With Reuben Goossens

Maritime Historian


--Union Castle Mail Steamship Company --

RMS Llanstephan CastleLlandovery Castle


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.

Llanstephan Castle was built by Fairfield in 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.

Llanstephan Castle

Llanstephan Castle in Cape Town

Llanstephan 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.

As soon as she was delivered, RMS Llanstephan Castle departed London on her maiden voyage to East and South Africa. 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 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.

Upon the completion of the war, she returned to the company and was made ready to return on the London, Cape Town service. In 1920 she was placed on the East African service. Another change took place in 1922 when she was transferred to the “Round 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 beginning 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, almost all being children. One year later, in 1941 she departed Liverpool being in charge of a RuRMSian convoy and transported some 200 Polish airmen released from prison. She continued to operate in the Far East, but was later transferred to the Royal Indian Navy.

After World War II she was returned to Union Castle Line who had her refitted turning her into a two class ship accommodating 231 First Class and 198 Tourist Class passengers. Upon completion she returned to her pre war round Africa service.

In March 1952 the aging Llanstephan Castle was withdrawn from service and sold to the British Iron & Steel Corporation who delivered her to J. Cashmore shipyards at Newport, Monmouthshire, Wales where she was broken up.


Specifications - Llanstephan

Built by: Fairfield in Glasgow

Yard #: 494

Tonnage: 11,293 GRT

Length: 519ft – 158.3m

Width: 63.3ft – 19.3m

Engines: Steam, quadruple-expansion by the buiders

Screws: Twin – 6,500 IHP

Service peed: knots 14 knots – max 15 knots

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

From 1947 - 231 First Class and 198 Tourist Class

Crew: 250



Llandovery Castle

Llandovery Castle was built by Barclay Curle & Company Glasgow and launched on September 3, 1913. She was completed in January 1914 and commenced the London, East Africa service. Seven months later, in August 1914, she was transferred to the London, West Africa route.

In 1916 she was commissioned to become a wartime hospital ship and was given the responsibility of transporting wounded Canadian soldiers from Europe to Nova Scotia.

Tragically this service was short lived, for on June 27, 1918, around 2130 (Irish time), Llandovery Castle was torpedoed by German U
boat 86 and sunk in the Atlantic Ocean, 116 miles south west of Fastnet, Ireland. As the Llandovery Castle was clearly marked to be a hospital ship, the German captain; captain Panzig committed one of the war’s worst atrocities. What made this tragic event even worse, was the fact that captain Panzig attempted to eradicate the evidence and he and his crew commenced to destroy all lifeboats and their occupants. He was close to being successful, except one lifeboat managed to escape with 24 lives aboard. These people lived to tell the story about the evils of German warfare. With the sinking of Llandovery Castle, and the actions of the German U Boat captain, 248 lives were lost, most of these being non combatants, nurses, medics and crew.

Specifications - Llandovery

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 buiders

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




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