Aberdeen White Star Line Themistocles and Gothic

Paul Rogers

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Nov 30, 2000
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Good evening all. I was wondering if someone could answer this question for me:

Whilst rummaging through a market stall, I came across a postcard showing a photograph of the above vessel. The postmark is difficult to read, but it looks like 7th July 1911.

I wondered if anyone had heard of the Aberdeen White Star Line and what connection it might have had to the English/American WSL, if any. My initial thoughts were that they are probably different companies, if only because this ship's name doesn't end in "-ic?"

BTW, Themistocles appears to be a small liner, perhaps about the size of Carpathia, although I find it difficult to judge ship's sizes on photos!

Thanks, and regards,

Paul.
 

Mark Baber

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Dec 29, 2000
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Hello, Paul---

This is a great question, to which the answer is a bit confusing. But let me give it a try.

The name "Aberdeen White Star Line" dates back to the late 1830's, as a trade name for George Thompson's fleet of ships which traded, in the steam era, between London and Australia. The name was chosen because of the eight-pointed (later six-pointed) star on the house flag and because it would also distinguish the line from both the other fleets sailing from Aberdeen (the line's home in the age of sail) and from the Liverpool-based White Star Line. At that time there was no relation between the two "White Star" lines.

But, but the time of the card you saw, there was a very close connection. In 1895, George Thompson, Jr., the son of Aberdeen's founder, died; in 1904, Sir William Henderson, the line's Chairman, died. After the passing of these two important figures, and faced with the need to raise capital to stay competitive, the firm was incorporated as George Thompson & Co. in 1905, with the controlling interest held by Oceanic Steam Navigation Co. and Shaw, Saviil & Albion, Ltd. (White Star also owned a substantial interest in SSA, with which it had operated a joint service to New Zealand since the 1890's, and effectively controlled SSA.) Harold Sanderson, White Star's General Manager (and later Chairman of both White Star and SSA) was installed as Chairman of the Aberdeen Line. So, although the "Aberdeen White Star" name originally had nothing to do with the Ismay line, by 1911 it accurately though inadvertently described the line's ownership.

Just to tie up loose ends, Themistocles eventually became SSA property, when SSA acquired the Aberdeen Line after the breakup of Lord Kylsant's Royal Mail Group---which included White Star, SSA and Aberdeen---in the early 1930's.

And you're right in believing that Themistocles was about the same size as Carpathia, although Carpathia was about 10% larger in tonnage (13,603 v. 11,231) and length (540'/164.59 m v. 500.6'/152.58 m).

Sources: Savill and Haws' Merchant Fleets, Vol. 17, Aberdeen Lines; Haws' Merchant Fleets, Vols, 12 (Cunard Line) and 19 (White Star Line).

MAB
 
Nov 22, 2000
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Hello Paul & Mark,
The Themistocles and her sister ship were built by Harland & Wolff, Belfast and launched 1911.
They had two masts and one funnel and were employed on the United Kingdon to Australia via South Africa route. Themistocles made a total of 79 round trips. She was broken up at Dalmuir in 1947. Her sister ship, Demosthenes, was scrapped in 1931.
 

Paul Rogers

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Nov 30, 2000
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Hello Mark and Geoff.

Thanks a lot for that information. Fascinating! I had never heard of the AWSL before getting this postcard - I'm glad I bought it now.

The postcard appears to have been posted in July 1911, postmarked Plymouth, UK. I wonder if it was written during her maiden voyage, as Themistocles was launched that year? I may do some digging!

Regards,

Paul.
 

Mark Baber

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Dec 29, 2000
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Hello again, Paul---

Themistocles was launched at H&W on 22 September 1910, and began her maiden voyage, London-Sydney, on 16 February 1911. Sources: Savill and Haws' Merchant Fleets, Vol.17, Aberdeen Lines; Kludas' Great Passenger Ships of the World.

MAB
 

debbie beavis

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Jun 10, 2006
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Paul

Maybe not a maiden voyage postcard, but should you wish, you could confirm the passengers and their date of travel/intended port of final disembarkation by reference to the Board of Trade passenger lists at the PRO, Kew. Their descendants might be delighted to hear from you!

Debbie Beavis
 
Feb 14, 2011
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I have to wonder if there was ever a ship called the Testicles...

Some of the names White Star picked were very odd-

The Ceramic was a real winner, as was the Ionic...


Regards

Tarn Stephanos
 
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Lloyd Spencer

Guest
Could someone (Paul Rogers) scan in a photograph of the S.S. Themistocles? If not, does anyone know where a photograph of the ship might be obtained?

Thanks,
Lloyd
 
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Stefan Christiansson

Guest
I didn't know that H&W built any other ships at the same time as Titanic (except for Olympic).
If they launched Themistocles on the 22nd of September, 1910 and Titanic on the 31st of May, 1911, work had to be done on both liners at the same time. How far away from Titanic was the Themistocles beeing built? Are there any photos of the two liners together?
 

Paul Rogers

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Nov 30, 2000
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Lloyd,

Sorry for not replying sooner - I actually missed your original post and have only accessed this thread today.

If you still want me to scan the postcard and email it to you, I'd be happy to oblige.

Regards,
Paul.
 

John Hemmert

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Oct 16, 2002
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Here's a bit more info on the "Themistocles":
She was registered out of Southampton, Reg.#129349, & listed at 7019 tons, 1074h.p.
The "Demosthenes" was registered out of Aberdeen, Reg.#129362, 7024 tons, 1054h.p.
(Source: Cont. Certificate of Discharge R65266, Elsie May Bernard, Stewardess/Matron for WSL, Cunard, Cunard-White Star, White Star Aberdeen)
 

John Hemmert

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Oct 16, 2002
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Nice pic Paul, and thanks! Don't think I'd seen one of her before. (That raised "flying" bridge looks almost unsupported. Fascinating feature.)
Oh, in that Discharge Book, Miss Bernard's voyage on her as a stewardess was on the Liverpool-Australia-London run from 13, Feb., 1937 to 18, June, 1937. The Captain at that time was Capt. C. Wood.
Best regards!
John.
 
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Sarah Evans

Guest
Hi
I have relatives who emigrated to Australia on this ship. We think between 1920 - 1922(ish).We have a postcard from the ship. Does anyone know if all her sailings were out of London at this time? I understand I need this information in order to trace the passenger lists. Many thanks for all the information on the ship that you have already given, fascinating reading.
Sarah
 
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Sarah Evans

Guest
Hello
As far as I am aware they arrived at Sydney, it is certainly the last address anyone seems to have had for them.
 
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Sarah Evans

Guest
Hi again
I just thought to look at the message on the postcard that we have and it mentions Sydney as being where they are going!