Oranje / Angelina Lauro
Nederland Line / Lauro Line
1937 - 1979

The 'Oranje' was built in Amsterdam during 1937/38 by the Nederlandsche Scheepsbouw Maatschappij for the Nederland Line. When launched by Queen Wilhelmina on September 8th 1938 the ship became the world's most powerful motorship with three two-stroke 12,500hp main engines and five 1,800hp auxiliary engines. In launching the ship an ivory hammer was used to release the mechanism that sent the bottle of champagne into the bow of the ship. Unfortunately the ship did not then move down the slipway as expected, it took a further hour to actually get the ship down the slipway and into the water. Initially the Oranje completed two Amsterdam - Madeira cruises before starting her scheduled sailings on the Amsterdam - Capetown - Batavia (Djakarta) run. The first voyage on the new schedule commenced on September 4th 1939, the day after the Allied declaration of war. It is reported that her journey via Cape Town to Columbo took one day less than that of a normal passenger liner travelling to Columbo via the Mediterranean and the Suez canal. The start of World War Two caused the ship to be layed up at Sourabaya from December 1939 until the end of March 1941 when it reached an Australian port. The ship was offered by the Netherlands East Indies Governemt to Australia as a hospital ship (during January 1941?). The ship was fitted with air-conditioning and anti-roll devices, both of great value for a hospital ship. The ship was moved to Sydney for conversion to a hospital ship, though initially Germany had not recognised the ship as a hospital ship. From this point for the next five years the ship flew under a Dutch flag as a Royal Australian Navy hospital ship.

A postcard view of the Oranje.

November 20nd 1939 - The Lisbon correspondent of the United Press (American) says that passengers on the Dutch liners Oranje (19,850 tons), Jan Pieterszoon Coen (11,140 tons) and Johan de Witt (10,474 tons) bound for Holland, were advised to disembark at Lisbon owing to increasing danger in the North Sea.

February 10th 1941 - The Dutch government offered the Oranje to the United Kingdom for use as a hospital ship.

June 29th 1941 - Representative of the Dutch Government formally presented the Oranje to the Australian & New Zealand Governments for use as a hospital ship. The Dutch Government paid for its conversion (150,000) and ongoing annual maintenance (150,000). An all Dutch crew manned the ship, which included about 100 Javanese. The medical staff were mostly British, Australian & New Zealanders, but with a small contingent of Dutch, approximately 750 wounded could be cared for on the ship.

September 1941 - on its first run to the Middle East (Egypt) to pick up 630 wounded Australian & New Zealand troops, the Oranje was unsuccessfully attacked in the Red Sea by a torpedo carrying enemy plane. On this journey the ship was sailing without formal recognition from Germany that this was a hospital ship. Whilst embarking the wounded at the Egyptian port the ship moved into deeper water at night to minimise the risks from air attacks. The journey from Egypt to Australia took only 11 days 18 hours, a record for the crossing of the Indian Ocean. Australia was reached on October 20th.

March 1944 arrived in the United Kingdom with wounded troops from the battlefields in Italy. This was her first visit to the United Kingdom since leaving Amsterdam five years earlier.

August 6th 1945 - arrived at an Australian port with 655 New Zealand & 90 Australian servicemen from Europe. The serviceman had been collected from ports in England, Italy & India, most were recovering from war wounds and sickness contracted in prison camps.

August 25th 1945 - at Sydney loading medical supplies and hospital personnel, initially believed for movement to the United Kingdom, but later changed for one round trip to Rangoon.

September 23rd 1945 - arrived Darwin with 760 members of (ANZAC?) Eighth Division, members of the British Army and civilian internees, many of whom had been prisoners of war for three and a half years. The arrival of the Oranje was celebrated by Liberator and Catalina aircraft circling the ship, whilst the Duke of Gloucester's Avro York transport dipped its wings in salute as it headed off to Singapore. The Oranje departed late in the afternoon for Brisbane, arriving there on September 26th. Sydney was reached on September 28th with 637 ex prisoners of war on board, 55 ambulances were on hand to assist in the transport of the wounded. Other travelled to the Concord Military Hospital on double decker buses. Once clear of the port facilities the cavalcade was greeted by huge cheering crowds.

October 1st 1945 - arrived Melbourne for an (engine?) overhaul after visiting Darwin, Brisbane & Sydney with freed prisoners of war from Singapore. After release from Melboure the ship sailed via Fremantle to Java, to act as a mercy ship.

October 1st 1945 - (As reported in The West Australian) Melbourne: It was painful that Dutch ships like the hospital ship Oranje which, with their crews, had played an important share in saving Australia from invasion, were now prevented from bringing relief to hundreds of thousands of starving people due to the efforts of certain Australian elements who claimed that a quisling republic in Java should be acknowledged said a statement issued today by the N.E.I. Government Information Service. The Oranje and nearly all the Netherlands aircraft in the South Pacific have, in the past weeks, transported only liberated Australian prisoners of war from Singapore while starved and sick Hollanders and Indonesians have had to remain in their former concentration camps, the statement continued. The word 'mercy' certainly has no hollow meaning with Dutch sailors and airmen. (A response to actions which led to delays in the loading of Dutch ships at Australian ports with medical and other cargoes bound for Java & Sumatra to aid the malnourished and sick victims of Japanese oppression).

October 27th 1945 - Arrived at Fremantle for refuelling en-route to Batavia (Djakarta) to bring approximately 900 Dutch women and children for a time of recuperation after three years of internment. It was reported that Japanese neglect of the facilities at Batavia would require the Oranje to remain outside the port facilities due to too shallow water in the port. The Oranje was back at Fremantle by November 15th with 1,050 Dutch men, women and children on board. The Oranje had boarded about 300 persons at Bandoeng, with the remainder coming on board at Tandjong Priok (12 miles from Batavia). The situation at this time in Batavia was one of civil unrest with British & Indian troops in conflict with Indonesia troops, particularly at night.

November 20th 1945 - whilst mooring at Melbourne the Oranje was blown onto the corner of the pier, an iron bollard caused damage to one of the ship's steel plates.

November 30th 1945 - departed Melbourne for Holland, travelling on the ship were Dutch nurses returning to Holland. Arrived at Fremantle to load stores initially for Batavia.

December 2nd 1945 - arrived Fremantle, noted Batavia about December 11th to board approximately 1,000 sick refugees bound for Australia, many of whom would settle in Australia.

As a hospital ship the Oranje and its crew and medical staff completed thirty five voyages, assisting 30,000 patients and travelled 330,000 miles.

After relinquishing her hospital ship duties the Oranje returned to the Amsterdam - Southampton - Djakarta run between 1947 & 1957.

August 1946 - on arrival at Amsterdam for the first time in six years, the Oranje was the first ship to use the great north lock at Ijmuiden, which had only just been repaired after it was heavily damaged by the retreating German forces in 1944. Amongst other things four 1,200 ton lock gates required reconstruction.

April 6th 1947 - A Bay of Biscay storm swept three of the crew overboard from Dutch liner Oranje, sunk the British ship Willodale and left a trail of death from fishing vessels. The Oranje was taking Dutch repatriates from N.E.I, to Holland. Whilst crossing the deck Stewardess Miss G Broer caught her leg between a pipe and the side of the deck, nurse Schimmel and chief steward G W Meyer came to assist, but all were swept overboard, the ferocity of the storm making rescue virtually impossible. Later the chief mate received fatal injuries when he was thrown against deck fittings. The storm which struck the Oranje and swamped the British ship Willodale took further toll when 10 French sailors were washed off a fishing vessel off Brittany. Another boat going to their rescue was lost with all hands. Survivors of the wrecked British ship Willodale told the Daily Express how towards the end of the 7-hour fight to right the ship's list by shifting the deck cargo, props broke loose and 1,000 of them crashed into the sea injuring some of the crew and battering to fragments lifeboats which were being lowered.

Willodale's captain said that 5 minutes after being abandoned the ship put her nose down and plunged out of sight. Captain of the rescue boat Egglefin said the crew were putting up a courageous fight on the wave washed deck against shifting pit props when the Egglefin approached. Rescue ship Egglefin brought back 10 survivors and 6 bodies. Six others, including the captain, were missing. The Oranje reached Southampton on September 6th.

May 2nd 1947 - A major fire at the Rotterdam Lloyd storage depot at Tandjong Prick, Batavia harbour required the moving of several vessels to safety including the Oranje.

January 9th 1951 - Just before the Oranje sailed from Singapore 200 Indonesians in the crew walked off following a dispute over what type of headdress should be worn. The Indonesians wanted to wear the songkok (national headgear) instead of the customary turban-like tanjak. The Dutch Line officials insisted that the tanjak should be worn until January 15th 1951, when the issue would be decided at a meeting of both parties. The Dutch crew members filled the breach on the voyage, the vessel ran to schedule and the 650 passengers had few complaints. Reinforcements were being flown out from Holland to meet the ship at Colombo.

December 22nd 1954 - Fierce gales affecting much of the United Kingdom delayed the arrival at Southampton from Jakarta of the Oranje, the ship hove-to off the Isle of Wight.

During 1958 & 1959 her route changed to the Amsterdam - Southampton - Suez - Singapore - Australia run. The ship was refitted in Amsterdam during 1960 and commenced a round-the-world service on September 7th 1960 following the previous route to Australia, then on to New Zealand - Panama - Port Everglades - Bermuda - Southampton - Amsterdam. On February 26th 1961 the journeys commenced sailing in the opposite direction, with the last voyage commencing on May 4th 1964, having completed sixteen circumnavigations of the globe, eight in each direction.

A postcard view of the Oranje.

May 23rd 1962 - in celebration of Queen Juliana's silver wedding anniversary two days of celebrations took place in Amsterdam. Part of the festivities included a ball aboard the Oranje with many heads of state attending.

In September 1964 the Oranje was sold to the Italian owned Lauro Line, being rebuilt at the Cantieri del Tirreno dockyard in Genoa during 1965/66 and renamed the Angelina Lauro. During the refit the ship was extensively damaged by fire, delaying the completion until 1966. Her new sailings took the Angelina Lauro from Bremen to Southampton - Italy - Suez - Australia - New Zealand & return. From 1967 - 1972 this run was made via Cape Town since the Suez Canal was closed. From 1971 the return voyages were via South America. Her last major voyage took the ship from Australia to New Zealand - Tahiti - Acapulco - Panama - Port Everglades - Bermuda -Southampton.

A view near Calshot, Southampton of the Angelina Lauro
Photograph cortesy Chas Betts

From this point she was used mostly for cruising, receiving a refit for this purpose during 1972, being chartered for three years to the Costa Lines in 1977 and 'renamed' Angelina.

On March 24th 1979 the ship set sail from San Juan for a week's cruise, by March 30th the Angelina was anchored dockside at St Thomas, Virgin Islands. At approximately 3.30pm a skillet fryer in the crew's galley was turned on to its highest setting and left unattended. The oil in the fryer eventually overheated, flames spread through the vent hood/exhaust duct into an unoccupied nearby dining area. Despite attempts by the crew, the Virgin Islands Fire Department & the United States Coast Guard the fire eventually spread to the whole ship. Water used to quell the flames caused the ship to settle on the bottom with a considerable list. The Angelina was one of four ships dockside in St Thomas at this time, presenting a rather grim image for the other ships passengers & crew. The three other cruise ships left early that day taking the Angelina's 669 passengers & 380 crew with them back to San Juan.

The local fire department were supported by a fire fighting tug from an oil refinery on St Croix and United States Coast Guard & Navy personnel & equipment. The fire burned until April 4th, though smoke continued to come from the ship for several more days. The ship was a total loss and after being pumped out it was sold during July to a scrap dealer in Taiwan. Whilst being towed to her final resting place by the tug Nippon Maru the ship developed a serious list whilst crossing the Pacific (midway between Panama & Hawaii), rolled on her side and sank, September 24th 1979, taking her three 12,500hp Sulzer Diesel engines to the bottom.

The USCG report on the fire can be found at USCG Report 'Angelina Lauro'

Length: 674 ft
Breadth: 84 ft
Depth (keel to promenade deck): 63ft 8in
Draft (loaded): 28 ft 10in
Gross Weight: 24,377 tons
Engines: 3 two stroke x 12,500hp & 6 x 1,800hp auxiliaries
Screws: three
Speed: 26.3knots
Passengers: 713
Crew: 383

A view of the three main engines and several of the smaller auxiliary engines awaiting shipment from the factory to the dockyard. (From a CCM publicity brochure).
Oranje and her tugs, possibly at Rotterdam. (From a CCM publicity brochure).

Trove next #45 (Last #44 page 860)

Page added February 12th 2005
Last updated July 6th 2015

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