Don and Val Robertson  living in Auckland NZ

Britanis in Wellington Overseas Terminal


Click for Britanis Deck Plans

Click for Hellenic Night Programme 3/10/74

Click for Ships Log for Voyage 18 N

(for easy reading all the above

 memorabilia is high resolution

so could be a long down load time)


A year after completing their mid-wifery training in Sydney five Aussi nurses boarded Britanis, Voyage 18 N bound for Southampton.   Maggi from Whyalla and Val from Port Augusta boarded in Melbourne on 17/9/74.  Irene from Sydney, Halina from Newcastle and Noreen from rural SE Queensland boarded in Sydney on 18/9/74. In Wellington on 22/9/74, after a rough Tasman crossing, four Kiwi mates boarded.  Don, John & Chris were all from Upper Hutt nr. Wellington and Barry lived in Wellington.  The two groups met and then combined.  It was the start of long friendships and various romances!
Although a year earlier they had all been in the same small group in their mid wifery training in Sydney, Val, Halina and Maggi had organised their trip independently of Irene and Noreen and none of them knew they would be together again on the Britanis until a fortnight before departure.



This photo was taken when we had only just met at the Captains welcome aboard party on 14/10/74 (it was the second 14th, we'd just crossed the International Date Line).  I think it is the only photo of us all together and sadly a feat no longer possible to repeat.

L-R Irene, John, Halina, Chris, Val, Maggi, Noreen, Barry & Don

We all well remember nights in the ballroom with Andre and the Athenians..... Every body lie down, lie down!  The Visa-Versa night, and the fancy Dress where the four Kiwis combined their eight legs to win a fourth prize as Squiddly Diddley.  There was also the fun of the Mr Knobbly Knees competition, won by me and I still have the knobbliest knees in NZ, plus the Crossing the Line ceremony.

It was amazing how the sea voyage compressed courting. There were some unoccupied cabins but you had to be really quick to get to one before a ships officer. When we had cabin parties in 816 we temporarily re balanced the air conditioning with towels to increase our airflow and much reduce the air to the adjoining cabins, no wonder they complained some nights were inordinately hot!.


Muster Station

Lifeboat Drill

Preparing our costume

The result!

John, Don, Barry & Chris


John & Don

Don & Fokion Ardvanis

Mid voyage,love those bow ties!


Crossing the Line Ceremony

In The Panama Canal


The Master was George Nicolaou who really did appear as the Master Mariner. The First Officer was Fokion Ardavanis who really was handsome in his officers uniform (says Val!).

During berthing they opened the deck immediately behind the bridge to passengers from where you could closely observe the process. Berthing in Southampton was by a very crisp, very British pilot, in contrast to the previous berthing in Vigo under an animated Spanish pilot (see pic on left). He must have made the engineers frantic as he sent a very rapid succession of engine commands down the telegraph. For this berthing the bridge was under the control of the First Officer with the Master observing with his hands deep in his pockets.  When the lines were all made fast and the ship was tight alongside the pilot relaxed, thanked the bridge staff and prepared his departure from the bridge.  At this point Captain Nicolaou quietly captured the First Officers attention and pointed to the engine telegraph that still had one engine grinding away.  Fokion indicated this to the pilot who positively ran across to the telegraph and returned it to the stop position himself.  Captain Nicolaou quietly turned away gently shaking his head!


In the first months following arrival in Southampton on the 19 October 1974 the contact between us became steadily closer, until three of us Kiwis had to confront a personal crisis when our girlfriends from NZ turned up!  However for one couple the disruption lasted only a few months until Chris's, by then, ex girlfriend retreated home allowing his friendship started on the Britanis with Noreen to flourish followed by their wedding two years later in Sydney on September 25th 1976.

In our case however the disruption was much much longer.  I married the girlfriend that had followed me, had two children but parted ten years later. Twenty years after the voyage when everybody was dispersed throughout NZ and half of Australia we held a reunion in Sydney.  It was the first time most had seen each other since Europe.  It was amazing, the original group dynamics had not changed.  Further trans Tasman visits were arranged and fortunately for me the wonderful girl I had met on the Britanis, Val, forgave me, enough to resume firstly our friendship, and then our love, and then to become my wife in 1997. 


3rd reunion & the  2nd wedding, ours!   We married in Brisbane in April 1997.

John   Halina   Barry   Val   Don   Noreen   Chris

7th reunion in Jan 2007 Adelaide.

 Noreen   Maggi  Chris  John   David (Irenes husband)   Irene   Don  Val


Although the group is now spread between NZ, NSW, ACT, VIC and SA we have regular "boat people reunions".  Our next planned reunion is in Marlborough NZ 2009 and after that we are considering Greece!


The Britanis was built as the Monterey one of three sisters built in the US for the Matson Line Pacific service in 1932. She served with distinction in WW2 but was then laid up for ten years until a 2 year period in rehab. She emerged in 1957 as the Matsonia.  Candris purchased her sister ship the Lurline in 1963 and renamed her Ellinis. Matson lines still wanted a Lurline so they acquired one on the cheap, by simply renaming the Matsonia. In 1970 Chandris bought her and renamed her Britanis to once again join her sister.

It is interesting that both the Australis and Britanis both dropped their tow lines in the Atlantic to avoid the indignity of the scrap yard. Pity the Ellinis did not have the same opportunity!

What happy memories!  Don & Val Robertson