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With Reuben Goossens

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

 

RMS Dunnottar Castle 

Union-Castle Line, London, commissioned a new liner the RMS Dunnottar Castle to be built by Harland & Wolff, Belfast for the London (Tilbury) to Cape Town service. Her keel was laid down in 1935 in Yard no: 959 and she was launched on January 25, 1936. No one would have known at that time, that this amazing ship would have one of the longest and amazing careers in Maritime history for any ship built as a liner, for she would continue as a passenger ship continually for 66 years, and was laid up for just her last two years 2002 to 2004 before being broken up in 2004! Thus this ship remained on the water for 68 years!

I am proud and delighted to present her story, for this is a ship I personally greatly love and have long adored and I am sure that as you follow her progress that you also will be amazed with her beauty and perseverance!

Reuben Goossens,

Maritime Historian, Lecturer, Author and Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer.

In the Passenger Shipping industry since 1960 from office boy to MD & CEO!

In the Beginning:

Below are two wonderful images of her beautiful hull having been completed and having just been christened and launched, we see her entering into the water for the very first time!

The new Union Castle liner seen in the Harland & Wolff stocks nearing the time for launching

 

Here we see the launching of the Dunnottar Castle

She was completed and delivered to her owners on June 27, 1936 and departed in July for her maiden voyage from Southampton to Cape Town, although she returned to her homeport of Tilbury (London). She then continued a regular service between Tilbury and South Africa.

 A postcard of the sturdily built RMS Dunnottar Castle, the liner that would eventually become a modern super luxury cruise ship

 

RMS Dunvegan Castle

 

RMS Dunvegan Castle is seen in a busy port

Dunnottar Castle’s identical sister the RMS Dunvegan Castle, was built in yard 960, and was launched on March 26, and was completed on August 18. Dunvegan Castle departed for her maiden voyage to Africa in September 1936 and sailed until her call up for wartime duties in 1939.

The sisters having served as a liner, also had served during World War II

For interest, the author has the original plans, containing every single detail, including changes made during construction, from the shipyard of both these ships. In addition I have the plans of her conversion in the Netherlands when she became the MS Victoria, then her conversion by Chandris into “MS The Victoria,” as well as modifications made by Louis Cruises for “MV Princesa Victoria,” thus the set is complete! The full set is part of my extensive collection of plans, which include the Windsor Castle Southern Cross and many other notable liners!

This is one of the few colour photos that is available of the RMS Dunnottar Castle

 

Deck-by-Deck description - RMS Dunnottar Castle and RMS Dunvegan Castle:

Upper Deck: The 236 seat beautifully domed First Class Dinning Room was located forward, followed by the galleys and the 242 seat Tourist Class Dinning Room. This was followed by eighty-seven tourist class cabins were located aft. These were of a two or four berth configuration. All except for eight inside cabins had a porthole, but none had a private bathroom. The hairdresser was located in the main Tourist Class lobby. The main stairs led up only one deck to the Tourist Class Lounges.

Tourist Class two-berth cabin

Shade Deck: Far forward were accommodations for the purser and assistant purser, chief steward and the ships doctor, as well as their offices. This was followed by 70 First Class cabins, having accommodations for one or two bedded, as well as some three-berth cabins. All cabins had a porthole, but only four with a private bathroom. Portside aft was the First Class hairdresser and the ships shop, which was followed by the Tourist Class Covered (Shade) deck, with the Tourist Class Main Lounge and Smoking Room in the centre.

Tourist Class Lounge

Lower Promenade Deck: The forward section contained twenty single and twin-bedded cabins, all having a window, but without a private bathroom. This was followed by the main vestibule, stairwell and the Information Bureau and another forty-two First Class single and twin bedded cabins, all with a window, eight with a bathroom. The Nursery and enclosed Children’s play deck Portside aft of the First Class accommodations. This was followed by the main Tourist Class Promenade Deck, with the ships hospital far aft.

Upper Promenade Deck: Located forward was the First Class Library followed by the Main Lounge and Smoking Room. On both sides there was the spacious covered Promenade Deck, with the swimming pool located aft.

Boat and Sun Decks: These decks offered ample space for sport facilities and sun baking.

Main and Lower Decks: These two lower decks contained crew quarters, the baggage room, general storage, and insulated cargo spaces. The ship had five holds, two forward, three aft.

World War II: Dunnottar Castle remained on the African service until the outbreak of WW2, when she and her sister Dunvegan Castle were taken over by the British Navy to be converted as initially as armed merchant cruisers in 1939. Dunnottar Castle departed on her first tour of duty on October 14, 1939. However, in 1942, she commenced duties as a general troop ship, as well as transporting expatriates home after the war. However, she was seconded for a special operation as she was used to sail on a top-secret operation to erect a meteorological and wireless (radio) station on *Tristan da Cunha on April 5, 1942. She continued in her naval role until 1948, when she was decommissioned. Dunnottar Castle retires from her duties having had a distinguished wartime career.

*Tristan da Cunha is a remote volcanic group of islands in the South Atlantic Ocean, and it is also the name of the main island of that group. It is the most remote inhabited archipelago in the world, lying 2,816 kilometres (1,750 miles) from the nearest land, South Africa, and 3,360 kilometres (2,088 miles) from South America. It is part of the British overseas territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha which also includes Saint Helena.

Tristan da Cunha released this special stamp in 1942, in thanks for the services of the ship during the war!

 

Dunnottar Castle: Soldiers relaxing on deck

Dunvegan Castle:

Sadly, the fate of this fine liner was to be quite different to her sister, and her wartime duties and her valuable life was to be far too short, for having been seconded by the Royal Navy in 1939, tragically she was torpedoed west of Ireland by the German U Boat U46 on August 27, 1940 and she sank the next day, recording a sad loss of 27 lives, but thankfully the vast majority on board were obviously saved!

A Return To Service:

With Dunnottar Castle having been released she received a long and a comprehensive refit, returning to her original glory, and she was even better than she had been before. Her accommodations were dramatically upgraded and reduced in numbers with a total of 167 less berths being available in the two classes. Her new tonnage was registered as being 15,054 GRT.

She resumed her London round Africa service on February 10, 1949 for the Union Castle Line. Her ports of call were as follows: Tilbury (London), Gibraltar, Algiers, Port Said, Massawa, Aden, Mombasa, Zanzibar, Dar-es-salaam, Tanga, Beira, Lourenco Marques, Durban, East London, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town, Walvis Bay, Las Palmas (Canary Islands), Casablanca, Lisbon and back to London. This was a service she continued to operate for the next nine years with variations to the itinerary.

Like many ships in the 1950’s strikes were aplenty and the Dunnottar Castle also effected and thus she had her troubled days. In June 1950 she was stuck in Beira, Portuguese East Africa, for 5 full days, entirely due to a striking crew and only after an agreement had been made with the company in the UK could the ship depart and continue her voyage. Mind you many of the passengers did not mind a bit, for all services continued on board as usual!

A Short Passenger Story:

In November 1951 a 19-year-old Mother Mrs. Joyce Cragg and baby son Mike who was just 17 months old, boarded the RMS Dunnottar Castle in Tilbury and they headed for Mombasa in Kenya. Mike told me that his Mother had paid £81 (old) Pounds, which was a great deal of money in the 1950s. They arrived on November 22, and the purpose of their journey had a happy ending for they would soon meet up with Joyce’s husband and Mike’s father for being a good soldier was currently serving in the Army in Kenya.

This is a postcard was sent by Mrs Cragg from Mombasa, Kenya home to the UK in November 1951

Kindly provided by her son Mike Cragg – Thank you Mike!

Special Images:

I received a photograph from steward that served on the Dunnottar Castle Joe Auckland and his photograph can be seen below. Joe served on her in 1951; there is also another fine photo of the ship provided by him. I would assume that Joe was onboard the very same time that Mrs Cragg and her baby son Mike were on board.

Joe and a friend out on deck – I am not sure which is Joe?

 

A fine view of the ship! Thank you Joe!

 

This is one of her very last fares and sailing schedules - issued October 1957

For Interest, in RMS Dunnottar Castle’s Final Year her schedule was as follows: Depart Tilbury, Gibraltar, Marseilles, Genoa, Port Said, Suez, Aden, Mombasa, Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam, Beira, Lourenço Marques, Durban, East London, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town, St. Helena, Ascension, Las Palmas, Tilbury.

The RMS Dunnottar Castle is seen just prior to her sale mid 1958

She is seen departing Beira, Mozambique

However, by 1957/58 the Union Castle line had commenced a new building programme as the required new and larger liners, such as the new 28,582 GRT - Pendennis Castle that was completed in November 1958, and the smaller Dunnottar Castle days was about to end with Union Castle! However this beautifully and well built would have a long life ahead of her, in fact a good 46 years for soon she would become a super luxury cruise ship and she would outlive all her newer rivals!

RMS Dunnottar & Dunvegan Castle’s Specifications as built:

 

Tonnage:              15,007 GRT.

Length:                 174.53m - 560 ft.

Beam:                   21.92m - 71.9 ft.

Draft:                   8.05m - 28 ft 2 in.

Engines:               Burmeister & Wain Diesels 11,200 BHP.

Screws:                Twin Screw.

Speed:                  17 knots.

Passengers:           285 First Class (Both ships).

.                          250 Tourist Class.

1948:                   After a refit - Dunnottar Castle only.

.                          105 First Class.

.                          263 Tourist Class.

Cargo:                  5 holds.

 

The Dunnottar Castle sold!

In 1958 she was sold to popular cruise company “Incres Company” and she would receive a transformation of the kind that had never been seen, or had ever been done to any ship in history!

I conclude with this fine stern view of the RMS Dunnottar Castle, BUT

She would soon she would become the remarkable super luxury cruise ship

The … MS Victoria

 

An early artist impression of the new MS Victoria

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INDEX - Please Note: These pages are being updated and not all pages may be online as yet!

Union Castle Line   One of the great Shipping lines of the past!

Page One          RMS Dunnottar & Dunvegan Castle.

Incres Lines    One of the finest cruise companies in history!

Page Two          MS Victoria.

Page Three        Photo Album.

Page Four          Brochure Page 1.

Page Five          Brochure Page 2.

Page Six            Brochure Page 3.

Page Seven       Brochure Page 4.

Chandris Cruises    Under various guises, but a good basic budget cruise operation.

Page Eight           MV The Victoria.

Page Nine            Photo Album.

Louis Cruise Line    A Maltese Company a good basic cruise operation.

Page Ten             MV Princesa Victoria.

Page Eleven …        Photo Album

Page Twelve     Deck plan.

Page Thirteen   Photographs by Stephen William Storey.

Page Fourteen  MV Victoria I – Sad scenes of her beached and being scrapped.

 

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