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UNION-CASTLE MAIL STEAMSHIP CO.
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KENILWORTH CASTLE (2) was built in 1904 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast with a tonnage of 12275grt, a length of 570ft 2in, a beam of 64ft 8in and a service speed of 17.5 knots. Sister of the Armadale Castle she entered service in May 1904 and in August 1914 she was requisitioned by the Admiralty for troopship duties. On 4th June 1918 she was proceeding up the English Channel in convoy when she was in collision with the destroyer HMS Rival. A number of the destroyer's depth charges went overboard and exploded under the stern of the Kenilworth Castle but she managed to limp safely into Plymouth. Fifteen men were drowned when two lifeboats were swamped. In 1919 she was quarantined for three weeks in Table Bay due to an influenza epidemic in South Africa. She was broken up in 1936. (Photo1: from UCPSC 22/143 Photo2: from late Mrs M L Norrish)

CLUNY CASTLE (3) was built in 1903 by Barclay, Curle & Co. at Glasgow with a tonnage of 5147grt, a length of 419ft 1in, a beam of 50ft 2in and a service speed of 12 knots. Sister of the Comrie Castle she was used as an extra steamer when she entered service in September 1903 operating through to Mauritius where she generally loaded sugar. Both vessels were noted for their 'cork-screwing' in a head sea and were the only passenger ships built for the company without any rake. In 1924 she was transferred to the company's subsidiary company Bullard, King & Co's Natal Line and renamed Umkuzi and given a taller funnel. She was finally broken up in 1939.
(Photo: Ship Society of South Africa)

COMRIE CASTLE was built in 1903 by Barclay, Curle & Co. at Glasgow with a tonnage of 5167grt, a length of 419ft 1in, a beam of 50ft 2in and a service speed of 12 knots. Sister of the Cluny Castle she shared the same peculiarities and was similarly employed as an extra steamer operating through to Mauritius. During the First World War she spent most of her time operating as a troopship. In 1924 she was transferred to the company's subsidiary company Bullard, King & Co's Natal Line and renamed Umvoti. During 1940 she was requisitioned by the Admiralty and sunk as a block ship in Folkestone Harbour, the wreck was removed in 1943 in preparation for 'D' day.

DOVER CASTLE (2) was built in 1904 by Barclay, Curle & Co. at Glasgow with a tonnage of 8271grt, a length of 476ft 5in, a beam of 56ft 8in and a service speed of 14 knots. She was built for the Intermediate service but in 1910 was transferred to the London-Cape-Mombasa run. On 11th August 1915 she was commissioned as a hospital ship for 607 patients plus cots. Two years later, on 17th May 1917, she was torpedoed by UC-67 north of Bone in the Mediterranean whilst on a voyage from Bone-Malta-Gibraltar. All 632 patients were saved with most of them being transferred to the British India hospital ship Karapara. The wallowing derelict was then sunk by a torpedo fired from an escorting vessel. (Photo: UCPSC 14/20)

DUNLUCE CASTLE (2) was built in 1904 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast with a tonnage of 8114grt, a length of 475ft 5in, a beam of 56ft 8in and a service speed of 14 knots. Sister of the Dover Castle she was built for the Intermediate service and in January 1910 undertook the first London-Cape-Delgoa Bay- Mombasa sailing. In August 1914 she became a troopship and took part in the famous six ship Union-Castle convoy which brought 4000 troops to Europe. She was commissioned as a hospital ship for 755 patients on 6th July 1915 and at Gallipoli and Mudros acted as transfer ship to White Star's Britannic before going to East Africa for duty with the Indian Government. In 1916 she was back in the Mediterranean for service which included voyages from the Adriatic to North Africa with wounded Serbs. On 23rd February 1917 she was stopped by a U-boat and after checking that she was complying with the Hague Convention was allowed to proceed. She returned to commercial service on 2nd April 1919 and resumed her original run until 1931 when she was transferred to the Round Africa service. In July 1939 she was sold for breaking up but acquired by the Admiralty for use as an accommodation ship for small vessels first in the River Humber and then at Scapa Flow. She was finally broken up by Thos.W. Ward and Inverkeithing in 1945.

DURHAM CASTLE was built in 1904 by Fairfield Ship Building & Engineering Co. at Glasgow with a tonnage of 8217grt, a length of 475ft 5in, a beam of 56ft 8in and a service speed of 14 knots. Sister of the Dover Castle she was initially deployed as an Intermediate steamship but was transferred to the Cape - Mombasa run in 1910. During the First World War she remained on commercial service but often acted as a troopship on the northbound passage.. In 1931 she was deployed on the East Africa via the Suez Canal service and in 1939 was put up for disposal after being replaced by the Pretoria Castle and was acquired by the Admiralty for war service. On 26th January 1940, while being towed to Scapa Flow for use as a base accommodation ship, she was mined off Cromarty. The German U-boat U-57 claimed her as her victim and as the Durham Castle was clear of the British mine fields the claim is probably correct. (Photo: UCPSC 16/139)

HELIUS was built in 1888 by Fairfield Ship Building & Engineering Co. at Glasgow with a tonnage of 4579grt, a length of 390ft 6in, a beam of 46ft 8in and a service speed of 10 knots. She was built as the Dresden for Norddeutscher Lloyd of Bremen as the first of eight passenger-cargo liners. In 1903 she was sold to R. P. Houston & Co. for their South American cargo-passenger service to South America and renamed Helius. She was acquired by Union-Castle as a reserve steamer in 1904 and laid up at Netley. However, after the end of the Boer War an 1902 there was a surplus of tonnage to South Africa and she was no longer required. Consequently, she was sold to the Turkish Government in 1906 and renamed Tirimujghian. On 6th November 1914 she was sunk by Russian forces in the Black Sea.

STORK was built in 1905 by Hawthorn & Co. at Leith with a tonnage of 278grt, a length of 115ft 7in, a beam of 24ft 1in and a service speed of 8 knots. She was built to replace the Midge as the tender at East London carrying passengers and their baggage from the mail ships lying in the roadstead. Because of the heavy swell the gangway could not be used so large baskets were swung over the side and onto the tender by the ship's derricks. Sold in 1942 to the South African Government she remained with them for about ten years before she was broken up.

HANSA was built in 1904 by A.G. 'Neptun' at Rostock with a tonnage of 880grt, a length of 215ft, a beam of 30ft 7in and a service speed of 9 knots. She was built for Donald Currie's Liverpool to Hamburg Line and transferred to Union-Castle in 1907 where she operated the Hamburg - Bremen - Southampton feeder service with the Eider. In 1937 she was sold to Jack Billmeir and renamed Stanray. Billmeir purchased 23 elderly ships to trade to Spain and the Mediterranean during the Spanish Civil War (17th July 1936 until April 1939). More often than not they were loaded for one voyage with pre-paid supplies for the Republican War Zone in Spain. On 9th June 1937 the Hansa was machine gunned by aircraft during the approach to Valencia without any casualties and broken up in Belgium during 1938.

BALMORAL CASTLE (2) was built in 1910 by Fairfield Ship Building & Engineering Co. at Glasgow with a tonnage of 13361grt, a length of 570ft, a beam of 64ft 6in and a service speed of 14 knots. Sister of the Edinburgh Castle she was based on the Walmer Castle but without a break in the after superstructure. When she made her maiden mail voyage in February 1910 she completed the run in 16.5 days. In October of the same year, acting as a royal yacht with a white hull and yellow funnels, she carried the Duke and Duchess of Connaught to South Africa for the opening of Parliament. She was requisitioned as a troopship on the northbound voyages in 1914 but continued to maintain the mail service. Between March and May 1915 she trooped to Gallipoli landing them on 23rd April. Following the Armistice in 1918 she repatriated US and Australian troops. In 1919 she made to voyages between Liverpool and New York for Cunard before returning to service with Union-Castle. She was broken up at Newport, Monmouthshire in June 1939. (Photo: UCPSC 08/112)

EDINBURGH CASTLE (2) was built in 1910 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast with a tonnage of 13362grt, a length of 570ft, a beam of 64ft 5in and a service speed of 14 knots. Sister of the Balmoral Castle she was the last of a group of almost identical ships and replaced the Norman. On 14th August 1914 sailed from Cape Town with mail and government only passengers to Gibraltar where she embarked troops before being escorted to England by HMS Minerva. She was then taken over as an auxiliary cruiser for the South Atlantic patrol and in January 1915 sailed from Devonport for South Africa with White Star's Ceramic to hunt for the German ships Karlsruhe and Kronprins Wilhelm. In 1918 served in the North Atlantic on convoy work. She resumed commercial operations in 1919 after a refit and during that year carried General Smuts back to South Africa. She was withdrawn from service in 1938 and laid up at Netley until she was bought by the Admiralty for use as an accommodation ship in Freetown, Sierra Leone for Naval personnel and survivors of sunken ships. In 1945, as towing back to England would not be cost effective, she was towed 60 miles out to sea by the tug Empire Lawn and sunk by gunfire and depth charges from the armed trawler Cape Warwick, HMS Porchester Castle and HMS Launceston Castle.

FIREFLY was a launch built in 1910 for use at Cape Town and transported there by the Dunluce Castle.

GLOWORM was a sister of the Firefly also built in 1910 for use at Mombasa. She was sold by the company in 1920.

GRANTULLY CASTLE (2) was built in 1910 by Barclay, Curle & Co. at Glasgow with a tonnage of 7612grt, a length of 450ft 7in, a beam of 54ft 4in and a service speed of 13 knots. Together with her sister, the Garth Castle, she was one of the last pair ordered under the personal supervision of Sir Donald Currie who died on 23rd April 1909 at the age of 83. One of five ships built for the Intermediate trade she was given a 'G' name to replace the ex-Union 'G' class but the class was never as popular as the 'D' class ships. In January 1915 she was being used as a troopship and while at Mudros during the Gallipoli campaign, in company with the Alnwick Castle, and Balmoral Castle, was held for five weeks from 18th March when the troops, because of mines, were unable to force the Dardanelles straits until 23rd April when they eventually landed to oppose a re-inforced Turkish army. She left the Dardanelles on 1st May 1915 for Malta where she was commissioned as a hospital ship with 552 beds. She reverted to Union-Castle on 11th March 1919 and served for a further 20 years before being broken up in 1939.
(Photo: UCPSC 13/134)

GARTH CASTLE (2) was built in 1910 by Barclay, Curle & Co. at Glasgow with a tonnage of 7612grt, a length of 452ft 7in, a beam of 54ft 4in and a service speed of 13 knots. Sister of the Grantully Castle she spent most of her career on the Intermediate service. In 1915 she was requisitioned by the Royal Navy for use as a supply ship and moving naval personnel to places like Scapa Flow where they would join their ships. She was later used as a hospital ship and on 24th June 1917, during a fleet inspection, the surgeons and nursing staff were presented to HM King George V. She was broken up in 1939 (Photo: UCPSC 05/139)

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