The AORANGI – Trans-Pacific ocean liner operating from Australia and New Zealand to Vancouver during the 1930s into the early 1950s.

Cruise and Liner History: The Aorangi was a 600-foot passenger liner built in 1924 by the Union Steamship Co. of New Zealand for service between Canada and Australia. But she went into service in troubled times for the world, and consequently got caught up in the midst of the worst hours of World War II.

The AORANGI – Trans- Pacific ocean liner operating from Australia and New Zealand to Vancouver – 1930s into the 1950s.

Even though this vessel was utilized as a troop ship, a supply ship, a hospital ship and even an escape vehicle for hundreds of civilians fleeing the war, the Aorangi miraculously emerged from the war unscathed and met its end in a scrap yard.

The grand salon.

Entering Vancouver on her maiden voyage.

The vessel’s early years were spent doing exactly what she was designed to do. She made regular trips from Vancouver, British Columbia to Sydney, Australia, with stops at Honolulu, Suva, Auckland and Wellington. The Aorangi boasted accommodations for 440 first class, 300 second class and 230 third class passengers. She had a typical liner’s profile with two masts and two funnels. She was powered by four propellers and reached a speed of 18.5 knots.

World civil unrest brought the liner in peril beginning in October, 1940, when it was utilized to send troops from New Zealand to Fiji. Then, in the summer of 1941, with the war raging in Europe, Aorangi was requisitioned by the British Ministry of War Transport and steamed from Sydney to the United Kingdom for war duty. After conversion for service as a troop ship, she joined a convoy of large liners carrying troops and supplies for the near east. She carried troops to India, the Middle East and also brought US and Canadian troops to Europe during the war, always escaping the terror of the German U-Boats and bombers from the sky.

In January, 1942, when the Japanese invasion of Malaya was occurring, Aorangi was sent to Singapore which was already under heavy attack by Japanese aircraft. The liner successfully got into Singapore harbor and escaped with her decks laden with hundreds of women and children, carrying them successfully to safety in Australia.

During the Normandy Invasion, Aorangi was there as well. She was by then serving as a depot ship for a fleet of about 150 tugs and auxiliary ships, supplying them with food, water, ammunition, engine parts and relief crews. She also served as a hospital ship and provided medical supplies.

From D-Day, which occurred on June 6, 1944, until the end of July, the Aorangi serviced 1,200 vessels and countless other small craft. Her hospital took in wounded men from the beachheads.

After this, the liner was converted and to serve as the commodore ship and joined the British Pacific Fleet at Hong Kong. After the Japanese surrender, she remained at Hong Kong as an accommodation ship for men released from war service and waiting to go home.

It was estimated that during the war years, this ship transported 36,000 troops and evacuated 5,500 refugees from war zones.

After the war, the Aorangi was returned to her owners and restored as a liner. It went back into service in 1948, but was then plagued by union problems among the stewards and seamen. Because of demands for higher wages, the liner operated at a loss.

She continued to operate with the help of subsidies by the Australian, New Zealand and Canadian governments until June, 1953. The liner was retired that summer, taken to Scotland and scrapped.


About Michael L. Grace

MICHAEL L. GRACE is part of the award winning team that created the internationally performed award winning musical SNOOPY, based on PEANUTS by Charles M. Schultz. SNOOPY continues to be one of the most produced shows (amateur & stock) in America/Worldwide and has had long running productions in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and in London's West End. There are over 100 individual productions every year. He has written movies for TV, including the award-winning thriller LADY KILLER, various pilots and developed screenplays for Kevin Costner and John Travolta. Besides co-writing and co-producing SNOOPY, he wrote and produced the one-man play KENNEDY. He produced P.S. YOUR CAT IS DEAD by pulitzer prize winning author James Kirkwood. He wrote the stage thriller FINAL CUT which had productions in the UK, South Africa and Australia. His one-man play, KENNEDY - THE MAN BEHIND THE MYTH, was developed for HBO and has starred Andrew Stevens, Gregory Harrison and Joseph Bottoms. He has recently been involved in European productions with CLT-UFA, Europe's leading commercial television and radio broadcaster. He wrote MOWs THE DOLL COLLECTION, THE BOTTOM LINE and LAST WITNESS for German television. While in college and graduate school he worked as a foreign correspondent for COMBAT, the famous leftwing Paris daily, and as a travel writer. He visited more than 50 countries. He struggled as an actor, then joined the enemy and entered the training program at William Morris. He became a publicist and worked for Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis Presley's manager, at Paramount and MGM. He followed with a brief stint as a story executive, working in the frantic horror genre period of the early 80s and wrote THE UNSEEN. He went onto write for episodic television and develop series pilots. He was a continuing writer on such series such as LOVE BOAT, PAPER DOLLS, and KNOTS LANDING. He developed screenplays for such major award winning directors as Nicolas Meyers, Tony Richardson and J. Lee Thompson. He has written for all the major networks and studios. He has been hired numerous times as a script doctor, doing many uncredited rewrites on TV movies and features. He is currently writing A PERSON OF INTEREST, a thriller novel, and, IT'S THE LOVE BOAT... AND HOW IT CHANGED CRUISING BY SHIP a non-fiction book dealing with how the hit TV series as a major cultural phenomenon and altered the style of cruising by ship. He was raised in Los Angeles. He attended St. Paul's, USC and the Pasadena Playhouse. He received a B.A from San Francisco State University where he majored in theatre arts and minored in creative writing. He is listed as a SFSU leading alumni. He also apprenticed at ACT - The American Conservatory Theatre. For a brief period he had intentions of becoming an Episcopal(Anglican) priest and attended seminary at Kelham Theological College in the UK. When "the calling" wasn't there, he left seminary and did graduate work at the American University of Beirut. He has guest lectured at USC, UC San Diego, McGill, Univ. of London and the Univ. of Texas on the business aspects of making a living and surviving as a writer, focusing on development hell, in the Hollywood entertainment industry. Grace is a lifetime member of the Writers Guild of America, the Dramatist Guild and former regional chairman of the Steamship Historical Society of America. He resides in Palm Springs.

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