Rhodesia Castle


RHODESIA CASTLE was built in 1951 by Harland & Wolff in Belfast with a tonnage of 17041grt, a length of 576ft 5in, a beam of 74ft 3in and a service speed of 17.5 knots.

Based on the Bloemfontein Castle design she was built for the Round Africa service and replaced the Llanstephan Castle.

In 1958 she had her funnel heightened and a dome top fitted and after two cruises out of Southampton replaced the Dunnottar Castle.

She was remodelled in 1960 to accommodate 442 one class passengers.

On 4th May 1967 she was laid up in the River Blackwater prior to sailing to Kaohsiung for breaking up by Chin Ho Fa Steel & Iron Co.

From The British & Commonwealth Review, June 1967.

S.S. Rhodesia Castle had her beginnings at the Belfast yard of Harland & Wolff, where her keel was laid on the 9th of March, 1950.   She was launched on the 5th April, 1951 and sailed from London on her maiden voyage in the Round Africa service, under the command of Captain J.M. Rayner, R.D., R.N.R., on the 19th October 1951.

On voyage 70 - destined to be her last under the B&C flag - a commemorative brochure was printed on board by the ship's printer W.T. Williams.   We glean therefrom that on arrival London on the 19th April Rhodesia Castle had steamed a total distance of 1,080,469 nautical miles, and had carried nearly 75,000 passengers, including 13 stowaways.

Apart from two cruises to Malaga, Gibraltar, Casablanca and Lisbon in July and August 1958, Rhodesia Castle sailed on the round Africa run until withdrawn for a major refit in August, 1960.   The accommodation on 'A' deck was stripped out and rebuilt, the public rooms were restyled and refurnished, air conditioning machinery was installed and all the accommodation generally redecorated. Thereafter the vessel was in service on the London - Durban - London schedule, except for an occasional round Africa voyage.

Many will regret the departure of Rhodesia Castle from the fleet, not least those who served in her, among whom were Engine Room Storekeeper E. Philpott who completed all 70 voyages, Assistant Barman R. Packham who completed all voyages except Nos. 3 & 4, and Boatswain F. Rose who, in addition to several other voyages, sailed on the first and last.

I had the good fortune to sail as 3rd Officer on her final voyage to the breakers.

Joined her laid up in the River Blackwater. We sailed for Rotterdam to load a cargo of bagged Urea fertiliser. This was part of UN aid for India and was destined for Bombay.

We sailed at an economical 14 knots via Las Palmas and Cape Town. On arrival at Bombay we were sent to anchor waiting for a berth and there we stayed for 5 weeks.

Once the cargo was discharged we sailed for Kaohsiung with a stop at Singapore for bunkers.

Rounding the headland and entering Singapore roads we were set upon by “bum” boats. Their occupants eagerly anticipating a ship full of passenger with money to spend……. What a disappointment!

After taking on a bare minimum of fuel we left for Kaohsiung. Half way up the China Sea we got notification of a very large typhoon heading between Taiwan and The Philippines moving North West. We started tracking its course which was due to cross ours.

Now light ship we did not have the greatest amount of stability it was therefore vital to avoid the typhoon.

Capt. Dai Rees summoned the deck officers to the bridge to ask our opinions as to whether we would go on and cross well ahead of the typhoon or put into Manilla until it had passed by.

We each expressed the opinion that we had ample time and, if necessary ample speed, to cross well ahead and that we should proceed. Capt. Rees did not share our thoughts and ordered us to head for Manilla.

About 200 miles from Manilla the weather forecasts showed that the typhoon had veered to South West and was now headed straight for Manilla. As a consequence the Philippine authorities had closed the port.

Another bridge conference. By now we did not have enough fuel to reach Kaohsiung! So back we went to Singapore to refuel. This time when we entered the roads…… not a “bum” boat in sight!

The next run up to Kaohsiung was uneventful and finally we entered the port and headed for the scrap yard. This fine ship was moved astern in between a variety of old wrecks, we simply wedged in between them. We were all taken ashore and looking back we could see this lovely liner, in great condition but no longer required…. What a tragedy.

Approaching the entrance to Kaohsiung

Wedged in amongst other discarded ships

At Liverpool to have her funnel heightened

A rough day in the Bay of Biscay as Rhodesia Castle heads south for the sun

Heading south towards Cape Town we encountered Pendennis Castle homeward bound.

Much flag flying and whistle blowing as she bade farewell to her smaller sister.

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