Built in 1913 for the Adelaide Steamship Company, the 411-foot Willochra served as a troopship during World War I and was sold to Furness Withy in 1919, refitted and renamed Fort Victoria. Initially operated by the Quebec Steamship Company, she was transferred to the Bermuda & West Indies Steamship Company in 1921. Both companies were owned by Furness Whithy.
On December 18th 1929, Fort Victoria left New York Harbour for Bermuda with 269 passengers and 165 crew members on board. In dense fog, Fort Victoria anchored off Sandy Hook Light at the entrance to the Hudson River to await better weather conditions, when she was hit by the SS Algonquin. All on board Fort Victoria were rescued before the ship sank later that day.
The youngest passenger on board was 3-month old Warren Brown, later to become one of Bermuda’s best-known sailors, setting the fastest time in the Marion-Bermuda Race and sailing over 200,000 miles in his 61-foot sloop War Baby.
The Fort Victoria lay on her side in the middle of the shipping lane for over a year. Using 25 tons of dynamite she was finally demolished and dragged to a clearance of 50 feet of water. What is left of her now is completely buried in the muddy bottom.
To replace the Fort Victoria, Furness Whithy contracted with the Vickers-Armstrong shipyard to build the SS Monarch of Bermuda, which entered service in 1933.
Rambling Notes of a Bermuda Philatelist published in December 2023 and is available at bookstores island-wide.