Video of 1950s sailing aboard RMS ORCADES – Tourist class pool area.

The RMS Orcades (later SS Orcades) was built by Vickers Armstrong Ltd in Barrow-in-Furness as Yard Number 950. She was launched on the 14th October 1947 and completed on the 14th November 1948. Orcades replaced her predecessor, Orcades II, which had sunk during the war when she was only five years old.

Orcades, the first ship built for Orient Lines after the war, shared her hull design with P&O Line’s Himalaya, but her superstructure was different with her having a new look with her bridge located amidships crowned with a tripod mast and a upright funnel sitting high directly aft of the mast. She was a contemporary of P&O’s Himalaya.

(Left: Orcades sailing from Sydney) As a two class ship, she provided accommodation for 773 First Class and 772 Tourist Class. Later, in 1964, she became a one class ship accommodating 1635 passengers. Her specifications are as follows. 28,164 GRT (tons), length 706ft (216m), width 60ft (27.6m), Draft 30ft 5in. With twin screws and steam geared turbines Orcades achieved 24.7 knots during her sea trials in November.

After she was finished she was handed over to her owners, Orient Steam Navigation Company (Orient Line) and she departed on her maiden voyage on the 14th December 1948 from London (Tilbury Docks), sailing to Australia and New Zealand via Gibraltar, Naples, Port Said, Aden, Colombo, Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Auckland. The Orcades was the first new liner to reach Australia after the war. She continued on this service for the next six years. In August 1955, Orcades departed London for her first sailing to New Zealand and Australia via the Panama Canal and returning to the UK via the Suez Canal.

First Class Dining Room

In 1959, Harland and Wolff gave Orcades a substantial refit, with the addition of a new first class swimming pool, the previous one was allocated to tourist class, and the ship became completely air-conditioned. Her new accommodation was now 631 First Class and 734 Tourist Class. Atop her funnel a stove pipe was fitted in order to improve the dispersion of smoke. The funnel, which sits so high on the ship, now looked even taller. Her tonnage increased to 28,396 GRT. The next year Orient Line and P&O pooled their resources and fleets as P&O-Orient Lines.

(Left: Tourist Class Lounge) In November 1959, Orcades served as an accommodation ship during the Melbourne Olympic Games in Australia.

In 1964, Orcades received yet another refit, turning her into an all one class ship. The first class Grill Room was converted to a 157 seat cinema. She now catered for 1635 passengers. The traditional Orient Line corn coloured hull was painted white, making her ready for a dual role as a passenger liner and cruise ship. Her first departure as a one class liner was in May 1964.

In 1966 Orcades came under the ownership of P&O Line after they had taken over the remaining shares in Orient Line.

In April 1972, whilst berthed in Hong Kong during a cruise, a fire broke out in the boiler room causing damage. As it happened the Iberia was laid up in the UK and parts were taken from her and flown to Hong Kong for repairs to be made.

After repairs she returned to Australia and departed Sydney for the last time on the 3rd June 1972. After her return to Britain she commenced cruising for a short time. But soon she was taken out of service on the 13th October 1972 and was then laid up in the Southampton. Several months later she was sold to Taiwanese breakers, Nan Feng Steel Enterprises. In January 1973 she departed the UK for the last time manned by a handful of crew. She arrived at Kaoshiung on February 6, and was handed over to the breakers, who commenced breaking her up on March 15, 1973.