Orient Steam Navigation Co. Ltd.



The Orient Line grew out of an 18th century London shipbroking business. By the 1840s this was known as James Thompson & Company and operated sailing vessels tramping throughout the world. By the 1860s they had become Anderson, Thompson & Co. With a three-masted barque named the Orient, in 1866 part of the business became known as the Orient Line of Packets to Australia - soon shortened to the Orient Line.

In the 1870s there were the first company experiments into steam. In 1878 the Orient S.N. Co was established to expand to Australia. In 1883 there was the first mail contract: to New Zealand. This too was another company which benefited from trooping, during the Second Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902. Liner companies were commercially risky entities and co-operation in various forms often existed. In this case there were ever closer links with the Pacific S.N. Co (that was subsequently taken over by Royal Mail S.P. Co.) and jointly they became the Orient-Royal Mail Line 1907. At this stage they were in competition with P & O. Post First World War P & O acquired 51 per cent of the Orient Line. Also operated within the group, in 1965 P & O took complete control and the next year the Orient name disappeared.


Another company that has not been as well historically as P & O, the source of this information has largely been from one source. This was Duncan Haws: Merchant Fleets in Profile: The Ships of the P & O, Orient and Blue Anchor Lines (Cambridge: Patrick Stephens, 1978).


The National Maritime Museumís catalogue shows many Orient Line records loaned by the P & O Group. However, there are not all that many dealing with their personnel. There are some post Second World War records for seagoing personnel that can be useful. Apart from these the only other element easily used relate to stewards variously from the 1880s through to the 1920s.




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