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Vessel type Cruiseship
Year launched 1937
Cargo type Passenger
Country of build Scotland

The Dunera is remembered for its days as an educational cruise liner in the 1960s. However, it had a significant role in the Second World War operations and was part of a scandal involving the mistreatment of Jewish refugees in a 1940 voyage to Australia.

The build

The Dunera was powered by two Doxford diesel engines developing 11,800bhp. The 11,161grt vessel was capable of 16 knots. It could carry up to 104 first class, 100 second class and 164 third class passengers, as well as 290 crew members. In wartime it could carry 1,157 troops.

The ship's tonnage was increased to 12,615grt and accommodation was significantly upgraded in a major refit after the Second World War.


In July 1940, after carrying Australian and New Zealand troops to Suez, the Dunera left Liverpool with a total of 2,546 'enemy or dangerous aliens' onboard. These were actually Jewish refugees who were being deported to Australia.

Dunera joined several naval operations during the war. In 1942 it took part in Madagascar operations under Royal Navy control and the Sicily landings in 1943. The Dunera carried US Army staff for the invasion of the south of France in 1944 and was involved in the reoccupation of Burma and Malaya in 1945.

In the post-war years, Dunera continued trooping work in the Far East for five years until a major refit was ordered. It then continued to carry troops to the Middle East and Far East for a further decade, until the British government decided in 1960 that military personnel would travel by air in the future.

Dunera Fact File


After Dunera was decommissioned from trooping work in 1961, it came under the ownership of British India Steam Navigation. British India had pioneered the concept of voyages for school children in the 1930s with the troop ship Neuralia, and the company saw an opportunity to revive the scheme with the Dunera.

The Dunera was converted at the Palmers yard at Hebburn-on-Tyne into a schoolroom at sea. After a slow start, school cruises became popular, and the Dunera was joined on service by the Devonia a year later and the Nevasa in 1965. Labour MP Tam Dalyell, who had been a lecturer onboard Dunera for more than a year, urged the government to invest in a fleet of six purpose-built educational cruise ships, but his plans failed to win approval.

The ageing Dunera and Devonia were replaced by the Uganda in 1967, and Dunera was broke up in Bilbao, Spain in November the same year.


The Dunera had a chequered past prior to its cruiseship days.

It was involved in a scandal that Winston Churchill called 'a deplorable mistake'. Following a 1940 voyage carrying Jewish refugees to Australia, it emerged that the deportees had suffered appalling treatment at the hands of their military guards during their 57-day journey.

The deportees became known as the Dunera boys, although they ranged in age from 16 to 66.

The scandal led to an apology from Churchill, a court martial and the launch of a fund to compensate the deportees for their lost and stolen property.


School cruise memories: Sarah Gray remembers the bunkbeds, the seasickness and her wonderful experience on the Dunera. Read more...


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