Reggie’s service file in the archives of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra record that had been ‘Officer Mercantile Marine’ with the P&O Company.
The ‘Mercantile Marine’ was the earlier name for the Merchant Navy – the collective title for all the commercial shipping (i.e. non-military) both the UK registered ships and their crews. During the First World War, the loss of British commercial shipping to German U-boats was so great (around 14,600 merchant seafarers lost their lives and 7,759,090 tons of ships were sunk) that King George V granted the title ‘Merchant Navy’ to the service in honour of their sacrifice. All British registered vessels fly the Red Ensign and have done so since 1674.
The P&O Company – The Peninsula and Orient Steamship Navigation Company – was probably the most famous of shipping lines in the Merchant Navy. It started in 1832 operating routes primarily between Britain and the Iberian Peninsula (i.e. Spain and Portugal) – using the name Peninsular Steam Navigation Company. The company flag colours are directly connected with the Peninsular flags: the white and blue represent the Portuguese flag at the time in 1837, in combination with the yellow and red the Spanish flag. In 1837, the business won a contract from the Admiralty to deliver mail to the Iberian Peninsula and in 1840 they acquired a contract to deliver mail to Alexandria in Egypt. The present company, the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, was incorporated in that year by a Royal Charter. Mail contracts were the basis of P&O’s prosperity until the Second World War, but the company also became a major commercial shipping line and passenger liner operator. In 1914, it took over the British India Steam Navigation Company (‘BI’), which was then the largest British shipping line, owning 131 steamers. In 1918, it gained a controlling interest in the Orient Line, its partner in the England- Australia mail route. Further acquisitions followed and the fleet reached a peak of almost 500 ships in the mid-1920s. In 1920, the company also established a bank, P&O Bank, that it sold to Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China (now Standard Chartered Bank) in 1927.
The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, holds the company archives of P&O. In these archives, I unearthed Reggie’s employment record (I also discovered confirmation of his brother Theo’s employment as a clerk at the P&O head office in London):
Reggie is recorded as ‘second mate’ just under his date of birth at the top of the page, which I assume means that he held a Second Mates Certificate of Competency, which I presume he obtained from his apprenticeship with Thomas Stephens & Son.
[09/09/14 – I have just received this copy of Reg’s Certificate of Competency as Second Mate, dated … 11 December 1903]
Reggie started at P&O as 5th Officer of the Candia on 28 December 1903.The Candia was a genral cargo liner, launched in 1896 and plying the route between the UK and Australia. It was sunk by a German U-boat in 1917.
Four months later Reggie transferred to the Arabia, on 24 March 1904.
The Arabia was a passenger liner, launched in 1898, in service on the route between the UK and India. The Arabia took Lord Curzon to India in 1898 to take up his his appointmentas Viceroy and in 1902 took a full load of passengers to the Delhi Durbar, who nicknamed her ‘RMS Grosvenor Square’. The Arabia was also sunk by a German U-boat during the First World War.
But less than a month after joining the Arabia, on 18 April 1904 Reggie transferred to the Simla, in Bombay, so I imagine he was only on the Arabia for the voyage out from England to India.
The Simla was a passenger/cargo liner which was adapted as a troopship, carrying Indian troops to the Boer War and later used in famine relief in India. It too was sunk by a German U-boat, in April 1916.
Reggie was back on the Arabia on Christmas Eve 1904 in Bombay, but again just for a single month. From 31 January to May 1905, Reggie was off sick and on 22 May he joined the China – one of five sister ships of the Arabia:
The China was on the UK/India and UK/Australia mail route and in 1902 broke the record from Fremantle to Colombo with a run of 8 days and 28 minutes. From the on-line archive of local newspapers in Australia I have discovered the first mention of Reggie in Fremantle, as Fifth Officer on board the RMS China which called very briefly in the port on 27 June 1905 en route to the Eastern States. (It seems a ship used the title “R.M.S.”, meaning “Royal Mail Ship” – ‘a designation which dates back to 1840, is the ship prefix used for seagoing vessels that carry mail under contract to the British Royal Mail. Any vessel designated as RMS has the right to both fly the pennant of the Royal Mail when sailing and to include the Royal Mail “crown” logo with any identifying device and/or design for the ship’):
“At 10.30 yesterday morning the P. and O. Co.’s favourite liner China arrived at Fremantle from London and ports, and berthed at the Quay. Since her last visit to Australia some changes have taken place in the personnel of the officers of the ship. Captain Lockyer is now in charge, and has with him the following:-Chief, G. F. Caldwell; second, R. C. Warden; third, A. Martell; supernumerary, J. McGregor; fourth, J. Plumpton.; fifth, R. H. Gill; surgeon, E. Kennedy; chief engineer, W. C. Walker; purser, W. Bervice. Captain Lockyer reports as follows on the trip:-“Left London on the 26th May with 91 passengers and a general cargo. Fine weather prevailed until Gibraltar, which was reached on 30th May, and it was here that the first news was received of the battle between the two opposing fleets in the Far East. From Gibraltar to Marseilles (lst June) fine weather ,with light winds, was experienced. At 10 a.m. on the 2nd June the China left Marseilles, having embarked 64 passengers. Port Said was reached on 6th inst. and upon the arrival of the mail packet Osiris, at 6 a.m. the following day. passengers and mails from Europe were transferred to the China. A rapid transit through the Canal was effected, and the China left Suez shortly after midnight, arriving in Aden on Sunday, 11th June, at 8 a.m. Here the China transferred 30 of her passengers, with the mails for India. to the P. and O. steamer Arcadia. The voyage down the Red sea was pleasant, with a strong N. wind. Leaving Aden at 1 p.m. on the 11th inst.. the China commenced her run down to Colombo. This was a pleasant surprise, for a light monsoon, with fine, clear weather, was experienced for the whole distance. Arriving at Colombo on the 17th June, the China connected with the Chusan, transferring passengers and mails for China and Japanese ports. Left Colombo shortly after midnight, and in a few hours a heavy swell from the S.E. was experienced. Dull weather, with heavy rain squalls, accompanied by a moderate sea, now set in until the 23rd. when the weather cleared considerably, although the S.E. wind and swell continued all the way to Fremantle.” (source: The West Australian 28 June 1905)
The China brought a few passengers for Fremantle, as well as about 200 tons of general cargo. She embarked a large number of voyagers, and resumed her voyage to the Eastern States during the afternoon.”
Another newspaper records the China in meticulous detail in 1900 after a recent refit:
The reappearance in the colonies of the R.M.S.China is an interesting event, and visitors to PortMelbourne to-day will have an opportunity of again viewing this noted liner. The disaster which she met with on the rocks at Perim, her narrow escape, from total destruction, and her subsequent flotation and rehabilitation are matters of history. She was almost entirely re-built, and advantage was taken of the opportunity to make several improvements to the vessel on her original construction. The China is 514ft. long, 54ft.broad, and 37ft. deep. Her engines are of the new four cylinder triple and expansion type, giving 11,000 indicated horse-power. She can steam 17½ knots with ease. Her gross tonnage is 7,899 tons,and she can accommodate 313 first and 152 second saloon passengers, in addition to 187 European officers and crew, and 179 natives. The China has many improvements, one of the most important being that the cabins of the commander and the six other officers are all located together on the bridge deck. Above them rises the upper bridge,from which the vessel is steered. This bridge is 55 ft. above the water line, and being situated well forward enables a capital look-out to he kept. The first-class dining saloon is amidships, a little for-ward of the engines, and measures 76 by 52 feet,having a height to the gable roof of the music saloon above of about 36ft. It is capable, of seat-ing 242 passengers. The saloon and all other parts of the ship are supplied with a complete electric light installation, and, as is the case in the second saloon, with punkahs for use in the tropics. The second-class saloon is situated aft. The companion and smokingroom arc decorated tastefully, The dining saloon provides seating accommodation for153, and is furnished in mahogany, with a handsome wallpaper picked out with a rich design in pink and gilt. Cabins are fitted with all the latest interior comforts. A feature of the ship is the large number of bathrooms, 34 in all, which are located on all the decks and provided with hot and cold water. The China is under the command of Captain T. S. Angus, an old and popular servant of the company, who is assisted in the navigation by a staff of six officers. Passengers have ample room for exorcise, as the promenade or hurricane deck is 267ft. long, or about a quarter of a mile round, while the second saloon deck is most spacious. The China is dividcd into ten water-tight bulkheads, has a cellular double bot-tom, and can, if necessary, carry from 800 to 900tons of water ballast. She is altogether, a magnificent specimen of her kind.” (from The Argus (Melbourne) 9 July 1900)
Reggie was promoted to 4th Officer on what looks like 27 November 1905, on the Egypt – the third of the five sister ships including the Arabia and the China:
And five months later, on 10 April 1906, Reggie transferred to the Peninsular at Bombay.
The Peninsular was a slightly older passenger liner, having been launched in 1888. It was originally in service with P&O on the route between the UK out to India and the the Far East, but in 1904 she was refitted and modernised, together with several others of P&O’s older ships, and put on the Aden/Bombay shuttle.
The employment record states that Reggie resigned from P&O service in Bombay on 31 August 1906. It is not known why he resigned and what his plans were, but it seems he arrived in Fremantle the following month.
The last record on file is the note “Papers destroyed 24 – 2- 15 Satisfactory reports”.