History of the Merchant Navy

NYANZA was built in 1864 by Thames Ironworks & Shipbuilding Co. at Blackwall with a tonnage of 2128grt, a length of 327ft 2in, a beam of 36ft 2in and a service speed of 12 knots. She was launched as a paddle steamer for P&O ‘s Southampton to Alexandria service, the first leg of the UK to India route which included an overland leg across Egypt. When the Suez Canal opened in November 1869 P&O inaugurated the direct service to India and the ship was then put into reserve and laid up pending disposal at Southampton. She was purchased by the Union Steamship Co. for £26,000 on 3rd January 1873 and, being known as a heavy consumer of coal, was immediately refitted with a 2 cylinder compound engine driving a single screw and joined the Southampton – Cape Town service. In 1880 she spent a short time on the monthly Zanzibar service before being sold, in the October, to the Sultan of Zanzibar as his private yacht. When not required by the Sultan she traded between Zanzibar and Bombay. In 1889 she was acquired by Mahallah & Co. of Zanzibar and operated by them for the Zanzibar authorities who could not afford the running costs of the vessel. By 1902 she was no longer in service and was broken up in June 1904.

ASIATIC was built in 1872 by Whitehaven Ship Building Co. at Whitehaven with a tonnage of 2087grt, a length of 299ft 11in, a beam of 34ft 2in and a service speed of 12 knots. Sister of Elder Dempster’s Nigreta she was delivered for the mail run in September 1872. In 1880 she was relegated to the Intermediate service after being replaced by the Trojan. She was sold to H. Martini of Southampton in 1888 but retained her name until 1891 when she was sold on to G. Tweedy & Co. of London who renamed her Jaffar. In 1893 she was sold to P. W. Richardson of London with whom she remained until 1895 when she was scrapped.

NUBIAN was built in 1876 by C. Mitchell & Co. with a tonnage of 3091grt, a length of 359ft, a beam of 38ft 7in and a service speed of 12 knots. With a figurehead of a nubian she was bought on the stocks for the mail service and entered service with two funnels. In 1883 she was paired with the Arab on an experimental service between Liverpool and Newport News, a service that was quickly discontinued after both ships had completed two voyages. She was equipped with a triple expansion engine, new boilers and a high pressure cylinder in 1891 emerging from the yard with only one funnel. On 21st December 1892 she ran ashore in the River Tagus whilst approaching Lisbon under the command of the local pilot. Insured for £125,000 she became a total loss although much of the cargo was salvaged.

GERMAN (1) was built in 1877 by Wm. Denny & Bros. at Dumbarton with a tonnage of 3028grt, a length of 350ft, a beam of 39ft 6in and a service speed of 13.5 knots. She was launched on 27th June 1877 and built as a fast ’19 days to the Cape’ steamer for the mail service. Costing £75,621, payable in four instalments, the intention was that she would complete the round voyage without the need to bunker en route by using 300 tons of reserve coal. On her maiden voyage she sailed 5924 miles on 955 tons of coal completing the voyage to the Cape in 19days 8 hours. Her design and performance was used as the basis for the subsequent nine ships which all had a similar profile. She was completed 3.5 months early and on her way out of the Clyde stuck on the Leven Bank for the duration of two tides. In 1889 she was transferred to the Intermediate service. She was sold to Navigazione Generale Italiana (N.G.I.) in 1896 and renamed Sempione. After a further six years service she was reduced to a coal hulk in October 1902.

PRETORIA was built in 1878 by Wm. Denny & Bros. at Dumbarton with a tonnage of 3199grt, a length of 350ft, a beam of 39ft 6in and a service speed of 13.5 knots. Completed within six months of the keel laying and two months ahead of contract she cost £70,055 and was built for the mail service. In May 1879 she was used as a troopship during the Zulu War and following the defeat of the British at Isandhlwana carried the 91st Highland Regiment consisting of 942 men non-stop to Durban in a then record time of 24 days 8 hrs. Together with the Asiatic and the Moor she was present at Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee Spithead review in 1887. In 1888 she was equipped with a triple expansion engine and transferred to the Intermediate service. She was sold to The Quebec Steam Ship Company of Southampton, a Furness Withy company, in 1897 without a change of name. In 1902, following a fire, she was abandoned at sea but subsequently salvaged and repaired. Sold to Khedivial Mail & Graving Dock Steam Ship Co. in 1907 she was renamed Saidieh. On 1st June 1915 she was torpedoed by U-6 6 miles north east of the Elbow buoy in the English Channel with the loss of 8 lives.

DURBAN was built in 1877 by James Laing & Co. at Sunderland with a tonnage of 2875grt, a length of 360ft, a beam of 38ft 6in and a service speed of 12 knots. She was delivered for the mail run in June 1877 and continued for eleven years until transferred to the Intermediate service in 1888. In 1891 plans were made to install a triple expansion engine but these were abandoned and she was relegated to cargo carrying only. On 11th June 1893 she was wrecked at Socorro Point near Santa Cruz in Tenerife during a voyage from Durban to Southampton with a cargo of wool and hides.

UNION (2) was built in 1878 by Aitken Mansel at Glasgow with a tonnage of 113grt, a length of 90ft 6in, a beam of 20ft and a service speed of 9 knots. She was a tug built for service at Durban. For her delivery voyage she was rigged as a topsail schooner, the mast being removed on arrival. Coal was carried in wooden cattle-pen deck houses and the voyage took 45 days at an average speed which was similar to that of the Dane when she inaugurated the mail run in 1857. In September 1894 she was lost on the bar at the port of Chinde at the mouth of the Zambezi River.

ARAB was built in 1879 by J & G Thompson & Co. at Glasgow with a tonnage of 3170grt, a length of 350ft, a beam of 40ft 2in and a service speed of 12 knots. She was delivered for the mail run in 1879 and in 1883 was paired with the Nubian on the experimental Liverpool – Newport News – Baltimore service. In 1885 she was used as the base ship at Suakin as part of the expedition to relieve General Charles Gordon at Khartoum. Unfortunately, the force was delayed through dallying and arrived too late to prevent Gordon from being murdered by the forces of Abdullah al Mahdi in the April. She was equipped with a triple expansion engine and high pressure boilers in 1889 but in 1891 was relegated to the Intermediate service where she inaugurated the Cape to Mauritius service. Although transferred to the Union-Castle Mail Steamship Co on 8th March 1900 she was surplus to requirements and put up for sale, sold to German owners and broken up.

TROJAN was built in 1880 by J & G Thompson & Co. at Glasgow with a tonnage of 3555grt, a length of 364ft 6in, a beam of 42ft 7in and a service speed of 12 knots. The company’s largest ship at the time she was the first in the fleet to have her dining room lit by electric light and the first of three similar vessels built between 1881 and 1883. In 1887 she was the company’s first ship to be re-engined with the new triple expansion engine which was also a first for builders T. Richardson & Sons of Hartlepool. She was transferred to the Intermediate service in 1889 and refrigerated cargo space was installed in 1896. In October 1899 she was converted into H.M. Hospital Ship No.10 and, during her Boer War service, was transferred to the Union-Castle fleet following the merger. However, she was surplus to requirements and put up for sale. Purchased by Elder Dempster and renamed Wassau she was deployed on their Beaver Line service between Liverpool and Canada. In June 1901 she was chartered to Franco-Canadian S.N. Co. for three voyages between Dunkirk, Bordeaux and Quebec. She was sold to J. Goutte of Marseilles as the Islam and was broken up at Marseilles in 1903. (Photo: The Ship Society of South Africa)

SPARTAN was built in 1881 by J & G Thompson & Co. at Glasgow with a tonnage of 3487grt, a length of 364ft 6in, a beam of 42ft 7in and a service speed of 12 knots. Sister of the Trojan she was completed for the mail run in 1881 but transferred to the Intermediate service in 1889. In November 1899 she was used as a troopship during the Boer War. Surplus to requirements when Union-Castle was formed in 1900 she was sold to A. Fragala of Catania, Sicily and renamed Fume. After a further two years service she was broken up in Italy in April 1902.

MOOR was built in 1881 by Aitken & Mansel at Glasgow with a tonnage of 3688grt, a length of 365ft, a beam of 45ft 10in and a service speed of 12 knots. She was delivered for the mail run in December 1881 and commenced her maiden voyage to the Cape in the following January with a black hull. In 1883 she broke the Plymouth to Cape Town record by completing the passage in 18days 13hrs 17mins and then returned in 18days 2hrs 28mins. When war looked likely following Russia’s threats to Turkey over rights of passage through the Sea of Marmara and territorial claims against China in 1885 she was taken over at Simonstown and equipped with 4 x 6inch guns to patrol the South African coast as far as St Lucia Bay as an Armed Merchant Cruiser. In 1888 she was given a triple expansion engine which enabled to complete the mail run in 17 days and in 1894 was lengthened by 44ft and a second dummy funnel added. During the same year her single propeller shaft snapped but by fitting temporary keys across the break was able to limp to Dakar. Two days after the formation of Union-Castle in 1900 she completed the final Union sailing from Cape Town but was no longer fast enough for the mail run. On 11th March 1901 she was sold to Royal Mail Steam Packet Co., renamed La Plata and given a white livery. She was sold to the Polytechnic Touring Association of London in January 1908 and renamed The Viking. She was deployed operating one class cruises to the Norwegian Fjords and the Mediterranean. In June 1910 her engine room telegraph failed and she proceeded to steam ashore in Geiranger Fjord on the only shelving beach in the area. She came off undamaged after three days. In 1913 she was finally broken up at Zwijndrecht in Holland.

ATHENIAN was built in 1881 by Aitken & Mansel at Glasgow with a tonnage of 3877grt, a length of 365ft, a beam of 45ft 9in and a service speed of 12 knots. In October 1882 she was the first ship to use Cape Town’s new Robinson Graving Dock. She was re-engined with a triple expansion engine in 1886 and reduced the passage time to Cape Town to 17days 9hrs and in 1896 reduced the homeward record on two occasions .On 29th December 1897 she was sold to the Canadian Pacific Railway Co. for use out of Vancouver on the Klondike gold rush route, sailing from Southampton via Cape Horn on 12th February 1898. After six voyages on the Vancouver – Skagway – Wrangel route she was laid up until deployed on the trans-Pacific route in 1900, during which she made one call at Vladivostock, before being laid up again. In 1904 she was chartered to Osaka Shosen K.K. and used as a supply ship following the Russo-Japanese war. She inaugurated the Osaka – Darien service in January 1905 and was finally delivered to K. Kishimoto at Osaka for breaking up on 14th September 1907. (Photo: Tom Rayner Collection)

CARNARVON was built in 1883 by Day, Summers & Co. at Northam, Southampton with a tonnage of 104grt, a length of 90ft 1in, and a beam of 17ft 1in. Built for service as a tug at Durban she completed her delivery voyage rigged as a schooner with coal being carried in wooden bunkers. She was transferred to Laurenço Marques (Maputu) in 1890 and remained there until 1896 when she was sold to a local company, Silva Vianna & Co. She was posted as missing in November 1902.

MEXICAN was built in 1883 by James Laing & Co. at Sunderland with a tonnage of 4668grt, a length of 378ft 2in, a beam of 47ft and a service speed of 12 knots. When she entered service in 1883 she was the largest ship calling at South African ports. During the Russian scare in May 1885 she carried troops to Hong Kong where she remained as a garrison ship until the crisis passed, returning to Cape Town in the July. In November 1899 she was used to carry troops to South Africa during the Boer War. On 5th April 1900, shortly after being transferred to Union-Castle, she sailed for Southampton with 102 passengers and the mail. When 80 miles north of Cape Town and proceeding slowly through dense fog she was in collision with Tatem’s Winkfield and holed. The passengers and mails were transferred to the Winkfield while attempts were made to plug the holes. Unfortunately, the ship continued to fill with water and by noon of the following day the captain and emergency crew abandoned the ship which sank within the hour. She was the newly formed Union-Castle Line’s first loss.

TARTAR was built in 1883 by Aitken & Mansel at Kelvinhaugh, Glasgow with a tonnage of 4425grt, a length of 376ft 5in, a beam of 47ft and a service speed of 12 knots. Joining the mail run in May 1883 all her first class berths were located amidships and lit by electric light. Although the carbon filament lights gave little more light than a candle they were, nevertheless, welcomed. She was initially equipped with a compound engine because, although the new triple expansion engine was coming into vogue, few engine builders could handle the conversions which required stronger high pressure boilers. In any case, triple expansion engines were not necessarily faster but more economical. In 1886 she lowered to passage time to Cape Town from Plymouth to 18 days 2 hrs 21 mins and, two years later, lowered the return passage time to 17 days 23 hrs 37 mins. A triple expansion engine was finally installed in 1889 and, at the same time, the funnel was heightened by 10ft and a small promenade deck added at the base of the mizzen mast. On 28th December 1897, together with the Athenian, she was sold to Canadian Pacific for their Vancouver – Skagway, Alaska service. On 5th February 1898 she left Southampton on a passenger carrying delivery voyage to Vancouver via Tenerife, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and Valparaiso arriving on 1st April. She sailed on her first voyage to Skagway on 28th April but after six voyages and the decline in the gold rush she was laid up. In December 1898, during a voyage from Hong Kong to Vancouver she called at Honolulu, Oahu Island, Hawaii to become the first CPR ship to berth there. She was chartered to the US Government in July 1899 for service between the USA and the Philippines which had come under American control following the war with Spain during April – July 1898. She reverted to CPR’s trans Pacific service in May 1900 where she remained until August 1907 when she was sold to Japanese owners. On 17th October in the same year she collided with CPR’s Charmer during a voyage from Vancouver to Japan and had to be beached at English Bay. Laid up locally she was eventually sold to K. Kishimoto in March 1908 and broken up at Osaka.

SEAGULL was built in 1883 with a tonnage of 24grt. She was the mooring and dispatch launch at Southampton and attended the arrival and departure of each ship carrying the mooring ropes to the quay as well as providing a ship to shore service when the ships anchored off Northam. In 1898 she was sold locally for use as a harbour ferry and, thereafter, all trace of her were lost.

AFRICAN (2) was built in 1886 by R Dixon & Co. at Middlesbrough with a tonnage of 1372grt, a length of 244ft 2in, a beam of 33ft 4in and a service speed of 10 knots. She was built for the South African coastal trade and had a shallow draft in order to negotiate the sand bars which were dangerous before dredging operations were undertaken and protective moles constructed. In some cases the ports of calls lack quays. In 1893 she was sold to F.H. Powell & Co. at Liverpool and renamed Graceful as all his ships names ended with ‘ful’. Powell’s eventually became part of Coast Lines which adopted his funnel markings, black with white ‘V’ band. In 1906 she was sold to Fred Olsen’s for their Newcastle – Christiania service and renamed Sovereign and in 1912 became the Zeta under the ownership of the Bergen S.S. Co. when she was modified and emerged with vertical masts and funnel. She was eventually scrapped in 1931.

SAXON (3) was built in 1887 by Oswald Mordaunt & Co. at Southampton with a tonnage of 469grt, a length of 145ft 8in, a beam of 24ft 8in and a service speed of 9 knots. She was delivered in December 1887 for the South African coastal service where she remained until 1895 when she was sold to Portuguese owners. In January 1896, during the delivery voyage, she was wrecked on the coast of Zululand and, consequently, never saw service with her new owners out of Lourenço Marques.

DANE (3) was built in 1870 by Caird & Co. at Greenock with a tonnage of 3664grt, a length of 381ft 10in, a beam of 44ft 7in and a service speed of 11 knots. Laid down as the Mirzapore in 1869 she was completed in the following year as the Australia for P&O. Heavily built and the last with a clipper bow, she was referred to as ‘ the P&O ironclad’. She became the first P&O ship to transit the Suez Canal ,which had opened in November 1869, during her maiden voyage to China. During an outward bound voyage in 1879 her propeller shaft snapped and she had to be towed back to Southampton by the tug Trusty and HMS Valorous. In 1880 she was transferred to the Australia run and in 1888 broke the Sydney to UK record by completing the voyage in 27 days 16 hours. She was purchased at auction by the Union Steam Ship Co. in 1889 for £14,831 and renamed Dane for deployment on the Intermediate service but she proved to be too heavy and too slow. In 1893 she was laid up in the Thames and eventually broken up there.

MIDGE was built at Southampton in 1889 with a tonnage of 64grt. She was then dismantled and taken to the Cape and reassembled at East London for harbour duties. Transferred to Union-Castle in 1900 she was replaced by the Stork in 1905 and sold to African Fisheries Ltd in 1906.

NORSEMAN (2) was built in 1890 by Day, Summers & Co. at Northam, Southampton with a tonnage of 3664grt, a length of 236ft 2in, a beam of 31ft 2in and a service speed of 10 knots. The Union’s first steel hulled vessel, she was completed in July 1890 for the South African coastal service. In 1893 she was sold to W. Bailey of Hull without a change of name. She was sold to L. Ballande, Fils & Cie of Noumea for their New Caledonia – Australia service in 1895 and renamed St. Antoine. On 26th May 1928 she was wrecked on a shoal 30 miles southwest of Noumea.

ROMAN was built in 1870 by Day, Summers & Co. at Northam, Southampton with a tonnage of 2994grt, a length of 369ft 6in, a beam of 40ft 4in and a service speed of 13 knots. She was built to Norddeutscher Lloyd’s specifications, for whom her sister the Neva had been ordered, as the Nile for the Royal Mail Steam Packets Co’s West Indies service. Purchased by the Union Steam Ship Co. in 1890 for the Intermediate service she proved to be too old, too heavy and too hot and after a couple of voyages was placed on the Hamburg – Antwerp – Southampton feeder service. She also proved to be too large for this service and, although it was the intention to retain her until the arrival of the new ‘G’ class ships, after only two years with the company was broken up.

TYRIAN was built in 1890 by Day, Summers & Co. at Northam, Southampton with a tonnage of 1455grt, a length of 260ft 2in, a beam of 33ft 1in and a service speed of 11 knots. Completed in May 1890 she inaugurated to coastal passenger service and was suitably fitted out to accommodate the passengers transferring from the mail steamers. She was sold to Howard, Smith & Co. of Melbourne in 1894 and 1914 became the Kiodo Maru No.16 when she was sold on to Kiodo Kisen Goshi Kaisya of Darien. The name was later spelt as Kyodo. On 14th November 1938 she caught fire off Tsingtao and was subsequently beached and broken up there.

SCOT was built in 1891 by Wm Denny & Bros at Dumbarton with a tonnage of 6844grt, a length of 500ft, a beam of 54ft 7in and a service speed of 18.5 knots. The first twin screw liner on the Cape run she cost £254,000 to build and was launched on 30th December 1890 by Miss Giles, the Chairman’s daughter. Her figurehead was of Sir William Wallace, a Scottish hero, and her stern was decorated with Royal Arms of Great Britain and the Lion of Scotland. During her trials on 8th May 1891 she achieved a speed of 19.62 knots over the measured mile in Stokes Bay. Her maiden voyage from Southampton to Cape Town via Madeira was completed in the record time of 15 days 9 hrs 52 mins and this was reduced, in 1893, to 14 days 18 hrs 57 mins, a record which was to stand for 43 years until surpassed in 1936 by the Stirling Castle. However, fuel consumption was high and at the April 1893 AGM the Chairman reported that the ship had incurred a loss of £5,000. By now she had a white hull and was referred to as Union’s ‘White Elephant’. In December 1895 she had to put into Vigo with engine problems and after transferring her passengers to other ships returned to Southampton. During her repairs at Harland & Wolff’s yard attempts were made to increase her payload by lengthening her by 54 feet but this proved to be unsuccessful. In 1897 the millionaire Barney Barnato committed suicide by jumping overboard during the night. She was used as a troopship during the Boer War and during this time was transferred to the Union-Castle fleet following the merger in 1900. She was given the new red and black funnel but retained her white hull. In 1901, together with the Dunvegan Castle, she hosted the members of both Houses of Parliament at King Edward V11’s Coronation Spithead review. On 12th September 1903 she berthed at Southampton for the last time, to be replaced by the Armadale Castle ,and was laid up at Netley until September 1905 when she was sold to the Hamburg America Line and renamed Oceana. In 1907 she was transferred to cruising following loss of the Prinzessin Viktoria Luise and was converted by Harland & Wolff for such deployment. She was sold to Bermuda-North Atlantic S.S. Co of Toronto for £40,000 in November 1910 for cruising between New York and Bermuda but still proved expensive to operate. In 1912 she became the property of Morse Dry Dock Co. after being arrested in New York for outstanding debts and was laid up in the River Hudson. She returned to service in 1914 to provide cruises for Americans who could no longer visit Europe but, although backed by her owners and other US capital, the venture only lasted three months. In February 1915 she was purchased by Cia Trasatlantica of Cadiz to replace the Alphonso X111 (1) which had sunk at Santander under mysterious circumstances. Renamed Alphonso X111 (2) she was deployed on the New York-Cadiz, and later, Bilbao service to carry Europeans wishing to travel to the US on a neutral vessel. She was renamed Vasco Nunez de Balboa when a new Alphonso X111 (3) was built in 1923 and continued on the New York route until later transferred to the Cadiz-Havana run. She was laid up at Cadiz in 1925 and finally sold in February 1927 to Italian shipbreakers. (Photo Union-Castle Line)
NATAL was built in 1892 by Wm Denny & Bros at Dumbarton with a tonnage of 158grt, a length of 110ft, a beam of 23ft 6in and a service speed of 10 knots. Built at a cost of £9288 she was launched on 21st April 1892 as a tug and tender at Durban. She was designed to carry disembarking passengers and their baggage over the bar at Durban with steerage accommodated forward and the remainder aft where there was a bar and the ladies had a saloon. Following the merger she was transferred to Union-Castle where she remained until 1913 when she was sold to Cape Town Steamers, with W. Gowan & Co. as managers, for use as a pleasure steamer in Table Bay and was renamed Sir Fred. She was renamed Natal by her owners in 1915 and was wrecked in May 1916.

GAUL was built in 1893 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast with a tonnage of 4745grt, a length of 400ft 6in, a beam of 47ft 2in and a service speed of 11.5 knots. She was completed for the Intermediate service in May 1893 and operated the Southampton – Cape Town- Port Elizabeth undertaking the first leg to Cape Town in 21 days. One of four similar vessels their design was based on recommendations made by William Pirrie following a voyage to South Africa. They were given shallow draughts for the ports beyond Cape Town, were comfortable, good cargo carriers and, although on the slow side, were successful. Initially the quartet were give black hulls. Transferred to Union-Castle on its formation in 1900 she was sold to the Royal Mail Steam Packet Co. for their Southampton to Cuba and Mexico service in 1906 and renamed Sabor. In 1908 the service was transferred to Jenkin’s Shire Line, when she was renamed Carmarthenshire, given a red funnel with black top and operated on the London-Far East service. She reverted back to Royal Mail for their Montreal – Quebec – West Indies – Georgetown, Demerara service in 1913, when the route was acquired from Pickford & Black ,and was renamed Chaleur. When, in 1927, the Canada – West Indies mail contract was awarded to Canadian National Steamships she was withdrawn, sold for £9000 and broken up in Holland.

GOTH was built in 1893 by Harland & Wolff with a tonnage of 4738grt, a length of 400ft 5in, a beam of 47ft 2in and a service speed of 11.5 knots. Sister of the Gaul she was deployed on the Intermediate service. Transferred to Union-Castle on the merger in 1900 she was then used as a Boer War troopship until 1902 when she returned to commercial service. In October 1910 she joined Guelph on the Round Africa service and in 1913 was sold to Royal Mail S.P. Co. after being replaced by the Carisbrooke Castle. As the Cobequid she was given a black hull and operated on the Canada – Bermuda – West Indies route. On 13th January 1915 she was wrecked on the Trinity Ledge in the Bay of Fundy without loss of life whilst inbound on her first voyage to St. John, N.B. A Painting by the captain (J.Sandilands Collection)

GREEK was built in 1893 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast with a tonnage of 4757grt, a length of 400ft 6in, a beam of 47ft 2in and a service speed of 11.5 knots. Sister of the Gaul and Goth she was built for the Intermediate service and launched on the 17th May 1893. She transferred to Union-Castle in 1900, undertook some trooping duties during the Boer War and then reverted back to her Intermediate sailings. Sold to Royal Mail Steam Packet Co. in 1906 she was renamed Segura and operated on their Southampton – Cuba – Mexico route. In 1908 she was transferred to Jenkin’s Shire Line and deployed on their London – Far East service as the Pembrokeshire. She was renamed Chignecto by Royal Mail in May 1913 and inaugurated their Montreal – Quebec – West Indies service. On 13th January 1915, during her first voyage and bound for St. John, New Brunswick, she was wrecked on Trinity Ledge in the Bay of Fundy without loss of life. She was replaced on the run by Elder Dempster’s Mandingo which was renamed Chaudiere.

GUELPH was built in 1894 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast with a tonnage of 4917grt, a length of 400ft 5in, a beam of 47ft 2in and a service speed of 11.5 knots. She entered service in October 1894 on the Southampton-Tenerife-Cape Town-Durban Intermediate service. On 8th March, 1900 she was transferred to Union-Castle following the merger and was initally used as a Boer War troopship. On 27th July 1909, whilst sailing in heavy seas off Hood’s Point, South Africa, she spotted the lights of a large vessel. She communicated by lamp but only the last two letters of the morse code response were understood; the letters being AH. About the same time the Waratah was lost without a trace. On 13th September 1910 she was deployed on the London-Suez-East Africa route as competition for the Deutsche Ost-Afrika Linie. In 1913 she was replaced by the Dunvegan Castle and subsequently sold to Royal Mail S.P. Co. for their new Canada-West Indies-British Guiana passenger/cargo service and renamed Caraquet. She ended her life on 25th June 1923 when she was wrecked near Hamilton, Bermuda. (Photo: from UCPSC 03/33)

NORMAN (2) was built in 1894 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast with a tonnage of 7537grt, a length of 507ft, a beam of 53ft 2in and a service speed of 17.5 knots. She was the first of many ships built by Harland & Wolff for Union-Castle and, at the time, the largest ship on the Cape Town mail run. She was built to Admiralty troopship specifications and was requisition for use during the Boer War in November 1899. In 1900 she was transferred to Union-Castle following the merge whilst still on troopship duties. She was refitted in 1904 and subsequently worked as a mail ship until 1910 when, after being replaced by the Balmoral Castle, she was laid up at Netley in Southampton Water. At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 she was recommissioned as a troopship for a short while before reverting to the mail run. During this time she was part of the first convoy to take men of the British Expeditionary Force to France. 1918 saw her on troopship duties again, this time in the Mediterranean.. In May 1919 she was chartered to P&O for one voyage to Australia before returning to the mail run. She was replaced by the Arundel Castle in 1921 and transferred to the intermediate service and in 1923 she was deployed on the Round Africa service, out via Suez and home via the Cape. In 1925 she was replaced by the Llandovery Castle on the Round Africa service, laid up in the River Blackwater off Tollesbury and broken up in 1926. (Photo: from UCPSC 07/45)

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)