Unlike Serapis and her equally celebrated sisters, all of which were familiar to troops travelling to and from India, Orontes was ordered for use elsewhere in the world, principally Southern Africa and the West Indies.
Designed by the Controller of the Navy and built by Lairds at Birkenhead, Orontes was launched on 22nd November 1862 and completed in March the following year. Displacing 4,857 tons and measuring 300 feet in length with a 44½ foot beam, she carried a token armament of 3-4pounder guns and was painted in the distinctive white livery reserved for troop transports. First commissioned in 1863, she gave thirty years of reliable service during which she carried countless regiments to the four corners of the British Empire and gained the affection of many who travelled in her. Finally worn out by generations of troops, she was scrapped on the Thames in 1893, her most memorable voyage being in 1879 when she was selected to bring home to England for burial the body of the Prince Imperial [son of the exiled French Empress Eugenie] who had been killed in South Africa in the Zulu War.