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
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
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.
Previous updates by Paul Strathdee, Bruce Biddulph, John Newth
Photo supplied by Green Collection – State of Victoria Library
Last updated: by Bruce Allan from the original records by Stuart Cameron
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