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,
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
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.