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With Reuben Goossens

Maritime Historian, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer & Author


It was decided to replace the aging 1921 built *RMS Arundel Castle (*see bottom of page), thus an order was placed with Harland and Wolff, Belfast to build RMS Pendennis Castle. Her keel was laid in November 1955, just before the Clan/Union Castle merger in January 1956. This merger saw the company going back to the drawing board resulting in a number of changes to her design.

She was to become the best mail-ship to be built for Union-Castle and she was the fastest of the fleet, due to the decision by the company to upgrade her machinery. She was also the first mail-ship to have stabilizers, which required a lengthening of the hull from 748 to 764 feet whilst on the stocks.

RMS Pendennis Castle (named after an ancient Cornish castle) was named on December 10, 1957, however, due to a strike, she was not launched until December 24. She was completed and handed over on November 14, 1958

 Above and below: The Pendennis Castle is seen just having been launched on November 4, 1958

She departed on her maiden voyage on January 1, 1959, under the command of Commodore George Mayhew. Ports of call were as follows: Southampton, Las Palmas, Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban (with occasional calls to Madeira), Cape Town.

A fine stern view of the ship whilst berthed at Southampton = soon she will set sail for Cape Town!

With the introduction in 1961 of the new Union Castle liner it was the RMS Transvaal Castle that became famed for being the *first British liner to carry waitresses, known as *“stewardettes” in the dinning rooms, eventually the Pendennis Castle also carried some “stewardettes.”

*Please see a Note regarding *“stewardettes” at the bottom of the page.

An early Union-CASTLE Line postcard

Union-Castle Line announced in July 1964 that air-conditioning would be extended to include all first class cabins. In addition a further 21 cabins had showers fitted. She became known as the fun-ship of the Union-Castle fleet, as the company introduced additional amusements and upgraded all recreational facilities, thus, she became a more attractive proposition to younger passengers.

Then in May 1968, whilst berthed in Southampton, a fire broke out, damaging some accommodations amidships, however, she was able to sail on with Harland and Wolf workers onboard who continued to repair the damage.

Due to the ever changing conditions, it was decided in 1976 to withdraw her and place her on the market. She made her final sailing from Southampton on April 23, 1976, and was withdrawn from the mail run on June 14, 1976.

RMS Pendennis Castle at Southampton



Builder: Harland and WolfBelfast - 1958

Tonnage: 28,582 GRT – 15,976 dw (28,453 GRT 1968 – 28,442 GRT, 1974)

Length: 764 ft

Engines: Steam: Parsons Geared Turbines, 46,000 SHP

Screws: Twin

Breadth 83ft 6in Draft: 84ft

Service speed: 22.5 knots

Air-conditioning: Partial

Passengers: 670 total - 197 first class - 473 tourist class

Her Final few years:

She was sold to Filipino owned “Ocean Queen Navigation Corp.” She parted for Hong Kong on July 7, 1976, arriving on August 9. She was given an attractive new look with a white hull and a gold-brown funnel. The intention was to use her as a cruise ship, but sadly this venture never eventuated.



The spotless SS Sinbad I - is seen here still in lay up

She remained laid up in Hong Kong until 1978, when she sold to a Liberian Company, Kinvarra Bay Shipping who renamed her Sinbad I, but, remained laid up. Having been idle for four years, she departed Hong Kong in April 1980, heading for Kaohsiung, Taiwan where she was scrapped.


This fine liner saw 17 years of dignified service as a mail-ship, after which she was laid up for four years. However, to see a passenger liner, still in top condition, being broken up being just 21 years old seemed to be a crime.


A fine view of a magnificent ship!

Provided by Ian Shiffman of … - Email Ian at


RMS Pendennis Castle seen Africa bound


Enter our Pendennis Castle Photo Album


Also Visit Paul Williams Sails to Durban in 1975


Thank you Ian Shiffman for the use of some of your photographs

*In my original article I wrote, as did Laurence Dunn in his books “Passengers Liners” volumes One & Two, that Pendennis Castle was the first ship of the fleet to have waitresses, but, I have received many emails from ex crew members and one “Stewardette” saying this is wrong and that the Transvaal Castle was actually the first ship to have them. If there are any further comments re this I would appreciate them, for originally I took the said information from a Union Castle booklet on the Pendennis Castle and of course it was also backed up by the now late and the great Laurence Dunn, who I would never doubt. I would appreciate your input!

However, it seems that there is much dispute regarding this from the folk in S/Africa, and whatever the case, well she at least had Stewardettes! The English folk have never written re this, and let’s remember that thankfully they were English ships and certainly not S/African! It has only been S/African writers, and I need to say this, have attacked me in a most VILE WAY, and have been extremely rude to say the least! They certainly do their country and reputation no favours whatsoever for I do not tolerate extreme rudeness! Thankfully I do know some delightful South African’s from Europeans and Black African background and they are the backbone of the land, not these hideous foul mouthed cretins! I am sorry, but this statement needed to be made.

Memories of this fine Liner will long remain!


*RMS Arundel Castle

Provided by Ian Shiffman of … - Email Ian at

*Pendennis Castle replaced the 19,118 GRT Arundel Castle, which was built by Harland & Wolff in 1921. She completed a total of 211 voyages to and from the Cape. After the arrival of RMS Pendennis Castle in 1959, she sailed to the breakers in the Far East that same year.


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Photographs on ssmaritime and associate pages are by the author or from the author’s private collection. In addition there are some images that have been provided by Shipping Companies and private photographers or collectors. Credit is given to all contributors. However, there are some photographs provided to me without details regarding the photographer/owner concerned. I hereby invite if owners of these images would be so kind to make them-selves known to me (my email address may be found on only), in order that due credit may be given. I know what it is like, I have seen a multitude of my own photographs on other sites, yet these individuals either refuse to provide credit or remove them when asked, knowing full well that there is no legal comeback when it comes to the net. However, let us show these charlatans up and do the right thing at all times and give credit where credit is due!

This notice covers all pages, although, and I have done my best to ensure that all photographs are duly credited and that this notice is displaced on each page, that is, when a page is updated!




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