Carnarvon Castle (2)
AMC Carnarvon Castle
Emerging from Neptune's Bellows at Deception Island in the South Shetland Islands Jan 1943. The remains of the old Whaling Station are on the left
Small watercolour 14 x 4 inches.
By Jim Rae
CARNARVON CASTLE (2) was built in 1926 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast with a tonnage of 20122grt, a length of 630ft 8in, a beam of 73ft 5in and a service speed of 16 knots.
She was launched by Lady Suffield the second daughter of Lord Kylsant and commenced her maiden voyage on 16th July 1926.
The company's first motorship she was also the first to exceed 20000grt and had the distinctive Harland & Wolff profile including the dummy forward funnel.
In 1936 the new mail contract required a 19 knot service speed to reduce the passage time to 13.5 days.
Consequently, in 1937 she was modernised and re-engined, resuming service on 8th July 1938, without the forward funnel, and setting a new record to Cape Town of 12 days 13 hours and 36 minutes.
In September 1939 she was commissioned by the navy for conversion at Simonstown, South Africa to an armed merchant cruiser, HMS Carnarvon Castle.
On 5th December 1940 she sighted and engaged the German merchant cruiser Schiff 20: Thor (formerly the Santa Cruz of the Oldenburg-Portuguese Line) 700 miles east of Montevideo. At 08.00 the fighting began and the Thor fire 593 shells and two torpedoes, which missed, until she was lost in a smoke screen. The firing ceased at 11.15, and the German's log recorded that HMS Carnarvon Castle turned north, on fire in several places and firing her stern guns, until she was lost in the haze. HMS Carnarvon Castle had been hit 27 times with 4 dead and 28 wounded and proceeded to Montevideo where repairs were carried out. Ironically, plates from the Admiral Graf Spee were used to patch the shell holes. She then sailed to Cape Town for further repairs.
In 1941 she took part in Operation Bellringer to intercept five Vichy French ships that were being escorted from Tamatave to Bordeaux by warships and escorted the Commandant Dorise (Messageries Maritimes) into East London, South Africa.
From B&C Review April 1963
She was decommissioned in December 1943 but, in 1944, was converted into a troopship after plans to convert her into an aircraft carrier like Pretoria Castle/Warwick Castle were abandoned.
In March 1947 she was finally decommissioned and in the June inaugurated the emigrant service to Cape Town with berths for 1283 passengers.
She underwent an extensive £1 million refit in 1949 and returned to the mail run on 15th June 1950 and continued to operate until 1st June 1963 when she arrived at Southampton prior to sailing for Mihara in Japan for breaking up after 30 years service.
From B&C Review June 1962
1st Class Christmas Dinner
Fancy Dress Ball Buffet
1st Class Farewell Dinner
Artist - Maurice Randall
Artist - Colin Verity
HMS Carnarvon Castle
Armed Merchant Cruiser
Artist - Robert Lloyd