The Blue Funnel Line

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"H" Boats

SS Jason; 10,125gt L 496 feet, 18 knots.

In 1866, Alfred Holt and his brother Philip, knew that when the Suez canal would open in three years time, that this would be a golden opportunity to start a trading route to the Far East. So they persuaded family members to invest in iron built steamships, along with their own money from a previous partnership, in coastal tonnage. An order for three vessel "Agamemnon" "Ajax" and "Achilles" was placed at Scots of Greenock, their names were picked from Homer's Odyssey, which they regarded as the finest adventure story ever told.

The next thirty years were very prosperous for the Ocean Steam Ship Company, with new and better tonnage added at regular intervals, and by 1898 they had decided to expand their trade routes by opening up an U.K. to Australian service, a decision that would mean passengers would be an important part of their business for the first time. By 1900 Blue Funnel's fleet had grown to 41 vessels, and continued to grow at a relentless pace, and by 1913 the number had risen to 64. In the same year, two of the largest cargo / passenger vessels ever ordered by Blue Funnel, the 14,500gt, "Nestor" and "Ulysses" which were purpose built for the Australian route, with a passenger capacity of 350 each. Nestor apparently, had the tallest funnel of any ship ever built.

Blue Funnel's vessels suffered badly during WWII, in 1939 there were 77 ships in the fleet, but by the end of hostilities in August 1945, there were only 36, and two of them had been built during the war. Ulysses was amongst the casualties, and with the Nestor the only one left, at the grand old age of 32, new tonnage for the Australian service was very much on the cards.

The Helenus was the first of four steam turbine "H" boats to be built, and was completed at the Harland and Wolff Shipyard, Belfast in 1949, These vessels were just a few tons larger and only 7 foot longer than the "P"

Like the "P" boats, passengers were abandoned, in the mid 1960's and their cabins were turned over to officers, the two after lifeboats were also removed. But the biggest change of all came along in late 1968, these vessels were the first in Blue Funnel's fleet to feel the wrath of containerisation, OCL were just taking delivery of the first of six new vessels, for the Australian run, "Jervis Bay" "Encounter Bay" "Moreton Bay" "Flinders Bay" "Discovery Bay" and the "Botany Bay" at 26,756gt. These were the first purpose built vessels of their type in the world, so new in fact, that the world wasn't quite ready for them, and it would be twelve or more months before the various ports would be geared up to handle them. "Flinders Bay" was the only one of the six that was wholly owned by Ocean Steam Ships Co.

So the "H" boats were withdrawn from from the run as they return to the U.K. I joined the Hector at Hull on December 19th 1968, she had arrived form Oz the previous day for the last time. And by February 1969, the last of the "H" boats had left Australia for ever. All four took up the Far East run during 1969, after extensive refits. Some of their lower holds were converted into deep tanks for the Malaysian Latex trade, and the freezing coils, were removed from the other holds for Far Eastern general cargos.

Like the "P" boats, their demise was swift. As they arrived home from the Far East, one each month in early 1972, they went straight to the scrap heap, three to Kaohsiung, Taiwan, and the Ixion arrived for demolition at Barcelona on March the 12th.

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Timetable for 1959

 

Vessel Brisbane Sydney Melbourne Adelaide Port Said Genoa Dunkirk Antwerp Liverpool Belfast Glasgow
Helenus Aug 15th Aug 21st Sep 5th   Sep 25th   Oct 3rd Oct 6th Oct 7th?   Oct 14th
Hector Sep 5th Sep 12th     Oct 3rd Oct 7th     Oct 13th Oct 20th Oct 22nd
Ixion Oct 31st   Nov 7th Nov 14th Dec 3rd   Dec 11th Dec 13th Dec 15th   Dec 22nd
Jason Nov 28th Dec 5th     Dec 26th Dec 30th     Jan 5th   Jan 12th

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"H" Boats / Built

Year                          In the Blue Funnel Fleet Tonnage
Helenus / Harland & Wolff Ltd, Belfast. 1949 Scrapped in Kaohsiung, 1972. 10,125gt
Hector / Harland & Wolff Ltd, Belfast. 1949 Scrapped in Kaohsiung, 1972. 10,125gt
Ixion / Harland & Wolff Ltd, Belfast. 1951 Scrapped in Barcelona, 1972. 10,125gt
Jason / Swan Hunter, Wallsend-on-Tyne. 1950 Scrapped in Kaohsiung, 1972. 10,160gt

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Many Thanks to;

Mr Gwyn Jones, for the 1959 Timetable.

And Capt Neville Lester and Capt Gwilym Owen and Mr R Williams, for the photographs.

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