RMS Strathaird

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The Strathaird passing under the Sydney Harbour Bridge
Career (United Kingdom) Civil Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg
Class and type: Strath class ocean liner
Name: RMS Strathaird
Operator: Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company
Builder: Vickers-Armstrong
Yard number: 664
Launched: 18 July 1931
Maiden voyage: 12 February 1932
Homeport: Tilbury
Fate: Scrapped in Hong Kong in 1961
General characteristics
Tonnage: 22,544 gross tons
Length: 202.4 metres (664 ft)
Beam: 24.4 metres (80 ft)
Propulsion: Turbo-electric steam turbine motors, twin screws
Speed: Service: 20 knots (37 km/h)
Trials: 23 knots (43 km/h)
Capacity: 1,166 passengers
Crew: 490

RMS, later SS, Strathaird was the second of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company Strath class ocean liners. She was built at Vickers-Armstrong, Barrow-in-Furness, then in Lancashire, and launched on 18 July 1931. She remained in service for less than 30 years, being scrapped in 1961.


Strathaird was built just after the Strathnaver and the two ships were the first P&O liners to be painted with white hulls and yellow funnels,[1] and nicknamed The White Sisters.[2] There were three funnels, though the first and third were dummies and were removed in the refit in 1947 that followed her service in the Second World War.

Strathaird's maiden voyage was on the mail run from Tilbury to Sydney through the Suez Canal and this remained her route until the war. In December 1932, Strathaird was the first P&O ship to operate a cruise, when she took a five-day excursion from Sydney to Norfolk Island; later in the 1930s she was also used on occasion for cruises from UK ports.

Two further Strath class ships, slightly larger and with only one funnel, the Strathmore and the Stratheden, joined Strathaird and Strathnaver on the Sydney run from the mid 1930s. A fifth ship, the Strathallan, was completed in 1938, requisitioned as a troopship only a year later, and sunk in the Mediterranean in 1942 taking troops to the landings in North Africa, though with more than 5,000 people on board casualties are thought to have numbered only a dozen or so.[3]

On wartime service from 1939 to the end of 1946, Strathaird was used to take troops from Australasia to the Middle East. During a refit in Liverpool, she was also used in the evacuation of troops from Brest, in France.

Strathaird was extensively refitted in 1947 for the resumption of her P&O career: the dummy funnels were removed and the numbers of first-class passengers increased, with a drop in the number of tourist-class passengers.[4] One of her early duties on her return to civilian tasks was to bring the 1948 Australian cricket team, also known as The Invincibles, to England. A further refit in the early 1950s accompanied a downgrade in status which saw the ship converted to a single class.

Increasing unreliability of the older pair of Strath liners led P&O to propose a new single ship, the SS Canberra, that would replace both of them. Strathaird's final outward journey from Tilbury was on 28 March 1961 and her return voyage departed from Sydney on 9 May, 1961. She left Tilbury finally on 17 June 1961 for a breaker's yard in Hong Kong.[5]

File:C1950 PO Liner Strathaird.jpg
P&O Liner Strathaird at Fremantle Harbour c.1950. (Note the single funnel)

Egon Kisch

Egon Kisch on board the Strathaird bound for Australia November 1934.

In November 1934 Czechoslovak writer, journalist and opponent of Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime Egon Kisch was confined onboard the Strathaird when the Australian government unsuccessfully attempted to exclude him from the Commonwealth. Kisch dramatically defied the exclusion order by leaping from the departing Strathaird on to Melbourne's Station Pier and breaking his right leg. Australian authorities returned him onboard but he was later released and allowed to visit freely by the Australian High Court.

External links


  1. "P&O RMS Strathaird". SS Maritime. http://www.ssmaritime.com/strathaird.htm. Retrieved 2007-12-20. 
  2. "The White Sisters". The Ocean Liner Virtual Museum. http://www.poships.co.uk/thewhitesisters.html. Retrieved 2007-12-20.  This site maintains that Strathnaver was the first built, and Strathaird the second, but no other sites that were consulted agree.
  3. "The Strathallan Story". http://www.thestrathallan.com/strathallan.htm. Retrieved 2007-12-20. 
  4. "P&O RMS Strathaird". SS Maritime. http://www.ssmaritime.com/strathaird.htm. Retrieved 2007-12-20. 
  5. "P&O RMS Strathaird". SS Maritime. http://www.ssmaritime.com/strathaird.htm. Retrieved 2007-12-20.