Dundrum Castle


DUNDRUM CASTLE was built in 1919 by Harland & Wolff at Greenock with a tonnage of 5259grt, a length of 412ft 6in, a beam of 54ft 4in and a service speed of 11 knots.

Sister of the Dromore Castle she was delivered as the Dundrum Castle and did not start her career with a 'War' name.

On 16th - 17th June 1940 she was one of the thirteen ships which embarked 98,000 troops and refugees at St. Nazaire just before the fall of France.

On 17th June she recovered 650 men including some from the sunken Lancastria and landed them at Plymouth after a voyage without food except hot soup.

During a voyage from Liverpool to South Africa via the Suez Canal she caught fire on 2nd April 1943 while in the Red Sea, was abandoned and sank in position 14.37N 42.23E.

Vessel

Built

Service

Tonnage

Dundrum Castle

1919

1943 Caught fire and sank in The Red Sea

5259

Official Number

Ship Builder

Engine Builder

Engine Type

HP

Screws

144207

Harland & Wolff

Greenock

J G Kincaid

Greenock

Steam 3 Cyl

2500 IHP

1

Master

From

To

H Basden-Smith

12/1919


A H Hutchings

12/1919

1/1920

D Graham

1/1920

3/1920

P Morgan

3/1920


W Stanley

1/1921

6/1921

E G Hughes

9/1921

11/1921

C E Mumford

12/1921

3/1924

W Weller

6/1926

11/1927

E G Perkins

11/1927


R W Goodacre

11/1927

7/1928

A H Blackman

9/1928

1/1930

Laid up

A H Blackman

6/1930

5/1931

Laid up

H R Northwood

2/1932

6/1932

E A Comley

6/1932

10/1932

B Ray

11/1932

2/1933

G H Fogden

3/1933


Laid up

W S Colbourne

5/1933

4/1934

Laid up

G H Fogden

8/1934

3/1936

C E Lovegrove

4/1936

11/1937

W A Pace

12/1937

10/1939

W S Aldous

10/1939

2/1940

M H Williams

2/1940

10/1941

W S Aldous

10/1941

4/1943

The Sinking of Lancastria - 1940

On the 17th of June 1940, the 16,000 ton ex-Cunard liner Lancastria lay some eleven miles off Saint-Nazaire, in effect four miles off the actual coast, and was embarking troops, RAF personnel and civilian refugees, who were being evacuated from France and Belgium.

The exact number on board will never be known, but almost certainly it exceeded 6,000; some estimates put the figure as high as 9,000. The Lancastria was attacked and hit by bombs from a single German aircraft.

The ship sank rapidly and according to the estimates of the Captain, only around 2,500 of those on board were saved. Owing to the scale of the tragedy, the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, forbade publication of the news in the interests of preserving public morale. Hence the story of the Lancastria has never been generally known, although it is beyond doubt, Britain's worst maritime disaster.

Two destroyers stationed nearby, HMS Havelock and HMS Highlander, began taking survivors aboard, as did many merchant ships present.

Many of the survivors were seriously wounded.

Interestingly, the official report into the sinking is subject to the Official Secrets Act and is not due to be released until 2040. One can only speculate as to the reasons behind its suppression. However, one theory is that if it could be proved that Captain Sharpe was ordered by War Department officials to ignore his maximum load restriction, there could be grounds for compensation claims against the British Government.


From the Union-Castle Chronicle by Marischal Murray.

Before the war one or two less distinguished vessels in the Union-Castle fleet were general cargo carriers, pure and simple.   Their hulls were not painted lavender grey, but black.   The Dundrum Castle, 5,299 tons, was one of thee prosaic cargo ships.   If her career, hitherto, had been undramatic, this was soon to change.   In June, 1940, the Dundrum Castle (Captain M.H. Williams) lay at St. Nazaire, in France, while all around the world seemed to be crashing down.

The Dundrum Castle had been at St. Nazaire for several days.   On board was military cargo for discharge at Dunkirk.   Dunkirk as a port of discharge was about to vanish from the map.   At St. Nazaire the German planes were flying over.   The Dundrum Castle with her A.A. guns joined in the battle.   On Monday, June 17th, instructions came that the vessel was to get out of the port at 2 o'clock that afternoon.   She was just about to sail when 500 troops and a few civilian refugees were hurriedly put on board.   Somewhat delayed the vessel left her berth, proceeded to the lock, and then entered the river, bound for the Channel and shores of Britain.   She was to get no further on that terrible afternoon.

It was just after 4 p.m. that German aircraft came over and attacked the shipping in the harbour.   In addition to the Dundrum Castle there was a large liner about to leave for England.   She was the Lancastria, well-known on the North Atlantic in the days before the war.   On board her now were 5,000 British troops, men of the B.E.F. (British Expeditionary Force) lucky to be getting out of France.   The Germans scored a direct hit on the Lancastria; the stricken vessel turned slowly over on her side and sank; the water that surrounded her became a mass of blazing oil.   3,000 men perished in the inferno.

At all possible speed the Dundrum Castle made for the scene of the disaster, joining with other craft in such work of rescue as was possible.   Two of her lifeboats were manned and sent away, one in the charge of Mr. D.P.H. Klasen, Chief Officer, the other in the charge of Mr. W.G. Shannon, 2nd Officer.   

To save many lives was quite impossible, and the work of rescue was slow and painful.   The water was thick with fuel oil from the sunken ship, and to drag even a single survivor into the lifeboats took considerable time.   The Dundrum Castle's lifeboats were the last to leave this scene of horror, and the crews were exhausted when they got back to their ship.   By their efforts over 120 lives were saved.   It was not possible for the Dundrum Castle to leave the anchorage at St. Nazaire that night, but at 11 p.m. Captain Williams was signalled by a British destroyer to join up with the next convoy going out.   The Dundrum Castle joined the convoy and on June 20th she landed her 500 troops and the refugees in the safety of Southampton.'

Union-Castle Home Page
Home Page   Email the Site     The Group Register   Previous Page Next Page Union-Castle Home Page