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This website is developed from the site originally conceived developed & maintained by Marcus Castell and associates. Opinions are those of the various authors of the articles, and are not those of the NZ National Maritime Museum unless specifically noted. Information in this site has been updated to 2002 and will be progressively updated as resources allow. More information on historic ships (etc) is contained in the MARITIME INDEX website
Q.S.M.V.     Dominion Monarch


The quadruple screw motor vessel Dominion Monarch was the most powerful motor liner in the world and in her time, the largest ship in the Australasian trade.  With a unique passenger to crew ratio, she offered a quality of service that has never been equalled.

She was a most unusual ship; her design was basically that of a very large cargo-passenger liner, a factor emphasised by her comparatively small passenger complement.  Although other vessels of her type had been built previously, and were ordered after her, Dominion Monarch was the largest liner of this format ever built.

Above and below: Circular Quay, Sydney. Maiden voyage; March 1939.


Although larger, faster and more impressive ships were to serve on the Australasian service, it is still considered that the era of stylish traditional sea travel ended with the demise of Dominion Monarch.  She disappeared from the southern seas route in 1962, a victim of the increasing demand for ships that were more economical.  There was only one Dominion Monarch, the likes of which will never be seen again.

1939 article, click to expand
Enlarged image opens in a new window


Builder - Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson, Wallsend-on-Tyne, England.

Registered Number - 166828

Displacement - 27,155 tons

Dimensions - 682 x 84 feet, 6 inches.

Maximum draught - 34 feet


Power was supplied by four Doxford 5 cylinder opposed-piston Diesel engines (above).  With a cylinder diameter of 725 mm and a piston stroke of 2,250 mm, they developed a total of 32,000 brake horse power and consumed 90 tons of fuel per day.  Distilled water was used for cooling the cylinder jackets and this in turn was cooled by sea water.  Two of the engines were built by Swan Hunter and the other two were built by Sunderland Forge.  It is reputed that the two inner engines were by the Forge and were run at a slower speed until the screws were replaced in 1950.  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 l00 psi.

The auxiliary machinery consisted of five Allan diesel generators. These were six cylinder units, each capable of developing 900 bhp and directly coupled to a 600 kW, DC, 220 volt generator.

Cruising speed - Reputed to be 21 knots, but the average service speed, with the screws turning at 123 r.p.m. was reported as 192 knots.

Port of registry - Southampton.

Ship's company: 385

Livery - Black hull, white superstructure, buff and black funnels, red boot topping.

With 650,000 cubic feet of space, her six holds were capable of carrying around 3,600 tons of general cargo and 12,800 tons of frozen meat or dairy produce.


Accommodation was provided on a lavish scale for 525 first class passengers (refitted to 508 in 1947), 160 being in single berth cabins.  Some 38 cabins had private bathrooms; very generous for those days.  There were also two special suites on the promenade deck comprising a double bedroom, sitting room, bathroom and lobby.  The passengers had the use of six decks from the games deck, down through the lounge, promenade, 'A', B' and C' decks.

The public rooms consisted of a lounge (above), drawing room, writing room (below), smoke room, palm court, verandah, cinema and restaurant.  Most of the public rooms were on the lounge deck with the entrance foyer right forward.  Aft of this was the lounge and aft again was the writing room to starboard with the drawing room on the port side.

Writing Room

Smoke Room

Going aft once more was the smoke room (above), which was the only room with a period design.  Right aft on the same deck was the verandah which also doubled as the cinema.

Right forward on the promenade deck was the ever popular palm court which gave excellent views over the bows and to both port and starboard.  At the after end of the room there was a cocktail bar and painted mural decorations depicting English country landscapes.

Crossing the Line ceremony, 1951.

Aft on the promenade deck was the 24 ft x 16 ft swimming pool (above) and a gymnasium.

The air-conditioned restaurant (above) on C deck could seat 300 passengers at one sitting.

She would spend a month in London at the end of each voyage unloading and reloading cargo at the Royal Albert Docks.  On leaving London the first port of call was Southampton to pick up passengers.  From there it was a voyage of 35 days to Wellington via Las Palmas (to bunker fuel), Capetown, Fremantle, Melbourne, Sydney then Wellington where she stayed for another month.  Some passengers used her as their hotel while in Wellington.  She unloaded cargo at Aotea Quay then moved to Glasgow Wharf for reloading frozen cargo and picking up passengers for the return voyage, stopping at the same ports of call on the homeward trip, again 35 days.

Ship's Log

1937     July     The keel was laid in the same berth from which the Mauretania had been launched in 1906 at the Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson Ltd. yard in Wallsend-on-Tyne.

1938     "Gibby" Gibson was the liner's first Chief Engineer and while she was under construction at Swan Hunter's they presented Gibby with the traditional shipyard foreman's bowler hat.  Third engineer Monson was there when Gibby did his last trip before retiring, "That same hat, which he still had, we had mounted with a plaque attached which said "The hat that built the Dominion Monarch."

1938     July 27     Launched at 3.30 p.m. by Lady Essendon, wife of the chairman of Furness Withy and Company Ltd.  She was the largest ship built on the Tyne since the Mauretania.

1939     January     After her sea trials off St Abbs Head in late January, she was delivered to Shaw Savill.

1939     February 16     In the command of Captain W. G. Summers (another source states that Captain W. H. Hartman was in command), she commenced her seven week maiden voyage from the King George V Dock, London to Wellington via Southampton (where her passengers boarded), Tenerife (below Left), Capetown, Durban, Fremantle, Melbourne and Sydney.  The service was promoted as "The Clipper Route" and fares began at 58.  The above photograph shows the Dominion Monarch passing the Cutty Sark on the Thames near Tilbury.


Artist's view by William McDowell, probably rendered before the vessel went into service.

Despite the fact that the Shaw Savill offices in London received a call claiming that the IRA had placed a bomb on board timed to go off when the ship was on the equator, she made a fast passage to Durban, arriving on a Sunday with thousands of people to welcome her.  The ship was opened to the public and because of the thousands of visitors her departure was delayed for twelve hours.  In Australia she visited Fremantle, Melbourne and Sydney; in New Zealand she went to Auckland and Wellington and even made a short stay at the roadstead off Napier, where she was the largest ship to have worked the port and visitors had to be hoisted on board.

1939     March 11     Arrived at Fremantle, setting a new record for the 'Cape' route.

1939     April 24     Collided with the 746 ton floating crane Hikitia at Wellington.

1939     April 25     Departed from Wellington for Sydney on the return leg of her second voyage.

1939     August 3     Departed Tilbury on her third line voyage.  Colonel M. Hunter kept a large scrap book of memorabilia from the voyage. It includes Shaw Savill brochures, special menus with artistic covers, photo views of Cape Town and Durban, Durban Tram tickets, landing regulations and announcement of declaration of war and photo views and postcards of Perth and Melbourne.

1939     September, Sunday 3     Berthed at Lyttelton, New Zealand on the day that Britain declared war upon Germany, the ship's company began to paint the vessel uniform Grey from truck to waterline.

1939     September, 7     Arrived at Sydney, where she was fitted with a very old 6-inch gun, inscribed "ex-HMS Venerable" and with "Obsolete" marked in Red on the sights.  It had a range of five miles, when modern guns of that calibre had twice the capability.  She was also equipped with an anti-aircraft gun which had to be fitted with stops to prevent the funnels being shot away.  The liner then departed for England across the now hazardous Indian and Atlantic Oceans.

1939     September 17-23     Docked at Gladstone Pier, Lyttelton, NZ.

Saville Street, Tilbury, London

Upon returning to Tilbury she was initially laid up, while her usefulness as a troop transport was assessed.  After much deliberation she was rejected on the grounds that her luxuriously appointed accommodation was unsuitable for large-scale transportation of military personnel and equipment.  So Dominion Monarch set out again for Australia and New Zealand.  Few passengers were embarked, mainly owing to the threat of attack by German submarines which were known to be lurking in British waters.  However, the round voyage was relatively uneventful and Dominion Monarch returned to Great Britain with a full capacity of vital foodstuffs and war supplies.  During the course of this journey much of her passenger accommodation was utilised for additional cargo space; crates of fruit and vegetables were stored in her public rooms and large stacks of wool stowed on the games deck.

1940     May     On the return passage from Australia, whilst coming up the English Channel completely blacked out and at full speed, she collided with a small coaster which was part of a convoy.  However, the liner sustained only minor damage and docked in London in early May 1940.

She returned to Sydney, loading a large cargo and also embarking 100 Australian soldiers, who were part of a larger contingent that had already left Australia for England.  These men were able to enjoy all the luxury of her first class accommodation on their passage, which ended in Liverpool.

1940     August     Requisitioned for troopship service and refitted at Liverpool to carry 142 commissioned officers and 1,341 other ranks.  This entailed stripping out most of her luxurious accommodation and when she sailed again it was in convoy for Suez, with a full complement of troops.

1940     September 8     Departed Liverpool in the evening with an Anti-Aircraft Regiment bound for Egypt.

1940     October 19     Arrived at Port Suez, Egypt after a 42 day voyage via Freetown, Sierra Leone and Capetown.  The troops were ferried ashore by Lighter at Port Tewfik and she was ordered to proceed via Colombo for Sydney

By then garbed in Grey camouflage paint, she arrived at Sydney to undergo dry-docking at Cockatoo Island, during which she received additional armaments and further work was carried out to adapt her troop accommodation to conform to Australian regulations.  Once this was completed she crossed to Wellington where she loaded a full cargo and embarked 1,400 New Zealand troops.  Sailing day was a big occasion with government dignatories attending the event and most of the citizens turning out to 'see the boys off.'  She returned to Sydney in company with the old coal-burning Canadian Pacific liner Empress of Russia.

1940     December 28     Rough weather experienced whilst steaming to Freemantle from Sydney in convoy with the Queen Mary, Aquitania, Mauretania, Carmania, Awatea, HMAS Sydney, HMAS Canberra and HMNZS Leander.  The Aquitania was the 'Granny' of the fleet so the convoy had to come down to her speed of 17 knots.  The convoy sailed on via Trincomalee to Suez.  At the entrance to the Red Sea the Dominion Monarch collided with an unknown small coaster off Perim, but once again she suffered only very minor damage.  After disembarking her troops, she went to Aden where she picked up about 300 Abyssinian refugees from the campaign in Eritrea and took them to Mombasa.  All this time she was carrying huge quantities of frozen meat and dairy products which were much needed in the U.K. and so she was ordered back to Liverpool via Cape Town.

New Zealander Commander Pat Luxton had signed on as a signalman attached to the Commodore.  His duties were to keep watch from the bridge.  "I was attached to the Royal Navy but seconded to the Merchant Service. We were leading a 40 ship convoy by the time we got up to the Middle East.  We split into two to go through the Suez Canal.  The first 20 ships went through to the middle lakes during the first day, and the second 20 the next day.  That was the first time "Gerry" had laid mines in the canal. We got through on the first day but mines sank the leading three ships of the second half of the convoy."

The Dominion Monarch arrived at Port Said to be greeted by an air raid.  Luxton, having been up on the middle watch (known as the 'graveyard': midnight to 4 am), slept right through it.  Next morning he saw a big crater alongside the ship.  With three of our ships blocking the canal, they were stranded at Port Said.  He was taken off of the liner temporarily, while she went up to Haifa in Israel to be out of harms way until the canal was cleared.  It took three weeks to blow these ships up and haul them all ashore.

1941     April 23     Carrying reinforcements for the Middle East, the liner left the U.K. as part of a convoy WS8A; ten large troop transports which also included the Empress of Asia and P&O's Strathaird.  During the voyage to Freetown the liner was in collision with the Royal Mail liner Highland Chieftain, on her starboard side.  Fortunately the damage was not great, but when the rest of the convoy went on to Suez, the Dominion Monarch had to put into Freetown for repairs to a hole in her shell plating, on her starboard side, amidships.  From Capetown, the unescorted ship went directly to Wellington and after embarking troops there she crossed the Pacific, passed through the Panama Canal and then continued to Halifax, Nova Scotia.  There a large group of airmen disembarked for training and their places were taken by trained airmen for the passage to Liverpool, which the Dominion Monarch made with the Canadian Pacific's Empress of Asia.  The next destination for both ships was to be Singapore, a voyage which would end in disaster for one ship and near disaster for the other.

1941     August 8     Departed Cristobal (Panama) at 10.15 a.m. with 1,200 troop passengers aboard.

1941     December     Arrived at Singapore, with troops and equipment that had been diverted from the Middle East.  At that time, although the Japanese Army had advanced rapidly down the Malayan peninsular, it was thought that they would be held on a defensive line along the Slim River north of Kuala Lumpur.  No-one imagined that they would be laying siege to Singapore Island by the end of that month and so it was decided to dry-dock the liner in the graving dock off East Wharf Road in Keppel Harbour, just West of the city.  However, instead of holding up the Japanese advance for weeks, the Slim River position was broken by 7th January and the Japanese advanced to Johore State, only eighty miles north of the island.  By the end of January the British forces had been forced to withdraw to Singapore Island, and it was clear that Singapore would not hold out for long.

Unfortunately, the vessel was lying disabled in dry-dock, with her main engines dismantled.  By now conditions in Singapore had deteriorated badly, air raids on the dock had been intensified, and with the Japanese invasion imminent, many considered the Dominion Monarch's case to be hopeless.  However, working under the chief engineer, the crew did a magnificent job of re-assembling her engines and she was able to leave Singapore on the night of 8th February 1942, the eve of the Japanese invasion.  The noise of the artillery to the North, which had opened rapid fire, and the continual air raids made it obvious that the end was near and as the liner passed the Sultan Shoal just outside the harbour the smouldering, bombed wreck of the Empress of Asia was a grim reminder of the dangers in those Far Eastern waters.  Fortunately, she made it to New Zealand and then returned home via Panama.

1942     March     In the Clyde from Capetown.

1942     March 20     Departed Liverpool with RAF 980 Squadron, the Barrage Balloon Squadron aboard.  They crossed the line on 12 April 1942.  Leading Aircraftsman Edgar (Taff) Garwood thought the Dominion Monarch was an amazing ship and he vividly remembered in the early hours one morning the ship going to action stations as an exercise, he said it was terrifying until he appreciated that it was only an exercise.  Below are two photographs from his war collection showing troops on the deck with their solar topees and life-jackets and the troops using the swimming pool.


1942     April 6     Arrived at Bombay.

1942     April 12   Departed from Freetown after tea with troops from the Duchess of Atholl.

1942     April 22   Arrived at Durban, where the troops transferred to the Ile de France.

1942     May 19     Japanese high flying dirigible balloons observed from H.M.T. Dominion Monarch.

1942     July     Departed from the U.K. for Durban in convoy with the Arkadia (or Arcadian) and the Rangitata, which had come from the Clyde with prisoners aboard.  The battleship Warspite lead the convoy and there were destroyers on the flanks and two to the rear.  There was some gun practice in the Atlantic, but luckily, it was an uneventful voyage.

1942     August     Departed from Halifax for Liverpool at the beginning of August escorted by the Beagle class destroyer, HMS Boadicea.

1943     January     Departed from England for India via Freetown, Capetown and Durban.  "The Dominion Monarch had a reputation for rolling, but I voyaged in a convoy to Cape Town in January - February 1943 in the Sibajak (Rotterdam Lloyd).  From what I could observe from the other side of the convoy, she rolled less than the Sibajak and Duchess of Richmond but more than the Arundel Castle."         Derek Spiers

1943     February     At Durban bound for Aden and Bombay in a very large convoy of troopships, escorted by H.M.S. Jasmine.

1943     March     Arrived at Bombay.

1943     October 18     Position: 49.54'N;14.15'W, at sea from Plymouth to Gibralter in convoy, abeam to the Starboard of the Dido Class light cruiser HMS Spartan at 13.5 knots on a course of 207.

1944     February 10     Departed from Pier 57 at Brooklyn, New York, carrying US troops to Europe for the build up in preparation for Operation 'Overlord.'

1944     February 23     Arrived at Liverpool

1944     March 22     "We loaded onto trains for the docks and then onto the large troop transport Dominion Monarch, a British boat.  Next day, on March 23, we sailed out of New York harbour for England

Our convoy across the Atlantic was a huge one with many ships of all types on their way to England. There were troop transports, supply ships, an aircraft carrier carrying partly assembled planes, an oil tanker, a great number of the merchantmen, many destroyers, submarine chasers, etc.  It was a very rough crossing.  The weather was terrible, but fortunately I never have been seasick.  I was sorry for the GIs who slept in hammocks in the holds because many of them were quite seasick as were many others all over the ship."

1944     April 4     Arrived at Liverpool

1944     July 1 - 13     The 284th Field Artillery Battalion which had the code name "Helpmate" was at sea aboard the liner  This unit was part of General Patton's Third Army and supported many infantry units in northern France, Rhine area and the invasion of Southern Germany.

1944     October 10     Departed from New York for Liverpool.

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.

1945     June 17     Berthed at Darling Harbour, Sydney with Australian ex-prisoners of war from Germany.

1945-6     Brought NZ troops home.

1945     October     Departed from Wellington for Sydney. "We are now aboard the Dominion Monarch and I don't think royalty could have had a better send off, the band struck up with that sad but lovely song 'Now is the Hour', the quayside was packed with crowds of people, all were singing & streamers were flying everywhere."

1947     April     At Melbourne.

1947     July 21     Arrived at London's King George V Dock, where she was released from government transport duties.  Soon afterwards she sailed North to her builder's yard at Newcastle to be completely refurbished.  During the 15 months long refit for passenger service her machinery was stripped out and completely overhauled and her luxurious accommodation was restored to its former glory with berths for 508 passengers.

1948     December 16     Carrying 2,000 tons of cargo for Australian ports and 8,000 tons for New Zealand, she returned to the antipodean service.  This cargo was valued at 1 million and it was a welcome addition to Britain's post-war export drive.  She arrived at Southampton the next day and embarked 500 passengers, which appeared to be a good start to her peacetime trade.

"I was in charge of the ship's telephone exchange on her post-war maiden trip, under the command of Sir Henry Gordon.  A motley crew was only obtained by scouring every shipping office in the UK.  The very mention of the name Dominion Monarch emptied every shipping office in seconds.  Seamen have long memories, perhaps they remembered the "DM" putting to sea from Singapore leaving a lot of the crew to be captured by the Japanese.  I found her to be a floating hell - she was known as the Dominion Maniac or The Bucket of Blood.  As night telephonist, I can testify the times I had to phone the ship's doctor to tend badly injured crew men as a result of the vicious fights.  The crew quarters were, at times, unbearable, due to the fact that the ports had to stay shut, being about two feet above the sea.  With them open in just a ripple of a sea the cabins were flooded.  And where the term 'Cape Roll' fits I am at a loss to understand.  The 'DM' was like a rock in any sea, all 26,000 tons of her."       Mr. S. T. Conway

"She was the largest of the ten ships in which I served and I recall that she had, in certain sea conditions, a distinctive rolling pattern quite slow in the centre of the roll but with a 'flop' at each end of the roll.

I must take issue with the criticism of the crew's accommodation in the 'DM'.  The referral could be to her pre-1945 condition, or perhaps the catering staff's area, one part of the ship I was not familiar with.  My cabin, which I shared with another Able seaman, was quite spacious with two bunks, lockers, a table and two chairs.  In fact, it seems in retrospect, more spacious, if a little more spartan, than our 1954 passenger cabin!  The deck crew were in cabins on the Port side below the after deck-house.  We had a large mess-room and an equally large bathroom."       Alistair Kerr

1948     Communications Officer Gerry Wild joined the ship at Fremantle bound for London.  He spent six years at sea then returned to Australia.

1949     March 7     Departed Sydney for Fremantle.

1949     July 18     Departed Sydney for Fremantle.

1949     September 7     The Wilkins brothers joined the liner's crew. For his third trip to sea Donald signed on as a Laundry Boy and Jack (William John) as a Junior Ordinary Seaman.  They were quite fascinated by the luxury and splendour of the ship.

1949     November 19     Departed Sydney for Fremantle.

1950s     Sydney's Woolloomoloo district was the liner's usual berth during this period.  It was spoken of in the same breath as Chicago's Barbary Coast and Glasgow's Gorbals.  The area was so rough that it is said that the crew would not go ashore at night in less than groups of six.  Half a century later it's now a trendy area of bijou apartments and elegant town-houses.  The mantle of the last Wild West frontier town has crossed the Tasman sea, where Auckland continues to be an unsafe city in which to walk at night.

1950     One hundred berths were usually set aside for the Cape trade and a return passage from the U.K. to Capetown cost 150.8.0, little more than a single passage on a Union-Castle mail ship.

1950     April     Jim (Jock) Monson (above right) joined the liner as a Junior Engineer.

1950     May 10     Departed from the Royal Albert Dock at Woolwich, London for New Zealand under the command of Sir Henry Gordon. G. V. Connoly was the Chief Officer.

1950     July 1     Arrived at Wellington.

Junior Engineers on the boat deck at Wellington

1950     August     "I believe that originally the outboard screws ran at a faster rpm than the inboard pair; post-war this was altered to 123 rpm for all four screws.  Common to many motor ships, she had insufficient speed and was often late arriving at Cape Town from Fremantle if the Indian Ocean rollers were against her.  She was given new screws in August 1950 which gave quieter running, but no increase in speed."         Peter Kohler.

1950     August 19     Arrived at the Royal Albert Dock, Woolwich.

1950     September 18     Departed from the Royal Albert Dock, Woolwich.

1950     December 28     Arrived at the Royal Albert Dock, Woolwich.

1950     Junior engineer Monson recalled an incident that occurred on his second voyage.

All the junior engineers in the company were dissatisfied with their monthly salary.  Donkeymen and storekeepers were receiving a higher salary than junior engineers.  There were four other company ships in Wellington, so we held a meeting of all the junior engineers in the Verandah Cafe on the Dominion Monarch.  We were planning to go on strike.  Captain Sir Henry Gordon addressed the meeting and explained that donkeymen and storekeepers were at the pinnacle of their career and their salary would increase no further, whereas junior engineers could progress up the ladder and command higher salaries.  He was correct of course.  But we were young and impetuous and told him that when the ships were ready to sail we would step ashore.  "Fine," he said, "then I will order the senior officers to take the ship three miles out to sea and you will be classed as deserters and thrown in jail".  Our reaction to this was that we would go out with the ship but remain on deck.  "Fine," he said "then I will order you into the engine room and if you refuse to go it will be mutiny."  Needless to say we lost our case but we did get an increase the following trip. No doubt this incident would be recorded in the ship's official log.
1951     Captained by D. Aitcheson, G. V. Connoly was still the Chief Officer.

1951     January 10     Departed from the Royal Albert Dock, Woolwich.

1951     March 22     Sailed from Wellington.  With the Army working by day and the Navy by night, her cargo had been loaded during a waterfront strike that had begun more than a month earlier.

1951     April 26     Arrived at the Royal Albert Dock, Woolwich.

1952     January 9     Departed from the Royal Albert Dock, Woolwich.

1952     April 17     Arrived at the Royal Albert Dock, Woolwich.

1952     April 30     Departed from the Royal Albert Dock, Woolwich.

1952     August 8     Arrived at the Royal Albert Dock, Woolwich.

1952     September 17     Departed from the Royal Albert Dock, Woolwich.

1952     December 25     Arrived at the Royal Albert Dock, Woolwich.

1953     January     Captain B. Forbes Moffat took command the ship until 1956.

"G. V. Connoly was still the Chief Officer.  Connoly was one of the finest seamen I ever came across.  By this time I was a 3rd Engineer. As well as regular watches, one of my other duties was care of the two motor powered lifeboats.

On one voyage in 1953, I think, we were homeward bound crossing the Indian Ocean when a radio message was received from another one of the company ships which was nearby that they had a seriously ill crew member.  They requested that we take him aboard as we had two doctors and a hospital on the ship.  I was assigned as engineer so I took a 4th. engineer with me as backup; Bob McKenty from Auckland.  As well, there were six seamen and G. V. Connoly was in charge. The other ship was about half a mile away.  We got there and the sick seaman was lowered into the lifeboat by derrick strapped into a straight jacket.  We got back to the Dominion Monarch and with the rolling sea it was quite a chore to get hooked back to the davits and hoisted up to the boat deck.  Connoly did a great job in achieving this.  That episode will be in the ships official log. The sick seaman was cared for, then admitted to hospital in Capetown. Scary at the time but a great experience.

The following trip I beat G.V. Connoly in the final of a deck golf tournament for officers.  I still have the pewter mug I won with the ship's name on the handle.  Connoly never forgave me for that."  -  Jim (Jock) Monson.

Officers of the 8-12 watch in 1953
Taken in the engineer's smoke room while at sea.

1953     January 14  Departed from the Royal Albert Dock, Woolwich.

1953     April 24   Arrived at the Royal Albert Dock,  Woolwich.

1953     May 2     Departed from the Royal Albert Dock, Woolwich.

1953     May 5     The liner returned to her birth place at Wallsend Slipway in Newcastle for an extensive overhaul. When the refit was over she went back to London for loading and return to normal service.

1953     May 23     Departed from Newcastle-on-Tyne.

1953     November 16     Arrived at London.   Third engineer Monson left the liner for the last time to go and acquire his 2nd class Board of Trade certificate.  "I felt like I was leaving my homeland."  Jock still has his discharge book bearing the signatures of her Masters.

Tom Nesbitt at far right

1954     June     "I spent a short but very happy time on board the "D.M." - as she was so fondly called by all who sailed in her - that is until she began her famous 'Cape Roll', which anyone who has sailed in her will know what I'm talking about.  I was a dining room steward on her from June to December, 1954, which included a round trip to Wellington, New Zealand - a trip where we unfortunately lost our Chief Engineer overboard on the homeward bound trip - in the Australian Bight - I think it was.  I was also on board for a three week dry-docking in Rotterdam.  The Master at that time was Captain Brian Forbes-Moffatt, and I think I can say he ran a happy ship. My only reason for leaving the Dominion Monarch at that time was to join the Shaw Savill liner Gothic as Captain's Steward."      Gordon Dennis

1954     "I had the unusual experience of making two trips in her, one as an able seaman in late 1949 and one, with my wife and two small children, as a passenger in 1954.  The first was a round trip (UK-NZ) and the second from Cape Town to Wellington.  Many of my former shipmates were still serving in her, so it was a unique situation for them and me!  The chief officer, I think, found it a hard one to accept."       Alistair Kerr.

1955     Captain K. D. G. Fisher takes command of the vessel, he will be her master for six years.

1955     The new Southern Cross joined her in the Shaw Savill fleet and the two ships inaugurated a round-the-world service to Wellington in alternate directions, calling at Trinidad, Curacao, Panama, Papeete, Suva and Wellington. On the return leg stops were made at Sydney, Melbourne, Fremantle, Durban, Cape Town and Las Palmas.

1956       March 10       At Capetown.

1956       August 18       Embarked passengers at Southampton and sailed for New Zealand, arriving six and a half weeks later.

London, 1957

1957     Below Right: repainting the hull at Queen's Wharf, Auckland.


1958       February 28       "I travelled in this ship from the U.K. to Cape Town between 28th February and 15th March 1958.  My voyage was due to the fact that the mail ship that week, the Winchester Castle, had no single cabins with a bathroom available.  This proved fortunate as I cannot recall a ship whose accommodation was as spacious and comfortable as that of the Dominion Monarch.  Due to severe weather, which delayed the arrival of cargo, passengers were asked to embark at the King George V Dock in London's Royal Docks and the usual call at Southampton was omitted.  Captain Kenneth Fisher, who kept us amused at dinner, seemed to run a happy ship and the dining and cabin stewards were invariably cheerful."       Derek Spiers

1958       It was decided that the liner would be replaced by a similar ship to the Southern Cross, with accommodation for 1,412 passengers, but no cargo.

1959     May 29     British Comedian Spike Milligan arrives at Sydney aboard the liner.

1959     August 20     At Tilbury.

Berthed at Wellington alongside her running mate, the revolutionary Southern Cross, still in service after 46 years.

1960     December     Berthed at Darling Harbour, Sydney.

1961     April 11     Dr. William Arundel Orchard (1867-1961) was returning from one of his various trips to England with his wife, Eleanor, when two days before his 94th birthday, on board his favourite ship, he died. He was buried at sea, off Capetown, South Africa, a fitting place to one who loved the sea and ships.

1961     August 8     Departed from the Victoria Docks, Tilbury for Wellington via South Africa and Australia

Aboard was 17 year old commis waiter Leon Roskilly from the East End of London (Right). After the notorious Training Ship Vindicatrix, his first two jobs had both been aboard cargo vessels.

    "I got the impression that by then Shaw Savill were into reducing costs on this vessel as much as possible, and unwilling to pay the rates offered by other companies. The result was a high proportion of the crew were men who didn't have clean records, and who were unwelcome on other ships. Or, like me, young and naive and had not heard the stories about crew life on the 'Dominion Maniac'. I was in for an education!!

    As passenger boarding time approached, we assembled in shiny black shoes, black creased trousers, and crisp white stewards' jackets with silvered buttons, to greet the joining passengers. Inspected and lined up, as each passenger came aboard, we were told their cabin number, picked up their cabin luggage and escorted them to the appropriate deck and cabin, anticipating a generous tip. One women, with just a small bag gave me five shillings; a couple, with heavy luggage which needed to be carried seemingly to the far end of the vessel and down several decks, just sixpence. Rejoining the end of the white uniformed queue, shuffling steadily forward to greet the boarders, we regaled each other with stories of our previous charges, and the tips they gave.

    As well as serving as a commis waiter (often in charge of the hors d'ouvre trolley), I was also given the job of driving the lift between decks, and opening the restaurant doors for passengers at mealtimes. There's an art to driving a lift. You need to anticipate the arrival of the level of the next deck, and ease it to a stop. It requires practice and skill and concentration. There were passengers that I would carefully position the lift for, so that there was no discernible difference between the floor of the lift, or the flooring of the deck. They were the people who often left my 'craft' with a kind or cheery word.

    Others might find themselves tripping, or stumbling. Was it my fault that their rudeness affected my concentration? (Serving as a commis waiter on the Dominion Monarch taught me a valuable lesson in life. Never, ever, be rude, or maybe just inconsiderate, to the person who brings you food from the galley or kitchen!)

    The ship hit the end of the pier as we left Sydney harbour, the damage caused leading to minor flooding in the crews' quarters as we crossed the storm tossed Australian Bight.

    A lot of people had come to see off their friends and relatives. As the liner gained way, they walked alongside the ship, towards the end of the pier. At some point they realised that the vessel was going to collide with the pier, stopped, and started moving back. Slowly at first, but with growing signs of panic. Then came the graunching, sliding noises as thousands of tons of steel scraped the end of the pier!

    For most of the time, I was bored out of my mind, and entertained myself unpicking knots from a ball of string, or inventing really complicated knots. At the end of the voyage, a number of passengers gave me tips tied up in string!

    Memories include illicit meetings with young female passengers, attracted to the area of the crew's quarters by the sound of pop music played on a portable record player; the huge seawater bath tubs in the crews' quarters (I swear that they were large enough to swim in! And then there was being a guest at a "wedding" of two homosexual stewards, it was quite an occasion!"

And no story of the opulent liner would be complete without the tale of "The DM Ball."

When she reached Wellington after a seven week voyage from London, her stays in port could extend to weeks as nearly 34,000 tons of cargo was man-handled by the stevedores or "wharfies" as they are known down under.

Back in the late 1950s and early 60s the inevitable social events that occurred during these extended stays were legendary. A succession of parties on board would culminate with the crew hiring a large venue (usually the Wellington Trades Hall) and throwing a gala event that became known as "the DM Ball."

In those times the remotest of nations was a smugly Puritan frontier culture, where it wasn't possible to buy liquor after 6 p.m. The Dominion Monarch Ball quickly became a major social highlight for 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!

But by the early sixties the Australasian passenger service was moving progressively down market.  With a mix of too little freight space (659,000 cubic feet) and too few passenger spaces, she was proving uneconomic.

1961     October     Above: Photographed at Lyttelton.

1961     December 3     Arrived at Southampton.

1961     December 30     Departed London on her last voyage.  Her final departures from Australasian ports had been sad occasions.  This was particularly so in the Dominion of New Zealand where, by her very name, she had been adopted as 'their' ship.  "I remember her with particular affection and always tried to be there when she sailed for 'home'.  Brass band playing, streamers fluttering in the breeze, passengers leaning over the rail shouting last messages to loved ones on the quay.  Memory does play tricks but I think I was there when she left Wellington for the last time.  Three blasts on the hooter, 'my engines are going astern', and then a slow turn and straighten up and away she went, steaming majestically out past Somes Island and round the corner."         Fleur Coppock

1962     February     The Japanese may have only just missed her at Singapore in January, 1942, but finally captured her a couple of decades later for 400,000.  Replaced by the short-lived Northern Star (1962-74), she was sold to the Mitsui Company of Japan for scrapping.

1962     March 15     Below: departing from Wellington for the last time.  When the Dominion Monarch sailed on her last round voyage she had aboard no less than eight of the catering staff who sailed on her maiden voyage in 1939.  Four of the stewards during her whole career were 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.

1962     April 21     Disembarked her passengers on the final voyage from Australia and New Zealand.

1962     June to November     Leased as an hotel ship and entertainment centre for the Seattle World Fair and moored at Pier 51, Elliot Bay.  A Polynesian restaurant was built at the far end of the pier.  She involved her American charterer in a $200,000 loss when the demand for accommodation did not eventuate and her charter time was cut short by several weeks.  During this stay at Seattle she was opened to the public for organised tours and an official guide book was issued (pictured below Left with a souvenir ashtray and a pennant). Near the end of her stay the funnels were painted with the diamond shaped insignia of her new owners and she was renamed Dominion Monarch Maru (above).


She was moored across from another British liner, P&O's Mongolia (later the New Zealand Shipping Company's Rimutaka), which as the Mexican cruise ship Acapulco was chartered for dock side hotel service.

An American film company used her to produce a pilot film for a television series and entered into negotiations to lease her from the Japanese scrap merchants for use as a 'floating prop'.  The Ile de France episode (in which the beautiful French liner was blown up and scuttled to simulate a 'disaster') was still fresh in the memories of Shaw Savill's management, who summarily prohibited such a fate for their old 'Monarch'.  Instead, at the end of the World Fair, Dominion Monarch Maru departed Seattle for Osaka on her last voyage - with dignity.

1962     November 25     Arrived at Osaka to be scrapped.

1970     Shaw Savill proposed to purchase the similar sized Empress of Canada and rename her Dominion Monarch.  Amid their by then failing fortunes, the plan never materialised and the 1961 liner went to the Carnival Cruise Line and became the Mardi Gras.  As the Apollon the vintage liner still runs 3 and 4 day cruises out of Piraeus.

photograph L.Robbins NZNMM 2001 2001     March 23     A large and impressive shipbuilder's model of Dominion Monarch arrived at the NZ National Maritime Museum in Auckland, New Zealand.  The model with its case measures 4.82m in length, 1.01m wide and is 1.80m high.  It was craned into the first floor of the Museum and placed on display in the Oceans Apart Gallery.

Below; 1:1250 scale water line model by Alabatros of Germany

But as for horns, you really needed to be dockside when one of the big passenger ships let off.  The Dominion Monarch had a deep low frequency blast guaranteed to cure the most persistent case of constipation!       Brian M. Harmer, New Zealand.


I think possibly the finest ship I ever saw was Shaw Savill's Dominion Monarch and if you compare that to something like the "Grand Princess" there is nearly as much difference as from Sail to Steam   -   Tony C., Australia.

The Dominion Monarch's masters included Captain W. G. Summers, O.B.E., Captain H. R. Gordon, who was awarded a Knighthood in the New Year's Honours List of 1944, Captain (later Sir David) Aitchison, K.C.V.O., Captain B. Forbes Moffat who commanded the ship from 1953 to 1956, Captain K. D. G. Fisher, G.M., and her last master was Captain G. V. Conolly.



Special thanks to S. T. Conway, Fleur Coppock, Gordon Dennis, Edgar Garwood, Brian Harmer, Alistair Kerr, Jim Monson, Robbie Prince, Derek Spiers, John Turner, Donald Wilkins, Table Bay Underway Shipping of Capetown, South Africa, Steven McLachlan (specialist in Maritime Covers) for many of the images and Marcus Castell for bringing it all together.

This page is part of the Historic New Zealand Vessels section of the
New Zealand National Maritime Museum
web site.



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NZ National Maritime Museum

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