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R.M.S.  MATAROA 1922 -1957


Displacement     12,341 gross tons
Length     500·4 feet
Beam     63·2 feet
Draught     24 feet, 2 inches
Propulsion     Twin screw, initially coal fired turbines, changed to oil fired in 1926
Cruising speed     13·5 knots
Accommodation     130 first and 422 third class passengers initially


1922   March 2     Launched by Harland & Wolff at Belfast as the Diogenes (above & below) for the Aberdeen Line

1922     August 16     Commenced maiden voyage from London to Australia via South Africa.

1924     Albert W. Young appointed Master until 1927.

1924     December     Provided by the Board of Trade to Merchant Seamen, Alfred George Fisher's Continuous Service of Discharge document, gives details of his service as an Assistant Steward from December 1924 until April 1931. On all of these voyages to either Australia or New Zealand, the crew were enlisted at the Royal Victoria Dock, London.

1926     June.     Along with her sister ship the Tamaroa (formerly the Sophocles) she was converted from coal to oil fuel and given a speed of 15 knots. They were both chartered to the Shaw, Savill & Albion Line and commenced sailings from Southampton to Wellington via Panama.

1926     November   Sailed from Southampton via the Panama Canal to NZ and onward to Australia including Tasmania.  The vessel called at the major New Zealand ports including Timaru where one passenger; a Mrs Orbell disembarked.

1927     February 12     Arrived at Auckland.

1927     October 9     Arrived at the newly completed Newton King wharf at New Plymouth in the command of Captain W. A. R. Kershaw (he was still master in 1931).

1931     Converted to carry 131 Cabin class passengers.

1931     June 29     Above: Captain Kershaw was relieved by Mr W. G. West in New Zealand. He was appointed to temporary command for the homeward voyage to the U. K. only, being appointed to permanent command of the Matakana in July 1932.

1932     Came under the ownership of Shaw, Savill & Albion Line.

1933     Below: Fares and Sailing schedule for 1933.

1936     November     Air Chief Marshal The Hon. Sir Ralph Cochrane (1895-1977), writes to his father from aboard the Mataroa.  He was Chief of the Air Staff, Royal New Zealand Air Force 1936-1938 and later the Managing Director of Rolls Royce Ltd.

1939 - 1946     After the Titanic Third Officer Herbert John (Bert) Pitman (right) continued to serve with White Star Line, on 10 July 1912 he rejoined the Oceanic as her Third Officer and later served on the Olympic, although by then he had transferred to the Purser's Section because his eyesight was deteriorating.  In the early 1920's he moved from White Star Line to Shaw, Savill and Albion Company Ltd.

During World War 2 he served aboard the Mataroa again as Purser. In March 1946 just prior to retirement from the Merchant Navy he was awarded an M.B.E. (Member of the Order of the British Empire) for 'long and meritorious service at sea and in dangerous waters during the war'.  He had served as a Purser for over 20 years with Shaw, Savill and Albion Company who went on to say "in transporting large numbers of troops during the war he at all times proved conscientious and capable, giving loyal and dedicated service."

1940     Carried the British Post Office censorship unit to Bermuda

1940     November.     Mataroa became a troopship mainly to South Africa and was then used to carry meat cargoes from the River Plate ports of South America to the UK.

1944     Transported US troops to Northern Ireland in preparation for the Normandy Invasion. Irish pressure in Southern Ireland and the USA decreed that no Americans of Irish descent should go to the North in case of cross border friction, so the US Army sent all black troops to Ireland.

1945     Jewish Brigade soldiers arranged for the legal immigration of certain groups of survivors to Palestine.  The survivors were taken from the train station to the British ship Mataroa, which sailed to Palestine.

1948     April 30     Resumed commercial service from Southampton via Panama, with accommodation for 372 Tourist class passengers.

1949     February - March.     Sailed from Southhampton and arrived at Wellington in April and then went on to Port Chalmers the day after her arrival (above).

1949     My mother and I travel to England from New Zealand aboard this ship in 1949 returning to New Zealand, I think it was in 1950 or 1951 and if my memory is correct we landed at Auckland or departure was made from Wellington. Even at the young age of six I can remember the canvas pool, and having to spend time in a hospital cabin at the back of the boat because I was the 15th child to get measles. Margaret Wilson (Morton), Australia.

1949     October     Arrived at Wellington with a complement of The Lost Children.

1950     February 19     Arrived at Auckland.

1952     May 17   Pacific Race Meeting on the North bound voyage under the command of Captain K. G. James.

1952     May 31   Atlantic Race Meeting.

1953     October 26     Arrived at Wellington on Labour Day after a six week voyage from Southampton via Curacao, Panama and Pitcairn Island.

Arriving at Wellington.

"We travelled aboard the Mataroa from Southampton, arriving at Wellington on Labour Day (everything was closed).  Also aboard was the National Band of New Zealand returning from a tour of Britain. It made for a memorable voyage as they played lots of Jazz on social occasions.  The only major storm that I remember was shortly after leaving England when we hit some really rough weather in the Bay of Biscay and everyone was seasick.  When the climate improved a portable swimming pool was erected on the forward cargo hatch, it was constructed of a heavy wooden frame with a canvas lining."

Pitcairn Island; a brief respite on the 6,516 mile voyage between Panama and Wellington
The islanders rowing out to the ship to collect mail and sell souvenirs.

1955     The trip to New Zealand was in a small boat, the Mataroa, but through stormy weather this little boat remained steady because of its ballast; "half of the Auckland Harbour Bridge in the hold".

1956     November 21     The Mataroa and the Tamaroa were replaced by the long-lived Southern Cross and Mataroa departed from Southampton for her last voyage to New Zealand.

1957     March 29     Arrived at Faslane for scrapping.  The ship's bell was subsequently given to New Zealand's Mataroa School (near Taihape).

Entering Lyttelton Harbour, New Zealand assisted by the now restored tug Lyttelton of 1907


Passenger Guides to the ports of call, 1953.

Setting up the equipment for a film evening, circa 1953.

1952 Race Meeting card and a 1955 Menu

Original pack of playing cards from the Mataroa


Thanks to Kevin Fisher, Des Wardell, Margaret Wilson, Graham Pepper, the Shaw Savill Society and Steven McLachlan.

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