Third class passengers' contract ticket, P & O Australia via the Cape Service for the steam ship 'Benalla' leaving from the port of London to Sydney, Australia on 11 August 1927. The passengers named are Hugh Clement and Walter Biddleston.

Hugh, known as Clem, was born in September 1909 and lived near Nottingham in England. He was a coal miner but decided he wanted to join his brother Thomas in Australia after an accident in the pit when his horse was killed and he received wounds and a broken leg. He migrated with his younger brother Walter, sister Mary and his mother, Jane. His brother Thomas paid for their fares.

The journey lasted six and a half weeks coming round the Cape of South Africa. They stopped at Capetown and Clem recalls the line of 'coolies' carrying coal up and down the ship gangplank for three days. He also recalls entering a pub to be told that 'white people went through the other door' and only then noticing all the drinkers were black - he describes it as his first experience of apartheid. He celebrated his 18th birthday 'looking at a very, very calm Indian Ocean'.

Clem describes the ship as small and 'in rough weather we were tossed around but the most dangerous time was at night. The toilets were right at the stern below deck. So to go to the toilet we climbed some steps which brought us to the deck of the ship, from there we walked, ran and scuttled across the deck to go down more steps. There were nights when I stood guard at the top of the steps to let my family know when it was safe to streak across the deck to the toilet'.

Clem also recalls his first sight of Fremantle and says' When I stepped of the boat at Fremantle I knew that I was home, Australia was my home'. The family settled in Newcastle New South Wales, although his older brother Thomas, when he arrived in 1924 was billeted to a farm in Mirboo South Victoria. When the Depression hit in 1930 Thomas states that 'that was an excuse for me to roll my swag, jump the rattler and see the country. The Atherton Tablelands, Mt Isa, St George, what a life!!! and what a country'. Both Clem and Thomas joined the Australian army during World War II.

Physical Description

Blue foolscap ticket with extensive printed black text. The details have been filled in black ink.


This ticket represents a migration experience from the 1920s, which are difficult to acquire, and documents even more so. We have only one other ticket of passage from this time, this one coming with a better provenance. For this reason, while the donor landed and settled in NSW, it is a rare artefact for the collection and still represents the broader migration experience of the time, including those who landed in Melbourne. The story also provides a peek into the awful English coal mining conditions, the dangers and the use of young workers. It also demonstrates the adventurous spirit of many young migrants and the romance of one swaggie's life during the Depression.

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