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Last updated
4 Sep 2012

History of the S.S. Captain Hobson

The story of 'our old girl' starts towards the end of WW1 with the William Denny Ship Yard in Dumbarton, Glasgow taking an order for two sister ships to be built William Denny Shipyard in Dumbarton for the Paddy Henderson Line. These were to be named the Amarapoora (which was to become the SS Captain Hobson) and the Pegu. The vessels were destined for the Glasgow to Rangoon service carrying cargo and passengers.

The Amarapoora was capable of carrying 525,340 cubic feet of cargo with 150 first class passengers and a crew of 142. She was delivered to Hendersons in 1920 at a cost of 406,960 pounds and was one of the first ships Cover of the brochure Hendersons published regarding their service in the 1930's to incorporate the latest requirements of the international safety of life at sea, including being fitted with one 22-foot and seven 26-foot lifeboats.

Fifteen years later the Amarapoora was refurbished and accommodation reduced to 124 passengers. In 1939, in preparation for hostilities, she was taken over by the Royal Navy, renamed the HMAS Amarapoora and converted to a hospital ship with 503 beds, 103 medical staff and 121 crew.

Her war service history was varied with duties at Scarpa Flow, evacuations from Norway and Operation Torch - the invasion of North Africa from where she carried home many wounded soldiers. The HMHS Amarapoora was one of three hospital ships to be subjected to an air attack and withdrew to Bizerta, Tunisia. Shortly after this she was returned to the Clyde for an overhaul and fitted with another 100 beds before returning to the Mediterranean in support of various other campaigns.

In mid 1944 she was converted into a Far East Hospital Ship and sent to Trincomalee, Sri Lanka as a base hospital.

Paddy Henderson Line flag The HMHS Amarapoora's war service came to an end when she was paid off by the Royal Navy in 1946. She was taken over by the Ministry of Transport with Henderson's being managers, and used for various duties including repatriation and carrying pilgrims to Jeddah!

In 1948 another conversion saw the SS Amarapoora become an 'austerity' emigrant carrier with passenger accommodation of 617. Hendersons again were her managers. She carried emigrants from Italy to Australia , brought home the Dutch from Indonesia and served as a troopship for the North Africa British garrisons in Libya.

After yet another conversion in 1951 (and this time a name change) the SS Amarapoora became the SS Captain Hobson for use on the New Zealand assisted passenger scheme. With her accommodation set at 584 passengers, she began the Glasgow to Wellington via Panama service. Her first arrival in Wellington was in August 1952. She completed four runs before being diverted to Hong Kong for use as a troopship in 1953/54 and early 1955. In July 1955 she resumed her transporting of emigrants to NZ interrupted for a couple of months in late 1956 when she was again used as a troopship in the Suez crisis.

1957 brought the beginning of the end for the long serving Hobson when, 500 miles out in the Pacific she suffered a major mechanical breakdown and was towed back to Auckland, New Zealand. There she was given temporary repairs and set out to return to Great Britain via the Suez Canal. However, she suffered further serious engine trouble and after two more voyages in 1958, was put in to Bombay. There the Captain Hobson remained until sold to ship breakers. She was finally scrapped in Osaka, March 1959.

S.S. Captain Hobson

Clydesite for the use of the shipyard photo.
NZ Coastal Shipping for use of the Captain Hobson photo.

Further information from:
THE EMPIRE SHIPS (2ND EDITION) by Mitchell and Sawyer
Ted at Mariners
Migrants Review programme 1956
Janet Simpson and Janet Robinson 1957
National Bank float - Blossom Festival, Hastings 1957
Group get-together, 1956
King Neptune's Royal Decree 1956
A lunch menu from 1955 - thanks to Francie Rogers
Pitcairn Island postcards
Postcards from Curaçao
Postcards from Panama

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