A brave voyage

My grandmother, Frances Judith Hitchcock, née Norton migrated to Australia in 1921 aboard RMS (Royal Mail Ship) Ormonde. Which set me to looking up some more information about the ship and the voyage. Ormonde was built as a twin-screw, twin-funnel, coal-burning steam turbine powered passenger liner by John Brown and Co. at Clydebank in Scotland. Launched in 1917, she was 14,853 tons, 192 metres long and 20 metres in breath, and capable of 18 knots, the largest ship yet built for the Australian trade.

ormondePhoto Allan C. Green. 1878-1954, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria

With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, construction was deferred for almost 3 years until Ormonde was completed as a troopship in 1917. After the war she was fitted out to original specifications for 278 first class, 195 second class and 1,000 third class passengers. Operated by Orient Steam Navigation Co. Ltd., she served on the UK-Australia mail route between the two World Wars. Her first voyage to Australia under the Orient Line was via Suez in 1919. The Ormonde was the first large passenger ship to re-establish regular service between the UK and Australia after the War.

voyageJudith Norton sailed from England on 16 April 1921 and arrived in Australia on 25 May 1921. I have a souvenir book A voyage with the mails between Brisbane-London, Australia and Great Britain: a memento by an amateur photographer with 111 original photographs. 4th edn. (London Stereographic Co., 1920). With it is a large photograph of the ship, and it has an autograph page signed by fellow passengers. It was a brave thing to do, to leave home with the possibility of never returning, to marry a man she had met only briefly, who was waiting for her on the other side of the world.

In 1933 Ormonde was converted to a single-class vessel following a decline in migration during the depression. In WWII, she was again a troopship. After the war, she carried assisted migrants to Australia, almost 18,000 in all. After 35 years of service, including about 4 million kilometres and a record 75 return voyages from U.K. to Australia, she was broken up at Dalmuir in 1952.