Purnea on fire and listing. Penang Harbour. circa 1963. I took this and the next photo from the Penang ferry.  
Purnea on fire.  

"The Purnea on fire in Penang harbour."

Photo supplied by Tony Gates, who writes....


Been digging through my old photos and have a few of the Purnea, thought you might like to add the attached to this page. It was taken by the Straits Times photographer, the day after the fire at high water.

Good photo of Sirdhana after her collision (see article below). I was on Urlana in Yokohama at the time. Our cadets, John Bardsley and Sean Swiney, went to Sirdhana and their Third Mate, Henry Cox joined us as our second Mate, Peter Crump, had landed up in hospital. Henry is now retired from Union Steam Ship Co and lives in Canterbury, SI, NZ.".


I am indebted to Tony Gate in New Zealand, who wrote on 4 Jun 2000....

Hi John,

Indeed the ship on fire was Purnea, fire occured on sailing day on 12th Nov 1963, in Penang Harbour.

Fire started in No.4 Hold and eventually, after CO2 and water had failed to control, it spread to no.5 hold.

Decision was made in the afternoon to flood the holds, so the ship was beached stern first on the Astor Shoal in the Northern entrance to Penang Harbour.

On board at the time were:

    Capt.   Ambrose Mills *        C/EO   Tony (?) Hopper
    C/O     Bobby Coates        2/EO    Rob Johns
    2/O     Giles Bridson          3/EO    John Wood
    3/O     Tony Gates             4/EO    George Tierney
    R/O     David Thornton      5/EO    Saw Caesar Tun
    Cadets  Robin Porte                      Paul (?) Bickl

* Ambrose Mills was the C/O on the "Sirdhana", my first ship. (John Feltham).

And on the 5 June 2000.....

We discharged the cargo from 4 & 5 holds, and lowered the water level at the same time over the next week -10 days, floated off the shoal and were towed about 6 to 8 feet by the head to a berth in George Town for temp repairs, trimming and loading some of the damaged cargo back on board. Our cargo was mainly cotton and cotton yarn bound for Shanghai and other China ports. All loaded in Karachi with topping up at various ports en route. Within a week of our fire two other ships also caught fire in the Malacca Straits with the same cargo picked up in Karachi and bound for China. One of the ships was a Runciman and Moore Line ship. We completed permanent repairs in Kobe and Purnea continued to trade with BI until sold in late sixties. An interesting sequel, when I came ashore I worked for an insurance company in Auckland as their Marine Manager. One of the claim files was for damaged cargo on the Purnea and the General Average guarantee. This General Average adjustment took 7 years to complete and I authorised our company's payment in 1970. I spent 12 months on Purnea and she was a very happy ship during that time.


Tony Gates.


My first BI vessel  - M.V. SIRDHANA. There is the possibility that this photograph is a "ring-in" . It might be the Sangola with the name on the bow being "forged."


Ted Alexander writes....in the BI List [9 May 2004]

I have a copy photograph of the original, and the ship is the SANGOLA. The Sirdhana one has been touched up over the top for convenience. Unfortunately, this business of using another ships name for photographs of vessels in the same class was common in B.I. Both postcards and photographs have been doctored in all too many cases, which makes the task of identifying ships which look-a-like almost impossible.

The worst cases seem to be the Ms (MATIANA - MALDA - MODASA etc.). Others include the NEVASA for the NEURALIA and vice versa, pre war Ks, Gulf Ds also and some Cs. In fact, there have been so many cases, that with some classes one cannot take them at face value until the image can be checked.


Photo of the Sirdhana, supplied by Gordon Thornton.

There is another BI vessel in the background. I'm told by Fred Waddington, that it is the "Kenya".

Gordon Thornton tells me that the port is Mombasa.

To see a larger picture, click on the photo. Press "Back" on your browser to return.

Tom Kelso reports....Jambo! No.7 (Kenya) and No.8 (Sirdhana) berths, Killindini, Mombasa.


Photo supplied by Gordon Thornton.

Sirdhana in the Shatt-al-Arab in 1962. Clickon photo.


A fine hand tinted photo of the Sirdhana.

Photo supplied by Gordon Thornton


A nice photo of the Sirdhana taken after 1968, when the wing cabins had been removed.

Photo supplied by Dave Alexander.

And from the BI List comes this comment: "While the removal improved the visibility from the wheelhouse, which was the object of the exercise, it did not improve the external appearance of the ship."



The starboard side of the "Sirdhana", after being struck by the US vessel, General William Mitchell - November 1960.

"The vessel that struck Sirdhana, Gen. William Mitchell."  

SS Itaura. It looks like Cape Town?

My second, and last ship. Built 1940, scrapped 1958.

I had a very interesting voyage on her, unusual for a BI vessel.

From Calcutta to, Columbo, Mauritius, Durban, Cape Town, Trinidad, Barbados where Errol Flyyn's schooner, the "Zaca" was tied up forward of the Itaura. Others places that escape my mind, and others that I remember, Jamaica, San Domingo, Haiti, Cuba, old Tampa, Avonmouth, Antwerp, Middlesborough, London where I and the BI parted company for ever.

Photo, courtesy of Arthur Major.


A nice colour photo of the "Sirdhana" coming into Dar es Salaam, (1971 or 1972). The "Tairea" had to make way for her to come alomgside. Photo courtesy of Don Wood.  
A photo of the MV "Sangola" taken in 1948, "on its way to Australia". The larger scale photo shows three Chinese characters, which, presumably, says "Apcar Line" on the side of the vessel? Photo from Jean Rae, for which many thanks.  


Ted Treacher writes, on the BI Email List. (6 May 2004)

I have been following the discussions on the meaning of the Chinese characters painted on the side of the Sangola, but only yesterday saw the picture in Tony Gate's website. I sent the picture to a very old Chinese shipping friend in HK (in his 70's) and he confirms in would be phonectically read in Chinese as San Go La. Apparently in 1948 Chinese was written from right to left, the partially obscured character on the left is the Chinese exclamation "La" with no English meaning , the other two in English are "High" and "Win" but when spoken in Chinese you get "Sangola". Interestingly today the Chinese have changed to write from left to right, so possibly younger generation Chinese would make no sense of these three characters as seen in the photo.


Download the BI Sunday Photograph Click Here

Beware.......the file is 1.5 Mb in size.




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