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RMS Mooltan was an ocean liner and Royal Mail Ship of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O). She was ordered in 1918 and completed in 1923. She served in the Second World War first as the armed merchant cruiser HMS Mooltan (F75) and then as a troop ship. She was retired from P&O service in 1953 and scrapped in 1954.

Mooltan was unusual in combining both quadruple-expansion steam engines and turbo-electric transmission. When completed in 1923 she had only her quadruple-expansion engines, but in 1929 turbo generators and electric propulsion motors were added alongside them to increase her speed.


Mooltan started her maiden voyage on 5 October 1923. She left the Port of Tilbury, sailed via Suez canal and called at ColomboCeylon (Sri Lanka) and Melbourne before reaching SydneyAustralia on 21 December 1923.

In 1929 Mooltan's engines were supplemented with British Thomson-Houstonexhaust-driven turbo generators powering electric propulsion motors. The addition of turbo-electric power alongside her original quadruple-expansion engines increased her total installed power to 2,878 NHP and raised her top speed to 17 knots (31 km/h). Her accommodation was also revised.

In 1931 all her accommodation was again revised and improved. In 1933 Mooltan carried Douglas Jardine's MCC cricket test team home to Englandafter the controversial "Bodyline" Test Series. In 1938 she was altered to allow her to carry chilled beef.

On 6 September 1939, just after the outbreak of the Second World WarMooltan was requisitioned to be an armed merchant cruiser. Her conversion included removing her dummy second funnel to improve the arc of her anti-aircraft guns. Later on in the war the funnel was replaced but in a shorter form. On 15 October 1939 she was commissioned into the Royal Navy as HMS Mooltan (F75).

Her naval service was divided between the South Atlantic Station (October 1939 – April 1940 and June – July 1940) and the Freetown Escort Force (May 1940 and August 1940 – January 1941). Mooltan did not lose any of the merchant vessels that she escorted. On 31 July 1940 she was in the Western Approaches en route from Plymouth to Freetown when a German reconnaissance aircraft attacked her, but she survived intact.

On 20 January 1941 Mooltan was returned for conversion to a Ministry of War Transport troop ship. The work was started by R&H Green and Silley Weir Ltd in Tilbury and completed at Newcastle upon Tyne by May 1941. In 1941 she carried troops out to the Middle East.

In October – November 1942 Mooltan took part in Operation Torch. She carried US Army troops from Britain to land at Arzew, about 15 miles (24 kilometres) east of Oran in French Algeria. The troops embarked at Bristol, England, and on 22 October 1942 they were joined by a few USAAF Twelfth Air Force anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) officers commanded by a Colonel Franklin K. Fagan, who was ordered to organise the ship's air defence for the voyage. The only gunners aboard were two British Royal Marines, so Fagan selected 174 men from the US 815th Engineer Battalion] and got the two Royal Marines to train them all. The Marines then served as pointers for Mooltan's two six-inch guns.

Mooltan sailed to the landing fleet's rendezvous in the Firth of Clyde, where more US troops embarked including the 439th Signal Battalion. The fleet departed from the Clyde on 26 October, with Mooltan stationed on the port rear flank of the convoy. The convoy was not attacked, but Mooltan used her exposed position to give her improvised gun crews plenty of firing practice. The Operation Torch landings started at 0400 hrs on 8 November.] At 0800 hrs Mooltan entered the Gulf of Arzew and dropped anchor, and Royal Navy landing craft immediately took her US troops ashore to "Z" Beach. Mooltan was returned to P&O after the war on 16 July 1947.


After her return in 1947, P&O had Mooltan completely reconditioned before returning her to commercial use. On 26 August 1948 she returned to service; now she was 21,039 gross register tons (GRT) and carried 1,030 tourist class passengers. Most of the outward traffic was Ministry of Transport emigrationwork, carrying "Ten Pound Poms" to Australia under an assisted passage scheme established and run by the Australian government. The return trips were filled with P&O's own passengers.

In April 1949 the Mooltan arrived at Tilbury the day after a passenger, 69-year-old Richard Allen, had died. The cause was smallpox, but the passenger list gave his cause of death as chickenpox. For the next three days Mooltan was quarantined before any of her passengers or crew could disembark. In this time five more passengers died.

On 18 November 1953 SS Mooltan left Brisbane, Australia, on her last voyage, reaching Tilbury on 7 January 1954. Her mainly Asian crew joined the brand new RMS Arcadia three weeks later. On 23 January 1954 P&O sold Mooltan for £150,000 to the British Iron & Steel Corporation and she was taken to Metal Industries Ltd at Faslane in Scotland, where she was broke up.



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