The experience of the voyage to Australia varied between ships and passengers. The earlier pre-war ships, re-conditioned on ‘austerity lines’ could be a rather uncomfortable experience. Complaints of overcrowding were common place,  memories of sea sickness, the constant motion of the ships and  heat were enduring:


‘Passengers vomited anywhere, everywhere… the corridors stank, and this added to further worsen queasy and unsettled stomachs.’

Joe Vella, who emigrated from Malta in 1955


A toxic combination of boredom, cabin fever and alchohol often resulted in scuffles and brawls, which were swiftly dealt with by the ship’s crew:


'On the Orient ships, we employed a 'heavy-gang': ten of the biggest and ablest able seamen and a burly master at arms, in order to break up the riots below decks in tourist class.’ 

Nicholas Richard Messinger (First officer on board Chusan)


But for many the passage was more of a treat than a trial.


‘…the best part of my early life. I had been born in an air-raid shelter in London, so only knew destruction around me. My trip was very exciting. We had lovely meals, dances, entertainment, deck games, swimming and many other pastimes… I can’t even remember feeling sad at leaving my home country.’


Doreen Hakowski (formerly Sillett) who emigrated from England in 1956

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Life on board