Picture of the Month

RHSV-PH-120117_TSMV Duntroon
TSMV Duntroon
RHSV Collection : PH-120117


Twin Screw Motor Vessel Duntroon was launched at the shipyard of Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Newcastle-on-Tyne (England) on 4 April 1935. The ship weighed 10,500 tons and offered accommodation for 373 passengers in twin berth cabins.

The ship was specially commissioned by the Melbourne Steamship Company for the then lucrative and busy Australian coastal trade. The vessel sailed to Australia in the same year of the launch. Much praised for the speed that its two diesel engines delivered, the TSMV Duntroon was used for the monthly service between Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Fremantle.

At the outbreak of the WWII the Australian government requisitioned her as a troopship – along with her sister ships Westralia, Manunda, Manoora and Kanimbla. Military utilitarian accommodation replaced the more luxurious furniture and fittings, meaning that now it could carry 1817 soldiers. The ship carried military personnel to many theatres of war.

In 1941, HMAS Duntroon transported the survivors of the German raider Kormoran back to Melbourne for eventual imprisonment in a camp at Murchison. The Kormoran was the enemy combatant in the infamous sea battle off Western Australia in which HMAS Sydney was sunk with such great loss of life. Kormoran, which had been laying sea-mines, was also destroyed.

As a navy ship the HMAS Duntroon was involved in two catastrophes during her wartime service. On the night of 20 November 1940, with wartime blackout regulations in place, the ship, under naval orders, was outward-bound approaching Port Phillip Heads when it collided broadside into the 223 ton mine-sweeper trawler Goorangai, cutting it in two. The Duntroon hove to and lowered boats signalling the Queenscliff lifeboat. After the collision, the cries of the Goorangi crew were heard. Sadly all hands were lost, including the former civilian captain who had been co-opted into the RAN. A Court of Inquiry later absolved Captain Lloyd of the Duntroon.

Three years later, on the east coast of Burma, the Duntroon was carrying 1450 Australian troops to Milne Bay. She was radioed by the American destroyer Perkins to the effect that wartime exercises were about to take place. Pitch dark, again in blacked-out conditions, the Duntroon, sailing at 16 knots was suddenly presented with a destroyer across her bows. Inevitably, Duntroon’s weight and size completely cut in two the ill-fated Perkins with the loss of four lives. No blame was placed for that tragedy.

It was not until August 1950 that the ship, after refitting, was handed back to her owners. For nine years thereafter she served on the Western Australian run. Shrinking passenger lists forced the abandonment of the service. Cruising was tried, but with revenue from cargo missing, the owners sent her to Hong Kong for scrap. At a last minute reprieve, she was purchased becoming the Tong Hoo, sailing for five years in the China Sea. Lastly, she had period under the Panamanian flag being called Lydia and was eventually broken up in Taiwan.


As Australia moved into the 20th Century, rail and road posed little threat coastal shipping business. Getting around Australia by sea had been firmly established since settlement. On the completion of the Trans-Australian Railway in 1917, the number of passengers travelling by ship from east to west almost halved. The two world wars saw overseas shipping companies withdrawing from the Southern Hemisphere. This caused the Australian government to establish its own shipping line. WWII particularly saw, and enabled, a growing aggressiveness in the seaman’s union. This resulted in much better wages and conditions for their members. Wharfage and stevedoring charges surged, later contributing to and encouraging containerisation. Railway expansion had continued and even with the break of gauge, along eventually with the road transport, the carrying of the remaining passengers and goods by ship around Australia was snaffled.


‘Duntrune’ or ‘Duntroon’ means ‘high headland’, where The Castle of Duntroon is a rugged fortress on the shore of Loch Crinan, near Kilmartin, Argyll, Scotland. Duntroon is located on the north side of Loch Crinan and across from the village of Crinan in Argyll, Scotland. The fortress is considered to be the oldest continuously occupied castle on mainland Scotland.

The history of its use in Australia is not only linked to the ship, but via a Scottish merchant to a pastoral property and the Australian Army‘s officer training establishment – the Royal Military College, Canberra.

In 1825 Robert Campbell, a Scottish merchant, ordered two of his trading ships to call at Port Jackson (Sydney) on their way to England with valuable cargoes of seal furs from the South Seas. At that time, the penal settlements of New South Wales were faced with starvation. The Governor saw in the vessels’ timely arrival a practical means of averting the threatened famine. The ships were seized and their valuable cargoes dumped on the beach at Sandy Cove. The captains were ordered to take their ships to Cape Town to obtain stores for the settlement. The vessels left and were never heard of again. Many years later Robert Campbell received compensation for the loss of the two ships. He was given 7,000 ewes and, having applied for and received a grant, Robert Campbell settled on a large area of land in what is now the Australian Capital Territory at a place which he named ‘Duntroon’.


TSMV ‘Duntroon’ : New Interstate Liner ‘Duntroon’ (The Argus, July 28 1934, p. 23) : http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article10976466

Australian ships and shipping : T. K. Fitchett : The vanished fleet : Australian coastal passenger ships, 1910-1960 (Adelaide, Rigby, 1976) Australian National Maritime Association : Australian shipping : structure, history and future (Melbourne, Australian National Maritime Association, 1989) HMAS Sydney : http://www.navy.gov.au/hmas-sydney-ii/hmas-sydney-kormoran-documents HMAS Goorangai : http://www.navy.gov.au/hmas-goorangai

Duntroon: Transformation of a sheep station and its main buildings, inc. ‘Duntroon’ homestead to centre for military education : http://www.naa.gov.au/collection/fact-sheets/fs165.aspx Steve Hart : Duntroon : its heritage and sacred legacy (Canberra, Defence Publishing Service, 2009) Royal Military College, Duntroon : http://www.army.gov.au/Army-life/Army-careers/RMCD