ATHLONE CASTLE was built in 1936 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast with a tonnage of 25564grt, a length of 696ft, a beam of 82ft 5in and a service speed of 20 knots.
Sister of the Stirling Castle (2), she was launched by the Princess Alice, wife of the Earl of Athlone, a former Governor General of South Africa, on 28th November 1935.
On 5th November 1937 she was the first mail ship to call at Buffalo Harbour at East London and on 22nd December 1938 inaugurated the 14 days or under 'Accelerated' schedule as stipulated in the 1936 mail contract.
In 1940 she was the commodore ship of a Union-Castle convoy made up of Arundel Castle, Windsor Castle, Winchester Castle, Durban Castle and Capetown Castle to carry South African troops to Suez following the outbreak of fighting in North Africa.
During 1943, together with her sister, she trooped between the USA and UK carrying some 150,000 troops without any serious incident.
In 1946 she underwent a refit and continued in service until 6th August 1965 when she concluded her 141st voyage at Southampton.
Her sale had already been negotiated and ten days later she sailed for Kaohsuing in Taiwan where she arrived on 13th September for breaking up by the China Steel Corporation.
1937, April 14th arrived Cape Town with new outward bound record of 13 days, 00 hrs. 51 minutes
1937, November 5th. first mail ship to berth at East London.
1940, December 27th. requisitioned for war transport. In six years carried a total of 148,113 troops.
1942, November. North Africa campaign
1946, two round trip voyages repatriating troops to Australia and one to Singapore.
1946, September 17th. returned to Belfast for refit.
1947, May returned to Mail Service.
1965, July 23rd. Last departure from Cape Town.
1965, September 13th. Arrived Kaohsiung for demolition by China Steel Corporation.
(details from Union-Castle Line by Peter Newall)
At Melbourne 1947
Issued in 1950s. Instructions on writing to crew members
Athlone Castle at Singapore in 1946
Artist - Tony Westmore
Artist - Colin Verity
From B&C Review October 1965