Matt Smith's End of the Spectrum

Melbourne-based writer and journalist. Purveyor of finally crafted radio plays. A Muppet of a man.

Postcards from yesterday: MS Skaubryn

I’ve found a few old postcards recently, and they give a great glimpse into a moment in history. Most of them prompt questions that I’ll never know the answer to, but I found them interesting and I hope others out there will feel the same.


This postcard shows the MS Skaubryn. It was a Norwegian passenger ship launched in 1950, and it mostly sailed between Europe and Australia. At full capacity it held more than 1,200 passengers. In 1958 it caught fire and sank in the Indian Ocean, with all safely evacuated.

While in service it made four or five trips to Australia every year. It was one of a number of ships that took part in the post World War II migration, which saw around a million people a decade travel to the other side of the planet for a new life. While the bulk of immigrants arriving in Australia were British, there were a sizable number of Italians, Greeks and Germans making the journey across as well.


The postcard has a postmark from Bremen in Germany, 1956. The names on the postcard appear to be Croatian, and it was sent to Yugoslavia, now on the border of Croatia and Serbia. The person who helped me with the translation tells me that the grammar isn’t fantastic and it’s been written in a hurry. It says:

I’m writing to tell you that I’m leaving Bremen on the 30th of June on the boat to Australia. The trip is going to take 36 days, ill let you know when I arrive. Farewell to Josip, Andro, Kristina (some names illegible) too little room ( on the postcard) and time. Wish those who are staying all the best before leaving Europe. Excuse my writing. Send regards to all the friends and others at home, all the best. Farewell, Kovac and Kapes. V

The postcard was mailed two days before departure. From Germany the Skaubryn generally went to Southhamptom to pick up Scandinavian and English passengers, then on to Malta, and then Port Said. It would have arrived in Australia in the middle of winter, stopping off at Perth and Melbourne before finally arriving in Sydney.

So why did this particular postcard come into my possession? I bought it for my mother-in-law for her birthday this year. She was a passenger on the Skaubryn in 1956 when she came to Australia from Malta at the age of eight with her mother and sister, possibly on the same voyage as Kovac and Kapes. Her father and brothers had emigrated over in previous years in order to establish the family – it was common for this to happen, and the separation could last for years (which it did in this case).

She was one of around 80,000 Maltese that emigrated to Australia. In the twenty years following the war about thirty percent of the population left, most of those travelling to either Australia or the United States.


5 comments on “Postcards from yesterday: MS Skaubryn

  1. Fractions of the world
    March 26, 2013

    Hey Matt, I have nominated your blog for a Liebster Award! No strings attached 😉 Details here:

  2. mike
    February 1, 2014

    Very nice story. I was on that ship in 1957. I came from Southhampton to Montreal. It would be nice to chat with others about our memories. I often wonder where everyone ended up.

  3. Garry Feige
    October 31, 2014

    My dad come to Australia in 1952 on the Skaubryn from Germany with a German building firm called Wender and Duirhalt

  4. kessa1959
    April 12, 2015

    Thanks for the information. My dad came to Australia from Germany on the Skaubryn in 1951 as he was contracted to work on he Snowy Mountain Scheme

  5. Ben Wind
    April 26, 2015

    After leaving Rotterdam on my 19th birthday March 22/52 on the skaubryn and arriving in Halifax April 1/52.
    Went by train to Nobleford-Alberta where we started our Canadian way of life.

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This entry was posted on March 17, 2013 by in history and tagged , , , , , , , .
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