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British History/Voyage times England to India


QUESTION: Dear Mark,
I have read the previous answers to similar questions, but I was hoping you could answer a few more questions regarding passenger ships between 1910-1925:
1) Did passenger ships to India leave England at Southampton? And did they arrive at Calcutta?
2) How long did a voyage take?
Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Many thanks

ANSWER: Hello Olivia.
Ships left from a number of British ports depending on the shipping company, Southampton was one of them. They sailed either to Bombay on the west coast or Colombo in Ceylon and Madras and Calcutta on the east coast.
The voyage would take about three weeks. As an example King George V sailed in the P&O liner SS Medina in November/December 1911 taking 21 days to reach Bombay. The return journey in January/February 1912 took 23 days. By the 1930s it had been reduced to around 16 days in the fastest ships.

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QUESTION: Hi Mark again,
You've been so helpful and was hoping you could answer a couple more questions.
3) Did the passenger ships stop off en route anywhere to pick up supplies from England to India? Somewhere where a passenger could post a letter perhaps to England?
4) And do you know if telegrams could be sent to passengers on ships and whether passengers were able to send telegrams to England?
Huge thanks,

Hello Olivia.
As an example in 1929 ships of the P&O Line called at :
Route 1. Gibraltar, Algiers, Marsailles, Malta, Port Said, Aden and Bombay.
Route 2. Algiers, Malta, Port Said, Aden, Colombo and Calcutta.
Route 3. Gibraltar, Marsailles, Port Said, Aden, Bombay, Colombo then on to Japan.
Route 4. Gibraltar, Marsailles, Port Said, Aden, Bombay, Colombo then on to Australia.
Under the British India Line flag.
Route 5. Port Said, Suez, Aden and Bombay.
Route 6. Marsailles, Port Said, Suez, Aden, Colombo, Madras and Calcutta.
These were to pick up supplies and coal and to take on and unload cargo. Passengers would have been able to go ashore for a short time at most of these ports or letters would be taken ashore for them for posting.
Telegrams could be sent over the ships wireless system at any time during the voyage as long as they were in radio contact with a shore station or sometimes they could be relayed through other ships if that ship was closer to shore than they were.  

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Mark Smith


I have a good basic knowledge of British political history, but my speciality is the Kings and Queens of England and Scotland from 927 AD. Please no social history questions, it's not my strong point and I'm unlikely to answer them.


No professional experience, but a lifelong interest and access to a variety of sources of information.

"A" level in History.

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