Forgotten tales

stories of my family

Orient Line to Australia

Orient Line brochure 1927

The Orient Line, which was later acquired by P&O, was perhaps the main carrier of migrants to Australia from England in the first half of the twentieth century. In October 1923 George Simmonds, my grandfather, boarded the Orient ship, Ormonde, in London, bound for Australia. He was 18 years old. He disembarked eventually in Brisbane 6 weeks later. In November 1926 John (Jack) his little brother, only 15 years of age, left London on the Orama. Here are some pictures of these two ships:




Orama in Sydney

Twenty years later Frederick, aged 38 left London on the Orion. It was June 1947. He and his mother had been planning to migrate to Australia to join the other boys as soon as possible after Fred was demobilized from the army. In a letter dated June 4th 1946 Mabel wrote to George:

I don’t know how soon Fred and I will be out, it will depend upon how soon he gets demobbed. I don’t think he will be until after Christmas. It was decided that we should go to Jack straight away. I should stay with them and Fred until he found work of course he would want outdoor work farming and gardening but that will be left for him to decide. Jack tried to get me out when the war started but I was too old to undertake the evacuees that were being sent to Australia and did not have the money to lay down. It will be a business now to pay our way but we live in hopes of everything turning out all right for I should be heartbroken if anything went wrong now. I have so set my heart on coming out but we must hope and pray for the best.

Sadly Mabel never made it. She died in December 1946. She had not seen either George or John since they had sailed from Tilbury Docks so many years before. A letter to my mum written by a friend of Fred’s in England expressed it like this:

Fred’s sister, I believe, went to Australia before his mother died. I never knew her but when Mrs Simmonds died it was a sad day for Fred. He thought the world of her. He was lonely, never knew of him having a girlfriend and wasn’t long before he said I’m going to Australia to find my brothers, eventually he went and we used to write to each other. How pleased I was when he wrote to say he had got married to Clarice. That was a Godsend… (John Weston to Mum, 28 November 1972)

I have not been able to find any records for when Mary and her family  (Mary Richards) went to Australia. In the letter quoted above from Mabel to George she says that Mary and Percy were thinking of going for a holiday, but she didn’t know how they could afford it. She may have gone in 1947 at around the same time as Fred, or maybe it was later. A subject for more research.

So the Simmonds family all ended up in Australia, but without their mother Mabel, who had died at the age of 70 in Middlesex. The boys all sailed on Orient Line ships, perhaps Mary did too. The journey from London to Australia must have been an exciting one for all of them… but that will be the subject of another post.




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