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UNION STEAMSHIP COMPANY
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GASCON (1) was built in 1892 by Armstrong Mitchell & Co. at Newcastle with a tonnage of 5305grt, a length of 421ft, a beam of 47ft 10in and a service speed of 13 knots. She was launched as the Ruthenia for the City of Liverpool S.N. Co. managed by D & W MacIver. On 4th November 1892 she was renamed Mariposa when the company was sold to Ocean Transport Co., with Elder Dempster & Co. as managers, for their North Atlantic service. In 1894 she was chartered to the Atlantic Transport Co. of Liverpool for their Liverpool - Canada routes. and in 1895 was acquired by Union S.S. Co., subject to delivery at Liverpool, for their Intermediate cargo service and to be renamed Gascon. However, on 27th September 1895 she was wrecked on Forteau Point in the Gulf of St. Lawrence whilst en-route with general cargo and cattle from Montreal to Liverpool where she was to have been handed over. Consequently, in reality, she never served with the Union S.S. Co. fleet nor bore her intended name.

FALCON was built in 1896 with a tonnage of 41grt as the company tender at Southampton, replacing the Seagull. She joined the Union-Castle fleet following the merger, her brass funnel being given a red livery. In 1922 she was converted to petrol and with the funnel removed, looked like a launch. By 1942 she was no longer in service.

GASCON (2) was built in 1897 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast with a tonnage of 6287grt, a length of 430ft, a beam of 52ft 2in and a service speed of 12.5 knots. The first of three ships she was an improved Gaul Class ship with three masts and delivered for the Intermediate service which was, by then, strongly supported with further ships on order. She transferred to the Union-Castle fleet in March 1900 and in June 1905 was the first Union-Castle ship to call at the new port of Lobito in Angola which had a rail link to Elizabethville. In 1910 she was moved to the East Africa service and in August 1914 went on the mail run when the larger ships were requisitioned for war service. On 25th November of that year she was commissioned as a hospital ship with a capacity for 434 patients, her first task being to take the surviving wounded from HMS Pegasus, which had been sunk by the Koenigsburg on 20th September, back to Simonstown in South Africa. During 1915 she served in the German East African campaign and spent the remainder of the war in that area. She returned to Union-Castle on 15th February 1920 and was immediately refurbished and put back into service. In 1928 she was laid up in the East India Dock in London before being sold to Thos. W. Ward for scrapping. (Photo: from UCPSC 09/96)

GAIKA was built in 1897 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast with a tonnage of 6287grt, a length of 430ft, a beam of 52ft 2in and a service speed of 12.5 knots. Her career paralleled that of the Gascon with the exception that during the war years she remained defensively armed on the Africa service but under Government control, her accommodation being used mainly by Civil Servants. She returned to the Intermediate service in 1919. On 22 April 1922 she briefly ran aground near Green Point Lighthouse, Cape Town. In 1926, she was laid up in Southampton Water but did a trip to Mauritiusin 1927. The vessel was laid up in East India Dock, London in 1928 but sailed to Savona, Italy in 1929 for scrapping.
Union Castle had a practice until 1939, of keeping at least two older vessels "in reserve" usually off Netley, Southampton Water with a skeleton crew and in reasonable readiness, due to a very strict mail contract.

(Photo: from UCPSC 02/47)

GOORKHA was built in 1897 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast with a tonnage of 6287grt, a length of 430ft, a beam of 52ft 2in and a service speed of 12.5 knots. Sister of the Gascon (2) she was built for the Intermediate service and transferred to Union-Castle on 8th March 1900 when the companies merged. In 1910 she was moved to the East Africa service where she remained until 20th October 1914 when she was commissioned as a hospital ship with 408 beds. On 10th October 1917 she was mined off Malta and all 362 patients and medical staff including 17 nurses were evacuated without any casualties in 35 minutes. She was then towed into Malta where on 18th October she was decommissioned and returned to the company for repairs and resumption of commercial services. She was laid up at Netley, Southampton Water in 1926 and eventually broken up by Thos. W. Ward in 1928. (Photo: from UCPSC 08/63)

GERMAN (2) /GLENGORM CASTLE was built in 1898 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast with a tonnage of 6763grt, a length of 440ft, a beam of 53ft and a service speed of 12.5 knots. An enlarged sister of the Gascon (2) she was delivered as the German for the Intermediate service but on transferring to Union-Castle in 1900 served as a troopship during the Boer War. In August 1914 she was renamed Glengorm Castle following the outbreak of war with Germany and in the September was commissioned as a hospital ship with 423 beds. With British India's Vasna and Varela she was one of the last hospital ships to be decommissioned in 1921 when they were replaced by the permanent hospital ship Maine, formerly PSNC's Panama. She continued to operate as a troopship in the Far East until 1922-23 when she carried British peace-keeping troops to Turkey. Returning to Union-Castle in 1925 she served on the Intermediate service until 1930 when she was broken up in Holland. (Photo: from UCPSC 05/48)

GALEKA was built in 1899 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast with a tonnage of 6772grt, a length of 430ft, a beam of 52ft 2in and a service speed of 12.5 knots. Sister of the Gascon she was the last ship to enter service with the Union Steam Ship Company before the merger. In September 1914 she was requisitioned for troopship duties to France and on 22nd June 1915 began operating as a hospital ship with beds for 366 patients. On 28th October 1916 she was mined off Le Havre in heavy seas. As she was entering port from England there were no patients on board but 19 Royal Army Medical Corps personnel were killed by the explosion. Although she was beached at Cap la Hogue she became a total loss.

GALICIAN/GLENART CASTLE was built in 1900 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast with a tonnage of 6576grt, a length of 430ft, a beam of 52ft 2in and a service speed of 12.5 knots. During construction she was transferred to Union-Castle following the merger and was never registered as being owned by the Union Steamship Co. In December 1900, the last of the ten 'G's, went into service and in the same month went to Dakar to pick up passengers and mail from the disabled Dunottar Castle. On 15th August 1914 she was stopped and boarded by the Armed German Merchant Cruiser Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse south of Tenerife. After several anxious hours the commander of the German vessel, Max Reymann, signalled ' I will not destroy you because of the women and children aboard, Good-bye'. Two days later the German raider was sunk by HMS Highflyer. When the ship returned to Southampton she was diplomatically renamed Glenart Castle and became a hospital ship for 453 patients. In March 1915 she took part in the Gallipoli campaign and served in the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean during 1916. On 1st March 1917 in calm weather she struck a mine laid by UC-45 off the Owers Lightship between Le Havre and Southampton. All 520 sick and wounded were saved by destroyers and other ships in less than an hour before the Glenart Castle was towed to Portsmouth where she was repaired. On 26th February 1918, while travelling from Newport in South Wales to Brest, she was torpedoed and sunk by the German U-boat U-56 20 miles west of Lundy Island. Only 38 people survived out of a total crew an medical staff of 206. The picture is of a painting of the intermediate steamer. (Photo: from UCPSC 01/25)

SABINE was built in 1895 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast with a tonnage of 3809grt, a length of 371ft, a beam of 43ft 2in and a service speed of 9 knots. She was launched on 10th November 1894 as the Marino for Ocean Transport Co. with Elder Dempster & Co. as managers for deployment on their Liverpool to Canada run. She was acquired by the Union Steam Ship Co. in 1898 for their joint cargo service with Clan Line between Cape Town and New York and renamed Sabine. Joining the merged Union-Castle Line in 1900 she was placed on collier duties. In September 1909 she was chartered to the South African Government as part of an expedition to sail to the Antarctic in a desperate final attempt to find the Blue Anchor Line's Waratah which had left Durban on the previous 26th July bound for Cape Town and completely disappeared. It was believed that the Waratah had broken down and drifted out of the shipping lanes down to the ice shelf in the prevailing current. No trace of her was found and she returned to Cape Town on 7th December. In 1921 she was transferred to the associate company Bullard, King & Co. of London and renamed Umzinto. She was sold for scrap in June 1925, initially to a Dutch company but then to Cantieri Navali ed Acciaieria de Venezia and broken up at Venice.

SUSQUEHANNA was built in 1896 by Barclay, Curle & Co. at Glasgow with a tonnage of 3711grt, a length of 350ft, a beam of 45ft 4in and a service speed of 10 knots. With a profile similar to that of the Sabine she was completed for as the Mount Sephar for Smith & Service of Glasgow. She was acquired by the Union Steam Ship Co. in 1898 and renamed Susquehanna for their South Africa to USA service. As part of the Union-Castle line she was sold to Denaby Shipping & Commercial Co. of Southampton in 1921 and renamed London City. In 1922 her owners changed their name to Denaby & Cadeby Main Collieries Ltd and the London City was relegated to a coal depot ship at Brixham in Devon.

SANDUSKY was built in 1891 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast with a tonnage of 6315grt, a length of 430ft, a beam of 47ft and a service speed of 13 knots. She was launched on 31st October 1891 as the Ionia for the City of Liverpool Steam Navigation Co. with D & W MacIver as managers but as the company were taken over by Elder Dempster's Ocean Transport Co. during completion she entered service as the Montezuma employed on their North Atlantic services. During 1893 she was chartered to Atlantic Transport Co. for a short time before reverting to Elder Dempster's St Lawrence service for African Steamship Co. In July 1898 she was acquired by the Union Steam Ship Co., renamed Sandusky and employed on the South Africa to USA service which was referred to in South Africa as the Union-America Line. She was sold to Mississippi & Dominion Steam Ship Co. of Liverpool, with Richards, Mills & Co. as managers, and renamed Englishman in 1899. In 1915 she was taken over by the British & North Atlantic Steam Navigation Co's, Dominion Line. On 24th March 1916 she was sunk after being captured by U-34 30 miles north-east of Malin Head during a voyage from Avonmouth to Portland, Maine with 10 persons lost out of a total complement of 78.

BRITON (3) was built in 1897 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast with a tonnage of 10248grt, a length of 530ft 3in, a beam of 60ft 3in and a service speed of 17.5 knots. When she entered service she was first Union vessel to exceed 10000grt and the largest ship operating between Great Britain and any of her colonies. Only the Transatlantic liner were larger. In June 1898 she grounded on the Shambles at Portland Bill without incurring any serious damage. When the Boer War broke out in October 1899 she raced to Cape Town with 1500 troops to reinforce the stretched British garrisons in 15 days. On 8th March 1900 she transferred to Union-Castle ownership and when she sailed from Southampton on 31st March was the first Union ship to sport the new livery. In August 1914 she was one of six Union-Castle vessels in a troopship convoy carrying 4000 troops from Cape Town to Europe. The other vessels were Balmoral Castle, Dunluce Castle, Goorkha, Guildford Castle and the Kenilworth Castle escorted by the cruisers HMS Astraea and HMS Hyacinth. During 1915 she made several northbound troop carrying voyages as well as serving in the Mediterranean in the Turkish campaigns. In February 1918 she carried Nigerian troops from Mombasa to Lagos and then to New York to carry US troops to Europe. In 1919 she made voyages to New Zealand via the Panama Canal on behalf of the Government until, in 1920, she resumed commercial services. She was classed as a 'reserve steamer' and laid up at Netley in January 1925 but re-entered service during October and November as an effect of the seamen's strike. She made her final sailing from Cape Town on 13th November and was laid up again until broken up in Italy in April 1926.

TITAN was built in 1898 by Day, Summers & Co. at Northam near Southampton with a tonnage of 151grt, a length of 100ft and a beam of 21ft 1in. She was built as a tug and tender for disembarking passengers at Durban and became part of the Union-Castle fleet in 1900 when the companies merged. In 1902 she was sold to African Boating Co. Ltd. for continued service at Durban but with port of registry remaining at Southampton. By 1912 she was owned by Beira Boating Co. Ltd of Southampton , with W. Borders as managers, undertaking similar duties at Beira in Mozambique. Her managers became W. Barr in 1918 and she was finally broken up locally in 1930.

SAXON (4) was built in 1900 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast with a tonnage of 12385grt, a length of 570ft, a beam of 64ft and a service speed of 17.5 knots. She was launched as the last vessel for the Union Steam Ship Co. but delivered to the newly formed Union-Castle Line. Consequently, until she underwent her first re-paint, she operated with a white hull and cream masts but with Union-Castle's red funnel. In August 1902 she arrived at Southampton with three Boer generals, Botha, de la Ray and de Wet, the Boer War having ended on 31st May with the establishment of three Boer republics within the British Empire. When the First World War was declared in August 1914 she continued operating the mail run but often carried contingents of troops in third class. By this time London had become the temporary terminal port as Southampton had been designated a military port. In January 1917 she became a full troopship in both directions and then used to ferry troops between Alexandria and Marseilles. She then made one voyage from Alexandria to Basra, anchoring in Koweit Bay and in November 1918 carried troops to Australia before resuming commercial service in 1919 after a refit at Harland and Wolff's in Belfast. In September 1920 she had a minor mishap when she lost her rudder after hitting a barge at Cape Town. On 14th August 1921, shortly after leaving Madeira, a fire was discovered in her bunkers and with it under control she made her way to Freetown in Sierra Leone escorted by British India's Waipara. The Kenilworth Castle then took of the passengers and the mail whilst the Armadale Castle escorted her to Cape Town. She made her final sailing on the Intermediate run on 2nd January 1931 and in the following June was replaced by the Warwick Castle and laid up at Netley as a reserve steamer. The last remaining Union vessel, she was sold for scrap in 1935, realising £27,500, and was broken up at Blythe, Northumberland by Bolckow & Co. (Photo: from UCPSC 23/31)

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