The New Zealand Maritime Record

T. S. S. Maunganui 1911 - 1947, Cyrenia   1947 - 1957

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History - Time line

1911: Yard number 479 was launched from their Govan yard by the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company of Glasgow for the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand Ltd. and completed at a cost of about 200,000.  Along side of her Yard number 477 would become the Battle Cruiser H.M.S. New Zealand, to be launched in the following year.

1911 December 27: Although due to be completed at the end of November, several last minute hitches delayed her delivery until the end of December, and instead of leaving Glasgow on the 5th of December she did not get away until the 27th of December.

1911 December 29: Departed from Plymouth, with 300 passengers for the Antipodes.

1912 February 2: After steaming non-stop around Africa, she arrived at Melbourne, departing the following day for Sydney.

1912 February 5: Berthed at Sydney, where she was prepared for entry into the trans-Tasman horseshoe service, on which she replaced the veteran Warrimoo.

1912 February 12: Departed from Sydney on her first voyage, she went directly to Wellington, thence to Lyttelton, Dunedin and Bluff before returning across the Tasman to visit Hobart and finally reach Melbourne.  The new liner was the subject of much favourable comment at each port she visited, being only slightly smaller than the vessels employed on the Pacific services to San Francisco and Vancouver.

1912 February 14: Arrived at Wellington shortly before Noon on her maiden voyage.

1912 February 16: Arrived at Lyttelton.

           For the next two and a half years she remained on the Tasman, but when war broke out her career there came to an abrupt halt.

1912 April 11: Departed from Lyttelton with 21 named passengers for Wellington, 36 for Australia and 50 steerage passengers with no destination given.

1913 November 5: During a water-front strike the inter-colonial liner Maunganui acted as ferry steamer from Wellington to Lyttelton in place of the Wahine.

1914 August 23: The vessel was requisitioned by the New Zealand Government soon after she arrived in Wellington and she was then converted to carry troops.

1914 October 16: The first convoy carrying New Zealand troops to Egypt departed from Wellington.  Designated as HMNZT No 30, Maunganui carried elements of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.  Another Union Line vessel in that convoy was the Tahiti, and these two liners spent most of the war years travelling in company.  It was the largest single contingent to leave the country; 8,427 men and 3,815 horses.  Altogether Maunganui made eleven voyages from New Zealand with troops, and on nine of these she sailed with Tahiti, six voyages being to England and three to Egypt.  The vessel was also used to carry British troops to the Mediterranean and Near East.

1915 February 14: Embarked NZ troops at Auckland.

1915 March 26: Disembarked troops at Port Suez.

1915 October 19: Arrived at Fremantle.

1916 January 8: Wellington, where she embarked NZ troops.

1916 February 8: Disembarked troops at Port Suez.

1917: Towards the end of 1917 she began operating across the Atlantic, again with the Tahiti, bringing American troops to Europe.  This continued into 1918, and then the liner began the more pleasant task of bringing the New Zealand soldiers back home as the war drew to a close.

1919: Maunganui was released from Government service towards the end of 1919 and taken in hand for reconditioning.  Her accommodation was restored to its original state, and the opportunity was also taken to convert the boilers from coal to oil firing.  Much of this work was done at Port Chalmers and Wellington by the Union Line staff.

1919: Reported in Ships Monthly Magazine (Jan, 1983) to have replaced the Makura in the San Francisco service, in which she remained until 1936.

1922: The refit, which included a conversion to oil burning, was subjected to numerous delays through industrial disputes and other problems, so it was not until the middle of 1922 that the vessel was finally ready to return to service.  By that time the Union Line had reorganised its Tasman services, abandoning the horseshoe service and substituting shorter routes for its vessels. They were also short of suitable tonnage on their San Francisco service, so Maunganui was sent to Sydney to enter this trade, taking the place of Marama.

1922 July 6: Sailed from Sydney on her first trip across the Pacific.

1922 July 11: Called at Wellington.

1922 July 16: Called at Rarotonga.

1922 July 19: Called at Tahiti.

1922 August 2: Berthed at San Francisco.

           She remained on this route for the next three years, partnering the Tahiti, although she did make an occasional trip across the Tasman between voyages.

1925 April: The arrival of Aorangi in 1925 to operate on the Vancouver service meant that Makura was no longer required on that route, so she was transferred to the San Francisco run in , taking the place of Maunganui, which once again reverted to the Tasman trade, though she continued to be relief ship for the service.

1926 May 25: Arrived at Auckland from Sydney, with the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova and her company of 65 dancers and musicians aboard.  Their subsequent tour of New Zealand was a spectacular success.

1926 August: Captain Arthur Henry Davey (1878-1966) transferred from the command of the liner to the slightly older, but larger Makura on the Vancouver run.  Davey spent 57 years at sea, 37 of them with the Union line, retiring as master of the elegant trans-Tasman liner Awatea in 1941. Image

1927 June 2: Called on to make a relief sailing to Vancouver, she sailed from Sydney and returned on the 2nd July, but there was then nowhere else to use the big liner, so on the 26th of July she sailed for Wellington.

1927 July 6: Laid up at anchor in the harbour for over three months

1927 November 1: Departed Wellington for Sydney and then returned to the Tasman trade operating to either Wellington or Auckland.

1928: Tahiti was taken out of service for an extensive refit and Maunganui spent several months back on the San Francisco route.

1928: David McCaig, formerly of the Makura, was the vessel's chief engineer at this time.

1928 February 3: Sailed from Queen's Wharf, Wellington for Sydney. Captain Davey raced the Picton ferry Tamahine for the Heads narrowly avoiding a collision. Subsequent to a Marine Inquiry, both masters lost their safe navigation bonuses, although Davey had been exonerated. As a reward for this contretemps, he was relegated to the company's cargo fleet for 15 months.

1928 July 18: Engine room breakdown in the Pacific.

1929 June 13: Departed from Sydney on her only sailing across the Pacific, the onset of the depression had resulted in a considerable reduction in the volume of world trade.

1930: Another single voyage across the Pacific, spending the rest of the year crossing the Tasman.

1931 May 14: Departed Sydney for San Francisco.

1931 July 9: Departed Sydney for San Francisco.     

1931 August 29:  Arrived back at Sydney and returned to the trans-Tasman service with a sailing to Auckland.

1932 May: After two voyages in command of the Marama, Arthur Davey returned to captain the liner.

1932: The San Francisco service was being operated by the Makura and the Monowai, but was incurring losses each year, so it was decided to replace the Monowai with the Maunganui.

1932 November 24: Maunganui sailed out of Sydney as the permanent ship on the route again and for the nearly four years operated along with the Makura.

1936 June: Departed from Sydney for San Francisco via Wellington with her former captain, Arthur Davey aboard.  As master-designate, he was on his way to take command of the new trans-Tasman liner Awatea at the Barrow-in-Furness yard of Vickers-Armstrong.  Davey was the sort of captain who liked to sign-on as deck crew aboard a coastal sailing vessel during his annual leave (much to the apprehension of their masters).

1936 October 21: The Union Line decided to abandon the San Francisco route completely and Maunganui made her last departure from the Californian port on the 21st of October.  Makura followed a month later and was then sold to shipbreakers, but Maunganui was spared that fate, being placed on a Summer service from Wellington and South Island ports to Melbourne, while in the Winter she began making cruises to the South Sea islands.  The ship also spent several months of each year laid up and would probably have been disposed of had not war broken out again in 1939.

1937: Placed on the Wellington to Melbourne via Lyttelton and Foveaux Strait service until 1939.

1937 April 25: Carried the New Zealand contingent to Sydney for the Anzac Day commemorations.

1937 June 30: The English soccer team arrived at Sydney aboard the ship

1937 September 7: At "Tin Can Island," Niuafoou in the Tonga group, where mail enclosed in a water tight tin was put into the sea and landed ashore for franking.

1938 April 19: Departed from Wellington in the company of the Awatea and the Monowai, all three carrying the New Zealand contingent to Sydney for the annual Anzac Day commemorations.

1938 July: South Sea Islands Cruise from Auckland to Rarotonga, Papeete, Moorea, Bora Bora, Apia, Vavua and Nuku'alofa.

           For the first eighteen months of the second World War, she operated across the Tasman in place of the liners taken for war duties.

1940: During the latter part of the year, the liner was confined to the Wellington - Sydney service, once again under the command of Arthur Davey.  On one of these voyages from Sydney, while in the mid Tasman, a fire broke out in the No. 4 lower hold.  That was bad enough, but highly inflammable cargo in the adjoining hold made the danger much worse.  The safety of the ship depended on confining the fire to the hold where it had broken out and Davey immediately gave orders to keep news of the outbreak from any of the passenger, while all watertight doors were closed and holes were cut in the hatch covers to allow hoses to play on the flames with the minimum of ventilation.  To keep up the semblance of normality Davey went down to the lounge to play cards with some of the passengers.  The ruse worked with most, but not with a fellow master mariner on leave who accosted him with 'You can't fool me, Davey; what's going on?'  'What do you mean?', Arthur parried.  'Just this,' was the reply, 'You come into the lounge with your uniform slightly stained, your second engineer sidles in and whispers asides to you and you try to make me believe that nothing is wrong.  Come clean.'  Davey told him the real story under pain of secrecy and by 10.30 p.m. the flames had been brought under control.  By 1.30 in the morning the fire was out and, working through the night, the crew had cleared away all traces of it so that when they disembarked, the passengers were completely unaware of how close they had come to disaster - a classic example of damage control and of nipping any possible passenger alarm in the bud.

1941 January: Requisitioned for her second spell of war service. This time the New Zealand Government decreed that the liner be converted into a hospital ship and the work was done by the Union Line staff at Wellington.  She was used to carry prisoners of war from Japanese camps to New Zealand and then to England.  For much of the next four years the vessel was engaged in bringing wounded soldiers back to New Zealand from Egypt but she also made some voyages to South Africa and India.

Captain W Whitefield commanded the ship for the first two years of her war service until he was succeeded in turn by Captains Jaunay, Toten, Prosser and Collins.  She was staffed by Union Company deck and engineer officers with New Zealand merchant seamen and a large staff of stewards.  New Zealand Army doctors, nurses and other personnel from the Medical Corps attended to the surgical and medical needs of the patients.  She was mainly engaged in carrying sick and wounded New Zealanders back home from Suez but she was often directed to transport British, Indian, South African and Australian sick and wounded servicemen on special voyages.

1942 February: The liner made the first of nine visits to Lyttelton in her capacity as an hospital ship.

1942 June: On one of her trips to South Africa, she rescued the survivors from lifeboats of a ship sunk off the coast of East Africa.

1942 November: She gallantly came to the aid of a Dutch tanker that had been attacked by two Japanese commerce raiders and set on fire.

1945 May: The hospital ship was attached to the fleet train of the British Pacific Fleet, being stationed at Leyte Gulf in the Philippines while the British forces mounted attacks on Japanese air bases in the Sakashima Islands and Northern Formosa.  This service was interrupted when the ship made a trip back to New Zealand for a short refit, but she was back on station when the Japanese capitulated in August 1945.  She was immediately sent to Hong Kong and then Keelung in Formosa to evacuate prisoners-of-war back to New Zealand.

1946 April: Departed from Wellington carrying the official New Zealand contingent to the Commonwealth victory celebrations in London, and then brought them back again.

1946 August 14: Arrived back at Wellington, where she was then handed back to the Union Line, but being thirty-five years old, they did not think it worthwhile refitting the vessel for a return to service, so she was laid up.  By that time she had steamed 2,184,081 miles and it was thought her life was over, but such was not to be the case.  In Europe there was a shortage of passenger liners and any ship that came on the market was sure to be snapped up.

1947 February 10: New Zealand registry closed.

1947 February 12: The liner departed from Wellington under the Panamanian flag after being sold to the Companhia Naviera del Atlantica of Piraeus.

1948: Refitted with rather austere accommodation for 840 passengers and renamed Cyrenia. She then sailed under the Panamanian flag in Hellenic Mediterranean Lines service from Genoa, Malta and Piraeus to Melbourne and soon established herself as a reliable and comfortable steamer despite her 37 years.

1949 March 6: Departed from Genoa on her first voyage in the migrant service.

1949 April 2: Arrived at Fremantle.

1949 April 8: Arrived at Melbourne.

1949 June 1: Departed from Genoa on her second voyage in the migrant service.

1949 June 4: Called at Malta to embark emigrants for Australia.

1950: The Hellenic Mediterranean Lines Company Ltd. bought the ship outright, placed her under the Greek flag and retained her on the emigrant trade for the next six years.

1950 August 16: Departed from Melbourne for Saigon to embark French nationals fleeing the war in Indo-China.

1950 August 21: Arrived at Fremantle

1951 January 16: Arrived at Fremantle

1952 June: Due to the decline in the number of displaced persons seeking passages, she was laid at Piraeus (below).

1954 May: Re-entered the migrant service on the Piraeus to Melbourne route, returning with fare paying passengers.

1955 December: Paid her only visit to Sydney as the Cyrenia.

1956: The liner's master was fined by the Australian authorities for contravening safety regulations.

1956: The closure of the Suez Canal probably brought about the end of the liner's career late in 1956.

1956 November 1: Departed from Melbourne for the last time.

1957 February 6: Arrived at Savona, Italy, to be broken up.






The Maunganui in her early years.












The first class lounge, which adjoined the music room.











In her second spell of war service as a Hospital ship.






The Maunganui in her later years now the Cyrenia.






Arrived at Savona, Italy, 1957 February 6, to be broken up.


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