In 1939, the ship Orion transported Giovanni Lagana and his new wife Maria from Italy to Fremantle.
The Orion was of the Orient Line, a 23,371-ton ship built by Vickers-Armstrong at Barrow. This ship was regarded as a landmark in British shipbuilding, as she had a wide range of public rooms, and was also the first British liner to be fitted with an air conditioning plant. She was a twin screw vessel, powered by geared turbines and had a service speed of 20 knots. Orion was 665ft long with a beam of 82ft and in its original configuration could accommodate 486 passengers in first class and 653 in tourist class. For the journey to Australia in 1939, the Australian National Archives lists 937 passengers on its database.
The Duke of Gloucester launched the liner in a rather unique way, using a radio link from Brisbane, Australia. The signal activated the launching mechanism which allowed the liner to slide into the water. She commenced service for Orient Line in 1935 and was at the time their largest liner. She was finally taken out of service in 1963.
The Orion was probably the most famous of the Australian immigrant ships. Originally built for the Orient Line and later owned by P&O, she was designed specifically for the immigration service. Orion alternated main line voyages to Australia with cruises until war broke out in 1939, when she was acquired by the British government to work as a troop carrier. Her first voyage for the troops was to Egypt and then it was off to Wellington, New Zealand to board troops to take to Europe. She left Wellington on January 6, 1940 and joined with other ships in convoy for Sydney Australia, to rendezvous with her sister ship Orcades. The convoy then left Australia to disembark their troops in Egypt.
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