Benjamin Towyn Llewelyn Jones
Died 22nd October 1983
Total Mail Runs to The Cape = 240
Plus about 10 on Convoys
On the left when serving as Bosun aboard Windsor Castle.
Commodore George Mayhew in command
Wartime Service On Capetown Castle
19/10/39 – 23/12/39 (DB)
Last routine round trip- South African Mails, RMMV Capetown Castle Ship No. 166402.
Presumably then on standby during refit following requisition on 14/9/40
Conversely may have been on clandestine runs shipping out gold from Bank of England between January and September
Entry in Discharge Book not actually completed until 20/1/43- hence inaccuracies with sailing date of Convoy WS3(Fast) which left Liverpool for the Clyde and Glasgow on 28/9/40.
Left the Clyde on 7/10/40 with Oronsay and Winchester Castle. On the 8th the convoy was spotted by a Focke Wulf Condor which flew low over the Capetown Castle (acting as the starboard wingship) and dropped 1 bomb about 50 yards astern- no damage. Arrival in Freetown, Sierra Leone, 18/10/40 and Capetown 28/10/40. Left convoy having transferred troops and returned to UK November 1940.
Footnote…this may have been an “out and back” because at the outbreak of war the priority was to ship out the Bank of England gold reserves to South Africa. As the newest addition to the Union Castle Line fleet RMMV Capetown Castle had strong rooms and could out run U Boats thus offering lowest risk
Further refitting at Liverpool and then moved to the Clyde for embarkation late December on Convoy WS 5B.
Departed 4/1/41 but delayed by heavy fog and anchored off Anglesea on 10/1/41.Fears of bombings from overruns on Liverpool blitzes that week.
Arrived Belfast Lough 11/1/41.Escorted by HMS Ramilles. 29/1/41 sailed from Freetown and arrived Capetown 19/1/41 for refuelling and water.
(Probably with more gold unloaded)
Left Durban 15/2/41 for Aden and Suez. 9/3/41 orders to embark 300 British families from Egypt to Durban countermanded and instead loaded German and Italian PoWS for Bombay. 3 ships moved 15,000 of the 130,000 captured at Sidi and Tobruk. Departed as Convoy SU2 on 18/3/41, arriving Aden PM on 22/3/41.
Departed for Bombay and then returned via the Cape .Stop of 8 days for repairs in April and then to Glasgow, arriving 8/5/41.
Embarkation 1/6/41 for Convoy WS9A with Llangibby Castle and Franconia.
Sailed 2100 hrs. 3/6/41
On 6/6/41 2 destroyers sent to search for survivors of U Boat sinking of Eibergen 80 miles SSW- 33 picked up.
Arrival Freetown 16/6/41. Sailed 20/6/41 ,
Arrival Capetown 1/7/41. Sailed on 5th and rejoined Durban contingent as WS9AX, arriving Bombay 1330 22/7/41.
Departed PM 27/7/41 arriving Colombo 30/7/41.
Departed for Singapore 1/8/41 and landed 4500 troops as reinforcements.
Dry Docked for cleaning and hull painting, departing 12/8/41 with civilians for Sydney, arriving 22/8/41.
Thence to Auckland to load frozen meat sailing 5/9/41 with 152 servicemen and 100 shipwrecked mariners for UK .
Arrived Balboa, Panama 21/9/41 and Bermuda 27/8/41.
Arrived Halifax Nova Scotia 29/9/41 embarking Canadian troops on Convoy TC14 arriving Liverpool 17/10/41…..a round the world voyage of 4.5 months.
Discharge entry shows continuous service 28th May1941 to 30th March 1942.
Embarkation of troops for Convoy WS12Z commenced over 2 days 10/11/41,sailing on the 13th. Gale Force 8 for 5 days until passing the Azores.
Freetown reached on 24th with departure 28th arriving Durban 18/12/41 after passing 170 miles south of Cape Agulhas.
The entry of the Japanese on the German side and their successes in Singapore resulted in frequent changes to schedules and the Capetown Castle was then routed to Singapore,departing 23/12/41. Passed the Comoros Islands 28/12/41 and reached Bombay at 1000 on 6/1/42. Disembarked troops (virtually all of which would become Japanese PoWS) and sailed 17/1/42 for Colombo, Fremantle and Sydney with civilians .
Loaded frozen meat and supplies at Auckland and returned via Panama and Halifax loading Canadian and US troops.
Convoy NA6 ex Halifax arriving Liverpool 28/3/42 (Discharged 30/3/42).
Promoted to Bosun’s Mate from AB 31/3/42.
12/4/42 embarkation commenced for Convoy WS18.
Capacity on board had been expanded by 42% to 4236 service personnel (compared to 880 passengers in peacetime).
Many from 2nd Infantry Division reformed after Dunkirk retreat plus the Norfolk Regiment. Passage to form up on the Clyde with departure 1800 on 15/4/42.
Passed Azores on 21st arriving Freetown on the 29th . En route to Capetown passing St. Helena on 9/5/42. Reaching 30 miles SW of Cape Point the convoy encountered stray mines or a U Boat. Hecla reported a torpedo and was on fire. The remaining ships went full speed, arriving Durban at 1800 on 17/5/42. 21,000 troops disembarked whilst the Capetown Castle and 2 other ships headed on with 19,000 troops for the Middle East and Bombay, sailing on 23/5/42.
Captain Thornton was appointed Convoy Commodore .
2 Reports of U Boats in Mozambique Channel. Off Mombasa 30/5/42 then via Somali coast .On 3/6/42 Convoy splits with Egyptian and Indian sections diverging.
Arrival Bombay 7/6/42. Departed Bombay 16/6/42 for Fremantle to Auckland loading full cargo of frozen meat and equipment.
Returned via Panama and Halifax with US troops arriving Liverpool 17/8/42. Discharged 18/8/42. Then dry docked for 6 week overhaul.
Embarkation 25/9/42 at Liverpool for Convoy WS 23 of 12Bn Sherwood Foresters and 7 Bn Royal Leicesters ,mainly destined for India and Middle East. Headed up the convoy passing Rock Light off Mersey 1400 on 30/9/42.
Sailed Belfast Lough 4/10/42 to Freetown, arriving 0800 on 16/10/42.
23/10/42 off Sao Thome reaching Durban 1300 on 5/11/42.
The convoy was re-formed and sailed 1400 on 9/11/42, routed east of Madagascar due to Eisbar Gruppen U Boats active in the Mozambique Channel. Headed NW direct to Bombay and passed the Mauretania and Devonshire ( both heading for Capetown ) in the middle of the Indian Ocean 21/11/42.
Docked Bombay 24/11/42 to discharge stores and equipment. Sailed 29/11/42 for Capetown to re-fuel and thence to Halifax Nova Scotia.
(not clear if this was up the Atlantic direct but probably the case)
Embarked troops and RAF personnel, arriving Liverpool 14/1/43 for dry docking and engine overhaul. Discharged 16/1/43.
(This was at the time of the Casablanca Conference between Churchill and Roosevelt ).
23/2/43 embarkation of troops at Liverpool then anchored in the Mersey on Convoy WS27.
Sailed for the Western Approaches 24/2/43 and then to a split position of St. Vincent on 2/3/43. This was disrupted by appearance of a FW Condor bomber but the main group headed south collecting surplus troops at Freetown which it left on 11/3/43. 5 miles south of Cape Agulhas on 23/3/43 arriving Capetown 26/3/43. Windsor Castle (BTLJ’s first ship) sunk 23rd March by aircraft of KG 26 Bomber Group on Convoy KMG11 off Cape Tenes.
Then to Durban where they departed 29/3/43 for Aden (via the Mozambique Channel) which was reached at 1830 on 9/4/43.
Following re-fuelling proceeded to Suez where troops were disembarked and replaced by Rommel’s troops for despatch to Bombay, which was reached on 26/4/43. Capetown Castle was then ordered to New York BUT via Capetown and thence to the Magellan Straits and Panama due to enhanced U Boat activity between S.America and Africa in the Atlantic Narrows.
This may also have been due to the secret loading of gold in Cape Town to repay US loans to finance the cost of armaments supplies following the Casablanca Agreement .
Calls were made at Durban (30/4/43) and Cape Town (3/5/43) with re- fuelling at Punta Arenas and Panama.
She was dry docked in New York at the Brooklyn Navy Yard for some weeks then loaded US troops ,arriving Liverpool 8/7/43.(Discharged 9/7/43)
At this time the concentration of U Boats in the North Atlantic was at a peak of 100 committed. The last great Battle of the Atlantic took place with Convoys SC122 ,HX229 and SC122 which left the US/Canada in early March comprising 90 ships of which 22 were sunk.
Between 10/7/43 and 30/1/44 there followed 4 round trips across the North Atlantic to New York on Trooping movements.
Further entries in the Discharge Book are……
31st Jan 44 to 23rd October 1944 Liverpool- Liverpool
24th October 1944 to 10th June 1945 Liverpool - Southampton
11th June 1945 to 29th November 1945 Southampton – Southampton
Yet to confirm by visit to PRO but according to a verbal account this may have been the repatriation run post Yalta Conference when Russian POWs were repatriated to Black Sea ports –Dad confirmed men were disembarked and taken into warehouse complex followed by continuous machine gun fire and probable execution.
30th November 1945- 25th June 1946 (certainly to Bombay for de-mobbed troops ) Southampton- Southampton
(It was on this trip that BTLJ and Cyril Pigott possibly rubbed shoulders not realising that 25 years later their 2 offspring would be Married).
1st July 1946 -3rd July 1947 Southampton to Belfast for re- fit.
27th December 1946- 21st February 1947 Belfast-Southampton. Cape Mails resume.
Being fitted for War in Liverpool