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
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
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.
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,