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UNION-CASTLE MAIL STEAMSHIP CO.
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CAPETOWN CASTLE was built in 1938 by Harland & Wolff in Belfast with a tonnage of 27000grt, a length of 734ft, a beam of 82ft 6in and a service speed of 22.5 knots. She was launched by Mrs J.D. Low, the Mayoress of Cape Town, and the name of the city was bestowed as one word to conform with the policy of naming the ships after fictional South African castles. Based on the Stirling Castle specification, but with more enclosed superstructure to provide more outside cabins, she was the longest motorship in the world and joined the fleet to operate a faster eight ship mail service. When war broke out on 3rd September 1939 she was at Port Elizabeth and continued in commercial service until 1940 when she was requisitioned for use as a troopship. During 1943 she trooped between the USA and the UK as part of Operation Bolero, the build up for D-Day. After carrying some 164,000 troops and sailing 484,000 miles she returned to Union-Castle in 1946 and was refurbished at Belfast where her original fittings had been stored in complete safety. She was the company's first ship to return to post-war service, sailing from Southampton on 9th January 1947. On 17th October 1960 a compressor exploded in the engine room, disabling the ship, which was near Las Palmas, and killing seven persons. The passengers were transferred to other ships and she eventually returned to Belfast where she was repaired; the Braemar Castle temporarily replacing her. In 1965 £100,000 worth of gold ingots were stolen from the bullion room but were found cemented in a hold during the following voyage. Two members of the crew were subsequently imprisoned for the theft. On 26th September 1967 she arrived at La Spezia for breaking up by Terrestre Marittima having been replaced by the Southampton Castle and Good Hope Castle.
(Photo: UCPSC 22/146)

ROWALLAN CASTLE (2) was built in 1943 by Harland & Wolff in Belfast with a tonnage of 7950grt, a length of 474ft 2in, a beam of 63ft 3in and a service speed of 16 knots. She was finally delivered on 24th April 1942 after waiting for engines to be installed. Being a relatively fast ship she was deployed on the refrigerated food run between South Africa and the UK, operating independently of convoys. She was heavily armed, especially against air attack and fitted with paravanes on forward booms as a defence against mines. In 1945, after the war she made several fruit runs to the USA. After a further twenty six years service she was sold to Sheyh Sheng Steel & Iron Works of Taiwan in 1971 and arrived at Kaohsiung on 2nd September of that year for breaking up. (Photo: Union-Castle Line)

RICHMOND CASTLE (2) was built in 1944 by Harland & Wolff in Belfast with a tonnage of 7971grt, a length of 474ft 2in, a beam of 63ft 3in and a service speed of 16 knots. Sister of the Rowallan Castle she was delivered on 28th September 1944 and operated on the refrigerated fruit run until 1971 when she was sold to Chinese shipbreakers for £146,280 and arrived at Shanghai on 27th August 1971. (Photo: A. Duncan)


ROXBURGH CASTLE (2) was built in 1945 by Harland & Wolff in Belfast with a tonnage of 8003grt, a length of 474ft 2in, a beam of 63ft 3in and a service speed of 16 knots. The second sister of the Rowallan Castle she was delivered on 14th February 1945 and operated on the refrigerated fruit run between South African and the United Kingdom. She was sold to Chinese shipbreakers in 1971 for £146,000 and arrived in Shanghai on 19th July of that year. (Photo: World Ship Photo Library)

DRAKENSBURG CASTLE was built in 1945 by J & L Thompson & Sons in Sunderland with a tonnage of 9905grt, a length of 500ft 4in, a beam of 64ft 1in and a service speed of 14.5 knots. She was built for the Ministry of War Transport as the Empire Allenby, one of the Empire Rawlinson class of fast ships. The officers accommodation was amidships and the ratings were housed aft in the poop. Nobody was berthed in the forecastle because of mines. She was acquired by Union- Castle in 1946 under the Government's Ship Disposal scheme and became the Drakensburg Castle with a black hull. With her sisters she was deployed on the USA - South Africa run but, because she was faster than the service required, was expensive to operate. She was not suitable for tramping operations either so finished up having a shorter than normal working life. In July 1947 she was transferred to South African registry and by the late 1950's was operating a general cargo service round Africa. On 5th August 1959 she arrived at Hong Kong where she was broken up. (Photo: UCPSC 02/182)

GOOD HOPE CASTLE (1) was built in 1945 by Caledon Ship Building & Engineering Co. in Dundee with a tonnage of 9905grt, a length of 497ft 6in, a beam of 64ft 5in and a service speed of 14.5 knots. She was delivered to the Ministry of War Transport on 5th April 1945 as the Empire Life with T & J Harrison as managers. On 9th January 1946 she had to put into Valetta, Malta for repairs after shedding a propeller blade. She was acquired by Union-Castle in March of the same year and given the name Good Hope Castle and a black hull. On 14th July 1947 she became the first Union-Castle vessel to be transferred to South African registry. In August 1959 she arrived in Hong Kong at about the same time as the Drakensburg Castle where she was broken up. (Photo: UCPSC 01/170)

KENILWORTH CASTLE (3) was built in 1944 by Chas Connell & Co. in Glasgow with a tonnage of 9916grt, a length of 497ft 6in, a beam of 64ft 5in and a service speed of 14.5 knots. She was built for the Ministry of War Transport as the Empire Wilson with Union-Castle as managers. Acquired by the company in 1946 she was renamed Kenilworth Castle and given a lavender grey hull and a short funnel. On 4th June 1968 she arrived at Hong Kong where she was broken up. (Photo: UCPSC 01/170)

RIEBEECK CASTLE was built in 1946 by Harland & Wolff in Belfast with a tonnage of 8322grt, a length of 474ft 2in, a beam of 63ft 4in and a service speed of 16 knots. She was delivered on 11th March 1945 to carry fruit from South Africa on the northbound voyage and general cargo on the southbound voyage. After a career which lasted 26 years she arrived at Kaohsiung on 2nd September 1971 where she was broken up. (Photo: UCPSC 02/182)

RUSTENBURG CASTLE was built in 1946 by Harland & Wolff in Belfast with a tonnage of 8322grt, a length of 474ft 2in, a beam of 63ft 4in and a service speed of 16 knots. Sister of the Riebeeck Castle she was delivered on 5th March 1946 to carry fruit from South Africa on the northbound voyage and general cargo on the southbound voyage. In 1971 she was sold to Chinese breakers for £147,500 and sailed on her final voyage from Singapore to Shanghai on 6th September 1971.
(Photo: C.H.Solomons)

BRAEMAR CASTLE (2) was built in 1943 by Short Bros in Sunderland with a tonnage of 7067grt, a length of 466ft 6in, a beam of 56ft 4in and a service speed of 12 knots. She was completed for the Ministry of War Transport as the Empire Duchess with Hugh Hogarth & Son as managers. On 7th August 1946 the management was transferred to Union-Castle who purchased her in 1949 and renamed her Braemar Castle. In 1950 she was transferred to King Line and renamed King James. She was sold to Cambay Prince S.S. Co. of Hong Kong in 1958 and renamed Tyne Breeze with John Manners & Co. as managers. Five years later she became the Cathay Trader for owner Cathay Trader Steam Ship Co. of Hong Kong and in the following year, 1964, was purchased by Pacific Pearl Navigation Co. of Hong Kong and renamed Pearl Light. In 1966 she became the Habib Marikar owned by Marikar Navigation & Agencies Ltd of Hong Kong. On 3rd November 1967 she suffered an engine failure while on a voyage from Hong Kong to Chittagong and went ashore on Lincoln Island in position 16.30N 112.50E becoming a total loss. (Photo: A Duncan)

PRETORIA CASTLE (2) was built in 1948 by Harland & Wolff in Belfast with a tonnage of 28705grt, a length of 747ft 4in, a beam of 84ft and a service speed of 22.5 knots. Costing £2,500,000 she was launched by Mrs Jan Smuts by telephone on 19th August 1947 as a replacement for the lost Windsor Castle. With her sister the Edinburgh Castle (3) she was an enlarged version of the Capetown Castle, the company's largest ships to date and propelled by steam. On 15th June 1953 she hosted Government guests at the Spithead Coronation Review and took part in the procession through the lines formed by 260 ships which was headed by Trinity House's Patricia, the then Royal Yacht HMS Surprise, followed by Orient Lines Orcades, Pretoria Castle, P&O's Strathnaver and British Rail ships carrying Admiralty staff. In 1962 she was refitted when the outward appearance was changed by altering the positions of the mast. She was sold on 1st January 1966 to the South African Marine Corporation (UK) Ltd and entered service with them on 2nd February as the S.A. Oranje with a new Safmarine livery but on the same route and with Union-Castle crews and management. Her registry was transferred to Cape Town on 17th March 1969. After 187 sailings and carrying over 250,000 passengers she arrived arrived at Kaohsuing on 2nd November 1975 to be broken up by Chin Tai Steel Enterprises. (Raphael Tuck postcard)

EDINBURGH CASTLE (3) was built in 1947 by Harland & Wolff in 1948 with a tonnage of 28705grt, a length of 747ft 4in, a beam of 84ft and a service speed of 22.5 knots. Sister of the Pretoria Castle she was built to replace the lost Warwick Castle and underwent the same refit in 1962. On 5th March 1976 she commenced her last passenger sailing from Southampton before undertaking a one-way cargo only voyage to the Far East where she was broken up at Kaohsiung by Chou's Iron & Steel Co. in the June of that year.

BLOEMFONTEIN CASTLE was built in 1950 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast with a tonnage of 18400grt, a length of 594ft 6in, a beam of 76ft 4in and a service speed of 18.5 knots. It was the company's intention to use her as an emigrant carrier to East Africa,and in particular Rhodesia, for the ill fated 'Ground Nut Scheme'. However, when in 1948, the South African government of Field Marshall Smuts was ousted by Dr Malan's Nationalist Party the traffic dried up when the new government cancelled the assisted passage scheme. Consequently, during the construction the plans were amended but she was always considered to be the 'odd man out' as far as the Union-Castle fleet was concerned. However, she entered service as the only one class ship until the Transvaal Castle, and operated from the London-Rotterdam-Cape-Beira route, the only vessel to do so. In the mid-afternoon of 8th January 1953 she rescued the 234 passengers and crew from the Klipfontein (Vereenigde Nederlands Maats) which had struck a rock and foundered five miles off Cape Barra near Inhambane whilst on route for Beira. Ironically, when the accident occured the Klipfontein was racing the Bloemfontein Castle for the only vacant berth at Beira. In August 1959 a newly joined crew member was arrested for his part in a jewel robbery. On 9th November 1959, being the odd man out, she became surplus to requirements and was sold to Chandris (England) Ltd and renamed Patris. After a refit at North Shields ownership changed to the National Greek Australia Line and she sailed for Australia where, by 1972, she was cruising out of Sydney and then operated on the Sydney-Singapore service. In February 1974 she became an Australian Federal Government accommodation ship for nine months after typhoon 'Tracy' had virtually destroyed Darwin in the Northern Territory. Returning to Greece in 1976 she was converted to carry 260 cars though large side-loading doors for the Venice-Ancona-Patras service. In 1980 she was sold to the Michail A. Karageorgis Group and renamed Mediterranean Island and in 1981 became the Mediteranean Star on the Piraeus-Alexandria run under the same owners but registered as Star Navigation Corp and was later transferred within the group to Consolidated Ocean Transports. She was sold to St. Vincent owners for breaking up and renamed Terra pro temps.

RHODESIA CASTLE was built in 1951 by Harland & Wolff in Belfast with a tonnage of 17041grt, a length of 576ft 5in, a beam of 74ft 3in and a service speed of 17.5 knots. Based on the Bloemfontein Castle design she was built for the Round Africa service and replaced the Llanstephan Castle. In 1958 she had her funnel heightened and a dome top fitted and after two cruises out of Southampton replaced the Dunnottar Castle. She was remodelled in 1960 to accommodate 442 one class passengers. On 4th May 1967 she was laid up in the River Blackwater prior to sailing to Kaohsiung for breaking up by Chin Ho Fa Steel & Iron Co.

KENYA CASTLE was built in 1951 by Harland & Wolff in Belfast with a tonnage of 17041grt, a length of 576ft 5in, a beam of 74ft 3in and a service speed of 17.5 knots. Sister of the Rhodesia Castle she was delivered at Southampton on 18th February 1952 but undertook a 14-day cruise to the Canary Islands before sailing on the London - Cape via Suez service. In 1958 she had her funnel re-modelled and in 1960 had her accommodation altered to cater for 442 One Class passengers. The British National Export Council considered her for an exhibition ship in 1966 but the idea came to nothing. On 22nd April 1967 she was laid up in the River Blackwater and was later sold to the Greek Chandris Line and renamed Amerikanis. Converted into a 920 passenger One Class ship she sailed on her maiden voyage for her new owner on 8th August 1968 from Pireaus - Messina - Naples - Lisbon - Halifax - New York. After three line voyages she cruised out of New York to the Caribbean during the following winter , an operating pattern that was repeated in 1969. In 1970 she was transferred to cruising only with a passenger complement of 617 and operating inexpensive 3, 4 and 7 day cruises out of US East coast ports and the Bahamas. She was replaced on the New York - Bermuda service by the newly built Horizon in 1989 and transferred to San Juan, Puerto Rica. Since 1996 she has been laid up in Greece and, although there were plans to use her as a floating hotel in London, she has been sold recently for breaking up in India.

BRAEMAR CASTLE (3) was built in 1952 by Harland & Wolff in Belfast with a tonnage of 17029grt, a length of 576ft 5in, a beam of 74ft 3in and a service speed of 17.5 knots. Sister of the Kenya Castle she commenced her maiden voyage on 22nd November on the Round Africa service via the Cape and Durban. Her passenger accommodation was remodelled in 1960 to 459 but her funnel was not altered like her sisters. In October 1960 she briefly replaced the Edinburgh Castle on the mail run while she underwent engine repairs. On 6th January 1966, after less than 14 years service, she arrived at Faslane for breaking up by Shipbuilding Industries. A combination of the increased popularity of air travel and Independence of the former African colonies reducing the transit of Europeans made her uneconomic and surplus to company requirements. From then on the service between East Africa and Europe was maintained by the British India Line's Uganda and Kenya and much of their time was spent carrying government officials. (Photo: UCPSC 05/182)

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