History of the Merchant Navy

UNION (1) was built in 1854 by J. D’A Samunda at Poplar in London with a tonnage of 336grt, a length of 157ft 8in, a beam of 21ft and a service speed of 8 knots. She was registered at Southampton for the Union Collier Co’s proposed South Wales to Southampton coal service but in July 1854 she was chartered by the British Government for use during the Crimean War. She was alterd to accommodate 48 passengers and 250 troops. On 5th December 1856 she came under the ownership of the Union Steam Ship Co. Ltd but was laid up at Southampton. In October 1857 she was deployed on the new speculative Southampton- Pernambuco – Bahia – Rio de Janeiro service with passengers and coal. She was sold to P & O in December 1858 for their Mauritius – Reunion mail service and during 1861-62 acted as a supply and accommodation ship at the building of lighthouses at Ashrafi and Daedalus in the Gulf of Suez. On 20th February 1863 she was sold to Hong Kong Chinese interests for £2000 then sold on to Nagato Han (Chamber of Commerce) and renamed Otuushi Maru. In 1865 she was sold Satsuma Han with the name Sakurajima Maru and in 1871 came under the ownership of the Japanese Government with the same name operating their inter island mail service out of Tokyo which was highly unprofitable. The service was taken over by Yubin Kisen Mitsubishi of Tokyo in 1877 and became profitable. In 1880 she became a store ship before being hulked and from then on there is no further trace of her whereabouts or her final demise.

BRITON (1) was built in 1854 by J. D’A Samunda at Poplar in London with a tonnage of 491grt, a length of 174ft, a beam of 24ft 6in and a service speed of 9 knots. Completed in July 1854 she was immediately chartered to the French Government for use in the Crimean War and, as a result, her maiden voyage was London – Smyrna – Constantinople – Malta, where she was based. She then shuttled troops between Marseilles and Varna before participating in the Crimea landings where she remained on war service. Returning to Union S.S. Co. ownership in 1856 she was initially laid up until deployed on a service to the Spanish Atlantic ports. In 1857, whilst on charter, she was lost at sea during a voyage to Seville.

SAXON (1) was built in 1854 by J. D’A Samunda at Poplar in London with a tonnage of 491grt, a length of 174ft, a beam of 24ft 6in and a service speed of 9 knots. Sister of the Briton she made one voyage, Poplar – Smyrna – Constantinople – Malta – Southampton, before being chartered to the French Government for use in the Crimean War. In 1858, because she was smaller than 530grt as required by the 4th September mail contract, she was sold to Bremner, Bennett & Bremner of London without a name change. Sold again in 1896 to J. Ballantyne of Limerick she was converted into a grain elevator and was still in service, without any motive power, until 1912 when all trace of her was lost.

DANE (1) was built in 1854 by Charles Lungley & Co. at Deptford Green in London with a tonnage of 530grt, a length of 195ft, a beam of 25ft 1in and a service speed of 9 knots. Sister of the Briton she was, on completion, immediately chartered to the French Government for use in the Crimean War. In 1856, due to a surplus of coal, she was laid up at Southampton with the intention of using her for the November sailing to South America but this voyage never materialised. On December 1856 her owners were re-styled Union Steamship Company. In 1857 she followed the Union and the Norman onto the Rio de Janeiro service and on 15th September of the same year and under the command of Capt Strutt she undertook the first voyage to the Cape Colony with the mails. For this purpose she was given a red funnel with a broad black top, a livery that was applied to all the Cape Colony mail ships. In 1863 she was placed on the new coastal service followed, in 1864, by the Mauritius service. On 17th May 1865, whilst at anchor and during the ‘Great Gale’, she was holed by a drifting sailing ship. In the same year she was chartered by the British Government to carry troops to Zanzibar where they were used to suppress slave trading. On 28th November 1865 she went ashore whilst approaching Port Elizabeth on a voyage from Simonstown and on 4th December became a total loss.

NORMAN (1) was built in 1854 by Charles Lungley & Co. at Deptford Green in London with a tonnage of 530grt, a length of 195ft, a beam of 25ft 1in and a service speed of 9 knots. Identical to the Dane she was immediately chartered to the British Government for Crimean War service and completed her maiden voyage from Southampton to Constantinople and Balaklava with a cargo of wooden huts for troops wintering in the freezing Crimea. In late 1855 she was laid up at Southampton but on 29th September 1856 inaugurated the Union Steam Collier Co’s Southampton – Rio de Janeiro service quickly followed by the Union and the Dane. On 21st January 1857, under Union Steam Ship Co. ownership, she replaced the Celt on her ill-fated December sailing and in the following November completed the run to the Cape in 39 days. In 1863 she replaced the Roman on the South African coastal service returning to Southampton in the following year. She was sold to Charles Lungley in 1865 as part payment for three new ships he was building for the company. Lungley then sold the ship to Bremner, Bennett & Bremner of London with the same name and for their Mediterranean trade and thereafter all trace of her was lost.

CELT (1) was built in 1855 by Charles Lungley & Co. at Deptford Green in London with a tonnage of 531grt, a length of 176ft 4in, a beam of 25ft 1in and a service speed of 9 knots. Built with the intention of replacing the Union on the coal trade she was, on completion, requisitioned for use during the Crimean War. On 24th December 1856 she sailed from Southampton bound for Rio de Janeiro but was forced to return to Cowes Roads with engine trouble. She set out again on 31st December but had to return to Southampton on 3rd January 1857 when she sprang a leak and the voyage was consequently cancelled. On 17th May she sailed from Liverpool, the new departure port, for South America and made two round voyages before, in the October, she made the second sailing to the Cape with the mails, completing the voyage in 43 days. In 1862 she was sold to Charles Lungley as part payment for the larger mail ships he was building and subsequently sold to Balnerre of Rotterdam and renamed Gothenburg. She was purchased by J. Meek of Newcastle in 1875, reverted to her original name of Celt and had compound engines and new boilers installed. In 1885 she was under the ownership of Thames & Bristol Trading Co. Ltd of London and in 1891 she was owned by McDowall & Barbour of Piraeus, restyled Hellenic Steam Navigation Co. in 1908, with the name Poseidon. Without a change of name she was acquired by J.Potomianos of Istanbul in 1910 and in 1933 her name was deleted from the Register of Shipping.

PHOEBE was built in 1851 by one of the Denny shipyards at Dumbarton with a tonnage of 613grt, a length of 172ft 8in, a beam of 25ft 5in and a service speed of 9.5 knots. She was built for Preston & Co. of Glasgow and acquired by the company in 1857 to replace the Union (1) on the Cape Colony mail service. A good weather ship she was fast and a good schedule keeper with a passage time of 37 days. In 1861 she was sold to the New Zealand Steam Ship Co. and then to Union S.S. Co.of New Zealand. By 1865 she was owned by the Intercolonial Royal Mail Steam Navigation Co. of London and deployed on their Sydney-Auckland service. When, in 1866, the newly formed Australia Royal Mail Company Ltd introduced the Kaikoura, Rakaia and the Ruahine on the Sydney-Wellington- Panama service to connect with the Royal Mail ships the Pheobe was transferred to the London-South America service. She was sold in 1878 to J & A Brown of Newcastle, N.S.W, hulked in 1901 and dismantled in 1904. The painting of the 19th century mail ship was commissioned to commemorate Union Castle’s centenary in 1953. (A Crisp)

ATHENS was built in 1856 by Alexander Denney at Dumbarton with a tonnage of 739grt, a length of 224ft 7in, a beam of 30ft 1in and a service speed of 10 knots. Built for Schilizzi & Co. of Liverpool for their Liverpool – Greece service she was acquired by the Union Steam Ship Co. in 1858 to replace the undersized Saxon on the mail run. In 1865 she was on the Mauritius service and during the ‘Great Gale’ on 19th May she attempted to steam out to sea as a preference to remaining at anchor in Table Bay. She succeeded in rounding Mouille Point but huge waves doused her boilers and she was blown onto the rocks where she broke up before daylight with the loss of all 29 persons on board.

CAMBRIAN was built in 1860 by Charles Lungley & Co. at Deptford Green with a tonnage of 1055grt, a length of 245ft, a beam of 33ft 7in and a service speed of 8 knots. Costing £25,000 she was launched on 23rd April 1860 by Mrs Saxon the wife of Capt. Saxon of Anderson, Saxon & Co, the Union Lines agent at Cape Town. She was the first mail ship built for the company to exceed 1000grt. Sold to French owners in 1872 her subsequent career is unknown.

BRITON (2) was built in 1861 by Charles Lungley & Co. at Deptford Green with a tonnage of 1164grt, a length of 264ft, a beam of 33ft 7in and a service speed of 9.5 knots. Due to her hull being subdivided both horizontally and vertically she was described by her owners as being ‘unsinkable and unburnable’, In 1873 she was sold to the Admiralty, converted into a troopship and renamed HMS Dromedary. Placed in reserve during 1880 she was finally disposed of in 1884.

SAXON (2) was built in 1863 by Charles Lungley & Co. at Deptford Green with a tonnage of 1142grt, a length of 290ft 10in, a beam of 32ft 10in and a service speed of 10.5 knots. She commenced service on the mail run on 13th February 1863 and reduced the time to 31 days. In 1876 she was sold to Bailey & Leetham of Hull who were known as the ‘Tombstone Line’ because of their black funnel with a broad white vertical line and a rounded top. She was sold on again in 1885 to Empreza Insulana de Navegaçao of Ponte Delgado, Azores and renamed Benguella for their Lisbon-Azores service. On 24th June 1890 she sprang a leak in the Atlantic and abandoned with all the passengers and crew being rescued by the Spanish barque Marianna. (The late P.A. Vicary)

ROMAN (1) was built in 1863 by Charles Lungley & Co. at Deptford Green with a tonnage of 1282grt, a length of 290ft 10in, a beam of 32ft 10in and a service speed of 10.5 knots. She started her career as a red funneled mail steamer in November 1863 but, as larger ships were built and joined the fleet, was transferred to the Intermediate service in 1869. She was lengthened and re-engined in 1872 and, at the same time, was given a black funnel. In 1880 she was deployed on the Zanzibar service until 1888 when she was transferred to the Southampton-Bremen-Hamburg feeder service. She was sold ot Essayan Oondjian of Constantinople (Istanbul) and renamed Adana in 1889 and was scrapped in 1910 at Smyrna after grounding. (Photo: WSS Library)

ANGLIAN (1) was built in 1864 by Charles Lungley & Co. at Deptford Green with a tonnage of 661grt, a length of 204ft 10in, a beam of 26ft 4in and a service speed of 8 knots. Built with a shallow draft to facilitate the sand bar at Durban she was delivered in March 1864 for the Intercolonial service between Cape Town, Durban and Mauritius. When the Intercolonial service was discontinued in 1868 she became surplus to requirements and was sold to Palgrave, Murphy & Co. of Dublin in the following year, retaining her name. In 1882 her owners renamed her City of Lisbon so that all their ships bore a ‘City of …’ name. She ended her career in 1903 when she sank off New Brighton in the River Mersey after being in collision with the Isle of Man Steam Packet Co’s Douglas.

MAURITIUS was built in 1865 by Charles Lungley & Co. at Deptford Green with a tonnage of 587grt, a length of 210ft, a beam of 26ft 5in and a service speed of 9 knots. Similar in design to the Anglian she joined her sister on the Intercolonial service in 1865. When the service was discontinued in 1868 she was put up for sale at Southampton and acquired in the following year by Palgrave, Murphy & Co. of Dublin but then sold on to J. P. Hutchinson of Glasgow. She had new boilers fitted in 1872 and a compound engine in 1876. In 1901 she was sold to Sociadade ‘La Mediterranea’, of Barcelona with T. Fernandez as manager and renamed Industria. She sank after a collision in 1910.

NATAL (1) was built in 1865 by Day Summers & Co. at Northam, Southampton with a tonnage of 618grt, a length of 205ft 11in, a beam of 27ft 10in and a service speed of 9 knots. She was built for the South African coastal service where she remained until 1883 when she was sold to Trinder, Anderson & Co. of London, retaining her name. In 1888 she was sold to Goh Siam Swee of Bangkok who retained her name until 1890 when it was changed to Srie Bandjar. She was sold to G. Urrutia & Co. of Manila in 1899 and renamed Alava. On 29th September she was lost after grounding at Cavite in the Philippines.

NORSEMAN (1) was built in 1866 by Charles Lungley & Co. at Deptford Green with a tonnage of 1386grt, a length of 262ft 9in, a beam of 32ft 2in and a service speed of 9 knots. In July 1866 she joined the mail service with a red funnel but in 1873 was sold to J. Heugh and in 1874 was converted into a cable repair ship by the Telegraph & Maintenance Co and employed by the Cia Telegrafica Platino-Brasilera on Siemens cables from Rio de Janeiro to Montevideo. She was re-engined in 1880 and, by fitting a circular tank in the no. 2 hold, was given cable laying capability. In 1888, assisted by the Viking, she laid the up-river River Plate cable. Badly damaged during a storm in 1892 she was replaced by Norseman (2) put up for sale being acquired by A.C.S. Springer of London. She was finally broken up in November 1898.

CELT (2) was built in 1866 by Charles Lungley & Co. at Deptford Green with a tonnage of 1439grt, a length of 262ft 9in, a beam of 32ft 2in and a service speed of 9 knots. Sister of the Norseman she joined the mail service in August 1866 and in 1874 she was lengthen to 293ft with an increase in tonnage to 2112grt. In February 1875 she was wrecked at the mouth of the River Ratel between Cape Agulhas and Danger Point, all 98 persons aboard being saved by the Zulu.

DANE (2) was built in 1866 by J. Key at Kinghorn with a tonnage of 788grt, a length of 227ft, a beam of 28ft 2in and a service speed of 9 knots. She was built as a replacement for the Dane (1) on the Cape Town to Mauritius service but in 1868 the service was discontinued and the ships on that route, being too small for alternative deployment, were put up for sale. In 1870 she was sold to Fonte Bella of St Michael’s in the Azores and renamed Atlantico. Her career ended in 1878 when she foundered off the Azores.

NORTHAM was built in 1858 by Day, Summers & Co. at Northam, Southampton with a tonnage of 1330grt, a length of 274ft, a beam of 34ft 7in and a service speed of 12 knots. She was built for P & O’s Southampton – Cape – Bombay service but was soon transferred to the Bombay – Suez sector of the pre-Suez Canal service which included the famous overland journey from Alexandria to Suez via Cairo. In April 1859 she was placed on the Suez – Galle – Sydney service and, on 20 August 1859, had the misfortune to run aground outside Jeddah. She reverted to the Suez – Bombay route in 1866 where she remained until December 1868 when she was put up as part payment for the Hindostan. In January 1869 she was purchase for £16,500 by the Union Steamship Co. and immediately rebuilt for the mail service. She was sold to Sir John Malcolm of Liverpool in September 1876 and was converted into a sailing barque for the USA – South Africa trade with the name Stars and Stripes. She reverted to Northam when she was transferred to the Liverpool – South Africa service and on 2nd December 1878 was burnt at sea during a voyage from London to Sydney.

SYRIA was built in 1863 by Day, Summers & Co. at Northam, Southampton with a tonnage of 1932grt, a length of 312ft 5in, a beam of 36ft and a service speed of 10 knots. She was ordered by P & O as the paddle steamer Scindia but launched as the Syria for their Southampton – Alexandria route where she remained until she became redundant when the Suez Canal was opened in 1869. She was acquired by Caird & Co. Ltd of Greenock in September 1870 for £30,000 as part payment for P & O’s Mirzapore and was converted from paddles to a single screw. In the December of the same year she was purchased by the Union Steamship Co. for the mail service. In November 1873 she inaugurated the monthly extra/intermediate direct service from Southampton to Port Elizabeth. She was taken over by James Laing & Co. in March 1878 as part payment for the Durban and operated by them on a charter basis. On 4th April 1880 she foundered in the Atlantic during a voyage from New Orleans to Liverpool.

DANUBE was built in 1866 by Millwall Ironworks at Millwall, London with a tonnage of 2039grt, a length of 332ft, a beam of 34ft 5in and a service speed of 12 knots. She was launched as a two funnelled paddle steamer for the Royal Mail Steam Packet Co. for their Southampton – West Indies service. When the River Plate mail contract was renewed for a further five years on 13th July 1868 she was transferred to the Rio de Janeiro – Buenos Aires feeder service. She was purchased by the Union Steamship Co. in 1871 and converted into a single funnelled screw driven vessel, the company’s first compound engined ship. In 1879 she carried the Prince Imperial of France, Napoleon Eugene Louis Jean Joseph Bonaparte and his entourage to the Zulu campaign where he was killed on 1st June 1879 at the Battle of Ulundi. Attempting to vault onto his horse the saddle slipped throwing him off and he was speared to death. In 1880 she was placed on the Zanzibar service until 1888 when she was sold for breaking up.

EUROPEAN was built in 1869 by Robert Napier & Sons at Glasgow with a tonnage of 2242grt, a length of 307ft 2in, a beam of37ft 8in and a service speed of 10 knots. She was built as the Europe for Ryde & Co’s Liverpool to South America service but when the Suez Canal was opened in the November she was transferred to the new Liverpool – Colombo – Madras – Calcutta service. In 1872 she was purchased by the Union Steamship Co. for the mail service and renamed European. On 5th December 1877 she struck the Basse Meur rock off Ushant and sank within 30 minutes during which time all the passengers, bullion and mail were taken off.

ZULU was built in 1872 by Oswald & Co. at Sunderland with a tonnage of 994grt, a length of 224ft 8in, a beam of 29ft 1in and a service speed of 9 knots. It was originally intended to name her Zanzibar for the East African coastal service but as Beira became the terminus she entered service as the Zulu. She was sold to S. Ezekial in 1877 and was wrecked in the same year.

AFRICAN (1) was built in 1872 by John Key at Kinghorn in Fife with a tonnage of 2019grt, a length of 315ft 7in, a beam of 34ft 4in and a service speed of 12 knots. She joined the Southampton – Cape Town mail run in January 1873 but when the Trojan was introduced in 1881 she was transferred to the South African coastal service. In November 1885, when she was due for replacement by a new African (2) she was sold to F. Stumore & Co. of London without a change of name although another vessel with the same name was about to appear. This practice would become illegal in later years. On 15th February 1887 she was wrecked on Ras Abu Madd in the Red Sea during a voyage to Jeddah.

AMERICAN was built in 1873 by Alex. Stephen & Sons at Linthouse, Glasgow with a tonnage of 2126grt, a length of 320ft, a beam of 34ft 2in and a service speed of 12 knots. She was delivered for the mail run and was the fastest ship in the fleet beating the Windsor Castle’s record by a little over 24 hours. Donald Currie’s ship promptly responded and matched that time. At 05.00hrs on 23rd April 1880 off Las Palmas en route for Cape Town the propeller shaft fractured and the rotating screw pulled it out of the hull. The ship began flooding and despite closing the water-tight doors foundered in position 1.52N 9.50W. All persons onboard were saved by the Senegal of Elder, Dempster’s British & African Steam Navigation Co.

ANGLIAN (2) was built in 1873 by Aitken & Mansel at Glasgow with a tonnage of 2206grt, a length of 314ft, a beam of 35ft 9in and a service speed of 12 knots. She entered service in March 1873 as a mail steamer but was given a black funnel in the following July. Re-engined in 1886 she was downgraded to the South African coastal feeder service. In September 1884 she was purchased by Huddart Parker & Co. Proprietary Ltd of Melbourne as a short term stop gap for their increased passenger service across the Tasman Sea until a new vessel could be delivered. On 25th October she sailed from Barry Docks in South Wales with a cargo of coal for Melbourne arriving on 17th December when she was re-registered as the Anglian since, at the time, Australian Law did not allow name changes. As a survey showed her to be in excellent condition for a nineteen year old ship alternative plans were made leading to a refit in 1895. She entered service for her new owner on the Sydney – Auckland – Gisborne – Napier – Wellington – Lyttleton – Dunedin service. In July 1897 she was transferred to the Sydney – Fremantle service but when the Tasmania, her partner on the Tasman sea service, was wrecked she reverted back to that service. When the Victoria joined the fleet in 1902 she was reduced to an Australian coastal cargo vessel and in 1913 was reduced to a coal hulk, firstly at Adelaide and then at Sydney. In 1929 she was laid up at Berrys Bay, Sydney and on 2nd August 1933 was towed out to sea and scuttled off the Sydney Heads. (Photo:WSS)

NAMAQUA was built in 1873 by Oswald & Co. at Sunderland with a tonnage of 352grt, a length of 163ft 6in, a beam of 22ft 2in and a service speed of 9 knots. She was built for the Port Nolloth – Cape Town copper ore service and was wrecked off Port Nolloth in March 1876.

BASUTO was built in 1873 by Oswald & Co. at Sunderland with a tonnage of 1034grt, a length of 220ft, a beam of 30ft 5in and a service speed of 9.5 knots. Built for the South African coastal service she was, in 1875, the first vessel to call at Port Alfred (Kowie). After only three years service she was sold to French owners and during her first voyage for them foundered off Corunna on 11th October 1876.

KAFIR was built in 1873 by J. Key at Kinghorn, Fife with a tonnage of 982grt, a length of 249ft 7in, a beam of 28ft 10in and a service speed of 10 knots. Built for the South and East African coastal routes she was wrecked at the entrance to Simonstown near Cape Point in February 1878.

TEUTON was built in 1869 by Wm. Denny & Bros. at Dumbarton, Glasgow with a tonnage of 1741grt, a length of 331ft 2in, a beam of 34ft 4in and a service speed of 13 knots. Costing £45,500 she was launched as the Glenartney for R. Jardine (Matheson & Co)., of Hong Kong for their Hong Kong to Calcutta route. Because of the threat from pirates she was armed with two 12 pound guns. In 1873 she was acquired by the Union Steam Ship Co., renamed Teuton and equipped with passenger accommodation for 250 passengers in three classes. Two years later, in 1875, she was lengthened to 350ft. On 30th August 1881 at 10.00hrs she sailed from Cape Town bound for Port Elizabeth (Algoa Bay) and at 19.00 hrs, in a calm sea, struck a known and charted rock four miles from Quoin Point, Cape Colony. The Teuton was a mile off course. After surveying the damage the master, Captain Manning, decided that she could reach Simonstown unaided. As a safety precaution the boats were readied in case the ship had to be abandoned and the passengers went aft while the crew and volunteers manned the pumps. The pumps could not cope with the incoming sea and at 22.00hrs the ship lost way because the propeller came out of the water as the bow settled down. As the ship was obviously sinking the master gave the order to abandon ship. The first boat moved away in a carnival like atmosphere with much laughing and cheering but as the second boat was being prepared for lowering the second and then the third bulkheads gave way and the ship sank like a stone. Within seconds she was vertical in the water and quickly sank beneath the surface. 236 persons, including Captain Manning, perished and only the 36 in the first lifeboat survived.