Le paquebot SS Rawalpindi est le sister-ship du SS Ranchi. Il aurait été pris comme modèle par Hergé pour le paquebot figurant dans Tintin et le lotus bleu.
HMS Rawalpindi started life as a 16,695 registered tons P. and O. Steam Navigation Co. Ltd, built by Hawthorn Leslie and Co. at Newcastle Upon Tyne, England and launched on 26th of march 1925. She sailed on a regular route between England and Bombay, India. She was requisitioned by the Admiralty on 26 August 1939 and converted to an armed merchant cruiser by the addition of eight 6 in (150 mm) guns and two 3 in (76 mm) guns and set to work from October in the Northern Patrol covering the area around Iceland. While patrolling north of the Faroe Islands on 23 November 1939, she investigated a possible enemy sighting, only to find that she had encountered two of the most powerful German warships, the battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau trying to break out through the GIUK gap into the Atlantic. Rawalpindi was able to signal the German ships' location back to base. Despite being hopelessly outgunned, 60-year old Captain Edward Coverley Kennedy RN of Rawalpindi decided to fight, rather than surrender as demanded by the Germans. He was heard to say "We will fight them both, they will sink us, and that will be that. Good-bye". The German warships sank Rawalpindi within 40 minutes. 238 men died, including Captain Kennedy. Thirty-seven men were rescued by the German ships, and a further 11 were picked up by HMS Chitral (another converted passenger ship). Thanks to the actions of Rawalpindi, the German attempt to break out into the Atlantic was foiled. Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were forced to return to base in order to avoid interception by the British Home Fleet.
Rawalpindi was one of the P and O 'R' class liners from 1925 that had the much of their interiors designed by Lord Inchcape's daughter Elsie Mackay. These 'R' class were the first P and O ships with facilities for carrying refrigerated stores. She could carry 307 First Class and 288 Second Class passengers. Her sister ships SS Ranchi, Ranpura and Rajputana were also converted to armed merchant cruisers. Rajputana was torpedoed by U-108 in the Denmark Strait and sunk on 13 April 1941.
In 1845 P&O services were extended to Singapore and the Far East and in 1852 they started a bi-monthly Singapore to Australia service. Southampton - Capetown - Australia sailings were started in 1853 and the opening of Suez Canal in 1869 shortened the journey times considerably.
The fleet and goodwill of the Blue Anchor Line was purchased in 1910 and the P and O Branch Line was formed to cover the Australian service. In 1914, the Australasian United Steam Navigation Company was acquired and amalgamation took place between P and O and the British India Steam Navigation Company. The New Zealand Shipping Company, together with the Federal Line, was acquired in 1916. In 1917 the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand joined the P and O Group, and the Nourse Line and Hain Steam Ship Company were also acquired.
Controlling interest in the Orient Line was acquired in 1919, along with the British India Steam Navigation Company and control of the Eastern and Australasian Mail Steam Ship Company, which therefore became part of the P and O group. In 1920 P and O purchased the General Steam Navigation Company and in 1935, Moss-Hutchinson Line was purchased. The Trans-Pacific service was formed in 1958 and named the Orient and Pacific Line (Sydney - Auckland - Suva - Honolulu - Vancouver - San Francisco). In 1960 the P and O-Orient Line was formed, and the Orient and Pacific Line name was dropped. The P and O General Cargo division was formed in 1971 to operate all subsidiary companies cargo ships as one fleet. In 1972 the Strick Line was purchased and in 1974, Princess Cruises was purchased.