People looking to sea on a P&O ship

1940-60 – Times are a changin’

Just as they’d found their feet, P&O was preparing for war again. Ships and staff were moved out of London to Glasgow and Liverpool, and photographers started creating copes of all of the company’s the vital records, contracts and files. Within a month of the declaration of war, the entire passenger fleet had been requisitioned by the War Office.

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With all of the company’s passenger ships out of action, P&O looked ahead – designing a whole new fleet. These new ships would be bigger and faster than their predecessors, meaning more journeys could be made by more people with much fewer vessels.

‘If I had my time over again I would alter nothing. I would do exactly the same; I would go to sea in the P&O Company, hope to do my duty by my ship, and achieve at the last a command as good as the Himalaya: I could not wish for a better.’

– Captain D.G.H.O. Baillie, 1957. Reproduced by kind permission of P&O Heritage.



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In the 1950s, the company introduced cheap fares for people emigrating to Australia. And so the term “Ten Pound Pom” was born. The journey was long, and with the uncertainty of a whole new life ahead of them the families reveled in the luxury of life on board. Dinners were long and extravagant, with everything from live music to fancy headdress competitions taking place alongside.

The following recipe for buttery chateau potatoes comes from Becca, owner of the food blog Amuse Your Bouche:

‘These buttery chateau potatoes are inspired by a P&O dinner menu from the S.S. Strathmore in 1958. A long, buffet-style menu, it contains all kinds of fancy-sounding dishes such as ‘consomme froid en tasse’ (cold, clear soup in a cup) and ‘potatoes persillées’ (parsleyed potatoes). A P&O cruise in the 1950s was definitely the kind of place where you’d get your glad rags on for dinner!

Buttery chateau potatoes

These chateau potatoes are sautéed in garlic butter, before being roasted to crispy perfection. Served with plenty of fresh herbs, they’re a versatile side dish that could be served alongside any of the main courses on the P&O menu – even a vegetarian option, which could be arranged on request.’

P&O had been faced with two world wars and come through the other side relatively unscathed. They took this pioneering spirit to whole new heights in the 1960s…

All images © P&O Heritage Collection, used by kind permission.


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