MV Doulos (1977-2010) - MS Franca C (1952-1977) - SS Roma (1948-1952) - SS Medina (1914-1948)

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A superbly built American built ship that sailed into History and she remains with us to this very day!

With Reuben Goossens

Maritime Historian, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer & Author

Commenced in the Passenger Shipping Industry in 1960

 

A superbly built American built ship that sailed into History and she remains with us to this very day!

Please Note: All ssMaritime and other related maritime/cruise sites are 100% non-commercial and privately owned. Be assured that I am NOT associated with any shipping or cruise companies or any travel/cruise agencies or any other organisations! Although the author has been in the passenger shipping industry since 1960, although is now retired but having completed over 700 Classic Liners and Cargo-Passengers Ships features I trust these will continue to provide classic ship enthusiasts the information the are seeking, but above all a great deal of pleasure!

 

MV Doulos

“A Ship Like no Other”

By Reuben Goossens 

Maritime Historian, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer, Author & Maritime Lecturer

Chapter Two

--SS Roma--

Please Note: This work is owned, protected under International © copyright laws and is the property of Reuben Goossens of ssmaritime.net. No part of this work including any of the images shown therein may be copied, or neither reproduced by any means nor reproduced in any format, be it for private or commercial usage without prior written permission from the author. Email me: see email button down the page.

 “From Onions to Passengers”

Having served for 34 years as a cargo ship, during which time she saw duty during two world wars, the Medina was finally laid up to be sold, and it was expected that due to her already great age that she would be sold to a ship breaker. However, she was acquired in 1948 by an Italian company named “Genaviter” but the company was registered in Panama as “Cia Naviera San Miguel SA” in 1948. She headed for La Spezia Italy where in 1949 she was extensively rebuilt and converted by the famed Odero Terni-Orlando shipyards to become an austere emigrant/passenger ship. She, like many ships of the day, would fly the Panamanian (or Liberian) flag, being the country of registration based on cost, and of course, pure convenience.

SS Medina seen as built

From the author’s private collection

Her superstructure was about to undertake a radical transformation as new decks were added as well as lengthened, with her bridge removed and placed atop. Her lower decks were extended far forward and aft over the stern. Her tall slim black funnel was removed and she was fitted with a new squat funnel. She also received a new raked bow and her hull was painted green. Within her hull new decks had been added with the removal of some of her holds, making space for all her new cabins and many dormitories. When completed she was able to accommodate up to 981 passengers and she was registered as being 6,549 GRT (Gross Registered Tons). With her new bow, her new length was now 130m.

The top of this builders plate shots OTO’s rebuilding of the SS Medina into the Steam Ship Roma in 1949

The bottom listing is Ansaldo’s rebuild in 1953 when she became the Motor Ship Franca C

Photograph by & © Reuben Goossens

She was given the name SS Roma for the reason that she was to be employed especially to transport Americans and others to and from Rome to the 1950 Roman Catholic “Holy Year.” With the ex freighter SS Medina, now the SS Roma complete, she certainly looked very much the passenger liner.

SS Roma seen in New York full of pilgrims the 1950 during “Holy year”

From the author’s private collection

Accommodations:

Her vast 694 Tourist Class capacity were all berthed in very basic dormitory style accommodation and their public spaces were, to say the least, very basic!

However she also accommodated 287 passengers in style offering some excellent first class cabins, with several fine lounges and dining facilities.

SS Roma seen at anchor in Venice

From the author’s private collection

 

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PLEASE NOTE: The “Cia Naviera San Miguel SA” SS Roma, built as the SS Medina in 1914, is NOT to be confused with another much newer Italian migrant ship with the same name. This was being the SS (TN) Roma that was also built in America as a C3 Class ship, but during World War II, in 1942. This ship commenced service as the British trooper H.M.S Atheling and after the war was sold and rebuilt into an Italian passenger ship, long after the old Roma had been sold. This new Roma commenced sailing from Italy as a modern looking two class passenger liner in 1951 and continued sailing to and from Australia until 1966. Owned by Flotta Lauro Line the Roma sailed in conjunction with her identical twin, the SS Sydney. Later these ships were replaced by the famous MS Angelina Lauro and MS Achille Lauro. Visit: www.ssmaritime.com/roma-sydney.htm for full details and photographs of the SS Roma and Sydney.

Flotta Lauro's TS Roma

From the author’s private collection

 

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During the 1950 'Roman Catholic Holy Year', SS Roma was chartered to the "International Roman Catholic Travel Committee" and undertook a series of Pilgrimage voyages from America to Italy. Her first departure from New York for Cherbourg was on June 19, 1950, after which she undertook three further voyages.

Passengers heading for Holy Year in Rome

From the author’s private collection

 

SS Roma - her famed 1950 Voyage to Australia

SS Roma in Australia – 18 December, 1950

From the author’s private collection

Then her owners decided to try her out on the Australian service, which had proven to be a popular service with many other shipping companies. Thus, in October 1950, SS Roma sailed to Germany, where she would commence what turned out to be her final voyage for “Cia Naviera San Miguel SA.”

The “International Refugee Organisation” in association with the “Australian Immigration Department” had gathered some 949 “refugees” to board SS Roma. These were made up of 367 adult males and 302 Females. 133 - 3 to 12 year olds. 125 - 1 to 3 year olds and 21 - 1 to just born babies. The vast majority of these passengers originated from Eastern Europe, such as Poland, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Estonia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Ukraine, Latvia, Russia, as well as small number of Germans and “stateless” persons. All passengers were from various Christian denominations, except for four Muslims.

Part of a Telegram to advise that was now to go to Newcastle instead of Melbourne

… and that there is one passenger for NZ

© Australian National Archives – used with permission

www.naa.gov.au

At 5 PM on October 30 with Captain A. Landini in command, SS Roma departed Bremerhaven and as the telegram above proves she was originally bound for Melbourne, however, this was changed to Newcastle (north of Sydney) on November 31 according the paperwork I have in my possession. She was due to arrive in Newcastle on December 6. However, as we know from history that was not going to happen!

This document (the cover is shown in part) contains the complete passenger list and other documents

© Australian National Archives – used with permission

www.naa.gov.au

With the vast majority of the passengers having gone through the horrors of World War II they were looking forward to a new and peaceful life that awaited them in Australia, the only exception was one passenger, a Mr. Stefan Veress who was heading further afield, as he was to be transferred to head off for New Zealand. These arrangements had been made for him by the “International Refugee Organisation.”

The Voyage:

The Gulf of Biscay was rough and many of her passengers were seasick and Port Said and the Suez Canal came to them as a blessing, fir it provide Roma’s passengers with some calm waters! Prior to arrival in Aden a child caught pneumonia and was taken to hospital there, all the family was put ashore with arrangements having been made for them to join the next migrant ship for Australia. However as the Roma departed Aden far greater problems awaited her.

As they headed into the Indian Ocean things started to go horribly wrong, for now the ship was suffering from ongoing engine and other mechanical problems. In addition, many toilets became blocked and a severe sanitary problem developed onboard which had to be taken care of. She headed for Colombo Ceylon to make repairs and to obtain much needed provisions. When the repairs had been completed she continued on her voyage. Then after a long, very slow and again a troubled voyage, she finally arrived at Fremantle on December 9, and was able to take on much needed stores and provisions.

As Roma departed Fremantle, she sailed non-stop for her final destination, Newcastle, in New South Wales, which is located just north of Sydney. However, as past passengers have told be in August 2008, this was yet another extremely rough and again a troubled voyage and Telegrams were sent stating that the Roma would arrive in Newcastle different dates and times. Captain A. Landini had sent a cable stating that the Roma would arrive in Newcastle at 6.30 am, however, for some reason, this was misread by the authorities and it was understood that the Roma would arrive in Newcastle 12 hours later at 6.30 pm, and thus the trains to transport the passengers was arranged for the next morning, the 19th. Thus, when the Roma arrived on December 18, 1950 at 6.30 am as the last Telegram sent clearly had stated, all passengers had to stay onboard for another 24 hours before being allowed to disembark in their new homeland.

Obviously, having a migrant ship arrive in Newcastle, this made the news and below are just a few of the headlines of the Newcastle Herald and Maitland Mercury. I wish to thank Mr. Paul Christmann, ex 1950 Roma passenger for going to Newcastle and obtaining these for us!

 

 

 

Teleprinter Message announcing the ships arrival and confirming details

© Australian National Archives – used with permission

www.naa.gov.au

Upon arrival in Newcastle, one of the passengers, a Berta Smits, had to be transferred to the Newcastle hospital as she had taken ill with bronchitis whilst onboard during the voyage between Fremantle and Newcastle and was kept in hospital for observation. She was soon on the mend and back with her husband Janis.

Page 1 of the IRO passenger log

© Australian National Archives – used with permission

www.naa.gov.au

With her passengers disembarked and ready to commence a new life in Australia, it soon became obvious that the ship’s owners were in severe financial difficulty and they were declared bankrupt. Sadly, this left the crew “high and dry” as they received no financial assistance for almost three months. However, the Italian Consulate came to their rescue and arranged a special charter for the SS Roma with the Italian shipping company, Lloyd Triestino who would return the ship to Europe, sailing via Indonesia, where Dutch citizens would board the Roma as they were escaping the ex-colony due to the declaration of independence, and the extreme violence that had commenced there. The now temporary Lloyd Triestino liner, SS Roma steamed for Rotterdam, Holland, where her passengers disembarked and she was duly returned to Genoa where she was immediately arrested due to “Cia Naviera San Miguel’s” debts to O.T.O Shipyards who had not been fully paid for her original conversion from a freighter into a passenger ship.

Looking towards a new chapter!

Now aged 36 and her oil fired steam engines being somewhat well worn and externally the SS Roma looked very much like a tired old ship. She was laid up and her future looked very bleak indeed. Yet, unknown at the time her future was going to be bright, much brighter than anyone could ever imagine and it was going to last for a very long time indeed! Well at least another 59 years and that is to date - 2009!

A court order was issued that SS Roma was to be sold at auction in April 1952. Interestingly there was only one bidder.

Continued in Chapter Three.

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2008 update - SS Roma Passengers return to the ship

During the MV Doulos’ final visit to Australia arriving in Brisbane (Queensland) on July 31 and departing Fremantle (Western Australia) on November 29, 2008, having visited Sydney (New South Wales), Geelong (Victoria) and Albany (Western Australia), I had been looking and searching for ex SS Roma passengers who sailed on her back in 1950.

Brisbane proved to be especially successful and Sven Benseler on the Doulos and myself were fortunate to be able to host a good number of 1950 passengers on the Doulos whilst she was in Brisbane. OM had a program organised on board for Roma passengers and a good number turned up, except they did their promotions at the Italian clubs, thus all that came on board were indeed Roma passengers but not the 1950 SS Roma but the Italian Flotta Lauro liner a ship that started its career much later and never sailed to Newcastle. However, on a separate occasion we did find one gentleman in Sydney who really did sail on her.

I have placed a special page online with photographs and details of these remarkable people. You will find it on the INDEX at the bottom of the page - “ex 1950 SS Roma Passengers visit the Doulos in Australia.”

SS Roma Postcard:

I received a number of postcards from several of the Brisbane SS Roma passengers; I will show the two sides from two sources.

 

Above and below: Original postcard of the SS Roma provided by ex passenger Liane Horne. It was given to her

Mother Mrs. Annemarie Gurgacz who with the family came to Newcastle from Bremerhaven in 1950.

This postcard is owned by Annemarie Horne & family – used with permission

 

 The back of the card with the name of the ship s/s Roma clearly visible as well as the company details

 

Obviously this card has weathered and worn over the years, but it is worth showing!

This card was sent Chris Ralph on behalf his mother Gana Raplh (Petronela Zygis) - used with permission

 

Go to Chapter 3 - A New Beginning - MS Franca C the liner – 1953 - 1959

Also online two special SS Roma features

1 - Voyage to Australia in 1950 – by Paul Christmann

2 - ex 1950 SS Roma Passengers visit the Doulos in Australia – Aug 08

 

Or return to the Author’s – MV Doulos “A Ship Like No Other” Main Index

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 “Blue Water Liners sailing to the distant shores.
I watched them come, I watched them go and I watched them die.”

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Photographs on ssmaritime and associate pages are: 1. By the author. 2. From the author’s private collection. 3. As provided by Shipping Companies and private photographers or collectors. Credit is given to all contributors. However, there are photographs provided to me without details provided regarding the photographer concerned. I hereby invite if owners of these images would be so kind to make them-selves known to me, that due credit may be given.

Copyright: “MV Doulos - A Ship Like No Other” is owned, protected under the International © copyright laws and is the property of Reuben Goossens of ssmaritime.net. No part of this work including any of the images shown may be copied or reproduced by any means or reproduced by any format whatsoever, be it for private or commercial usage, without prior written permission from the author.

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