McIlwraith McEacharn Limited

The year 1875 saw the formation of McIlwraith, McEacharn. Also known as the Scottish company, it operated between the United Kingdom and the Australia/Pacific area and was significant in helping develop the frozen meat trade.

Early in the 20th Century the Company commenced Australian coastal trading. As the Second World War started it was operating ten ships on the Australian coast:-

ShipBuiltGross TonsIn Service
Koonda 191018311910-1946
Katoomba 191384241913-1946
Kooliga 192824951928-1953
Koomilya 192927801929-1955
Hetton Bank192413751934-1961
Pelton Bank192413711934-1968
Mortlake Bank192413751937-1968

and while all steadily went about their "lawful occasions", Katoomba and Kanimbla were the most visible vessels of the Company in the defence of Australia and the repulse of the enemy threat during the early 1940s.

Katoomba had before 1939 already seen war service as a requisitioned vessel, operating through many of the world's ports as a troopship, and returnee prisoner-of-war carrier from May 1918 to September 1919. On Australian coastal passenger service- she carried about 550, all classes included - until March 1941, she was again requisitioned and converted for trooping. With periodic short breaks back on commercial service, she took troops and supplies to the Northern Australia, Papua New Guinea and Asian areas and assisted in the evacuation of women and children from threatened Pacific islands. An encounter with a Japanese submarine gunfire off Adelaide in August 1942 saw her escape, undamaged, at maximum speed. Katoomba was returned to her owners from requisition early in 1946, but was then sold without resuming her coastal trading role.

Kanimbla, an important "build" for the Company, commenced coastal Australian operations, with a total passenger capacity of four hundred first and second class, in June 1936, but August 1939 saw her requisitioned for conversion to an armed merchant cruiser. Service in Asian, Middle Eastern, Northern Australian and South West Pacific waters was followed in April 1943 by re-conversion, this time to become a Landing Ship, Infantry. Now carrying twenty-six landing barges, she participated in training at various east coast of Australia ports before trooping to New Guinea. 1944 landings under fire included Hollandia, Morotai and Leyte Gulf, while in 1945 she was involved at Brunei and Balikpapan. August 1945 to September 1949 found Kanimbla continuing government duty, returning released prisoners-of-war and troops to Australia, supporting the Australian component of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan, taking a new Navy crew to the United Kingdom for HMAS "Sydney" and bringing migrants to Australia. She was returned, unscathed after long duty well done, to her owners the following year for resumption of coastal trading service.