(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
1940 - 1941
Diary and notebook by an internee: LTL Melbourne MS 9538;
Diary of a prisoner published in: “The Dunera Scandal”, by Cyril
Gillman, P&L, in: “Collar The Lot”, (published by Quartet in
General account in: “DEMS? What’s DEMS?” by A. Marcus,
Voyage of 1949/1950 –
“Life Aboard Troopship
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
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
We arrived safely in
We were soon on our way again on the last leg of our journey to
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
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 –
Contributed by Jim BAULF (49A)
“This photograph of the Dunera
was taken in
Voyage of 1957 – UK to
Contributed by Keith
The troop deck