M 715 - RMS Canberra

RMS Canberra - M715

This is the Tri-ang Minic Ships model of RMS Canberra, probably the most famous P & O liner of the 20th Century, which was named after the capital city of Australia and was launched by Dame Pattie Menzies, the wife of the then Prime Minister of Australia.

The ship was built primarily for the United Kingdom to Australia route which it serviced until the late 1960's, during which time it carried a large number of immigrants under the Australian Government sponsored immigration scheme. With the reduction of immigrant traffic in the late 1960's P & O started marketing the ship for cruising but this was not particularly successful and in 1972 P & O announced their intention to scrap the RMS Canberra.

Fortunately there was an upsurge in cruise bookings in the early 1970's and P & O had the ship refitted for this market a process that involved conversion to a single class with all the duplicated second class facilities being remodelled for other functions. Throughout the 1970's RMS Canberra operated cruises of two or three weeks duration out of Southampton combined with a Christmas / New Year cruise and then a three month World Cruise.

In 1980 the ship underwent another refit during which redesigned propellers were fitted and the propulsion plant was replaced with a system that burned less fuel resulting in a slightly slower cruising speed but making the ship much more cost effective.

In April 1982, while returning from a Mediterranean cruise, RMS Canberra was requisitioned by the British Government for service as a troopship after Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands. Ministry of Defence officials boarded the ship in Gibraltar to conduct a survey and prepare plans for the necessary conversion work.

As soon as she reached the United Kingdom work started on the installation of two helicopter landing areas, one on the Observation Deck and one over Bonito's Pool, as well as the installation of equipment required for Replenishment at Sea (RAS). The conversion work took three days after which RMS Canberra sailed with 40 and 42 Commando Royal Marines and the 3rd Parachute Regiment.

On 21st May 1982 RMS Canberra anchored in San Carlos Water to land her troops as the assault to recapture the Falkland Islands commenced. On 27th May 1982 she was directed to meet Queen Elizabeth 2, which was also requisitioned as a troop ship, to cross deck troops after the British Government decided that they would not directly risk QE 2 landing troops. RMS Canberra entered San Carlos Water again on 2nd June 1982 to land the second wave of troops and remained at anchor throughout the following day to unload stores - a less than popular decision.

The ship then spent the next twelve days sailing in a safe holding area about 400 miles from the Falklands until returning to San Carlos Water to pick up Prisoners of War (POWs) after Argentina surrendered. She then sailed to Port William to board more POWs before sailing for Argentina on 18th June 1982 with a total of 4167 POWs who were landed at Puerto Madryn on 19th June 1982.

RMS Canberra then returned to the Falkland Islands where she boarded 40, 42 and 45 Commando Royal Marines before sailing for the United Kingdom where she arrived to a tumultuous welcome on 11th July 1982.

After a refit to restore the ship to its original configuration RMS Canberra resumed her popular cruise schedule and until 1986 spent the northern hemisphere summer operating out of Southampton and the southern hemisphere summer operating out of Sydney. She underwent an extensive refit in 1986 and then returned to her original World Cruise schedule which she continued until her retirement in 1997 when she was scrapped at Gadani Beach in India..

P&O were determined that that RMS Canberra would never sail again after her retirement and this was highlighted within the bill of sale itself in which the breakers, who paid $5,640,818 for the ship, signed a contract with the following clause -

"ownership of the propellers shall not pass until blades have been cut and removed from the vessel;  and ownership of the boiler, turbine-generators and propulsion motors shall not pass until the vessel is cut up to the extent that it is not practicable to rebuild the vessel"

This is the only model of a P & O ship that was produced in the original 1960's series of Tri-ang Minic Ships models.

There was also a Hong Kong model produced by Hornby under the Minic Ships name which has a red plastic base fitted with two plastic rollers.


Owner: P & O Line
Builder: Harland & Wolff, Belfast
Launched: 16th March 1960
Displacement: 45270 tons
Length (OA): 818 ft 6 in ( 249.5 m )
Beam: 103 ft 9 in ( 31.6 m )
Draft: 32 ft ( 9.75 m )
Propulsion: Three oil fired Foster Wheeler 'D' type boilers, two Thompson Houston (AEI) air cooled electric motors powered by two 1500 kW turbo alternators, 2 shafts, 2 four bladed propellers, 56,000 bhp
Maximum Speed: 27.5 Knots
Passenger Accommodation: 548 - Cabin Class
1690 - 3rd Class
Disposal / Demise: 1997 broken up at Gadani Beach, India

Further details can be obtained from the following links -
SS Canberra Web Site http://www.sscanberra.com/home.htm
The Great Ocean Liners Web Site http://www.greatoceanliners.net/canberra.html