Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape



HMT ‘Dunera’


(Hired Military Transport)



12,615-ton trooper built in 1937, owned and manned by the British India Company, under charter to the British Government. She had a speed of 16 knots, and, as a trooper, a maximum capacity of 1600 including crew.


(below) Reference: “Log of Logs” page 154



HMT/Transport, 11162t. Part of first Anzac troop convoy of war:


Lyttelton, 5 Jan – r/v off Sydney & Melbourne – Fremantle-Colombo-Suez, 12 Feb.

Account of convoy: “Aust in War of 1939-45; RAN, 1939-42” G. Hermon Gill



1940 - 1941

Same. Liverpool circa 10 Jul – Takoradi-Fremantle-Melbourne-Sydney, circa 6 Sep, with POWs, and German & Austrian detainees (total 2500 aboard).

Diary and notebook by an internee: LTL Melbourne MS 9538;

Diary of a prisoner published in: “The Dunera Scandal”, by Cyril Pearl;

Gillman, P&L, in: “Collar The Lot”, (published by Quartet in 1980);

General account in: “DEMS? What’s DEMS?” by A. Marcus, Brisbane, 1986



Voyage of 1949/1950 – UK to Hong Kong


“Life Aboard Troopship MV Dunera


Contributed by Philip Blondie  KEMPSTER, R.E.M.E.




Whilst looking through some old photographs and memorabilia from my Army days I came across an article that my then girl friend now my wife Jean, had seen in a daily newspaper. (The article with picture was from the Daily Herald and showed a soldier grabbing a Christmas pudding that his mother had delivered to the quayside just before sailing on the MV ‘Dunera’). This inspired me to write this article about the time I was sailing from Southampton on board the Dunera. I cannot remember the exact date but it was in December 1949. I had been drafted (draft index DLOPO) from 24 Anti Aircraft Workshop, Barton in Manchester to the Far East via Drafting Company, Depot R.E.M.E. in Poperinghe Barracks, Arborfield. This was Arborfield revisited for me as I did my Driver Mechanic training there in June 1948 for four months before going on to Blackdown and Bordon.



This was to be a voyage that I will remember for the rest of my days. There were quite a number of us R.E.M.E. lads who travelled by rail to Southampton, including some married families due to embark on the Dunera. Some were destined for Singapore and Malaya, others going as far as Hong Kong. We disembarked from our train on the dockside and joined hundreds of others from the infantry, Engineers, R.A.F. and Royal Navy. A military band played music, including ‘Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye’ as we embarked, that brought a lump to a few throats I can tell you. When we were all safely aboard, this is when the incident referred to in the newspaper occurred I remember every one cheering when the Christmas pudding was hoisted aboard. Eventually we set sail with the band playing with everyone ashore waving and cheering us on our way. We soon settled in and were given our deck locations, which was to be our home for the next few weeks. I was on ‘F’ deck, which was just above the waterline, so we had portholes to let a bit of daylight through. I remember thinking how glad I was not to be on the lower decks below water.



(photograph) “Come on, Jack grab it!” Jack Cowley sailed on the troopship Dunera to Hong Kong – but he forgot his Christmas pudding. His mother made a dash with it to the docks at Southampton, but the gangplank was up when she arrived. Jack got the boys to rig up a lifeline ashore, and here you see his pudding being pulled up, inch by inch. Result: The pudding won by a minute and a half!


All our meals had to be collected from the galley in large metal containers and we had to take turns serving ourselves. We all sat at a large wooden table that folded away when not in use. In the evenings we had to draw our hammocks from the storeroom in the hold, these were hung above the dining area on hooks. We were given a short demonstration on making these beds up; this was a work of art. If you did not get the strings the right length at each end when you hoisted yourself into it, the sides would close over you like a clam. I never did get the hang of it. I managed to find a couple of pieces of wood to wedge in each end and that worked for me.


We sailed into the Bay of Biscay and the weather took a turn for the worst, I don’t recommend hammocks in rough seas and oh boy was it rough! All our portholes had a large metal cover, which a member of the crew clamped down during bad weather. Anyway, we all said our prayers. The storm raged all night long with waves like great mountains tossing us about like a cork. Eventually it calmed down as we approached the Mediterranean and the Straits of Gibraltar. Once we got in calmer seas and could see the coastline of Spain and Portugal we started to enjoy ourselves, apart from boat drills and cleaning etc. I often wondered how putting two pillows one at the back of your neck and one under your chin would save your life if the ship went down! I did not dwell on it too much as I couldn’t swim a stroke anyway. It was about this time that the festive season was upon us. The NCOs waited on us with a tot of rum in the tea, what more could a squaddie ask for? We all had a great time but were perhaps a little homesick (that’s an understatement).


With some of the pals I made on board


We arrived at Port Said on Suez Canal on 27 December 1949 and were soon surrounded by local traders in their bum boats sending up their wares in baskets. They were fiddled rotten by us lot sending them down old coppers from our pockets. Some of us were allowed ashore for a short visit. It was very interesting to see how the other half lived; there was a great deal of poverty with beggars everywhere and the smells were something else. A pal of mine was taken into the military hospital in Port Said. He had been suffering badly with seasickness for most of the time aboard ship. His name was Craftsman Lofty Backhouse; I think he came from the Stockport area. I never saw him again; I hope he made it home OK.


It was after leaving Port Said that things started to go wrong. Travelling along the Suez Canal the ship had a collision with a sandbank when she had to move over to allow an aircraft carrier to pass through. This did some damage and reduced her speed considerably. On entering the Red Sea we stopped for a short stay but had to stay offshore. We went ashore in small motor boats whilst our ship took on water and stores. We then commenced our slow journey towards Aden and the Indian Ocean. It was during this part of our journey that the worst thing happened; a small child belonging to one of the families died from dehydration and was buried at sea. With us in attendance, the poor child was committed to the sea. What a sad occasion this was, one I shall never forget.


We arrived safely in Aden, what a god-forsaken place. We dropped anchor in the harbour near some floating pipelines attached to buoys. These were for us to take on water. It was purified seawater and tasted awful. Small local boys used to dive from these buoys to collect coins thrown from the ship. We were allowed ashore for a restricted visit due to terrorist activity in the mountains, which was being dealt with by our forces. I am glad I was not posted there; it was awful, dust everywhere due to the shortage of rain in the region.


We were soon on our way again on the last leg of our journey to Singapore. By this time we had been kitted out in tropical gear in our case, olive green jackets and shorts, a sight to behold; white knobbly knees in baggy shorts galore. We were now crossing the Indian Ocean slowly at half speed, the sea was calm, the sun was red hot, and things were getting better. I remember spending hours looking over the side at dolphins leaping out of the waves alongside the ship. They followed us for miles.


During this crossing we met another troopship passing homeward bound. I think it was our sister-ship the Dilwara. They both passed quite close to each other and there were lots of cheering and shouting from them for us to “Get yer bloody knees brown”. Eventually we sailed into the Straits of Malaya (Malacca). We had good views of the coastal and jungle areas; they looked quite formidable and for some of the troops on board they would never be forgotten. At last we arrived in Singapore, well overdue and ready for action. We disembarked and were soon transported to the various units on the Island and up-country in Malaya. Most of the REME personnel including myself went to 4 Base Workshop and District Workshop in Ayer Raja Road and were billeted in nearby Rowcroft Lines. This was a very large camp with row upon row of wooden billets.


Some of the names of the lads I met on this voyage that spring to mind are Craftsman Viv Carter from Oldham, Corporal Mac Crawford, Lofty Backhouse from Stockport, Craftsman Williams from London, Craftsman Morris, Craftsman Roscoe and some with just nicknames like Brummie, Geordie, Jock and Taffy, you are all on my photographs and if you want to get in touch contact me through my e-mail address (above).



Voyage of 1954 – Japan to UK


Contributed by Jim BAULF (49A)


“This photograph of the Dunera was taken in Kowloon, Hongkong in early 1954. Most of the passengers were the Royal Irish Fusiliers (at least one fight on the troop decks each night). She was on the way from Kure, Japan via Pusan, Korea and Singapore, to ‘Blighty’. I disembarked at Singapore to go to Kluang in Malaya.”




Voyage of 1957 – UK to Singapore


Contributed by Keith TILLY (51B)


Leaving the UK on board HMT Dunera for Singapore in 1957, with the passenger ship Queen Mary in the background.




The troop deck




The "entertainment"