Gold Ribbon Banner
Tuesday, June 25, 2019

ss Lakonia On Thursday, December 19th, 1963, my family and I sailed on the Greek registered ship the TSMS “Lakonia”, from Southampton. We were bound for Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands. The family at that time consisted of my 73-year-old mother, severely crippled with osteo-arthritis and in a wheel-chair, ‘Tricia (15), Jill (13) and Michael (11), plus my husband David and myself.

On the first day out I happened to meet a ‘girl’, (we were both about 40!) née Mary Taylor, with whom I had been at school. She was travelling with her mother and her husband.

We were due to arrive off Madeira on the morning of Monday 23rd December and a large number of the passengers were due to disembark there. Consequently, George Herbert, the cruise director (‘social’, nothing to do with the ship’s crew) had arranged a “Tramps’ Ball” for the Sunday evening, during an interval of which a small ‘choir’ was going to sing a few carols… There started our lucky succession of coincidences without which I do not believe we would have survived.

As it was a “Tramps’ Ball” we had not ‘dressed up’ – the girls and I were just in cotton dresses or a blouse and skirt. My mother did have a very old fur cape and her handbag with her. Michael had been given the small solo part of the Page to sing in ‘Good King Wenceslas’ so ‘Tricia, Jill, David and I joined in to give him support. If it had not been for the carols, the children and my mother would almost certainly have all been in their bunks and probably asleep before the fire started.

About 11.20pm, shortly after the carols had finished, a sailor came into the room, whispered to the Captain and they both left hurriedly. As they left through the door beside which we happened to be sitting, we could see dirty, dark smoke swirling up the stairwell, which was just outside. After a while, when it was impossible to leave by the door near which we were sitting, on the starboard side of the ship, everyone left the room through the steward’s pantry which was in the opposite corner, on the port side.

The first day we were on board we had lifeboat drill and our station was forward on the starboard side and our lifeboat was ultimately engulfed in the fire. Also, all our life jackets were in our cabins where we could not reach them.

When we got out onto the deck on the port side, we thought at least we should try to get on the same side of the ship as our life-boat station and you will see how lucky that was! We managed to make our way through to the starboard side (of the ship) and as we got there I was just passing a cupboard when a sailor opened it and I saw it contained spare life-belts, so I grabbed six, smartly – lucky stroke Number 2! We also grabbed some ship’s rugs off deck-chairs although within a very short time we had given them all to children who were brought up from below in their night clothes, except that we made my mother keep hers.

[important color=orange title=TSMS “Lakonia”: Tragedy]TSMS Lakonia was originally the ms Johan van Oldenbarnevelt built at Amsterdam and launched in 1929. She saw service as a troop ship during the Second World War. Post war and a major refit she resumed service on the Amsterdam Batavia route, but by 1950 the situation as the Indonesians struggled for their independence from the Dutch became very volatile and the vessel was switched to a Holland-Australia service. Around 1959 with Southampton as her base she operated round-the-world services until early 1963. In March 1963 she was sold by the Netherlands Line to the General Steam Navigation Company. Another substantial refit took place and her name changed to TSMS Lakonia. Operated by the Osmos Shipping Company, perhaps better known as The Great Line, she offered a service between Southampton and the Canary Islands.

In the Lakonia disaster 128 people died. Of these most died not from the fire but from exposure, drowning and when trying to escape the fire by jumping into the sea. The first alarm of fire was raised around 2300hrs on December 22nd, but the ship itself did not sink until December 29th when under tow to Gibraltar.

The subsequent investigation into the disaster by the Greek Marine authorities lasted almost two years and its findings were highly critical of the condition of some of the life-saving equipment on the vessel and also of the actions taken aboard when the emergency occurred.[/important]

Read the rest of this article with additional pictures in Sea Breezes Magazine - December 2009 Issue

Subscribe Graphic

Latest Issue - Look Inside!

Island Princess

Most Popular

  • Major Boost for Steamship Shieldhall +

  • World’s Largest LNG Carrier is on the Way +

  • Inmarsat Takeover Deal Agreed +

  • Modus Expands Fleet of Hybrid Autonomous Vehicles +

  • Marconi’s Elettra +

  • 1
  • 2

Latest Products

Maritime Log

  • Six LNG Carriers Join BP Fleet +

    BP Partnership Class Six new 173,400 cu m capacity LNG carriers have joined the fleet of BP Shipping, of London. Read More
  • Warehouse Boosts Import of Forest Products +

    Freight A new £17mn warehouse is to be built at Liverpool by the national logistics provider Jenkins which specialises in paper, Read More
  • Inmarsat Takeover Deal Agreed +

    Inmarsat Global Xpress The supplier of global satellite communication services to the shipping industry, Inmarsat, of London, has accepted a $3.4bn takeover bid Read More
  • South Atlantic Repair Yard Plans +

    BBDC Ship Repair Yard What will be the largest purpose-built shiprepair yard in the South Atlantic Basin is being developed in the state of Read More
  • Move to Enlarge River Terminal +

    Grimsby River Terminal Associated British Ports (ABP) plans to expand its Grimsby River Terminal to enable it to handle the world’s largest car Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

North America

  • Line Sells Long Beach Container Terminal +

    Long Beach Container Terminal The Hong Kong shipping group Orient Overseas (International) Ltd (OOIL) is selling its Long Beach Container Terminal, California, to a Read More
  • Terminal to be Extended After Record Year +

    Viau Montreal The Viau container terminal at Montreal, Canada, is to be expanded so that it can handle 600,000 teu a year. Read More
  • Line Sails Back to Port in Partnership +

    ZIM Ningbo The Israeli shipping company Zim returned to the port of Seattle, Washington, on Apr 5 as part of the 2M Read More
  • Houston Ship Canal Closed After Major Fire +

    Houston Fire The Houston Ship Canal reopened to daylight traffic after being closed for nearly a week due to a serious fire Read More
  • Back Home After Eventful Antarctic Season +

    Polar Star The US Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star arrived back at her homeport of Seattle, Washington on Mar 11 after an Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3


  • Tragedy of the “Stellar Daisy” +

    Stellar Daisy The very large ore carrier Stellar Daisy, 266,141dwt, was owned by Polaris Shipping, of Seoul, South Korea, and had been Read More
  • Line’s Special Offer to Help Clean Up the Seas +

    The Ocean Cleanup The Singapore shipping company APL is providing free shipping for the non-profit Ocean Cleanup organisation that is working to develop Read More
  • World’s Largest LNG Carrier is on the Way +

    DNV GL Model The World's largest LNG carrier, with a cargo capacity of 270,000 cu m, is being developed by the only builder Read More
  • Three Main Courses Being Plotted for MOL +

    MOL Triumph The major Japanese shipping line Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL) has unveiled a number of new objectives aimed at improving its Read More
  • Cargo Ships for Bass Strait Service +

    Tasmanian Achiever II The first of two 700 teu cargo ship for the Bass Strait route between the Tasmanian port of Burnie and Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Naval Focus

  • Fourth Dreadnought Named HMS “King George VI” +

    Dreadnought Class UK News The fourth member of the new Dreadnought class of nuclear powered ballistic missile submarines will bear the name Read More
  • US Navy Orders Flight II Landing Platform Dock +

    LDP30 American News The contract for the construction of LPD30, the first Flight II Landing Platform Dock of the San Antonio Read More
  • US Navy Seeks Faster Ship Delivery +

    FFGX Rendering American News The future frigate program for the US Navy is getting fully underway and some idea of the urgency Read More
  • HMS “Dragon” in £75 Million Narcotics Seizure +

    HMS Dragon British News Whilst on patrol in the Gulf, the Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon seized and destroyed ten tonnes of Read More
  • New Generation of Enterprise Confirmed +

    USS Enterprise American News On 31 January, the US Department of Defense announced the awarding of a block buy contract with Huntington Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Ferry World

  • Further Delay for LNG Powered Glen Sannox +

    Glen Sannox The drama surrounding the much delayed new ferries for Caledonian MacBrayne continues to rumble on with the latest, not unsurprising, Read More
  • Pentland Ferries Loses Appeal +

    Hamnavoe Scotland’s Pentland Ferries has lost its appeal against Scottish government state aid for ferry services between the mainland and the Read More
  • Oscar Goes to Italy +

    Oscar Wilde Irish Continental Group has entered into a bareboat hire purchase agreement for the sale of its 1987-built Oscar Wilde to Read More
  • Favourite Claymore +

    Claymore A poster of Llandudno pier prompted a memory from ex Calmac chief engineer Charlie McCurdy as he took another trip Read More
  • Baltic Battery Power +

    Aurora Scandinavian and Baltic operators seem to be leading the way in reducing ferry reliance on fossil fuels. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Sail Review/Coastal Comment

  • Thames Tributary Barges +

    Lady of the Lea Most of the rivers flowing into the Thames had their own barge type. Read More
  • Dry Rot and Dry Dock +

    HMS Victory For some time Victory, the 110gun ship of the line, has had trouble with dry rot and is in danger Read More
  • Everards Eulogy +

    Greenhithe Scottish maritime interests particularly may mourn the loss of Geo Gibson. Read More
  • Welsh Port Gentrification +

    Penarth In the Victorian era, there were many coastal places where craft worked off open beaches. Read More
  • Sussex Sterns +

    Edward and Mary and Valiant In the Victorian era, there were many coastal places where craft worked off open beaches. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

From the Lookout

  • The Majestic River Rhine +

    MS Charles Dickens In September of this year, my wife and I enjoyed a wonderful Riviera Travel river cruise on the majestic River Read More
  • What Next in the US-Iran Saga? +

    Front Altair Over the last year, the escalating trade war between the US and China has created many headlines, not least in Read More
  • Modus Expands Fleet of Hybrid Autonomous Vehicles +

    Saab Seaeye Modus has placed an order with Saab Seaeye for the next vehicle in its Hybrid Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (HAU V) Read More
  • Tectona - A People’s Project Winner +

    Tectona By public vote, the Tectona Trust won the West Country – West Region ‘People’s Project’ award of £50,000. Nationally, the Tectona Read More
  • Major Boost for Steamship Shieldhall +

    Shieldhall Southampton's heritage steamship, SS Shieldhall, has received a Resilience Grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund totaling £85,000. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Cruise News/Superyacht News

  • Singer Andrea Bocelli Trades Up in Size +

    Stella del Nord Andrea Bocelli, the blind Italian tenor and song writer whose work spans both popular music and classical opera is a Read More
  • Plans for Greenock Terminal Approved +

    Greenock Ocean Terminal Plans have been approved for an iconic building on the banks of the Clyde at Greenock to welcome cruise ship Read More
  • Leixoes Cruise Terminal, Gateway to Porto +

    Leixoes Cruise Terminal With the growth of the cruise industry, many ports worldwide have been active in developing or improving their port facilities. Read More
  • Two Distinctive Ships Headed for Chinese Market +

    Spectrum of the Seas and Costa Venezia The Spectrum of the Seas (169,379 GT), Royal Caribbean International’s first ship in the Quantum Ultra Class, embarked on the Read More
  • Seadream Yacht Club to Build New Ship +

    SeaDream Innovation For over fifteen years, the SeaDream Yacht Club has operated two yachtlike ships, on 7 to 15-day voyages. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Ships, Ports and Places



Few British shipping companies in the 20th Century were grander than the British India Steam Navigation Company. Read More
John Dock

Inside the Breakwater

It was way back in December 1962 and only a few moments before I had received my “buff form” as Read More
  • 1
  • 2

Companies, Events and Other Features

SS Eastern (2)

MT Arthur Foss

“The last vessel to escape Wake Island before Japanese forces captured the island” Read More
SS Eastern (2)

Rescue of Crew Member From Tanker Avanti

Captain A J Murdoch served with Eastern & Australian Steamship Company until he retired in 1982. Hailing from Melbourne, during Read More
  • 1
  • 2