Stamps and Postal History of the German Marshall Islands
The German Postal Steamer Germania

by Dirk H.R. Spennemann

The Germania was a steel screw steamship of 1096 tons, purpose-built for the Jaluit Gesellschaft to serve as an island passenger vessel and trader in tropical conditions. It was built in 1904 by Friedrich Krupp AG on the Germania Werft at Kiel, Germany. The Jaluit Gesellschaft had ordered the vessel as replacement for the inadequate and the damaged Oceana.

The Germania commenced sea-trials on 12 September 1904, which were brief but intenisve, as the vessel was to depart as soon as possible to the Pacific. A departure in late September was envisaged, as the reguar service was to recommence on 9 December. [1] The Germania was fitted with three life boats and a gig. On the bridge deck the ship had ten twin-cabins. In addition provisions were made for 12 second class passengers and 50 passengers on deck. A dining room was on the bridge deck, and a smoking salon on the rear. Contemporary accounts mention that the dining room was decorated with three paintings, one each of Hongkong, Sydney and Jaluit. [2] To satify the requirements of the postal service, one cabin was designed and to serve as a ship's postoffice and fitted out accordingly. [3]


The Germania, call sign RNGL, commenced its regular steamer service on on 9 December 1904, departing Hongkong for Sydney (see timetable for voyages 1 to 20). From the on she was operated on the Sydney-Hongkong route, making about three round trips a year. The Germania completed her maiden voyage from Hongkong when she reached Sydney on 24 January 1905.[4] The service was terminated with voyage no. 57 (see timetable for voyages 54 to 61) when the Germania was requisitioned in Sydney in the first days of World War I. The ship was then leased to the main competitor of the Jaluit Gesellschaft, Burns Philp & Co.(see below).


The Jaluit Gesellschaft utilised the Germania both for the required mail steam service in the islands, and for The Germania survived several typhoons, such as the one which struck Jaluit on 30 June 1905. On her last voyage under German flag she went through the eye of a typhoon in the Caroline Islands. The life boats had been smashed and the bilge clogged with ashes from the flooded stokehold.[8] She arrived on 30 July 1914 in Sydney. [9] Before the necessary repairs could be carried out, however, she was overtaken by the outbreak of World War I and interned by the Australian Government. The officers and crew were subjceted to anti-German sentiment at th wharf and the German flag pulled down, cut up and stolen. [11] On the 4th of August 1914 Germania was requisitioned by the Australian government and became part of the Commonwealth fleet of steamers.[12] Repairs were stopped on August 5th. [13]


Captain Flügel <1909–April 1910
Captain Jepien May 1910–
Captain Jansen ?–August 1914

The Germania in Chuuk Lagoon (about 1907?).
Other images of the Germania can be found here.

The house flag of the Jaluit Gesellschaft

Related sources:
Timetable of voyages 1 to 20 (1904-1908)
Timetable of voyages 54 to 61 (1913-1915)
Route map for 1904
Route map for 1913
Passage costs on the Germania in 1913


Burns Philp

The outbreak of World War I on 1 August 1914 caught the Germania in Sydney. The Australian Commonwealth government quickly requisitioned the vessel and registered it in London. The vessel remained idle in Sydney Harbour, first in Johnston's Bay ("Kerosone Bay') for about three months, [17] and then behind Garden Island. The Australian trading company Burns Philp required a replacement vessel for the damaged Marsina. The vessel was chartered to Burns Philp on a 'bare boat' basis as an island trader. It is ironic, but also indicative of the value of the vessel, that Burns Philp, the major competitor of the Jaluit Gesellschaft on the Marshalls and Gilberts copra trade, should charter the ship. It saw service with that company from 27 February 1915. Sometime between 8 and 15 October 1915 the vessel's name was changed from Germania to Mawatta.[18]

It's trading routes were mainly the Sydney to Rabaul run, but also runs to the Burns Philp stations on Papua New Guinea, Nauru, Ocean Island and the then Gilbert and Ellice Islands (Kiribati and Tuvalu). It seems that at least one voyage was also made back to Marshall Islands, then already under Japanese occupation. Some time after 1918 the vessel was laid up for major overhaul. The Mawatta made its final voyage for Burns Philp in June 1920 and was handed back to the Australian Government on 27 July 1920. Durng one of the voyages for Burn Philp big seas breaking over the ship also flooded the passenger compartments as had occurred on an earlier occasion.[19]


Captain Donalson February–April 1915
Captain McLeod April–?
Captain Handley
Captain Donalson
Captain Brown ? –4 January 1917
Captain Griffiths 4 January 1917–April 1918
Captain D.J. Williams April 1918–23 August 1918
Captain Griffiths 23 August 1918–? [21]


Patrick Steamships

James Patrick had commenced a shipping business in 1919. Among other vesels, he acquired from Burns Philp the Induna, an island trading vessel well known in the Marshall Islands. Expanding his fleet, on 5 October 1920 James R. Patrick chartered the Mawatta from the Commonwealth Government for a coastal cargo service. In October 1923 to the newly formed Patrick Steamships Ltd. continues to charter the Mawatta from the Commonwealth government.[22] On May 1925 the vessel was bought by James R. Patrick and its registration was transferred from London to Sydney. In August 1925 the ship was sold internally and went to James Patrick & Co. Ltd.[23] The ship was refurbished at the Cockatoo Island dockyard (Sydney) in 1926, with a new midship section.[24]


Captain J. Allison 5 October 1920–?
Captain XXX
Captain XXX
Captain XXX
Captain XXX


Société de Tour des Côtes

On 18 July 1928 James R. Patrick sold the Mawatta to the Noumea (New Caledonia) based company Société de Tour des Côtes, which registered the vessel in Noumea. Their normal vessel, the Saint Antione had been wrecked and a replacement for the coastal cargo and passenger service was required. The Mawatta spent most of her service in New Caledonian waters, with occasional visits to Sydney for overhaul.[28]


Mollers Towages

In 1937 Société de Tour des Côtes sold the Mawatta, which had become to old and expensive to run, to Moller & Co of Hongkong. The MawattaElsie Moller, and in 1938 internally transferred to Mollers Towage Ltd., based in Shanghai. With the start of the Pacific War in 1941, the British Ministry of War transport requisitioned the Elsie Moller on 3 December 1941 and dispatched her to Hongkong on the 5th of the same month.[29]


Japanese Navy

On 8 December 1941 the vessel was captured by the Japanese Navy south of Amoy. Renamed Esashi Maru it was used for naval salvage duties.[31] The vessel was sunk in the later stages of World War II. Raised after the war it was unfit for further use and broken up. It is unclear when the ship was sunk. Accoding to one source, AK Esashi Maru, was sunk on 19 November 1944 16 nm NW of San Fernando, Luzon (16°50N, 120°08E) by aircraft of Task Force 38. The vessel was part of convoy.[32] According to another source the Esashi Maru was sunk on 29 March 1945. Whiel recovered in August 1945 it was deemed too badly damaged and was broken up. [33]

Technical Data

Name: Germania (1904-1915)
Mawatta (1915-1937)
Elsie Moller (1937-1941)
Esashi Maru (1941-1945)
Reg No:ON139034
Displacement:1096 GRT
Length overall:64 (210.6 feet)
Breadth: 9.95 (32.7 feet)
Height: 5.13
Draught: 4.57 (14.6 feet)
Passengers:20 (cabin 1st class)>br>12 (cabin 2nd class)
50 (deck)
Range: 539 nm
Engine: Triple expansion steam engine
Power:156 NHP
Speed:11 1/4 knots


This history has been compiled from the following sources:
  • Australian Register of British Ships (microfilm copy) Official number of ship 139034.
  • Jaluit Gesellschaft. (1904). "Fahrplan des Postdampfers "Germania" zwischen HongKong, den Marianen, Karolinen-, Marshall-Inseln u. Sydney. Deutsches Kolonialblatt vol. 15, pp. 716-717.
  • Jaluit Gesellschaft. (1906). "Fahrplan des Postdampfers "Germania" zwischen HongKong, den Marianen, Karolinen-, Marshall-Inseln und SydneyDeutsches Kolonialblatt vol. 17, pp. 58-59.
  • Anon. (1904). "Probefahrt des neuerbauten Dampfers 'Germania' der Jaluit-Gesellschaft." Deutsches Kolonialblatt vol. 15, p. 594.
  • Wilkinson, B.A. & Willson, R.K. (1981) The Main Line Fleet of Burns Philp. Canberra: The Nautical Association of Australia.
  • Anderson, Peter L. (1986) James Patrick. An Australian Adventure. Report held by Company History files, Patrick Stevedores, Sydney.
  • Nicholson, Peter ("Twin Screw") (1973) James Parick & Co. Pty Ltd. The Log pp. 37-44.
  • 'Shipping.' Sydney Morning Herald 25 January 1905, p. 12.
  • 'Shipping.' Sydney Morning Herald 31 July 1914, p. 10.
  • 'Typhoon. Germania's exciting time. A much buffeted craft. Sydney Morning Herald 31 July 1914, p. 9.
  • 'German Steamers. Moving to Kerosone Bay.' Sydney Morning Herald 7 August 1914, p. 10.
  • 'War Fever.' German flag torn down on S.S. Germania. Sydney Morning Herald 6 August 1914, p. 10.

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    Bibliographic citation for this document

    Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (2002). The German Postal Steamer Germania (1904-1945). .
    URL: http:/

    Dirk H.R. Spennemann, Institute of Land, Water and Society, Charles Sturt University, P.O.Box 789, Albury NSW 2640, Australia.

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