw Savill by Denny's, Arawa, made her maiden voyage in November 1884 and clocked a passage of 48 days. She and sister Tainui were strikingly handsome ships of the classic sail and steam era, but proved very heavy on coal which shortened their careers with the line. 

The first White Star-built ship for joint service with Shaw Savill, the 7,750-grt Gothic of 1893 (seen here at Port Chalmers, Dunedin), was the first "superliner" on the New Zealand run: the first twin-screw liner on the route and first to entirely dispense with sails. Credit: Alexander Turnbull Library.

Gothic (1893/7,755 grt) was the first newly built ship under White Star ownership for the route and  the first twin-screw liner on the run.  In 1894, she did Plymouth to Wellington in 37 days 10 hours 16 mins. at 14.16 knots. 

Shaw Savill chartered Arawa in 1893 to James Huddart for his fledgling All Red Route which linked the Antipodes with Vancouver, and in combination with trans-continental railway and express North Atlantic liner, offered the fastest connection for passenger and mails to England. The Canadian-Australian Line eventually passed to Union Steamship of New Zealand. A rival route, via San Francisco by Oceanic Steamship Co., was also maintained as competition heated up at the turn of the century. Tainui, too, was chartered to the Spanish in 1896 and the two never sailed again for Shaw Savill. 

The iconic Ionic seen above with her twin houseflags flying, served on the New Zealand run for 31 years. Credit: Merseyside Maritime Museum. 

Ringing in the New Century, White Star added the most successful trio of liners ever built for the New Zealand service: the 12,300-grt Athenic, Corinthic and Ionic in 1902-03.  With their extensive refrigerated cargo spaces and excellent passenger accommodation for 121 First, 117 Second and 450 Third Class, they were so suited to their duties that they put in collectively  some 90 years service under the dual Shaw Savill and White Star flags. The former Athenic was finally scrapped in 1962, the same year as Dominion Monarch, whilst Ionic, "the luckiest ship afloat" ran for Shaw Savill until 1936, clocking 2.5 million ocean miles on 79 round voyages. They proved to be the final White Star-built liners for the joint service. 

Tainui of 1908 set the pace for the line's passenger ships for more than a generation and put in 31 years service with the company. Credit: Alexander Turnbull Library. 

Shaw Savill sell their last sailing ship, Westland, in 1908 and took delivery of the 9,957-grt Tainui from Workman Clark, replacing GothicTainui's forward island containing the bridge and officers' accommodation and the funnel sited aft of amidships  presaged Dominion Monarch with  284,000 cu. ft. of refrigerated cargo space and excellent accommodation for 40 First, 75 Second and 400 Third Class passengers. 

The first Shaw Savill ship designed by R.J. Noal, Rangatira (1909) was the first built for the line to exceed 10,000-grt and elements of her design influenced company ships into the 1960s. Credit:

The first of the line's ships designed by Commander Richard John Noal, newly appointed Marine Superintendent, the 10,118-grt Rangitira, delivered by Workman Clark in 1909, established hallmarks for the line's ensuing cargo ships that lasted into the 1960s with her epic 655,245 cu. ft. cargo capacity carrying 96,720 frozen carcases or 16,378 tons of general cargo to England and as many as 1,100 emigrants in her 'tween decks outbound.  Noal would go on to design all of the line's ships, including Dominion Monarch, up to 1948. 

Shaw Savill's corporate history reflected the growth of larger shipping groups which gained effective control of lines by acquiring majority share interests.  In 1910,  Sir John Ellerman purchased a majority of Shaw Savill's stock in 1910 with White Star holding the remaining 44 per cent.

The Panama Canal finally gave the odd corner of the British Empire, New Zealand, its "shortcut," cutting about 1,000 miles off the route, reducing  passage time from London to Wellington to 32 days from 35. Remuera was the first British merchantman through the canal in 1914 and within two years New Zealand Shipping and Shaw Savill routed their passenger and cargo services via Panama. White Star, whilst retaining their financial stake in Shaw Savill, phased out sharing tonnage with the company and concentrated on their own Liverpool-Cape-Australia service (terminating at Brisbane) and now headed by the 18,481-grt Ceramic (1913), the largest liner trading to the Antipodes. 

A marvelous Shaw Savill poster from the early 1920s featuring one of the enduring Athenic-class trio framed by the canvas and ratlines of the line's formative years. Credit:

The 1920s were difficult years for British shipping, but saw some significant progress on the New Zealand route.  It was the era of the motorship, indeed the first Brtish motorliner and the world's first express diesel-power liner, the 17,500-grt quadruple screw Aorangi for Canadian-Australian was the largest and finest ship to New Zealand when she entered service in 1925.  She prompted the introduction of New Zealand Shipping's trio of 16,700-grt motorships Rangitiki, Rangitata and Rangitane four years later which marked a new era in comfort and convenience on the UK-New Zealand via Panama route.

The former Aberdeen liner Sophicles put in three decades as Shaw Savill's Tamaroa

By the mid 'twenties, Shaw Savill's passenger fleet was badly in need of modernisation and the reliance on White Star tonnage for so many years had engendered complacency in ordering their own passenger tonnage. Conversely, Aberdeen Line (of whose shares White Star and Shaw Savill owned a substantial proportion since 1905),  had overbuilt and were in dire straits when the Australian migrant boom collapsed.  In June 1926, Aberbeen's four-year-old, 12,341-grt sisters Sophicles and Diogenes were long term chartered to Shaw Savill and after extensive refitting, conversion to oil-firing and renamed Tamaroa and Mataroa respectively, entered the UK-Panama-New Zealand run in autumn  on which they proved popular mainstays for 30 years. 

On 29 January 1926 came the first rumours that Shaw Savill were shortly to be tendering for "two motor liner of 20,000 tons, and with a speed of seventeen knots as compared with existing speed of thirteen knots." More details followed on 30 March when it was prematurely stated that two new 20,000 grt, 600-ft. motor ships, for the via Panama route, had been ordered, one from Swan Hunter and the other by Fairfields.   

Preliminary specifications called for four-screw Sulzer diesel machinery giving a 17-knot service speed (along the lines of the pioneering Aorangi), accommodation for 230 First and 700 Third Class passengers and cargo capacity of 400,000 cu. ft. (reefer) and 300,000 cu. ft. (general).  These were stated to "be modern liners, in every sense of the word, with swimming baths and all the other auxiliaries of modern ocean travel." On 15 May 1926 the Otago Daily Times reported that "contracts have been confirmed for the building of the vessels" and that the machinery would indeed Sulzer diesels, "the most powerful of the type ever constructed" and modelled after those fitted to Aorangi

There is still no definite information as to whether the contract by Messrs. Shaw, Savill and Albion Co. with Messrs. Swan, Hunter and Wigham Richardson, Ltd., for a 20,000 ton motor liner for their New Zealand trade be definitely cancelled. It is understood that reduction of freights from Australia and New Zealand is likely to have a serious effect on shipping companies, who are therefore placed in the position of having to consider whether or not they will be justified under the new conditions in incurring additional heavy expenditure at the present time. 

Journal of Commerce, 9 September 1926

Alas, what would doubtless been splendid ships fell victim to the still depressed cargo trade of the 1920s and on 24 September 1926, the Northern Advocate reported:

Because of the recent reduction in freight rates, the Shaw Savill and Albion Company finds it necessary to construct more economical vessels. The company states that it has cancelled the construction of a 20,000-ton motor liner at Tyneside and is substituting three motor cargo ships. It will probably replace a similar Clydeside order, by three other motor freighters, enabling the company ultimately to place six 11,000-tonners in the New Zealand trade.

Belfast News Letter, 26 September 1926

Bookends to a decade of Shaw Savill motor ships, Zealandic (shown here at Cape Town) was delivered in March 1928 by Swan Hunter who handed over Dominion Monarch, in January 1939. Credit: Mersey Maritime Museum.

Instead  Shaw, Savill contracted four twin-screw Sulzer-diesel-powered 8,200-grt refrigerated ships-- Zealandic, Taranaki, Coptic and Karamea-- from Swan Hunter and Fairfields which entered service in 1928-29 and ushered in a diesel decade for the line.  This coincided with the passing of White Star (Oceanic Steam Navigation Co.) interest in Shaw Savill from IMM to Lord Kylsant's Royal Mail group.  Complete control was obtained 18 months later when Kylsant acquired Ellerman's shares in Shaw Savill. They were the only newbuildings for the line under Royal Mail ownership and modernisation of the passenger fleet had to wait, as did the corporate future of the line itself, as the Royal Mail Group collapsed in the early 1930s.  

In 1932, American competition on the Matson-Oceanic route from San Francisco to the Antipodes reached its apex with the introduction of the splendid sisters Mariposa and Monterey which were the fastest and most luxurious ships to the region and operating on the U.S. version of the "All Red Route" offered the fastest travel time from Britain to New Zealand (the Auckland call having been resumed the year previously). Suddenly, Auckland was but 15 days from Los Angeles and the new ships also smashed all trans-Tasman records, clocking 2 days 19 hours between Auckland and Sydney. Using express liner across the North Atlantic, then trans-continential train to Los Angeles and one of the Matson-Oceanic twins to Auckland, the total journey time from London was 28 days. 

Meanwhile, Shaw Savill had emerged from the corporate rubble following the collapse of Lord Kylsant's Royal Mail group.  In June 1933, Shaw Savill took over the former White Star Australian routes together with those of Aberdeen Line and full title to Mataroa and Tamoroa as well as Themistocles and Euripedes, the latter refitted and renamed  Akaroa for the New Zealand via Panama route. Shaw Savill also assumed management of the Aberdeen-Commonwealth Line and their five Bay-class liners. At the time, the Furness Withy Group acquired a one-third holding interest in Shaw Savill which was increased to full control  by 1935 by which time all of White Star's Australian fleet including the fabled Ceramic of 1913 was under Shaw Savill ownership.

Chairman Lord Essendon (left) and Managing Director John Macmillan (right) guided Shaw Savill on their post-Royal Mail recovery and renewal. Credit: Liverpool Journal of Commerce, 17 February 1939.

Under the new directorship of Lord Essendon (who had started with Furness Withy as an office boy) and John Macmillan (General Manager, since 1924 and interim Director from 1931-33), Shaw Savill as a fully Furness Withy-owned line were finally able to chart a confident post-Kylsant, post-Depression course and set about to renew an aged fleet. 

Unable to compete with the Americans, Union Steamship closed their San Francisco-Antipodes service in January 1936, but introduced their splendid 13,482-grt Awatea on the trans-Tasman run which bested the Americans sisters in speed.  There was tremendous patriotic inspired desire in New Zealand and Australia to counter the American subsidised Matson-Oceanic service with new tonnage on the long distance Canadian-Australasian and Shaw Savill routes. Left to accomplish without a shilling of government aid, the companies faced daunting financial challenges and for Shaw Savill, prompted a fresh reappraisal of their routes and services. 

Few countries of comparable size had more deep sea ports than New Zealand which always challenged shipping lines and burdened them with long periods working cargo on both islands.

If the routes getting there were numerous, serving New Zealand was further complicated in it having no central port and, of course, having two islands, and its mountaineous terrain impeded rail development. On the North Island, Auckland vied with Wellington and on the South Island, Lyttleton (for Christchurch) became the principal ports in addition others like Dunedin.  So whilst a ship might unload her cargo in two of these ports, it was common to load her homeward one in three or more, entailing four to five weeks in all between voyages. All of this made New Zealand based lines constantly tweaking routes and schedules and balancing cargo and passenger requirements to acheive some measure of efficiency and profitability.

To offset the long time spent by the ships once in New Zealand was getting them there as quickly as possible both with faster ships and shorter port calls en route by prioritising through New Zealand cargoes as well balance the limited passenger demand to and from there by tapping the markets to and from South Africa and Australia which the Panama route could not. Shaw Savill, of course, were no strangers to either with their long established joint service with White Star, and now contemplated extending the Cape route again to New Zealand as an alternative, express passenger and cargo service to that via Panama. 

This "Highways of the Empire" map (by Max Gill) published in 1933 by the Empire Marketing Board shows the Indian Ocean, edged by "big red bits" with New Zealand at the extreme right, as a keystone in imperial seaborne commerce. Credit:

These are troubled times in Europe. From day to day the centre of crisis; moves from one area to another. British ships are being bombed and sunk off the Spanish coast. There have been 'incidents'' around Gibraltar and in the Mediterranean. The Near East is  also in a state of unrest, and the Red Sea and Suez Canal, vital routes to the overseas Dominions, are near the storm centre. In the old days of sail our ships went out round the Cape of Good Hope, but the opening of the Suez Canal shortened the route and much of our shipping in recent years has gone that way. The Panama Canal made another short cut, and enabled passengers and merchandise to make the trip much more quickly. Now, the Dominion Monarch, returning to the old route of bur pioneers, is going to set a pace that will beat the Suez ships by several days on her journey from England to Sydney and New Zealand. It also has the advantage, and a very important advantage, of avoiding the troubled waters along southern Europe, in case of conflict. And another point, it will form a link between Great Britain and three of the most important Dominions.

Evening Post, 24 August 1938

Revival of an "all Empire" route from Britain to New Zealand via the Cape, a variant on the long established "All Red Route" via Canada, became geopolitically appealing by the mid 1930s with the rise of Mussolini's Italy and its claiming the Mediterranean as Mare Nostrum as well as the outbreak of a long civil war in Spain, all of which potentially threatened the sea route through the Straits of Gibraltar, through the Mediterranean and to the Suez Canal. 

With faster (19.5-knot) ships, routing via the Cape and then straight across the Indian Ocean to Australia and New Zealand (35 days out of Southampton) would not only be faster than via Suez (42 days to NZ) but comparable to via the Panama Canal (34 days). The distances of this route were daunting indeed and the longest of all Empire trade routes:
  • Southampton to Cape Town (7,039 nautical miles or 15.4 days at 19.5 knots)
  • Cape Town to Durban (832 nautical miles or 1.8 days at 19.5 knots)
  • Durban to Fremantle (4,513 nautical miles or 9.9 days at 19.5 knots)
  • Fremantle to Melbourne (1,720 nautical miles or 3.8 days at 19.5 knots)
  • Melbourne to Sydney (826 nautical miles or  1.4 days at at 19.5 knots)
  • Sydney to Wellington (1,630 nautical miles or 3.6 days at 19.5 knots)

It made the North Atlantic "ferry" seem just that and no single ship of the era was designed and operated on so arduous route  than that conceived in 1936-37 by Shaw Savill. 

By 1935, Shaw Savill had fully assumed  White Star's Liverpool-Brisbane via the Cape service which, since 1926, had been operated in conjunction with Blue Funnel and Aberdeen Line. It was this, and not the New Zealand service, which first benefited from improvement and investment under the new Furness Withy management. 

One of three W-class fast twin-screw motor reefer ships built by Harland & Wolff in 1934-35, the 12,437 grt Waipawa did London-Cape Town in 15 days 13 hours in April 1936, faster than the Union-Castle mailships and helped set the stage for bigger developments. Credit:

The promise of faster ships via the Cape was shown to advantage by the new trio of Waiwera, Waipawa and Wairangi,  superb fast motor-driven reefer "Empire Food Ships" delivered by Harland & Wolff in 1934-35 for the Australia via Cape route. In April 1936,  Waipawa reached Cape Town from Liverpool in just 15 days 13 hours and Waiwera followed soon after with a 15-day 24-minute passage, both faster than the Union-Castle mailships. 

Considerable improvements were made to the veteran passenger steamers on the route, the 1913-built Ceramic (still the longest ship on the Australia run) spending a considerable time at Harland & Wolff's Govan yards in 1936 getting new  accommodation  for 480 Cabin Class and new screws giving her a 16-knot speed whilst the last of the Aberdeen ships, Themistocles dating from 1911, also got improvements and whilst assuming SSA livery, retained her classic Aberdeen name. 

Then a director of Shaw Savill (then Managing Director and Chairman after 1945), Basil Sanderson (1894-1971) illuminated in his memoirs, Of Ships and Sealing Wax (1967), the inter-company debates as how to proceed with new passenger tonnage which ultimately led to the decision to build what became Dominion Monarch

As the 1930s drifted towards their close Shaw Savill became faced with another pressing problem. With our new building programme of fast modern cargo motor vessels, we had managed to cover one pressing need, but what were we to do on the passenger side, and particularly with regard to the route via Cape of Good Hope to Australia? Our Suez route to Australia was adequately covered by the Bay steamers (acquired from the Australian Government). Our Panama mail steamer route to New Zealand via Panama was kept going with vessels acquired from White Star Line, coupled with ex-Aberdeen vessels. The Cape route was, however, only catered for by Themistocles and Demosthenes, both of them reaching twenty-five years of age and crying for replacement, if indeed the service via South Africa were not to be abandoned. Incidentally, on both the Suez and Panama routes the passenger vessels were ageing. We firmly held the view (and I think rightly) that it would be retrograde to abandon our passenger connexions with either New Zealand or Australia, or for that matter with South Africa, but something had to be done if we were to maintain our position, especially as our competitors had introduced many new and up-to-date vessels in all these trades. Here my own views and those of my boss, John Macmillan, were entirely at variance, but necessarily his view prevailed.

He determined that we should build a new passenger-cum-cargo vessel, the largest and fastest trading to the southern hemisphere, to kill two birds with one stone by including South African and Australian ports in her outward and homeward itinerary to New Zealand, thereby eliminating the necessity of building two smaller vessels, one for the Panama and one for the Cape route. My view was to build two smaller and handier vessels, one for the Panama route and one for the Suez route, and to let the less economic Cape route die out; my argument was that ‘one swallow didn’t make a summer’ and that by committing ourselves to one such mammoth we should inevitably be signing a contract for four if it was to be the long-term solution. I was all the more alarmed when he went further and de- termined that this new vessel should carry First-Class passengers only, whereas my definite view was that she should carry only Tourist Class (at least a thousand) and thereby meet some of our obligations in helping the migrant movement to both Australia and New Zealand. It would be fruitless to expand on the pros and cons of these two points of view, as the advent of war in 1939 put a closure to our argument and eliminated any possibility of a decision as to the rightness of either view.

Lord Essendon and John Macmillan prevailing, the decision was made to  revive the old "Route of the Clippers" originally plied by Shaw Savill's sailing ships from England, via the Cape, and on to Australia and New Zealand with new ships fast enough to reach the Antipodes in faster time than via Suez.  They were conceived as the ultimate development of the Empire Food Ships with substantial one-class passenger accommodation and, as such, be a joint Shaw Savill/Blue Funnel enterprise to replace the former's Ceramic and Themistocles and the latter's Nestor (1913/14,501grt) and Ulysses (1913/14,499grt) on the joint service.

Shaw Savill Managing Director Macmillan arrived at Fremantle on 17 November 1936 on an extensive visit to Australia and New Zealand. On the 30th, The Age (Melbourne) reported that "plans are being prepared for two fast 20,000-ton passengers liners for the London-Cape Town-Australia trade, according the Mr. J. MacMillan, manager of the Shaw, Savill and Albion line, who is at present in Melbourne. These vessels will be built by the Shaw, Savill and Albion line and the Blue Funnel Line, who will run a joint service with London and Sydney as terminal ports."  The Sydney Morning Herald added that "detailed specifications were now being drawn up for the vessels and it was expected that the keels of the two ships would be laid down in Great Britain shortly. Mr. Macmillan was not prepared to say the speed for which the ships would be designed, but he said that they would be very fast."  

The ports en route would be Tenerife, Cape Town and Durban and it was anticipated the two would enter service in 1938. On 7 December 1936 Mr. Macmillan repeated that two 20,000 tonners, one each for Shaw Savill and one for Blue Funnel, carrying 500 passengers, would "be in commission in 1938." 

In the event, Blue Funnel resisted Lord Essendon's entreaties that they join in the endeavour and Shaw Savill elected to boldy proceed on their own and with a considerably scaled up variant of the original 20,000-ton design which would at once be the largest ship built on the Tyne since Mauretania of 1907 and the largest Britsh ship outside the North Atlantic. 

On the evening of 11 February 1937, Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson received an order for a 26,500-ton motor ship from Shaw Savill and Albion Co. Ltd., to accommodate 500-600 cabin class, have 500,000 cu. ft. reefer capacity and be powered by quadruple screw Doxford diesels. Upon her maiden voyage from London in early 1939, she would open a new route to New Zealand via Cape Town, Durban and Australia. The Age (Melbourne) speculated that the new ship might replace the veteran Themistocles and possibly take her name.

Although nearly 48 hours have elapsed since confirmed was received by Swan, Hunter and Wigham Richardson, Ltd., of the order placed with them by Shaw, Savill, Albion Co.,  for a 26,500-ton passenger cargo liner, the excitement in the mid-Tyne area has not died down.

To the majority of local people the news just means that a very large passenger steamer is to be built at Wallsend; but those connected with shipping realise that many serious problems are bound to arise.

Chief among the problems confronting the builders is bound to be that a shortage of skilled men in certain of the engineering trades. 

The firm have a full shipbuilding programme and their stocks are booked for many months in advance. They have several skilled men employed at the Wallsend and Neptune yards, but more workers will be undoubtedly be necessary as work progresses on this new liner. Many skilled workers who drifted away from this area during the Depression will naturally come back again for work in their old trades.

Shields Daily Gazette, 12 February 1937

By March 1937, Swan Hunter could claim to be busiest shipbuilder in the world with 26 ships on the books totally 185,580 tons building or shortly to be laid down, including the cruiser Edinburgh, a new 11,500-ton liner for Gdynia Amerika line and 9,500-ton ship for BI.  Indeed, Shaw Savill were fortunate to have even secured the slipway space and the steel to build the new ship amid the burgeoning military build up in Britain and elsewhere that not only greatly increased the cost of steel but affected its supply.

The keel of no. 1547 being laid down on no. 1 slipway, Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson, 14 July 1937. Credit:

Little time was lost in beginning construction of the new ship whose keel would be laid down on Swan Hunter's famous No. 1 slipway, on which the first Mauretania had been built and which would be cleared as soon as Port Halifax was launched at the end of June 1937.  The first keel plates were assembled on the slipway on 2 July and on the 14th the keel of Yard No. 1547 was laid down: "Yesterday the keel of the largest passenger liner built on the Tyne for 30 years rests on the stocks at Messrs. Swan, Hunter and Wigham Richardson's Wallsend shipyard. There was no official ceremony and the keel, which is that of the 26,500 Shaw Savill liner, was laid without any 'fuss.'" (Shields Daily Gazette, 17 July 1937).  Indicative of just how busy the yard was, on the 21st the keel of the new battleship Jellicoe (later launched as King George V) was laid down on the adjacent slipway. 

The 19th of December 1937 brought a flurry of announcements, not the least which she would be named Dominion Monarch, a most distinctive and approprate moniker especially as it was not anything like previous Shaw Savill names and reflected Royal Mail Group's "double barrelled name" preference as well the ship's "all Dominion route."  It was further announced the ship would be launched in June 1938 and make her maiden voyage in February 1939. Finally, the de luxe quality of ship's one-class accommodation was confirmed with the news she  would  accommodate only 525 passengers with 167 in single cabins and 71 in cabins with twin bedsteads. 63 other cabins will be singles with optional folding upper berth and 30 rooms with two berth with an optional upper berth in additional to two suites and 36 cabins with private facilities. In addition, the new ship would have 500,000 cu. ft. of reefer space including 85,000 cu. ft. for chilled beef.

This photo, taken 4 December 1937, shows the progress made on Dominion Monarch's hull five months after laying down. Credit:

Steady progress is being made on the construction at Wallsend-on-Tyne of the 27,000-ton passenger and cargo liner Dominion Monarch for the Shaw, Savill and Albion Line. The Dominion Monarch which will be commissioned next year, is the largest British ship to be built on the Tyne for many years and will be the biggest and most powerful vessel trading to New Zealand. She will be a quadruple screw motorship with accommodation for 525 passengers, her design including complete suites and a large number of private bathrooms. The furnishings and fittings will be in accordance with the latest practice and air-conditioning apparatus will be used for the dining-saloon, foyer and hair-dressing saloons. The ship is designed-to maintain a schedule speed of 19 knots, with a considerable margin of reserve power and she will be capable of developing 32,000 horse power. It is expected that the Dominion Monarch will take 35 days after leaving the United Kingdom to reach New Zealand, her route being via Madeira or Teneriffe, Capetown, Durban, Fremantle, Melbourne and Sydney.

New Zealand Herald, 6 January 1938

Progress proceeded apace on Dominion Monarch and on 30 March 1938 it was reported that she would be launched in late June but still take another year to complete. In New Zealand, anticipation of the new ship grew daily and on 6 April, the Auckland Star reported that "rivet by rivet, and frame by frame, the skeleton of a great ocean liner for the New Zealand trade—the biggest and fastest to be employed in the service—  grows into the semblance of a ship."  It was added that her maiden voyage from Southampton was to begin in early February 1939 and the sailing date from Auckland or Wellington (her New Zealand terminal port was yet to be decided) would be 20 April. Some 1,500 men were reported at work on constructing the hull, a number that would be considerably increased after she was launched. 

On 21 June 1938 Dominion Monarch's launch date was set for 27 July.  

Preparations for the new ship's ports were also well in hand. The New Zealand Herald of 22 June 1938 reporting that: "To provide suitable discharging facilities for the Shaw, Savill and Albion liner. Dominion Monarch, which will enter the London-New Zealand service in February, the Port of London Authority will install eight new electric wharf cranes on the north quay of King George V. Dock. The radius of the new cranes will be 80 ft., or about 20 ft. greater than most of the cranes in use at the docks."

The Route of the Clippers... Dominion Monarch's unique route that linked Mother Country with the South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Credit: Illustrated London News, 7 January 1939.

Of course, Dominion Monarch from the onset was not merely a ship but a whole new route and service and it was reported on 2 July 1938 that the company were dispatching Ceramic on a trial voyage on the new route via the Cape from New Zealand in October, but this, in fact, did not take place. 

Profile of Blue Funnel's proposed twin-screw motorship Jason of 1939. Credit:

Shaw Savill had, of course, long operated a U.K. to Australia via the Cape route, continuing the original White Star service and that of Aberdeen line which had, since 1924, been shared with Blue Funnel Line.  Indeed, concurrant with the announcement of Dominion Monarch were plans by Blue Funnel to build a smaller, 20,000-grt version of the ship to partner her as far as Australia. This would differ in being a twin-screw vessel powered by Burmeister & Wain diesels and carry double the number of passengers in Tourist Class only with less refrigerated cargo capacity. Tentatively named Jason, the ship with its classic bolt upright single "Blue Flue," never came to pass and by mid 1938, the worldwide arms build up had so inflated steel prices and so filled shipyards  with naval construction, the ship could never have been ordered had it been wanted. 

To accomplish the 13,000-mile passage from England to New Zealand in 35 days (compared to 42 days via the Suez route), Dominion Monarch had been designed for a 20-knot service speed but with considerable reserve to maintain schedule in all weathers. She was scheduled to reach Madeira or Tenerife 3¾ days after leaving England, Cape Town (13¾), Durban (16), Fremantle (25¾), Melbourne (25), Sydney (31¾) and New Zealand in 35 days.  The proposed voyage pattern called for a 97-day round voyage of which 27 were spent working cargo in New Zealand. It was planned that no segment of the trip have more than than nine and a half days at sea and that cargo would primarily be worked only at the London and New Zealand terminuses to reduce the time spent at waystops along the route to six to eight hours only and no overnight calls en route

In June 1938, details of Dominion Monarch's maiden voyage were released. Leaving London on 16 February 1939, she would call at Tenerife, Cape Town, Durban, Fremantle, Melbourne and Sydney. Her terminal port in New Zealand for the voyage, which would end on 24 March, was still not announced. She would remain in New Zealand for a month to discharge and load and will leave on her homeward voyage on 24 April. The outward ports would be followed on the return journey, a feature of the schedule being the time allowed for the crossing of the Tasnian to Sydney. The liner would clear New Zealand at 6 p.m. on Monday, 24 April, and leave Sydney at 10 p.m. the following Thursday. This schedule, allowing for a day's stay at Sydney, was as fast as that of the Awatea, Mariposa and Monterey. 

Colour rendering of the new ship, artist unknown, which appeared in a Shaw Savill & Albion advertisement in Australasian Pictorical Annual, 1 October 1938. Credit: capnken,

The final arrangements for the launch were announced on 5 July 1939 with Lady Essendon, wife of Shaw Savill's Chairman, to christen the ship and the High Commissioners of New Zealand, Australia and the Union of South Africa present, and send her down the ways at 3:30 p.m. on the 27th.

Preparations for the successful launching began eight weeks before the due date. Several thousand tons of wood were laid to make standing ways, six feet wide. A covering of tallow, grease and soft soap, three-quarters of an inch deep, was placed for 700 feet.  The most intricate task was the fixing  of the releasing arrangements. Three triggers, two mechanical and one hydraulic, were placed on each side, and synchronised with the launching instrument on the platform. It took several days to heave the piles of drag chains alongside the hull. Altogether, 350 tons were curled up on the port side and 250 on the starboard, so that the ship's bows would be pulled round, and not crash into the slipway side.  There was extensive dredging of the river in front of the launch ways and approaches. 

The LNER locomotive Dominion of New Zealand pulls The Dominion Monarch Express out of King's Cross Station with the official launching party bound for Wallsend. Credit: Otago Daily Times, 20 August 1938.

No detail was spared to ensure Dominion Monarch's launch reflected her imperial role linking British Dominions across the seas.  To this end, a special train, The Dominion Monarch Express, drawn by the splendid LNER streamlined locomotive Dominion of New Zealand, normally on the fabled Coronation Express, would convey invited guests, including the High Commissioners of Australia, Southern Rhodesia, Union of South Africa and New Zealand from London to Wallsend for the launch. The train would depart King's Cross at 9:35 a.m. for a nonstop run to Tyneside and back the same day. The ceremonies would be broadcast throughout the Empire by the BBC. Wallsend Station was bedecked with bunting and flags and some 30,000 applications had been received for admission to the launch. So many, in fact, that the number was restricted to families of shipyard workers and few hundred invited guests.  

Dominion Monarch on the ways just before launching. Credit: The Engineer.

Stern view on the ways showing her quadruple screws. Credit: The Engineer.

The magnificent bows of Dominion Monarch towering over the launching platform just before christening. Credit: Sunderland Daily Echo, 27 July 1938.

The voice of Lady Essendon naming Britain's most powerful motor liner, Dominion Monarch, at Wallsend this afternoon was heard in millions of homes throughout the Empire.

Largest merchant vessel built on the Tyne for 32 years and pioneer in reviving the trade route between England and New Zealand via the Cape of Good Hope, the Dominion Monarch was launched from the same berth at Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson's shipyard as the old Mauretania.

This launch is part of the biggest fillip for Tyne shipbuilding since the War, and there were scenes of wild enthusiasm when the mammoth vessel slid safely down the ways into a specially deepened berth from which dredgers had scooped nearly 100,000 tons of silt.

Lady Essendon is wife of the chairman of Shaw Savill and Albion Co., for which the liner is being built.

Drawn by the Dominion locomotive, a special train brought 200 distinguished guests, including Dominion chiefs, from London to Wallsend for the launch. Three high commissioners-- those of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa-- were among the party.

A squadron of tugs towed the Dominion Monarch away to the fitting out basin. It will be another seven months before the liner is ready for service.

Already more than 2,000 men have been employed in the fashioning of this giant of the seas, and by the time she sets out on her trials, complete to the last dab of paint and gold leaf, the number will have risen to 8,000.

From a grandstand erected in the dry dock works, hundreds of workmen and their wives, as well as guests from all parts of Tyneside watched the launch.

Thousands more, lured to the spot by the magic of a great ship stirring into 'life' lined the roads leading to the shipyard.

Long before Lady Essendon pulled the trigged releasing the blocks which held back the massive hull, the launch had been worked out on paper countless times by experts.

As the Dominion Monarch glided down the ways ringing cheers and the blowing of ship's sirens ended a tense silence. The shipyard band played God Save the King, Mr W. J. Jordon, High Commissioner for New Zealand, spoke through the microphone on the launch platform and congratulated on behalf of the Government and the people of New Zealand the principals and workmen for such a magnificent ship.

Sheild Daily News, 27 July 1938

The official launching party (left to right): Mr. & Mrs. John Macmillan, Managing Director, Shaw Savill & Albion; Lord Essendon, Chairman of Shaw Savill & Albion; Mr. Denham Christie; Lady Essendon and Mr. C.S. Swan, Chairman of Swan Hunter. Credit:

Among those present at the launch were Mr. John Macmillan, managing director of Shaw Savill, and Mrs. Macmillan; the Hon. W.J.Jordan, High Commissioner for New Zealand, and Mrs. Jordan; the Hon. C.T. te Water, High Commissioner of the Union of South Africa; The Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Newcastle (Alderman and Mrs. Gilbert Oliver); Mr. R.S. Dalgliesh and Mr. J. Denham Christie (chairman of Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson); Mr. Basil Sanderson, Mr. Frank Charlton, Mr. W.C. Warwick and Mr. Walter Savill, directors of Shaw Savill, the Hon. S.N. Lanigan O'Keefe, High Commissioner for Southern Rhodesia and Mrs. O'Keefe; Mr. C.S. Swan of the builders.

The launching party on the platform under the looming hull of no. 1547.  Credit: Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums. 

The practical considerations of launching the largest vessel on the Tyne since Mauretania were considerable and detailed by the Shields Gazette:

Happiest man on Tyneside last night was Mr Fred Leithead, head foreman shipwright at Messrs Swan, Hunter and Wigham Richardson's yard, who had just seen the new liner Dominion Monarch safely into the water without a hitch, due to his successful planning. Mr. Leithead during the past 14 vears has superintended the launching of 125 vessels, ranging from the huge liner which was floated yesterday to destroyers and floating dock sections. As head foreman shipwright, Mr. Leithead has to arrange the launching ways and make all the preparations for the floating of the vessels. I saw him yesterday just-after the liner had taken the water, and when I asked him for his comment on the launch he replied, 'The men have worked very hard to get her ready and we are all satisfled that everything has gone off so well.' 

We were walking over the berth he said this and Mr. Leithead explained that the launching of the ship meant transporting 15,000 tons of steel from the land to the water within a minute. Not the least of his worries was the ship's performance when she got into the water. To hold her in check 600 tons of chain, assembled ten huge bundles, were shackled on wires fastened to her sides. The drags represented four per cent of the total launching weight of the ship. The 15,000 tons was, of course, spread over the whole of the length of the ship, but one section of the launching cradle had designed to bear the strain of 1,750 tons. This strain was exerted right forward and was due to the stern starting to lift it floated, bringing pressure to bear the ways supporting the bow was 16 tons of tallene was little wonder, therefore, that prevent the ways taking lire under the terrific friction set up 16 tons tallene were used. This is a mixture tallow and paraffin wax. To allow the launch to take place the ferry landing stage at the Wallsend side of the river was removed. When the ship actually took the water she travelled only a short distance beyond the ways, as she was held by her drag.  The wash she set up she entered the water, however, was sufficient to make even the cruiser Manchester pitch in her berth at Hawthorn Leslie's yard and one of the other vessels lying at the same yard parted one of her mooring wires as she lifted to the swell. 

Shields Daily Gazette, 28 July 1938

Dominion Monarch roars down the slipway, clearing the covered building shed. Credit: Shields Daily Gazette, 27 July 1938.

Dominion Monarch clears the slipway.  Credit: Swan Hunter archives.

The launching was, of course, extensively reported on in New Zealand:



LONDON, July 29.

The launching of a big ship is always a thrilling event, and the launching of the Dominion Monarch this week marked a new era in New Zealand shipping history.

It is just eighty years since the Shaw, Savill shipping line was founded by Robert Ewart Shaw and Walter Savill, and their latest vessel, the Dominion Monarch will be the largest in regular cargo and passenger trade sailing to Australia or New Zealand. It is also the most powerful British motor ship.

It was to the launching of this fine ship that we set out on Wednesday morning from London, being taken in a special train from King's Cross to Wallsend-on-Tyne. On board were representatives of the Press and shipping companies, as well as the High Commissioners of the three Dominions and many distinguished people to whom its launching was an important event.

A Fortunate Omen. Newcastle under sunshine ia a fascinating city, packed closely on both banks of the Tyne, which is crossed by many bridges, and one a minature of Sydney Harbour bridge. And so to Wallsend. and the shipbuilding yards of Swan. Hunter and Richardson'. Flags and bunting stretched across the narrow street that leads to the yard, and crowds of people, workmen in overalls, and eager children, lined the route. It wag a day of perfect sunshine and blue skies, a fortunate omen. The great black and orange hull stood sheer above our heads, and we looked up at its slender, graceful bow. It seemed to fill the skeleton walls and roof that enclosed it—a skeleton of steel scaffolding. The town band played a programme of cheery music as we waited on the platform for the great moment. On one side was the broadcasting cabin, a small hut with a window looking down at us, in which three commentators were preparing to tell you people overseas just how the Monarch took the water. A small army of workmen —small, grimfaced, rather stunted, many showing the signs of years of unemployment and hardship, were gathered beneath the great hull. A few with mallets were removing the last chocks beneath the vessel, and they seemed to beat out a syncopated rhythm to the accompanii ment of the band.

Lady Essendon, wife of Lord Essendon, chairman of the shipping company, was ready to touch the electric lever, which would release the last frail land grip and send her sliding gently to the water. As the moment drew near there was a tense silence. Everyone stood ready. Nothing had been left to chance, but there is always an clement of risk in the launching of a great vessel, and; a sigh of relief when it is safely accomplished. Sailors are superstitious people, and any hitch at a launching is taken! as a bad omen. 

A Sigh of Relief. Then Lady Essendon spoke, the beribboned bottle of champagne crashed against the bow, the band played "God Save the King," and slowly, imperceptibly at first, the great hull began to slide down the greased slipways. It was all over in a few seconds, the stern struck the water, there was a splash, and the great coils of chain crashed and tumbled, and a golden cloud of dust rose on either side of the ship. It was merely rust, but it made a golden haze in the sunlight. There was a hurst of cheering, wavinz hats and handkerchiefs, the animated lace of the broadcaster at the window of his cabin, telling you all about it, then the sigh of relief.

It is an emotional experience, and mv eyes were filled with tears, and so were those of many of my neighbours. I can't tell you why, but the birth of a ship has many implications.

If ever a ship was launched under auspicious circumstances, the Dominion Monarch certainly was, and every omen was set fair for a happy and prosperous future, and with it is linked so much of the British Empire.

New Zealand Herald, 23 August 1938

Out in the sunshine of a glorious day, the stern aspect of Dominion Monarch's launch was no less impressive, giving an impression of her great size. Credit: Frank & Sons, South Shields, photograph.

The checking chains have done their work and Dominion Monarch is almost motionless as she is taken in hand by tugs. Credit: Frank & Sons, South Shields, photograph.

This aerial view shows just how narrow the river Tyne was at the slipway. Credit: Illustrated London News, 6 August 1938.

Already well in hand of the tugs which will tow her to the fitting out berth. Credit:

Looking quite majestic and imposing indeed, Dominion Monarch safely in her element. Credit: Emmanuel Makarios.

Guests representing local shipping and other interests were entertained by the Shaw, Savill, and Albion Company last evening on board the liner Tamaroa. The occasion was the exhibition of the film depicting and describing the launch of the company's new luxury, liner, Dominion Monarch. When completed and in the Australian, South African, and New Zealand service she will be the largest vessel running in the Southern Seas. The guests taxed the accommodation of the spacious saloon of the Tamaroa, and they vigorously applauded the scenes —and sounds—showing the building of the vast vessel at various stages and then her launching by Lady Essendon. It was a tense and thrilling moment for the thousands present and seemed so even for those who saw the picture last night, as on the breaking of the ceremonial bottle of wine against her stem her great hull slipped slowly, noiselessly, and gracefully down the ways into the Tyne. Other pictures additional to those of the Dominion Monarch were shown and a very pleasant evening was brought to a close with supper. Captain A. Mcintosh, marine superintendent of the company thanked Captain Dawson, master of the Tamaroa, and his staff for their successful entertainment of the guests. A vote of thanks to the Shaw, Savill Company was carried with enthusiasm.

Of course, this was well before the instantaneous communication era, certainly of moving pictures and when Tamaroa docked at Auckland and Wellington in mid September 1938, she had aboard a complete film of the launching which was shown to invited guests followed by dinner. 

Credit: Sydney Morning Herald, 25 January 1939

Dominion Monarch's commander was appointed on 6 August 1938: Capt. W.H. Hartman, presently commanding Mataroa. Captain Hartman was marine superintendent at Wellington for Shaw, Savill and Albion  from February 1933 to August, 1937, when he returned to sea at his own request to take command of Mataroa

Credit: Shields Daily Gazette, 30 July 1938.

Whilst Britain, Europe and much of the world held its collective breath as the Munich Crisis evolved in September 1938, progress continued apace on Dominon Monarch and the Tyneside papers kept their readers informed as well as distracted from other news including the first delivery of 50,000 gas masks to Tyneside districts: 

Dominion Monarch Takes On Her Luxury Lines from a Metal Shell

The 27,500 tons liner Dominion Monarch is rapidly being transformed into a luxury liner. To-day the vessel is a veritable hive of industry. Since she was launched some six weeks ago she has been in the hands of hundreds of shipyard workers. Daily these men, joiners, painters, plumbers, electricians and practically every type of shipyard craftsmen clamber up the gangways and disappear into the interior of this floating hotel. When they leave at the end of a day's work the Monarch is a further step towards completion. Although it is only a matter of weeks since she left the stocks of the Wallsend shipyard to begin her fitting-out process, work has been so rapid that it is now possible to sea that the vessel will possess all the amenities found in modern liners.

Shields Daily News 14 September 1938

Dominion Monarch at the fitting out basin with the floating crane Titan II

During the three busy months nearly 1,000 craftsmen at the Wallsend shipyard have made rapid progress in transforming the steel shell of the Dominion Monarch into a liner which, in February next, will begin her career as one of the luxury links between England and the Dominions. Since she was launched in July the vessel has been in the fitting out basin of Messrs Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson's Wallsend shipyard.

The vast interior of the ship is taking shape and already the proportions of the public rooms and beauty of the stateroom fittings are visible.

The riveting work is nearly complete and a number of decks have been floored. Squads of joiners and carpenters are panelling the staterooms and public rooms with rare Empire woods. 

When she sails on her maiden voyage in February over 5,000 workers, including large number from other parts of the country than Tyneside will have helped in the construction of the vessel. 

Shields Daily News 10 November 1938

The Making of a Monarch: highlights of Dominion Monarch's fitting-out as recorded in a special Swan Hunter booklet on the ship's construction although the forecastle is incorrectly identified as "games deck." Credit:

The Tyne was a busy place that winter of 1938 with work proceeding on so many ships, merchant and naval, under construction and with no let up over Christmas. When the new British Tribal-class destroyer Somali left Swan Hunter, "hundreds of workmen stood on the decks of the liner Dominion Monarch, fitting out of which is being completed, and cheered the Somali. The Somali responded with two terrific hoots from her sirens." (Shield Daily News, 7 December 1938).

Meanwhile, Shaw Savill had announced on 2 December 1938 that Dominion Monarch would call at Auckland on her homewards maiden voyage, arriving 1 April 1939 from Wellington and that the ship's second voyage would commence from London on 3 August for Wellington and Lyttelton and third from London on 23 November for Wellington and Auckland.

One of two magnificent quarter inch to a foot models of Dominion Monarch made by a Bassett-Lowke, one of which was dispatched to New Zealand. Credit: Illustrated London News, 11 February 1939.

In anticipation of the real thing, Wellington got to see a not too miniature replica of Dominion Monarch when a magnificent 17-ft. long model of the ship, one of three made by Bassett Locke, was unloaded from Wairarama on 7 Dececember 1938 and put on display at the company offices there. 

Having provided labour to some 8,000 men over the last 18 months, what had come to be known as "Tyneside's Prosperity Ship" was finally nearing completion by Christmas. On 23 December 1938 it was announced Dominion Monarch would be towed across the river to be drydocked at Palmer's, Hebburn, on 12 January 1939 to have her hull cleaned and painted in anticipation of trials.  Although the biggest graving dock on the Tyne, it would still be a close fit with but three feet between the ship's sides and the dock entrance and 40 ft. of length to spare so that if the winds were up, the docking would have be postponed. 

150 Women Scrubbing Dominion Monarch.

After providing employment for 18 months to several thousand men the Tyne-built 26,000 tons liner Dominion Monarch is now making work for women. Today a squad of women numbering about 150 armed with pails and brushes descended on the vessel. Their job is to scrub passengers' cabins, arrange furniture and polish fittings, making the vessel ready to leave the Wallsend shipyard. For the next few days the women will be in 'charge' of the luxurious liner which next week will be towed across the river to Palmer's, Hebburn. where she will be docked for her final 'clean up' before going on trials. 

Shields Daily News, 5 January 1939

Credit: The Sphere, 21 January 1939.

Credit: eBay auction photo.

Credit: eBay auction photo.

Handled by six tugs, Dominion Monarch was shifted across the Tyne to Palmer's dry dock in Hebburn on 12 January 1939 for four days of hull cleaning and painting before returning to builder's yard for final work before trials on the 24th.  In favourable conditions, the docking went off without a hitch, supervised by Mr T. Fleming, manager of Palmers Hebburn Company with other officials and Mr. J. Noble, the dockmaster, and she was in dock by 8:30 a.m. Men from Swan Hunter were still working aboard the ship during this time and were ferried from the builders yard to Hebburn aboard two tugs every day.  

Credit: Otago Daily Times, 10 February 1939.

All done and lovely... Q.S.M.V. Dominion Monarch out of dry dock and back at Swan Hunter's, 16 January 1939. Credit:

On 13 January 1939, it was reported that Dominion Monarch would undergo preliminary trials on the 18th and make her first voyage down the Tyne for the purpose.  The now completely repainted ship, was undocked at noon on the 16th and moved across the Tyne back to the Swan Hunter yard. On the 17th, she was opened for inspection by the men (and their wives) who had built her with a huge demand for the tickets for the brief two-hour "open house."

Credit: Newcastle Weekly Chronicle, 21 January 1939.

Looming majestic out of the mist, Dominion Monarch leaves the Tyne for the first time. Credit: Wanganui Chronicle, 7 March 1939. 

Pathé newsreel of Dominion Monarch's first departure from the Tyne. 

At midday on 18 January 1939, Dominion Monarch, "a worthy example of the genius and craftsmanship of Tyne shipyards," left the yard for her first preliminary trials in the North Sea with 200 officials from the yard and company aboard. Seen off by hundreds of onlookers, when she passed Berengaria at Jarrow, it interrupted the public sale of her fittings when people aboard rushed out on deck to see her pass out to sea. The weather, however, was very unfavourable and the thick fog on the morning of the 19th precluded her from re-entering the river, obliging  her to wait off South Shield Bar and not able to return to her berth until the afternoon of the 20th.

Over 1,000 men, who since the launch by Lady Essendon on July 27 have turned a catacomb of steel into a glittering hotel, worked far into each night uphold Tyneside’s reputation for finishing a job in time. With 500 crew, builders’ and owners’ representatives and shipping officials aboard, the ship will leave the Tyne on Wednesday for her trials over the North Sea for a day after a week’s final spit and polish. She will say good-bye to her birthplace, reaching her home port, London, on January 26. Her maiden trip is a month later. Though the Mauretania was only 100 feet longer than the Dominion Monarch, she carried four times as many passengers which indicates the remarkable roominess of the new Pride of the Tyne which will be one of the most luxurious ships afloat. I climbed 50 feet inside the funnels, which you could pile a dozen motor cars, to appreciate the raking lines of this mistress of the seas. Her huge games deck, said to be the best of any British liner, seemed almost as big football field. Once round her eight decks, and you would have been footsore after three miles of walking. 

I found a London artist, Miss J. Yeoman, finishing off the mural panels of the public rooms. She came to the rescue when the original artist, Mr. Duncan Carse, died a few weeks ago after finishing modernistic painting in tie lounge. It’s my first ship—and I'm so terribly proud,” Miss Yeoman told me. I sat in the shilling seats of the cinema; saw the dining room that will seat 600 people, the remarkable apparatus which detects and extinguishes fire in the hold: and examined some of the 320 cabins, each with a telephone; the swimming pool, gymnasium, nursery, hospitals and laundry. Two thousand Wallsend men fashioned the Monarch, and 8,000 men and women have helped to equip her. Though it may be years after carrying the flag of her owners, Shaw, Savill and Albion Co. Ltd., before she returns to Tyneside, the whole of the North-East will watch her career.

Newcastle Chronicle, 14 January 1939

Dominion Monarch takes aboard a record 5,000 tons of oil from the tanker British Alliance alongside the fitting out berth at Swan Hunter on 21 January 1939. Credit: eBay auction photograph.

Dominion Monarch continued to break records and on 21 January 1939 she took aboard 5,000 tons of diesel oil supplied by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. from the tanker British Alliance which had arrived directly from Abadan which was reckoned to the largest quantity of diesel fuel ever made in one delivery for a single vessel. 

Workmen who had fashioned this ambassador of Tyne shipbuilding were the only watchers on the jetty as she moved away today. Lighted by thousands of electric lights which, seen from a distance, made her resemble a fairy palace. the great ship moved slowly away to the cheers of the workmen. In the cold grey dawn many people kept vigil at various points on the river to catch a glimpse of the vessel Tyneside workmen for 18 months have had a share in creating her. 

As she passed Jarrow the Dominion Monarch saluted a former monarch of the sea, the rusting Berengaria lying at her graveyard. On board the new ship were representatives of the builders and owners. Two hundred guests of the owners travelled specially from London last night for the trip to London and altogether over 500 people will occupy for the first time the luxurious surroundings of the vessel.  On her  way  to the mouth of the Tyne she passed numerous shtps which sounded: their sirens.

Shield Daily News, 28 January 1939

Tynemouth children, whose fathers had had a share in the creation of the Monarch, were among those who had gathered to see the vessel pass. Motorists from Newcastle clustered on the Spanish Battery to see her pass between the piers. The mist cleared, and the Monarch’s graceful lines made a striking picture as she moved out to sea, with her black tipped khaki funneds and the smart white line about her sleek black sides visib till she was far out. As she passed from the river her siren gave last salute, as white smoke began to filter from the second of her funnels. 

Evening Chronicle, 28 January 1939

Dominion Monarch leaves the Tyne for her trial-delivery voyage to London. Credit: Swan Hunter archives. 

On 23 January 1939, it was announced that the ship's official trials would begin the 25th, but in the event this was postponed to the evening of the 28th at high tide.   "With three terrific hoots on her sirens," Dominion Monarch left her berth at 7:30 p.m., flying the Shaw Savill houseflag at her masthead indicating she had been handed over in advance of her final trials. Escorted by three tugs of the  Redhead Dry fleet, she left just before high water in a light mist, seen off only by a few trawlers at the North Shields Fish Quay as she made her way down river. Crossing the South Shields bar, she was greeted by other vessels and then swung north to adjust her compasses. 

Dominion Monarch on trials making 21.75 knots. Credit: The Motor Ship, courtesy Capt. Stephen Card. 

Perfect broadside profile of Dominion Monarch on trials.  Credit: Norsk Maritimt Museum 

On 28 January 1939, Dominion Monarch ran her sea trials off St Abb’s Head, Berwickshire, Scotland, recording a top speed of 21.75 knots. before sailing to London. 

Captain Hartman, commander of the Dominion Monarch, took over the vessel for the run down the coast from Wallsend-on-Tyne to King George V Dock, in the Thames. He was very pleased with her, says The Post's London representative in an air mail dispatch on February 2. 'She is a wonderful ship,' he said when he reached London. 'We did not try her at full speed because the engines have not been run in, and she was kept at what we call 'set revolutions.' There was a remarkable absence of motion and vibration, and sound from the exhaust was entirely absent. Trials for the loaded ship will be run on the outward voyage to New Zealand, but I am not sure of the locality yet." Captain Hartman said that he was much impressed by the spaciousness of the deck room for the comparatively small number of passengers carried. The ship was exceptionally comfortable and particularly well heated, a fact appreciated on the cold trip down the English coast. There are radiators in every cabin. 'She is going to be a popular ship,' he added.

Evening Post, 21 February 1939

Dominion Monarch loading alongside King George V Dock, London. Credit: Birmingham Mail, 16 February 1939.

Credit: Illustrated London News, 7 January 1939.

Dominion Monarch, The Pride of the Tyne.

In respect of the Dominion Monarch, however, it must be recalled that she is, in every sense of the word, an Ambassador of Empire. She links the Mother Country with three vitally important, yet intensely individualistic, Dominions. She must fulfil the desires of each and offend the susceptibilities of none. This her interior decorators, Messrs. Hampton and Sons, Ltd., and Messrs. Waring and Gillow, have certainly succeeded in doing, outlined here, one cannot but sympathise with the problems with which the architects were faced in placing even within the generous hull dimensions all that was required. 

A.C. Hardy, Illustrated London News, 7 January 1939

There was only one Dominion Monarch, the likes of which will never be seen again.

Ships that Passed.

It may have taken eighty years, but in 1939 Shaw Savill & Albion finally had their first "it" ship, a vessel whose size, style, speed and symbolism ranked her as a true flagship and true to her name, a Ship of State for the Dominions.  Indeed, Dominion Monarch was all the more notable in that she was not only a "one off" but was never replaced by anything larger or better.  She remains the largest, finest and fastest liner ever built for the New Zealand trade and a ship whose legendary qualities far exceed her comparatively short career. She was and remains the Sovereign of the Southern Cross. 

The One and Only... Dominion Monarch. Credit: eBay auction photo.

Very much an "in house" design and concept, Dominion Monarch was designed and built under the supervision of Commander Richard John Noal, OBE, RNR, Marine Superintendent of Shaw, Savill & Albion, and her main machinery constructed under the supervision of Mr. J. Nicol, Superintendent Engineer.  Cmdr. Noal had designed every Shaw Savill newbuilding since Rangatira of 1909 and Dominion Monarch, even if a "one-off," was very much an evolution of his previous designs. Also involved in her design and construction was Basil Sanderson:

...and I was privileged to have much to do with her design in all respects including engines. This came about because John Macmillan took the opportunity of making a necessary visit to Australia and New Zealand during the period of construction, and with his usual generosity of character left me with carte blanche during his many months of absence. It was an entrancing time and with Captain Noal as a staunch ally, not to mention John Nicol our superintendent engineer, a man of sterling character and ability in that field, the multi tude of problems were discussed, grasped, and solved in every detail, in conjunction with those most helpful builders Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson of Newcastle. By the time that John Macmillan returned there were few loose strings left to be tied and I was proud of his accept- ance of all that had been done.

Of Ships and Sealing Wax.

Dominion Monarch had her roots in Tainui of 1908 with her split island bridge, funnel well aft of amidships and excellent accommodation. Credit:

Yet, the power and presence of Dominion Monarch as the undoubted Ship of State of the Southern Latitudes has its roots in the first "big ships" on the route, introduced by White Star, beginning with Gothic of 1873 and culiminating with  Ceramic of 1913, the first "superliner" to the Antipodes, the Olympic beneath the Southern Cross, and still on the same route 26 years later now under the Shaw Savill houseflag.

R.M.S. Ceramic, which entered service in 1913 and at 18,481 grt, the largest liner to the Antipodes, a title she held for a decade.  Accommodating 600 one-class passengers and with 321,000 cu. ft. of refrigerated cargo space, she set the pace for Dominion Monarch and remained in service until sunk in 1942. 

The classic "one-off" ship, Dominion Monarch was very much the Ceramic of her day, combining one-class of accommodation with enormous cargo capacity and without equal in size on the route at the time and indeed for the next decade.  Dominion Monarch had no equals nor did she inspire a running mate or a repeat.  In that, she was an unsuccessful experiment, all the more when one considers just how different the next Shaw Savill's next big passenger liner, Southern Cross, was in purpose, design and character, although the Athenic quartet right after the war, were miniature versions of Dominion Monarch and did not exceed her in service life, either. 

In broadest terms, Dominion Monarch was the ultimate expression of the so-called "combi" ship, then in so much favour in the late 1930s and 1940s and which fell victim to the changing cargo and passenger trade patterns of the late 1950s and early 1960s. As a result,  Dominion Monarch was a ship for the age more than for the ages commercially.  If anything, her comparitively short 23-year career, of which eight were spent on war/government service, contributes to her enduring iconic qualities. 

Nelson Line's Highland Monarch of 1928 was doubtless an inspiration for many elements of Dominion Monarch, possibly right down to her name! Credit: Harland & Wolff Shipbuilders.

Few vessels managed to so combine the old and the new, the forward looking and the old fashioned.  In many respects, Dominion Monarch was a larger take on Tainui of 1908 with her traditional island bridge arrangement whilst evoking some of elements of Atlantic Transport Line's Minnewaska and Minnetonka of 1924 with her forest of sturdy kingposts and combination of huge cargo capacity with excellent single-class accommodation.  She might even be said to be a larger version of the five-strong Highland Monarch class for Nelson Line of 1928-29 in being diesel-driven and with a large refrigerated cargo capacity and passenger accommodation of liner quality. And her very high-powered diesel machinery followed that installed in the Waiwara-class of 1934. Indeed, Dominion Monarch can be considered the ultimate development of the fast motor-driven Empire Food Ship.

Truly "a splendid looking ship," Dominion Monarch outbound from Wellington, New Zealand. Credit: Alexander Turnbull Library, Auckland.  

At the same time, Dominion Monarch represented state of art for the design and construction of large passenger-cargo liners, with a very modern hull of more welded construction than any previous British ship.  And boasted remarkably contemporary interiors, all outside accommodation, air conditioning, a permanent outdoor pool and even a cream bakelite telephone in every cabin. At the same time, her crew accommodation came in for considerable criticism.  

The world's most powerful motorship, too, was often tested by the Indian Ocean and her route, which traced that of Shaw Savill's clipper ships, was very taxing on machinery and men and spent so long working cargo on either end, managed to complete but three round voyages a year.  Thus, you had to really want to sail in her and fit her schedule to yours, but from all accounts she was more than worth the effort.  She remains quite simply the finest liner ever to serve New Zealand and among the best to call at South African and Australian ports.  

Few ships looked as splendid, stalwart and seaworthy as Dominion Monarch alongside (here at Melbourne), truly the Monarch of all around her.  Credit: Harry Issell photograph, State Library of Victoria.  

Dominion Monarch, like all ships, had her own habits and pecularities as a seaboat, including a predilection of assuming a long slow "Cape roll" among other things as recalled by one of former Quartermasters:

Apart from that slow roll, the “DM.” was a good seaboat. However, there were two incidents on that trip which I did not expect to encounter in a ship of that size. Homeward bound across the Australian Bight, we were pooped by a big following sea. I recall that clearly, because our cabin was washed out. 

Then, the night we left Las Palmas I had one of those experiences when I thought that my last day had come! I went on lookout to find the ship driving into a big head sea. The wind was very strong and, from the crow’s nest in the light of a full moon, the spectacle of those sharp bows shouldering aside the huge rolling seas in a cloud of spray was something to behold. The ship was keeping good time with the seas, rising to each oncoming swell as it approached. Suddenly, up ahead, I saw a much bigger wave with the spray streaming away from its crest. Instead of rising to it (it must have been out of step with its predecessors), the ship dug her bows into it. Quickly, the fo’c’s’le and the well deck disappeared in a welter of boiling foam and the green sea smashed against the forepart of the superstructure like an Atlantic swell against a Cornish cliff. The ship shuddered as if she’d hit a rock. I looked down to see the mast still standing out of that boiling mass of sea with the whole fore part of the ship under water. I remember thinking, “Oh well, there’s no use jumping. When the sea comes up to the ‘nest’ I’ll just walk out of it”! However, she slowly lifted her bows, helped, no doubt, by the sudden reduction in speed. 

What a mess was revealed! Railings were twisted along the break of the fo’c’s’le, wire rope reelswere washing loose along the deck and several inch—thick, plate-glass windows in the Palm Court Lounge had been smashed. Needless to say, we proceeded at a more sedate pace after that! During that incident, I remembered the occasion in Wellington, when I was a member of the crew of a boat which the Chief Officer had put in the water to examineclosely the rivets in the stem post. Mr. Connolly said, “The Company want to run this ship to time like a bloody tram—car. They drive her toohard. One day they’ll drive her right under!”

Alistair Kerr
Upstairs and Downstairs
New Zealand Marine News, 1997 Vol 14, Issue 04

The greatest "combi liner" ever built and surely the most impressive looking. Credit: Kevin Blair, via

The Dominion Monarch was a splendid looking ship, with long sweeping lines, funnels slightly abaft amidships and a foremast only.

J.H. Isherwood, Sea Breezes, April 1974

As the Dominion Monarch came up the harbour yesterday morning, a number of keen observers expressed disapproval of minor breaks in her superstructure aft of the bridge and of the main upper decks, but they based their objections on the interuption to deck space, and admitted that the breaks did not mar the beauty of the vessel. 

On boarding the ship they saw at once that her great size dwarfed the small breaks in deck space, making them quite inconspicuous.

Although the hull is painted in plain black, the beauty of the ship's lines are immediately apparent to students of marine architecture. From the graceful raked stem the 'entrance' appears to taper gradually past amidships to the greatest beam which almost immediately begins to merge into the rounded line that finish in the cruiser stern. The beauty of the hull was epitomised by one admirer, whose comment was 'There's not a straight line in the ship.'

The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 March 1939

From astern, Dominion Monarch's cargoliner elements are emphasised.  Credit: Duncan Montgomery.

All the contrary and conflicting elements of her design and specification were most pleasingly unified and Dominion Monarch was indeed "a splendid looking ship," possessing at once a perfect melding of the purposeful and prepossessing that somehow rang true to her name and her role in linking of Commonwealth with Mother Country that afforded her Ship of State status and presence.  Few ships managed to harmonise the elements of passenger liner and cargo vessel better and her quirky asymetrical placing of her twin funnels made her look sleek seen from forward and workmanlike from astern.  Her funnels were perfectly proportioned, not quite steamship or motor vessel, but a pleasing combination of both, set off by classic single-chime polished brass whistles, two on the forward funnel, one on the aft.  

Dominion Monarch at Auckland showing her long, imposing but asymetrical profile. Credit: Alexander Turnbull Library. 

From the air, Dominion Monarch looked no less handsome and businesslike. Credit: V.C. Browne Collection, Auckland Libraries.

Credit: V.C. Browne Collection, Auckland Libraries.

Dominion Monarch was not dubbed "The Queen Mary of the Clipper Route" for nothing. With principal dimensions of 27,155 tons (gross), 15,813 (net), 682 ft. (length overall) and 84.8 ft. (beam), Dominion Monarch was at once the second largest motorliner in the world (after Augustus) and the largest liner on the Antipodes route at introduction and not exceeded until Orcades (1948/28,164grt). She remains the largest ship ever built specifically for the New Zealand trade, being more than 10,000-grt bigger than Rangitiki/Rangitata/Rangitane (1929/16,700grt) and 6,000 grt larger than Rangitoto/Rangitane (1949/21,850grt). Indeed, Dominion Monarch was the largest British merchant ship outside of the North Atlantic until Pretoria Castle (1948/28,705grt).   In 1939, Dominion Monarch ranked as the fifth largest British liner after Queen Mary, Aquitania, Empress of Britain and Mauretania

Largest non North Atlantic British Liners in 1939
  • Dominion Monarch (Shaw Savill)  27,155grt, 682 ft. x 84.6 ft.
  • Capetown Castle (Union Castle)  27,002grt, 734 ft. x 82.3 ft.
  • Empress of Japan (Canadian Pacific) 26,300grt, 673 ft. x 84 ft.
  • Andes (Royal Mail)    25,689grt, 669 ft. x 83.3 ft. 
  • Athlone Castle (Union Castle)  25,564grt, 725 ft. x 82 ft.
  • Stirling Castle (Union Castle) 25,550grt, 725 ft. x 82 ft.
  • Strathallan (P&O)  23,772grt, 668 ft. x 82 ft.
Cross section detail from the splendid centre spread cutaway by G.H. Davis in Illustrated London News, 7 January 1939.

The hull was subdivided by ten watertight compartments with eight decks, three of them full length: Games, Lounge, Promenade, A, B, C, D and E.

The hull and superstructure plating presented a flush surface owing to the employment of welded butts for the shell plating instead of the usual overlaps. Welding was used in the butts and seams of plating of all tanks, tank tops, bulkheads etc.  All outside decks were sheathed in Burma teak.

Amidships, Dominion Monarch took on the appearance of a mighty superliner with her imposing superstructure and funnels. Note the stateroom windows on "A" Deck  and the open portholes on the lowest deck forward which denote the controversial stewards accommodation where these ports were usually closed at sea.  Credit: Duncan Montgomery.

Dominion Monarch's two imposing and beautifully proportioned funnels with their classic polished brass steam single-chime whistles and external guy wires. Credit: V.C. Browne Collection, Auckland Libraries.

Perhaps Dominion Monarch's most important function, that of a giant express refrigerated cargo carrier, was satisfied by six capacious holds (two forward, one between the bridge island and main superstructure and three aft) with a total capacity of 659,000 cu. ft. or 16,500 tons:
Chilled 72,240 cu. ft. 1,806 tons
Frozen 439,720 cu. ft. 10,993 tons
Total insulated: 511,960 cu. ft. 12,799 tons
General 147,000 cu. ft. 3,675 tons
Total 658,960 cu. ft. 16,474 tons
All this cargo was worked by no fewer than six pairs of kingposts and foremast booms with 24 electric winches. Nos. 4 and 5 holds aft had flush hatches to provide extra deck space. 

Credit: Illustrated London News, 7 January 1939.

Credit: The Motor Ship, March 1939.

It is significant that the Dominion Monarch should be proceeding on her maiden voyage exactly twenty-seven years to the day on which the motor vessel Selandia was delivered to the East Asiatic Co., Copenhagen, by Messrs. Burmeister and Wain of that city. The Selandia —which, incidentally, is still afloat under the Norwegian flag, and is now known as the Norseman —claims the credit of being the first ocean-going motor-vessel carrying both cargo and passengers. It is to a great extent upon the technique which came into being with that vessel that the whole structure of motor-shipping has been built.

 A.C. Hardy, Illustrated London News, 7 January 1939

Dominion Monarch represented the acme of the inter-war British diesel-power merchant ship, indeed The Motor Ship was one of the defining elements of the era and an enduring legacy of the Pirrie-Kylsant Royal Mail Era.  From the first four motorships ordered under the Kyslant regime, all subsequent Shaw Savill newbuildings had been diesel-powered and Dominion Monarch would be the ninth and greatest of all.  

Dominion Monarch remains the highest powered and fastest British-built motorship and, at the time of completion, was the highest-powered motorliner in the world even if exceeded in tonnage by the Italian Augustus and before her first year, by Oranje in power.  Proudly bearing the prefix "Q.S.M.V." she, too, was the last of that elite group of British quadruple-screw motorliners, along with Aorangi, Bermuda  and Reina del Pacifico.  Indeed, that she represented the last word of the type, she, too, was the last of the breed and would the last large British express motorliner save for Anchor's Caledonia of 1948 which was a duplicate of her pre-war sisters.  

Matchless Motorliner Match-up: Dominion Monarch and Capetown Castle at Cape Town, 6 April 1950. Credit: The Cape Times

Dominion Monarch was a contemporary of that other bookend to the inter-war British motorliner, Union-Castle's Capetown Castle, which whilst still the longest (at 734 ft.) and nearly identical in tonnage, her twin-screw diesels developed only 24,000 bhp.

Dominion Monarch's machinery installation was derived from that recently fitted to the new Anchor liners Circassia and Cilicia in that it employed Doxford opposed piston type engines of the same cylinder diameter, but with five rather than four cylinders, and four engines powering four screws. Each engine had five cylinders, 725 mm bore by 2,250mm combined stroke, and the combined power under normal running was 25,000 bhp at 125 rpm but a maximum of 32,000 bhp could be obtained.  At 123 rpm, the average sea speed was 19.2 knots. On trials she recorded a maximum of 21.75 knots. Two of the engines were built at the Neptune engine works of Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson and two by William Doxford & Sons in Sunderland. The two inner engines were by Doxford and were run at a slower speed until the screws were replaced in 1950.

Cutaway and layout of Dominion Monarch's machinery spaces. Credit: The Motor Ship, courtesy of Capt. Stephen Card. 

Representatives of The Motor Ship who accompanied Dominion Monarch on the first stage of her maiden voyage, from London to Southampton 16-17 January 1939, reported:

After getting out of the river, the engines were run at 100 rpm, then 110 rpm and finally the inboard engines at 110 rpm and two twin wing units at 115 rpm. We understand that it is intended to maintain a difference of five revolutions  under normal conditions, although at all the speeds when we were on board the vibration was quite negligible and the effect of the sound insulation was very definite since engine noise was unnoticeable in most of the accommodation.  

Motor Ship, March 1939

The tops of two of her mighty Doxford diesels.  Credit: The Motor Ship, March 1939, courtesy Capt. Stephen Card. 

Distilled water was used for cooling the cylinder jackets and this in turn was cooled by sea water.  There were also four auxiliary boilers, two being oil-fired and two using exhaust gases from the main engines.  Each boiler was designed to produce steam at 100 psi. The auxiliary machinery consisted of five Allan diesel generators, each with six cylinders, each capable of developing 900 bhp and directly coupled to a 600 kW, DC, 220 volt generator.

The main engine room compartment was 87 ft. long (sited below the second funnel) whilst the auxiliary machinery space (below the forward funnel) was 56 ft. and forward of this was the refrigerating machinery room.

Dominion Monarch's bunker capacity of 5,254 tons gave a cruising range of 20,000 miles with refueling usually done at Tenerife and Cape Town or Durban en route. At 19.5 knots, her fuel consumption worked to 100 tons a day. 

Wheelhouse. Credit: The Motor Ship, courtesy Capt. Stephen Card.

The lifeboat fit comprised two 30-ft motorboats with 24 hp Gleniffer diesels and fitted with wireless sets; eight 30-ft. 85-person boats; two 28-ft 54-person boats and two 26-ft. emergency boats of 40-person capacity, all of steel construction and built by Mechans. These were carried on Welin Maclachlan gravity davits.  A complete Grinnel automatic sprinkler system was fitted in all cabins and public rooms. 

Famed illustrator G.H. Davis contributed this superb cutaway illustration of Dominion Monarch for Illustrated London News' special section on the ship, 7 January 1939.  LEFT CLICK for full size scan.

For full scale .pdf file of this cutaway, cut and paste the below link:

Detail of amidships section.

Credit: Flickr, 10 Pixels / 1 Meter Scale ShipsProfiler.


General Arrangement Plans & Side Cutaway
(from Shipbuilder & Marine Engine Builder, February 1939)
courtesy William T. Tilley

(LEFT CLICK on image to view full size scan)

Side Elevation

Sports Deck

Lounge Deck

Promenade Deck

A Deck

B Deck

C Deck

D Deck

E Deck

Deep Tanks & Holds

Double Bottom Tanks

Credit: The Sphere, 25 February 1939.

I doubt if any one-class ship has ever been more pleasantly fitted out for her passengers on a longish voyage in very varying climates.

J.H. Isherwood, Sea Breezes, April 1974

By modern standards the Dominion Monarch will not be a showy ship. but the passengers for whom she is designed to cater prefer solid comfort and a cheery good time to the excessive luxury and "starchiness" of some of the other routes. In spite of the fact that she will be over 27,000 tons gross, she will only carry 525 passengers in one class so that it is doubtful whether any ship afloat will give quite so much space per passenger. 

West Ham and South Essex Mail, 15 July 1938

About all the public rooms there is a strong sense of repose and space.  The main lounge I rank as one of the most charming rooms I have ever seen in any ship; the moment I entered it I stood quite still, deep in admiration. Apart from having instantaneous appeal, it has the added virtue of being a room that will sustain affections, a quality true of the other public rooms; and being a 'long voyage' ship, that is an important factor. 

The Patient Talks.

It is always difficult to decide at first sight whether schemes of decoration are only temporarily attractive. A day and a half spent on board the Dominion Monarch leads us, however, to the conclusion that the passengers who voyage in her will be fully satisfied with the furnishings and decorations throughout the whole of the vessel, in the public rooms and in the cabin accommodation.

There are evidences of special thoughtfulness in many directions. For instance, in the dining saloon, the tables appeared to us to be more widely spaced than in most ship's dining room of this size, and reasonable space means a good deal in a restaurant. The verandah, again, is very much more than what the name implies, being so large that at small tables probably some 140 people can sit, protected on both sides by glass windows and aft by very large window doors which are made to slide so that practically the whole of the after section is open when the weather is suitable. This leads on to a short balcony overlooking the swimming pool, whilst in the verandah is a large cocktail bar. Moreover, it will for a cinema hall, when, no doubt, all the passengers can be accommodated and sound films will be given. Incidentally, performances will started by a film showing the building of the Dominion Monarch from the day her keel was laid up to the completion, and finally views of dinner taken in the restaurant. A very wise way of interesting passengers in the ship in which they are travelling.

The Motor Ship, March 1939

Few ships before or since offered the space per passenger ratio of Dominion Monarch, even more of revelation on a route that hitherto had hardly been associated with ships of space and luxury even if they were qualities most appreciated on voyages averaging a month or so. With 517 passengers, 385 crew and 27,155 tons, the ratios were all in her favour with 52.52 tons per passenger and a 1.34 passenger per crew member factor. Indeed, these were not exceeded until the fabled Caronia (1949) and only when cruising (34,183 grt/582 passengers).  

Combi ships effortlessly relegated the contraints, the duplicate facilities and the pecking order of rigid classes and, in the case of Dominion Monarch, still offered a range of cabin types and fares combined with a pleasing range of really useful, well planned public rooms, deck space and amenities.  She "had it all" for so few and at the time, unique for it.  

Credit: Decoration & Glass, 1 May 1939.

Interior renderings for Dominion Monarch showing the moderne lounge and the traditional smoking room. 

Renderings of the dining room and the swimming pool. 

In interior decor, Dominion Monarch was in the spirit of Orient Line's pacesetting Orion in adopting contemporary decor for the unique requirements of the long route to and from the Antipodes with an emphasis on clean, uncluttered surroundings, a banishment of heavy drapery, ornamentation and dominating artwork and contrived architectural features that could cloy by the second week at sea. Even more than the Orient line ships, she combined more informal venues with traditional liner public rooms and even managed to incorporate one classic period room in the mix. Of the New Zealand liners, only Awatea could match her in stylishness and today, Dominion Monarch is an icon of British Ocean Liner Odeon. 

Hampton & Sons, Ltd, London, were responsible for the complete interior decoration and furnishing of the foyer and cocktail bar, palm court, the main staircases and foyers, drawing room, smoking room, writing room, veranda-cinema, children's playroom and dining room and the swimming pool. 

Architect J.C. Whipp of Mewès & Davis (London) who was part of the design team for Queen Mary, designed the lounge and dining room which was furnished and fitted by Messrs. Waring & Gillow. 

Agnes Pinder-Davis, shown in 1935 with one of her pieces for Queen Mary, created the main mural for Dominion Monarch's dining room. Credit: Mary Evans Picture Library. 

Pinder-Davis' mural in Dominion Monarch's dining room. Credit:

The ship featured murals and artwork by A. Duncan Carse (1875-1938), P.A. Staynes (mural paintings in Grissaile manner in the drawing room), Sidney W. Stanley (murals in children's playroom), Agnes Pinder-Davis (dining room mural), well known for her work on Queen Mary and the second Mauretania; and Miss J. Yeoman (tropical wall murals in the palm court). Mr. Carse, who also contributed work to Queen Mary (First Class dining room panels), died suddenly on 17 October 1938 and  Miss J. Yeoman, stepped in and completed Carse's unfinished mural "Speed" in the main lounge. 

We were interested in the decorative panel of very considerable size at the aft end [of the lounge]. Its motive is 'Speed,' and it is a modern work, which, like most of its kind on first examination, is a little difficult to understand. An explanation of the artist's intention is given in a plaque adjacent to the painting, and this will, we feel, enable passengers to appreciate the picture more than would otherwise have been the case. 

Motor Ship, March 1939

The late Duncan Carse's mural Speed in the lounge (photographed incompletely furnished whilst on her preliminary trials). Credit:

London artist J. Yeoman working on her palm court murals. Credit: Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 12 January 1939.

The passenger decks were: Games, Lounge, Promenade, "A", "B" and "C."

The public rooms comprised a lounge, drawing room, writing room, smoking room, palm court, veranda-cinema and dining room in addition to a gymnasium, children's playroom and dining room. A feature of the ship was the extensive open and covered sports and promenading decks, the sports deck comprising a record 18,500 sq. ft. and Dominion Monarch was one of the first newly built British liners with a permanent outdoor swimming pool.

The dining room, "C" Deck foyer and hairdressing saloons were air-conditioned by Carrier. 

Games Deck. 

The Games Deck (separated from the bridge island by no. 3 hold) with its 18,000 sq. ft. of largely unobstructed teak deck space, also had the lifeboats, seven on each side, in gravity davits.

The Games Deck is 250 ft. in length and presented a fine, open sweep, the lifeboats being swung up well clear of its surface. This deck, in fact, is only interrupted by a small house forward and by two funnels. 

Lounge Deck promenade.

The Lounge Deck, true to its name, had the principal public rooms with the entrance hall forward, lounge, drawing room, writing room, smoking room and veranda-cinema aft, with a covered promenade (glass-enclosed forward for 52 ft.) flanking but ending at the veranda which extended the full width of the deck house.  The deckhead throughout was a full 10-foot-high giving a lofty and expansive appearance without the use of overhead wells or domes to individual rooms.

Lounge, looking forward. Credit: Stewart Bale photograph, New Zealand Maritime Museum.

Lounge, looking aft. Credit: Stewart Bale photograph, New Zealand Maritime Museum.

Lounge, portside looking forward. Credit: Stewart Bale photograph, New Zealand Maritime Museum.

Lounge, bay window alcove. Credit: Stewart Bale photograph, New Zealand Maritime Museum.

Lounge, forward entrance doors. Credit:

The lounge (architect J.C. Whipp, Mewès & Davis) was impressive in size (70-ft. long and 60-ft. in width) abetted by four large and deep bay windows affording extra seating alcoves and offering expansive seaviews over the promenade deck. 

The general panelling is consistent with the note of simplicity and is carried out in Canadian  block elm veneer. Particular interest is given to  this in that it was submerged for over one  hundred years in the piling supporting Waterloo  Bridge, London.  

This room can be opened out to include the entrance hall forward by means of a screen which is the full width of the outboard bays, port and starboard. This is of glass panels, finely treated in grave with motifs illustrating the animal life in the various countries visited by the vessel.

Decorative interest centres around a panel by the late Duncan Carse, depicting 'Speed.' It shows the cliffs and scenery of England in a modernised form leading across the waters to the other side, where is found the vegetation peculiar to New Zealand. Symbolic figures stretching stretching across the sky represent the sun, the  north wind, the south wind, the moon, sound,  light and electricity. The corresponding panel  on the forward wall is treated with a large  decorative mirror, carried out in a design by an  entirely new process.  

The ceiling features a simple design with  coves in which the lighting is concealed.  Imposing curtains and a hand-made carpet  give the final touches to a room which has been  designed to be the centre of the social life of  the ship.  

Writing Room. Credit: Stewart Bale photograph, New Zealand Maritime Museum.

Amidships were the drawing room (portside of the midships staircase) and writing room/library (starboardside), both decorated by Hamptons. 

The writing room is on the same deck. It is panelled in  figured peroba, with bands of paldas. This unusual combination tones excellently with the blue and silver furnishings.  

A large bay window occupies the greater part of the  starboard side, while at each end a decorative panel in  incised modern lacquer is incorporated in the panelling.  

The furniture is as luxurious as in the other parts of the  ship. It is of bleached walnut to harmonise with the peroba  panelling. The general atmosphere is one of restful quiet. 

Drawing Room, looking aft. Credit: Stewart Bale photograph, New Zealand Maritime Museum.

Drawing Room, looking forward. Credit: Stewart Bale photograph, New Zealand Maritime Museum.

Drawing Room. Credit: Stewart Bale photograph, New Zealand Maritime Museum.

Drawing Room fireplace. Credit: Stewart Bale photograph, New Zealand Maritime Museum.

An entirely different atmosphere has been achieved in  the drawing room. Here is charm and simplicity in the  modern manner. The matt off-white finish of the flush  panelling forms an ideal background for the greyish-green  monochrome murals of F. A. Staynes. 

Most original is a moulded green glass  chimney piece set in a large brilliant cut grey  mirror, flanked by ribbed pilasters.  White quilted satin dress curtains and silky  golden net give a modern French tmosphere  by their draping. There is an off-white deep pile  carpet and rich walnut furniture.  

Perhaps the most moderne yet understated of the ship's public spaces, the drawing room was evidently too much so for the presumed post-war tastes of her passengers.  It was the only public room that was completely redecorated during her 1948 conversion back to commercial service.  As with the original, Hamptons were engaged to "reimagine" the space as an Adams inspired living room with natural pine panelling, decorative plaster ceiling and period correct furnishings.  

A unique atmosphere has been achieved in this room which gives an impression of charm and simplicity in the modern manner. Practically the whole of the port side is given to window space.

The decoration is in the "Adam'  style. The panelling is of natural pine with eighteenth century furniture in mahogany upholstered in rich brocatelle and damasks. The satin curtains are of a soft peach colour.

The four corner niches each contain an attractive bronze Chinese vase, lit by concealed lighting at the base. Over the carved pine chimney piece is a still-life flower painting by F.A. Staynes, R.I., R.O.I.

Drawing Room as completely redecorated in 1948. 

Credit: The Tatler, 6 April 1949.

Special attention was paid to the foyers, staircases and circulating areas of Dominion Monarch, making these among the most attractive spaces in the ship.  The amidships foyer between the drawing room/writing rooms and the smoking room was the centerpiece of ship in many respects.

Lounge Deck foyer. Credit: Stewart Bale photograph, New Zealand Maritime Museum.

Mural in main stairway. Credit: The Age, 20 March 1939.

Similar in character and decorative effect to the foyer, the entrances and staircases to the  various public rooms deserve special mention.  Grey brown English chestnut and ash are used  throughout. Decorative mirrors and glass work,  together with paintings in oils by well-known  artists, contribute to the luxurious atmosphere.  

There is a stairway situated amidships, adjacent to the telephone exchange and providing  access to the library. In this entrance, built into  the panelling, are writing tables, making it  unnecessary to go into the writing room to pen  a casual note.

Smoking Room, looking aft. Credit: Stewart Bale photograph, New Zealand Maritime Museum.

Smoking Room. Credit: Stewart Bale photograph, New Zealand Maritime Museum.

Smoking Room. Credit: The Sphere, 25 February 1939.

Aft of the midships foyer and staircase was the smoking room which was the only room in the ship featuring, quite appropriately and delightfully, period (vaguely Tudor-Elizabethan) décor. 

Also on the lounge deck is the smoke room.  This is period in design, recalling the sixteenth  century and the atmosphere of an old Tudor  mansion.  

In the ingle nook of rough plaster, a broad  stone chimney piece, with red brick raised hearth  and cosy corner seats, is seen to advantage  against the silver grey of the panelling.  

Tapestries, Persian rugs and other furnishings,  aided by the mullioned bay windows on both  sides of the room —the inner windows are of lead  tinted glass with heraldic devices—together with  the shields of coats of arms, provide a wealth of  colour and interest. The ceiling's oak beamed  with painted plaster panels and the light fittings  are period in design.  

Verandah-Cinema. Credit: Stewart Bale photograph, New Zealand Maritime Museum.

Verandah-Cinema. Credit:

Furthest aft and extending the full width of the deckhouse with large direct seaview windows on the side and overlooking the swimming pool and aft of the ship, was the veranda-cinema.  This was one of the ship's most popular and useful spaces, designed to be used as day veranda with folding rear windows panels for warm weather, and as a cinema or partially outdoor dancing space.

On the lounge deck, where the ceiling height is ten feet, is  the verandah and cinema. There is a dancing space as an  alternative to the talkies, and a teak Esavian screen enables  the after end to be closed in in inclement weather. Grouped around the walls coloured cane furniture harmonises with  the shaded monochrome of the mural decorations. Lighting is by neon, with changes of colour. There is also a bandstand for the ship's musicians. 

The lighting of the verandah was notable in being the largest installation of fluorescent light (380 ft. of tripe Osira tubing) on shipboard to date, in red, green and blue hues, in semi-direct glass cornices.

Promenade Deck covered promenade.

Promenade Deck featured the palm lounge forward with bar, and the best accommodation, including the two suites amidships, and the swimming pool and open deck aft. This deck was encircled by a covered promenade deck and all accommodation had windows, although a few cabins aft were on the bibby arrangment. 

Palm Court.  Credit: Stewart Bale photograph, New Zealand Maritime Museum.

Palm Court. Credit: Stewart Bale photograph, New Zealand Maritime Museum.

Palm Court bar. Credit: Stewart Bale photograph, New Zealand Maritime Museum.

The palm court is on the promenade deck and takes up almost the full width of the ship. On three sides are large windows commanding a view ahead. At the after end is a cocktail bar in white sycamore with inlaid design, intended  to impart a note of gaiety.  

The entire wall surface between the windows and at the after end has been painted in mural  decorations depicting tropical scenery. The  artist was Miss Yeoman. Doors, columns, window frames and bar are in natural finished white  sycamore. Palms and plants are placed about the floor, and amongst them are chairs and settees for one hundred persons. 

One of Dominion Monarch's showpieces was this splendid outdoor pool and surrounding deck overlooked by the verandah with its folding screens creating an indoor-outdoor venue.

Swimming Pool. Credit: Stewart Bale photograph, New Zealand Maritime Museum.

The gymnasium.

A hallmark of the ship and one that formed the centre of outdoor life on the long and mostly fair weather passage, was the superb by 24-ft. by 16-ft. outdoor pool aft on Promenade Deck with adjacent dressing rooms and the large and well equipped gymnasium aft in its own deckhouse. 

The swimming pool is sunk in the promenade deck. The flooring is golden quartzite tiles, which in colour and appearance closely resemble sand. Concealed underwater lighting makes the pool very attractive at night.  

Beyond the blue and yellow tiled surround to the pool are teak chairs and tables for onlookers  and sunbakers. Beyond this space again are the  dressing rooms.  

Children's Playroom. Credit: Stewart Bale photograph, New Zealand Maritime Museum.

Children's Dining Room. Credit: Stewart Bale photograph, New Zealand Maritime Museum.

"A" Deck was devoted to accommodation and extending to the ship's side, the cabins were afforded large square windows rather than portholes. Aft on the portside were the children's room, dining room and covered deck place. 

For the children there is a playroom, panelled  in walnut, with the walls above the dado  decorated with humorous figures and animals.  The gaily coloured cane furniture adds to the  attractiveness of the room.  

Adjoining is the children's dining room. Here  there is seating accommodation for thirty. Mural  decoration has been successfully blended with  Australian silky oak and straight grained oak  furniture and woodwork. A deck specially railed  off and protected and reserved for the use of  children flanks these rooms. 

"B" Deck, too, was mostly given over to accommodation and the least expensive cabins, although still all outside, but all on the bibby pattern with one-berth cabins on ship's side, two-berth inboard and furthest inboard, three-berth rooms.  The engineers' accommodation was aft. 

"C" Deck had one of the ship's most impressive spaces in size and decoration-- the  280-seat air-conditioned dining room (87 ft. long and extending the full width of the ship), and the adjoining entrance foyer with bar and shop.  The dining room was designed by Architect J.C. Whipp of Mewès & Davis.

"C' Deck Foyer. Credit: Stewart Bale photograph, New Zealand Maritime Museum.

"C" Deck foyer shop.  Credit: Stewart Bale photograph, New Zealand Maritime Museum.

"C' Deck Foyer bar. Credit: Stewart Bale photograph, New Zealand Maritime Museum.

The foyer on " C " deck with cocktail bar and shop and ladies' and gentlemen's hairdressing salons is a spacious entrance to the ship, from which the wide ornamental metal balustraded staircase leads to the decks above and below. Here also is the electric lift to carry up to 10 passengers quickly to any deck level between the foyer and the lounge deck. The foyer is a centre from which all parts of the ship can be reached. The decorative treatment, as in the other entrances, is simple and dignified, relying on the beauty of the figured ash, the grey brown English chestnut, and the popular burr of the panelling for its effect. The cocktail bar the starboard side matches in detail the shop on the port side, the interiors of which are panelled l and fitted in sycamore, ebony and tinted glass. Australian mountain ash and coloured glass have been used for the panelling of the hairdressing salons, and the furnishings include chromium plated steel chairs of modern design.

Dining Room. Credit: Stewart Bale photograph, New Zealand Maritime Museum.

Dining Room. Credit: Stewart Bale photograph, New Zealand Maritime Museum.

Dining Room. Credit: Stewart Bale photograph, New Zealand Maritime Museum.

The dining room is also planned on a large scale. It extends the full width of the ship and seat two hundred and eighty. The proportions of the room are enhanced by unusually large windows, which are illuminated.

The centre portion of the ceiling is raised to form a coved dome, and this is illuminated with concealed cornice light. There is a cold buffet forward, balanced in the decorative scheme by a panel feature aft.

The later is by Mrs. Pinder-Davis and is executed in metal foil on a background of walnut.  In the centre are a male and female figure, the  woman holding in her right hand a bunch of  English flowers and in her left flowers of subtropical countries. To the right are the Datura and the South African national flower, the Pro tea. The whole design is encircled by the Fruitful Vine.  

Prima vera is used for the wall panelling. This  is a golden-toned wood and is used in a strictly  simple treatment to form a pleasant background for the furnishings. The armchairs are in sycamore, upholstered in leather, and the tables are arranged for groups of from two to eight passengers.  

The columns on the fore and aft beams are  sheathed in walnut root, flanked by grave treated  glass pylons which extend from floor to ceiling.  The effect is maintained by the use of the same wood to flank the illuminated mirrors over the  dumb waiters in the outboard bays.  To provide a contrast the metal work of the  sidelights and the electric fittings are in silver  bronze. The entrance doors forward and the  metal work to the cold buffet are treated in the  same material.  

The interior of the cold buffet is lined with golden quartzite and the door is a turquoise  green lacquer finish to tone with the leather  upholstery of the chairs. There is also a display  counter.  

The floor of the dining room is executed in a  diagonal pattern in tones of cream and light  sienna, with bands of a darker tone. 

The all-First Class accommodation made Dominion Monarch unusual among British liners (indeed at the time, she was the largest one-class liner in the world) both in its egalitarian aspects and its amenities. A total of 517 passengers were accommodated with a record 169 single cabins, two special suites (Dominion and Empire) with bedroom, bathroom and lobby, and 38 cabins (18 singles and 20 doubles) with private bathrooms.  All cabins were outside and all had washbasins with hot and cold running water. Ventilation was by thermotank forced draught and heating by electric radiators. A feature of Dominion Monarch was that every cabin was provided with a private telephone and this was used to summon the steward via the switchboard, the traditional bell system not being fitted. 

Fine veneers used in cabin fittings included African Mahogany, Tasmanian Black Bean, Australian Maple and Walnut. Not atypical for the era, except in the suites, the cabins had bare exposed overheads with the attendent pipes, electrical conduits and rivets to remind one was still aboard a ship. Interestingly, Shaw Savill's last liner, Northern Star of 1962, was no different in this respect. 

Suite Bedroom. Credit: Stewart Bale photograph, New Zealand Maritime Museum.

Suite Bedroom. Credit: Stewart Bale photograph, New Zealand Maritime Museum.

Suite Sitting Room. Credit: Stewart Bale photograph, New Zealand Maritime Museum.

Suite Sitting Room. Credit: Stewart Bale photograph, New Zealand Maritime Museum.

There are two suites de luxe, that on the starboard side named the Dominion Suite and  that on the port side the Empire Suite. They are  similar in every particular, and consist of sitting  room, bedroom, lobby and bathroom.  

Walls are painted in pastel shades—one suite  is the palest pink and the other duck egg blue —  and are relieved by decorative hand-wrought  metal work, serving as covers for the panels  of the radiators.  

The deep pile carpets, off-white in colour, provide an admirable ground for the furniture and  fabrics. Okoumi furniture with darker bandings,  luxurious window seats and easy chairs make  the suites, illuminated at night by concealed  lighting, the essence of comfort. The bedrooms  are fitted with twin bedsteads and distinctive  furniture and other fitments of the most modern  character. There is a quiet distinction about the  treatment which is really the keynote of the  decorative scheme right throughout the  Dominion Monarch.  

One of the "A" Deck cabins with the big square sidelights. 

An "A" Deck twin bedded cabin. Note the bulkhead-mounted telephone. 

A "B" Deck Bibby type three-berth cabins.

A minimum rate "B" deck two-berth Bibby cabin. 

One of the record number of single-bed cabins.

Coronation for a Monarch: Dominion Monarch in the Thames, off Gravesend, 16 February 1939, on her maiden voyage. Credit: New Zealand Herald

So it was with this splendid ship, literally the last word in British motorliners, that Shaw Savill inaugurated or rather renewed their original "Clipper Route," the longest of all imperial overseas services, from Northern Star to Southern Cross, on which Dominion Monarch would at once reign supreme. 

The inauguration of a new passenger service is in itself a matter of considerable importance, but the interest is doubled when the vessel responsible possesses the characteristics of the Shaw, Savill and Albion Co's new liner Dominion Monarch, which serve to make her one of the most distinctive ships that have been built in the past few years. 

Motor Ship, March 1939

Back in Shaw Savill's roots in the Age of Sail, passage from England to New Zealand could take anywhere from 87 to 175 days. Eighty years later, Dominion Monarch set off from London Docks and reached Wellington in 35.  It was, nevertheless, at 13,500 miles out and 13,500 miles back, just about the longest maiden voyage any ship can make. It was not just the introduction of the largest, finest and fastest ship bound for The Land of The Long White Cloud, but the inauguration of a new service that put New Zealand closer to Australia and South Africa.  Thus, Dominion Monarch's maiden voyage assumed a greater importance and afforded even more celebratory attraction than most as the veritable Ship of State of the Dominions. 

Poster by William McDowell. Credit: Auckland Libraries. 


Fresh from the builders and flush from satisfactory trials en route, Dominion Monarch arrived at London on the evening of 29 January 1939 and berthed at No. 4 shed, King George V Dock. She was then handed over to her owners, who registered her in Southampton and Shaw Savill & Albion thus commissioned their greatest ever ship.

Alongside KGV Dock, Dominion Monarch completed the last details of fitting out and began loading for her maiden voyage.  

Whilst in London Docks, final fitting out details including installing heraldic arms shields in the Tudor styled smoking room. Credit: Nelson Evening News, 6 March 1939.

Officers for the maiden voyage included: Staff Captain D. Aitchison; Chief  Officer, A. C. Jones; Second Officer L.R. Bull, Third Officer   Holleyoak; Chief Engineer A.T. Gibson; Staff Chief Engineer J.W. Brew;  Second Engineer R.H. Reid; Third Engineer  O.L. Jones;  Surgeon F.J.M. Kennedy; Assistant Surgeon  Dr. R. G.. Samuel;  Purser E. Cordery; Assistant Purser, S. Nicholson and Chief Steward,  A. E. Demeza.

Dominion Monarch was opened to inspection and luncheon for invited guests on 10 February 1939 hosted by Lord Essendon and Oliver Stanley, President of the Board of Trade, this also coinciding with the 80th anniversary of Shaw Savill: 

BROADCAST TO EMPIRE It is fitting, therefore, that the happenings on board to-day are being broadcast throughout the Empire; that, too, the entry into service of this new motor mail, passenger and cargo vessel should coincide with the eightieth anniversary of the Shaw Savill Company, to whose fleet the Dominion Monarch is the latest addition. Lord Essendon, chairman of the company; Mr. Oliver Stanley. President of the Board of Trade, and lots of other famous folk are on board to wish her God-speed on her maiden voyage from Southampton to Auckland on February 17. 

Aberdeen Evening Express, 10 February 1939

Lord Essendon, chairman of directors, presided at a luncheon in the ship. Among those present was Mr W. J. Jordan, High Commissioner for New Zealand. Lord Essendon, in Welcoming the guests, said that, in spite of the difficult times through which the shipping industry was passing, the vitality and spirit of adventure necessary to embark upon the construction of a vessel of the character of the Dominion Monarch was undimmed. The Dominion Monarch might well be described as an ambassador of Empire, for she would link the Mother Country with Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Referring to the dimension of the vessel and the route it would cover, Lord Essendon said that Teneriffe would be the only place outside the Empire that would be touched. New Zealand would be reached 35 days after leaving England.

'The old Shaw. Savill Company is a wonderful company,' said Mr John Macmillan, managing director of the Shaw, Savill, and Albion Company. 'I am very proud to be here to-day and see during my regime a notable ship like this added to the fleet. I never thought that I would see such a magnificent vessel as a unit, but there it is, and I am making the first voyage in her, and I hope that Captain Hartman will see us safely there and back again. 'My speech is one of thankfulness. I give thanks to those people who have worked on the ship since she was on the blue prints. I thank Messrs Swan, Hunter, and Wigham Richardson most sincerely for the work they have put into her. They have done remarkable work in a short space of time.' Mr Macmillan recalled that the Dominion Monarch had been launched in July and delivered in January. He had considered it almost impossible that she would be finished in time. It might be comparatively easy to build a passenger ship pure and simple, but when a vessel had to be built with a large cargo capacity as well, it was a totally different thing. The Dominion Monarch gave accommodation for 700,000 cubic feet, of which 512,000 cubic feet were insulated. It was a tremendous undertaking. Mr Macmillan also thanked those responsible for the design, and the man who was mainly responsible was the company's marine superintendent and naval architect, Captain Noal. "I give him full credit for the wonderful work he has put into this vessel," said Mr Macmillan. 'I must not leave out Mr John Nicol, our superintendent engineer, who has looked after the engines from start to finish.'

Otago Daily Times, 22 March 1939

Dominion Monarch sailing from King George V Dock on her maiden voyage. Credit: James Burroughs,

Dominion Monarch threads her way through a busy Thames River, Southampton-bound. Credit: The Motor Ship, March 1939, courtesy Capt. Stephen Card. 

Dominion Monarch begins her 29,000-mile maiden voyage, sailing from London's King George V Dock on 16 January 1939. Credit:

Credit: Daily Telegraph, 21 January 1939.

Dominion Monarch passes H.M.S. Worchester and Cutty Sark outbound in the Thames off Greenhithe.

Aircraft and tugs escorted the Dominion Monarch down the Thames, and the training ship Worcester cadets lined the rails and cheered the passing liner, which is partly officered by former Worcester men.

Auckland Star, 20 February 1939

Dominion Monarch sailed from King George V Dock, Shed 5, London on a brilliantly clear 16 February 1939 on her 29,000-mile, almost four-month-long maiden voyage. She had aboard 9,000 tons of cargo, all destined for New Zealand. Off Greenhithe, she passed the training ship Worchester and the clipper ship Cutty Sark, offering an evocative reminder of Shaw Savill's roots in sail 80 years previously.  It was a stirring and symbolic beginning to a long and triumphant maiden voyage. 

The Mayor of Southampton greets Capt. Hartman on arrival at Southampton. Credit: Otago Daily Times, 20 March 1939.

Credit: Hampshire Advertiser.

Upon arrival at Southampton on 17 February 1939, Dominion Monarch was afforded a "hearty welcome" to the Hampshire port which would be her passenger embarkation port.  There, she was visited by an official delegation headed by the Mayor, Councillor A.H. Powdrill, "who greatly admited the splendid accommodation and amenities of the ship." The Shaw Savill flagship was but one of two new ships welcomed by the port that week, the other being the new Union-Castle reefer ship Richmond Castle.  

After embarking 220 passengers, include Lord Rothermere, owner of the Daily Mail (bound for an Empire building tour of Australia and New Zealand), and Shaw Savill General Manager John MacMillan. Among her crew was 14-year-old David Hill from Wallsend, a bellboy, who saw the ship's keel laid, and determined to sail with her.  Dominion Monarch left Souhampton on 17 February 1939, not returning  until 31 May with 29,000 miles under her keel.
More aircraft, tugs and small craft escorted the liner down Southampton Water, 'planes diving in salute overhead.

Passengers gaped as a Super-Marine Spitfire, Britain's fastest fighter, streaked overhead at an enormous speed with a shattering roar.

The pilot was dropped off Nab Tower and Captain Hartman gave the order, 'full speed, all engines,' while the pilot boat's siren wailed farewell and flags fluttered 'Good luck' at her masthead!

The Dominion Monarch rapidly gathered speed. The liner was now doing 18 knots against a strong head breeze and rough sea. Her engines were not running at their maximum power. Notabilities aboard include Viscount Rothermere, Admiral Sir E. Gaunt and Sir Norman Leslie. Among the liner's total of 220 passengers are 25 German-Jewish refugees for Australia and four for New Zealand.

Auckland Star, 20 February 1939

Dominion Monarch sails from the Western Docks, Southampton, 17 February 1939 with the Pathé cameraman recording her departure.  Credit: AP photo.

And the newsreel of her departure. 

Off to the Antipodes, Dominion Monarch sails from Southampton. Credit: The Western Mail, 16 March 1939. 

Dominion Monarch heads down Southampton Water.  Credit: AP Photo. 

The itinerary for Dominion Monarch's maiden outbound voyage:
Tenerife  call 21 February (for bunkers)
Cape Town call 3 March 7:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.
Durban call 5 March 12:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m.
Fremantle call 15 March 6:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.
Melbourne call 19 March 12:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m.
Sydney call 21 March 7:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m.
Wellington arrive 25 March 6:00 a.m.

Not disclosed to the public nor to passengers until Dominion Monarch had returned to London on 2 June 1939, the IRA had reportedly planted five bombs aboard the vessel in the vicinity of her oil tanks, timed to explode 48 hours after the bomb threat was received by Scotland Yard.  This occurred when she was a day from Tenerife and Capt. Hartman, after conferring with General Manager Macmillan, decided not to tell the passengers and only the senior officers. Instead, while the passengers were asleep a systematic search was made of the vessel to locate the bombs. Meanwhile, the lifeboats were uncovered and provisioned, the surgeon prepared first aid dressings and wireless communication was established with nearby vessels. In the event, no bombs were ever found and Dominion Monarch continued southwards. 

Dominion Monarch at Tenerife, her first call, for bunkers.  Credit:

On 21 February 1939 Dominion Monarch called at Tenerife to bunker and after a six-hour call, began the long run to the Cape.  

Dominion Monarch at Cape Town. Credit:

Dominion Monarch coming alongside at Cape Town. Credit: Des Jennings.

Dominion Monarch sails from Cape Town.

After averaging 19.55 knots, Dominion Monarch reached Cape Town at 7:00 a,m. on 3 March 1939 and sailed for Durban at 6:00 p.m. Abandoning his proposed visit to Australia and New Zealand, Viscount Rothermere left the ship at Cape Town.

Fog off the South African coast retarded her progress after departing Cape Town and slightly behind schedule, Dominion Monarch arrived at Durban at 5:00 p.m. on 5 March 1939. There she was greeted by an enormous crowd of some 40,000 "who gave the liner an amazingly enthusiastic welcome" with the news that Dominion Monarch had broken the England-Durban record by nearly a day and a half with a passage of 15 days 21 hours 16 minutes.   Some 15,000 visited the ship and thousands more unable to do so during the time allotted and overwhelmed the vessel, causing hours delay in getting her cleared for departure. Thirteen hours off schedule, Dominion Monarch sailed for Fremantle at first light on the 6th, encountering "rough seas with a swell, and fresh beam wind."

From the Special Representative of " The Telegraph " on board the Dominion Monarch.

March 6.

We are forging ahead at full speed through rough seas on what is expected to be the fastest crossing of the Indian Ocean. We dropped the Durban pilot at 4.30 a.m.(G.M.T.) to-day and are scheduled to arrive at Fremantle in nine and a half days.

The Telegraph (Brisbane) 7 March 1939

The delay along the African coast and at Durban unfortunately cut short her call at Fremantle where she was expected to arrive midday on the 15th so that the functions planned there were cancelled and no visitors would be permitted aboard to enable her to get back on schedule, departing for Melbourne at 6:00 p.m. that day. To prepare for Dominion Monarch's arrival, Circular Quay in Sydney Harbour was dredged and was completed by 8 March, with the ship scheduled to berth at no. 4 Wharf.  It would also be the first assignment for Maritime Services Board's new pilot cutter, Captain Cook

Then the largest ship to yet enter the port, Dominion Monarch docks at Fremantle. Credit: Library of Western Australia. 

As the 27,155-ton liner moved majestically towards her berth there was a string of spectators stretching along Victoria Quay, and other ships In the harbour were overrun by people seeking a good vantage spot. When the liner had been made fast opposite F Shed, the pressure of people was so great that it was only with the greatest difficulty that anyone could more along the wharf.

Credit: Sydney Morning Herald, 20 March 1939.

Credit: The West Australian, 15 March 1939.

When Dominion Monarch came into Fremantle at noon on 15 March 1939 she had broken another record, doing the 11,055-mile passage from Southampton in 24 days 9 hours 3 minutes and a steaming time of 23 days 17 hours 22 minutes, averaging 19.42 knots or 466.1 miles a day.  This clipped 36 hours off the previous record.  She did Durban to Fremantle in 8 days 21 hours 54 minutes, averaging 19.86 knots, or just under 24 faster than the existing record.  During the run across the Indian Ocean, the engines were not run at more than 122 rpms, yet she made up eight hours lost on the African coast so she was but four hours late reaching Fremantle.  Her fuel consumption worked out to about 100 tons a day.   It was pointed that the ship had reached Fremantle two days before the newsreels showing her departure from London were screened in Perth.  She and her 415 passengers were alongside by 1:30 p.m.   With 399 aboard, Dominion Monarch sailed for Melbourne at 6:00 p.m. 

With fine weather, but a heavy swell and a moderate sea across the Great Australian Bight, Dominion Monarch was putting on close to 20 knots as reported from aboard on 19 March 1939 for an on time arrival at Melbourne. Special crowd control measures were established in and to the approaches to Station Pier so  not to repeat the mob scenes that attended the arrival of Empress of Britain the previous year on her world cruise. Orient's Orion was also scheduled to arrive the same day.  

Dominion Monarch docking at Station Pier, Melbourne. Credit: Libraries Tasmania.

Welcomed by a host of yachts, launches, and smaller craft, the new express liner Dominion Monarch, berthed today, after a record-breaking maiden voyage from England. Over 10,000 people watched the 27,000 liner berth.

Townsville Daily Bulletin, 20 March 1939

A perfect portait of Dominion Monarch arriving at Melbourne by Allen C. Green. Credit: Australian National Maritime Museum.

After a record voyage round the Cape of Good Hope from London, the new Shaw, Savill and Albion liner Dominion Monarch was greeted by a large crowd of sightseers when it berthed at Port Melbourne at 11.30 a.m. yesterday. Surrounded a flotilla of yachts, motor boats and other pleasure craft, the 27,000-ton vessel berthed as easily as an inter-state ship.

To obviate difficulties with visitors, such as occurred at Capetown and Fremantle, only a limited number of people was allowed aboard the ship for inspection, but despite this, hundreds of cars lined the esplanade at Port Melbourne, and thousands of people paraded along Station Pier.

The appointments of the vessel are excellent, and the public rooms surpass in grandeur and comfort the rooms of most public buildings. Passengers and crew were united in their praise of the liner's seaworthiness, and the spaciousness of the accommodation. Captain W. H. Hartman said the ship 'handled wonderfully,' an advantage obtained be cause her four propellers were independent of each other. From Fremantle to Melbourne a record of three days 10 hours and 20 minutes was established, he said.  

With the advent of the new liner, South Africa has been brought nearer to Australia than Ceylon, according to Mr. J. Macmillan, managing director of the Shaw, Savill line, who is making the round voyage. 'To overcome the disadvantage of  long periods at sea,' he said,' we have built the Dominion Monarch maintain a sea speed of 19½ knots, so that the time between Durban and Fremantle has been reduced to about  9½ days. Even though the vessel is just being run-in and can use only 27,000 of her 32,000 horse-power, this speed has been maintained on the first trip.

The Age, 20 March 1939

With a trumpeting of sirens, a screech of motor horns, and a raucous welcome from sea and shore, the Q.S.M.V. Dominion Monarch reached Port Melbourne yesterday. The largest motor ship in the Empire, the Dominion Monarch made a record voyage from England to Melbourne with time to spare.

The Argus, 20 March 1939

Credit: The Argus, 20 March 1939.

Dominion Monarch shares Melbourne harbour with two smaller craft. Credit: The Age, 20 March 1939.

Credit: The Age, 20 March 1939

Dominion Monarch arrived at Melbourne on 19 March 1939. Her time from Southampton was 29 days 3 hours and 59 minutes or  actual steaming time of 27 days 3 hours 42 minutes for the total distance of 12,705 miles, averaging 19.5 knots, or 467.9 miles a day. Despite a heavy swell en route in Great Australian during which "she behaved splendidly throughout," she had motored the 1,650 miles from Fremantle in 3 days 10 hours 20 minutes, averaging 20.95 knots, or 480.9 miles a day. Dominion Monarch sailed for Sydney at 10:00 p.m.

Dominion Monarch arriving at Sydney. Credit: City of Sydney Archives, Graeme Andrews Working Harbour Collection

The classic (well since the completion of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932) Sydney maiden arrival photo. Credit: Sydney Morning Herald, 22 March 1939. 

Dominion Monarch off Circular Quay. 

The arrival this morning of the Shaw Savill liner Dominion Monarch, marks a further advance in the size and quality of shipping in the Australian-New Zealand trade. By this we do not mean to suggest that the magnificent liners of the Orient, the P & O and the other companies trading to this country are outclassed, but progress is progressive. The Dominion Monarch will be the largest vessel in the Australian-New Zealand trade; the latest specimen not only of the- shipbuilders and marine engineers technique, but of the ship artistry which has become so prominent a feature during the past twenty years. 

The Dominion Monarch makes her appearance in this trade at a time when British shipping on the Pacific is at a low ebb, due to the competition of the subsidised vessels of foreign countries. The Dominion Monarch may be taken as a symbol that British shipping is not going left behind and on those oceans where for the time being itIs no longer in the first place, it will come again.

Daily Commercial News, 21 March 1939

The 531-mile run from Melbourne to Sydney was done in 28 hours, the speed being reduced during the later part of the passage so as to arrive at daybreak.  She arrived, on schedule, off Sydney Heads at 6:00 a.m., greeted by the brand new pilot cutter Captain Cook, also her maiden "voyage," and was alongside Circular Quay West, berths 4-5, an hour later.  Dominon Monarch had done the passage from England in 31¾ days, nine fewer than the via Suez run.

Dominion Monarch alongside Circular Quay, 21 March 1939. Credit: Samuel J. Hood Studio, Australian National Maritime Museum. 

Syndey residents throng Circular Quay at lunchtime to see the new liner. Credit: Hulton Picture Library, Getty Images. 

Dominion Monarch towers over the then modest Circular Quay sheds.

During her call there, Dominion Monach hosted a luncheon aboard for officials and shipping executives including the Minister for Transport, Mr. Bruxner, who said: "Perhaps never in the history of all of us has there been greater need for the speediest and most efficient seaborne traffic between the centre of the Empire and the Dominions than there is to-day. Communication by sea, and the development of the British Mercantile Marine have played the greatest part through the years in the foundation and development ofthe great Commonwealth of Nations." In response, Mr. Macmillan of Shaw Savill replied, "It is a very ambitious step we have taken, to launch out Into such a magnificent vessel as this," Mr. Macmillan said."I doubt very much whether it will show much of a profit at the end of the year, but we are still hopeful."  
The call at Sydney and indeed Dominion Monarch's maiden voyage (and in some respects, her ensuing career) was marred by serious complaints by her crew, specifically stewards, regarding their accommodation and working conditions aboard the ship.  Shaw, Savill & Albion, did not earn the moniker "Slow, Starvation & Agony" among crews for nothing and allowing for the prediliction among sailors to gripe, their ships, including Dominion Monarch (or as some would to call her, "Demented Maniac," had a reputation for being "bad feeders" and the very long voyages only highlighted deficiencies in accommodation.  Specifically, the stewards' accommodation, in large (8-12 berth) cabins which were technially outside with portholes and amidships, but on the lowest deck just below the dining room and consequently the portholes were sealed with deadlights when underway, making them untenable in the often tropical conditions encountered during the voyage. This, long hours and complaints that the ship was understaffed given the number of all first class passengers, all came to head when the ship arrived in Sydney and the press coverage was hardly what a line desired from a maiden arrival:

Discontent among stewards of the new Shaw, Savill and Albion liner, Dominion Monarch, led to a meeting of 60 of the stewards in the ship's saloon early today.

Four stewards were missing and others.were complaining about their poor conditions when the liner berthed at Sydney today.

The meeting was held to protest against the conditions of the stewards. There has been discontent among the stewards since the Dominion Monarch left Southampton.

Before the liner sailed the stewards drew the attention of Board of Trade officials to the design of their accommodation on the lower decks.

They were placed eight and 12 men in a room in a position so low down in the liner that when they were at sea it was impossible for them to open the portholes. The keys controlling the screws were removed, and the heat in the tropics was terrific, they said.

The stewards protested against the discrimination between them and the engine-room crew and sailors.

"The sailors and engine-room men have two-berth cabins and curtains on their doors, while we have old style lockers and are herded together," said one of the men. "We have 14 wash basins among 150 men."

They said that at Durban and Cape Town, after working for  16 hours a day to keep pace with the service, some of the men went ashore and wore late in returning. Fourteen were logged.

When the ship left Durban it was discovered that one steward was missing. After she sailed from Fremantle four more were reported to have been left ashore.

In South Africa half a dozen extra stewards were picked up to speed up the service, but the position was no better after Fremantle.

As the Dominion Monarch neared Sydney more than a dozen of the stewards, some of them among those who been logged, were informed that they would be transferred to the Ceramic of the same line.

The men do not want to be transferred until the end of the voyage because they declare that the transfer will be regarded as a black mark against them. They signed a petition and asked one of the officers to hear their case. He refused, and they stated that they would take their troubles to higher quarters.

The Herald, 21 March 1939

As the result of dissension and discontent which has existed in the crew's quarters of the new liner Dominion Monarch since she left Southampton, 14 stewards were dismissed when the ship reached Sydney to-day.

No reason was given by officers or the owners for the action, but about 60 stewards held a meeting during the morning to protest against their accommodation and conditions.

The managing director of the Shaw Savin Line (Mr. J. Macmillan), who is making the round voyage in the Dominion Monarch, said later: They were dismissed from the ship, and are being sent to the Ceramic and the Themistocles, in which they will return to England."

He refused to comment on the conditions under which the stewards had been working. Mr. Macmillan said that when the ship was approaching Melbourne he had cabled to the Australian management cancelling a cocktail party for 600 guests, which had been arranged for the Victorian port, because it would have placed too heavy a burden on the stewards. He also said that the public Inspections of the ship in Australian ports were cancelled because the company did not want to interfere with the comfort of passengers.

At a meeting the stewards complained that they had been forced to work 16 hours a day, and, whereas seamen and firemen were berthed in two and four berth cabins, the stewards were placed in 10 and 12 berth cabins one deck below, and right on the waterline.

'We have been losing men all the time," one steward said. "In Cape Town two were left behind. They missed their ship in Durban. Six more were left behind in Melbourne, and three more missed the

The Argus, 22 March 1939

In the end, 15 stewards were removed from the ship and transferred to the England-bound Ceramic and Moreton Bay.  Before Dominion Monarch left Sydney for Wellington, two more stewards left the ship, one of them telling the Daily News, "I can't stand that ship any longer. All the stewards are overworked, underpaid and crammed into cabins like sardines. My mate and I thought it was better to walk off." Amid fears of a strike breaking out, instead there was a "fierce fight" in the pantry among stewards and "plates, cups and silver dish covers clattered to the floor and rolled into the corridor." 

The maiden voyage of the Dominion Monarch is an event of interest and importance to all New Zealanders, for this magnificent 27,000-ton ship revives the lost glories of the old pioneer route to New Zealand, round the Cape of Good Hope and across the Indian Ocean, That is the route by which most of our forefathers came to New Zealand, travelling laboriously in the old sailing ships, their voyages occupying many months and often accompanied by misadventures and peril. 

The Dominion Monarch has reduced to 35 days the time on the voyage via Capetown, and has brought South Africa within 19 days of New Zealand. The result should be to extend considerably the contacts between two countries that already have strong common interests in sport. But, more than that, the building of the Dominion Monarch is a symbol of a shipping company’s faith in New Zealand. The ship’s essential purpose, irrespective of its intermediate ports of call on the voyage, is to link New Zealand and the Mother Country, and in the circumstances the construction of such a fine ship is a compliment to New Zealand. 

The Northern Advocate, 27 March 1939

Beautiful weather and a dead-flat sea greeted Dominion Monarch on her maiden arrival at Wellington. Credit:

Alongside Wellington's Pipitea Wharf, Dominion Monarch attracts a throng of admirers. Credit: The Alexander Turnbull Library.

The Dominion Monarch attracted great interest in Australian ports, where she was much admired, and a number of passengers joined her for the trip to New Zealand and back. Exceptionally fine weather was experienced on the passage across the Tasman Sea. Brilliant sunshine and an oily-smooth sea made the run very pleasant, deck sports, swimming, sunbathing, dancing, and cinema shows all adding to the enjoyment of passengers. To arrive on schedule, speed was reduced all the way and for much of Friday the ship' was running on two engines only.

Evening Post, 25 March 1939

A flat calm and bright sunshine combined to make the harbour and city appear at their best when the Dominion Monarch arrived this morning from Sydney on her pioneer voyage from England, via South Africa and Australia. The vessel was off Farewell Spit at 8 p.m. yesterday and proceeded slowly through Cook Strait to pass through Wellington Heads at 6 a.m. and berth at eight o'clock at Pipitea Wharf.

New Zealand Herald, 27 March 1939

The greatest welcome awaited her in New Zealand, of course. From the first moment she entered New Zealand waters and throughout her career, Dominion Monarch was their own Ship of State. Greeted, saluted and witnessed by thousands, she passed through Wellington Heads at 6:30 a.m. on 25 March 1939 and berthed at Pipitea Wharf by 8:00 a.m. 

Dominion Monarch's steaming  time for the Southampton to Wellington passage, totalling 14,479 miles, was 31 days 13 hours 23 minutes, averaging 19.12 knots or 458.8 miles a day. The total passage, including time in port occupied 35 days 1 hour 24 minutes. 

As invariably happens upon the arrival for the first time of any ship of more than usual interest, the people of Wellington turned out in thousands to welcome the Dominion Monarch. Hundreds of people, most of them in cars, watched the great liner pass Island Bay and Lyall Bay and go through the Heads. There three aeroplanes in formation saluted her from above, and they accompanied her up the harbour, being joined later by a fourth. As the ship drew into the inner harbour the sun shone brightly and on the calm water she presented a splendid sight to the crowds at every point of vantage on the hills. 

A small fleet of mosquito craft— launches, yachts, and skiffs —was already swarming around the Dominion Monarch when the Government steamer Janie Seddon met her off Point Jerningham, and the port health officer, Customs and tourist officials, police, and shipping company representatives boarded her. As the liner approached her berth many more small craft came out to accompany her, each carrying a full load of interested passengers. 

Assisted by the Harbour Board's tug Toia, and with the tug Terawhiti standing by, the Dominion Monarch was berthed without difficulty. Even at 8 o'clock there was a steady stream of people going to and from Pipitea Wharf, and as the day proceeded the stream grew to a procession of citizens, all wanting to gain a close view of the ship.

Evening Post, 25 March 1939

That Dominion Monarch's first arrival in New Zealand was "big news" was shown in this full page photo spread in Auckland Weekly News showing the ship at Wellington. Credit: Auckland Library Heritage Image Collection. 

Part of Dominion Monarch's 9,000 tons of cargo for New Zealand included British cigarettes and boy's overcoats which featured in advertisements in Wellington newspapers within two days of her arrival. 

A luncheon for 500-600 guests was held aboard 27 March, the guest list being "representative of Government, shipping, commercial, banking, legal and other interests:" Time before luncheon was afforded for the guests to get together in the beautifully appointed Tudor smokeroom and in the cafe. The toast of the King was proposed by Staff-Captain Aitchison. 'The Guests' was proposed by Captain Hartman and responded to by the Hon. P. Fraser, Minister of Marine, and "The Dominion Monarch and the Shaw Savill and Albion Co." was proposed by the Mayor of Wellington (Mr. T. C. A. Hislop) and responded to by Mr. E. V. Bevan, New Zealand representative of the Shaw Savill Co. (Evening Post, 27 March 1939). 

On her last day at Wellington, the Governor-General of New Zealand, Lord Galway, visited Dominion Monday. Credit: Nelson Evening Mail, 1 April 1939.

On her last day at Wellington, 31 March 1939, The Governor-General, Lord Galway, inspected Dominion Monarch. Later that day, some 2,000 people visited the ship, raising £100 for the Missions to Seamen Fund.

Dominon Monarch left Wellington at 6:00 p.m. 1 April 1939 for Auckland in perfect weather which continued throughout the passage. Passengers from Wellington included the Hon. G. R. Mason and Mrs. Mason, Mr. E. V. Bevan, New Zealand manager of the Shaw Savill Company, and Mrs. Bevan; the Hon. Eliot Davis and Mrs. Davis, Mr. Stronach Paterson and Mrs. Paterson, and Captain V. G. Webb, marine superintendent of the Union Company.  

Steaming steadily up the coast toward Auckland, the liner ran before a moderate southerly after leaving Wellington.. With the schedule providing tor reduced speed, the distance covered at noon-yesterday was 267 miles, the ship averaging 15.48 knots. After the East Cape was passed in the afternoon, the vessel's engines were tested for an hour. She attained a speed of over 20 knots. The ship stood fairly close into the shore in the vicinity of the East Cape and the passengers obtained excellent views of the rugged coastline.

New Zealand Herald,  3 April 1939

Dominion Monarch coming into Auckland in the morning mist. Credit: William H. Tinson photograph, Auckland Libraries.

Photographed from aboard Mariposa, Dominion Monarch docks at Queen's Wharf, Auckland on 3 April 1939. Credit: New Zealand Herald, 4 April 1939.

Shipping history was made for Auckland today when the port welcomed the Shaw Savill and Albion Company's  liner Dominion Monarch, the largest and most powerful motor ship afloat, on her first visit.

Out of the morning mists at the harbour entrance, the 27,155-ton giant loomed before 8 o'clock into the sight of the hundreds of people who had been watching for her from many points of vantage. Wellington  had the honour of extending Now Zealand's first welcome, but for Auckland the occasion of her arrival here to-day was none the less great, and interest in the big new ship was intense.

But for the mist, the morning was a perfect one, and it was through still, glassy waters that the Dominion Monarch moved slowly up to her berth at Queen's wharf. There was not the harbour pageantry that could have been expected had she made Auckland her first port of call in New Zealand, but all eyes were upon her. Without difficulty or delay, the ship  was edged into the wharf, and a few minutes after 8 o'clock she was tied up alongside. So ended a trip up the coast from Wellington in perfect weather conditions.

Auckland Star, 3 April 1939

Dominion Monarch alongside Queen's Wharf. Credit: William H. Tinson photograph, Auckland Libraries. 

Curious Aucklanders "looking her over" at Queen's Wharf on arrival. Credit: William H. Tinson photograph, Auckland Libraries. 

On a busy day for the Port of Auckland, Mariposa lies at Prince's Wharf and Dominion Monarch at Queen's Wharf and were joined in harbour by Aorangi and Rangitata. Credit: New Zealand Herald, 4 April 1939. 

An unique gathering at Auckland of the largest liners on the New Zealand run: Rangitata, Dominion Monarch, Mariposa and Aorangi.  The tremendous size of Dominion Monarch compared to her rivals is shown to advantage. Credit: Auckland Weekly News

The 3rd of April 1939 was a banner day for the Port of Auckland when it hosted four of the biggest and finest of Antipodean liners.  Mariposa arrived first from Sydney with a full compliment of passengers, including 235 landing there followed by Dominion Monarch with arrived at 7:55 a.m. and berthed on the western side of Queen's Wharf and finally Aorangi which docked just before 2:00 p.m. from Vancouver.  Rangitata sailed that afternoon for Wellington and onwards to England via Panama. 

The ship's triumphant arrival was slightly marred by a recalcitrant new gangway that had been installed specially to handle the towering new vessel and whose upper section refused to be coaxed into position at the gangway doors.  It was an hour before passengers could land. Dominion Monarch had 200 roundtrip passengers aboard,  most were bound for Rotorua and other resorts and would rejoin the ship on 15 April 1939 when she would sail for Napier or at Wellington on the 25th. 

A new and welcome visitor to the Port of Auckland to-day will be the motor-liner Dominion Monarch, largest vessel of her type afloat and the most recent addition to the merchant fleet of a company that has played its part in the development of New Zealand ever since the pioneering days. Public interest in the latest ocean giant—an acknowledgment, perhaps, of the Dominion's dependence on sea-borne trade —will not be lacking, and a measure of justifiable pride will be taken that another luxury liner is engaged in the service between the Mother Country and the most distant of the Dominions. 

But the arrival of the Dominion Monarch has a much wider significance than that. Her itinerary re-opens one of the earliest sea roads of Empire and her service will link Great Britain direct with three of the self-governing Dominions. In a young country like New Zealand the march of history is so swift that already it seems a far call to the days when stately sailing ships ploughed down the Atlantic, round the Cape of Good Hope and then across a wide expanse of ocean, bearing new settlers for an infant colony. Now a floating city of steel follows in their wake to serve the needs of trade which has grown from the valiant efforts of those early immigrants. 

Another point that calls for comment is that the Dominion Monarch has been built by private enterprise, firm in its resolve to keep the Red Ensign flying over the seven seas. No such firm resolution has been shown by the four Empire Governments in putting new British liners in commission in the Pacific. Perhaps it is not too much to hope that the lead given by the owners and builders of the Dominion Monarch will soon be followed and that modern vessels under the British flag will ply between Vancouver, Auckland and Sydney.

New Zealand Herald, 3 April 1939

On her first visit to Auckland, the Shaw, Savill and Albion Company's new 27,000-ton motor-liner Dominion Monarch made a dignified entry into the Waitemata yesterday morning. The event was outstanding in the history of the port, because, with the exception of the Empress of Britain, no larger mercantile vessel has ever been seen in the Auckland Harbour. The harbour beyond North Head was still shrouded in grey mist at 7.45 yesterday morning and, although her signal had been hauled down from the flagstaff on Mount Victoria, nothing could be seen of the big ship from the end of Queen's Wharf, where she was to berth.

The day was perfectly calm, with thin clouds overhead and only the slightest ripple on the water. In another six or seven minutes, a dark mass appeared in the mist downstream, and soon the great bulk of the liner was silhouetted against the grey background. Her single mast and multitude of derrick posts had scarcely come into clear outline line when the two tugs, which had been busy with the Mariposa at Prince's Wharf, set off at top speed to meet her, churning up large and conflicting waves as they turned out of the basin.  Several hundred people on the wharf and others on the stern of the Mariposa saw the Dominion Monarch gradually come into full morning light. The familiar Shaw Savill dress of black sides with a white line, white superstructure and buff, black topped funnels, though worn 'with a difference,' looked thoroughly in keeping with the company's solid British tradition.

The tugs took station on the starboard side and pulled against the ebb as the liner slowly approached the end of the wharf on a diagonal course. There was a large muster of sailors and stewards on the forecastle, while passengers crowded the forward part of the two promenade docks. On the rounded upper part of the raking stem a replica of the historic house-flag of the company was a conspicuous ornament, while the flag itself, in company with the Red Ensign, drooped from the foremast head in the still air.

Against the pull of the tugs, the vessel sidled slowly toward the wharf, gently touching the spring piles at the corner. She was edged out a few yards, backed slightly, and gradually  her stern swung so that she could be brought to her berth on the western side, directly opposite the Mariposa. Warping her alongside was a simple matter, and the whole operation was completed by 8.45.

Obviously many among the crew had friends ashore, for numbers of greetings were exchanged between wharf and ship by shouts and waves of the hand.

New Zealand Herald, 4 September 1939

Credit: New Zealand Herald, 4 April 1939. 

One of the great personal stories connected with Dominion Monarch was that of 17-year-old deck hand John Landalls as recounted by the New Zealand Herald on 4 April 1939:
Drawn by a liking for the sea, a 17-year-old member of the crew of the Dominion Monarch, John Landaals, walked the 371 miles from Wallsend to London to get a berth on the vessel on her maiden voyage. The lad had been employed on the ship as a riveter in the shipbuilding yards of Swan, Hunter and Wigham Richardson, where the liner was built, and left the day after she was launched. The trip out was the first he had made.

Turned down oil his first application at Wallsend because of his lack of training, Landalls was not rebuffed, but set out for London with only enough money for meals in his pocket. The journey took him nine days, and he was fortunate to get a position as a deckhand almost immediately, through the good offices of a steward. His duties on board are varied, and he works the ordinary shifts with the rest of the crew. 

The lad's mother, older brother and young sister at present lire at Wallsend, their father having died in June last year. Although his brother was in the Navy, Landalls said there was no question of the sea being a family calling. His father had been a labourer in the shipyards until his death. For the shipboard life he had nothing but praise, but he was looking forward to the trip home again.

Credit: New Zealand Herald, 5 April 1939.

On 4 April 1939 there was an official luncheon aboard for Members of Parliament, the Consular Corps, local bodies, business men and representatives of British and other shipping lines attended the official luncheon. "A particularly happy note was struck by Mr. H. Tai Mitchell and members of the Arawa tribe of Maoris, who, through Ernest Davis, Mayor of Auckland, presented a handsome, beautifully wrought ash-tray stand made ot native woods. Suitably inscribed, the stand will be placed in the lounge, as a memento of the arrival of the vessel at Auckland." (New Zealand Herald, 5 April 1939). When Staff Captain D. Aitchison had proposed the toast of the King Captain W. H. Hartman, commander of the Dominion Monarch, gave the toast of "The city and port of Auckland."

A few of the 4,000 Aucklanders who visited Dominion Monarch on 9 April 1939. Credit: New Zealand Herald, 10 April 1939. 

Although the big liner will have been at Queen's Wharf for nearly a fortnight there has been little slackening of public interest in her visit. Strict supervision has been kept  for passes granted for visits to the vessel, with the result that only a very small percentage of those wishing to board the ship have been able to do so. Last Sunday, when the Dominion Monarch was thrown open for public inspection for the only time during her stay in port, more than 4000 went aboard, seamen's charities benefiting by about £200. An official luncheon and a luncheon to shipping agents were given at Auckland, but a reception to have been held during the ship's visit was postponed until her next call in September.

New Zealand Herald, 15 April 1939

Dominion Monarch sails from Auckland for Napier on 16 April 1939. Credit: New Zealand Herald, 17 April 1939. 

A beautiful portrait of Dominion Monarch in early morning light on departure from Auckland. 

The largest vessel yet to enter Hawke's Bay, Dominion Monarch photographed during her call at Napier, working cargo from lighters. Credit: Emmanuel Makarios.

Dominion Monarch sailed from Auckland at 7:20 a.m. on 16 April 1939 for Napier. She arrived the following day, the largest vessel ever to enter Hawke's Bay, amid the heaviest fog experienced for the past year and anchoring in the roadstead. Aboard 160 visitors came aboard via launch and the next day, Capt. Hartman hosted a luncheon aboard for 150 guests.  Her loading completed, she sailed for Wellington the evening of the 19th. 

Credit: Northern Advocate, 24 April 1939. 

After a fast passage down the coast, averaging 20 knots, Dominion Monarch returned to Wellington late on 19 April 1939 and docked at Glasgow Wharf. Lady Galway visited the ship on the 21st and the morning of the 20th, boys of the Wellington College branch of the Navy League were were shown over her.

On 3 May 1939, it was announced that the New Zealand All Blacks would tour South Africa and would sail in Dominion Monarch 14 May 1940 for four matches in the Union.

There was nothing like a good trans-Tasman ocean liner race to pique the interest of the press and on 20 April 1939 the Hokitika Guardian suggested that "trans-Tasman shipping rivalry will be rekindled this month" when the present champion, Awatea, and Dominion Monarch were scheduled to sail from Wellington to Sydney within an hour of one another on the 26th.  Awatea did the run in 59 hours 11 mins.  Dominion Monarch's scheduled time was 64 hours.

Quickly establishing her moniker as a "Food for Britain Flagship," Dominion Monarch's first homeward cargo consisted of 54,000 carcases of lamb, 38,884 carcases of mutton, 3,000 hinds and quarters of chilled beef, 15,102 crates of cheese, 50,407 boxes of butter, 5,000 carcases of pork, 31,735 cases of apples, and 4,102 cases and bags of frozen sundries. The vessel also carried 2,000 bales of wool, 1,000 bags of peas, and several hundred cases of kauri gum.

Dominion Monarch at Sydney.

And coming into Melbourne on a misty morning. Credit: Telegraph, 4 May 1939.

Dominion Monarch docking at Fremantle, 6 May 1939. Credit: Mirror, 6 May 1939.

Dominion Monarch sailed from Wellington at 10:47 p.m. for London and whilst not besting Awatea's record, did the 1,225 miles between Pencarrow and Sydney Heads in 2 days 13 hours 30 mins (61 hours 15 mins) at an average speed of 19.92 knots, arriving at Sydney on the morning of 29 April 1939 and docking at Nos. 4-5, Circular Quay. She sailed that at 1:00 a.m. on the 30th with 370 passengers and arrived at Melbourne on 1 May. Late departing Melbourne, she was off at midnight on 2 May, having embarked another 80 passengers. Dominion Monarch called at Fremantle on the 6th and during her brief stay, the Lieut. Governor and other official guests lunched aboard. 

Dominion Monarch at Cape Town in 1939. This classic view was widely used as a postcard of the vessel. Credit: author's collection.

Dominion Monarch called at Durban on 16 May 1939 and arrived at Cape Town on the 18th, doing the coastal run in just 1 day 16 hours at an average 20.22 knots. Two days before reaching Las Palmas, she fractured a cast steel bolt on the outboard starboard engine, but still completed the voyage on three engines, working up to 17 knots, calling at Las Palmas on the 29th and arriving at Southampton on 2 June 1939 where she landed 438 passengers including Shaw Savill's John Macmillan "who said the voyage had been an unqualified success."
With the exception of the final leg, Dominion Monarch had put in an exemplary performance, reflecting  great credit on her builders, officers, engineers and crew during one of the longest and most extended maiden voyages of any passenger liner. 

Q.S.M.V. Dominion Monarch
voyage 1, 16 February-2 June 1939

Outbound Southampton-Wellington
Southampton-Tenerife 3 days 10 hours 56 mins, average speed 18.46 knots
Tenerife-Cape Town 9 days 12 hours 53 mins, average speed 19.55 knots
Cape Town-Durban 1 day 19 hours 39 mins, average speed 18.47 knots
Durban-Fremantle 8 days 21 hours 54 mins, average speed 19.94 knots
Fremantle-Melbourne 3 days 10 hours 20 mins, average speed 20.04 knots
Melbourne-Sydney 1 day 4 hours, average speed 18.96 knots
Sydney-Wellington 3 days 5 hours 41 mins, average speed 16 knots

Return Wellington-Southampton
Wellington-Sydney 2 days 13 hours 30 mins, average speed 19.92 knots
Sydney-Melbourne 1 day 3 hours 53 mins, average speed 19.15 knots
Melbourne-Fremantle 3 days 23 hours 41 mins, average speed 17.02 knots
Fremantle-Durban 9 days 18 hours 24 mins, average speed 18.79 knots
Durban-Cape Town 1 day 16 hours 42 mins, average 20.22 knots 

On 3 June 1939, Dominion Monarch berthed at London's King George V Docks, Shed 5.

King George V Dock summer 1939: Britannic, Dominion Monarch (left), Sydney Star and Mataroa (right). Credit: Nelson Evening Mail, 31 July 1939.

It is oft-stated that with the advent of Dominion Monarch that the long-established joint service to Australia via the Cape between Shaw Savill and Blue Funnel Line ended in 1939, arising from the cancellation of the Jason project.  Yet, a full sailing list was published for 1939-40 (through to June) and joint sailings advertised up to the beginning of the war with Shaw Savill contributing Ceramic and Themistocles (from Liverpool with a call at Southampton on the return only for passengers) in addition to Dominion Monarch and Blue Funnel dispatching Anchises, AscaniusNestor and Ulysses from Liverpool only.  This was collectively the oldest joint fleet in the Merchant Navy with all of the ships dating from 1910-13 and had not the war intervened, would have required wholesale replacement before too much longer, further speculating on potential running mates for Dominion Monarch or the future of the service. 

Sailing schedule for the Blue Funnel-Shaw Savill joint U.K.-Australia service. Credit:

On 6 July 1939 it was reported that Dominion Monarch had lost her claim to be the world's most powerful motor ship with the completion of Nederland's Oranje which was fitted with three 12,500 bhp diesels compared to Dominion Monarch's four 8,000 bhp motors. The smaller Dutch liner reached a speed of 26.5 knots on trials and had a service speed of 21 knots so could rightly claim to be the fastest, too. 

Credit: The Age, 19 July 1939.

Dominion Monarch's second voyage was programmed to depart London 3 August 1939 (Southampton 4th) and turnaround in New Zealand 8 September-4 October after making a full circuit of Wellington, Auckland, Napier and Lyttelton to load cargo.  On the return voyage, she would depart Wellington 4 October,  calling at Sydney (7), Melbourne (9), Fremantle (13), Durban (23), Cape Town (25), Madeira (4 November) and arriving Southampton on the 8th.  Her third trip, beginning on the 24th, would call at Southampton (25), Madeira (27th), Cape Town (7 December), Durban (10), Fremantle (20th), Melbourne (24), Sydney (26), New Zealand ports (29 December 1939-24 January 1940) and homewards, Sydney (27), Melbourne (29th), Fremantle (2 February), Durban (12), Cape Town (14), Madeira (24) and return to Southampton on the 28th. 

Capt. W.G. Summers assumed command of Dominion Monarch on her second voyage and during much of her wartime service until his death in 1943. Credit: Truth, 22 June 1930.

On voyage no. 2, Dominion Monarch (Capt. W.G. Summers)  left Southampton on 4 August 1939 and due to reach Wellington on 8 September.  On 8 August Shaw Savill announced a revision to her schedule:

Left Southampton noon, Friday, August 4; left Madeira 4 p.m. Monday, August 7: arrive Cape Town Thursday, August 17; depart noon. Friday, August 18: leave Durban Sunday, August 20: leave Fremantle Wednesday. August 30; leave Melbourne Sunday. September 3; leave Sydney Tuesday, September 5; arrive Wellington 2 pun. Friday. September 8. The departure from Auckland for the United Kingdom of the Dominion Monarch was put put back one day to  8 p.m. October 4. The tentative ports of call in New Zealand were listed as Wellington, Lyttelton, Napier and Auckland.

On this voyage, Madeira was substituted for Tenerife and was to be henceforth, her maiden call being on 7 August 1939 and she arrived at Cape Town on the 18th. 
On her maiden voyage, fog had badly delayed Dominion Monarch en route from Cape Town to Durban. Now, on her second, engine trouble had the same effect.  She left Cape Town on 18 August 1939 and soon into the passage, developed a defect in three cylinders of one of her port motors which had to be shut down.  Reaching Durban on the 21st, it was reported that "temporary repairs proceeding" and she sailed for Fremantle at 6:00 p.m. the following day. The following day, Shaw Savill announced she would not reach Fremantle until the 3rd, Melbourne on the 8th, Sydney on the 10th and arrive Wellington on the 15th so about three days off her original timetable.

The liner Dominion Monarch arrived in Fremantle today almost unheralded. Only a handful of people were at the wharf when she berthed at F shed.

 The section in front of F shed was barricaded at each end by railing from the rest of the wharf.

Several policemen were in the vicinity of the ship and only those with special passes were allowed beyond the railing.

Since the start of the crisis the Dominion Monarch has taken precautions against the possibility of an attack.

The ship was three days late in arriving at Fremantle, engine trouble between Cape Town and Durban having delayed it. Three cylinders in one of its four engines were put out of action and the ship was forced to travel at a slightly reduced speed.

The Daily News, 2 September 1939

Making up some time, Dominion Monarch arrived at Fremantle at 7:00 a.m. on 2 September 1939 and cleared the harbour by 3:10 p.m. She was retimed to reach Sydney on the 9th.

The legendary liner had a most varied career as a troop transport and by the end of the war the outlook for the Shaw Savill fleet was bleak, they had lost half their ships and apart from the Dominion Monarch, all the other surviving vessels were over twenty years old.  Apart from thousands of Commonwealth troops bound for Europe and North Africa, she carried over 29,000 American military personnel to England, British reinforcements to India and Singapore, Axis prisoners of war to America and on one occasion, 1,900 wounded servicemen from Cape Town to Great Britain and established many impressive statistics.  She had carried more than 90,000 military personnel, over 70,000 tons of cargo (including 51,500 tons of much needed butter, cheese and meat) between Australasia and Great Britain, and had travelled over 350,000 miles.

The New Zealand Maritime Record

Dominion Monarch found herself at war half a world away and not yet having completed the outward portion of her second voyage.  If not robbed even of a maiden voyage as were Andes and Pasteur, she had barely time to settle in before her qualities of speed and huge cargo capacity were put to grimmer and more urgent tasks.  Throughout much of the war, she continued to serve Australia and New Zealand and played an important and memorable role in the Dominions' war efforts, not just with men but essential foodstuffs.  Like the green recruits she would transport, Dominion Monarch came of age in the Second World War and before it was over, became a seasoned veteran. 


Whilst Dominion Monarch was en route from Fremantle to Melbourne, on 3 September 1939, Prime Minister Robert Gordon Menzies announced that Australia was at war with Germany. Dominion Monarch reached Melbourne on the 7th and called at Sydney 8-9th.   

Dominion Monarch arriving at Lyttleton on 12 September 1939 with her funnels painted all-buff. Credit: Lyttleton Museum. 

Another photo of Dominion Monarch coming onto Lyttleton. Credit: Lyttleton Review

Dominion Monarch proceeded to Wellington, arriving 12 September 1939 by which time her crew had begun painting her superstructure grey and painted over the black tops to her funnels. She proceeded to Lyttleton on the 17th to land an enormous consignment of British motorcars. She returned to Wellington on the 28th and the arrived at Auckland on the 30th to load her homeward cargo.  With passengers and a full cargo, Dominion Monarch sailed for home on 7 October.  

It was at Sydney 10-17 October 1939 that Dominion Monarch finally received some measure of defensive armament in the form of an old 6-inch gun, inscribed "ex HMS Venerable" and "Obsolete" in red on the sights and a 3-inch anti-aircraft gun.  Both were fitted aft over the isolation hospital after the deck had been stiffened and this now also served as the quarters for the gun crew.  Spark arresters were also fitted to her funnels. 

Dominion Monarch left Sydney on 17 October 1939 and per her usual routine, called at Melbourne (20-22) and Fremantle (26th) before proceeding across the Indian Ocean to Durban which was reached on 5 November and then Cape Town (9-10th). By then, British and Allied ships began to call at Freetown, Sierra Leone, for fuel and water to and from the Cape, either in convoy or independently, and Dominion Monarch made her first call there on the 17-18th. The greatest potential peril, that of the recent scourge of magnetic mines laid by the Germans in the Downs and off the River Thames, threatened Dominion Monarch upon arrival off the Downs on the 28th, but she reached port safely.

Next arose the question as what to do with the ship and as this was in the middle of the Phony War (on land, at least) and without an immediate need for additional transports, a role for which she was initially considered unsuited, it was decided that her epic cargo space was of a far more utility "as is" and on her original route as far as Australia  to convey now even more vitally needed foodstuffs to Britain. So, Dominion Monarch "carried on" largely on her usual service carrying passengers, mail and cargo although her way ports were reduced and she turned around at Sydney.

In the meantime, Dominion Monarch had been repainted with a black hull and a stone superstructure but oddly keeping the all buff funnels. Her bridge and wireless room were given some protection in the form of a wall of sandbags in wooden casings outboard of the steel bulkheads.


Dominion Monarch cleared Southend on 9 January 1940, with but 100 or so passengers, and after a tense voyage through the still mine-infested Thames approaches, made a fast direct passage right down to Cape Town where she called on the 24-25th. There, she loaded a large consignment of gold bullion which was ultimately destined for the U.S. via Australia and this afforded her some measure of protection in the form of escort across the Indian Ocean by HMS Cornwall as far as Fremantle which was reached on 4 February.  After calling at Melbourne on 9-11th, Dominion Monarch reached Sydney on the 12th.  Homewards, she was packed with essential foodstuffs and wool, her hatchcovers being covered with bales of wool as protection against aerial attack. 

Homeward bound, Dominion Monarch left Sydney on 23 February 1940 and after calling en route at Melbourne (25-28), Cape Town (16-18 March) where she took on 6,000 tons of bunkers, so as not to tax the short supplies at home and averaged 19.137 knots all the way from Fremantle, sailed direct to England, arriving off the Downs on 1 April. There she managed to come into collision with an outbound convoy, with the coaster Fairport, hitting her on in way of the no. 4 hold and the children's playroom.  On this voyage, her holds were packed to overflowing with foodstuffs and with only a few passengers, some of her public rooms and cabins, too, were filled with cargo. 

Another routine voyage to Australia followed, leaving Southend on 28 April 1940, calling at Cape Town 14-15 May and reaching Sydney on 6 June via Fremantle, Adelaide and Melbourne. When Dominion Monarch returned to Britain on 29 July, she ended her last vaguely normal commercial voyage.  With the Fall of France and ensuing Battle of Britain, the escalation of the war meant she, too, would be taken up for transport duties. 

Arriving at Liverpool at the end of July 1940, Dominion Monarch was converted into a transport accommodating 142 officers and 1,341 other ranks. The officers got the luxury of the existing Promenade Deck cabins whilst the ranks were berthed in the former lounge and newly created berthing areas on A and B Decks. Her holds and cargo handling gear remained intact and when possible, would continue to carry vitally needed homeward cargos of food and wool. 

Two of Britain's greatest ever motorships-- Dominion Monarch and Athlone Castle-- in convoy, bound for the Middle East, September 1940. Credit: Defense Photo, twitter.

The now H.M.T. Dominion Monarch sailed from the Mersey on 10 September 1940 as part of convoy AP.3/1 for the Middle East and including the transports Athlone Castle, Britannic, Canton, Carnarvon Castle, Carthage, Cilicia, Durban Castle and 17 escorts. This arrived at Port Said, via Cape Town (4-6 October), on the 22nd. Independently and carrying cargo, Dominion Monarch carried on to Australia, calling at Colombo 6-7 November and arriving at Fremantle on the 14th. From there she stopped at Melbourne (19-21) and docked at Sydney on the 22nd. There, she went to Cockatoo Island for drydocking and fitting of anti-mine paravanes and additional anti-aircraft armament. 

Dominion Monarch at Sydney, 28 December 1940. Credit: Australian War Memorial.

Dominion Monarch left Sydney on 3 December 1940, returning to New Zealand with her arrival at Wellington on the 6th. With a cargo of meat (including a trial shipment of meat which had been boned and packed on a new method to save space and under the aegis of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research), dairy products and wool and 1,434 New Zealand troops, she sailed in company with Awatea  on the 20th for Sydney, reached on the 23rd. Joining Convoy US.8, the two  departed on the 28th in company with AquitaniaEmpress of Russia and Queen Mary for Suez and escorted by HMAS Canberra.

H.M.T. Queen Mary, followed by Dominion Monarch and Awatea sail from Sydney 28 December 1940. Credit: Australian War Memorial. 


Dominion Monarch at Fremantle, January 1941. Credit: State Library of Western Australia.

With Convoy US.8, Dominion Monarch called at Fremantle on 3 January 1941, pausing at Trincomalee on the 12th and arriving at Colombo on the 16th where the convoy was reformed as US.8/1. Dominion Monarch had her third wartime collision, with a coaster, this time off Perim in the Bab-el-Mandeb at the entrance to the Red Sea but with only minor damage, continued through the Suez Canal, and reached Port Said on 29 January. On 1 February 1941 minesweeping Wellingtons exploded a mine right in front of Dominion Monarch as she entered the Suez Canal. Aboard were 300 Abyssinian refugees from the campaign in Eritrea who were landed at  Mombasa on the 16th before continuing to Cape Town (22-25th) and nonstop at Liverpool where she arrived on the 18 March.

H.M.T. Dominion Monarch in the Suez Canal, January 1941. 

Amid Shaw Savill protestations of having such a large and valuable ship having to pass through the Minches without escort or definite route, Dominion Monarch was briefly transferred back to the Liner Requisition Scheme with expectation she would resume trading to the Antipodes. Instead, this was countermanded and her operations were transferred back to the T.97A (Transport) Agreement.  For this, she underwent further expansion of her troop carrying capacity to 1,712 officers and men by converting more of her public rooms into berthing areas. 

Sailing from Liverpool on 24 April 1941, Dominion Monarch arrived on the Clyde the next day. She was then off on her most extensive, indeed world girding voyage to date, departing the Clyde with Convoy WS.8A on the 26th. This was one of the famous "Winston Special" convoy and included Aronda, Empress of Russia, Empress of Asia, Highland Chieftan, Pretoria Castle, Reina del Pacifico, Sobieski and Strathaird whilst the escort included the battle cruiser Repulse. During the voyage south to Freetown, Dominion Monarch and Highland Chieftan collided on 8 May, sustaining damage to her starboardside although the Nelson liner got the worst of the encounter and detained at Freetown (reached on the 9th) for 27 days whilst the Monarch under repair for 19 days.  The convoy broke up at Freetown so that Dominion Monarch proceeded nonstop right round to Durban where she arrived on 27 May. There, her mostly RAF personnel were landed and transferred to another lesser vessel amid considerable complaints! Even in wartime, Dominion Monarch had maintained her reputation it seems. Following further repairs, she sailed on 17 June for another "long haul" all the way to Wellington which was reached on 2 July. She then proceeded to Auckland on the 7th and loaded cargo there.

Royal New Zealand Air Force men aboard Dominion Monarch en route to Halifax, 1941. Credit: New Zealand Air Force Museum.

With a full cargo of meat and a full complement of New Zealand Royal Air Force personnel bound for Canada for training under the Empire Air Training Scheme, Dominion Monarch sailed from Auckland  for  home on 22 July 1941 and for the first time, did so via the Pacific and the Panama Canal.  She made her first transit of the Panama Canal 6-7 August, refuelled at Curacao 10-11th and reached Halifax on the 16th.  

With Convoy TC.12B, which included Empress of Russia and Stratheden, Dominion Monarch left Halifax, carrying RAF airmen who had completed training,  on 26 August 1941 and reached the Mersey on 1 September to conclude her first round-the-world voyage. 

Dominion Monarch was Merseyside for a good six weeks receiving a refit and further improvements and expansion of her troop quarters as the war reach a critical period for Britain and was shortly to be considerably expanded in its scope. 

With another "Winston Special" convoy, WS.12, Dominion Monarch left the Clyde on 29 September 1941 with 1,672 military personnel, in company with a veritable armada of great liners including Cathay, Duchess of Richmond, Dunnottar Castle (still an AMC and with the escort), Empress of Canada, Empress of Japan, Empress of Russia, Franconia, Narkunda, Nieuw Amsterdam, Nova Scotia, Ormonde, Samaria and Strathaird. The convoy paused for water and fuel at Freetown 14-19 October and thence to Cape Town, reached on 5 November.  At sea on the 17th, Dominion Monarch, Duchess of Richmond and Empress of Canada were diverted to form Convoy WS.12J and without Duchess of Richmond (which went independently to Bombay), proceeded to Colombo, calling on the 23rd.  Dominion Monarch, now with 1,559 personnel aboard, and Empress of Canada, with 1,760 troops, reached Singapore on 28 November 1941. 

Whilst in Singapore, then still at peace and still considered Britain's impregnable island fortress, the opportunity was taken to send Dominion Monarch to the Sembawang Naval Dockyard, "The Gibraltar of the East," that was completed in 1938 at a cost of £60 million (£3 billion in current value) for hull cleaning and a complete engine overhaul in the King George VI Graving Dock.  She was in dock when the battleship HMS Prince of Wales arrived at the dockyard along with the battlecruiser Repulse on 4 December 1941. 

With Dominion Monarch's engines being taken to pieces, events around her took on an urgent and tragic pace. On 8 December 1941 the Japanese invaded northern Malaya. That same day, Singapore itself was bombed by 16 G3M bombers and Sembawang Dockyard targeted but not hit.  Prince of Wales and Repulse sortied that day for the west coast of Malaya as Force Z and much of the dockyard's Chinese labour force fled in panic or detailed for defense work.  

All this left Dominion Monarch literally high and dry and with her engine room in disarray. With the fear of renewed air attacks,  only 27 of her engine room crew, led by Chief Engineer A.T. Gibson, managed to get two sets of her diesels put back together while her officers and deck crew worked with a few remaining dockyard workers to flood the graving dock and get her out.  

On 10 December 1941, the same day that brought the shocking news that both Prince of Wales and Repulse had been sunk off Kuantan, Malaya, by Japanese bombers, Dominion Monarch managed to get out of dock, but not before she took on 3,000 tons of fuel oil now surplus to a dockyard with no ships. Two intending passengers, Admiral Sir Geoffrey Layton and Lady Layton, who were returning to Britain after he been relieved as Commander of the Singapore Squadron by Sir Tom Phillips, were told by Rear Admiral Ernest John Spooner of the sinking that day of Prince of Wales and Repulse, and they disemarked just before sailing, having reassumed command of the now almost non-existent Eastern Fleet, the largest vessel of which was the 8,390-ton cruiser Exeter which had arrived in Singapore just in time to help get the Force Z survivors ashore from the overcrowded destroyers.

Her remaining two engines being put back in commission shortly afterwards, Dominion Monarch  made for New Zealand, leaving Sembawang at 1530 hrs and was one of, if not the last British ship to use the drydock there. The dockyard was abandoned on 30 January 1942 and Singapore itself capitulated on 15 February in the worst defeat suffered by British and Empire forces in history.

For his efforts, Dominion Monarch Chief Engineer Gibson was awarded the CBE.

Dominion Monarch safely reached Auckland on 22 December 1941 and her crew spent Christmas there amid the increasingly dire military situation in Asia with Hong Kong falling that day.

Dominion Monarch arrives at Halifax,  February 1942. Credit: H.B. Jefferson photograph, Nova Scotia Archives 


Ringing in a not too Happy New Year at the time at Auckland, Dominion Monarch loaded another capacity cargo of meat, dairy products and wools and embarked 1,157 RNZAF cadets for training in Canada and sailed on 8 January 1942, again via the Pacific and Panama, to accomplish her second  round the world voyage.  Sailing direct for Balboa, she arrived there on the 25th, transited the Panama Canal and arrived at Halifax on 3 February.  Destined for home, Dominion Monarch made up Convoy NA.3 for the Mersey in company with Alcantara and with 1,157 returning RAF airmen aboard, departing on the 11th with three escorts and  docking at  Liverpool on the 19th.

After 27 days unloading her cargo and repairs, Dominion Monarch, together again with Alcantara, left  the Mersey on 22 March 1942 for Oversay (in the Hebrides) to join up with another big troop convoy (WS.17) which included Almanzora, Arundel Castle, Brazil, Cameronia, Duchess of Atholl, Empress of Russia, Franconia, Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, Karanja, Largs Bay, Leopoldville, Mataroa, Monterey, Nieuw Holland, Orion, Oronsay, Samaria, Sobieski, Winchester Castle and Windsor Castle.  This epic assemblage arrived at Freetown on 6 April where Dominion Monarch, Karanja, Largs Bay, Oronsay, Sobieski, Winchester Castle and Windsor Castle broke off to form Convoy WS.17A for Cape Town, arriving there on the 19th. Proceeding independently, Dominion Monarch sailed on the 24th and crossed the Indian Ocean to Bombay where she arrived on 6 May and nine days later continued to Colombo (17-18) and to Fremantle (26) and Sydney, arriving on 2 June after being held off the Heads for several hours owing to reports of Japanese submarines in the area. 

Following her now familiar routine, it was next across the Tasman to Auckland (12-22 June 1942) and Wellington to load cargo for home and NZRAF cadets for Canada. Departing on the 26th, Dominion Monarch transited the Panama Canal 6-8 July and arrived at Halifax on the 14th. In company with Letitia (a ship in later life she would become notoriously acquainted with), the two formed Convoy NA.13, leaving Halifax on the 21st and arriving at Liverpool on the 29th.

Dominion Monarch sails from Halifax, 21 July 1942. Credit: H.B. Jefferson photograph, Nova Scotia Archives 

Dominion Monarch's next trooping voyage begin like her last, leaving Liverpool on 26 August 1942 for the Clyde where she joined Convoy WS.22 which departed two days later for Freetown.  This included such famous names as Alcantara, Almanzora, Andes, Boissevain, California, Felix Roussel, Franconia, Highland Brigade, Highland Chieftain, Highland Princess, Indrapoera, Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, Mataroa, Nea Hellas, Nieuw Holland, Orcades, Orduna, Ranchi, Rangitata, Ruys and Sibajak.  Calling at Freetown 9-13 September, the convoy proceeded to Cape Town which was reached on the 25th. There, the convoy split and Dominion Monarch, Boissevain, California, Franconia, Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, Nieuw Holland and Ruys formed Convoy WS.22B for Bombay where they arrived on 17 October.  On her own from there, Dominion Monarch sailed on the 24th for Australia (Fremantle 3 November) and Sydney 9-14th) and then to Auckland where she docked on the 16th.  There would no detour to Canada this time and when she left Auckland on the 28th, it was nonstop all the way to Liverpool, via the Panama Canal (13-14 December), and after a quick 30-day passage, arrived on the Mersey on the 28th. 

Sadly, Capt. W.G. Summers, who had commanded Dominion Monarch through the worst of the war, fell seriously ill and was taken to hospital on arrival and passed away early in the New Year. He was replaced by Capt. Henry Gibbons who won a DSC for his heroic efforts to try and save Wairangi after she was attacked and damaged in the famous Pedestal Convoy to Malta.

Dominion Monarch in the Clyde c. 1943 after her refit to accomodate 5,556 men and showing the extra lifeboats added aft (swung out in this view). Credit: Scottish Maritime Museum.


Dominion Monarch began the New Year losing her reputation for being one of the least crowded of all transports when she was refitted to accommodate 3,757 men. This was accomplished by sacrificing some cargo space and changing from two-tier berths to three-tier.  Shaw Savill complained that "quite as many men would have been carried in greater comfort had they been consulted before the work had been carried out," but in the Britain of 1943, "the powers that be" held total sway over every aspect of endeavour.  With the additional capacity, she was fitted with a pair of additional boats aft in quadrant davits and considerably more liferafts fitted. 

If her capacity had changed, her routine had not yet and Dominion Monarch's first voyage of 1943 was not too different from those of the previous year, departing from Liverpool on 20 January and joining Convoy WS.26 on the Clyde the following day.  This was rather a smaller a fleet of former liners than previously but included Arundel Castle, California, City of Paris and Dempo. Canton and Cilicia, among the last active AMCs, acted as escorts and the convoy reach Freetown on 6 February. The convoy sailed for Durban on the 9th and arrived there on 25th.  Continuing on 1 March, Bombay was reached on the 17th. 

As per her routine, Dominion Monarch would return to Britain independently but this time only calling at Wellington (30 April-14 May 1943) and instead of going via Panama, went westwards with 3,535 troops, including the 9th Reinforcements of the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force bound for Egypt,  calling at Fremantle (23-26) where she joined Convoy US.19 as far as Aden (7-8 June).  On her own, Dominion Monarch carried on to Suez (11-16th) then back to Colombo (26-28) and Cape Town where she arrived on 10 July. After a prolonged call there, she sailed on 4 August with Convoy CF.13 in company with that other classic British quadruple screw motorliner of the Antipodes, Aorangi, to Pointe Noire, where they called 11-13th before carrying on to Freetown, reached on the 24th. The final leg home was accomplished with Convoy 13.B to Gibraltar (31 August) and coming home to Liverpool on 9 September, landing 3,429 troops, as part of Convoy MKF.22, which was the first British convoy from the Middle East route via Gibraltar after victory in North Africa and Sicily had secured the Mediterranean sealanes. 

It would be "all change" for Dominion Monarch for the rest of 1943 and 1944 amid the transfer of British forces from the Middle East and the Mediterranean and American troops to Britain, all part of the build-up in preparation for in the invasion of Europe.

On her only such voyage, Dominion Monarch left Liverpool on 16 October 1943 as part of Convoy KMF.25 to Egypt which included Bergensfjord, Franconia, Leopoldville, Llangibby Castle, Orbita, Samaria, Staffordshire and Volendam. Port Said was reached on the 31st and once again Egypt was but a fortnight passage away compared to the protracted passage round the Cape. Homewards, Dominion Monarch joined Convoy XIF on 2 November for Augusta (Sicily) where she arrived on the 6th.  With 3,630 returning British troops, including "Monty's Highlanders," the 51st Highlanders, she sailed for home with Convoy MKF.25A and came into the Clyde on the 24th. 

When she returned to Liverpool on 25 November 1943, Dominion Monarch was given a very brief refit.  This included a considerable amount of sand ballast in her capacious but now largely unused holds for she would now undertake a role wholly unusual for her: that of a North Atlantic high capacity transport carrying American forces from New York to Britain in the build-up to D Day.

So it was that on 7 December 1943 that Dominion Monarch became an Atlantic "ferry" and indeed got to do so in "WNA," the dreaded loadline initials for Winter North Atlantic, with her departure from Liverpool for New York where she arrived on the 18th. Westbound crossings, usually lightly loaded (she carried rotating troops, some priority passengers and often German PoWs), were made unescorted, but eastbound, carrying an average of 4,000 troops, was done in convoy. Dominion Monarch also became a de facto Amercian transport in her operation and routines. Her troop berthing areas were changed to the American folding steel "standee" bunks, her messing arrangements changed to conform to American practice and she took on a permanent American staff of trooping officers and warrent officers. 

On the first of these, UT.6, Dominion Monarch sailed from New York on 29 December 1943 with 4,156 troops and with Argentina, Brazil, Christiaan Huygens, Duchess of Richmond, Edmund B. Alexander, Empress of Australia, George S. Simonds, Henry Gibbons, James Parker, Samaria, Santa Paula, Santa Rosa, Thomas H. Barry and Thurston for the Clyde which was safely reached on 8 January 1944. 

Dominion Monarch whilst on American transport duty. Credit: Auckland Libraries Heritage Collection. 


As an Atlantic ferry for the first seven months of the year, Dominion Monarch's routine is best summed up in tabular form

Depart Liverpool 26 January 1944, arrive New York 7 February. Sail New York 11 February  with 4,184 troops with Convoy UT.8, arrived Clyde 23 February.

Depart Liverpool 5 March 1944, arrive New York 13 March. Sail from New York 23 March with 4,322 troops with Convoy UT.10, arrived Clyde 3 April.

Dominion Monarch on arrival at New York from Liverpool, 13 March 1944. Credit: eBay auction photo.

Depart Liverpool 15 April 1944, arrive New York 26 April. Sail from New York 3 May with 3,645 troops with Convoy CU.23, arrived Liverpool 14 May. On this voyage, on 3 May 1944, a submarine periscope was sighted between Dominion Monarch and an escort 'carrier and depth charges dropped by escorting destroyers. 

Depart Clyde 18 June 1944, arrive New York 27 June. Sail from New York 2 July with Convoy CU.30, arrived Clyde 11 July.

Taking a break from her Atlantic routine, Dominion Monarch sailed from the Clyde to Iceland to rotate the occupation force there  with 2,000 British and American troops  on 20 August 1944 with Convoy DS.56, alone, but with two escorts, arriving on the 22nd.  On the return, she sailed the same day, with 2,000 returning troops,  with Convoy SD.56, and came into Gareloch on the 24th.

After a refit, Dominion Monarch resumed her trans-Atlantic duties, sailing from the Clyde on 5 October 1944 with Convoy UC.40A,  29 merchantmen and six escorts, arriving 16 October. Her return was made in Convoy CU.44, a very large convoy of 48 merchantmen and 10 escorts, from New York on the 22nd, arriving Plymouth 1 November and Dominion Monarch returning to Liverpool on the 6th.

There was time for one more round voyage before the year was out, with Dominion Monarch departing Liverpool on 18 November 1944 with Convoy UC.45B and acting as Commodore Ship for the small group of 12 merchantmen and four escorts which arrived at New York on the 30th. Homeward bound with Convoy CU.50 (36 merchantmen including Rangitiki and 10 escorts), Dominion Monarch left New York on 9 December and docked at Southampton on the 21st, her first visit to the Hampshire port since departing on her second voyage back in 1939. She left there on the 23rd and was back in Liverpool on Christmas Day. 

U.S. Navy photo of Dominion Monarch off New York, c. 1944. Credit: Australian War Memorial.


Dominion Monarch begin the New Year  by sailing from Liverpool on 19 January 1945 with Convoy UC.53A, carrying 3,268 troops, for New York. Dominion Monarch detached from this convoy in mid Atlantic to proceed directly for Cristobal (2 February) and transited the Panama Canal on the 3rd. Included in her troop list was a Royal Navy Mobile Naval Air Force Base (MONAB IV) unit to Australia which was landed at Sydney on 21 February. After a long stay there, Dominion Monarch renewed her ties with New Zealand and docked at Wellington on 8 March. Loading cargo for home, she sailed on the 15th for New York via Panama, arriving at New York on 6 April. There, she joined Convoy CU.65, comprising 39 merchantmen and nine escorts, for Liverpool which was reached on the 19th. 

This was followed a similar voyage, which saw Dominion Monarch leave Liverpool on 17 May 1945 with Convoy UC.68A, with 3,139 personnel destined for Australia via Panama. Among these were 710 former Australian PoWs and apparently used to better conditions in captivity in Germany, 50 refused to sail with the ship, complaining about the accommodation, and were returned to a transit camp, amid considerable publicity. 

Dominion Monarch arriving at Sydney, 17 June 1945. Credit: Australian War Memorial.

Coming alongisde her Darling Harbour pier. Credit: Australian War Memorial.

Alongside her pier, Dominion Monarch shows the extra set of lifeboats added aft when her troop capacity was increased in 1943. Credit: Australian War Memorial.

Home! Some of Dominion Monarch's returning Australian servcemen crowd her decks as she is tied up. Credit: Australian War Memorial.

Dominion Monarch transited the Panama Canal on 29-30 May 1945 and reached Sydney on 17 June.  She proceeded from there on the 21st for Melbourne where she arrived on 22 June.  Her homeward voyage commenced on 1 July, via Panama (19-21) and Trinidad (23-24) and concluded at Liverpool on 2 August.

On her first peacetime voyage after VJ Day, Dominion Monarch sailed from Liverpool on 31 August 1945 with 216 RAAF men including five former PoWs and 48 AIF men and personnel of MONAB IX, transiting the Suez Canal on 8-9 September  and embarking 3,000 New Zealand men (including many Māori Division former PoWs who had been captured in Crete)  at Port Tewfik. 

Dominion Monarch arrives at Wellington, 30 October 1945. Credit: New Zealand Archives.

To the dismay of the Australians aboard, first the call at Fremantle planned on 22 September 1945 was cancelled and then that for Sydney for the 27th, too.  Instead, Dominion Monarch proceeded directly to Wellington where she arrived on the 30th with 1,462 men of 2nd NZEF and then to Lyttelton on 1 October. 

Dominion Monarch at Lyttleton. Credit: Banfield Collection, Lyttleton Museum.

The men of the 2nd NZEF who landed at Lyttelton direct from Egypt appreciated their nonstop passage. Credit: The Press, 2 October 1945. 

The Australians who got an unwanted roundtrip to New Zealand before coming home were not as pleased. Credit: The Sun (Sydney), 5 October 1945.

After their unwanted "cruise" to New Zealand, Australian airmen return to Sydney aboard Dominion Monarch on 5 October 1945. Credit: Getty Images.

After their enforced cruise to New Zealand, Dominion Monarch's Australians finally arrived at Sydney on 4 October 1945, happy to be home but thoroughly fed up with transport life, telling reporters "that sleeping conditions were dreadful. The food was good, but in the tropics water was limited to an hour in the morning and an hour at night. Often the men had to go unwashed all day." (The Sun, 5 October 1945).

Looking pretty smart, Dominion Monarch at Sydney, October 1945. Credit: royalnavyresearcharchive

Dominion Monarch at Sydney, October 1945. Credit: royalnavyresearcharchive

During this trip, Dominion Monarch lost one of her maiden voyage records when Mauretania arrived at Durban from Fremantle on 5 September 1945 after an 8-day crossing, compared to the Monarch's 9 and three quarter days. 

Dominion Monarch remained at Sydney's Darling Harbour for two weeks for engine repairs in the course of which,  on 9 October 1945, a crewman, Arthur Morris, aged 39, was killed when a two and half ton piston fell on him whilst he standing near a hoist which raised it five feet out of the cylinder, the hoisting line broke and he was crushed. 

Almost recalling a pre-war sailing, with streamers and newsreel cameras, Dominion Monarch departs from Sydney on 18 October 1945. Credit: Getty Images. 

Not joining in the festivities of sailing were these servicemen, including RCAF and RAF officers who, protesting their alloted accommodation, disembarked and refused to sail. Credit: Sydney Morning Herald, 19 October 1945.

On 18 October 1945 Dominion Monarch sailed from Sydney with 3,500 Royal Navy personnel and several hundred former British PoWs as well as Australian war brides married to British seaman. "Protesting that conditions on board were 'vile,' a number of Australians, former PoWs, 19 RCAF and two RAF officers walked off the repatriation ship, Dominion Monarch, before she sailed, says a Sydney message. The Canadians, all Transport Command air crew officers, complained that they were put in a dormitory containing 204 beds. The accommodation officer said that if they did not like the conditions they could leave the ship. " (Dundee Evening Telegraph, 18 October 1945). 

Calling at Fremantle 22-24 October 1945, Dominion Monarch proceeded direct to Suez (7 November) and arrived at Southampton on the 15th. 

Australian war brides of British sailors were among Dominion Monarch's passengers when she arrived at Southampton on 15 November 1945. Credit: Daily Mirror, 17 November 1945. 

By December 1945, Dominion Monarch had sailed 350,000 miles and during five years of trooping, brought 70,000 tons of cargo including 51,000 tons of food to Britain. She carried 80,000 British and Allied soldiers. For a two-month voyage, the ship was provisioned with 180,000 lbs. of fresh meat, 40,000 lbs. of fish, 60,000 eggs, 160,000 lbs. of flour, 80 tons of potatoes, 25,000 lbs. of butter, 20,000 lbs. of jam and 10,000 lbs. of tea. 

Dominion Monarch truly back home from war, at Swan Hunter, Tyneside, on 18 November 1945. Credit: Shields Evening News, 20 November 1945.

It was high time the hardworking ship had a refit. Sailing from Southampton on 17 November 1945, Dominion Monarch returned the next day to the river of her birth and the yards of Swan Hunter for engine repairs and a general overhaul. The work on the Tyne took under a month and was "restricted to minor immediate repairs and necessary odd jobs, on her release by the Government, the date of which is not yet known, Dominion Monarch is expected to return to the river for a complete refit." (Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 12 December 1945).

Dominion Monarch leaves the Tyne.  Credit: Shields Evening News, 12 December 1945.

With her funnels repainted in Shaw Savill colours again, Dominion Monarch left Swan Hunter at 6:30 a.m. on 12 December 1945, attended by four France Fenwick tugs and to permit the tricky turning of the great ship in the Tyne, all river traffic was stopped from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.. "Handled with skill and precision by the pilot, tug and foyboat men, the ship was clear,of the river and a massive shape in the mist by 9:30 a.m. She is bound for Southampton." (Shields Daily News, 12 December 1945).

Cover of the souvenir magazine public aboard Dominion Monarch for her voyage from England to New Zealand in Dcember 1945-January 1946 carrying the Maori Division. Credit: Massey University Library

Route of the voyage from the magazine. Credit: Massey University Library.

Dominion Monarch's next voyage was one of her most important and celebrated when she returned New Zealand's famous 28th (Māori) Battalion home from Italy.  From Greece and Crete,  the Western Desert and Cassino, the Battalion had fought with courage and distinction and paid a fearful price. Of the 3,600 who served voluntarily in the unit, 649 had been killed, 1,712 wounded and 267 taken prisoner.  Now, the survivors were coming home and doing in so, Dominion Monarch further established herself as New Zealand's Ship of State.

On her present voyage the liner picked up members of the Second New Zealand Division at Taranto,in Italy, and at Suez, in Egypt,including the complete Maori Battalion of between 800 and 900 officers and men. The battalion is taking home a mobile canteen which was presented to it by the Maori children of New Zealand. The canteen served for five years in North Africa and Italy, and was "wounded" three times in the Western Desert.

West Australian 15 January 1946

Sailing from Southampton 17 December 1945, Dominion Monarch called at Naples on the 23rd and at Taranto 25-26th and Port Said on the 29th to embark the regiment and other NZEF forces. In all she had aboard 3,283 military and civilian personnel, consisting of 2,319 servicemen, 832 members of the Māori Battalion and 132 wives and children of Army and Air Force men. 

Transiting the Suez Canal on 31 December 1945, Dominion Monarch arrived at Fremantle at 3:00 p.m. on 14 January 1946. That evening, the band of the Māori Battalion played a concert on the Esplanade in Perth and Dominion Monarch sailed at 7:15 a.m. the following morning. 

The voyage was enjoyed in good weather across the Indian Ocean, but the Tasman offered thick fog which retarded the ship's progress as did 74 mph gales approaching New Zealand so her arrival was put back 24 hours to 23 January 1945, upsetting the plans for a huge welcome on arrival at Wellington. It was planned for Wahine to take South Island troops to Lyttleton but the delay scuppered this arrangement and, instead, it was arranged for Dominion Monarch to take them across Cook Strait instead. Five hours late, but now in brilliant weather, ship came into Wellington to a tremendous welcome and traditional cermonies and an enormous feast put on by the Māori community. It  remains one of the great  welcome homes in the history of the Port of Wellington and one of the proudest moments in the life of Dominion Monarch

Once Dominion Monarch was alongside Pipitea Wharf to the skirl of bagpipes by the Pipes & Drums, 1st Wellington Battalion, she was boarded by the Official Welcoming Party including  the acting-Prime Minister (Hon. W. Nash), the Minister for Defence (Hon. F. Jones), the Minister for Health (Hon. A. H. Nordmeyer). the Minister for Rehabilitation Hon. C. F. Skinner), Mr E. T. Tlrikatene, member of the Executive Council representing the Maori race, and the Mayor, Mr W. Appleton. Mr C. M. Bowden. M.P., represented the Leader of the Opposition.

RETURNING MAORI WARRIORS Ancient Ceremonies in Welcome Wellington. Wednesday.— Ancient Maori ceremonials of welcome will greet the homecoming Maori battalion due here to-day in the Dominion Monarch. Feasts in traditional native style have been planned, with shellfish, eels and smoked trout. These dishes will be brought from the countryside in Army “hot-boxes” after having been cooked by Maori women. A feature of the welcome will be the removal by native priests of the Tapu, a kind of protective prayer with which the Maoris were invested before sailing to fight Nazis.

Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail, 23 January 1946

Māori women were the first to greet Dominion Monarch as she came into view in Wellington Strait in gorgeous weather, 23 January 1946. Credit: Illustrated London News, 2 March 1946.

A Welcome Fit for Heroes... Dominion Monarch carrying the Māori Battalion and other units of the NZEF berthing at Wellington.  Credit: John Pascoe photograph, Alexander Turnbull Library. 

Credit: Illustrated London News, 2 March 1946.

Home...some of the first troops coming down the gangway. Credit: John Pascoe photograph, Alexander Turnbull Library. 


(P.A.) WELLINGTON, Jan. 23. Only the weather marred an otherwise uneventful and happy voyage by the Dominion Monarch, which berthed in Wellington to-day, five hours behind schedule. Lieutenant-Colonel J. I. Thodey, of Wellington, officer commanding the draft, described the trip as uneventful, the behaviour of the men excellent, and the food and conditions very good. 

The vessel encountered rough weather at the beginning and end of the voyage. Between England and the Bay of Biscay the weather was bad. The majority of the New Zealand personnel boarded the transport at Taranto, and perfect conditions prevailed until the final portion of the trip, the worst of which was a. heavy fog in the Tasman Sea, causing the fog-horn to be kept going night and day, and resulting in the date of arrival being put back. The delay was increased by heavy fog and a gale off the New Zealand coast. 

Scheduled to arrive at 7.15 a.m., the Dominion Monarch was not able to enter port till some five hours later. In the meantime disembarkation officers and scores of others, including next-of-kin, among whom Maoris were prominent, were kept waiting in miserable weather. 

By 9 a.m. the conditions had improved, and brilliant sunshine prevailed when the Dominion Monarch berthed at Pipitea wharf to the accompaniment of rousing music by the pipe and brass sections of the band of the Ist Battalion, Wellington Regiment. The area immediately outside the wharf presented an animated scene, being packed with eager next-of-kin and friends. By that stage it was a glorious day, and a glorious homecoming. Eight hundred members of the Maori Battalion were included in the draft. They were given a traditional welcome by hundreds of Maoris who had come from all parts of New Zealand, and later were entertained at a feast.

Press, 24 January 1946

Some of the South Island men who disembarked from Dominion Monarch at Lyttelton. Credit: Press, 25 January 1946.

Dominion Monarch sailed that evening for Lyttelton where she anchored just outside the heads at 6:15 a.m. on 24 January 1946 and commenced disembarking her 848 South Island men by 7:40 a.m.. After a four-hour call, she sailed back to Wellington. 

The war was over but victorious Britain faced a grim first post-war winter with severe fuel and food shortages. Dominion countries stepped up and provided essential food exports and New Zealand in particular as it had done during the war and indeed before it with Dominion Monarch's huge refrigerated cargo capacity making her flagship of the Empire Food Ship Fleet.  Now, her cargoes were never more important. 

On Dominion Monarch's voyage home, beginning from Wellington on 9 February 1946 (and her first destined for London Docks since the war began), she and Paparoa had 6,134 tons of meat, 1,125 tons of butter, and 6,000 tons of cheese in their holds, Dominion Monarch having 40,407 crates of cheese and 45,000 boxes of butter.  Among her passengers were ex British POWs who arrived at Wellington the previous October on hospital ships Maunganui and Tjitjalengka for rest and recuperation, some had still not recovered and would stay in ship's hospital for the voyage.  Dominion Monarch called en route at Sydney, Fremantle, Hong Kong (where she embarked 150 former British PoWs and internees) and Bombay (arriving 1 March) where she embarked the 1st Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment. After transiting Suez on the 17th,  she docked at Southampton on the 24th and then proceeded to London, berthing in the King George V Dock on the 27th. 

The Shields Daily News of 26 March 1946 hopefully reported that Dominion Monarch was expected to arrive on the Tyne "about October"  for reconversion back to a passenger liner.  

Sailing from London in late April, bound for Durban, via Suez, Dominion Monarch passed Gibraltar on 2 May, transited the Suez Canal on 7-8th and called at Mombasa on 3 June. She reached Durban on the 10th and made a quick turnaround, being reported at Port Said on the 15th and Gibraltar on the 19th. Dominion Monarch arrived at Southampton on the 23rd. 

It was reported on 27 June 1946 that Shaw Savill "hoped" that Dominion Monarch would be released from government service by December, following Arawa which was the first of company's liners returned in August. 

Meanwhile, Dominion Monarch was assigned to complete the transport of the last British wives and children of Australian servicemen to their new homes in Australia.  Now completely repainted in Shaw Savill livery, she left Tilbury on 26 July 1946 with 264 brides and dependents for Australia and Wellington via Suez. 

Dominion Monarch coming alongside Fremantle on 18 August 1946. Credit: West Australian, 19 August 1946.

Some of the war brides and their children who arrived in Dominion Monarch at Fremantle.

During the course of the voyage, complaints arose over conditions on Dominion Monarch among wives who objected to sharing 8-10-berth cabins, one citing '"appalling conditions aboard.' One woman who saw off her daughter at sailing said "I was  very disgusted with the cabin in which Sheila is travelling. She shares it with 13 other brides and there are seven other babies in the cabin." When she arrived at Fremantle on 17 August  1946 after a rough voyage (sailing the next day for Melbourne), many who disembarked there  discounted the compaints, one saying "the food was quite good and the officers and stewards were helpful. There was plenty of entertainment on board." 

Cold and blustery weather did not deter onlookers on Station Pier as Dominion Monarch arrived at Melbourne. Credit: Getty Images.

Fine study of Dominion Monarch coming into Melbourne. Note her wartime radar atop her wheelhouse and restoration of her peacetime livery except for the Shaw Savill houseflag on her prow. Credit: Allan C. Greene photograph, State Library of Victoria. 

Dominion Monarch alongside Melbourne's Station Pier, 18 August 1946, with the 470 tons of new car and truck tyres she would load for Wellington.  Credit: Argus, 23 August 1946. 

When Dominion Monarch arrived at Wellington on 28 August 1946, she had aboard  165 New Zealand service personnel, 78 wives and fiancees, and 24 children from the United Kingdom, as well as 426 civilian passengers  from Melbourne.  She was also carrying eight officers and 70 other ranks of the Fijian contingent returning from participating in the London victory parade. The Fijians left  Wellington for Auckland by train and then sailed to Fiji in Viti in two groups.  

The returning Fijian servicemen aboard Dominion Monarch who landed at Wellington en route to returning their island. The Press, 30 August 1946.

The homeward Dominion Monarch arrived at Sydney on 1 October 1946 with 509 passengers, but due to delay in cargo loading left at dawn on the 3d rather than 2nd as scheduled. After calling at Fremantle on the 8th, it was a direct passage across the Indian Ocean and transit of the Suez Canal on 22-23rd and arrival at Tilbury on the 31st. She proceeded to London Docks on 2 November. 

During the course of the voyage it was prematurely announced Dominion Monarch would proceed to the Tyne for conversion back to civilian use along with Strathaird.  Instead, it was stated on 25 October 1946 that she would instead have to remain in government service until spring 1947. 

Shaw Savill Manager S.E. Williams announced on 12 November 1946 post-war plans. Arawa would be first reconditioned and resume one-class tourist service from the UK to New Zealand via Panama and eventually be joined by Tamaroa and Mataroa.  The new Corinthic, first of four new all First Class ships, would be commissioned by March 1947. "The reconditioned Dominion Monarch was expected to re-enter her normal service via South Africa later in 1947, carrying first-class passengers as hitherto, but with an increased number of private bathrooms." (West Australian, 13 November 1946). 

Credit: The Age, 24 December 1946.

On her next voyage, Dominion Monarch, for the first time since 1940, duplicated her pre-war regular route, sailing from London (Tilbury) with 1,000 passengers on 24 November 1946 for Wellington, calling at Las Palmas (30) and arriving at Cape Town 9 December.  Seven days out, passengers began to come down with severe intestinal pains, diarrhoea and vomiting and within four days, some 600 were affected.  The ship's surgeon had to enlist the aid of doctors travelling as passengers aboard and the cause of the illness was initially suspected be food poisoning but it was also suspected the ship's water tanks may have become contaminated.  By the time Cape Town was reached on 9 December, most had recovered and the voyage continued on the 10th, Dominion Monarch making straight for Melbourne where she docked on the 23rd. There, 44 NZEF men, mostly from Japan, embarked and with 932 passengers still aboard, Dominion Monarch reached Wellington, five hours later owing to fog off the coast, on the 28th. 

Dominion Monarch arrived at Wellington in the middle of a strike by waterside labour and only cabin luggage was brought ashore by the crew.  Heavy baggage would be unloaded and dispatched later. As the strike continued, there was concern Dominion Monarch would not be able to load her essential outbound cargo of foodstuffs for Britain.  On 8 January 1947 a letter was received by the editor of the Dominion "signed by the crew" of the liner:  

We of the crew of the Dominion Monarch are surprised to hear of the waterside workers and their grievances, especially when the newspapers and the radio are always referring to serious food shortages in Britain, with such slogans as ‘Help Britain,’ ‘Aid Britain by saving food coupons,’ and ‘Britain helped us during the Var, now it’s up to us to show our thanks.’ This is all very well as long as ships get loaded as quickly as possible. Give us a chance and we will, load our own ship. We are looking for something to pass the time away during our stay here as We have to make work on ship.

This prompted a second letter to the press:

We the undersigned, wish to dissociate ourselves from the letter signed ‘The Crew, Dominion Monarch,’ which was written without the knowledge or assent of a great majority of the crew. It is significant that the author stays anonymous. We are unaware of his identity. “While some of us consider the watersiders’ attitude as somewhat unreasonable in these times, ‘blacklegging’ on our part is' unthinkable. Many of us who are able would be willing‘to help load the ship provided the parties concerned were agreeable (primarily the Watersiders’ Union). “We would suggest that such trouble-making letters, unless signed by the writer and supporters, should not be printed.— We are, etc., P. J. Jefferies, of the ship’s catering department, and 153 others. 

Thirty of the signatures attached were from the deck department, 116 from the catering department, and eight from the engine department. Fortunately, the strike was settled in time to unload Dominion Monarch and ship her vitally needed outbound cargo.  

After Wanganella grounded on Barrett's Reef at the entrance to Wellington Harbour on 20 January 1947, most of her intending passengers for Sydney took passage in Dominion Monarch, although there was not space for all of her 150 crew members, 60 being accommodated. Passenger space was indeed at a premium and this was the first sailing in several years to offer passage direct to South Africa with 75 booked, some having been in the waiting list for two and a half years. 

An exceptionally smart-looking Dominion Monarch at Wellington, January 1947. Credit: National Library of New Zealand.

When Dominion Monarch sailed from Wellington on 31 January 1947, she had 555 passengers for Sydney alone, 5 for Melbourne, 28 for Fremantle and 40 for Britain. Continuing her vital "Food Ship" role, there were 163,785 carcasses of lamb, 8,010 carcasses of mutton. 2,990 sides of pork. 415 sides and 54 quarters of veal, 174 quarters of beef. 67,055 boxes of butter, 2,080 bags of sugar, 40,581 crates of cheese, and, 1,000 packages of offal in her holds   Shaw Savill told the gentleman in Australia who wished to ship 200 parrots and 10,000 finches from Fremantle to London that it was "food before parrots" and refused the consignment, saying the birds would occupy some 600 cu. ft. of vitally needed cargo space. There was, however, room for the champion New Zealand racing horse Master Dash bound for Futurity Stakes in Sydney.

Almost like pre-war days, the still austerity class Dominion Monarch was properly "farewelled" as she sailed from Melbourne on 9 February 1947. Credit: The Age, 10 February 1947.

Dominion Monarch arriving at Cape Town. Credit: shipmate17,

Dominion Monarch at Cape Town. Restored to peacetime colours but still showing her stern platform and extra lifeboats aft. 

Dominion Monarch called at Sydney (3-5 February 1947) where British boxing star Ronnie James embarked for South Africa.  The liner's arrival at Melbourne on the 7th was delayed several hours owing to thick fog outside Port Phillip Heads and consequently her sailing was put back to the 8th. At Fremantle, there were 12 other ships in port when Dominion Monarch arrived on the 12th and even with 1,000 stevedores at work, there were no gangs available for her and her crew had to load stores for the ship themselves. Proceeding to Cape Town (25th and Las Palmas (7 March), she docked at Southampton on the 11th and ended her voyage at London on the 13th. 

Dominion Monarch sailed from London on 2 April 1947 for Bombay via Mombasa. Transiting Suez on the 11th, she called at Aden on the 14th and arrived at Mombasa on the 18th. She sailed the next day for Bombay, arriving there on the 24th.  Homeward bound, Dominion Monarch was off again on the 27th for a direct return voyage to England, passing Aden on 1 May, transiting the Suez Canal on the 3-4, passing Gibraltar on the 8th and docking at Tilbury on the 12th.

Crossing The Line ceremony aboard Dominion Monarch, 1947. Credit: Capuchin Archives.

On her final voyage "On HM Service," Dominion Monarch sailed from London on 31 May 1947, passed Gibraltar on 3 June, arrived Port Said on 7th and left Suez on the 10th.  Calling at Aden on the 13th, she docked at Mombasa on the 17th and sailed two days later for Durban, arriving there on the 23rd. Homewards, she retraced her route, calling at Mombasa on 1-4 July and at Aden on the 7th. After transiting the Suez Canal, Dominion Monarch put into Naples on the 14th, passed Gibraltar on the 16th and arrived at Southampton on the 19th. Proceeding to London, she berthed in King George V Dock on the 21st.  After almost eight years wide ranging service, Dominion Monarch's duty was finally done and she was returned to her owners.  

Q.S.M.V. Dominion Monarch, Southampton. Credit: cunarder61,

Q.S.M,V. Dominion Monarch, Cape Town. Credit: brandane,

Q.S.M.V. Dominion Monarch, Wellington. Credit: Whites Aviation photograph, Alexander Turnbull Library. 

Showing no trace of her extensive trooping service in the war years and with the acme of comfort, cleanliness, and convenience, the Shaw Savill and Albion Company’s 26,463-ton liner Dominion Monarch berthed yesterday afternoon on completion of her first visit after an extensive refit which occupied 15 months and cost nearly £1,500,000. Gone are the rails on which thousands of British and American servicemen carved their names, whiling away time on their journeys to and from the battlefields of Europe, the Middle East, and the Far East. The saloons, lounges, and drawing rooms, which resounded to the tramp of heavy feet, are now softly carpeted and lavishly refurnished with beautifully-upholstered easy chairs and settees to provide comfort for the 510 passengers she can accommodate.

Otago Daily Times, 29 January 1949.

Dominion Monarch during her post-war years was the pride of New Zealand and rebounded greatly to the credit of Shaw Savill. She made large profits for us during the war and after, and because of altered conditions the problem of building sister ships never arose. 

Of Ships and Sealing Wax.

Tried in peace, tested in war, Dominion Monarch was finally to settle down to the trade for which she was built, fulfill the ambitions of her owners, exceed the expectations of her passengers and link Northern Star with Southern Cross across 13,500 ocean miles, twixt Mother Country and three far-flung Dominions. For a brief but eventful 13 years of post-war service--  cleaving through Cape Rollers, besting the gales of the Roaring Forties in the Indian Ocean, riding the swells of the Great Australian Bight and taming the tempests of the Tasman,  to reach Wellington Heads 35 days after passing the Needles-- Dominion Monarch reigned supreme in the Southern Latitudes. 

The second biggest vessel ever built on Tyneside and the largest refrigerated liner in the world, the 27,150-ton Dominion Monarch is expected back in the river at the end of this month or in early August. She will go to the Wallsend yard of Swan, Hunter and Wigham Richardson Ltd. her birthplace, for refit and reconversion after wartime trooping service. The work will last for several months. The Monarch was completed in 1939 for Shaw, Savill and Albion Co., Ltd., and worked on Australian routes. During the war she covered 400,000 miles and carried 80,000 troops.

Shields Daily News, 18 July 1947

In a welcome homecoming for the ship at her birthplace, Dominion Monarch arrived back on the Tyne at midnight 7-8 August 1947 and taken by France Fenwick tugs to Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson's Wallsend yards and was alongside by 8:30 a.m.  She was piloted down the river by Robert Duncan, a South Shields pilot for 35 years, who also took Dominion Monarch out from the Tyne on her delivery voyage. 

Dominion Monarch en route to the Tyne for refitting, possibly taken leaving Southampton. Credit: Norsk Maritimt Museum 

Dominion Monarch arrives back on the Tyne for her post-war conversion. Credit: Shields Evening News, 10 August 1947.

The 27,150 ton liner Dominion Monarch arrived in the Tyne to-day to be refitted by her builders, Swan, Hunter and Wigham Richardson, Ltd., of Wallsend. The liner, which has carried 80,000 troops since taken into war service, will be at her berth for the rest of this year before she can be restored to her former condition.

Just how quickly this can be done depends on the speed with which materials are made available. All Tyne shipyards are suffering severe delays in the completion of their contracts owing to the difficulty of supplies and. in particular, the many small furnishings necessary to luxury fitments. 

One factor raising the hopes of shipbuilders is that the Queen Mary has now been completed. She was a heavy drain upon available supplies. The Dominion Monarch is lying near other big conversion jobs such as the Strathaird at Walker-on-Tyne, the Queen of Bermuda and the famous Pacific leave ship, Menetheus, upon which a brewery had been installed to supply the Navy in the Far East. 

Some labour will become available and in all probability will be absorbed when the last ship of Shipbuilding Corporation, Ltd., of Walker-on-Tyne, is launched next week. Certain other work such as the making of railway wagons may be found for the yard. but nothing like the same amount of labour will be required. 

Yorkshire Post & Leeds Intellingencer, 9 August 1947

On 15 August 1947 Dominion Monarch was moved from Swan Hunters to dry dock at Palmer's yard, Hebburn. She was there for seven weeks and on 4 October was back at Wallsend.

It will be some months yet before we see the Tyne's other two big liner-conversion jobs— Dominion Monarch and Queen of Bermuda—nearing completion. They're being done as best as the supply of labour and materials will permit, but I find people hesitating when it comes to fixing a finishing date. The Dominion Monarch is wanted urgently on the Australian route, where she will help to carry emigrants, is now expected to be ready by November,

Shields Daily News, 8 June 1948

With the arrival at the end of June of Georgic, the Tyne was packed with four great liners (Dominion Monarch, Strathmore and Queen of Bermuda being the others) undergoing post-war conversions.

Finally, on 27 July 1948 it could be announced that Dominion Monarch would sail from London on her first voyage after conversion on 16 December. By 24 September Dominion Monarch was again in dry dock at Hebburn for complete repainting and returned to Wallsend on 8 October. 

Still the Pride of the Tyne, Dominion Monarch departs on her post-conversion trials. Credit: The Sphere, 20 November 1948.

After 15 months, it was reported on 29 October 1948 that Dominion Monarch would leave Swan Hunter's on 1 November for trials.  She left the yard at 1:00 p.m., towed stern first, to Jarrow Slake, to be turned and passed the South Shields piers between 2:30 p.m.-3:00 p.m. The trials were run in an an area extending from Aberdeen to the Wash and successfully completed, Dominion Monarch returned to Swan Hunter on the 4th after trials.

Leaving the Tyne on 13 November 1948 on her delivery voyage to Tilbury, Dominion Monarch numbered among the 200 guests aboard for the trip, Alfred Barnes, Minister of Transport, Sir Cyril Hurcomb, chairman of the British Transport Commission and W.E. Keville, General Manager of Shaw Savill.

Credit: Wanganui Chronicle, 17 November 1948.

It will be recalled that Basil Sanderson had opposed the construction of Dominion Monarch back in 1937 on many grounds: the commitment to the Cape route he felt was less reumerative than that via Panama, the sheer size of the vessel and her all First Class accommodation instead of Tourist Class that would fulfill the need for emigrant space. Instead, he had advocated building smaller ships suitable for  both the Panama and Cape routes.  Now, as Chairman of Shaw Savill from 1945-1963, Sanderson's views regarding future passenger tonnage prevailed and were first evidenced in the last ships designed by R.J. Noal and ordered in 1945:  Corinthic (47), Athenic (47), Ceramic (48) and Gothic (48) which were in some respect half-sized (15,600grt) versions of Dominion Monarch with turbine machinery but still all First Class and designed to be share the Panama and Cape routes. The immigrant traffic would be handled for time being by the pre-war Mataroa and Tamaroa on the Panama route and Arawa via the Cape, all carrying one-class Tourist.

Meanwhile, Sanderson and Shaw Savill management had to make Dominion Monarch a paying proposition in a vastly changed post-war world. What would have been envisioned as the first of a quartet, was now a "lone wolf" and owing to the lengthy time required to work her enormous cargoes both in London and New Zealand limited the vessel to three, if that, round voyages per annum, further exacerbated by post-war port congestion and labour issues. Consequently, on 18 November 1948 the company announced that for her first voyage, at least, she would carry but half her normal cargo and would load homeward cargo at Wellington only to keep her turnaround to a maxium of 32 days.

'Whether we can make the Dominion Monarch a successful ship or not depends on her quick turn-round in New Zealand,' said Mr W. E. Keville, general manager of the Shaw Savill Line, who will sail in the ship on her first return journey. 'To be successful the Dominion Monarch must make at least two trips and a half.between England and New Zealand every year—we anticipated that she would make three yearly before the war—and this means that to keep to her schedule she must turn round in New Zealand in a maximum of 32 days. As an experiment and to ensure a 32-day turn-round, the Dominion Monarch will carry only half her normal cargo on this first trip and will discharge and load only at Wellington. She will go to no other ports in New Zealand on this occasion. If this experiment is successful, and we think it can be arranged, she may also call at other ports during subsequent trips.'

Press, 18 November 1948

Mr. Neville added the turn round rate in New Zealand had been influenced to a large extent by congestion of shipping and other factors. During his visit to New Zealand—the first for 12 years—he would discuss general shipping conditions with all interested parties. 'Obviously,' he added, 'we wish to make the fullest use of the Dominion Monarch’s cargo capacity on all her voyages to New Zealand, and hope that once the ship re-enters the service, co-operation by all concerned in New Zealand will enable us to turn this ship round in a minimum possible number of days and thus enable her to visit both Wellington and Auckland during her future visits. The present shortage of shipping space is being giadually overcome, and with the need to make the fullest possible use of the Dominion Monarch’s cargo space, we are hoping for an expeditious turn round in New Zealand.'

Wanganui Chronicle, 17 November 1948

Dominion Monarch alongside King George V Dock, London, a few days before sailing on first post-war commercial voyage. Credit: Press, 16 December 1948.

Hosted by Shaw Savill's General Manager W.E. Keville, a luncheon celebrating Dominion Monarch's return to service was held aboard, alongside King George V Dock, on 4 December 1948 attended by Sir John Anderson, Chairman of the Port of London Authority.

Dominion Monarch sailing from Southampton. Credit: Bekin & Sons, Cowes.

Commanded by Sir Henry Gordon, DSC, Dominion Monarch sailed from London on 16 December 1948 for Wellington via Southampton, Las Palmas, Cape Town, Durban, Fremantle, Melbourne and Sydney. 

Her outbound cargo included machinery and motorcars and, indeed, when she called at Southampton the following day among the 500 passengers embarking there was Lord Nuffield, founder of Morris Motors, off on a trade tour to South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Space in her holds was left for a 200-ton consignment of frozen fish for Australia to be loaded at Cape Town.  Other notables aboard included The Australian Minister for External Affairs and Attorney-General (Dr. L V. Evatt), who is returning from abroad; Mr. W. Black, M.L.C. of New Zealand, and Senator W. J. Cooper, who attended the London meeting of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association; Mr. G. E. Harland, managing director of Robert Jowitt and Sons, of Bradford, who will spend about six weeks in Western Australia discussing wool matters and Mr. Isador Goodman, the famous pianist. 

Lord Nuffield, aboard for the maiden post-war voyage, poses in front of Dominion Monarch with a new Morris Oxford. Credit: Norman Young,

One of Dominion Monarch's crew members was Alfred "Alf" Lennon, John Lennon's father, who served in the steward's department until December 1949. 

Serving in the steward dept. aboard Dominion Monarch for her first year back in service, was Alfred ("Alf") Lennon (centre), father of John Lennon, shown aboard with shipmates. 

Calling at Las Palmas on 22 December 1948, Dominion Monarch had a fine run down to Cape Town where she arrrived on the 31st. En route, Lord Nuffield showed his prowess at deck tennis, winning 2nd place in a contest and being awarded, appropriately, a miniature toy Morris Minor, which he showed off to the press upon arrival.

Dominion Monarch's post-war return to Sydney. Credit:


Credit: The Age, 15 January 1949.

Credit: The Age, 19 January 1949

Dominion Monarch arrived at Fremantle on 12 January 1949 where a large crowd on Victoria Quay welcomed her. Among those joining the ship there were The Lord Mayor of Perth (Mr. Totterdell), the manager for Australia of the Shaw Savill line (Mr. W. D. Donaldson) and the Australian shipping manager of Dalgety and Co. Ltd. (Mr. H. M. Watson).

It was a rough passage across the Great Australian Bight and 24 hours out from Melbourne, spray flew over the decks, only half the passengers made it to meals in the dining room and crockery and glassware broken in the lounge during tea. Four hours late, Dominion Monarch arrived at Melbourne on 17 January 1949, landing 43 passengers there. She had averaged 19 knots across from England.  

Two hundred fifty guests will be entertained at a cocktail party aboard the Dominion Monarch at Prince's Pier, Port Melbourne, late this after noon. They will be able to view the ship, which since her last appearance in Australia, has been reconditioned throughout. The Captain (Sir Henry Gordon) and the Victorian manager of the Shaw Savill (Mr Alec McLean) and Mrs McLean, will receive the guests. Among the many representative people present will be the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress. The party will be held in the smoke-room and the verandah cafe.

The Herald, 17 January 1949

Dominion Monarch on arrival at Sydney and some of the personalities aboard: from left: Mr. Frank Gold, governing director of Goldberg Advertising; Kay Bagot, winner of a Western Australian beauty contest; Sir J. Milne Barbour, member of the Ulster Parliament; Sir Geoffrey Taylor, English scientist who was present at the Bikini atom bomb tests; and Dr. Evatt, Australian Minister for External Affairs. Credit: Sun, 20 January 1949.

Late on 20 January 1949, Dominion Monarch passed out of Sydney Heads and into the Tasman Sea and enjoying fine weather, made fair passage to what would always been her second home and her reason for being: New Zealand. 

Dominion Monarch approaching Wellington for the first time in two years, 24 January 1949. Credit: Evening Post. 

A dressed overall Monarch coming into Wellington Harbor. Credit: S.C. Smith photograph.

Credit: S.C. Smith photograph, New Zealand Maritime Museum.

Dominion Monarch at Wellington. Credit:

'My company, the oldest of the shipping companies trading to New Zealand, is very proud in the ninetieth year of its history to bring the Dominion Monarch back again into service following her distinguished war record,' said Mr W. Errington Keville, a director and general manager of the Shaw Savill Company, when he arrived in the ship. 'We are at present, with the New Zealand authorities in London, giving close attention to the problem of conveying to New Zealand those anxious to make their homes in this lovely country,' he added. 

Otago Daily Times, 29 January 1949

In her first visit to the port in two years, Dominion Monarch had a memorable return to Wellington in fine but very windy weather on 28 January 1949 as the city and New Zealand welcomed their greatest liner and Ship of State home. She landed 475 passengers there.

The reintroduction of Dominion Monarch to the New Zealand run was one thing, but paled in comparison with the interest focused on her return voyage from Wellington on 26 February 1949 taking New Zealand's 1949 cricket team to England. This has been announced well before the ship had left England and an eagerly anticipated highlight of her return to service. The send off for the team included a State farewell at the Parliament Buildings in Wellington the day before as well as being received by the Governor-General at Government House that afternoon and a reception at the British High Commissioner's resident on the morning of departure. 

As for the ship herself, she was in fact loaded and ready to depart by 23 February 1949, as the Wellington Waterside Workers' Union was quick to point out, proving that Shaw Savill's concern over turning around the ship was unfounded at least with a reduced load. Yet, of course, as a passenger vessel running to schedule, she could not depart early. Already, the conflicting aspects of a cargo-passenger ship were in evidence on a big scale.

All that mattered was Dominion Monarch and the Cricket Team safely on their way at noon on 26 February 1949 which was accomplished amid much celebration and occasion.

The New Zealand cricket team left for Sydney at noon today en route to England by the Dominion Monarch and was given a great farewell from friends and the public generally as it went up the gangway. The Dominion Monarch, with a full complement of passengers, was accompanied to the Heads by an escort of launches and yachts. Before the team boarded the ship it was entertained at morning tea by the High Commissioner for the United Kingdom (Sir Patrick Duff). The reception was strictly informal and no speeches were made.

Northern Advocate, 26 February 1949

The New Zealand 1949 team aboard Dominion Monarch prior to sailing. Credit: New Zealand Cricket Museum. 

Fine weather and large crowd of onlookers on Wellington's Queen's Wharf to see off New Zealand's cricket team on Dominion Monarch's homeward voyage, 26 February 1949. Credit: Evening Post photograph, New Zealand Libraries.

During the call at Sydney on 1 March 1949, the New Zealand Cricket team attended the Kippax-Oldfield Testimonial Match whilst embarking for South Africa were two New South Wales tennis players who would join the Australian team playing there. Additional members of the team joined the ship at Melbourne where she arrived on the 3rd just before a 19-hour work stoppage by all waterfront and tug workers. The crew had to load passengers' luggage aboard and  Dominion Monarch sailed from Station Pier unaided,  her 480 passengers  farewelled by more than 1,000 on the quayside.  

Dominion Monarch sails under Sydney Harbour Bridge, 1 March 1949. Credit: New Zealand Cricket Museum.

Credit: The Age, 4 March 1949.

Dominion Monarch called at Fremantle on 8 March 1949, Durban (17), Cape Town (19-20), Las Palmas (29) and arrived at Southampton on 2 April.

The New Zealand Cricket Team on arrival at Southampton 2 April 1949. Credit:

Dominion Monarch's next voyage and remarkably only her fourth commercial one since 1939, which began on 5  May 1949 from London (calling the next day at Southampton), was notable for being her first "normal" and "routine" trip since entering service as she finally settled into the routine life of a working passenger-cargo ship, largely out of the headlines.  She called at Cape Town on the 20th where she embarked some of the returning Australian tennis team and arrived at Fremantle on the 31st.  With 400 passengers aboard, Melbourne was reached on the morning of 4th  in high winds and conditions a dockman called "the worst for years," and she could not get alongside until 4:00 p.m., six hours late. Consequently, she did not dock at Sydney until the 7th at 7:30 a.m. but was off again by 7:00 p.m. Among those disembarking at Wellington on 10 June were the new French Ambassador to New Zealand, M. Emmanuel Lancial.

Dominion Monarch passing out of the Wellington Heads, Sydney-bound, 9 July 1949. Credit: Whites Aviation photograph, Alexander Turnbull Library. 

Keeping to schedule was becoming an issue for Dominion Monarch and she was having a hard time making up time owing to delays en route,  as reported in the Press, 9 July 1949: "As the engines of the liner Dominion Monarch have been giving about 19 to 21 knots instead of the usual speed of about 25 knots, two special engineers have been sent by an English engine-building firm to attend to them. This was stated yesterday by an official of the Shaw Savill and Albion Company, who added that the trouble was not serious and it was expected that the engines would be running normally soon."

Dominion Monarch (which sailed from Southampton on 8 September 1949) continued to figure in New Zealand sporting life and on the 23rd the All Blacks received a great send off as they sailed from Cape Town for home that evening to conclude a 24-match tour of the Union, of which they won 14, lost seven and tied three. 

Credit: The Age, 10 October 1949.

Dominion Monarch called at Fremantle on 4 October 1949, Melbourne on the 8th (with 517 passengers aboard) Among those landing at Melbourne were four Rover Scouts, aged 19-20, who were returning from the "moot" in Norway and and who all worked their passage home as stewards aboard, earning 7 a week, and Sir Newsome Smith, the former Lord Mayor of London. and found herself the "target" of a joint Australia and New Zealand naval task form on a training exercise approaching Sydney Heads off the Australian coast on the 10th: "Passengers on the liner Dominion Monarch, approaching Sydney Heads, steamed through the fleet while Fireflies and Furies engaged in mock attacks on the cruisers, and the sky was speckled with the burst of sub-calibre antiaircraft fire." (Herald, 11 October 1949). She exchanged signals with H.M.A.S. Sydney and arrived at Sydney at 4:00 p.m. on the 10th. Wellington was reached on the 14th.

Members of the All Blacks aboard Dominion Monarch upon at Wellington, returning from South African tour. Gisbourne Herald, 16 October 1949.

'Home,' remarked one All Black as he extended his palm to catch the rain that was falling when the Dominion Monarch, carrying the team, berthed this morning. The players as a whole looked bronzed and fit. The wharves were completely jammed with enthusiastic friends and well-wishers of the team. The public was not allowed alongside the vessel, but was held back by a strong contingent of police. The Mayor of Wellington, Mr W. Appleton, was one of the first to welcome the team, going out in the pilot boat. The president of the New Zealand Rugby Union, Mr D. S. Max, and members of the council were waiting on the wharf.

Otago Daily Times, 15 October 1949

When Dominion Monarch left Wellington on 12 November 1949 she took out 7,000 Christmas parcels for Britain and arrived  at Southampton 16 December.

When half unloaded of her inbound cargo, tally clerks working Dominion Monarch at London Docks went on strike on 29 December 1949 when one man was discovered not to be a union member. This quickly spread to three other ships (Australia Star, Arawa and Largs Bay) in King George V Dock and involving 100 tally clerks and holding up  unloading of vitally needed foodstuffs. 

Dominion Monarch arriving at Cape Town. Credit: eBay auction photo.


When Dominion Monarch (which sailed from London 15 January 1950) arrived at Fremantle on 10 February, a stowaway, a 19-year-old merchant seaman, Eric Rigg, was finally discovered aboard after 32 days.  The harbour was so jammed with ships that the Blue Funnel Line's Charon, which arrived the previous day from Singapore, was obliged to give up her berth to Dominion Monarch, and anchor in Gage Roads and the inbound Lauro Lines' Surriento had to wait until the afternoon to dock after the Shaw Savill flagship left. 

Then, 24 hours after leaving Fremantle, the crankshaft of one of the Monarch's motors broke and the sprocket wheel fell into the engine casing. Only slight damage was done, as the wheel lodged on a ledge inside the engine casing, preventing it from falling into the crankpit.  Rather than holding up the ship by making repairs at sea, the chain was removed from the sprocket wheel and the engine allowed to idle, dropping her speed from 19.75 knots to 17.  As she continued to Melbourne, a share shaft was machined in the ship's workshop.  A day late, Dominion Monarch arrived at Melbourne on the 14th and the new shaft was fitted that evening and she could sail, albeit late, to Sydney.

When Dominion Monarch reached Sydney on 16 February 1950 with 350 passengers,  further delayed by fog outside the harbour, she made up a trio of the largest ships then trading to Australia with Himalaya and Georgic also in port, totalling 81,887 tons.

Approaching Cook Strait the morning of 20 February 1950 after a remarkably smooth Tasman crossing, the ship hit a rough patch and went over some 22 degrees, described by an officer as the biggest roll the ship had yet experienced. After a difficult voyage, Dominion Monarch and her 431 passengers arrived at Wellington on the 21st. 

Dominion Monarch at Wellington in 1950. Credit: New Zealand Railways photograph, courtesy torrens/

Among her outbound cargo for Britain, Dominion Monarch loaded the first big consignment of apples from Nelson, New Zealand. She sailed for England on 17 March 1950, calling at Sydney (20), Melbourne (22), Fremantle (26), Durban and Cape Town (6 April).  There, she was tied up stern to stern with Capetown Castle presenting an unusual meeting of Britain's largest motorliners. Dominion Monarch came into Southampton on the 20th.  When she at London, she was did so amidst another  dock strike, idling 39 ships and 7,951 dock workers and threatening perishable foodstuffs aboard 11 of the vessels, but this was settled in time to enable her unloading. 

Curiously, there were rumours on Tyneside reported by Shields Daily News, 19 April 1950, that Dominion Monarch might be returning for alterations to her accommodation that were discounted by both Swan Hunter and Shaw Savill and, as it turned out, did not materialise. 

After an uneventful voyage, Dominion Monarch arrived at Wellington on 16 June 1950 and three days into her unloading, the port was paralysed by a strike which originated over a dispute over extra pay for unloading a cargo of lampblack from Myrtlebank. Thirty-eight ships, including 11 overseas vessels, among them the Dominion Monarch, were idled by the strike. The New Zealand Minister for Labor (Mr. Sullivan) said the actual amount of money involved in the Myrtlebank dispute was about £5. On the 21st, the Waterside Workers' Union consented to permit unloading of South African grapes and oranges from Dominion Monarch before they spoiled.  The walkout was ended shortly afterwards and Dominion Monarch sailed for England on 13 July 1950, arriving at Southampton on 17 August.

On 15 July 1950, the death of Capt. R.J. Noal in London was reported.  The Marine Superintendent for Shaw Savill from 1909-1945, he was responsible for the design of the most of line's ships during this period, including, of course, Dominion Monarch and his last ships were the new Corinthic quartet of 1947-1948.

Fog and misty rain along the coast so obscured Sydney Heads today that the 27,000 ton liner Dominion Monarch on her way from Wellington was unable to find her way into port.

The fog was not dense enough to halt ferry traffic or the movements of deep-sea ships within harbor limits, but it reduced visibility to less than a mile seaward.

Running on a close schedule, the Dominion Monarch, with 200 passengers, was due to berth at 11 a.m. today amd arrangements had been made for her to sail again at midnight for Britain.

At 9.30 a.m. the captain wirelessed Sydney that he estimated the liner was about three miles off the coast, but conditions were so bad that he could not pick up Sydney Heads. The pilot steamer Captain Cook went looking for the liner and signalmen at South Head kept close lookout.

Newcastle Sun, 17 July 1950

Dense fog greeted Dominion Monarch outside Sydney Heads on 17 July 1950, the fog belt exending some six miles out and the liner was brought into the harbour by the pilot using radar.  

Once again, Dominion Monarch was late... by 12 hours... arriving at Cape Town, from Fremantle, on 2 August 1950 at 6:00 p.m. owing to head seas in the Indian Ocean. Something had to be done as she was now frequently late on this sector and it was reported in the Cape Times that on arrival in London, she would be drydocked and fitted with new screws with less pitch and run at a high rpm that were reckoned to give half a knot extra speed.

Rather wonderfully, both Dominion Monarch and Athlone Castle, two of Britain's biggest and fastest motorliners, sailed together from Cape Town together on the evening of 3 August 1950 for Las Palmas and both averaging 19.2 knots, would remain in eight of one another throughout the passage. 

Now famous for being used in the credits of the television series Call the Midwife, this classic London dockland scene was photographed by Harry Todd in September 1950 showing Dominion Monarch in dry dock, King George V Docks, as seen from Saville Road, Silvertown. Credit: Getty Images.

Arriving at Southampton on 18 August 1950 and London a day later. During her layover in London, Dominion Monarch was drydocked in the King Geoge V graving dock there to be fitted with four new manganese bronze screws to replace the originals fitted in 1939.  These made for quieter running and allowed all four screws to be run at the same rpm's although were not found to materially increase her speed in the end. 

Looking rather magnificent, an immaculate Dominion Monarch sails from Southampton 22 September 1950 with the Archbishop of Canterbury aboard and a new set of screws. Credit: Flickr Old Southampton Dock Photos. 

The Archbishop of Canterbury and Mrs. Fisher were among those sailing in Dominion Monarch from Southampton on 22 September 1950  for a three-month-long tour of Australia and New Zealand, sailing for home on 26 December.  During the regular Sunday service during the voyage he read the lesson twice and delivered two sermons.  At the call at Las Palmas on the 26th, The Archbishop celebrated Holy Communion at the Holy Trinity Church there.

The new screws proved very satisfactory on the run down to Cape Town (where she arrived on 7 October 1950), Dominion Monarch averaging 20.14 knots over two consecutive days and 19.7 knots overall on the passage. 

Dubbed by one bishop as a 'holy ship,' the liner Dominion Monarch reached Fremantle to-day with an abundance of prelates aboard.  Apart from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Geoffrey Fisher, there was the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide, the Most Rev. Mathew Beovich, the coadjutor to the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, the Most Rev. J. D. Simmonds, and the Roman Catholic Bishops of Geraldton. the Most Rev. A. J. Gummer, and Ballarat,the Most Rev. J. P. Collins. In addition there were four members of the lower clergy.

Kalgoorlie Miner, 18 October 1950

The Sphere, 20 October 1950.

The Archbishop of Canterbury would meet his brother, Dr. Leonard Fisher, Bishop of Natal during the stop at Cape Town and disembarked at Fremantle on 17 October 1950. 

Dominion Monarch arrived at Wellington on at 2:30 p.m. 26 October 1950, delayed by fog in Cook Strait, landing 364 passengers and a large trial shipment of 500 South African oranges as refrigerated cargo.

On 4 November 1950 it was announced that Capt. Sir Henry Robert Gordon would retire upon arrival at London but whilst he missed the next voyage, he resumed command for one more round trip.

Dominion Monarch at Melbourne, 28 November 1950. Credit: Allan C. Green photograph, State Library of Victoria. 

The sailing from Cape Town on 13 December 1950 was offered as a roundtrip excursion for South Africans with 17 days in England and returning on her next southbound trip. One hundred berths were allocated and the roundtrip cost  £100 8 s. or little more than a single passage. 

Dominion Monarch arrived Southampton on 27 December 1950  and the next day at London.  Returning to a Britain still enduring rationing from the plenty of New Zealand, Australia and shipboard life was apparently too difficult for some of her crew:

Paul Joseph McKittrick, aged 28, an assistant storekeeper, of Woodlands Road, Liverpool. and David Routledge, aged 24, assistant steward, Harrowby Road. Seaforth. Liverpool, appeared together at East Ham Court to-day charged with the theft of provisions from the steamship Dominion Monarch in King George V Dock. The police stated the two men were questioned when leaving the dock together in a hired car. They tended passes for personal effects, but the other goods were discovered amongst their luggage and they admitted having taken these from the ship. McKittrick, who pleaded guilty to stealing 10 lb. of bacon, 7 lb. pork. 5 1b. lamb,  5 lb. lard, 3 lb. sausages. 15 lb. sugar, 4 lb. tea, and 19 tins of salmon and sardines was fined £30. Routledge. who admitted the theft of 17 lb. pork, 5½ lb. lamb and 4 lb. butter, was fined £25 

Liverpool Echo, 29 December 1950

Bernard W. Church painting of Dominion Monarch used as a postcard. 


Commanded by Capt. D. Aitcheson on this trip, Dominion Monarch sailed from London on 10 January 1951 and from Southampton the following day on the longest and one of the most eventful commercial voyages of her career. 

On the 19 January 1951, one week from Cape Town, Sir Harry Harley, one of Coventry's outstanding industrialists who had contributed to the city's pre-eminence in the machine tool trade (and indeed was bound for Australia to visit a new factory there), passed away aboard, aged 73,  suspected of an acute attack of influenza.  Travelling with with Lady Harley and  he was buried at sea at 3:00 p.m. on the 20th, "with a simple but impressive service." (Coventry Evening Telegraph).  Dominion Monarch reached Cape Town on the 26th. There, it was revealed that 26 cases (20 passengers and 6 crew of the 855 aboard) of influenza had been treated by the ship's surgeon en route to Cape Town with the last case reported two days before arrival there and all had recovered. It was determined that Sir Harry Harley had not died of influenza, but from pneumonia following three attacks of pleurisy in the past ten months. The ship was given clearance upon arrival at Fremantle on 6 February and not subject to quarantine.

More labour unrest awaited Dominion Monarch's arrival at Wellington on 15 February 1950 after  New Zealand's port were shut down starting on the 13th by a strike by members of the New Zealand Waterside Worker's Workers' Union, idling 66 overseas ships, the largest being Dominion Monarch.  It went on to be the longest strike in New Zealand history, lasting 151 days or until 15 July. 

Dominion Monarch's cargo was unable to be unloaded until 9 March when New Zealand servicemen, who been detailed to work essential cargo, could finally attend to her 5,583-ton cargo from the U.K. and another 600 tons from South Africa. including dried fruit and flour. By the 13th, 2,100 tons had been unloaded. and 507 servicemen working on the wharves. On the 17th, they began to load export cargo, including cheese, aboard the ship and finished unloading.   For the first time, an all-night shift of ratings from the cruiser HMNZS Bellona worked in competition with the day time crews of RNZAF personnel loading essential food cargo aboard to get her off by the 22nd.  In all, they loaded 41,200 crates of cheese, 76,500 boxes of butter, 23,300 carcasses of meat, 5,000 cases of milk powder, 1,000 tons of  general and 3,500 bags of mail.

Turning around the ship in short order, New Zealand ratings and servicemen had Dominion Monarch loaded in record time to sail on 22 March 1951, the first overseas ship to sail from Wellington since the strike began.  "The departure of the Monarch was a real event, several ships sounding their syrens and the 500 passengers lining the rails and cheering the servicemen." (New Zealand Marine News). Her passengers took up a collection for the servicemen before she sailed. Dominion Monarch reached Sydney on the 26th, called at Melbourne on the 27th and Fremantle on the 31st. After the longest commercial voyage of her career, Dominion Monarch returned to Royal Albert Dock, London, on 26 April having sailed from there back on 10 January. 

On the last voyage commanded by Capt. Sir Henry Gordon, who was retiring after a 40-year career with Shaw Savill, Dominion Monarch left London on 9 May 1951.  

Credit: The Age, 11 June 1951

With Australian dockers and tugboat crews declaring Dominion Monarch "black," in sympathy with the still on going New Zealand strike, the ship docked unaided by tugs at Fremantle on 9 June 1951, after coming up the bay in thick fog using radar. At Melbourne, too, the big ship was on her own coming into Station Pier in fog the afternoon of the 9th and with some difficulty made it alongside in about half an hour. The ship's crew had to load passenger baggage aboard as well, but she sailed on time. 

Dominion Monarch at Auckland for the first time since 1939. Credit: Duncan Montgomery.

When she came into Sydney on 12 June 1951, Australian Labour Minister Holt announced that troops would load the ship with cargo for New Zealand, the 100 army personnel being the first used in the port since the strike began. In response, the Waterside Workers' Federation called off their ban on working New Zealand bound ships. Dominion Monarch sailed on the 13th.  On this voyage, she would call at Auckland not Wellington and this became her New Zealand port for the time being with Arawa using Wellington. Bad weather delayed her arrival twice and she finally arrived on the 21st for the first time 1939 with 439 passengers and 3,000 tons of cargo including motor cars and 7,000 cases of South African oranges for the North Island. She would work her full inbound and outbound cargo at Auckland, the newly formed Cargo Workers' Union impressing with a 24-day turnaround and she sailed for Britain on 14 July.  Bad weather in the Indian Ocean had her arrive, 24 hours late, at Cape Town on 4 August where she stayed for two days (her longest call there to date) discharging 5,589 carcasses of frozen mutton and 450 tons of general cargo and embarkng 64 passengers for Southampton.

Capt. David Aitchison, who assumed command of Dominion Monarch in September 1951 and would become famous for commanding H.M.Y. Gothic on her Royal Tour in 1953-54. Credit: The Tatler, 28 November 1953. 

Dominion Monarch (Capt. David Aitchison) had the Archbishop of York, Dr. Cyril Forster Garbett, among her passengers on departure from Southampton on 21 September 1951. They were not called "The Roaring Forties" for nothing and often the passage from Cape Town (where she called 4-5 October) to Fremantle was the roughest of the voyage as it certainly proved to be on this trip:

Cabins were flooded, crockery was smashed, and eight persons were injured when the liner Dominion Monarch encountered bad weather between Cape Town and Melbourne. The ship arrived at Auckland to-day. Lady Hurst, of Oxford, England, said that she had ruptured a leg vein when she was sent staggering after the ship had lurched. A woman with whom she was talking at the time injured a hand. Passengers in the veranda cafe and elsewhere were injured when they were flung to the deck.

Mr S. R. Hawken, of Hamilton, a member of the New Zealand bowling team which returned from England in the ship, said that stormy weather had been encountered on about 14 days. “At one stage, 16 cabins on B deck were awash," Mr Hawken said. "A wave came in my port-hole and hit the cabin roof. The water buckled my suitcases, stained my wife’s evening dresses, and damaged my clothes. A carton of cigarettes was ruined." Mr Hawken said he had bailed the water from his cabin as best he could with a bucket Stewards were kept busy for hours bailing out with all manner of receptacles. Waves 40 feet high were encountered at times, according to other passengers. Nearly all those injured were women.

Press, 26 October 1951

Credit: The Age, 28 November 1951

When Dominion Monarch departed Melbourne on 27 November 1951 she had 500 passengers and most of her crew aboard. Except for 17 crew who, "partaking of the hospitality"  ashore, were late to returning to Station Pier as the liner cast off at 5:00 p.m., "a gale blew, two tugs bustled around the giant ship, wharf official prepared for actions. As streamers, cheers and a few tears linked  ship and wharf in farewell the gangway was taken up," (The Age, 28 November 1941)  and frantically tried to get aboard.  The gangway was put back ashore and six ran aboard, but it was raised and the ship  was again ready to pull off, their shipmates still ashore were hauled aboard via a Jacobs ladder over the side, one by one, until once clear of the dock, there appeared three more who were left behind as Dominion Monarch finally sailed. She arrived at Southampton on Boxing Day. 

Dominion Monarch at Cape Town. Credit: Table Bay Underway Shipping.


Dominion Monarch had a difficult beginning to the New Year. Whilst alongside in London Docks on 9 January 1952, a fire in the veranda-cinema damaged light fittings, furniture, ventilators and electric heaters. This was repaired before she sailed on her next voyage. 

On departing King George V Dock on 10 January 1952, the liner struck the dock wall which damaged an injection pipe and set in a few hull plates. Upon arrival at Southampton the following day, where she embarked 434 passengers, it was found that an engine room feed pipe had been damaged and she spent 12 hours detained there for repairs.  With Wellington restored as her New Zealand terminus, Dominion Monarch arrived there on 15 February.  On her homeward voyage, she carried the first shipment of New Zealand pears to the U.K., totalling 16,443 cases, which arrived in good condition on 17 April. 

Chief Engineer "Gibby" Gibson and his bowler hat. Credit: Daily Mirror, 15 April 1952.

It had been announced on 24 March 1952, that Dominion Monarch's Chief  Engineer A.T. Gibson, CBE, after 45 years at sea,  40 of which were with Shaw Savill Line, would retire upon arrival in London.  He had been with Dominion Monarch since the beginning, supervising her construction. When the ship arrived at Tilbury on 17 April, Chief  Engineer Gibby Gibson stepped ashore wearing his bowler hat:

Mr. Alfred Gibson, commodore chief engineer of the Shaw Savill Line, steps ashore today at Tilbury he will put on his bowler hat. For Mr. Gibson is retiring. It is the only one he ever bought, and he has been keeping it since 1937. During the war it was in a glass case in Alicia'ant New Zealand. It was safer where it would not be torpedoed. Since 1937 "Gibby," as friends call him, has been chief engineer of the Dominion Monarch. When the liner called at Southampton yesterday be told me the hat's history. "I bought it to wear In the shipyard at Wallsend while the Dominion Monarch was being built. " As chief engineer of the new ship I had to stand by her, and a bowler hat was in those days the proper thing. It gave an air of authority. "It was during the height of the submarine campaign I put the hat in cold store. so to speak." Mr. Gibson. retiring on the 65 years age limit, bolds the C.B.E. for his leadership in getting the Dominion Monarch safely to sea from dry dock at Singapore at the time of Pearl Harbour. His home is at Lee Green, Kent. He intends to spend his retirement carpentering and gardening. 

Daily News, 17 April 1952

Dominion Monarch, which sailed from London 1 May 1952 and embarked her passengers, including the British comedian Tommy Trinder, bound for season at Melbourne's Tivoli. Another passenger, a deportee from England to Australia, delayed the sailing

A man being deported to Australia ran amuck on board the liner Dominion Monarch at Southampton today. The ship was delayed for three hours. The man was aboard when the ship arrived at Southampton from London to embark passengers.

He did considerable damage to furniture and fittings in the ship's hospital and other parts of the liner before he was over powered and confined in a locked room.

As the ship sailed he could be heard pounding against the barred portholes of the cabin. It is understood that the man had reached England as a stowaway in the Dominion Monarch and was being repatriated to Australia.

West Australian, 3 May 1952

Tommy Trinder strikes a familiar pose on arrival at Melbourne aboard Dominion Monarch. Credit: The Age, 2 June 1952.

Upon arrival at Melbourne on 1 June 1952, Tommy "You Lucky People" Trinder walked down Dominion Monarch's gangway wearing a 10-gallon Stetson and his specially-built Bentley with its famous TT1 number was gently unloaded on the quayside. 

Dominion Monarch arrived at Wellington on 5 June 1952. Among her cargo were 7,300 cases of South African oranges and among those disembarking were two officers of the Royal New Zealand Navy who marched in the King's funeral procession in London. 

When the ship sailed for home on 5 July 1952, her homeward cargo included the first shipment of chilled beef, totalling 60 tons, from New Zealand to the U.K. since 1938-39.  

When the Dominion Monarch left Wellington for London to-day she carried in addition to her normal cargo an experimental shipment of beef refrigerated in three different ways. The palatability of each part of the consignment will be tested in England. The first part consists of 400 hindquarters and 360 fore-quarters of chilled beef carried at a temperature of 29 degrees, with a tolerance of half a degree. It is the first shipment of chilled beef—still in the experimental stage—since 1939. The second consists of 48 eighths of beef, quick frozen, at the meatworks and carried at 13 degrees, with a tolerance of one degree. The third consists of 24 quarters at the normal refrigerated hold temperature of 12 to 14 degrees. All the beef was from the same killing. The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research has supervised every process of the shipment, and British scientific research officers will meet the Dominion Monarch, due in London on August 8, and make a report The New Zealand Meat Producers’ Board consigned the shipment, which came from the freezing works of Thomas Borthwick and Sons at Waingawa.

The Press, 5 July 1952

After Dominion Monarch docked at Fremantle on 12 July 1952, "a diminutive, bespectacled boy of 12 was led ashore by police. He was Robert Revers of Melbourne, who said he stowed away because he wanted to come to Fremantle to see his aunt. He was discovered at sea, hiding in a bathroom. When taken over by a Child Welfare officer the boy was subdued, having been sea-sick for the last two days." (Sunday Times, 13 July 1952).  Among those landing at Cape Town on the 23rd was the Australian bantamweight champion, Jimmy Carruthers, who was booked to fight Vic Towell for the world title in Johanesburg on 14 October. 

Unloading the first shipment of chilled New Zealand beef since 1939 from an immaculate looking Dominion Monarch at London Docks, August 1952.  Credit: New Zealand Maritime Museum. 

Food Ministry officials, trade representatives, scientists, dietians and experts in refrigeration could find no fault with the first experimental postwar consignment of New Zealand chilled beef when they inspected 50 quarters of the shipment, which arrived by the Dominion Monarch, at Smithfield market. The meat was described by Smithfield officials as some of the finest Chilled beef they had ever seen. 

The New Zealand Minister of Agriculture (M.r K. J. Holyoake), with the chairman of the New Zealand Meat Producers’ Board (Mr. J. D. Ormond), made an early visit before the opening of the talks with Mr. G. Lloyd George on the new meat contract. Mr Holyoake said he could hot be more pleased. The impression of excellent condition which the first few carcases taken ftom the ship’s cooling chambers  when I saw them at the docks has befell more than confirmed in the consignment as a whole,' 

Dr. E. Marsdeh. the New Zealand scientific liaison officer, who conducted tests on the beef, wak equally enthusiastic. 'The meat just can't be faulted,” he said. “It is so good that it Compares more than favourably with the best Scotch meat. That is my opinion and the opinion of all members of the trade to whom I have spokeh. The success of this experiment is a tribute to all concerned—freezing' wotks, Shipping companies and breeders.'

The Press, 14 August 1952

In July 1952, Shaw Savill invited tenders for a new (in every sense of the word) 20,000, 20-knot, all-Tourist Class liner to replace the pre-war Arawa.  It was precisely the type of vessel that Sanderson had advocated in 1937 and whose design would redefine passenger liners going forward. 

The South African cricket team on arrival at Fremantle aboard Dominion Monarch. Credit: The News, 15 October 1952.

Dominion Monarch left London on 18 September 1952 on her next voyage.  Her most newsworthy passengers, the South African cricket team, embarked at Cape Town on 3 October, bound for Fremantle to begin their Australian tour.  Boisterous weather delayed the arrival of HMAS Sydney and Dominion Monarch at Fremantle, the Monarch not coming into until 12:45 p.m., instead 11:30 a.m. 

The lost time could never be made up with more rough weather in the Great Australian Bight so that for the first time since 1946, Dominion Monarch and her passengers would miss the running of the Caulfield Cup at Melbourne. Traditionally, she would arrive at Melbourne on the morning of the race and sail late to allow passengers travelling to Sydney and New Zealand the opportunity of attending during the call. On 18 October 1952 it was announced that the ship, delayed by bad weather, would not reach Melbourne until 1:30 p,m. and the race would begin 3:15 p.m.  She arrived at Wellington on the 24th.

One passenger, 13-month-old Richard Danrell, arriving at Melbourne probably did not mind being too late for the running of the Caufield Cup. Credit: The Age, 20 October 1952

Her homeward voyage, with 300 passengers,  was a difficult one and on 20 November 1952 it was reported that "an engine defect" had delayed Dominion Monarch during her trans-Tasman crossing and she would not arrive at Sydney before 6:00 p,m. on the 22nd. In the event, she did not arrive until 10:30 pm, more than 16 hours late. She sailed the following evening, about 150 having embarked at Sydney.

On her homeward voyage, heavy weather delayed her arrival at Melbourne from 24 November 1952 to the following day. En route from Melbourne to Fremantle, Dominion Monarch was the object of an anti-submarine  aircraft experiment:

Passengers aboard the overseas liner Dominion Monarch were floodlit from the skies as the ship sailed across the Great Australian Bight for England. The light came from a RAAF Lockheed Neptune Bomber which flew from Albany to Intercept the ship.

The powerful searchlight carried by the Neptune bomber is part of its antisubmarine equipment for exposing enemy' underwater craft which surface at night. At short range the light could blind anyone caught in its beam. The bomber searching for the Dominion Monarch did not approach closer than 2,000 feet, but at this range it still exposed the ship in a light almost as bright at day, RAAF officers and men of of the Shaw Savill shipping line (including the captain of the Dominion Monarch) discussed the proposed excercise before the ship left Melbourne. The ship sailed on its normal course, and was intercepted by the Neptune bomber about 8 p.m., two days later.

The Neptune took off from Albany briefly to patrol an area crossing the ship's course. The crew searched for the ship, using the bomber's radar equipment. This is the first night exercise of this type that Neptunes of No. 11 Suadron at Perth. W.A.,carried out since the Neptunes arrived in Australia. Two more Neptunes for No.11 Squadron have just reached Australia from USA., flying via Honolulu.

Townsville Daily Bulletin, 9 December 1952

Dominion Monarch arrived at Southampton on Christmas Eve and at London Christmas Day.

Dominion Monarch in the Solent. Credit:


Capt. B. Forbes Moffat on the bridge of Dominion Monarch which he commanded 1953-55. Credit: Alexander Turnbull Library.

Now under the command of Captain B. Forbes Moffat (Capt. Atcheson being honoured to assume command of Gothic on her royal tour), Dominion Monarch sailed from London on 15 January 1953 and Southampton the following day. This otherwise uneventful first voyage of the year concluded at Wellington on 19 February and she commenced her homeward voyage a month later. 

When Dominion Monarch docked at Southampton on 23 April 1953, she landed a 1923 Lagonda which her owner, 21-year-old Hamish Moffatt, had driven 12,000 miles through Africa, from the Sahara through Nigeria, French Equitorial Africa, Belgian Congo, British East Africa, the Rhodesias and South Africa. Another passenger, Alderman Sir Bernard Lomas-Walker, landed with an open wooden crate containinng 200 plants, bushes and trees packed in moss, a gift to Harrogate from Wellington for planting in local parks. 

Credit: Shields Evening News, 29 April 1953.

The big event that year was the return of Dominion Monarch to the Tyne for a fortnight refit. She was to have arrived at Swan Hunter on 31 April 1953 from London, but owing to bad weather, her discharge of cargo was delayed and she not not depart until 2 May and dense fog off Yarmouth further delayed her and it was not until 7:30 p.m. on the 5th that Dominion Monarch finally "came home," attracting quite a crowd of sightseers to the Groyne, South Shields to see her come into the River.

Dominion Monarch arriving in the Tyne during her visit for refit. Credit:

Dominion Monarch arriving in the Tyne during her visit for refit. Credit:

The folks of Shields turned out in force last night to welcome the 26,500-ton Shaw Savill liner Dominion Monarch on her return to her native Tyne for repair. 

Both pier ends were crowded. Harbour view was packed, and there were big gatherings at the harbour and river vantage points. 

Of course it was a fine night and for many people the appearance of the Monarch provided an attractive interlude in a pleasant evening's stroll. 

Nevertheless, the interest of the Tynesiders in 'big' ships makes them turn out even in bad weather to see them pass.

The Dominion Monarch is an example.

It was a cold, dismal, misty afternoon when she first left the Tyne in February 1939, but big crowds braved the conditions to watch her go

Shields Daily News, 6 May 1953

On 12 May 1953, Dominion Monarch entered Palmer's Dry Dock, Hebburn and left the Tyne at midday on the 23rd for London.

As the liner Dominion Monarch made her graceful way out of the Tyne in brilliant sunshine on Saturday she dipped her flag to H.M.S. Satellite lying on the south side of the river. The Satellite returned the compliment. This bit of naval tradition was enjoyed people who, like myself, were watching from North Shields waterfront A ship entering or leaving the river is a fascinating sight Passengers on the ferry will crowd to the side to watch and perhaps exchange waves with the men aboard her. On a busy river like the Tyne there is always something to see.

Shields Daily News, 25 May 1953

Credit: The Age, 11 August 1953.

Returning to service, Dominion Monarch sailed from London on 5 June 1953 for Wellington, packed with New Zealanders and Australians returning from the just concluded Coronation. "For the first fortnight after the liner left England a steward, who conducted a private business on board developing, and printing films, was besieged by passengers. It was estimated that he processed almost 1,000 rolls of film during the voyage." (The Age, 6 July 1953).  All of the passengers, however, were frustrated in their desire to the see the colour newsreels of the entire Coronation just missing by hours, screenings of it successively in Las Palmas, Cape Town and Fremantle. She arrived at Wellington on the 11th.

Tommy Trinder was back aboard Dominion Monarch, sailing from Wellington to Fremantle in August 1953. Credit: The Age, 12 August 1953.

On the passenger list when Dominion Monarch sailed from Wellington on 6 August 1953, was Tommy Trinder,  sailing from Wellington for Fremantle (arriving on the 15th), and Sir Roy and Lady Price, returning to England after four years in New Zealand as the U.K. High Commissioner. She arrived on 3 October. 

Dominion Monarch sailed for Wellington 16 October 1953 and was two days late in arriving owing to weather, coming in on the 20 November. She left Wellington 17 December and arrived at Southampton 20 January 1954, passing Spithead the same day as did as did Atlantic, Batory, United States, Georgic, Mauretania, Empress of Scotland and Venus.  

Dominion Monarch at sea. Credit:


Due to a strike at Southampton, Dominion Monarch embarked all her passengers at King George V Dock on 4 February 1954 , but with no time to advise customers of the change, they boarded the Boat Train at Waterloo as previously arranged, now destined instead for London Docks via Neasden, entailing a circuitous 31-mile, 2-hour journey to the ship lying, but 7 miles away as the crow flies. On the 21st the New Zealand cricket team embarked at Cape Town and arrived at Fremantle on 4 March. "The team had a particularly pleasant voyage from Cape Town. Though the team was glad to be on the way home it was in some ways a sad parting and those who were there will recall the team singing “Now is the Hour” as the distance between ship and shore steadily increased on the way over to Australia, Mooney won the deck tennis, as he had done in 1949 when with New Zealand’s team going to England, and he also won the table tennis competition. In each instance Reid was the other finalist." (Press, 5 March 1954).  During the call, on the advice of the ship's doctor, the 50 or so children aboard remained aboard at Fremantle and not risking going ashore during a epidemic of poliomyelltis in Western Australia. 

Dominion Monarch continued to carry large cargoes and on 31 July 1954, had 9,820 tons to discharge including 13,900 cases of oranges from Cape Town, upon arival at Wellington. 

Shape of Ships to Come: Shaw Savill's radical not quite running mate to Dominion Monarch before she was named and before her equally novel livery was chosen. Credit: Marcus Victor, Flickr.

The biggest event of 1954 and indeed a major one in  Dominion Monarch's long term future was the launch on 17 August  by H.M. Queen Elizabeth II of Shaw Savill's new 20,204-grt Southern Cross at Harland & Wolff at Belfast,  Seldom has a line produced two more different vessels in design, purpose and character 15 years apart. Southern Cross was the antithesis of Dominion Monarch in every aspect and reflected the experience of barely four years of the efficiency and economics of operating a giant diesel-powered high-speed cargo cum all-First Class passenger ship amid the realities of post-war trade and labour relations.  Sadly, magnificent and popular she was, Dominion Monarch proved profoundly the wrong ship on every level for a very different era and the new ship's specifications reflected that. 

So it was that Southern Cross had no cargo space (saving four months a year otherwise spent working freight and immunising her from longshoremen strikes); carried only Tourist Class passengers (1,160 vs. 508) reflecting the mainly immigrant, budget travel market then prevailing; was turbine-driven (slightly faster at 20 knots and with far less between voyage maintenance)  and could make four voyages a year, compared to Dominion Monarch's three.  She followed the Clipper Route outbound from England and returned via the Pacific and Panama, thus covering both of the company's main passenger routes.  

With her innovative "engines aft" design and new livery, Southern Cross was an instant and sustained success and whilst Dominion Monarch remained both flagship and by far the largest in the fleet, she was completely overshadowed and especially in the ledger books going forward. Shaw Savill had made good their error of their ways and might only be faulted for not following up Southern Cross with a compatible running mate for a critical seven years during which Dominion Monarch played out her remaining career as a splendid, wonderful misfit that was as much a delight to her passengers as she was dismaying to the accountants. 

Australia's women's bowls team were among those sailing from Melbourne on 14 September 1954 for Cape Town. Credit: The Age, 15 September 1954. 

A dock strike in Britain beginning 28 September 1954, which first idled 23,000 in London and then taken up by 17,000 in Liverpool, resulted in Dominion Monarch, which arrived in the Royal Docks on 17 October,  not being able to discharge any of her cargo. This comprised 718 tons of milk powder, 3036 tons of meat, 82 tons of chilled meat, 602 tons of cheese, 490 tons of sausage meat, 2,243 tons of butter and 74 tons of wool. After 26 days, the strike was finally ended and the ship unloaded. 

Two of the greatest liners of the 1930s in a rare encounter in Rotterdam in November 1954: Nieuw Amsterdam (top left) and Dominion Monarch, the later at Wilton-Fijenoord for overhaul. Credit: Alfons,

An equally rare if not unique dual drydocking of Dominion Monarch and fleetmate Arawa at Rotterdam. Credit: Alfons, 

Dominion Monarch in the Maas. Credit: Alfons,

Dominion Monarch sailing from Rotterdam. Credit: Alfons,

Shaw Savill took the opportunity to drydock Dominion Monarch and this was done at Wilton-Fijenoord, Rotterdam,  where she arrived on  25 November 1954 and departed on 1 December. There, she was joined by fleetmate Arawa.  

Dominion Monarch in King George V Dock, London.  Credit: Peter Trodden,


Dominion Monarch sailed for Wellington from London on 8 December 1954. When she and Orient Line's Orsova found themselves scheduled to sail from Sydney at the same time from Pyrmont wharves on 11 January 1955, the Shaw Savill liner bound for Wellington, as befitting a mailship, got to depart first, sailing at 4:20 p.m. whilst Orsova, on a 12-day cruise to New Zealand, followed 20 minutes later. Dominion Monarch arrived at Wellington on the 15th.

Capt. K.D.G. Fisher, master of Dominion Monarch, 1955-61.

Heavy fog delayed the docking of Dominion Monarch at Melbourne on 2 May 1955, the vessel not being able to come alongside until 3:00 p.m. and spoiling plans for in transit passengers for sightseeing or shopping for she was off for Sydney after only a few hours. 

Dominion Monarch entering the Royal Docks, London, in 1955. Credit: eBay auction photo.

Fire broke out in the bottom insulated wood decking of no 4. hold aboard Dominion Monarch on 5 August 1955 whilst in King George V Dock, London.  This was extinguished by the crew and shoreside firemen in three hours with minimal damage. 

On 27 September 1955 it was reported that Dominion Monarch's Staff Chief Engineer had gone missing whilst the ship was en route from Sydney to Wellington and nearing Cook Strait:

When the Dominion Monarch, bound from Sydney to Wellington, was nearing Cook Strait on Sunday morning, it was discovered that the staff chief engineer, Mr. W. Miller, was missing. A close search of the ship failed to yield any trace, and apparently he had been lost overboard during the night. It is said that Mr Miller appeared to be in his usual health and good spirits on Saturday. He was at dinner in the saloon that night About 8.39 p.m. he spoke to a junior engineer as he passed in the alleyway near his room, and is thought to have been last seen about 10.30 p.m. When the chief engineer, Mr J. Brew, went to the engineers’ office on Sunday morning he found the logbook unopened and, on looking into Mr Miller’s room, saw that his bed had not been slept in.

Press, 28 September 1955

Of course, she has a carpenter (with his two mates), and a surgeon, to care for the health of passengers and crew,.There are five barmen, three storemen and a nursing sister. The liner has a chief hair dresser, three male and two female hairdressers.

In the war years, if the men wore crumpled shirts and had to do their own washing, it did not matter. Now the ship is provided with a laundry, a laundry manager and staff. The musical tastes of the passengers are catered for by a bandmaster and four musicians. There is a special linenkeeper. and a qualified printer, for menu cards,  announcements and news bulletins.

Care and maintenance of the saloon's silverware is a full-time job for a tradesman described officially as a 'Silverman.' Then the saloon has its plateman. In the kitchens there are dishes that only the hand of
the fully-trained man can touch. There is the soup cook, who does nothing else but prepare soups, and a special entree cook.

Newcastle Sun, 13 January 1949

Dominion Monarch developed  "a reputation" for being a tough ship, a "poor feeder" and a "battle ship," the latter referring to the frequent dust-ups between her crew and those of other ships, especially during the long layover in Wellington and in particular with the crew of Captain Cook, the former Letitia, and now New Zealand's migrant ship, which enjoyed a equally tough reputaion. This was such a problem that Wellington port authorities ensured that the two ships were never at adjacent piers when in port. 

The very long voyage, the generally poor crew accommodation and Shaw Savill & Albion's not enviable nickname among seafarers-- "Slow, Starvation & Agony"-- made it hard to attract but the  least desirable in some cases. Many men would avoid the Dock Steet crew booking hall in London Docks when "The DM" was in port and with vacant berths to fill such was her reputation as the "Demented Maniac."  Crew desertions were not uncommon and brought on charge in Wellington courts as were occasional assaults, drunkeness, theft and vandalism. There was even organised gang activity aboard: 

Three young London seamen were said by the prosecution today to have  formed themselves into a gang terrorised the crew of the 26,463-ton Dominion Monarch operating between Britain and Australia. Frederick Leader, aged 19, was found unconscious and bleeding on the deck  at sea. It was alleged that he had been  attacked in his cabin, kicked, struck ' and thrown out of his bunk after a mock trial. The three accused—Laurence Chaney, aged 21, Alan Harmer, aged 21, and Stanley Chilton, aged 17— allegedly took turns at cutting off Leader’s hair. Chaney was also alleged to have attacked a member of the crew while the ship was at Melbourne, striking him on the head with a beer bottle. All the accused admitted causing grievous bodily harm to Leader. Chaney admitted the same charge concerning the other member of the crew. Chaney was imprisoned for six months, and Harmer for four months. Chilton was sent to a detention centre for three months. The Magistrate said their offence was 'cold, calculated thuggery.'

Press, 7 December 1955

Dominion Monarch's boxing team and trophy, 1958. Credit: Evening Post.

Many crew earned extra money during the long Wellington turnaround by signing on as a "wharfie" loading lamb onto other ships. More organised fistacuffs was in the form of Dominion Monarch's well reputed amateur boxing team which regularly featured in bouts in Wellington both against other crews and as openers in public matches.  The crew adopted schools for spastic children in both England and New Zealand and organised ship tours and parties for them. The crew also introduced then staid New Zealand to the latest London fads in clothing, morals and even Teddy Boy culture and clothing. 

The New Zealand singer Tommy Adderley (1940-1993) famous as the leader of Tommy Adderley's Head Band of the 1970s,  first arrived in New Zealand in the mid-1950s as a teenage apprentice steward in Dominion Monarch:

He recalled the Auckland wharves being full of passenger ships: the Rangitoto and Rangitane, the Mariposa from America next to the Captain Cook from Glasgow. The voyage out took five to six weeks and, depending on how long it took to unload and reload the cargo, the ships stayed as long as a fortnight in Auckland and Wellington, Working day-on, day-off, there was plenty of time for the merchant seamen and stewards to involved with local nightlife, music and women. They could mingle in milkbars and start fights with one another or with local bodgies. Or they hit town in style, wearing Italian suits and after-shave. 'They got all the birds,' recalled David Gapes, later a founder of Radio Hauraki. 'The girls thought they were wonderful. The blokes through they were terrible.'

Blue Smoke: The Lost Dawn of New Zealand Popular Music, 1918–1964

Original caption: Teddy Boys, 3 June 1955. Three 18 year old Londoners, all stewards aboard the liner 'Dominion Monarch', pose in their Teddy Boy outfits at Wellington, New Zealand - where the liner called recently. The Londoners said they never looked for trouble, and asserted that only a bad element among the Teddy Boys carried knives. Credit: Photo by Daily Herald Archive/National Science & Media Museum/SSPL via Getty Images)

The Roseland Cabaret in Victoria Street played host to the Dominion Monarch ball, ‘and all of Wellington's camp society came to life when that Queen of ships, or ship of Queens, as we used to say, arrived in port.

Mates and Lovers: a History of Gay New Zealand

The social highlight of the ship's long stays in port was "The DM Ball" put on by the crew in the Wellington Trade Hall which developed a notorious reputation in then very conservative New Zealand for "attracting the capital city's bohemian and gay subcultures, providing a rare opportunity for the latter to slip into a frock and behave flamboyantly. Eventually the county's sensationalist New Zealand Truth newspaper picked up on the story with a front page photo of a Maori drag queen known as "Marilyn" in a great fishtail ball gown, along with headlines that screamed something like DM Ball Outrageous!" (The New Zealand Maritime Record). 

Dominion Monarch's engineers with one of the ship's 20 giant pistons showing just how dirty, oily and smelly a motorship's engine room can be.   These are the men who ensured their ship maintained her exacting schedule over 13,500 miles out and 13,500 back on the longest of all Empire trade routes.

It was not, of course, all time off and shore leave, certainly not for Dominion Monarch's engine room crew.  Much of the layover in New Zealand being devoted to a constant round of maintenance, fettling and piston ring changes on four sets of Doxford diesels with a combined 20 cylinders as well as the extensive and essential refrigerating machinery for her holds. Dominion Monarch's demanding schedule meant she was run "flat out" on the longer sea segments across the Tasman, Indian Ocean and up and down the South Atlantic all with their contrary sea and weather conditions and it took a toll on the machinery and the men tasked to maintain it.  

So it was, like any ship, that she was recalled, usually quite vividly and with equal measures of fondness, nostalgia, loathing and regret by those who served in her, either for one or two voyages or much longer. For many, Dominion Monarch was their first experience at sea and from all accounts, a memorable one. 

On departure from Las Palmas on 21 December 1955, a tow rope parted and became fouled in one of her port screws. This had to be cleared by a diver and Dominion Monarch was soon on her way, although not home by Christmas. 

Dominion Monarch shares Southampton's Ocean Dock with Scythia (left) and the tugs Canute and Paladin. Credit: Stephen J. Card,


In March 1956 Shaw Savill announced the termination of their Antipodean cargo service from East and South Africa owing to too low freight rates on the route, although it was stated: "The Dominion Monarch will continue to cater for the limited tonnage of cargo she conveys each on each voyage to Cape Town."

Dominion Monarch at Melbourne in the 1950s. Credit: Chris Howell,

When she docked at Melbourne on 14 May 1956 Dominion Monarch brought a bit of  The Old Country, a decorative stone depicting a winged lion, from the bombed Victoria Tower of the Westminster Parliament Building. The 3½ cwt stone was brought from London by Sir John Lienhop, former Agent-General and would be presented to Sir Clifden Eager, President of the Legislative Council for eventual placement in a prominent place in the Parliamentary building. 

After Dominion Monarch left Wellington on 9 June 1956, she was once again a "target" for a military excercise, this time being "buzzed" by 12 RNZAF Vampire jet fighters which dived on the ship three times off Karori Rock in salute to Air Vice-Marshal W.H. Merton and his wife who were aboard. 

Dominion Monarch loading at Wellington in the 1950s. The coaster Tiroa (foreground) has brought a cargo of cheese from Patea near New Plymouth for transhippment to the Monarch. Credit: Emmanuel Makarios,

It was All Change for the Shaw Savill passenger fleet and at the end of August 1956, it was announced that the last of the pre-war fleet-- MataroaTamaroaLargs Bay and Moreton Bay-- would be withdrawn by early 1957, leaving the tourist class trade to the new Southern Cross and the first class traffic to Dominion Monarch and the Corinthic quartet. 

Dominion Monarch's lifeboats getting cleaned and painted during her call at Melbourne in september 1956. Credit: The Age, 19 Spetember 1956.

It was the biggest haul by Wellington customs in years when officers discovered 25,000 American cigarettes concealed  in the back of a laundry wagon alongside Dominion Monarch at Pipitea wharf on 2 October 1956 and also found 3,000-4,000 cigarettes, still in cartons, which had been thrown into the water from portholes to prevent discovery. 

The homeward Dominion Monarch bumped against the Australian coastal liner Manoora as she berthed at Victoria Quay at Fremantle on 9 November 1956, crumpling the aft bridge wing and slightly damaging the port side of Manoora

Thick fog over Spithead the morning of 7 December 1956 obliged Dominion Monarch, inbound from the Cape, to anchor off St. Helena, Isle of Wight, at 6:15 a.m. and her passengers eventually landed by tender and she proceeded to London when conditions improved. 

Dominion Monarch in the Royal Docks, 1957. Credit:


Dominion Monarch which left Southampton 4 January 1957 and due to reach Wellington on 10 February, was delayed at Sydney and came in a day late, with 388 passengers. 

The ship continued to carry Dominion sportsmen and women and on 10 April 1957, the Australian Women's Golf Team arrived at Cape Town for a tour of South Africa. 

In April 1957 work began on Gladstone Pier at Lyttelton amid news that Rangitoto and Dominion Monarch would be calling at the pier during the year. 

On 20 May 1957 it was announced that Dominion Monarch would make Auckland her first New Zealand port of call on her upcoming 53rd voyage, her last visits being on her 36 and 37th voyages. She was scheduled to depart London on the 24th and Southampton the next day and reach Auckland on 2 July before proceeding to Wellington. 

Rangitata and Dominion Monarch at Wellington in the mid 'fifties. Credit: Emmanuel Makarios,

In King George V Dock, Dominion Monarch hosted a luncheon on 23 May 1957 on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the first voyage of Dunedin from Port Chalmers to London in 1882 with the first delivery of a cargo of refrigerated meat from New Zealand to London. This was attended by Mr. K.J. Holyoake, New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister and members of the New Zealand Trade Mission, the Lord Mayor of London and the British Minister of Agriculture and other dignitaries as well as Basil Sanderson, chairman of Shaw Savill, with Capt. K.D.G. Fisher, master of Dominion Monarch, presiding.

The next day, Dominion Monarch sailed for a port which had not figured in her itinerary for theee years-- Auckland. She arrived there on 2 July 1957 with two girl stowaways who boarded the ship at Sydney. During the call, the ship hosted a party for 30 pupils from the Carlson School for Cerebral Palsy aboard. The crew's sports, social and benevolent club deciding to adopt the school and host similar events on future calls. Dominion Monarch's homeward voyage commenced from Wellington 8 August. 

Every berth in Auckland Harbour is occupied on 12 December 1957, the day Dominion Monarch made her first departure from the port for England in three years. Credit: Tony C.,

For the first time in three years, Dominion Monarch sailed from Auckland for England on 12 December 1957.  Eleven members of her crew deserted the ship-- nine at Auckland and two at Wellington and replacements signed on just prior to sailing. That day, every berth in the harbour was occupied. Dominion Monarch arrived in London Docks on 17 January 1958.

Dominion Monarch in King George V Dock, London. 


As if to celebrate the 20th anniversary of her launching at Wallsend, Dominion Monarch arrived back on Tyne on the afternoon of 26 January 1958 for a three-week-long special survey. She left on 19 February for London

The Australian Cricket Team on arrival at Sydney 4 April 1958. Credit: Getty Images.

On her first voyage of the year, Dominion Monarch left London on 28 February 1958.  She carried the all-conquering Australian cricket team (unbeaten during their entire tour) home from Cape Town on 17 March and landing at Sydney on 4 April.

Advertisement celebrating Shaw Savill's centenary showing Lady Jocelyn and Southern Cross. Credit: The Age, 21 April 1958.

Alongside at Wellington on 11 May 1958, Dominion Monarch was the scene of a celebratory dinner as part of the 100th anniversary of Shaw Savill & Albion that year.  This was attended by New Zealand Prime Minister Nash and the U.K. High Commissioner, Sir George Mallaby, Shaw Savill's New Zealand General Manager S. Macconachie and J.D.G. Duncan, Managing Director of Levin & Co., the line's local agents.  

'I hope the line will continue to serve New Zealand in the future as it has done in its first 100 years,' said the Prime Minister (Mr Nash) proposing the toast to Shaw Savill and Albion Company at the company’s 100th anniversary celebrations aboard the liner Dominion Monarch in Wellington.

The Prime Minister said it was due to British shipping that the wonderful products of this country had been made available to the rest of the world.

'I believe British genius will find the way to go through with their objectives and understanding not to destroy, but to follow a policy leading to a better world for all. The Shaw Savill company has made a wonderful contribution to the prosperity of -this country,' he said. The Prime Minister referred to the fact that he and his wife and infant son had come to New Zealand in a Shaw Savill vessel 49 years ago. 

Press, 12 May 1958

Dominion Monarch's popular Chief Purser, Edward Cordery, retired after her April 1958 voyage. Credit: The Age, 21 May 1958.

Despite the best efforts of two tugs to keep her steady in the face of 40 mph winds, Dominion Monarch rammed Station Pier as she came into Melbourne on 20 August 1958. In a gust, she swung onto the pier, smashing a wood buffer, scraping paint from more than 20 ft. along her hull and sending spectators fleeing.  It was another 45 minutes before she could be secured alongside. 

The most valuable part of Dominion Monarch's cargo unloaded at Auckland on 26 August 1958 was a 16-cwt iron casting that would complete the steel diversion gate at the new Atiamuri hydro-electric dam. It replaced a similar casting that was found to have been broken on loading aboard the liner Aramaic and the replacement ordered and loaded aboard just before Dominion Monarch sailed from London. 

While in Auckland,  27 children of the Carlsen Home for cerebral palsy children were again treated to a party aboard, the school having been adopted by Dominion Monarch's crew the previous year. Each child was given a present and sweets brought by the crew from London. 

The big event of 1958, other than Shaw Savill's centenary, was Dominion Monarch's return to Lyttelton on 8 September for the first time in a decade and marking the addition of the South Island port (which served Christchurch) on a semi-regular call on her route along with Auckland. This would be her fourth call at the port, the first being on her second voyage when she arrived on 3 September 1939, the day war was declared; the second in October 1945 to land 1,500 troops and the third in January 1946 when she anchored near Camp Bay and landed her troops by lighters. 

Dominion Monarch coming into Lyttelton, 8 September 1958. Credit: Lyttelton Museum.

Domininon Monarch berthing at Lyttelton. Credit: Lyttelton Museum. 

In perfect weather the Shaw Savill and Albion liner Dominion Monarch arrived at Lyttelton early yesterday afternoon and was berthed at the Gladstone Pier with the assistance of two tugs. There was a large crowd on the waterfront to watch the berthing and the Lyttelton side of the Evans Pass highway was lined with cars. The vessel entered the moles at 1.46 p.m., 2 hours 40 minutes after high tide.

Press, 8 September 1958

Harbourmaster and pilot Capt. A.R. Champion brought Dominion Monarch into the harbour and alongside the newly expanded Gladstone Pier  with no problems whatsoever.  One of the more interested spectators seeing Dominion Monarch arrive at Lyttelton  was resident Arthur D. English who was her First Officer for three years, making 11 round voyages in her before he decided to "swallow the anchor" and emigrate to New Zealand. “The Dominion Monarch is a beautiful ship—the finest I have ever sailed in,’’ said Mr English. “She was so well fitted out when she was built in 1938 that the only equipment needed to bring her up to standard, navigationally, in 1948, was radar, which was a new invention in any case,” he told a reporter. 

Dominion Monarch at Gladstone Pier, Lyttelton. Credit: Lyttelton Museum. 

Whilst at Lyttelton, Dominion Monarch hosted a Shaw Savill Centenary dinner and dance on 11 September 1958 for some 250 invited guests, including the Mayor of Christchurch.  A special display of ship models, photographs and memorabilia was set up to trace the history of the line. 

The centenary dinner held aboard the Dominion Monarch at Lyttelton last evening was a gracious tribute to Robert Ewart Shaw and Walter Savill who founded the Shaw Savill Lane in 1858. It was a lavish celebration of a progressive shipping line’s service to Commonwealth countries and a gala event for the 250 guests invited to attend.

As the guests entered the C deck foyer, massed with spring blooms, their names were announced in formal style and each visitor was received by Mr Eoin Fraser, South Island manager of the Shaw Savill Line, Mrs Fraser, and Captain K. D. G. Fisher, G.M., master of the ship. Mrs Fraser wore a gown of gun metal brocade shot with pink and made with deep folded neckline and fully-flared skirt. Her pink nylon stole emphasised the pink in her frock. Sprays of flowers were presented to every woman who came aboard, to enhance the beautiful gowns worn for the occasion. Cocktails were served in the smoke room and in the veranda cafe, where the ship’s orchestra played background music. Dinner, served in the dining saloon, included poached salmon from Scotland, beef from New Zealand, turkey from Norfolk and ham from Yorkshire. Later in the evening dancing was held in the veranda cafe. Dinner was preceded by grace said by the Dean of Christchurch (the Very Rev. Martin Sullivan). 

Prominent among the decorations were large house flags of the Shaw Savill Line, the New Zealand ensign and the Red Ensign. Massed banks of flowers gave colour and fragrance to the foyer, the smoke room and the dining saloon. In corner recesses and on the tables troughs of blooms added to the festivity of the occasion. Centenary Cake. After dinner a centenary cake, decorated to represent the sea routes of the line and the company’s house flag, was cut by Mrs Bryan Fraser, a daughter-in-law of Mr and Mrs Eoin Fraser. The cake will be sent to residents of Rannerdale Home. The ship’s staff spared no efforts to assist the captain and his officers entertain their guests. The beautiful floral decorations were arranged by the stewardesses, headed by the chief stewardess (Mrs K. Barnett) and the staff chief steward (Mr A. Meyler). All the catering was done by the chief steward (Mr G. A. Goodman) and the chief chef (Mr H. Bingham). The centenary cake was made by the chief baker (Mr H. Howser).

Press, 12 September 1958

Part of the 12,000 who came to visit Dominion Monarch during her open house in Lyttelton. Credit: Lyttelton Museum. 

Dominion Monarch was the biggest show in town and her public open house on 14 September 1958 promised to attract such a crowd that a 20-minute railway service from Christchurch to Lyttelton was laid for the afternoon.  As it was, of the 12,000 who went down to see her, only 8,000 could get aboard during the 2:00 p.m.-4:20 p.m. period allowed. There was bumper to bumper traffic down the Evans Pass road into the harbour and 1,000 cars parked in Lyttelton and even West Lyttelton and another 4,000-5,000 came by train.  

Some members of Dominion Monarch's crew continued to ensure the ship figured in the constabulary reports of New Zealand ports.  On 15 September 1958, "five youths, members of the providore staff" of the ship were convicted in court of rolling small boulders down the hillside above West Lyttelton and fined £2 each. Another young crew member, a 17-year-old bellboy was fined £1 "on a charge of behaving in a disorderly manner while drunk in Norwich quay."

Among those sailing in Dominion Monarch from Southampton on 17 December 1958 was stage and screen actress Googie Withers and her two children, bound for Melbourne to join husband, actor John McCallum. 

Googie Withers aboard Dominion Monarch at Melbourne with her two children, husband John McCallum (who joined the ship at Fremantle) and their 10-year-old boxer Mutz. Credit: The Age, 8 January 1959.

The biggest event of that centenary year for Shaw Savill & Albion was the decision to build a consort to the hugely successful Southern Cross and whilst not contracted until the end of 1959, by her 20th year, Dominion Monarch was living on borrowed time amidst a rapidly changing shipping industry and a company determined to keep pace with it. 

Dominion Monarch and Southern Cross at Wellington, January 1959.


When Dominion Monarch arrived at Wellington on 13 January 1959, she did so in company with the Union S.S.Co.'s Monowai and Huddart Parker's Westralia, and joined New Zealand Shipping's Rangitoto and fleetmate Southern Cross and altogether the port played host to 38 ships, totalling 199,791 tons.  On the 31st Dominion Monarch arrived at Lyttelton to load cargo and sailed back to Wellington on 4 Febuary.  Part of her cargo taken on there consisted on the first consignment of Nelson apples that season,  35,000 cases, which came from Port Nelson in the coaster WillomeeDominion Monarch departed for England at noon on the 19th.

Dominion Monarch's officers were apparently "Brylcreem Boys" if this advert is anything to go by. Credit: Sunday Mirror, 5 April 1959.

Among those aboard Dominion Monarch from Southampton to Sydney in April-May 1959 were the future Archbishop of Sydney, Rev. R. Gough, and family (left) and comedian Spike Milligan shown with his parents on arrival.  Credit: Library of New South Wales. 

Dominion Monarch was not the first choice of the Rt. Rev. R. Gough OBE, the former Suffragan Bishop of Barking, en route to Australia with his wife and daughter to be enthroned as the Archbishop of Sydney.  Originally booked via Suez, presumably on Orient Line, he discovered they would not accommodate Figaro, his nine-month old black poodle, and switched at the last minute to Dominion Monarch which would get him to Sydney the day before his consecration on 30 May 1959, the liner sailing from Southampton on 25 April. He was welcomed by a 20 ft. beacon blazing on Sydney Heads as the ship came in on 29 May.  "All that rush because of this little fellow," Bishop Gough told a reporter during the call at Cape Town. A lose personal friend, Dr. Billy Graham, who was in Australia on a crusade, embarked in Dominion Monarch at Melbourne  on the 28th for the voyage to Sydney so the two could catch up during the voyage. Also aboard was comedian Spike Milligan whose parents lived in Australia and he landed at Sydney. He had voyaged in Dominion Monarch as a transport from Naples to Britain when was he was "demobbed" at the end of the war. 

Some members of Dominion Monarch's crew continued to ensure the ship figured in the local New Zealand papers in not a too positive light. 

Members of the crew of the Dominion Monarch last night burled hundreds of buns, empty beer bottles, toilet rolls, dinner plates, and bags of ice at people watching the departure of the ship [from Auckland] for Wellington. 

The barrage began at 9 p.m., as the liner was  leaving Queen’s Wharf, and lasted 15 minutes. There were about 36 people, including children and teenage girls on the wharf.

A beer bottle shattered at the feet of a police sergeant and children. Police said today it was the worst behaviour by a ship’s crew at Auckland. 

Waterfront officials said it was disgraceful conduct for British seamen.

 A police sergeant on duty at the wharf said today that the barrage was “intense” and the after end of the ship was lined with seamen “heaving the stuff ashore.” He said the seamen were shouting and yelling.

Press, 2 July 1959

The Auckland Harbour Board sent a bill to Shaw Savill & Albion charging them for clean up of the western side of the Queen's wharf. On 14 July 1959 it was further reported that the chief offenders had been brought before Capt. K.D.G. Fisher and fined for damage to ship's property arising from the incident. However it was also reported that: "The company’s general manager for New Zealand. Mr F.D. Harris, said it was 'only a storm in a teacup' However, he had called for a report from the Auckland office which had said: “The report in the press was grossly exaggerated. The wharf was inspected the morning after the ship’s departure and a quantity of bread and buns, a few potato peelings, several toilet rolls, one empty beer bottle and a plate scattered on the wharf suggested that the crew had found a rubbish bin lying on the deck and had good-naturedly thrown the contents at their friends on the wharf.”

The ship continued to carry New Zealand agricultural exports to South Africa and when Dominion Monarch cleared Wellington on 9 July 1959, she had 25,000 cases of New Zealand butter destined for Cape Town. 

Dominion Monarch at Lyttelton, September 1959. Credit: Lyttelton Museum.

En route to Australia from Cape Town, Dominion Monarch reported on 1 October 1959 an outbreak of gastro-enteritis aboard which had affected 58 passengers. Before she reached Melbourne on the 14th, 280 people had been stricken with stomach ills which those aboard blames on  "bad crab and lobster meat" whilst others suspected the water. Some began to come down with sickness shortly after Las Palmas and stewards told reporters that "quite a number of people were in bed with stomach complaints."

Dominion Monarch at Lyttelton, 5 November 1959. Credit: Lyttelton Museum.

Dominion Monarch at Lyttelton, 5 November 1959. Credit: Lyttelton Museum. 

Dominion Monarch at Wellington. Credit:


Three hours after sailing from Sydney for New Zealand on 5 March 1960, Dominion Monarch raced 50 miles  back to port to land a three-year-old girl stricken with what was thought to be acute appendicitis. At the hospital it was found she suffered from an abdominal illness, difficult to distinguish from appendicitis, treated and released.  

Looking rather more modernistic in funnel and mast than the finished product, this otherwise very accurate rendering of Northern Star appeared around the time of her keel laying in spring 1962.

That spring work began on Northern Star with the laying of her keel at Walker-on-Tyne and if her name had been decided almost at the onset, so, too, was the presumption that she would displace Dominion Monarch upon completion by mid 1962.   

The introduction of the Northern Star, the 22,000-ton ship for which Vickers-Armstrong will lay the keel at Walker-on-Tyne next month will mean the end of the popular Dominion Monarch on the United Kingdom-New Zealand run of the Shaw Savill Line. The Northern Star will be launched in June, 1961, and will enter the line’s round-the-world service about June, 1962, to duplicate the service now given by the Southern Cross. By then, the Dominion Monarch will have been working for 23 years, including war service carrying some 90,000 British, American and Dominion troops. Her maiden voyage to Australia in 1939 was a record-breaking one. Many travellers will be sorry to see a ship which, through its sound design and building and distinctive character has won the affection of thousands of passengers, end its service. 

Press, 2 April 1960

Tony and the InitialsDominion Monarch's crew jazz band: left to right: Walter Leale, 20 (piano), Harry McConnacle, 23 (drums), Don Evans, 24 (electric guitar), Tony Eagleton, 24 (electric guitar), Barry Grehan, 24 (electric guitar), and Allan Ruffell, 20, electric guitar. Credit: The Age, 20 April 1960.

The one element of Dominion Monarch which most effected both the ship's ultimate success and routine as well as impact her crew was her very long stay in port in New Zealand.  For the crew, especially her stewards and catering staff, it meant a lot of idle time to kill in port leading both to her notiorous reputation in port and to more constructive pastimes, including a rather successful jazz band formed by 24-year steward Tony Eagleton:

Most overseas liners carry professional bands to entertain passengers but the Dominion Monarch, which berthed in Melbourne yesterday, has a competent six-man jazz band among its ordinary seaman.

The band, known as 'Tony and the Initials,' has proved so popular that during a recent five-week stay in New Zealand it was out every night for radio appearances, concert parties and jamborees ashore.

The leader, Tony Eagleton, 24, has spent several years 'angling' to get the band members together aboard the Dominion Monarch.

Tony Eagleton, who got the idea for the band 'to make the time go by when there is nothing else to do,' is a telephonist aboard the liner. The other members are stewards.

His 'time passing' idea has proved so effective that the band now plans to 'sign off' from the Dominion Monarch to become professional musicians playing in Australia and New Zealand.

The Age, 20 April 1960.

Credit: Press, 3 June 1960.

Even Dominion Monarch's captain put in an appearance at Magistrate's Court, Wellington,  when on 3 June 1960 Capt. Kenneth Fisher was fined £150 and ordered to pay 30 s. in costs for allowing oil to escape from an oily bilge separator on 28 March when the ship was alongside Pipitea Wharf. The company also had to pay the Wellington Harbour Board for the cost of clearing the oil. 

Dominion Monarch sails from Southampton in summer 1960. Credit: William Davies, wikimedia commons

Credit: William Davies, wikimedia commons.

Credit: William Davies, wikimedia commons.

It was with some relief for her 240 passengers when Dominion Monarch reached Auckland late  on 27 July 1960 after the ship had taken the worst of a Tasman tempest on the 24th, although apparently shaken off by a pair of cats accompanying their owners:

The exceptions were two special passengers travelling first-class who did not turn a hair when the liner took a severe pounding in the Tasman Sea on Sunday. The two passengers, are cats— Spatty, aged 13 (equivalent to 91 in humans), and Grey, aged 8— and they have come from Urmston, near 'Manchester, to settle with their owners, Mr and Mrs J. Noble, at Oakura, a small Taranaki farming village. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals told Mr and Mrs Noble to take the cats with them, as they would probably fret and die if they were left behind. The cats lived in specially made kennels on the upper deck at the stern.

On leashes, they were given a daily walk during the voyage.

Press, 28 July 1960

Two English alley cats, Spatty and Grey, have arrived in Auckland as first-class passengers in the liner Dominion Monarch. Their owner, Mrs. J. Noble, formerly of Manchester, who has gone with her husband to live in New Zealand, did not wish to be parted from her pets. There was difficulty finding a ship that would take both the Nobles and the cats. Mrs. Noble wanted to make sure the animals had their daily exercise and did not want them to go in a freighter. It meant a six month's delay before all four could obtain passage in the Dominion Monarch. Special kennels were built for the cats on a deck only a few yards from Mr. and Mrs. Noble's cabin. The cost of taking the cats to New Zealand, including veterinary fees and purchase of kennels, was £60. 

Torbay Express & South Devon Echo, 15 August 1960

Passengers who thought that had a deal when they purchased "bargain" television sets in the ship's shop costing £77 10s only to discover upon arrival in Auckland that the just passed Budget had put up the duty on imported televisions to 33⅓ per cent plus a 20 per cent sales tax, adding £50 to the price of the sets. Worse, they had to surrender the sets upon arrival until they could obtain import licenses.  And to think they could have just bought the Dominion Monarch monographed tea strainer…

Dominion Monarch and HMNZS Endeavour at Lyttelton, 8 August 1960. Credit: Lyttelton Museum. 

The 26,463-ton liner, Dominion Monarch, arrived at Lyttelton at 7.15 a.m. yesterday. The vessel berthed at Gladstone pier with the assistance of the Harbour Board tugs. The morning was cold and overcast, with ice on the wharfs in places. On most previous occasions at Lyttelton, the Dominion Monarch has berthed in fine weather, watched by large crowds, but there were few spectators yesterday. 

The Dominion Monarch is commanded by Captain K. D. G. Fisher, the commodore of the Shaw Savill and Albion fleet. She is discharging general cargo at Lyttelton, and will load general and refrigerated cargo for Cape Town and London.

Press, 9 August 1960.

In sympathy with striking British seamen back home, crews of British vessels in New Zealand waters went out in sympathy. This included 60 men (10 deckhands, six engineers and 43 catering staff) who stayed ashore when Dominion Monarch left Lyttelton on 17 August 1960. The strike was called off after 24 hours and the men rejoined the ship at Wellington which sailed on 1 September. But not before three stewards were convicted in Magistrate's Court for crashing a converted truck into a shop window at Kati Kati, causing extensive damage and fined £20 each plus damages. 

Dominion Monarch promoted as a not too frequent trans-Tasman ferry after the withdraw of Union SSco's Monowai. Credit: Press, 15 August 1960.

When Union Line's veteran Monowai was withdrawn from trans-Tasman service in June 1960 and not replaced, P&O-Orient and Shaw Savill were quick to start promotion of their own segment voyages between New Zealand and Australia and v.v.  Shaw Savill placed adverts for Dominion Monarch's 1 September 1960 and 19 January and 8 June (1961) crossings from Wellington to Sydney, Melbourne and Fremantle.

Taking a true busman's holiday was former Chief Purser Edward Cordery who was aboard Dominion Monarch as a passenger, travelling wth his daughter, when she called at Melbourne in September 1960. Credit: The Age, 7 September 1960.

A London dock strike in October 1960 caused Dominion Monarch, after landing her passengers at Southampton, to detour to Antwerp. There, a unusual rendezvous was made with Shaw Savill's  cargoliner Persic and with the two ships side by side  in Leopolddok, Dominion Monarch's inbound cargo (mostly frozen beef) was completely transferred to her fleetmate which would store it aboard and then proceed to London for discharge when the strike ended. 

In November 1960, the unexpurgated edition of D.H. Lawrence's notorious novel Lady Chatterley's Lover was released in Britain just before Dominion Monarch sailed. The book was still banned in then very conservative Australia and New Zealand and when Dominion Monarch arrived at Wellington on 13 December, she was the subject of considerable Customs interest:

Customs officers were busy this morning examining passengers' baggage from the Dominion Monarch for copies of Lady Chatterley’s Lover in the unexpurgated form. Members of the crew were reticent on Whether any copies circulated in their quarters. 'The book had only just come out when we sailed,' one steward said, 'and the demand was terrific.' Several of the crew predicted a steady demand in New Zealand and a profitable line of smuggling. A senior Customs official said any copies found in the possession of crew or passengers would be immediately confiscated.

Press, 14 December 1960

Dominion Monarch sails from Southampton in 1960. Credit: William Davies, wikimedia commons.


En route from England to Australia, the noted musician, composer and conductor (first conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra) and regular passenger, Dr. William Arundel Orchard, died aboard his beloved Dominion Monarch on 7 April 1961, two days before his 94th birthday, and was buried at sea off Cape Town on the 10th.  

Credit: The Age, 19 April 1961.

When Dominion Monarch left Cape Town on 11 April 1961, she numbered 200 emigrants for New Zealand, 150 from South Africa and 50 from Rhodesia, most of whom cited rising political and racial tensions in their former countries as the reason for their departure. One, S.R. Shaw, a former Government architect in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, told a reporter "I cannot bear to be here when the Africans are not free and I could not bear to be here when they are." (The Age, 12 April 1961). 

Dominion Monarch arriving at Lyttelton, 15 May 1961. Credit: Press, 16 May 1961.

When the 26,463-ton, Shaw Savill and Albion passenger liner Dominion Monarch arrives off the heads this morning, there should be no necessity for her to hoist the international G flag ('I require a pilot'), and presumably the international H flag ('I have a pilot aboard') will be flown. The Lyttelton Harbourmaster (Captain A. R. Champion), who has been visiting Whangarei, is returning aboard the liner, as a passenger, from Auckland.

Press, 15 May 1961

The arrival of Dominion Monarch at Lyttelton from Auckland on 15 May 1961 made it a record day for the port with a total of 158,799 tons of shipping in the harbour, 25 vessels in all of which were 16 were overseas or inter-colonial ships. Indeed, two ships, Komata and Mystic, had to be moved from Gladstone Pier to make room for Dominion Monarch, the largest ship to regularly call at the port. Such was the pressure on the port, labour and transport that when the availability of railway waggons was 450 rather than the 600 required, unloading of five of the 11 ships, including Dominion Monarch, had to be halted for the timebeing. She sailed for Wellington on 24 May and for London on 8 June.

Dominion Monarch at Wellington. Credit: The late Don Ross collection Australia/The Alexander Turnbull Library.

On 25 August 1961 Shaw Savill & Albion announced that Dominion Monarch would be withdrawn from service upon arrival at Southampton on 29 April 1962.

When Dominion Monarch docked at Auckland on 19 September 1961, Capt. K.D.G. Fisher, who was on final voyage and the ship's second to last, told reporters "the sea is a good life. It has its advantage but you miss an awful lot. In 29 years I have had five Christmases at home." Captain of Dominion Monarch since 1955, he put in 48 years and over three million ocean miles during his seafaring career.

Dominion Monarch  at Lyttelton, September 1961. Credit: Lyttelton Museum.

Dominion Monarch made the first of many good-byes (if a premature one) when she docked at Lyttelton on 1 October 1961 from Auckland. Two farewell functions were held aboard, one on the 4th and one on the 6th.  She left on the 8th to returrn to Auckland.  Dominion Monarch docked at London on 6 December.  

The Dominion Monarch may be turned into a floating exhibition, said the managing director of Shaw Savill and Albion Company Mr J. A MacConchie who is visiting New Zealand and Australia for two weeks. The 23-year-old vessel is expected to make her last voyage from New Zealand to the United Kingdom next March, and it was originally intended that she would go immediately to the shipbreakers. 'Inquiries, however, are being made from various parts of the world from intending purchasers,' said Mr MacConchie. 'One of these is from an American firm which requires her for conversion into a floating trade fair exhibition. It is regretted that souvenir hunters have already been at work on the ship. On her last voyage the two antique guns which hung in the first-class smoking room disappeared.'

Press, 7 December 1961

Dominion Monarch sails from Wellington for the last time. Credit: Wainuiomartian, flickr


Under her new (and last) master, Capt. G.V. Conolly, DSC, who had been the ship's Chief Officer since 1950,  Dominion Monarch sailed on her last voyage on 30 December 1961. Aboard were eight of the catering staff who sailed on her maiden voyage in 1939 including four who had been aboard during her entire career: store keeper Bill Morris from Romford in Essex, and three bedroom stewards: Fred O'Hare from Cambridge, Lionel Pickett from Chatham, Kent and Dick White of Danbury, Essex.

Dominion Monarch's last skipper, Capt. G.V. Conolly, DSC. Credit: State Library of  Victoria.

On 27 January 1962 Shaw Savill announced that the ship would now call once more at Lyttelton on 26 February on her final homeward voyage.

Dominion Monarch arrived at Sydney on 2 February 1962 and she sailed the following day, she was part of one of the biggest days in the port's history being one of five liners sailing between dawn and dusk, four of them within three hours of one another in the afternoon: Dominion Monarch, Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, Australia, Willem Ruys and Orion, totalling 106,954 tons and carrying a total of 1,920 passengers, with 400 aboard the Monarch.

But since those exciting, dangerous days, Dominion Monarch has aged. Her lines no longer look sleek alongside today's superliners and her cylindrical funnels seem outdated alongside the raked funnels of modern liners.

Her paintwork is slightly grimy; the carpets are wearing thin.

The whicker deckchairs and the floral-covered armchairs of another era of interior decoration.

But she still sits proudly in the water, an her memory will linger in the world maritime industry.

The Age, 16 February 1962

On her last trip, Dominion Monarch suitably made the rounds of all her familiar New Zealand ports and arrived first at Auckland on 6 February 1962 to unload her main cargo, then to Lyttelton where she came in on the 24th. Arrived but not able to dock for the harbour was so packed with shipping and short of labour that she had to anchor off until the 26th when a berth became available. 

The next day, her fate was sealed when the Financial Times reported Dominon Monarch had been sold for "about £350,000" to the Japanese Mitsui organisation for scrap. It had been previously announced in Seattle on the 23rd that the ship first be used as a hotel in Seattle from June-October for the Century 21 World's Fair there. 

There were no "second time around" formal farewells from Lyttelton for the ship, but one last chance at getting even by two seamen of a local coaster:

Two seamen from the coaster Tainui, William Bruce Coker, aged 21, and Bertram Charles Fair, aged 19, pleaded guilty to a charge of wilfully damaging the liner Dominion Monarch, when they appeared before Messrs L. J. Shuker and A. P. B. Large, Justices of the Peace, in the Magistrate’s Court at Lyttelton yesterday. Sergeant R. W. Wales said Constables D. Back, S. Rarere and R. Walker saw Coker painting the words “Dominion Brewery” on the liner’s hull shortly before 3 a m. yesterday. The two men were in a punt. They said they were retaliating against the crew of the liner whom they believed had done other painting. Coker and Fair were each fined £1 10s and ordered to pay £6 towards the cost of removing the paint.

Press, 3 March 1962

After loading refrigerated meat, Dominion Monarch left Lyttleton and the South Island truly for good this time at 10:35 p.m. on 2 March 1962 and arrived at Wellington the next day.

The massive, twin-funnelled Shaw Savill and Albion liner Dominion Monarch. bade farewell to Lyttelton shortly after 10 p.m. yesterday, when two harbour board tugs assisted her gently from her berth at Gladstone pier. The Lyttelton harbourmaster (Captain A. R. Champion) took the familiar quadruple-ecrew liner quietly down the harbour and. at the heads, said good-bye to an old friend and au revoir to her master, Captain G V. Connolly. Earlier, about 5 p.m., two R.N.Z.A.F. aeroplanes flew over the ship and dipped their wings in farewell salute, but apart from a handful of wharfside onlookers, only Lyttelton people, who had already said farewell to the vessel last October, watched from their hillside windows and vantage points as the great ship drew slowly out of sight.

Press, 3 March 1962

On 7 March 1962 there was a farewell luncheon aboard Dominion Monarch alongside at Wellington, attended by 180 guests. Sadly, the ship was already being stripped for souvenirs especially her characterful smoking room with its unique collection of shields, flintlock pistols and swords.

Heraldic shields, flintlock pistols and claymores (broad swords) have been taken by souvenir hunters since it was announced that the Dominion Monarch was to go to the breakers. Sixteen heraldic shields in the smokeroom were taken during the last outward voyage. To prevent further loss the Shaw Savill Line, its owners, took down the remaining 22. Painted in striking colours, the shields were of noble houses in England. They helped give the room an atmosphere of an old Tudor mansion.

The flintlock pistols, several hundreds of years old, also disappeared from the smokeroom. Efforts to trace them have been unsuccessful, although at one stage a second hand dealer’s shop in Christchurch was visited following a report that they had been seen in the window. But they were not the same pistols. Two claymores were removed and have not been found. Two other claymores and a pike and halbert have since been put in safe keeping.

Press, 13 March 1962

Worse, on 15 March 1962 it was reported that the ship's 80 lb. forecastle bell had been stolen.  Two  4½ ft. high Chinese vases from the drawing room were "officially" removed from the ship at the end of her last voyage and were installed in the lounge of Northern Star

Capt G. V. Conolly (right) and Chief Officer Derek Aberdeen (left) on Dominion Monarch's bridge with her paying off pennant, 75-ft. long or 3½ ft. for every year in service. Credit: Alan Charles Kemp photograph. 

Part of the crowd that gathered to send-off Dominion Monarch from Glasgow Wharf, Wellington. Credit: Emmanuel Makarios,

A final wave as Dominion Monarch gathers speed. 

Dominion Monarch clears Wellington for the final time Credit: threebs,

Amid stirring scenes, Dominion Monarch was afforded a fine farewell as she left Wellington and New Zealand forever at noon on 15 March 1962. Thousands lined the whaves and rooftops to see the liner depart Glasgow Wharf amid whistle salutes by nearly every vessel in port. At her mast was her 75-foot-long paying off pennant. 

Dominion Monarch's final arrival at Sydney, 18 March 1962.

Looking magnificent to the end, Dominion Monarch at Sydney for the last time. Credit: Albert N. Plush photograph.

Dominion Monarch shares her Darling Harbour wharf with a pair of fishermen on her final call at Sydney. Credit: Alan Charles Kemp photograph. 

A late evening departure did not deter a good-sized crowd to bid Dominion Monarch a final farewell from Sydney. Credit: Sydney Morning Herald, 19 March 1962.

Nearly 400 people farewelled the Dominion Monarch when it left Darling Harbour for England on its last voyage from Australia last night.

Friends and relatives of passengers drove their cars round towards Circular Quay and blew their car horns as the liner sailed under the Harbour Bridge for the last time. 

The Dominion Monarch's master, Captain G.V. Conolly, said the liner was full of tradition and happy memories for thousands of people in Australia, New Zealand, Britain and South Africa.

'There are dozens of people travelling on this ship to England purely out of sentiment,' he said.

Captain Conolly said higher wages, depreciation and operating costs had made the Dominion Monarch uneconomic to run.

Sydney Morning Herald, 19 March 1962

Flying her paying-off pennant, Dominion Monarch edges away from Station Pier on 20 March 1962. Credit: The Age, 21 March 1962.

Well, all good things comes to an end, and it will be the end-- or the beginning of the end at least-- for the old-at-23 Monarch when she berths at Southampton tomorrow for the last time.

As her owners, the Shaw Savill Line, announced yesterday: 'The time has come for her to go, to make way for another big ship, Northern Star, which is soon to enter the company's service as a partner to the Southern Cross.'

As an official of the line said yesterday: 'The Monarch will be much missed for she has always been a much-loved ship.'

The Journal 19 April 1962

Dominion Monarch arrived at Southampton on 18 April 1962 to land her final compliment of 400 passengers, including more than a few "regulars" making one last trip:

Retired businessman Hector Young travelled 12,000 miles just to say goodbye to an old friend.

And yesterday came their final parting-- at a dockside.

For the friend is the liner Dominion Monarch, due for the breaker's yard.

As she docked at Southampton yesterday, Mr. Young, aged 74, said sadly: 'I regard the liner as my home from home.'

He has made 23 journeys to and from Australia in the 13 years, mostly in Dominion Monarch, and was already planning to go to Australia this year when he heard about the ship's last voyage. 

He switched liner and changed his sailing date, just to catch the Dominion Monarch in Australia.

Mr. Young, a former mayor of Southampton, said: 'It's been a sentimental journey. I know the ship so well. I've almost always had the same cabin. I know everybody aboard from the bellboy to the captain.'

Before Mr. Young left the ship, the master, Capt. George Conolly, presented him with a tea service as souvenir.

Daily Herald, 21 April 1962

Dominion Monarch proceeded to London where she docked on 22 April 1962. There, on the 30th, she hosted a final farewell reception hosted by Capt.  Sir Donald Aitchison and attended by two former captains and  the New Zealand High Commissioner in London, T.L. Macdonald who had sailed in her as a soldier. That same day another beloved New Zealand liner, Rangitata, arrived at Southampton on her last voyage, ending her a 33-year career. 

Waves of nostalgia were yesterday floating round the smoking room of the 26,500 ton Shaw Saviil liner Dominion Monarch. (Nothing brings out nostalgia in grown men like ships.) Next week she sails on her last voyage She has been bought by the Japanese as a temporary floating hotel at Seattle—they need the accommodation there during the coming World Fair—and then will be broken up. Naturally a sad occasion for the captain, Sir David Aitchison. who assembled with the crew. Two ex-captains were there, too. The storekeeper, Bill Morris, was the only man aboard who has served since she was launched. be like seeing my home pulled down before my eyes when she goes: he said. The Dominion Monarch is only 23 years old—young for a ship. But she's unfashionable because she combines passengers-500 all first class—with cargo. (Exporters prefer all-cargo ships, which don't spend so long in port.) At £400.000 I reckon the Japs are getting a bargain.

Daily Herald, 1 May 1962

A final gala maiden arrival for Dominion Monarch at Seattle, 29 May 1962. Credit: Lawton Gowey photograph, 

The 682-foot-long Dominion M. was the largest of three ships parked on the Seattle waterfront during Century 21 to serve as hotel ships, aka “botels,” during the worlds fair. With the hindsight of the  Marine History of the Pacific Northwest, which he authored, Port Commissioner and maritime historian Gordon Newell admitted that the fair’s “predicted major housing shortage failed to develop.”  The botels were not much needed, and yet the shapely English vessel was for many a sensational attraction and during the fair Newell won the concession for leading tours aboard it.  Standing on its flying bridge, ten stories high, one looked down on the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Twixt last voyage and boneyard, Dominon Monarch managed a respectable and celebrated if unprofitable and shortlived career in the unlikely role of a "Botel" in the unfamiliar surroundings of Seattle, Washington, the hosting city of  "Century 21"-- a combination of exposition celebrating the boundless possibilities of America's space programme, science and technology; trade fair and amusement park-- that was opened from April-October 1962.  The now dated 'thirties "combi" liner with her faded art deco patterned carpets, worn lino and autumnal hued banded veneers competed for public attention and favour with the Space Needle, the Alweg Monorail and the Gayway Amusement Park.

Off for a day at the fair to explore the limitless horizons of American science, technology not to mention the fairground rides of Gayway, dad wore a sports jacket and hat, mom had white gloves and sis had white socks and patent leather shoes. 

Then a provincial Pacific Northwest port city of 1.2 millions, Seattle was best known as the headquarters and principal manufacturing plant for Boeing Aircraft Co., but hardly a major tourist destination which was reflected in a paucity of hotel accommodation.  Amid make do plans for trailer parks and bed and breakfasts in private homes, the ready availability of deep water piers in the heart of the city, quickly resulted in the sourcing of passenger vessels to serve as floating hotels during the peak summer season of the fair. Dubbed locally as "Botels," these eventually comprised, in addition to Dominion Monarch, Acapulco, Yarmouth and Catala, predictably an eclectic even motley fleet of which "The DM" was surely, the veritable sovereign of Seattle's waterfront. It will be admitted that Century 21 organisers had originally sought the even grander  Liberté for the role. but she was sold instead to Italian not Japanese breakers. 

Credit: Official Dominion Monarch Guide Book, 1962. 

Hot on the heels of the report in February 1962 of Dominion Monarch's sale for scrap and interim charter to Seattle financier E.A. "Eddie" Black, was the news on 12 March  that Western Hotels had been contracted to operate the Dominon Monarch Hotel, the same company also ran the restaurant atop the fair's trademark Space Needle.  The hotel would be opened from 10 June-21 October during the peak season of the fair when it was anticipated existing hotel and lodging capacity would be overwhelmed. 

The newly crowned Sovereign of Seattle, Dominion Monarch arrives to firefloat water plumes as she passes the Space Needle and Pier 70. Credit: University of Washington Special Collections.

Locally produced postcard of Dominion Monarch's arrival at Seattle.

A ship never afforded a colour line-issued post card during her Shaw Savill career, made up for it during her brief stint at Seattle. 

Another postcard of her arrival.

Her old Doxfords blatting out a good deal of smoke, Dominion Monarch alongside Pier 50 with another 1930s maritime icon, the streamlined ferry Kalakala at the adjacent pier. Credit: University of Washington Special Collections.

Dominion Monarch at Pier 50. Credit:

On 4 May 1962, under Capt. G.B. Connolly and a skeleton crew, Dominion Monarch sailed at noon from London Docks for Seattle without cargo.  She arrived at Seattle on the 29th, dressed overall and amid considerable local fanfare and interest, and berthed at Pier 50 which had been especially dredged and prepared to accommodate her.  By positioning her between the pier and newly installed pilings, Black got around Port of Seattle and Coast Guard liens on the vessel by declaring it a “permanent installation.” With no pier structure (which had been recently demolished), the berth provided ample parking for hotel guests and visitors, and was situated a mile and half from the fair site and half a mile from the Pike Street terminus of the Monorail. 

An attractive brochure was produced to promote the Dominion Monarch floating hotel, indeed it was the only colour brochure even done for the ship! Credit: eBay auction photos.

The cocktail menu cover and a coaster from Dominion Monarch's Veranda Room. Credit: eBay auction photo.

Prices for rooms ranged from $12.50 person  a night for a twin stateroom with private bath, $11.25 pp for a four-berth cabin with bath; or without bath, $10.00 pp for a twin, $8.00 for a triple etc. Budget accommodation for students and groups was even offered in C and D Deck former crew dormitories for $5.00 a night.  On the other end of the scale, the captain's cabin and that of the ship's surgeon were also available as suites. 

An effort was recreate an authentic ocean liner experience aboard with live music in the Veranda Room, elaborate meals served in the dining room, the pool filled and traditional deck sports offered for guests. Non residents could dine aboard as well as enjoy the Veranda Room for cocktails and dancing.  Local maritime historian and author (Marine History of the Pacific Northwest and later Ocean Liners of the 20th Century among the many) and Port Commissioner Gordon Newall (1913-1991) led regular tours of the ship in a white officers uniform, prompting Seattle Times humorist John Reddin to imagine  his guide, Newell, in his “white, tropical uniform,” as “Noël Coward playing the lead role in ‘In Which We Serve.’ 

Local television station KTNT even set up a full studio aboard, utilising 11,000 sq. ft. of space, to broadcast its news and weather shows from the ship. It also broadcast "Deck Dance," a live "shipboard dance party" from aboard, daily at 4:00 p.m.

When they boarded the ship moored in Elliot Bay, the steward stared at their seven suitcases. Then he led them to a large suite instead of a small stateroom at no extra charge. Both women found the Dominion Monarch more exciting than the Fair. 'The service, food and atmosphere were fabulous.' 

St. Petersburg Times 4 August 1962

Dominion Monarch looking quite imposing alongside Pier 50, Seattle. Credit: Yesterday's Trail Historical Photos. 

Now renamed Dominion Monarch Maru and registered in Osaka, the "Botel" lies alongside Pier 50 on 20 June 1962, her funnels also sporting the diamond shaped insignia of Mitsui Co. Credit: Lawton Gowey photograph,

Despite positive reviews, the demand for hotel accomodation for the fair simply did not materialise with both Acapulco and Dominion Monarch averaging about 55 per cent occupancy in August and that was an improvement over the previous two months.  On 8 August 1962 the operators of Acapulco announced they would shut down operations early the next month.  Saying that  "the demand for rooms wasn't up to expectations."  E.A. Black said on the 30th that Dominion Monarch, too,  was losing money and would close 10 September although charter was to run through 21 October. With operating expenses of $10,000-11,000 a day, the charter netted Black a $200,000 loss although it was reported that Acapulco lost as much as $500,000. 
On 10 September 1962, Dominion Monarch closed. Of the 30 guests who stayed the previous night, 17 were from Sonora, Mexico, who were rebooked at another hotel. "Crew members said plans to scrap the ship may be postponed so the Dominion Monarch can serve as a floating hotel at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo." (Spokesman-Review, 11 September 1962).

Credit: Seattle-King County Department of Public Health King County Archives.

More immediate interim employment for the vessel was found when television producer Leslie Stevens rented her starting in mid September for several weeks as a floating prop for a pilot episode of "Mr. Kingston," a one-hour drama starring Walter Pidgeon (Capt. Towers) and Peter Graves (Executive Officer Kingston) and revolving around the personal dramas of the passengers and crew of "S.S. Atlantis."  If the series was taken up, it was planned to long term charter Dominion Monarch and sail her to Los Angeles Harbor for filming aboard.  

With the controversary over the use and partial destruction of the fabled Ile de France to film the movie "The Last Voyage" still fresh,  Shaw Savill exercised the clause in the contract to prohibit any inappropriate use of the ship prior to demolition or resale. On 1 November 1962, H. Hakayama, Northwest Manager for Mitsui Co., stated Shaw Savill Line had declined to let the company accept $1.1 mn for the ship and that a Japanese captain and crew would be immediately flown to Seattle to man Dominion Monarch Maru on her last voyage to the scrapyard in Osaka. She was moved to a different pier to load 8,000 tons of scrap metal as her final cargo.

Dominion Monarch Maru carried a load of scrap from Seattle to Osaka on her voyage to the breakers. Credit: New Zealand Maritime Record.

Dominion Monarch Maru, moved to a different Seattle pier, loads scrap metal for her final voyage to Japan. Credit: F.W. Hawks

The Dominion Monarch, world's fair hotel ship and one-time queen of the South Pacific passenger trade, sailed under her own power for Osaka, Japan, Tuesday to be cut up for scrap.

In contrast to her arrival last spring, there were no bands, fireboats, crowds or fireworks as a tug moved it stern first out into Elliott Bay. 

Corpus Christi Caller-Times, 8 November 1962

Dominion Monarch Maru sailed from Seattle on 6 November 1962 and arrived  at the yard of Miyachi Salvage Co. at Sakai, near Osaka, on the 25th.  The firm had only recently completed the breaking up of P&O's Corfu and Carthage. Breaking up commenced by 10 December and was estimated to take six months to complete. 

Finished with Engines, Dominion Monarch Maru at the breakers yard, Sakai, Japan.

Dominion Monarch's fo'c'sle bell was presented to the Riverdale School, Palmerston North, New Zealand in January 1964 after student Wendy Paulson wrote Shaw Savill. Here, Wendy, with Shaw Savill's M.C. Barnett, rings off five rings to dedicate the bell in its new home. Credit:

So passed the greatest ship ever built for the New Zealand trade and to fly the houseflag of Shaw, Savill & Albion. Exactly thirteen years later her successor would follow her to the Asian breakers and bring down the curtain on the company's passenger operations. It was said when Dominion Monarch went that her likes would never be seen again, a fitting epitath to a vessel which had sailed a million and a half ocean miles as Ship of State to the southern Dominions she served in peace and war for 23 years. 

Q.S.M.V. Dominion Monarch outward bound from Wellington on 9 July 1949. Credit: Whites Aviation photograph, Alexander Turnbull LibraryCollection, New Zealand National Library. 

Built by Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson, Wallsend, Tyneside, no. 1547
Gross tonnage       27,155
Length: (o.a.)        682.1 ft..
              (b.p.)         657.6 ft.
Beam:                     84.8 ft.
Machinery:            four five-cylinder Doxford opposed piston diesel engines, 32,000 bhp,
                                quadruple screws. 
Speed:                    19.5 knots service
                                21.5 knots trials
Passengers            517 First Class as built
                                142 officers and 1,341 other ranks (1940)
                                1,712 troops (1941)
                                3,357 troops (1943)
                                4,300 troops (1944)
                                507 First Class (1949)
Officers & Crew   385 

Across the Sea to War, Peter Plowman,  2003
Blue Smoke: The Lost Dawn of New Zealand Popular Music, 1918–1964, Chris Bourke, 2010
British Passenger Liners of the Five Oceans, C.R. Vernon Gibbs, 1963
Famous Liners of the Past, Belfast Built, Laurence Dunn, 1964
Flag of the Southern Cross, History of the Shaw Savill & Albion, 1858-1939, Frank Bowen, 1947
Mates and lovers: a History of Gay New Zealand, Chris Brickell, 2008
Merchant Fleets 6, Blue Funnel Line, Duncan Haws, 1984
Merchant Fleets 10, Shaw, Savill & Albion, Duncan Haws, 1987
North Star to Southern Cross, John M. Maber, 1967
Shaw Savill and Albion:  The Post-War Fortunes of Shipping Empire, Richard P. De Kerbrech, 1986
Ships and Sealing Wax, Lord Sanderson, 1966
Ships that Passed, Scott Baty, 1984
Splendid Sisters, Alan Mitchell, 1966
The Ships that Served New Zealand, I.G. Stewart, 1964
The Patient Talks, C.M. Squarely, 1955
The Unusual and the Unexpected on British Railways: a chronology of unlikely events, 1948-1968, Dave Peel,  2013

Decoration and Glass
The Motor Ship
New Zealand Marine News
Sea Breezes
Shipbuilder & Marine Engine Builder
The Tatler

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Q.S.M.V. Dominion Monarch at Wellington. Credit: New Zealand Archives.

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© Peter C. Kohler