Razmak 1925 - 1930     Monowai 1930 - 1960


The Union Steam Ship Company's first Monowai (below) was commissioned for the Trans-Pacific service to North America in 1890.  She ended her days by being scuttled to form a breakwater at Gisborne in 1926.

The third Monowai (below) began life as the GMV Moana Roa, later becoming the New Zealand Navy's hydrographic survey ship (1978 - 1998). Her last commanding officer, Commander Larry Robbins, is now the CEO of the New Zealand National Maritime Museum.

The second Monowai or "The Grand Old Lady of the Tasman" as she came to be known, was purchased to replace the ill-fated Tahiti, which foundered after breaking a tail shaft.  With her exceptionally tall reciprocating steam engines, she had an unusually deep draught.  This factor along with her fine lines made her sensitive to the smallest helm alteration, while the powerful engines provided instant full astern power, making her very responsive to rapid changes of direction.

In her second career, there was frequently a tinge of pride when a person stated that he or she had recently travelled on the Monowai.  A passage on this popular ship was more than a mere conveyance from one port to another. It was usually a delightful and exciting experience - a social event.  Over a period of years some newspapers provided a special social news section, giving details of the movements of citizens who were well known and of others not so well known.

When the people favoured with this privilege had travelled overseas, the name of the ship was usually mentioned.  (The information would be additional to the list of passengers which had already been published after a vessel had arrived or departed.)  If the ship was a "smart" one and held in high esteem by the travelling public, a news item of this nature would have a certain status value for the people concerned. Monowai's passengers featured prominently in such social reports.


Displacement     10,602 gross tons (4,925 net), later 10,852 and then 11,037.23 in November 1948.

Length     158.19 metres or 519 feet.

Beam     19.25 metres or 63 feet 2 inches.

Draught     10.36 metres or 34 feet.

Propulsion     4 cylinder quadruple expansion steam engines, with low-pressure double reduction exhaust Bauer-Wach turbines (fitted shortly before she departed for New Zealand) driving twin shafts, developing 14,740 brake horsepower (16,150 max.).  Cylinder bores; 30.5, 44, 63 and 89 inches, with a 54 inch stroke.  They were reported as being fuel-hungry, noisy and prone to vibration.  Steam at 215 psi was supplied by burning oil fuel, with forced draught, under four double-ended and two single-ended boilers Scotch boilers.

Service speed     19 knots.

Official Number     147816.

Port of registry     Wellington.

Rig     Three decks (below the super-structure); two funnels; schooner rigged.

Ship's company: 262.


The first class lounge after the post-war refit

The first class saloon, music room, lounge, smoking rooms and verandah cafe were placed forward amidships on the bridge deck, while toward the after end of the same deck were the second class music saloon, verandah and smoking rooms.

The first class smoking room after the post-war refit

The first class dining saloon after the post-war refit

Midway on the main deck was the second class dining saloon, extending through the width of the ship, naturally lighted by sixteen large square windows, with tables arranged for large or smaller parties.  Forward on the same deck, beyond the kitchens and service rooms, was the first class dining saloon, seating 146 at tables for two, four or more passengers.  This saloon also extended through the entire width of the vessel, and derived natural light and air from twenty-four windows. The dining saloons were arranged to seat all of her passengers simultaneously.

Second class dining saloon after the post-war refit

She was initially designed to carry 392 passengers, with accommodation provided on the bridge, upper and main decks for 142 first-class and 142 second-class passengers, there were also cabins for a further 108 steerage passengers.  On the upper deck, beneath, the forward three-quarters of the deck were occupied by large first-class cabins arranged on the tandem principle, approximately every fourth one being a single-berth cabin.

The first-class accommodation included cabins de luxe (above), each arranged for one or two passengers and each including a private bathroom.  The after parts of the upper and main decks were occupied by second-class saloon cabins for two or three passengers, with one or two four-berth cabins to meet passengers' occasional especial needs in this respect.  Amidships, within both the upper and main deck ranges, bathrooms were amply provided.  There was also extensive accommodation for third-class passengers.

From 1931 she accommodated 224 saloon, 69 second class and 108 third class passengers.

Between 1946 and 1949 she was refitted to carry 179 first class and 205 tourist class passengers.

The ship was installed throughout with trunk-way mechanical ventilation, for use in the tropics, and every cabin was provided with natural light and air from its own porthole.  There was a separate wardrobe for each passenger, and the cabins generally were amply furnished in all other respects.

Razmak's first class cabin stewards


1924     October 16     Launched by Harland & Wolff from their Greenock yard for the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company.  The naming ceremony was performed by Viscountess Inchcape, the wife of the P&O Chairman.  With a straight stem and elliptical stern, she was especially designed for continuous service in Indian waters and was employed on fortnightly trips each way between Bombay and Aden.

Above: after the launch, she was towed across the Irish Sea to Harland and Wolff's Belfast yard to have her propulsion machinery installed and to be fitted out.

She had been commissioned to replace the line's R.M.S. Salsette, of 1908 and sunk in July 1917 by a torpedo from the UB40.

The new liner was named after the garrison town in Waziristan on the North West Frontier of India, which was developed by General Lord Rawlinson in 1922, and the General himself was a guest at the launching ceremony. The Razmak Plateau, is located in what is now Pakistan's Khyber Pass, near the border with Afghanistan, amid the rugged, lofty mountains at an altitude that varies from 6,000 to 11,000 feet.

1925     February 26     Four months later she ran her trials in Belfast Lough and was taken over on behalf of P&O by Mr Frank Ritchie, a Joint Managing Director of the company.

1925     March 13     Maiden voyage from London to Bombay via Marseilles and Suez.

1925     April 10     Her return voyage was to Marseilles, leaving Bombay at 5.00 pm. Among her passengers was Lord Reading, the Governor General of India, who was returning to the UK for political discussions with the government. The passage was completed in record time with Razmak arriving in Marseilles early on Wednesday April 22.

1925     November 25     Whilst she was in the Indian Ocean bound for Bombay, she received a signal from a French gunboat the Alerte requesting water for her boilers.  A rendezvous was arranged and in the early hours and Razmak went alongside the warship and transferred 20 tons of fresh water, before casting off and making for Bombay at full speed.

1927     April 16     Operated in conjunction with the British India Steam Navigation Company, she departed Bombay for Marseilles.  Master: J B Browning, R.N.R., Chief Officer: A W Drew, Chief Engineer: W Niven, Surgeon: J L Walsh, Purser: J C Outram.

1929     May 6     Departed from Marseilles for Bombay.

1929     July 5     Arrived at Marseilles.

1929     July 6     Departed from Marseilles for Bombay.

1929     September 12     Arrived at Marseilles.

1930     July 18     Due to increased foreign competition from the Mediterranean, the service lost popularity and the liner was laid up at London and offered for sale.

1930     August     Transferred to the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand and renamed Monowai (in August 1917 the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand had joined the P & O group by the latter's acquisition of the USS Co's shares).

1930     October 3     Departed from London on her final voyage for P & O.  She sailed via Gibraltar, Marseilles, Suez, Bombay and Colombo, arriving in Wellington in mid November where she was given a refit and renamed Monowai.  She had been stiffened and fitted with gun mounts, the heavy armament being shipped to New Zealand and stored at the Devonport Naval base.

Her passenger accommodation was changed to cater for 483 third class passengers, fittings for the conversion being taken from the old USS Co ship Mararoa of 1885, which had been laid up in Wellington for three years.  Externally her hull was painted in the company's Bronze Green, with White upper-works, although the ventilators were left in the familiar P & O Buff.  Her funnels were painted Red with Black tops and she looked splendid in her new colours. Captain A. T. Toten of the lost liner Tahiti was appointed to her command, but by comparison to the Matson Line's larger and faster Malolo and Lurline, her facilities looked decidedly staid and out-dated.

1930     December 2     Subsidised by the New Zealand government, she commenced service on the trans-Pacific run, departing from Wellington for Vancouver via Rarotonga in the Cook Islands, Pago Pago (American Samoa), Tahiti, Honolulu, and San Francisco, arriving there 17 days later on December the 19th.

1931     January 22     Above: left Sydney at 5.40 p.m. in the command of Captain Toten, arriving at Wellington in record time, using only five out of her six boilers.  The first day out from Sydney she ran into strong Northerly winds, with a heavy swell and a strong Westerly set.

1931     January 25     Arrived off the Wellington Heads at 1.47 p.m., while in Cook Strait she had met a strong ebb tide which delayed her arrival off the Heads by fully half an hour.  But she had broken the record established the previous November by the Matson liner Malolo for the run from Sydney to Wellington by one hour and eight minutes and at an average speed of 18.34 knots.

1932     Postage stamp depicting the vessel issued by the Cook Islands.

1932     She was advertised under the Union Royal Mail Line and during 1932 made five round voyages between Wellington and San Francisco.  Passengers included a New Zealand parliamentary delegation, led by the Coalition Government’s Minister of Public Works and Transport, Mr J. G. Coates, after a conference in Ottawa, and the 23-strong New Zealand team, mostly rowers returning from the Los Angeles Olympics with a silver medal.  But the crowds that thronged the wharf to greet the Monowai in Wellington, on a cold, wet Sunday morning, were there to catch a glimpse of the legendary Austrlian cricketer, Don Bradman.

1932     October 26     Last regular departure from San Francisco.

1932     November 24     Replaced by the Maunganui, she was transferred to the trans-Tasman service between Wellington and Sydney, where captain Arthur Davey (below) took command of her.

1932     November 28     After crossing the Tasman in seventy one and a half hours, she made her first call at Auckland under the command of Captain Davey.  At 16 knots, her deep draught in comparatively shallow waters caused a mini tidal wave and created havoc among the vessels moored at the Devonport Naval Base.

In the Calliope dry dock at H.M.S. Philomel, the naval base at Devonport on Auckland Harbour's North shore.

1932     December     After fighting her way down the Australian coast in a South-west gale, she made her first call at Melbourne, navigating the Yarra river to berth in the Victoria Dock, close to the city.

1933     January 17     Coming up Port Phillip Bay, the ship's sharp bow impaled a one-ton Sunfish, which had been basking just below the surface.  Manoeuvering eventually dislodged the fish and it was washed up on the beach near Station Pier whence, after all scientific details had been taken, it was towed out to sea and dumped.  Coming North to Sydney the following day, the Monowai rammed another sunfish off Gabo Island which, although smaller, proved more difficult to shake off.  During the afternoon hours it was a source of great interest to the passengers and many photos were taken before it fell clear.  Captain Davey did not allow such a natural obstruction to interfere with timekeeping and the Monowai berthed at Sydney on schedule.


1933     February     Above: cruise to Milford Sound on New Zealand's South-west coast.

1933     March     Broke the Maheno's 26 year old Sydney to Wellington record, with a time of two days, fifteen hours and 35 minutes at an average speed of 19.84 knots.

1933     March     A short day cruise from Wellington to Port Hardy on d'Urville Island and the Marlborough Sounds which was the subject of much favourable comment from those who participated.

On one occasion the Union Company made the Monowai available in Wellington for an evening function by a well-known social organisation.  The ship's saloon had just been fitted with an expensive new carpet imported from Britain and the morning after the event the saloon steward, Bluey, asked him to come and inspect the saloon.  He pointed out no fewer than 117 scorch or burn marks in the new carpet by the supposedly upper-crust guests either dropping or stamping out their cigarettes rather than taking the trouble to use the ash trays provided.  The master was furious at this abuse of hospitality and laid the full story before the managing director, David Aiken.  No further invitations for functions on board were extended to that body.

1933     May     Placed on the Vancouver run for two voyages, while the Aorangi and the Niagra where successively given major refits.

1933     October     Returned to the trans-Tasman service, making alternate trips from Sydney to Wellington and Auckland.

1934     January     Between December and March of each of the following pre-war years, the liner was diverted on a series of cruises originating from Wellington or Auckland and Sydney or Melbourne. The first were along the Northland coast and the islands of the Hauraki Gulf, while the latter were longer; to the fiords of the South Island.

The majority of the passengers on these cruises were New Zealanders, but there was always a good leavening of Australians and a sprinkling of travellers from further afield to give a cosmopolitan feel to the voyage.  Among the passengers on one cruise to the Sounds was the celebrated New Zealand radio personality Aunt Daisy.  She referred to the captain in her broadcast as 'that dreadful man, Captain Davey' but was sufficiently perceptive to go on to say that 'he could handle his ship like an Austin 7'.

On a typical cruise from Auckland, the Monowai embarked her passengers in the evening, anchored in the stream for a get-together dance and social and then sailed in the early hours of the morning for a before breakfast arrival at the imposing entrance to Whangaroa Harbour.  The rest of the day was spent at anchor giving time for excursions ashore, including the climb to the summit of St.  Paul's Rock with the Monowai looking like a toy on the waters of the harbour far below.  On the first visit, the public relations part of the exercise was emphasised by the captain entertaining children from the local school to afternoon tea on board, the first time most of them had ever seen an ocean liner.

Back to sea for the short evening trip down the coast to the Bay of Islands brought another night at anchor off Russell with the choice of shore or shipboard entertainment the following day.  Then it was overnight to Great Barrier Island for a day at Port Fitzroy on the sheltered western side with a farewell dance in the evening while the ship was still at anchor.  The return to Auckland took place overnight and the ship was alongside her berth early next morning.

The Wellington cruises began earlier in order to cross Cook Strait first with the get-together function held in the shelter of the Marlborough Sounds.  Then it was all day at sea with an evening arrival at Port Chalmers and a few hours ashore in Dunedin.  An overnight journey through Foveaux Strait followed for a morning arrival at Dusky Sound.  The ship proceeded through the Acheron Passage between Resolution Island and the mainland and so out into Breaksea Sound and the open Tasman again.  The entry into Doubtful Sound came next, thence down Thompson Sound inshore of Secretary Island before the final majestic entry to Milford Sound where the ship came right up the sound, turning off Mitre Peak and the Bowen Falls.  The circumnavigation of the South Island was completed with the journey up the West coast and round Cape Farewell to drop anchor in Tennyson Inlet, Pelorous Sound for the farewell dance.  Early next morning the Monowai was back at her Wellington berth.

Special provision was made for Australian excursionists to join the liner in either Sydney or Melbourne and complete the round Tasman voyage as well as the cruise without having to repack their belongings.  During the time in the Sounds there was much opportunity for boat work as passengers were set ashore in various parts of that then virtually uninhabited part of the country.  Food loomed large on these cruises and the catering staff were under enormous pressure to ensure that more elaborate menus than usual were available.  The Australian based cruises had a similar itinerary through the Sounds, but started from Sydney and then followed the old Horseshoe Route from Melbourne to the Sounds, Port Chalmers and Wellington before returning to Sydney.

1934     January 8    On the first of these cruises Monowai became the first Union Company liner to cruise the West Coast sounds since the ill-fated Waikari in 1910 and was by far the largest ship to enter them.  Aboard the vessel was a delegation from the Scottish Union of Victoria (Australia) on a goodwill tour.  Nor was this cruise only an occasion for pleasure; at Milford a climber who had fallen and injured his spine was transferred to the ship's hospital for emergency treatment by the ship's doctor and then taken back to Dunedin for final recovery.

1934     February     The vessel showed a £20,000 loss over the previous six months.

1934     February     On a stormy Summer crossing of the Tasman from Sydney to Wellington, she encountered a gale described as the worst off the New South Wales coast for 20 years.  The ship's sailing was delayed but she still encountered a heavy swell and a force-8 South-east gale for the first 24 hours.  At 4.30 on the Saturday morning a particularly heavy sea smashed two windows in A deck cabins and three panes in the first-class smoking room, saturating everything in it.  The ship ran out of the storm at midnight and ironically experienced brilliantly sunny weather for the rest of the voyage.  When news of the storm damage was received by radio, consternation reigned in the Head Office of the Union Company for among the passengers on board was the Hon.  Alexander Shaw, the newly appointed Chairman of the P & O Steam Navigation Company.

Having succeeded to the long-serving Earl of Inchcape, Shaw was on a tour of inspection of his shipping empire and the Union officials were anxious to make a good impression.  The managing director, David Aiken, had been on sick leave but had risen from his bed to greet the big chief The storm damage had made him doubly apprehensive as he discussed matters with Captain Davey on arrival in Wellington, but the latter refused to be disheartened.  On the contrary he told Aiken that it was 'a damned good thing'.  It showed how jerry built P & O ships were (a reference to the Monowai's initial life as the Razmak) when they couldn't stand up to a Tasman Sea like any well designed Union ship.  The riposte was perhaps a little unfair as the Razmak came from the same yard as the Union's own Marama, but Aiken went away more happily with a ready-made response to any criticism that might be forthcoming.

1934     April 29     She was on her way from Sydney to Wellington on when a radio message was received from the Finnish sail training ship, Favell, seeking urgent medical assistance for one of her cadets struck down by appendicitis.  The master prompdy altered course and increased to full speed, picking up the Favell at dawn the next day.  With skilful manoeuvering and aided by the Monowai's twin screws he was able to bring the liner close to the sailing vessel, providing both a lee and a shorter voyage for the barque's oar-propelled boat under her master, Captain Sten Lille, transferring the sick cadet.  After the Finns had clambered through the Monowai's open gun-port door, Captains Lille and Davey were able to exchange pleasantries and the latter ensured that the Favell's boat returned to the barque well laden with vegetables, fruit and newspapers to relieve the monotonous diet and lack of news on a sailing ship, of which Arthur had such vivid personal memories.

An early operation for appendicitis on arrival in Wellington was considered to have saved the cadet's life and the only people to suffer from the incident were some 800 Wellington residents who had been invited to a charitable ball to be held on the Monowai on the night of her berthing and which had to be cancelled because of the ship's delayed arrival.  Davey received a letter of thanks from the owner of the Favell , Finska Skolskeppsrederiet, a subsidairy of the Finland Steamship Company, but that was not the end of the matter.  Those concerned with the Favell had important connections and referred the rescue to the Finnish Government.  Just over a year later an astonished Davey was advised that the President of Finland had created him a Knight of the White Rose (Second Class) for his services.  Like all foreign awards, its acceptance required official sanction, but this was readily granted and he received the insignia from the Finnish consul in Sydney in November 1935.

In the publicity resulting from the Favell rescue, the captain had claimed to a reporter that no stowaway had ever completed a voyage on a ship of his undetected.  'Where ever they are, I'll flush them out,' he said and the headlines that followed inevitably provided a challenge that somebody had to take up.  The challenger was one, Davis.  'He tried to prove me wrong,' said Arthur.  But it was Davis who was wrong.  He was found in one of the Monowai's lifeboats and worked the rest of his passage on menial duties in the engine room.

1935     February     The liner was experiencing difficulty with filling her passenger and cargo accommodation and it was decided to cancel her calls at Melbourne as an economy measure.

1935     July     Departed from Auckland for a two week South Sea Island winter cruise.  Ports visited included Nuku'alofa at Tonga (above) where the ship was joined by Queen Salote for the remainder of the voyage.  Vavua was the other Tongan call and the captain then added an unscheduled visit to Pago Pago in American Samoa after first obtaining permission from the authorities.  The ship did not anchor, but steamed around the harbour for half an hour.  The purported reason for the call was to enable passengers to see one of the South Pacific's finest natural harbours but it was also symbolic, being one of the key ports on the rival Matson Line's itinerary.  The ship next stopped off Niuafo'ou or Tin Can Island where the time-honoured sealed biscuit tins were cast overboard for retrieval by the swimmers from the shore.

Captain Davey also extracted full publicity value from the Monowai's call at Levuka, the original capital of Fiji, which was the first port where the vessel had been able to go alongside a wharf since leaving Auckland.  The Captain had been told by a visiting dignatory that it was customary for ships 'never to turn their backs on the old capital' and, although this practice was more applicable to the local mosquito fleet of inter-island ships and the Monowai was the largest ship yet seen there, he regarded it as a challenge to his ship handling abilities.  He took one of the ship's boats round the harbour while all the passengers were ashore and by the time departure was due he had his plans made.  It has been suggested at times that Davey worked out his departure manouvres in the course of bringing his ship into a port, but he himself did not make this claim and the preparations at Levuka do not bear it out either.  When the time for sailing came - and there were in this small South Pacific port no tugs to assist - Davey eased the Monowai's bow off the wharf at slow ahead to gain a clearance then rang for full astern.  As the propellors bit into the water and the ship moved rapidly backwards across the harbour, the entrance opened up before the bows.  A quick ring on the engine room telegraph to full ahead both and the Monowai was on her way to sea and the short coastal run to Suva.  It was a classic example of economy in engine room orders and of expert ship-handling in a confined area.

Although conditions during the cruise had generally been favourable, the last day out from Auckland was fairly uncomfortable so her master took the ship into Port Fitzroy on Great Barrier Island where the farewell fancy dress ball could be held while at anchor with everyone able to enjoy it.  The ball continued into the small hours before the three-hour run for a morning arrival back at Auckland.  Many complimentary letters were received by the Union Company, prompting a letter of appreciation to the master and crew from the General Manager.

1935     September     Diverted to the Vancouver service for two months while the Aorangi was overhauled.

1936     January     When she was on her last Tasman voyage before being laid up, the vessel made a dash to Lord Howe Island to rescue a sick woman, who was rushed to hospital when she docked in Auckland on January the 2th7.

1936     April 9     Arrangements were made for mails shipped from Australia to be forwarded over New Zealand's air services.  The first despatch to Auckland left Sydney aboard the Monowai.

1936     July 21     At "Tin Can Island," Niuafo'ou in the Tonga group, where mail enclosed in a water tight tin was put into the sea and landed ashore for franking.

1937     January 19     Departed from Auckland for a cruise to Whangaroa, the Bay of Islands and Port Fitzroy.

1937     The vessel was laid up for a period.

1938     April 19     Departed from Wellington with a contingent for the ANZAC commemorations in Sydney.

1939     May 11     Returned to the Sydney - Vancouver service.

1939     June 7     Departed Vancouver for Sydney.

1939     July 1     Arrived at Sydney from North America.

1939     July 6     Departed from Sydney for Vancouver via Auckland, Honolulu and Victoria, returning by the same route.

1939     August 26     Arrived back at Sydney from North America.

1939     October 21     Requisitioned by the Roal Navy and work began to refit her as an armed merchant cruiser at Devonport, Auckland. Then followed a period of indecision.


1940     February 11     Work on her was halted and not resumed until June the 23rd, when it was definitely decided to complete her refit.

1940     August 30     Flying the White ensign and commissioned as the armed Merchant Cruiser HMNZS Monowai, with eight 6 inch guns, two 3 inch anti-aircraft guns and six 20 mm guns, plus some machine guns and depth charges.  Her engineering officers were given commissioned rank and remained with her.  The service consisted mainly of escorting freighters, tankers, and liners between Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, while the threat of German raiders existed.

1940     November 11     A Section of the 8th Infantry Brigade Group of the 2nd New Zealand Army Expeditionar Force (48 Officers and 852 Ordinary Ranks) embarked at Auckland for Fiji on the Rangatira and the Monowai, they arrived at Lautoka on the 14th of November.

1940     November 19     A further section of the 8th Infantry Brigade Group (54 Officers and 766 ORs) embarked at Auckland for Fiji on the Rangatira and the Monowai, they arrived at Suva on the 22nd of November.

1941     May 26     The second section of the 1st Relief for the 8th Infantry Brigade Group, of the 2nd New Zealand Army Expeditionary Force (33 Officers and 883 Ordinary Ranks) embarked on the Rangatira and the Monowai at Auckland for Fiji.

1942     January 2     A Section of the B Force Expansion of the 2nd New Zealand Army Expeditionary Force (85 Officers and 1,668 Ordinary Ranks) embarked on the Rangatira and the Matua for Lautoka, and on the Monowai for Suva.  Escorted by HMNZS Leander, the convoy arrived at their destination on the 6th of January.

1942     January 10     B Section of B Force Extension of the 2nd New Zealand Army Expeditionary Force (83 Officers and 1,459 Ordinary Ranks) embarked at Auckland on Wahine, Monowai, Rangatira and Port Montreal for Fiji, arriving there on the 14th of January.

1942     January 16     Monowai was attacked by the Japanese submarine I20.  Once under enemy gunfire Monowai fired with her port side guns, her rounds just finding range as the submarine crash-dived.  She then steamed at high speed through poorly charted waters to avoid possible torpedoes.  Japanese records reveal that I20 had fired four torpedoes, but missed with all.

1942     October 7     A Section of N Force of the 2nd New Zealand Army Expeditionary Force (32 Officers and 709 Ordinary Ranks) embarked at Auckland on Wahine and Monowai for Norfolk Island.

1942     October 12     B Section of N Force of the 2nd New Zealand Army Expeditionary Force (30 Officers and 693 ORs) embarked on the Wahine and the Monowai at Auckland for Norfolk Island, arriving there on 14 October.

1943     February 7     The Eighth Section of Kiwi Force of the 2nd New Zealand Army Expeditionary Force (5 Officers and 170 Ordinary Ranks) embarked at Wellington on the Monowai for New Caledonia, arriving at Noumea on the 10th of February.

1943     February 17     The First Section of T Force of the 2nd New Zealand Army Expeditionary Force (110 Officers and 644 Ordinary Ranks) embarked at Wellington on the Wahine and the Monowai for Tonga.

1943     March 2     The Second Section of T Force of the 2nd New Zealand Army Expeditionary Force (37 Officers and 738 Ordinary Ranks) embarked on the Wahine and the Monowai at Lyttelton for Tonga.

1943     March 8     The New Zealand Army's 34th Battalion embarked on the Monowai and the Wahine for New Caledonia from Tonga; it was replaced at Tonga by the 6th Battalion of the Canterbury Regiment.  The 34th Battalion disembarked at Noumea on the 13th of March.

1943     April     Due for a refit at Auckland, but considered surplus in the Pacific she sailed for England via Panama, where she would be of more use.

1943     June 18     Paid off at Liverpool where she was taken over by the British Ministry of War Transport for conversion into an assault landing-ship.  Captain G. B. Morgan, DSO, DSC, a veteran of the 1914-1918 war, was sent to Britain to take command, with Chief Officer J. Billingham to assist him.  Chief Engineer Harold Simmonds and the company's engineer officers who had served in HMNZS Monowai as naval reservists remained with the ship.  Substantial overhaul, refitting and structural alterations were required, and installation of defensive armaments and replacement of lifeboats with 20 assault boats (LCAs) capable of landing 800 troops and their equipment.

1944     January     With the refit completed, she was now a very different looking ship with her mainmast and hydraulic cranes removed and 20 landing craft slung from davits on both sides of the hull.

1944     February     Made a trooping voyage from Glasgow to Port Said and Taranto from where Yugoslav refugees were transported to Sicily.  From Sicily she carried a large draft of troops and a quantity of bullion to Liverpool under escort by a "crack" flotilla of submarine chasers.

1944     April     By the end of the month she was in the Solent with the ever growing number of vessels preparing for the 'D Day' landings.

1944     June 2     Captain Morgan was ordered to hospital on and was replaced by Captain W. Whitefield on transfer from the Aorangi.

1944     June 3     1,800 Canadian and British Commando troops were embarked at Southampton.

1944     June 5     Left the Cowes Roads in the evening, she was the largest ship of a veritable armada as they headed for Normandy.  The overnight run was uneventful and she anchored seven miles off "Gold Beach" at dawn on June the 6th and disembarkation began at 6.15 am, when the first wave of assault troops was despatched in Monowai's LCAs within 30 minutes of arrival.  They met with strong opposition and casualties were heavy but they achieved their objective and during the day the remaining troops were sent ashore.  One witness, the ship's surgeon, recalls the mass of shipping all around, with warships forming a complete half circle round the horizon firing continual broadsides inland as the men were landed.  Some hours later a few of Monowai's landing craft returned, but only six of the original 20 survived, the remainder being blown up by mines off the beaches.  After embarking about a dozen casulaties Monowai returned to Southampton.  She subsequently made a further run to "Utah Beach."

1944     June 14     Captain Morgan resumed his command.

1945     January 18-19     Damaged by high winds in the night when she was alongside a pontoon pier at Cherbourg, but fortunately it was only superficial.

1945     March     Apart from two brief occasions during boiler cleaning, steam was on the main engines continuously for twelve months and she had made 45 crossings to France with 73,000 troops to France, including 25 trips to Le Havre with 43,000 troops among a total of 105,000 carried during her war service.

1945     April 22     Sailed from Plymouth for Odessa with 1,610 released Soviet prisoners of war.  There were five ships in the convoy and they carried nearly 10,000 released Russian prisoners in all.  She made two more voyages between Odessa and Marseilles. These were followed by two trips from Suez returning troops to India. She then returned to Marseilles with 1,600 released French prisoners before leaving for Colombo to prepare for operations against Japan and the landings in Malaya, but the sudden surrender of Japan in August 1945 made the landings unnecessary and she was despatched from Karachi as a "mercy ship" for Singapore.

1945     September 8     Arrived at Singapore as part of the third convoy, where British and Indian troops and also administration personnel were landed.

1945     September 13     Embarked 650 service personnel and 199 civilians who had been prisoner's of war in the notorious Changi Prison, some of whom had not seen home for 11 years.

1945     October 8     Arrived at Liverpool, where the populace gave her a great welcome.  The next five months were occupied with trooping voyages from Taranto and Suez to Karachi and Cochin, from Suez to Lagos, and from Suez to Bombay.  After that she spent a further five months running to various ports in the Indian Ocean, visiting Colombo, Cocos Island, Madras, Calcutta, Port Swettenham, Vizagapatam and Rangoon.  By then she was in a very run-down condition.

Throughout her war service, Monowai displayed on her bridge a model of the historical Maori canoe Tainui and a Maori ceremonial cloak presented by Princess Te Puea Herangi.  These were tokens that, according to Maori tradition, afford protection from an enemy.  Indeed, Captain Morgan, as a defiant gesture from the Maori members of his crew, wore the cloak whenever his ship was in danger of attack.  When the liner ended her war service Captain Morgan sent the model canoe and cloak to the Auckland Naval Base where they are now displayed.

1946     August     Arrived at Sydney where she was released by the British government.  The Union Company was far from enthusiastic about restoration of the ship for normal service, but being anxious to resume the trans-Tasman passenger services as soon as possible, decided to put the work in hand.  The company's workshop at Sydney was fully committed to restore Aorangi, so Monowai was placed in the hands of the Mort's Dock & Engineering Company.

Before and after her refit.

1946     September to December 1948     It had been decided to put the Monowai back on to the Tasman run, to replace the six-year old Awatea, which had been sunk during the North African landings.  It was a long and expensive job involving the renewal of much of the machinery and an almost complete reconstruction of the ship's interior.  The refit was dogged by industrial troubles and cost more than one million pounds.  Her aft mast was replaced with derricks, the funnels lowered and much of the open promenade was enclosed.  She was modified to carry 179 first class and 205 cabin or tourist class passengers

1948     December 20     Completed her sea trials.

1949     January     A Silver Rose bowl presented to the Awatea by Elaine, Lady Bledisloe became the centre piece of the Monowai's first class lounge.  It is believed to be now in the Wellington Museum of the City and the Sea.  The museum also has her Brass war service plaque and a model of the liner.

1949     January 19     Commencing a fortnightly schedule, she sailed on her first Wellington to Sydney run.   The liner would be commanded by Captain Frank W. Young for most of her post-war service, his chief office was Mr. D. N. Lampton.

1949     July 30     Above: at sea under the command of Commander G. B. Morgan, D.S.O., D.S.C.

A Haka (native war dance) performed by New Zealand boy scouts on the arrival of the Monowai at Sydney.

1951     April to July     Her schedule was broken when she was held up in Wellington by a dock-workers' strike.

1953     Monowai and Huddart Parker's Wanganella made 49 return crossings of the Tasman during the year. The average berth utilisation during was 75 percent of capacity and they were accommodating capacity traffic during the summer months.

1954     The question of replacing the ship arose.  As she had always been a heavy consumer of fuel oil and had also reached the age when a classification survey due in 1956.  This would give her a further four years in service, but was expected to be very costly.  At that time the future looked promising enough for the P & O principals to approve the building of a replacement ship, but they left the final decision to the Union Company.  However, the company was starting to feel the effects of competition from the larger and more efficient aircraft that had evolved from technological developments during the war.  The company expected this competition would increase and was concerned that the high cost of a new ship would prohibit competitive fare charges, so it was planned that the trans-Tasman passenger service would be abandoned when the liner's time ran out in 1960.

1957     January     Above and below: the liner made her third cruise to Milford Sound, where Captain Young and his officers were photographed on the bridge.

1958     January 8     Berthed at Sydney's Darling Harbour Wharf 5.

1959     April     Her former master, Arthur Davey, retired since 1941 was given a free return passage to Sydney aboard her; the Union Line's directors considered that there was still a bit of media mileage left in the old boy.

1959     April 15     At sea under the command of Commander G. B. Morgan, D.S.O., D.S.C.

1959     June     A fire in her engine room delayed the departure from Sydney by a week.

1959     June - July     Pacific Islands Winter Cruise.

1960     May 19     Made her final sailing from Auckland across the Tasman Sea.

1960     May 30     By the late 1950s the Union Line was claiming that air travel had begun to take away potential passengers and it was getting more and more difficult to fill her berths.  Above: the last sailing of the Monowai from Sydney's Darling Harbour terminated the Line's trans-Tasman passenger service.

However, during her last year in service, Monowai's berth utilisation averaged 85 percent of capacity.  Over several months during the summer season there were few voyages that were not fully booked.  This extraordinarily high demand for sea travel generated widespread criticism of the Union Company's decision to terminate its New Zealand to Sydney service.

The remote Dominion's talent for exporting commercial acumen would see what had once been the Southern Hemisphere's largest shipping line, reduced within a generation to a coal barge and a couple of tugs - now laid up at Lyttelton.

1960     June 2     Departed for a Pacific cruise, which was to be her last passenger voyage.

The veteran liner was withdrawn from service and offered for sale, but being well past her prime there could be only one fate for her; the breakers yard.  However, there was strong opposition in New Zealand where she was a much loved ship.  A last minute attempt to extend her career for another year as a passenger liner was refused by the Union Company.

1960     July     Sold to the Far Fast Metal Industry Company of Hong Kong for £165,000.

1960     September 6     Arrived at Hong Kong under the command of Captain S. M. Barling to be broken up.

1960     September 13     She was taken in tow for her last short trip across Kowloon Bay to the Ngautaukok breaking yards near the airport.

1961     October 17     Registration closed.


Brewer, N. H.
A Century of Style
Wellington: Reed, 1982. 238 pp. Illustrated.

Churchouse, Jack
Glamour Ships of the Union Steam Ship Company N.Z. Ltd.
Wellington: Millwood, 1981. 104 pp. Illustrated.

Farquhar, I. J.
Union Fleet 1875-1968     Being a list of ships owned by the Union Steam Ship Company of N.Z. Ltd.
Wellington: New Zealand Ship and Marine Society, 1968.

Johnson, David
New Zealand's Maritime Heritage
Auckland: Collins, 1987. 196 pp. Index.Illustrated.

Laxon, W. A.
Davey and the Awatea
Palmerston North: Dunmore, 1997. Card covers, 219 pp. Illustrated.

McCart, Neil
20th Century Passenger Ships of the P&O
Wellingborough: Patrick Stephens, 1985. 233 pp. Index, Illustrated.

McLauchlan, Gordon
The Line that Dared     A History of the Union Steam Ship Company
Auckland: Four Star, 1987. 205 pp. Index, Illustrated.

McLean, Gavin
A Century of Shipping in New Zealand
Wellington: Grantham House, 2000. Card covers, 48 pp. Illustrated.

Maber, John M.
Northern Star to Southern Cross
Prescot: Stephenson, 1967. 335 pp. Illustrated.

Plowman, Peter
Passenger Ships of Australia and New Zealand     Volume One
Sydney: Doubleday, 1981. 224 pp. Illustrated.


Thanks to Scott Bennett, the Imperial War Museum, London, the National Libraries of Australia and New Zealand, the P & O Line, Steven McLachlan (specialist in Maritime Covers) for many of the images and Marcus Castell (specialist in Maritime Books) for the research.

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

Return to the Ship Index or the Museum's Home page