By the end of 1939, virtually half of the Company’s navigating and engineering officers were serving with the Navy. Senior management took up additional roles in Government and older members of crew and shore staff, beyond the age of conscription (18-41), joined the reservist ranks of the RNVR, Territorial Army and Air Raid Protection. The Company was proud to serve, supporting staff financially so that they would not lose out from their new wartime roles.
With so many P&O people directly involved in war there were, inevitably, casualties from the very beginning. Almost one fifth of Rawalpindi’s crew had been the Company’s ‘own’ and 55 lost their lives in one day.
From the theatre of war to the remotest Company outposts, came stories of immense acts of bravery, desperate days of hardship and inspiring tales of survival. 124 employees were honoured for their services in the war effort. 161 paid the ‘ultimate price’ together with the Indian seamen whose names and numbers were sadly never counted: 'I should like to pay grateful tribute to the gallantry of the Officers and ships’ companies, European and Indian, who have manned our ships during these difficult years and to the staff ashore who have carried on with great fortitude throughout the bombing, exposed as they were to considerable damage.' Sir William Currie