When the Second World War ended in 1945, the Orient Line had lost four of its eight liners during the conflict and was in desperate need of new tonnage. Even before the fighting has ceased, the first of the line’s new vessels was ordered in March 1945, although due to the severe shortage of materials, her keel was not laid until September the same year. Her name however remained a temporary mystery until January 1946, when the company announced she was to be called Orcades, a replacement for her previous namesake which had been torpedoed and sunk in October 1942.
The new Orcades, in fact the Orient Line’s third vessel to bear this name, was built by Vickers, Armstrong at Barrow-in-Furness and launched on 14th October 1947. Registered at 28,164 tons gross, she measured 709 feet in length with a 91 foot beam and was powered by twin screws to give her a cruising speed of 23 knots (25 knots at full steam). Designed with 8 passenger decks she had splendid accommodation for 773 First Class passengers and her 772 Tourist Class passengers were also well-served. Completed for sea in November 1947, at a total cost of £3million, she left London Docks on her maiden voyage on 14th December and arrived in Sydney 28 days out, a considerable improvement on the pre-War passage times of 36 days. Her full complement of passengers was delighted and Orcades thereafter embarked on a scheduled service of four round trips a year to and from Australia and rarely sailed less than full. In 1955 her route was altered to a trans-Pacific run, via the Panama Canal, and in 1959 she underwent a major refit to improve her passenger facilities. In 1960, by which date passenger numbers were already declining steeply due to competition from jet airliners, the Orient Line pooled its vessels with those of P. & O. to save money, but this only served to prolong the inevitable. Refitted again as a one-class ship in 1964, Orcades proved a successful cruiser until a severe storm badly damaged her steering gear in June 1970. Although repaired, her career was now drawing to its close and she was eventually laid up at Southampton in 1972 and broken up in Taiwan the following year.
with James Bourlet and Sons, Nassau Street, London.