Union Castle Line; RMS Pendennis 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.


It was decided to replace the aging 1921 built *RMS Arundel Castle 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.

The elegant 19,118 GRT RMS Arundel Castle

Provided by Ian Shiffman of …

http://home.worldonline.co.za/~snai/launch - Email Ian at ShiffmanI@sundaytimes.co.za

The Arundel Castle was also built by Harland & Wolff in 1921 and she completed a grand total of 211 voyages to and from the Cape. Then with the arrival of the new Pendennis Castle in 1959, she was decommisioned and headed for the breakers in the Far East that very same year.

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 would 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.”

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 Wolf – Belfast – 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 …

http://home.worldonline.co.za/~snai/launch - Email Ian at ShiffmanI@sundaytimes.co.za


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

Memories of this fine Liner will long remain!


“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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