Wednesday, 31 May 2017


The Sydney Morning Herald, Friday 29 December, 1911.
The new P and O branch liner Ballarat, nowon her maiden voyage to Australia has done some goodsteaming. She left London on November 18, two dayslate, and reached Adelaide travelling via the Cape,two days ahead of her schedule time. She thus madeup four days on her journey- a good performance. The  Ballarat is the first of two new vessels specially designed for the trade via the Cape and was launchedat Greenock last September. She offers many ad-vantages not hitherto obtainable at the same low fare  Like her forthcoming sister ship- Bendigo - the Ballarat  is of 11 000 tons gross register. Her dimensions are:-    
Length 515ft; breadth 62ft 6in; and depth, 42ft. 
The new liner, which is classed 100 A1 at Lloyd's, is finelyequipped in respect of passenger accommodation, andthere is a commodious and well-appointed dining-room,    together with smoking room. The main and after holdsand 'tween decks are insulated for carrying meat andfruit, and an extensive equipment of gear is providedfor rapid loading and discharge. The vessel is  supplied with triple-expansion engines. She is due  at Sydney next week.
After purchasing five ships from what was left of the Blue Anchor Line, the P&O Line continued the emigrant service to Australia from England via the South African coast.
The Ballarat was the first steamer built exclusively for the P&O Line and this trade. There are a number of interesting points worth noting:
1. The Ballarat kept the Blue Anchor Line funnel for the first three years, which could be interpreted as a favour out of respect for the Blue Anchor Line, or a symbol, continuation of the emigrant model started by the Lunds.
2. The Ballarat was 50 ft. longer than the waratah, but with a similar beam of 62 ft. 6 in. (marginally broader). 
3. The Ballarat only had two superstructure decks which suggests that the Waratah's reputation had negatively impacted on the construction of this new ship.
4. The Ballarat had a depth of 42 ft. and a draught of 31 ft. 8 in.. This leaves a freeboard of 10.25 ft. This far more healthy freeboard, compared with the Waratah's 8 ft., further suggests that the P&O Line did not wish to repeat history by sending out a steamer with reduced buoyancy and deck-flooding potential.
5. The Ballarat was fitted with triple expansion steam engines, which was a step back in progress from the Waratah's quadruple expansion engines. The latter had proven less efficient and produced significant vibration.
6. Note the size of the Ballarat's funnel, significantly smaller than the Waratah's. There is no doubt that a large, high funnel contributed to top heaviness and enhanced the wind-catchment factor.
7. Note the difference in the length proportions of the superstructure decks. The Waratah's should have made up at least half the total length, 465 ft., whereas the Ballarat's did. This is very significant in terms of structural integrity and relation to freeboard.
My feeling is that by the time the Ballarat was launched, lessons had been learned from the ill-fated Waratah, not to be repeated.

The following is an extract from clydesite, which eloquently describes the SS Ballarat in more detail:


built by Caird & Company Greenock,
Yard No 318 
Engines by Shipbuilder

Port of Registry: Greenock
Propulsion: Two four cylinder quadruple expansion steam engines, 9000ihp, twin screw, 16.5 knots 
Launched: Saturday, 23/09/1911
Built: 1911
Ship Type: Passenger Liner
Ship's Role: UK/Australia emigrant service via the Cape of Good Hope (Branch Line)
Tonnage: 11120 gross; 7055 net; 13881 dwt
Length: 500ft 2in
Breadth: 62ft 9in
Draught: 31ft 8in
Owner History:
Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company
Status: Torpedoed & Sunk - 25/04/1917

23/09/1911: Launched by Mrs F C Allen, wife of the manager of the P&O Branch Line. When P&O bought Lund’s Blue Anchor Line’s emigrant service via the Cape in 1910, they immediately ordered five new ships, of which BALLARAT was the first, with improved accommodation aimed at a higher quality of emigrant. P&O took over the service complete, renaming it the Branch Line (hence the Australian “B” names used for their new tonnage), and running it separately from their other ships because Australian regulations required all white crews. 
01/11/1911: Registered. She began life with a Blue Anchor Line funnel, changing to P&O black in 1914. Her maiden voyage via the Cape set a London/Adelaide record of 37½ days. 
1914: When war came served initially as an Indian transport. 
08/1915: Carrying Australian troops. 
25/04/1917: Torpedoed by the German submarine UB.32, 24 miles SxW from Wolf Rock. She was sailing as HM AMBULANCE TRANSPORT A70 on a voyage from Melbourne to London with Australian troops and a cargo of copper, antimony ore, bullion and general cargo. Despite 50 lookouts on each side and HMTBD PHOENIX as escort the torpedo was not spotted, the starboard screw was smashed and the engine room flooded. Taken in tow by a destroyer and HM Drifter MIDGE, she sank in 44 fathoms of water 8½ miles off the Lizard the following day. All 1,752 on board were saved. 
12/1917: P&O Chairman Lord Inchcape negotiated £420,000 compensation for a ship that cost £176,109! 

The following from 'Dictionary of Disasters at Sea During the Age of Steam' (C. Hocking): 

The troopship BALLARAT, taken over from the P. & O. company, was approaching the entrance to the Channel on April 25th, 1917, when she was torpedoed by a German submarine. Including troops, who were all reinforcements from Victoria for the 2nd and 4th Australian Brigades, there were some 1,750 persons on board at the time. The day being Anzac Day the men were parading for a memorial service on board when, at 2.5 p.m., the torpedo struck the ship. One propeller was smashed, a 6 in. gun destroyed, the main steam pipe fractured and the after watertight bulkhead blown in. The BALLARAT at once began to settle in the water but admirable discipline was maintained and the men, who had been exercised at boat drill repeatedly by the colonel of the Victorian Scottish who was in command of the draft, went to their places in splendid order. There was no loss of life, all the troops and crew being taken off by their own boats or by escorting destroyers. The captain of the BALLARAT, Cdr. G. W. Cockman, R.N.R., D.S.O., received the congratulations of the Admiralty on this splendid feat, and the Australian troops were congratulated by King George V.

No comments: