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Selective BI bibliography

A surprisingly large body of work exists on British India SN and its ships, trades and people. This page lists books which are either exclusively or in large measure devoted to these subjects. Many of these books are out of print, therefore the only way of getting hold of them is through specialist or seconhand bookshops. If you have any of these books for sale, mail and we will post a notice on this page. News of forthcoming books about BI and related subjects is on this page.

Ships named on this page: Dara, Dilwara, Dunera, Indora, Kampala, Karanja, Karoa, Kenya, Mantola, Mashobra, Matiana, Mombasa, Modasa, Neuralia, Nyanza, Ormiston, Pundua, Quetta, Rohilla, Rohna, Santhia, Sir Harvey Adamson, Tabora, Tairea, Takliwa, Talamba, Uganda, Umballa, Vasna, Warina

BI - The British India Steam Navigation Company Limited by W A Laxon and F W Perry. Published by the World Ship Society, Kendal, 1994. (ISBN 0 905617 65 7). BI Sunday Mombasa(World Ship Society has confirmed that this title is out of print and no longer available from stock).
This is, de facto, the standard work on BI ships, each of which is described with principal particulars and in words. In this volume are thus listed the 507 vessels of the company, nearly each one of which is accompanied by an image - either a photograph or drawing - and salient details of service. Useful chronology of the company, its chairmen, services, war services and affiliated companies.
(A favourite photograph is of Mombasa on "BI Sunday", Sep 15, 1951 when no fewer than seven BI ships occupied all the main berths in the port. From left: Mantola, Mombasa, Kenya, Karanja, Modasa, Tabora and Kampala). A new version of the electronic edition of Laxon & Perry will be published shortly.William Mackinnon

BI Centenary 1856-1956 by George Blake. Published by Collins, London, 1956.
It all started with WilliamMackinnon (left) and Robert Mackenzie. This is the history of BI's first 100 years with photographs and fleet list, published in the centenary year. 22 monochrome illustrations and complete fleet list.

Valiant Voyaging - a short history of the British India Steam Navigation Company in the second world war 1939-1945 by Hilary St George Saunders. Published by Faber and Faber, after 1947. Map, photographs, Roll of Honour (officers and men who lost their lives at sea due to enemy action), Honours and Awards.

Merchant Fleets in Profile, Volume 11 - Ships of British India S N Co, by Duncan Haws. Published by TCL Publications, 1987. (ISBN 0 946378 07 X)
One in Duncan Haws's series, Tairea Takliwa Talambaillustrating the BI fleet through line drawings and concise particulars of each vessel.Haws's drawing of the distinctive three-funnelled T class (comprising Tairea, Takliwa and Talamba) of the 1920s is typical of the detail worked into each of the 230 illustrations which cover the fleet.

Troopship Memories - A Dip in the Ocean by Geoff Charlewood. Published by Navigator Books, London, 1966.
The author recounts five years at sea with BI. This is an account of one man's wartime experirences at sea between 1941 and 1946. The book has eleven monochrome photographs of ships, including Neuralia, Matiana, Dilwara, Pundua and Vasna. 126pp, softback.

Nyanza - BI

Sea Safari - British India S N Co African Ships & Services by Peter C Kohler. Published P M Heaton Publishing, Abergavenny, 1995. (ISBN 1 872006 05 1)
History of BI's crucial involvement in the development of east and South Africa. Many illustrations and photographs, including this photo of the handsome Nyanza, one of four in the 1956-built N class.

Merchant Adventurers 1914-1918 by F A Hook. Published by A & C Black, London, 1920.
Mashobra - BIWar records during the first World War of P&O, British India, and their associated lines. Within weeks of the commencement of hostilities, 100 ships of the combined BI and P&O fleets had een absorbed by the British government for the war effort. Thus began one of the most torrid and yet most distinguished periods of BI's service in which 22 BI ships were lost - a quarter of the total lost by the eight lines. 314pp. Two folded maps and 32 plates with 35 monochrome illustrations (including, right, Mashobra on fire and sinking after being torpedoed).

Maritime Enterprise and Empire: Sir William Mackinnon and His Business Network, 1823-1893 by J Forbes Munro (Emeritus Professor, University of Glasgow). Publication by Boydell & Brewer Ltd, UK, 2003. (ISBN 0 85115 935 4) Price£75.
This important work examines Mackinnon's relationship with Sir Henry Bartle Frere which resulted in BI and the group being drawn into 'informal imperialism' in the Persian Gulf, Red Sea and East and central Africa. 423pp with monochrom illustrations, figures and maps.

SanthiaVoyages and Fragments by Captain A E Baber. Published by Cathedral Publishing, Bristol, 1985 (ISBN 0 947554 06 8).
The author's recollection of incidents and people, encountered during more than forty years at sea in the service of British India.Capt Baber served in BI from 1919 to 1961. He sailed in many ships, including Santhia (left) until eventually taking command of Uganda before her conversion to an educational cruise ship. 185pp, 14 mono illustrations and two maps. (Recommended by Don Wood and Rob Choppin).

Radioman - Marconi Sahib edited by Mahrie Locket. Published by iUniverse, Lincoln, US, 2007. (ISBN 978 0 595 47022 8). Price: $18.95 (US). See REVIEW on this site.
The diary of Canadian Marconi radio officer Alan Patterson who spent most of the war years in the three BI ships Indora, Sir Harvey Adamson and Warina.

The Quetta, Queensland's Worst Disaster by Capt John Foley (a Barrier reef pilot). Published by Nairana publications 1990. (ISBN 0 7316 8141 X)
This is the story of the BI ship Quetta which sank off Cape York in 1890. "An old story admittedly but quite interesting all the same" - Rob Choppin.

We Seemed to Get There - From deck cadet and deck officer in time of war and peace, ormistonto a ship's captain and Sydney Harbour sea pilot by Herbert W Bolles. Published 1997 (ISBN 0 646 31608 7). Available from Capt H Bolles, 130 Warks Hill Road, Kurrajong Height, NSW 2758, Australia, A$37 by air.
About one-third of this book is devoted to Herbie Bolles's reminiscences of his time in BI from 1948 on. (Left, cover picture of Australasian United SN's Ormiston).
Update, September 2000 - Herbie has just published a revised edition which includes an account of Dyrek Coxe's seagoing life. "Each page can stand alone full of anecdote and interest," said a recent review in Seaways.

Uganda - The story of a very special ship. Published 1998. Available from the SS Uganda Trust, Tarven, Corfe Lodge Road, Broadstone, Dorset, BH18 9NF. UK. (ISBN 0 9531082 0 1)
Many personal stories and reminiscences of one of BI's most famous ships. 472 pages liberally illustrated with 400 monochrome and 50 colour pictures.

Wreck of the Rohilla by Ken Wilson. Published by Clement, 1982.
"An unusual book which was not typeset, but handwritten along with many drawings and sketches of the wreck of the troopship Rohilla near Whitby in 1914. I have only ever seen one copy of it" - Mike Ledger.

Into the Maelstrom - The Wreck of HMHS Rohilla by Colin Brittain. Publication by Tempus Publishing, Stroud, UK (ISBN 0 7524 2384 3) Price £12.99. See FULL REVIEW on this site.
Late in October 1914 hospital ship Rohilla left Leith and made her way down the North Sea coast for Dunkirk. A gale was blowing as the ship passed the treacherous North Yorkshire coast and in the early hours of October 29 the ship ran hard aground on Saltwick Nab. Carrying 229 people, Rohilla rammed the rocks sufficiently violently to break her back, making salvage impossible. In the following few days 85 people died, a figure which could have been far greater were it not for the heroic efforts of lifeboat crews. 128pp, illustrated.

BISN British IndiaPassage East illustrated by Ian Marshall. Commentary by John Maxtone-Graham. Published by Howell Press, Howell Press, 1147 River Road, Suite 2, Charlottesville, Virginia 2290, US, 1997 (ISBN 1 86227 039 2).
Paintings, photographs, drawings and stories about vessels and voyages to the places remembered well by those in BI. The book covers most companies with ships sailing to the East, including many BI ships. 160 pp, 40 colour paintings & 40 mono illustrations & maps. (Recommended by Malcolm Stick - may still be in print and available)

British India Steam Navigation Company's Mail Packets to East Africa, 1890 - 1905 researched by Stephen J North. Published by East Africa Study Circle [Philatelic], London. ( ISBN 0 9515865 1 3)
A booklet, the first 4 pages of which detail the history of the mail contracts followed by a list of the mail ships (many incorrectly spelt names). The final 18 pages list the contract schedules with the ship names, ports of call and dates. (Recommended by Pat Pattenden).

North Star to Southern Cross by John M Maber. Published by T Stephenson & Sons, 1967.
Laxon and Perry refer to this book thus: "Thoroughly covers BI's Britain-Australia services" in chapter 31.

DaraLast Hours on Dara by P J Abraham. Published by Peter Davies, London, 1963.
An account, winning the author few friends in BI, of the loss of Dara in the Gulf during April 1961, told by an eye-witness. Photograph(left) and general arrangement drawing.

Forgotten Tragedy: The Sinking of HMT Rohna by Carlton Jackson. Published by United States Naval Institute, 1996. (ISBN: 1557504024)
One of a number of books on the sinking in the Mediterranean of the troopship Rohna. The incident occasioned the worst troopship loss for the US during World War II. Hardback. (see also below)

The Rohna Disaster - WWII's Secret Tragedy by James G Bennett. Published by Xlibris Corporation, Philadelphia, 1998. ( ISBN 0738801844)
Paperback of 228 pages

Rohna Memories - Eyewitness to Tradegy by Michael Walsh. Published by iUniverse, Lincoln, Nebraska, 2005. ( ISBN 0595347258)
Personal interviews with and recollections of survivors of the Rohna sinking in November 1943. The book includes witness reports, letters and lists survivors and those lost. Paperback of 307 pages with photographs (reproduced on plain paper)

Sailor in Steam by J Murray Lindsay. Published by Rigby Ltd, Adelaide 1966. (Library of Congress Catalogue Card No. 66-10436).
Lindsay served his time in sailing ships, then with a new ticket went into Geordie tramps. In Chapter 3 he joins BI and the remaining pages deal with his time in BI. An interesting, and seamanlike book of the company in the 20/30s. (Recommended by David Harvey).

Through Stormy Seas. Some of the Spiritual Crises in my Life Afloat by E G Captain E G CarreCarré. Published in hardcover by Pickering & Ingles, London, 1939. (Re-published by The Merchant Service Officers' Christian Association, London, 1948)
Experiences of Captain Carre, the late Commodore Captain British India Steam Navigation Co. There are many photographs throughout the book. pp96

The Dunera Scandal - Deported by Mistake by Cyril Pearl. Published by Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1983. (ISBN 0207147078).
The internment in Australia of 2,542 Germans & Austrians - political or racial refugees. They were transported on the BI ship Dunera. Monochrome illustrations. (see also below)

The Dunera Internees by Patkin Benzion. Published Cassell, Australia. 1979.
The Dunera Internees were, in the main, Jews who fled to Britain from Hitler's Europe and at the outbreak of the Second World War were interned there and then sent on a nightmare voyage to Australia in Dunera. On arrival in Australia they were held at Hay & Tatura Internment Camps. 185pp, monochrome illustrations, appendix, index.

The Dunera Affair. A Documentary Resource Book edited by Paul R Bartrop and, Gabrielle Eisen. Co-published by Schwartz & Wilkinson and the Jewish Museum of Australia, Victoria 1990. (ISBN 1 86337 025 0)
Compilation of original documents and photographs relating to the transport of German and Austrian refugees to Australia aboard the Dunera. Also explores the role of the British and Australian authorities in the affair. 423pp, monochrome photographs.

Ship School by Tam Dalyell. Published by Newman Neame Ltd, London 1963.
The insider's view; written by former director of education of Dunera about the early part of BI's post-WWII educational cruising. (29 plate illustrations).

Boarders Away : An account of British India educational cruises edited by Mary Ollis. Published by: Longman Group, London 1973. (ISBN 0 582 32471 8).
By 1973 BI educational cruises had been underway for 11 years with the ships DUNERA, DEVONIA, NEVASA and UGANDA taking 40,000 to 50,000 British schoolchildren to sea each year. Written with the help of BI staff, chief education officers, teachers, and pupils, this book gives a brief history of BI's educational cruising, with chapters on the ship's company, planning a cruise, on board, visits ashore, etc. Foreword by Sir Ronald Gould, chairman of the Central Bureau for Educational Visits and Exchanges, and contributors include Dame Kitty Anderson, Sir John Newsom and Sir John Wolfenden. 124 pp, 5 photo-plates.

The Mackinnon Papers The School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London.
The personal and business papers of Sir William Mackinnon 1823-1893 reflect his wide commercial interests and close connection with 19th century British political circles. The microfilm includes the papers of the Imperial British East Africa Company, the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition Committee, the British India Steam Navigation Company and those relating to the City of Glasgow Bank. (68 Reels  with detailed printed calendar)

The Currie Line of Melbourne by W A Laxon. Published by the Nautical Association of Australia, 2003. Price NZ$18.70 (discounted for association members)
When Currie Line ships and services were taken over by BI in 1913, it was the only Australian company with a major presence in the India and southeast Asia trades. Currie Line was moreover one of the largest Melbourne-based fleets. This book is by an acknowledged expert on the history of shipping companies and co-author of British India Steam Navigation Company Limited, W A Laxon. The book records an important part of Australia's maritime history, includes illustrations of all 10 Currie Line steamers and, as usual with Laxon books, full fleet details by ship - 29 in all. (pp64)

Shipwrecks and Salvage on the East African Coast by Kevin Patience. Published by Kevin Patience, 257 Sandbanks Road, Poole, Dorset, BH14   8EY, United Kingdom. £21/£26 inc postage.
The book, by an experienced diver and salvor, covers 240 vessels which were wrecked or were otherwise casualties on the coasts of Kenya and Tanzania between 1499 and 2004. Fifteen were BI ships and fortunately all these survived. pp276, 300 illustrations, maps. A review appears on this site.

From Wheel House to Counting House: Essays in Maritime Business History edited by UmballaLewis Fischer. Published by the International Maritime Economic History Association, 1992. (ISBN 0 9695885 1 8)
This book contains essays by various authors, one of whom is Forbes Munro whose piece The "Scrubby Scotch Screw Company" is a study of BI's coastal services in the early days of the company.

La Notte Dell'Umballa (Last Night of Umballa) by Alberto Cunto. Published 1996 by Edizioni Periferia, Vi degli Stadi, 9/A, 87100 Cosenza, Italy. (Contact
The story, written in Italian, of Umballa which was torpedoed in December 1917 off the Italian coast and then came to form a remarkable relationship with the people of the village, Praia A Mare, where the wreck lay. Written to mark the 80th anniversay of her sinking and winner of the local prix G Guida, the book contains pictures and facsimiles of official Italian documents.

Ironfighters, Outfitters and Bowler Hatters by George C O'Hara. Published 1997, Clyard Novella, 1997.
Profusely illustrated, a study of post-war shipbuilding on the River Clyde covering around 40 yards and marine engine works, tables and many illustrations of the ships built. A4 hardback, 356pp. "It covers the history of the Clyde Shipbuilding yards post - war and has several photographs of BI vessels built mainly at Barclay Curle's, on the stocks or fitting out" - Archie Hill

Two Centuries of Overseas Trading: The Origins and Growth of the Inchcape Group by Dr Stephanie Jones. Published 1986, Macmillan in association with business history unit, University of London. (ISBN: 0333371720)
Based primarily on unpublished material within Inchcape's own archives, this study considers a group of pioneering merchants and traders who ventured to the most far-flung corners of the globe. Mainly Scotsmen, they set up business in such places as India, Ceylon, China, Japan, Singapore, Sarawak, Thailand, the Persian Gulf, Australia and East Africa. pp328. 8vo. Terry Lilley wrote: "Two/three chapters..largely cover the BI steamers in the Gulf"

The Management of British India Steamers in the Gulf 1862-1945 by Dr Stephanie Jones. Privately published by Gray MacKenzie and the Mesopotamia Persia Corporation. (More information on this title is sought).

Taking the Adventure. an Autobiography by A B Marshall. Published by Michael Russell, 1999.
The author was chief executive of P&O 1972-79 and in 1994 became the president of the UK Chamber of Shipping. pp319, 8 pages of plates. Tom Kelso wrote: " of immense interest to those with BI and Trident connections........not least for his account of the intrigues, betrayals and back-stabbing at P&O boardroom level. Absolutely fascinating!"

The Story of P&O - The Peninsular and Oriental Steam NavigationKaroa Company by David & Stephen Howarth. Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1994. (ISBN 0 297 835408).
A 150-year history of one of Britain's great shipping companies. BI merged with P&O in 1914 but operated under its own identity until 1972. Illustrated with many colour pictures but few relating to BI. One such is this painting of Karoa in BI's earlier livery. 240 pages.


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