Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Travel Tuesday (October 15, 2013) -- A Bermuda Cruise in 1939

Passenger Manifest for the "Monarch of Bermuda"  (March 13, 1939)

In 1939, Molly's grandparents, Dr. G. Douglas Jeffs and Eulalie Lillian Jeffs, took a cruise to Bermuda aboard the Monarch of Bermuda, a first class passenger ship that along with her sister ship the Queen of Bermuda, was known as "the millionaires ship." [There is a 3:30 video of the two sister ships set to period music on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92FscfubbT0 ]  On 13 March 1939 they sailed from Hamilton, Bermuda back to New York aboard the Monarch of Bermuda as shown on the manifest depicted above. 

According to the website of the Royal Museums Greenwich, the Monarch of Bermuda had provisions for 830 passengers and all the accommodations were for first-class passengers only.  The ship was built in 1931 by Vickers-Armstrong Ltd., Newcastle for the Furness, Withy & Co. It was registered at Hamilton, Bermuda and was used on the New York - Bermuda run.  The ship had two masts, three funnels, and four propellers.  It was 579 feet long and had a beam of 76 feet. She weighed 22,424 gross tons and was powered by steam turboelectric propulsion. She was converted from a passenger ship to a troop transport ship in 1939 and thereafter it was operated by the Ministry of War Transport.

The Monarch of Bermuda (1931 - 1939)

The Monarch of Bermuda's participation in WWII included taking part in the Norway campaign, the invasion of North Africa, and  it was the ship that transported Britain's gold reserves to Halifax, Canada for safekeeping.  Following the war, its subsequent history involved refitting at Newcastle in 1947, but when it was virtually destroyed by fire it was towed to the Firth of Forth and rebuilt into a passenger ship with one funnel and accommodations for 1,600 single-class passengers.  She was then used as an emigrant ship by the Ministry of Transport on the UK - Australia run and was renamed the New Australia.  In 1958 the ship was sold to the Greek Line and refitted to carry 150 first-class and 1,150 tourist-class passengers as the Arkadia.  Finally, in December 1966 it was taken to Valencia and reduced for scrap.

Given the timing of Molly's grandparents' cruise (early spring 1939), their cruise must have been one of the last cruises before the Monarch of Bermuda was converted to a troop transport ship for use in the war.  At the time of their cruise, their daughter (Molly's mother) was just 18 years old and her younger brother was four months shy of 15 years old. Douglas and Eulalie were married on October 4, 1919 and the start of World War II began with the September 1, 1939 invasion of Poland.  Canada declared war on Germany on September 10, 1939.  Since events in March 1939 probably pointed toward a coming conflict, I surmise that Molly's grandparents decided to book this cruise as an early and special celebration of their 20th wedding anniversary, which occurred on October 4, 1939 just a few weeks after Canada entered World War II. 
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Photograph of the Monarch of Bermuda from http://www.simplonpc.co.uk/Monarch_of_Bermuda.html     
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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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