UNION, CASTLE AND UNION CASTLE LINES
Union Castle Line
UNION CASTLE LINE
To replace lost tonnage the Company acquired four wartime standard cargo ships, Carisbrook Castle and Norman which had been laid up at Netley in 1914 entered service on the mail route and Arundal Castle was launched in 1919. In May the Company acquired Bullard, King's Direct Line and in October the weekly mail service to the Cape resumed, also the pre-war round Africa service resumed. The four funnel Arundel Castle made her maiden voyage in April of1921 and the Company also took delivery of two cargo ships, Sandown and Sandgate Castles.
Built: 1921 by Harland & Wolff, Belfast.
Tonnage: 19, 023g, 11, 222n.
Engines: Twin Screw, 2 x 3 Turbine, Single Reduction Geared, 15, 000SHP, 16 Knots, 18 Knots max.
Passengers: 234 First Class, 362 Second Class, 274 Third Class, 440 Crew.
Laid down 11th November 1915 as Amroth Castle but completion delayed by steel shortage. Launched on the 11th November 1919 as Arundel Castle. She carried South Africa's Prime Minister Smuts to London for the Imperial Conference in 1923. In November 1926 when in Southampton Water she was in collision with the steamer Maud Llewyllyn. Considered in 1936 to be too slow along with her sister Windsor Castle for the new mail contracts both ships arrived at the yard of their builder in early 1937 for re-engining and extensive refurbishment. Both ships emerged with two funnels instead of the previous four, new bows, new Babcock's boilers, new Parson's turbines all of which went towards increasing their speed by three knots. She underwent trials on the 20th September and re-entered service in the October with her Bridge Wing Houses removed. She was requisitioned for War Service in 1939 and in the November of 1942 took part in the Allied Landings in French Morocco and Algeria known as Operation Torch. During the campaign she survived a glider bomb attack by shooting down the Junkers 88 which was guiding the missile. She attended both the Sicily and Italian Landings in 1943 and in August of the following year took part in wounded prisoner of war exchanges. In January of 1945 she carried out a similar process sailing from Marseilles with 1, 400 wounded, many survivors from the Arnhem parachute landings.
During 1945-1946 she trooped UK - Gibraltar - Malta - Port Said for the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy. From 1947 to 1949 she carried Government sponsored emigrants to South Africa making her last voyage in the May after which she returned to Belfast for an extensive refit. On the 8th September 1950 she returned to Union Castle and after internal refurbishment entered once more onto the mail service with revised passenger and crew compliments: 168 First Class, 371 Tourist Class, 340 Crew. On the 6th November 1958 she commenced her final commercial voyage to Cape Town and after her return to Southampton sailed on her final trip to Kowloon for breaking by Chiap Hua Manufacturing Co at the Tsan Wan yard.
Built: 1922 by John Brown & Co, Clydebank.
Tonnage: 18, 967g, 11, 295n.
Engines : Twin Screw, 2 x 3 Turbine Sets Single Reduction Geared, 15, 000 SHP, Service 16 Knots, Maximum 18 Knots.
Passengers: 234 First Class, 362 Second Class, 274 Third Class, 440 Crew.
Launched by Edward, Prince of Wales on the 9th March 1922.
Windsor Castle is one of the British Monarch's Official residences and has been in continuous use for 900 years. Containing St. George's Chapel which is the burial place of ten British Monarchs.
Laid down in 1915 but unable to complete due to the construction of wartime tonnage she finally made her maiden voyage in April of 1922. She was considered too slow for the new mail contract and the following year underwent extensive modernisation and she returned to service in the January of 1938. In September of 1939 she was requisitioned and commenced trooping. When inward bound from the Cape she was attacked by a German bomber which made four bomb runs in 1941. One of the bombs weighing 500lbs landed in the first Class Smoke Room but failed to explode, it was later diffused when the ship returned to port. She trooped mainly from Canada and the United Sates to Europe in 1942 and in 1943 arrived in the Mediterranean. When 110 miles North West of Algiers she was torpedoed by a lone enemy aircraft at 0235 on the 23rd March. Fortunately she managed to stay afloat for thirteen hours enabling all the troops and crew save one, who was killed by the explosion, to abandon ship.
Duncan Haws states that even the Germans were shocked and after the war two of the U-86's Officers were jailed for four years by the German Supreme Court as war criminals but both 'escaped' shortly afterwards.
Sir Owen Phillips was awarded a peerage becoming Lord Kylsant of Carmarthen in 1923 and the following year Lord Pirrie, Chairman of Harland and Wolff, Deputy Chairman of Union Castle died, he was replaced at Harland and Wolff by Lord Kylsant. The Company transferred Cluny Castle and Comrie Castle to Bullard, King and Co. 1925 saw the introduction of Llandovery Castle on the round Africa service.
Built: 1925 by Barclay, Curle & Co, Glasgow.
Tonnage: 10, 640g, 6, 467n.
Engines : Twin Screw, 2 x Quadruple Expansion, 1, 085 NHP, 14 Knots.
Passengers: 225 First Class, 186 Third Class.
Launched 4th July 1925, Completed September 1925.
The construction of Llandovery Castle in Carmarthenshire was started by the Norman Richard Fitz Pons in 1116.
Completed for the round Africa service she continued in the role uneventfully and in 1939 her boilers were converted from coal to oil burning. Work commenced converting her for use as a Hospital Ship at Southampton in September of 1940 and during one of the many air raids on the port she was severely damaged on the 23rd November thus delaying completion. She eventually emerged as Hospital Ship Number 39 in May of 1941 with beds for 450 and a Medical Staff of 89. She saw service in both the Abyssinian and Eritrean campaigns and suffering minor bomb damage when in Suez. In April of 1942 at Smyrna she exchanged Italian wounded for British wounded and the following year embarked wounded from Tobruk for Alexandria in the February, she spent much of her remaining time that year plying between those two ports sometimes calling at Benghazi. She attended the landings at Sicily in July of 1943 also at Cherbourg in 1944 and in 1945 commenced to repatriate Canadian wounded to Halifax. She was decommissioned in the September of 1946 and during her wartime career travelled 250, 000 miles and carried nearly 38, 000 wounded. After refit she resumed once more on the round Africa service making her first voyage in the May of 1947. Her career came to an end when she arrived back in London on the 15th December 1952 and was broken in March the following year by Thomas W. Ward at Inverkeithing.
Carnarvon Castle entered service in 1926 one of the first passenger liners to be powered by motor engines, she was also the first of the 'squat look' liners which were to dominate for the following decade.
With thanks to 'Threebs' for this postcard of the Carnarvon Castle.
Built: 1926 by Harland & Wolff, Belfast.
Tonnage: 20, 122g, 12, 089n.
Engines : Twin Screw, 2 Stroke Double Acting, Burmeister and Wain, 2 x 8 Cylinder, 3, 364 NHP, 16 Knots Service, 18 Knots maximum.
Passengers: 310 First Class, 275 Second Class, 266 Third Class, 350 Crew.
Launched 14th January 1926 by Lady Suffield, Completed 26th June 1926.
Architecturally one of the most impressive castles in Wales Carnarvon (Welsh spelling Caernarfon) Castle was the birth place of Edward II on the 25th April 1284.
Carnarvon was the first 20, 000 tonner for the company and a completely new design concept by the builders, the forward funnel was a dummy and she made her maiden voyage to the Cape on the 16th of July. In 1936 the new mail contract required a service speed of 19 knots which equated to a 13.5 day voyage and so the following year she returned to Harland and Wolff for modernisation. She emerged in 1938 from her refit with two 10 cylinder 2 stroke double acting diesels, 26, 000 BHP, a single funnel and accommodation for 266 First class, 245 Second Class and 188 Third Class. She had trials on the 26th of June and resumed service on the 8th of July setting a new passage time of 12 days, 13 hours, 38 minutes which stood until 1954.
Carnarvon with a single funnel.
She was requisitioned at Capetown on the 8th of September 1939 and travelled to Simonstown for conversion to an Armed Merchant Cruiser, armed with 8 x 6" guns, anti-aircraft and machine guns, she was commissioned as HMS Carnarvon Castle on the 9th of October. On the 5th of December she had a five hour running battle with the German raider Thor unfortunately coming off the worst and had to put into Montevideo for repairs. She was hit 27 times suffering 4 dead and 27 wounded, Thor's Captain reported no damage, this was his second encounter with a British Armed Cruiser, Alcantara of Union castle on the 28th of July 1940 was his first and he managed to sink Voltaire on the 4th of April 1941. Carnarvon Castle was decommissioned in December of 1943 and was converted for use as a troopship in New York in 1944 after plans to convert her for use as an Aircraft Carrier were abandoned. She was released from War Duties in March of 1947 and in the June commenced on the emigrant trade to South Africa carrying up to 1, 283 passengers. She underwent modernisation again in early 1949 at Harland and Wolff and resumed service on the 15th of June 1950 with passenger numbers of 216 First Class and 401 Tourist.
She continued as such until arriving at Mihara, Japan for breaking on the 8th of September 1963 after 37 years service.
Nelson Line, David McIver & Co, Lamport & Holt and the Argentine Co were all added to the Royal Mail Group along with White Star in 1927. In the Mediterranean its interests included Moss-Hutchison and MacAndrews with the forming of Coast Lines to look after the short sea trade routes. The Company signed a new freight contract with the Government of South Africa in 1928 which entailed the building of new ships capable of carrying more chilled and refrigerated cargo. Union Castle's parent Company Royal Mail was causing reason for concern and the British Treasury became involved. Llangibby Castle was completed at Harland and Wolff yard in 1929 and entered service on the round Africa route making her maiden voyage on the 5th of December.
Winchester Castle and Dunbar Castle entered service in 1930, Carlow Castle was disposed of. Financial problems which would come to light later forced the Government to appoint Walter Runciman M.P. Deputy Chairman of Union Castle his remit was to take Union Castle out of the Royal Mail Group.
With Thanks to Peter Rennie
Built: 1929 by Harland & Wolff, Glasgow.
Tonnage: 11, 951, 7, 199n.
Engines: Twin Screw 4S. SA 2 x 8 Cylinder Burmeister & Wain by Builder, Turbo-C, 1, 300 NHP, 14.5 Knots.
Passengers: 250 First Class, 200 Third Class, 220 Crew.
Launched 4th July, Completed 21st November 1929.
With Thanks to Peter Rennie
Whilst researching Winchester Castle in Duncan Haws book on Union Castle I couldn't help noticing that the opposite page was completely full of a ship's profile, normally ships just have half a page or even less. I turned back a page and discovered that the vessel in question was Llangibby Castle for which I unfortunately had no photographs. Her story really had to be told so I contacted a friend who lives in Canada who then introduced me to Peter Rennie who then miraculously produced the two photographs which accompany the following narrative.
She commenced her maiden voyage on the 5th December on the Round Africa service. In 1934 Union Castle introduced Round Africa cruises and Llangibby's Third Class accommodation was converted to that of Tourist, a First Class ticket cost £105 with Tourist costing £40. Still on her scheduled service she sailed from London in the April of 1940 and arrived at Genoa where due to Italian hostility the passengers were prevented from going ashore. A short while later all British ships were ordered out of the Mediterranean by the Admiralty. On arriving at Falmouth from Cape Town on the 6th of July Llangibby was requisitioned and converted for use as a Troopship she was the ideal battalion carrying size. She commenced trooping South and East Africa and during a night time air raid was damaged by bombs when in Liverpool 21st/22nd of December, ten other ships were also damaged including another Company ship Roxburgh Castle. When bound for Singapore carrying 1, 400 troops she was torpedoed by U-402 north of the Azores on the 16th of January 1942, her stern and after gun were blown right off killing twenty-six with another four missing presumed dead. Fortunately her propellers were not affected and she was able to make way albeit at only nine knots, during this time she was repeatedly attacked by Focke-Wulf Condar aircraft but was able to beat off the attackers. She arrived safely at Horta on the 19th of January and was given fourteen days to affect temporary repairs after which she sailed on the 2nd of February escorted by three Destroyers and an Admiralty Tug. The following day a battle ensued with a U-boat pack, the Destroyers won the day with HMS Westcott sinking U-581. Llangibby was finding it increasingly difficult to steer using her engines only (no stern or rudder) so she was taken under tow by the Tug and arrived in Gibraltar on the 8th of February. During the passage for safeties sake the troops who had remained onboard were kept on deck returning to the accommodation only for meals. A fortunate outcome for the troops from this potential disaster was that they never did get to go to Singapore and eventually become Prisoners of the Japanese, definitely not a desirous proposition. After spending 57 days waiting for a rudder which never materialised Llangibby Castle sailed with her escorts bound for the UK some 1, 400 miles distance. She arrived home on the 13th of April travelled 3, 400 miles since losing her stern and rudder steering with her engines only, Captain Bayer was subsequently awarded the C.B.E.
The site is indebted to Mr. Michael Huntly Moore who forwarded merchantnavyofficers.com the following photographs and paintings. Mr. Moore’s father, North Huntly Moore, was the First Electrical Officer onboard Llangibby Castle and was tragically killed whilst on duty in the action that commenced on the 9th of November 1942, Operation Torch, North Africa.
Llangibby minus rudder and stern.
DISABLED TROOPSHIPS SAFE ARRIVAL
THE STORY OF THE RESCUE OF LLANGIBBY CASTLE.
Destroyers’ Race with Time and U-Boats
The following message has been received from Reuter’s Special Correspondent on board a British destroyer:-
A large war-battered liner, packed with British troops limped slowly into Gibraltar harbour, escorted by destroyers and corvettes. Her safe arrival was yet another triumph for the small, hard-working ships of the Navy, most of whose crews could count on the fingers of one hand the number of days spent in harbour each month.
The troopship was a prize won by these ships in the 1200-mile race against U-boats across the Atlantic. Hit in the stern by a torpedo fired by a U-boat while outward bound in convoy, the troopship was forced to seek haven in the harbour at Horta, in the island of Fayal, for repairs. The time limit for her stay in a neutral port was almost expired and the liner and troops were threatened with internment. U-boats were lurking in the neighbourhood ready to renew their attack on the crippled ship.
But the destroyers won the race to her rescue with a day to spare. We, and two others were waiting for her when she put to sea. We had been ordered to bring her into Gibraltar. On the second day out we steamed through an area of sea strewn with the grim flotsam of war. Bales of goods, cork, oil drums and finally a water-logged lifeboat floated past, reminding us of the dangers of the slow journey home with the wounded troopship. By the next morning we were steaming off the headland hiding Horta harbour, where the troopship lay, but it was not until late afternoon that she nosed her way slowly round it and came into sight.
Her rudder was useless and she was steering by her engines. A powerful ocean-going tug, tiny against her huge hulk, was standing by to tow her if necessary. Through the glasses we saw the troops lining the rails. With the naked eye we could see the great jagged hole in her stern. With the troopship making a gallant 11 knots we were drawing away from the island when the first alarm came. The dull thuds of depth charges resounded suddenly through the ship as we were finishing dinner in the wardroom.
Hurrying to the bridge, we saw a destroyer several miles astern. It was nearly dark. Her signal lamps winked a message that she had sighted a U-boat on the surface 5 miles away. As we swung round we saw the yellow stabs of fire from her guns. Three salvos we counted before a driving rainsquall blotted her from our view. With the ship plunging forward at nearly 30 knots, with the bows digging deep in the heavy swell, sending waves over the forecastle and clouds of stinging spray over the bridge, the order “Action Stations” clanged through the ship. Within a few minutes we were on the scene.
The submarine had apparently dived almost immediately we had contact. The atmosphere on the bridge was electric. “Stand by depth charges” snapped the captain, while a junior officer’s voice chanted steadily: “One thousand yards, 800 yards, 700 yards,” as the distance rapidly narrowed. A few tense expectant minutes. Then sharp cracks, a gush of red sparks aft and the huge depth charges hurtled up into the air against the background of dark heavy clouds and splashed into the sea 50 yards away on either side of the ship. The whole ship leaped in the water and vibrated to the shock of the tremendous curiously muffled explosions, which lashed the sea into a boiling whirlpool of white foam.
We swung round to port and the other destroyer astern told us she was going in to attack. In the waist of the destroyer the depth charge parties were drenched. Great waves swept over the deck and swirled around their legs as they tugged and strained at pulleys in the darkness reloading the throwers with their huge charges. “He will soon be up,” chuckled a yeoman of signals, his face glistening with spray. The words were prophetic. A few minutes later our consort dropped more depth charges. Two tracer shells, like red-hot beads, whizzed through the air ahead in a low arc and plunged into the sea a mile from port. At that moment the look-outs, through powerful binoculars, spotted a dark shape on the surface 1800 yards away on the port side.
“Rapid salvos,” shouted the first lieutenant down the telephone. With ear-splitting cracks, the guns just below the bridge opened fire. We were blinded with brilliant yellow flashes. For two or three minutes the guns crashed. I could hear the shells rustling away from the ship. Suddenly the captain ordered “Cease Fire” and the aft turret pumped star shells into the sky. After searching for half an hour longer, like terriers round a rat hole we steamed off to rejoin the troopship, regarding “Jerry’s end” as probable.
From an unidentified newspaper cutting.
On closer inspection
Llangibby Castle by F.W. Langshaw
8.15 a.m., 16th January 1942 42ø 25N 20W by T.M. Kinnell
Horta 19th January 1942 by T.M. Kinnell
On the 9th of November she took part at the North African landings code named Operation Torch. In all 340 ships took part of which 3 were Battleships, 5 Aircraft Carriers, 5 Cruisers, 30 Destroyers and 44 Support ships, during the action Llangibby was hit by an 8 inch shell fired from a shore battery which resulted in one fatality.
A Tribute written shortly after the death of First Electrical Officer, North Huntly Moore, by Mr. Ben Barnes.
The Battle of the Atlantic
Union Castle Line
NORTH HUNTLY MOORE
An intermediate boat flying the flag of the Union Castle Line THE LLANGIBBY CASTLE was one of the first Merchant Navy Vessels to be armed, and strengthened fore and aft to take the necessary guns.
When the war broke out our Hero NORTH HUNTLY MOORE was the First Electrician aboard this boat which post he occupied ‘til he was killed by French shore guns at Oran November 8th 1942.
As war progressed the Llangibby was employed in many ways such as transport of Prisoners of War etc., On the 24th March Italians were landed at Genoa.
On other occasions this boat was the leader of a Convoy and was used by the Admiral as his Headquarters.
Our Electrician improving on the clock for zigzagging - was complimented by the Captain and Admiral, who promised to bring it to the notice of the Authorities.
On April 1st 1940 the boat arrived at Tilbury to sail again on the 10th.
Whilst at Suez the ship was attacked. The gunner brought down the attacking plane much to his delight and satisfaction of the Passengers and crew.
This boat travelled many times unprotected, dodging submarines and other dangers. Bringing food and taking out reinforcements to the African Continent.
Still the old ship stood up to it.
In January ’42 it left an English Port with 1400 airmen aboard - when 3 or 4 days out what happened is dramatically described in the following.
A telegram received by his wife from Horta in the Azores aroused suspicion. This was on February 13th.
The Overseas Daily Mail January 31st 1942 -
Graham Stanford - Staff Reporter on his way to Singapore is torpedoed, bombed and machine-gunned. It was 100 to 1 we shouldn’t make port.
Horta the Azores - January 25th. This is a straight story of the Battle of the Atlantic. It is the story of a British Ship, which was torpedoed, bombed, and finally defied its Nazi pursuers and limped badly crippled into a neutral port. The ship sailed alone - she made her own zigzag course across the ocean. She defied U boats, surface raiders and air attacks.
I was on board - I watched the story unfold. Through tense unforgettable days the most dramatic details I shall be unable to reveal until the War is over. That is a pity for this story is an epic of British seamanship and courage.
We were sailing full speed ahead, it seemed that everything was “set fair” when the first attack was made on us. We were just coming out of the Atlantic danger zone. The early tension had gone - the passengers relieved, their feelings of strain gone, were just beginning to enjoy themselves.
I whistled as I shaved, the worst was over, I could really begin to take an interest in the trip, then suddenly came a wicked jar, the lights went out (Our Electrician had seen what was coming so he said when he came home to us)I was thrown across the cabin colliding with my 2 cabin mates. We struggled to our feet, grabbed our life belts and tore off to the boat deck.
Up there it was all very calm - the passengers and crew quietly lined up at their boat stations - as they adjusted their life belts I could hear snatches of conversation coming along the deck. Somebody was saying ‘nice morning for a bath’.
For a few minutes we did not know what had happened - then the news swept the ship - a torpedo had hit the ship, jammed the rudder and killed and wounded several of the passengers, but although the rudder was useless the engines it seemed were still working and we were not shipping any water.
We stayed at boat stations for more than an hour - we wondered what was going to happen. We were alone in the U boat ridden Atlantic ‘rudderless and with submarines on our tail.
Up on the bridge, the Captain, a weather beaten old sea dog, many times torpedoed, went on as though nothing had happened.
We set a new course and off we went, but every moment we waited for a second jar. Surely we thought that U boat would have another shot at us. One hour - two hours passed, gradually life on the ship returned to normal.
No one knows where we were, how long the engines would hold on, whether we should be able to continue steering without a rudder, or whether we should sink, when, out of the sun swooped a Focke Wolf Kurier. It skimmed the mast top, machine-gunning us like mad. I could see the hunched figure of the pilot - bullets swept the deck and a couple of bombs missed us by less than 20 yards.
I threw myself on my face, and as I lay there on the deck I heard our fair haired one eyed gunner cry ‘Got you, you…….’ as he poured a stream of bullets into the Nazi machine. As it sheered off I saw black smoke pouring from its engines. Now that young gunner enjoyed himself. He was not much more than a boy, and in spite of all that was going on at the moment; I couldn’t help laughing to see him dance for sheer joy at having got his Nazi.
Some of the Crew and Passengers were wounded by the machine guns. Our doctor took them below to an emergency hospital, which was rigged up in the Smoke Room? Saloon.
Added by the writer.
“Moore the Electrician had to work among the wounded men to get the lighting arrangements in order - he stuck to his task although his assistant was utterly helpless”
For his attention to duty he received a letter from the Company and £50 invested in Savings Certificates.
The old Boson who had been badly hit gave us the sign as they carried him below - his chief concern seemed to be that some one should give him his “baccy & pipe”
Then we waited once again for a second attack - that ‘plane must have given our position and signalled the news to its base. We figured it could only be a matter of time before we should be the object of a big scale attack, and now for the first time we learned just how badly damaged we were.
There was a gaping hole in our stern and everything depended now on the engines. Every moment we expected another air attack and extra spotters were posted.
We were quite along the ocean again. There was a one in one hundred chance we should make a port safely.
All through the night we ploughed ahead in heavy weather - The engineers dragged the last ounce from the labouring engines. In the Smoke room we talked, read, played cards and wondered what dawn would bring, for dawn and dusk are the zero hours in the Battle of the Atlantic.
I talked to a sensible young Padre. He had been at Dover during the Battle of Britain. When I spoke to him he had just visited the wounded. We could hear the poor devils groaning behind the curtains. “Its shaken me a bit” he said - “It’s the first time I’ve seen death as close as this”.
Days and nights rolled on - we went on waiting, watching and wondering, ploughing through the seas. Nerves were strained to breaking point. The Stewards were marvellous - there was a wonderful spirit of comradeship - we felt we were all in it together.
We called ourselves “Ghost Ship” - sometimes we sang “Where is our wandering ship tonight?”
“Breaking in here with a personal touch and not in the report, whilst all the trouble was going on -the Crew working their hardest for the welfare of all aboard, some scoundrel or scoundrel unworthy of the name Britons, entered the cabins of the Engineer and our Electrician and ransacked them of anything of value. Moore the Electrician losing his wallet, cash and watch”.
Continuing the narrative - Burial at Sea - the dead were buried at sea. It was the first time I had seen a funeral service on the Ocean - I do not want to see it again. The Crew were magnificent - they were all hardened campaigners in the Battle of the Atlantic. The threat of death was nothing new to them.
Night after night the Captain and Chief Engineer did not sleep. Eventually after days and nights of intolerable strain we reached Port. I stood that night on the deck and watched the twinkling shore lights and the winking lighthouse. Here was peace again - the waves lapped calmly and soothingly against the tortured ship -overhead the stars shone out in the clear sky. Next day a Thanksgiving Service was held aboard - the men requested it just as they had asked for hymns when things were looking their blackest, and hopes nearly dead, as the morning sun warmed the land that awaited us. The music of those time honoured hymns meant more to me at that moment than they had ever meant before. I think everyone on board felt the same.
The poor old ship stayed the time at this Neutral Port as long as it was possible - were treated kindly and considerately by the Authorities and then limped off again in the hope of reaching Gibraltar, which was eventually reached. A short stay here and the Captain decided to make for home, and arrived Southampton round about April 14th 1942.
Our Electrician Moore anticipated a well-earned rest -it was not to be. The First Electrician of another of the company’s boats the Durban Castle met with an accident, and the Company deputised him to take his place for a trip to the Cape, on May 22nd arrived Durban. On this trip home a number of prisoners were brought to England, among them a high German General. After a short stay at the Thatcher he was sent back to his old boat the “Llangibby Castle” at Glasgow. On October 2nd after a few days at home he left for Glasgow. Movements were very secret - letters few and far between, when on Saturday afternoon of November 14th. we heard that he was missing. This was followed by a letter from the Company that he had died aboard the ship.
We soon learned the sad news - That he arrived at Oran on the 7th November (Saturday) - That on Sunday November the 8th early in the morning the French shore batteries opened fire, and our Hero was in his cabin. The shell struck the engineers quarters on deck, entered the cabin of our First Electrician, killing him, and setting the cabin on fire. The contents were burned out - evidently he was dragged out.
Our first report said that there was no mark on him, but the Death Certificate of the doctor said that a piece of shrapnel had entered his head.
The only belongings saved, which were sent to us, were his ring, cigarette case and spectacles. All his other belongings were lost.
They buried him at sea in “Anduloses Bay” near Oran on the Monday morning. He was the only one of the crew killed.
Those of us who knew him, and were in close touch with him realise what the strain upon him during the War was - yet he bore it manfully - served his Company to the last, loyally, (28 years in their Service). To his country and its cause he never faltered. The thoughts and welfare of those nearest and dearest ever in his mind. His homecoming was a pleasure.
On his last trip, with heavy heart he parted - with Michael his 4 ½ year old son in plaster at the Orthopaedic Hospital at Exeter - his wife on the platform at Exeter - he is going North - she is coming Westward - Little did he or we think it would be the last we should see of him - but he still lives in our memory.
His work was nobly done, and we look forward with confidence that both Mother and Son will be spared to enjoy one another’s company - that his bright example will be the guiding star of
our Dear MICHAEL HUNTLY MOORE
Compiled and written by Ben Barnes, June 19th 1943. (Michael’s Grandfather)
She suffered Bow damage whilst at Gibraltar in 1943 during the run up to the Italian landings and was forced to return to the UK for repairs, whilst in the shipyard she was converted into a Landing Ship Infantry with 14 landing craft. She practised landing techniques at Loch Fyne in Scotland before spending the next six months ferrying troops in the Mediterranean. In 1944 she was allocated to Force J3 for the landings at Juno Beach and was camouflage painted accordingly in the March. She embarked Royal Marine Flotilla 557 to man her landing craft at the Clyde and then proceeded south to practice landings at Bracklesham Beach, East Wittering. The Juno Beachead lay between the River Provence and St Aubin Sur Mer in the Baie de la Seine, Llangibby sailed from Southampton and landed her first 750 Canadians from the 3rd Canadian Division at Coirseilles in 14 L.S.I.'s. Returning to the ship ten of the L.S.I.'s were swamped with a loss of twelve lives and so the remaining L.S.I.'s had to make two more trips each to land the next 750 troops, Llangibby Castle lay off the Beachead for nine hours. She then returned to Southampton and began ferrying troops to the Beacheads at Omaha and Utah later also to Le Havre in all making seventy crossings carrying 100, 000 troops. At the end of the European conflict she was transferred to the Pacific for further trooping duties and in January of 1946 repatriated 6000 West African troops from Burma and India. During her twelve months away she travelled over 55, 000 miles with the longest stay in port just under three days, Union Castle stated that it was the longest Southampton-Southampton voyage ever in peace time. She returned to her owners having travelled over 300, 000 miles carrying 156, 134 troops during the War and after an extensive refit/refurbishment resumed her Round Africa service in the July of 1947. In 1949 she caught fire in one of her cargo holds which meant her missing a complete voyahe but she was incident free for the next five years. Sadly her end came as most other ships at the breakers yard and she made her final passage from Tilbury sailing on the 29th of June 1954 arriving at the River Usk berth of J.Cashmore, Newport to be broken in the July.
Built: 1930 by Harland & Wolff, Belfast.
Tonnage: 20, 109g, 12, 228n.
Engines: Twin Screw, 4 Stroke Double Acting B & W Type, 2 x 8 Cylinder, 3, 360 NHP, 20 Knots.
Passengers: 260 First Class, 243 Second Class, 254 Third Class, 350 Crew.
Launched 19th November 1929, completed 11th October 1930.
Her maiden voyage was made on the 24th of October. In 1936 she stranded near Portland and Armadale Castle was brought out of reserve to replace her. She underwent modernisation at the yard of her builders and was fitted with Burmeister and Wain diesels producing 26, 000 BHP which increased her service speed by three knots reducing the passage time by two and two-third days. In 1941 she made one trooping voyage to Bombay and after became the Headquarters ship for Montbattens Combined Operations after which she spent a year in Scottish Waters training men for Seaborne Assault Landings. She was the Headquarters ship for the Allied Landings of the Vichy controlled Island of Madagascar and was accompanied by Keren, Karanja, Llandaff Castle, Sobieski which were escorted by the Battleship Ramilles. After the successful landings the Merchant ships sailed round the coast to Diego Suarez where Winchester Castle code-named Radio Diego Suarez for the exercise made propaganda broadcasts. For the action she ship's Master, Captain S.F. Newdigate was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. On the 22nd of July during a trooping voyage from the U.S.A. to the U.K. she picked up 39 survivors from the U.S. Freighter Honolulan which had been torpedoed by U-582. She took part in the North African Landings at Sidi Ferruch, Algiers code-named Operation Torch on the 6th November. September of the following year she saw action at the Salerno Landings code-named Avalanche in which Lt. General McCreery's 56th Division, British X Corps were landed between Paestum and Maiori either side of Salerno. On the 15th of August 1944 she took part in Operation Dragoon landing troops near Cannes for the Allied invasion of Southern France. 1947 - 1948 found her on the emigrant service with berths for up to 877 passengers after which she returned to Harland & Wolff for a major overhaul. On the 22nd of September 1948 she once more entered onto the mail run with passenger compliments of 188 First Class and 400 Tourist. She was sold for scrapping in 1960 being replaced by Windsor Castle, and arrived at the yard of Nichimen K.K., Mihara, Japan on the 5th of November.
Warwick Castle was delivered in January of 1931 and in May Lord Kylsant was issued a summons in connection with the prospectus issued to launch Royal Mail's debenture stock, he subsequently resigned from the Board and Walter Runciman replaced him. He left to become President of the Board of Trade, also this year Britain went off the Gold Standard and a National Government was formed.
Built: 1931 by Harland & Wolff, Belfast.
Tonnage: 20, 109g, 12, 228n.
Engines : Twin Screw, 4 Stroke Double Acting, Burmeister and Wain, 2 x 8 Cylinder, 3, 360 NHP, 20 Knots.
Passengers: 260 First Class, 243 Second Class, 254 Third Class, 350 Crew.
Launched 29th April 1930, Completed 16th January 1931.
Warwick Castle is probably the finest example if a medieval castle in England. The site was fortified by William the Conquer and was many years the home of the Earls of Warwick.
She made her maiden voyage on the 30th of January 1931 and in 1938 underwent the same extensive modernisation as that of her sister Winchester Castle at Harland and Wolff. She was taken over for trooping duties in the September of 1939. She took part in the North African landings known as Operation Torch which was an Anglo-American joint effort landing troops in French Morocco and Algeria. The landings culminated in the capitulation of German and Italian forces in Tunisia the following May. Warwick landed her troops on the 10th of November and then sailed out of the Mediterranean in convoy MKF 1 back to England. When North of Gibraltar off the coast of Portugal they unknowingly passed over U-413 which stayed submerged until the last ship passed over. The U-boat then fired a torpedo at the last ship which was the Warwick striking her at 0850 hours, she sank a short while later at 1015.
On the 16th of June 1932 Robertson F. Gibb became Chairman of Union Castle, he had joined Union SS on leaving school and had been with them ever since. Because of Lord Kylsant the finances of the Company were in a perilous state but Mr. Gibb was confident that the problems could be overcome, nevertheless no dividend was paid that year. Sir Vernon Thomas Chairman of King Line joined the Board, Palma De Mallorca and Tangier were added to the round Africa service. The twenty year old cargo ship Chepstow Castle was sold for scrap in 1933 and Guildford Castle collided with Blue Funnel's Stentor in the estuary of the river Elbe on the 31st of May. Two of the crew were killed in the collision and later the following day Guildford was beached, she was declared a total loss with pilot error attributed as the cause. Having virtually discharged its debts culminating from Lord Kysant's purchase of the White Star there still remained outstanding liabilities incurred by Royal Mail and Elder Dempster. There remained no other option for the latter companies but to go into liquidation and creditors formed two realisation companies to dispose of the assets. Union Castle then commenced on an extensive rebuild programme which was to be spread over the following five years. Roslin Castle and Rothesay Castle entered service both with refrigeration capacity in 1935.
In May of 1935 the problem with regards which voters could cast votes at General Meetings was resolved and in the December Ordinary Shares in Union Castle were issued, totally subscribed for, the Company's crisis was over. Dunottar Castle, Dunvegan Castle, Walmer Castle, Stirling Castle and Athlone Castle all entered service, both Kenilworth Castle and Eider are sold for scrapping.
Built: 1936 by Harland & Wolff, Belfast.
Tonnage: 25, 564g, 15, 688n.
Engines : Twin Screw, 2 X 10 Cylinder, 2 Stroke Double Acting by Builder, 4, 650 NHP, 20 Knots.
Passengers: 300 First Class, 490 Cabin Class.
Launched 28th November 1935 by Princess Alice, Completed 13th May 1936.
Athlone Castle is situated on the West Bank of the Shannon and was built by the Normans in 1210.
Athlone Castle made her maiden voyage on the 22nd of May 1936 and became the first Royal Mail ship to enter Buffalo Harbour, East London on the 5th of November 1937. On the 22nd of December 1938 she inaugurated the new 14 days or under service to the Cape called for by the 1936 mail contract. She was Commodore Ship in a six vessel Union Castle convoy which transported South African troops to Suez for the North African campaign in 1940, the other ships were Arundel, Windsor, Winchester, Durban and Capetown Castles.
She transported American troops to the UK in 1943 in the build up for the following year and in all carried approximately 150, 000. She went for extensive refurbishment in 1946 to Harland and Wolff and continued on service for a further 19 years. She arrived in Southampton on the 6th of August 1965 having completed her 141st voyage and ten days later sailed for Taiwan to be broken by the China Steel Corporation at Kaohsiung, work commenced on the 13th of September.
Built : 1936 by Harland and Wolff, Belfast.
Tonnage: 25, 550g, 15, 687n.
Engines: Twin Screw, 2 x 10 Cylinder 2S DA, 4650 NHP, 20 Knots.
Passengers: 300 First Class, 490 Cabin.
Launched on the 15th July 1935, completed 29th January 1936.
She was launched by Mrs; Robertson Gibb wife of the Company Chairman and she madde her maiden voyage to Cape Town on the 7th of February. In 1937 the new mail contract commenced reducing the required voyage time to 14 days. She was employed as a Troopship from 1940 and in 1943 carried American Troops to the UK for the invasion of Europe. At War's end she had steamed 500,000 miles and carried 128,000 troops. She was released from Trooping Duties in 1946 and returned to Belfast for refit and refurbishment emerging the following year with passenger capacity of 245 First Class, 540 Tourist. She was sold for scrap in 1965 but the deal fell through and it wasn't until the 1st of February 1966 that she finally sailed from Southampton arriving at the yard of Nichimen K.K. Mihara on the 3rd of March.
Built: 1936 by Harland & Wolff, Belfast.
Tonnage: 15, 002g, 9, 181n.
Engines: Twin Screw, 2 x 9 Cylinder Harland Burmeister & Wain, 1, 931 NHP, 9, 500 BHP, 17 Knots.
Passengers: 258 First Class, 250 Second Class.
Launched on the 25th January 1936, completed 27th June 1936.
Dunnottar Castle was the ancient stronghold of Sir William Keith the Great Marischal of Scotland.
She made her maiden voyage to the Cape on the mail run on the 10th of July whilst the other Company ships were undergoing refurbishment and re-engining. She was requisitioned by the Admiralty on the 28th of August 1939 and on the 14th of October was commission as an Armed Merchant Cruiser armaments being 7 x 6" guns and sailed to serve on South Atlantic Patrols. In 1942 Dunnottar Castle was relieved from her A.M.C. duties when more Protection Cruisers entered service, it was envisaged at the time that she would be converted to an Aircraft Carrier but eventually in the June was converted to a Troopship. The month before she carried South African Engineers to Tristan Da Cunha who established a radio and meteorological station which was used throughout the War benefiting not only the Islanders but ships in the South Atlantic. Between June and August of 1944 she acted as a shuttle between Southampton and the Beach Heads and at War's end had travelled 284, 000 miles carrying nearly 260, 000 troops.
Dunnottar Castle returned to Union Castle in March of 1948 and immediately went for refurbishment to Belfast, she emerged with passenger accommodation for 220 First Class and 220 Tourist Class. She resumed the Round Africa Service on the 9th of February 1949, London-Suez-South Africa-London and remained as such until being de-commissioned and replaced by Rhodesia Castle in 1958. Dunnottar Castle was sold in September of the same year to Incres S.S. Co, Monrova and renamed Victoria. On the 16th of January she was towed to Holland for re-engining with Fiat C-757's which gave her a sped of 18 knots she also underwent a rebuild resulting in accommodation for 600 passengers of one class. For the next five years she sailed out of New York before being sold to the Victoria S.S. Co, Monrova a subsidiary of the Swedish Einar Hansen's Rederi A/B Clipper, Malmo in October of 1964 with Incres acting as managers. She continued cruising the Caribbean until being sold to the Chandris subsidiary Phaidon Navigation Co in 1975 and transferred to Greek Registry. She commenced cruising in June of 1976 under the name of The Victoria' and apart fropm being sold once more in 1981 to Victoria Maritime S.A., Piraeus, was still cruising in 1990 in the Mediterranean.
Built: 1936 by Harland & Wolff, Belfast.
Tonnage: 906g, 350n.
Engine: Single Screw, 8 Cylinder, 2 Stroke Double Acting, 539 NHP, 10 Knots.
Passengers: 300 First Class, 490 Cabin Class.
Launched 17th September 1936, Completed 30th November 1936.
Walmer Castle dates from the 16th century, and forms part of a line of defence along the edge of the Downs. As a result of constant threats of invasion from Spain, Henry VIII ordered castles to be built at Walmer, Deal and Sandown, with a series of defence works and ditches located between them. This allowed for defending any coastal attack, while at the same time commanding the Downs.
Built for the Southampton - Bremon - Hamburg feeder service Walmer Castle replaced Eider. In 1940 she was requisitioned for use as an Armed Supply Ship based at Scarpa Flow and in June of the following year was converted again for use as a Convoy Rescue Ship. On her first sailing as such when in convoy OG 75 she picked up survivors from the City of Waterford on the 19th September. The following day she picked up 30 from the Empire Moat and a further 28 from the Baltallin. By the 21st she had fallen well behind the convoy and was attacked by Focke Wulf Kondor of I/KG 40 based at Bordeaux which in turn was shot down by an escort aircraft. The ship managed to avoid two of the bombs but a third struck home killing the Captain, ten crew and two of the rescued seamen. The remaining 12 crew and the survivors from the previous sinkings were picked up by HMS Marigold and HMS Deptford, the stricken Walmer Castle was later sank by gunfire from the escorts. The convoy itself lost nine ships despite being escorted by an Aircraft Carrier, HMS Audacity.
A new ten-year contract was signed in 1937 and the passage time was reduced to fourteen days. Only two ships could maintain the agreed schedule Athlone/Stirling Castle and so the Company embarked on an extensive re-engining program the ships involved were Arundel, Carnarvon, Warwick, Winchester and Windsor Castles. The Sandgate Castle was destroyed by fire and subsequently sank on the 30th of June when en route New York to Cape Town the survivors were rescued by the President Pierce (Dollar S.S. Co.). Roxburgh and Rochester Castles entered service and the feeder ship Hansa was sold to Jack Billmeir renamed Stanray and used as a blockade runner during the Spanish Civil War. The Munich crisis of 1938 saw the Windsor Castle being withdrawn from service as a potential Troopship, Cape Town and Durban Castle entered service.
The £10,000,000 rebuilding program which commenced in 1934 ended.
Built: 1938 by Harland & Wolff, Belfast.
Tonnage: 27, 000g, 16, 454n.
Engine: Twin Screw, 2 x 10 Cylinder Burmeister & Wain 4, 650 NHP, 28, 000 BHP, 22.5 Knots.
Passengers: 290 First Class, 500 Cabin.
Launched 23rd September 1937, completed 31st March 1938.
She was launched by Mrs. J. D. Low Mayoress of Cape Town and the ship's title along with all other South African Castles was fictional. She continued on the mail service until being taken over for use as a Troopship in 1940 and in 1943 transported American Servicemen from the States to the UK during the build up for D-Day codenamed Operation Bolero. Released back to Union Castle in 1946 she underwent extensive refurbishment at Belfast and resumed once more on the mail run with accommodation for 243 First Class, 553 Tourist Class passengers.
On the 17th of October 1960 due to safety equipment failure the main engine compressed air reservoir exploded tragically killing seven Engine Room staff which included Mr. Stanley Logan the Chief Engineer Officer. In February of 1965 £100, 000 of gold ingots were stolen from the ship's strong room by two crew members who had cemented them over in an adjacent hold, both spent ten years in prison for the crime. Just over two years later she arrived at La Spezia for breaking by Terrestre Marittima on the 26th of September 1967.
In 1939 and Balmoral Castle went to the breakers. On the 25th of April Robertson Gibb retired as Chairman and is replaced by Sir Vernon Thompson. Three ships come out of lay up at Netley in August, Edinburgh Castle as a Trooper, Dunnottar as an A.M.C. and Gloucester Castle enters once more onto the mail run. At the outbreak of war Dunvegan, Carnarvon and Pretoria Castle are all converted for use as A.M.C.'s and Union Castle Fleet numbers some thirty ships with the average age of ten years. The Company also moved its Headquarters from London to Southampton. The Company's first casualty was the Dunbar Castle which was mined off Deal on the 8th of January 1940. Also this month the Liner Requisition Scheme was introduced along the same lines as that operated in 1917 which meant that all sailings were centrally controlled and planned, Edinburgh Castle became the Freetown accommodation ship. July saw a battle between Carnarvon Castle and the German raider Thor in which Carnavon unfortunately came off worse but managed to escape, the action lasted one and a half hours with the Company's ship firing over 500 shells. On the 27th of August at 21.47 the Dunvegan Castle was torpedoed by U-46 off Western Ireland, 27 were killed, 12 wounded with the remaining 250 survivors being landed at Scotland. In September of 1941 Walmer Castle when acting as a convoy rescue ship is bombed and sunk when 700 miles West of Ushant, Dromore Castle is also sunk when in convoy by a mine on the 12th December. Its fair to say that along with many other companies 1942 was a disastrous year and Union Castle's misfortunes started on the 16th of January when Llangibby Castle's stern was blown off by a torpedo fortunately her propellers survived, after landing her troops safely at Gibraltar she proceeded back to the UK steering with her propellers assisted by a tug, in convoy. After steaming some 3,400 miles without a rudder she arrived back in the UK and her Commander, Captain Bayor was awarded the C.B.E. In February when in convoy MW9B bound for Malta Rowallan Castle was bombed by German aircraft and was subsequently sank by her escorts when a tow failed to get her into harbour. Pretoria Castle was converted for use as an Aircraft Carrier, Dunnottar Castle was released from her duties as an A.M.C. for use as a Troopship and Winchester Castle was converted for use as a Landing Ship Infantry. Gloucester Castle was sank by the German raider Michel on the 15th of July and Richmond Castle was torpedoed by U-176 in the North Atlantic. Her sister ship Rochester Castle however had the distinction of being the first ship to enter Valetta Harbour from the convoy 'Pedestal' the other four survivors from the original thirteen which set out were Ohio, Port Chalmers, Melbourne Star and Brisbane Star.
Destroyers and tugs assisting the damaged British tanker Ohio enter Valetta Harbour.
Imperial War Museum
Go to Union Castle History Part Three