RMS Llanstephan CastleLlandovery Castle

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With Reuben Goossens

Maritime Historian, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer, Author & Maritime Lecturer

Please Note: All ssMaritime and other related maritime/cruise sites are 100% non-commercial and privately owned. Be assured that I am NOT associated with any shipping or cruise companies or any travel/cruise agencies or any other organisations! Although the author has been in the passenger shipping industry since 1960, although is now retired but having completed around 680 Classic Liners and Cargo-Passengers Ships features I trust these will continue to provide classic ship enthusiasts the information the are seeking, but above all a great deal of pleasure! Reuben Goossens.


--Union Castle Mail Steamship Company--

RMS Llanstephan Castle & Llandovery Castle

A fine RMS Llanstephan Castle colour postcard

In April 1912, Royal Mail Line took control of Union-Castle Mail Steamship Company and signed a ten-year mail contract. With Sir Owen Philipps voted on the board the first new Union Castle ships were ordered by the company, with a decision to give both Welsh names, thus the names: Llanstephan Castle and Llandovery Castle.

The Llanstephan Castle was built by Fairfield at Glasgow and was launched on August 29, 1913, whilst her identical sister, Llandovery Castle was built by Barclay Curle & Company Glasgow and launched just five days later.

RMS Llanstephan Castle

The Llanstephan Castle was completed in February 1914. She like her sister had four holds and accommodated 213 First Class, 116 Second Class, and 100 Third Class passengers. She was built to operate on the East Africa Service

As soon as she was delivered the RMS Llanstephan Castle departed London on her maiden voyage and she operated just one return voyage on her regular service, but that would soon change!

A fine aerial photograph of the just completed RMS Llanstephan Castle

Photograph was originally taken by “SkyFotos” but is part of the author’s private collection since 1966

Whilst on her second voyage and sailing homeward sailing homeward she received a report which was given to the captain that the German cruiser the “Konigsberg” was in the vicinity; thus, the ship was turned around, destination Durban. Upon arrival Union-Castle Mail Steamship Company transferred her to the London, South African West coast service. In 1917 she was requisitioned for the war effort and placed on the North Atlantic transporting troops.

However during WWI she was used mostly on the South Africa service. However, during her second voyage on the homeward sailing, a report came to the captain that the German cruiser “Konigsberg” was in the vicinity; thus, the ship was rapidly turned around and she headed back to Durban. Upon arrival Union-Castle Mail Steamship Company transferred her to the London, South African West Coast service.

Then in 1917 she was requisitioned for the war effort and she was refitted as a troopship and on the North Atlantic transporting troops from the various ports to Egypt, and the European fronts as needed. Thankfully as the war came to an end she arrived home in one piece!

Once she was returned to the company the ship was given a refit restoring her to her original beauty and was made ready to return on the London, Cape Town service. Then in 1920 she was placed once again on the London to East African service.

The RMS Llanstephan Castle is back in service and seen at sea bound for Africa again

Another change took place in 1922 when she was transferred to the “Around Africa” service, visiting the following ports; Naples or Genoa, Suez, Aden, Mombasa, Tanga, Dar-es-Salaam, Beira, Lourenco Marques, Durban and East London, Cape Town returning via West Africa.

In 1938 she received a refit and at the same time she was converted from coal to oil fuel, saving a considerable amount for the company. She returned to her duties until the commencement of WWII.

During the war she first operated as a military troop transport ship for the Ministry of War. However, in August 1940 she transported 300 evacuees from Liverpool to Cape Town, the vast majority of them being children. One year later, in 1941 she departed Liverpool being in charge of a RuRMSian convoy and transported 200 Polish airmen released from prison. She continued to operate in the Far East, but she was later transferred to the Royal Indian Navy.

After World War II she was returned to Union Castle Line who in 1947 had her refitted and the ship became a two-class liner and she would now accommodate 234 First Class and 198 Tourist Class passengers. Upon completion she returned to her pre war Around Africa service, but she only had barely five more years let in her!

An unusual Image of the Llanstephan Castle

Thus, it was in March 1952 the aging Llanstephan Castle was withdrawn from service and she was sold to the British Iron & Steel Corporation who delivered her to J. Cashmore shipyards at Newport, Monmouthshire in Wales where she was soon broken up, having served both “ Country & Company better than well for a good 38 long years!

This is simply a great and wonderful stern view of the Llanstephan Castle seen in her very last year - 1952!


Specifications – Llanstephan Castle

Built by: Fairfield in Glasgow, Scotland.

Yard #: 494.

Tonnage: 11,293 GRT.

Length: 519ft – 158.3m.

Width: 63.3ft – 19.3m.

Engines: Steam, quadruple-expansion by the builders.

Screws: Twin – 6,500 IHP.

Service peed: knots 14 knots - max 15 knots.

Passengers: 213-First Class, 116-Second Class, and 100-Third Class.

After 1947 refit: 234-First Class & 198-Tourist Class.

Crew: 250.


Visit the Special - RMS Llanstephan Castle Brochure Page



RMS Llandovery Castle

Llandovery Castle was built by Barclay Curle & Company in Glasgow and she was launched on September 3, 1913. She was completed and delivered to her owners and in January 1914 she departed on her maiden voyage from London and sailed on the East Africa service. However, just seven months later, in August 1914, she was transferred to the London to the West Africa service for obvious reasons.

Then due to the WWI, in 1916 she was commissioned to become a hospital ship and was given the responsibility of transporting wounded Canadian soldiers from Europe frontline ports to Nova Scotia.

A War Tragedy that Should Never Have Happened:

However, tragically this service did not last very long, for on June 27, 1918, around 2130 / 9.30 PM (Irish time), the HMHS Llandovery Castle was torpedoed by the German U-Boat 86 and she sunk in the Atlantic Ocean, 116 miles South West of Fastnet, Ireland.

Considering the Llandovery Castle was clearly marked to be a hospital ship, the German captain; captain Panzig committed one worst of the oceangoing crimes, thankfully there were no patients on board at that time, but there were a large group of medical staff as well as an extensive crew.

When the HMHS Llandovery Castle’s medic’s and crew took to the lifeboats, amazingly the U-86 surfaced and began to run down every lifeboat except just the one that managed to get away. Then the mad dog captain Panzig and his crew opened fire and shot at the medic’s and the crew who were now in the water and killed them all. Only the 24 individuals managed to survive, and that were those lucky ones who were in the lifeboat that managed to escape, which under the command of Captain C.A. Sylvester as well as two senior officers, it was the last boat to leave the ship and the U-Boat somehow did not see them. They were rescued a little later and only thanks to them and their testimony do we know what actually occurred on that horrible and tragic day!

Below I have details of those who survived, which was provided by one of the survivors, Albert Victor Record.

A label that was attached to Albert Victor, Record, who was the ships “Lamp Trimmer. As the record below testifies

His duties certainly showed the ships times, for they still had to trim the oil lamps



A tragic view of the HMHS Llandovery Castle with her stern singing

In total, 88 Medical Staff as well as 146 crewmembers, thus a total of 234 lives were lost. Thus we now know that these evil Germans managed to slaughter in cold blood 234 non-combatants, being nurses, medics and crew, how proud they must have felt? As well as destroying a ship that was clearly marked as being a Hospital ship, which under all conventions was “Leave well alone!”

Specifications - Llandovery Castle

Built by: Barclay Curle & Company Glasgow

Yard #: 504

Tonnage: 11,423 GRT

Length: 517ft – 157.6m

Width: 63.3ft – 19.3m

Engines: Steam, quadruple-expansion by the builders

Screws: Twin – 6,500 IHP

Service peed: knots 14 knots – max 15 knots

Passengers: 213 First Class, 116 Second Class, and 100 Third Class

Crew: 250



“Blue Water Liners sailing to the distant shores.
I watched them come, I watched them go and I watched them die.”



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Photographs on ssmaritime and associate pages are either by the author or from the author’s private collection. In addition there are some images and photographs that have been provided by Shipping Companies or private photographers or collectors. Credit is given to all contributors, however, there are some photographs provided to me without details regarding the photographer or owner concerned. Therefore, I hereby invite if owners of these images would be so kind to make them-selves known to me (my email address can be found at the bottom of the page on www.ssmaritime.com), in order that due credit may be given.

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