Sailing Like Clockwork

Mike Roussel and Sam Warwick


The Union-Castle Line

Sailing Like Clockwork

By Mike Roussel and Sam Warwick

Published by The History Press


The Union-Castle Line’s heritage spans over a century. It provided the mail service to South Africa for 120 years and established an unrivalled reputation for punctual schedules.

From the middle of the nineteenth century it ran ‘like clockwork’ until its demise in 1977, a victim of emerging competition from jet aircraft, increasing fuel costs and the containerisation of cargo.

As a company, the Union-Castle Line used the latest technical innovations of the day, constantly striving to improve speed, reliability, customer comfort and safety. Its lavender-hulled ships were some of the most impressive vessels of the time.

Yet the story of the Union-Castle Line is also one of people – the passengers and crew ensured that the line survived for so long. This book tells some of their fascinating stories, including tales of shipwrecks, war service, missing gold bullion, escaped wild animals and even the occasional murder on board.

Utilising previously unpublished diaries, letters and photographs, this illustrated volume chronicles the shipping line from its glorious beginning to its tragic end.

It is a multifaceted history of the Union-Castle Line, which examines some of the company’s shipwrecks as well as the fond legacy of the line today.

A very welcome addition to the legion of books about this famous and historic shipping company.

Where this books differs from the others is that it takes a very personal view of the company. Drawing upon the recollections of those whose served at sea and ashore and who contributed into making the company such a joy to work for. It also breaks new ground in that the contributions of those that made up the deck, catering and engine room crews are not forgotten and many stories are related from their point of view.

I would whole heartedly recommend this splendidly written and illustrated volume. It has so much of interest to those of us who manned these wonderful vessels but also to the passengers that, hopefully, enjoyed the efforts we all made to make their voyages memorable.

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