Warwick Castle (4)
WARWICK CASTLE (4) was built in 1938 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast with a tonnage of 17383grt, a length of 594ft 7in, a beam of 76ft 4in and a service speed of 18.5 knots.
Sister of the Durban Castle she commenced her maiden voyage as the Pretoria Castle on the 20th April 1939.
During her second voyage she damaged her rudder when she grounded in Delagoa Bay necessitating repairs at Prince Edward Dock, Durban.
On completion of that voyage she was requisitioned for use as an Armed Merchant Cruiser being fitted with eight 6 inch guns together with AA and machine guns.
With a black hull and buff upper works and funnel she was commissioned in the November and based at Freetown in Sierra Leone.
In 1942 she was replaced by one of the new light cruisers and sold to the Admiralty for conversion into an aircraft carrier. With fifteen aircraft and equipped with one catapult she was commissioned on 18th March 1943 but was used purely for training purposes.
She was re-purchased by Union-Castle in January 1946 and rebuilt to her original specification but, because a new mail ship was under construction with Pretoria Castle as her designated name, she was renamed Warwick Castle.
Resuming commercial on 13th March 1947 she initially served on the mail run until the new mail ships joined the fleet and then reverted to the Round Africa service in 1950.
On 26th July 1962 she arrived at Barcelona where she was scrapped.
The name changes tell of the ships adventurous life.
The change of name in 1947 reflected the growing commercial and political influence of South Africa.
Before the 2nd World War in the rebuilding program of the 1930's a number of ships received South African names, but only one, the "Capetown Castle" in the prestigious mail fleet.
By 1946 it was clear to the Company that one of the two new mailships should be given a South African name.
The obvious choice was "Pretoria Castle" thus the old "Pretoria" was renamed "Warwick Castle", a name previously kept in the mailship fleet.
A sister to the "Durban Castle" their comparatively short lives were a result of the drastic downturn in passenger numbers and political changes in East Africa that made the Intermediate Service commercially unviable.
From B&C Review June 1962
Artist Tom Hamilton
Years in Service
Warwick Castle (4)
1942 sold to Admiralty rebuilt as aircraft carrier, renamed HMS Pretoria Castle
1946 re-purchased by Union-Castle, renamed Warwick Castle (4),