The Bibby Line vessel was built by Fairfield Shipbuilding on the Clyde and was designed to replace the 1914-built Lancashire and was a near-sister to British India's Nevasa.
The 20,586grt vessel was not completed until February 1957 and had a loa of 609ft 5in (185.6m). The Oxfordshire was twice the size of any previous Bibby ship with the capacity for up to 1,000 troops, 500 dependants and 409 crew.
Propulsion machinery was comprised of four Parsons steam turbines, double reduction feared to two screw shafts and developing 18,000shp. The Oxfordshire's service speed was 17 knots, although the ship achieved almost 20 knots during sea trials.
In 1963, the Oxfordshire underwent a refit to take on its new role as a emigrant-carrying ship. The work included a project to lengthen the ship, increase the vessel's tonnage to 21,619grt and to equip it to carry 1,868 passengers in 488 cabins. Due to the size of the project and the higher cost it took longer to complete than planned and the final fitting was carried out at the Harland & Wolff yard in Southampton.
On 28 February 1957, the Oxfordshire left Liverpool on her maiden voyage under the command of Captain Norman Fitch, bound for Hong Kong via Dakar, Cape Town, Durban and Singapore.
In five years of operation as a troopship, Oxfordshire made an annual average of four trips between Britain and the Far East. However, the writing was on the wall for both Oxfordshire and Nevasa soon after they entered service.
Britain had started to scale back its military presence east of Suez and made increasing use of aircraft to move military personnel around quicker and cheaper than by sea. In 1962, the 20-year charters of the two ships were terminated and both were withdrawn from service, with the Oxfordshire completing its final trooping voyage from Malta in December 1962.
The Oxfordshire then began a new career as an emigrant-carrying ship following a short period in lay-up. In early 1963, Bibby Line chartered the vessel to Italy's Sitmar Line for six years and Oxfordshire was sent to the Wilton-Fijenoord shipyard at Schiedam to be converted into its new role.
After its purchase by Fairline Shipping in 1963, the Oxfordshire was renamed Fairstar and switched to the Liberian flag. The vessel then operated an emigrant service to Australia from 1964 to 1973. In the following year, the Fairstar became a full-time cruiseship operating from Australia to the South Pacific and the Far East.
Oxfordshire Fact File
How big was the Oxfordshire?
The Oxfordshire had an original grt of 20,586 which was then increased to 21,619 in 1963
What was the Oxfordshire renamed?
The vessel was renamed Fairstar in 1963 after it was purchased by Fairline Shipping
When did the Oxfordshire end its service?
The Oxfordshire ended its service in 1997 after was sold for scrapping at Alang
Whilst the Oxfordshire underwent its conversion in 1963, the vessel was bought by the Sitmar subsidiary Fairline Shipping – reportedly to circumvent a charter requirement to retain Bibby's crewing arrangements for British officers and Indian ratings.
In 1989, P&O bought the Sitmar operation and Fairstar came under P&O management, carrying around one million passengers covering more than two million nautical miles, until mechanical problems and SOLAS Convention requirements saw the ship being sent for scrapping at Alang in April 1997.
Are you knowledgeable about this vessel?
Submit your contribution to this article to our editorial team.Write to us
View more ships of the past
Launched 200 years ago, HMS Beagle has been described as one of the most important ships in history – thanks to the observations on evolution and natural selection that its famous passenger Charles Darwin made during a five-year voyage around the world between 1831 and 1836.Common.ReadMore
Over the past century two vessels serving with the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company (IoMSPCo) have borne the name Manxman, with the company's newest ferry – due to enter service in 2023 – set to be the third.Common.ReadMore
Launched in August 1914, the US-built Doulos claimed the title of world's oldest ocean-going passenger ship for many years.Common.ReadMore