Murdo MacDonald, who was emigrating from Scotland, travelled on the Otranto and sent a postcard to his brother at the Sailors Home in Lyttleton, New Zealand; he left Freemantle, Western Australia, on 9 July 1912, left Sydney 20 July, and continued to Wellington, New Zealand.
The Otranto was one of the famous P&O (Peninsular & Oriental) steamers. The Orient Steam Navigation Co. placed orders for five 12.000 ton twin-screw vessels in 1909. The first, the Orsova, commenced her maiden voyage from Tilbury in June, and the Otranto was completed soon afterwards. These steamers were slightly faster than those of the P&O "M" class. They departed every fortnight to Australia and were popular with first-class travellers and emigrants who mainly travelled third-class. In 1914 the Otranto was commissioned as an armed merchant cruiser.Several of the other vessels were also requisitioned during the war, and the Orsova was torpedoed in 1917. By 1917, the Orient Steam Navigation Co. did not have any ships available to service the route to Australia. The Otway, Orama and Omrah were torpedoed and sunk. In 1918 the Otranto, which was travelling in a convoy from New York to Liverpool, collided with the P&O steamer Kashmir in the Irish Sea, with the loss of 431 lives including many American servicemen.
In 1922, the Orient Line was expanded with the construction of three 20,000 ton twin-screw geared-turbine steamers, in cluding the Otranto (II). These vessels travelled to australia during October and March and during the Northern summer were employed in cruises to Scandanavia and the Meditteranean. The Otranto (II) was damaged in 1926 off the Greek mainland and collided with a Japanese steamship in 1928. She was requisitioned for service during World War II. She resumed service as a "one-class" tourist vessel in 1949, travelling from London to Sydney, and her last voyage was in 1957.
Source: North Star to Southern Cross, by John M. Maber, T. Stephenson & Sons, Lancs., 1967.