In 1949 the HELLENIC PRINCE with its 3 hospitals, 2 cinemas, and air conditioned accommodation was chartered by the International Refugee Organisation to transport displaced persons from Europe to Australia. Its first trip was to Sydney where it arrived with 1000 passengers on 5 December 1949. On the third trip it left Naples on 23 March 1950, and arrived in Fremantle on 20 April 1950, and in Melbourne on 25 April 1950. The men and women were separated for the voyage with my father sleeping on a hammock in a large room with other men, while my mother, my brother, and I had bunks in a shared cabin. On board were displaced persons ex Bagnoli Camp Italy, some of whom later built their bungalows on the grassy and rocky paddocks near Sunshine Victoria, and began to establish a new life in a new country.
A few of the families that arrived on the third trip and purchased land in the Dunkeld Ave - Sandford Ave area of North Sunshine (Birmingham Estate) were Janczak, Kolanowicz, Mroz, Pawlak, Rasztabiga, Skrobalak, Szydlowski, Witkowski, and Zielinski. Some friends settled elsewhere in Sunshine. The family Tabaka went to West Sunshine just over the Derby Rd Bridge, while the family Wojcik went to Ardeer.
The ship first started service in 1929 for the Royal Australian Navy as the HMAS ALBATROSS. It had a standard displacement of 4,800 tons and was 443 feet 7 inches (135.2 metres) long, and its top speed during trials reached 22 knots (41 km/hr). It was built at Cockatoo Island Dockyard as Australia's first Aircraft Carrier (seaplanes), but the aircraft that it was designed for were retired just before the ship went into service. A new plane specifically designed to work with the Albatross began operations after the ship was decommissioned in 1933, and placed into reserve in Sydney Harbour. Seaplanes continued to operate from the anchored ship. (Click on the Link 'HMAS Albatross (1)' situated above the Object Registration number to view pictures of the HMAS Albatross on the Navy web site).
In 1938 the ship was recommissioned and transferred to the Royal Navy as part payment for the light cruiser Hobart. The ship then did military service for the Royal Navy during World War 2. It did patrol and escort duties in the southern Atlantic, and from mid 1942 in the Indian Ocean. By early 1944 the ship was converted so that it could repair landing craft and other support vessels off Sword and Juno beaches. The ship managed to return 132 craft into service and to save 79 others from total loss. On 11 August 1944 Albatross was torpedoed with the loss of either 50 or 66 personnel, but was able to be towed back to Portsmouth. After repairs she did a short service as a minesweeper depot ship, and following that was placed into reserve on 3 August 1945.
In August 1946 the ship was sold for commercial use but the plans to convert it into a luxury liner or a floating cabaret fell through. The ship was again sold on 14 November 1948 to the British-Greek Yannoulatos Group, who renamed it HELLENIC PRINCE in recognition of the birth of Prince Charles and his Greek heritage.
After conversion into a passenger ship the Hellenic Prince made several trips to Australia transporting displaced persons, however apparently not all trips were pleasant for the passengers. In the on board newsletter 'Kangaroo' dated 5 January 1951, the ship's master P. C. King expressed his indignation about the behaviour of passengers and made accusations of mutiny. According to some immigrants the conditions were appalling and overcrowded with 1200 passengers. Passengers were supposedly required to work and were paid with Woodbine cigarettes. The drinking water ran out, the freezer broke down, and fresh food that was brought on board went to the crew. Sea sickness was rife because the ship was rarely level due to malfunctioning pumps. (The newsletter 'Kangaroo' can be viewed at the Museum Victoria web site by clicking the Link 'Newsletter - Kangaroo').
In 1953 during the Mau Mau uprising the Hellenic Prince was used to transport troops to Kenya, and in 1954 the ship came to an end in a scrap yard at Hong Kong.
THE ABOVE INFORMATION WAS COMPILED FROM;
(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMAS_Albatross_(1928) (accessed 11/2/2013),
(2) An article by Graeme Andrews found at http://www.afloat.com.au/afloat-magazine/2011/july-2011/The_boat_people_of_the _forties_and_fifties#.UuYY6ou4apo (accessed 27/1/14),
(3) http://museumvictoria.com.au/collections/items/273166/newsletter-kangaroo-hellenic-prince-5-jan-1951 (accessed 27/1/14),
(4) National Archive search starting at; www.naa.gov.au/collection/search/index.aspx (accessed 27/1/14),
http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/3864781978 (accessed 29/1/14).
Hellenic Prince has a significance to Sunshine Victoria because some of the displaced people from Europe, who arrived in Melbourne on Anzac Day 1950, were among the first people to settle in the grassy and rocky paddock areas of North Sunshine. These settlers established a residential suburban area out of the paddocks. In those early days there were no services and the planned roads were basically just drawings on a map. The ship is also significant because it was named in recognition of the birth of Prince Charles.
In the ship's former life as the HMAS Albatross the significance is that it was built in Australia as our country's first Aircraft Carrier (seaplanes).
New photograph made from a scanned copy of a circa 1950 Post Card featuring the ship on calm water.
Inscriptions & markings
Hellenic Prince / Hong Kong