Durban Castle


DURBAN CASTLE was built in 1938 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast with a tonnage of 17382grt, a length of 594ft 7in, a beam of 76ft 4in and a service speed of 18.5 knots. She was built for the Round Africa service and inaugurated the practice of naming ships after non-existent South African castles.

Launch and Maiden Voyage - 1938

HE was a handsome deck steward with a penchant for female passengers, she a glamorous actress with dreams of making it in London's West End.

Both were sailing aboard the Durban Castle from Capetown in October 1947 but only one would reach their destination.

When the ship docked in Southampton it was met by police officers, eager to search cabin 126 where actress Gay Gibson had mysteriously disappeared - and to question steward James Camb, suspected of killing the 21-year-old and pushing her body out of the porthole into the shark-infested Atlantic Ocean.

Camb, 31, was a sexual predator who had attempted to seduce many female passengers.

Gay Gibson - real name Eileen Isabella Ronnie Gibson - had quickly caught his eye. The daughter of an English businessman, Gibson had always hankered after a life on the stage. She made a name for herself in South Africa playing the lead in The Man With a Load of Mischief opposite former British boxing champion Eric Boon but was keen for fame and fortune on a larger scale.

Missing Camb could not resist her and flaunted ship's regulations by being seen with her near her first class cabin on B deck. Even a ticking off from a senior officer failed to deter him.

On October 18 1947, when the liner was about 150 miles off the west coast of Africa, the striking actress was reported missing. The captain immediately turned the ship about but a desperate search of the water found no trace of the young woman. Gibson was last seen alive at 1am, leaning against a rail and smoking a cigarette, still wearing the black evening dress and shoes she had worn for dinner that sultry night in the tropics.

She told the night watchman it was "too hot down below" and she couldn't sleep. At 3am the same officer, James Murray, answered a call from her cabin and saw two lights on, indicating she had summoned both the steward and stewardess. Thinking this was strange, Murray tried to enter the cabin but his passage was blocked by Camb who opened the door a crack and assured him, "It's all right".

Assuming Camb was answering Gibson's call, Murray left. But his suspicions were aroused the next morning when Gibson failed to appear, and he reported the night's events to the captain.

Camb denied being in Cabin 126 that night but, when examined by the ship's surgeon, was found with scratches on his wrists and shoulders.  He claimed the wounds were self-inflicted, saying he had scratched himself in the night and rubbed himself with a rough towel. But when the ship docked in Southampton, Camb changed his story, claiming he and Gibson had enjoyed consensual sex but that she had suffered a sudden fit and died. When he could not revive her, he claimed, he panicked and pushed her lifeless body through the porthole. But a second contradictory statement suggests Gibson may not have been dead when Camb threw her overboard.

"It was the hell of a splash when she hit the water," he supposedly told a witness the next day.

"She struggled, I had my hands around her neck and when I was trying to pull them away she scratched me. I panicked and threw her out of the porthole."

Camb was charged with Gibson's murder and on March 10 1948 his trial opened before Mr Justice Hilbury. An array of exhibits lay in front of the jury including a replica of Cabin 126 and - crucially - cabin linen smeared with Gibson's blood and saliva.

Camb confidently took the witness box but throughout his testimony he could never adequately explain why he had not summoned help and why he had disposed of the body. His defence began to unravel further when, under cross examination, he admitted he had changed his story no less than six times as a matter of self preservation.

"Don't you think that was curious conduct from a truthful person?" the barrister suggested.

"I should say it was beastly conduct," Camb admitted.

But it was one final piece of evidence which sealed Camb's fate. Dr Frederick Hocking discovered dried urine on the linen. He explained it was common for the bladder to discharge its contents during strangulation.

Camb was doomed and it took jurors just 45 minutes to find him guilty.

It may have been quicker had they known he had accosted three other women on three different trips, but the evidence had been deemed inadmissible.

Camb was sentenced to hang but cheated the gallows. At the time a no-hanging bill was being discussed by Parliament so his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.

In September 1959 Camb was released on licence and got a job as a waiter. He kept out of trouble for several years but was eventually arrested for sexual offences against school girls and was sent back to prison for the remainder of his original sentence.

He was released in 1978, still protesting his innocence, and died a year later from heart failure.

Gay Gibson's body was never discovered.

Detectives inspect the cabin porthole

The Murder of Gay Gibson - 1947

Durban Castle in Galleons Reach

By Robert Lloyd

Durban Castle - Art Gallery

She returned to commercial service in 1946 still carrying her AA gun platforms and with 9 lifeboats on each side replacing the landing craft.

This austere situation was rectified when she was later re-furbished. In July 1947 she resumed service, initially on the mail service pending the return of the larger ships which were themselves being refurbished after war service, and then on the Round Africa service.

On 28th March 1962 she completed her final voyage in London and in the following month was sold to Eisen & Metall GmbH of Hamburg for breaking up.

Resumption of Commercial Service after WW2 - 1946

Service in WW2

Port

Arrived

Sailed

Comments

Southampton


01-Sep


Glasgow

04-Sep

04-Sep


Greenock

05-Sep

05-Sep


Malta

15-Sep

18-Sep


Gibraltar

21-Sep

24-Sep


Plymouth

29-Sep

30-Sep


Released back to owners

1939

In September 1939 she was converted into a troopship. When Greece fell in 1941 the King of Greece and his family first took refuge in Egypt and then South Africa from where the Durban Castle transported him, his family and entourage from Durban to the United Kingdom.

1940

Port

Arrived

Sailed

Comments

LRS Services

29-Feb

30-Aug


Glasgow

19-Aug

05-Sep


Clyde

05-Sep

06-Sep


Liverpool

06-Sep

09-Sep


Table Bay

04-Oct



LRS Services

05-Oct

12-Dec


Glasgow

25-Dec

31-Dec


1941

Port

Arrived

Sailed

Comments

Gourock


12-Jan


Freetown

25-Jan

29-Jan


Cape Town

09-Feb

12-Feb


Suez

03-Mar

25-Mar


Bombay

04-Apr

11-Apr


Cape Town

23-Apr

27-Apr


Freetown

05-May

05-May


Clyde

16-May

03-Jun

Voyage repairs

Freetown

16-Jun

20-Jun


Cape Town

01-Jul

05-Jul


Bombay

22-Jul

27-Jul

Drydocking

Colombo

30-Jul

31-Jul


Mombasa

07-Aug

09-Aug


Durban

13-Aug

21-Aug


Cape Town

24-Aug

26-Aug


Trinidad

09-Sep

10-Sep


Liverpool

22-Sep

19-Oct

Voyage repairs

Greenock

20-Oct

30-Oct


Halifax

08-Nov

13-Nov


Clyde

21-Nov

09-Dec

Voyage repairs

Freetown

22-Dec

25-Dec


1942

Port

Arrived

Sailed

Comments

Durban

08-Jan

13-Jan

Voyage repairs

Bombay

26-Jan

03-Feb


Aden

07-Feb

07-Feb


Suez

12-Feb

16-Feb


Aden

21-Feb

21-Feb


Colombo

27-Feb

02-Mar


Adelaide

16-Mar

18-Mar


Lyttleton

23-Mar

02-Apr


Balboa

20-Apr



Cristobal


22-Apr


Bermuda

29-Apr

29-Apr


Liverpool

10-May

20-Jun

Voyage repairs

Freetown

02-Jul

06-Jul


Durban

20-Jul

24-Jul


Cape Town

27-Jul

02-Aug


Liverpool

22-Aug

15-Sep

Voyage repairs

Clyde

16-Sep

10-Oct


Liverpool

11-Oct

18-Oct


Clyde

19-Oct

26-Oct


Gibraltar

03-Nov

12-Nov


Clyde

19-Nov

19-Nov


Glasgow

19-Nov

25-Nov


Clyde

25-Nov

28-Nov


Algiers

06-Dec

10-Dec


Clyde

18-Dec

23-Dec


Glasgow

23-Dec


Voyage repairs

1943

Port

Arrived

Sailed

Comments

Glasgow


10-Jan


Clyde

10-Jan

24-Jan


Algiers

01-Feb

02-Feb


Clyde

09-Feb

19-Feb

Voyage repairs and temp repairs to collision damage

Glasgow

19-Feb

01-Mar


Algiers

09-Mar

11-Mar


Clyde

18-Mar


Fitting out as Landing Ship

Glasgow


04-May

Clyde

04-May

28-Jun


Malta

10-Jul

11-Jul


Algiers

13-Jul

14-Jul


Oran

15-Jul

15-Jul


Gibraltar

16-Jul

17-Jul


Clyde

23-Jul

26-Jul


Glasgow

26-Jul

12-Aug

Voyage repairs

Clyde

12-Aug

16-Aug


Phillipville

25-Aug

26-Aug


Oran

27-Aug

17-Sep


Algiers

28-Sep



Oran

29-Sep

07-Oct


Naples

11-Oct



Augusta

12-Oct

23-Oct


Algiers

25-Oct

27-Oct


Greenock

05-Nov

06-Nov


Glasgow

07-Nov

19-Nov

Engine and voyage repairs

Drydocking

New York

30 Nov

05-Dec


Belfast

15-Dec

17-Dec


Greenock

17-Dec


Engine and voyage repairs

Port

Arrived

Sailed

Comments

Greenock


15-Jan


Port Said

30-Jan

03-Feb


Taranto

08-Feb

09-Feb


Port Said

13-Feb

16-Feb


Taranto

22-Feb

23-Feb


Port Said

26-Feb

02-Mar


Liverpool

16-Mar

27-Mar

Voyage repais

Greenock

28-Mar

29-Mar


Naples

09-Apr

11-Apr


Bone

13-Apr

18-Apr


Naples

20-Apr

21-Apr


Oran

24-Apr

30-Apr


Naples

02-May

04-May


Bone

06-May

15-May


Naples

16-May

18-May


Algiers

20-May

25-May


Naples

27-May

28-May


Oran

31-May

06-Jun


Naples

07-Jun

10-Jun


Oran

13-Jun

19-Jun


Port Said

25-Jun

28-Jun


Taranto

02-Jul

04-Jul


Port Said

08-Jul

12-Jul


Taranto

18-Jul

18-Jul


Port Said

22-Jul

28-Jul


Oran

20-Aug

01-Sep


Alexandria

06-Sep

11-Sep


Taranto

15-Sep

16-Sep


Alexandria

20-Sep

25-Sep


Taranto

29-Sep

30-Sep


Alexandria

04-Oct

11-Oct


Greenock

21-Oct

24-Oct


Gourock

24-Oct

06-Nov


Glasgow

06-Nov

14-Dec

Engine overhaul

Drydocking to draw tail shafts

Greenock

14-Dec

16-Dec


Port Said

28-Dec

28-Dec


Suez

28-Dec

31-Dec


1944

1945

Port

Arrived

Sailed

Comments

Aden

04-Jan

04-Jan


Colombo

10-Jan

16-Jan


Aden

22-Jan

22-Jan


Suez

26-Jan

30-Jan


Port Said

30-Jan

07-Feb


Gibraltar

12-Feb

14-Feb


Liverpool

20-Feb

10-Mar

Voyage repairs

Port Said

21-Mar

22-Mar


Bombay

31-Mar

12-Apr


Suez

19-Apr

19-Apr


Port Said

20-Apr

23-Apr


Gibraltar

28-Apr

30-Apr


Liverpool

05-May

23-May

Voyage repairs and repairs to troop accommodation

Port Said

02-Jun

03-Jun


Suez

03-Jun

03-Jun


Colombo

13-Jun

19-Jun


Suez

28-Jun

29-Jun


Port Said

30-Jun

01-Jul


Southampton

10-Jul

01-Aug

Voyage repairs

Port Said

09-Aug

10-Aug


Bombay

18-Aug

22-Aug


Cochin

24-Aug

27-Aug


Suez

04-Sep

05-Sep


Port Said

05-Sep

05-Sep


Liverpool

14-Sep

12-Oct

Engine and voyage repairs

Drydocking

Port Said

20-Oct

21-Oct


Colombo

30-Oct

31-Oct


Rangoon

03-Nov

06-Nov


Colombo

09-Nov

11-Nov


Suez

19-Nov

19-Nov


Port Said

20-Nov

20-Nov


Southampton

28-Nov

20-Dec

Engine and voyage repairs

Taranto

27-Dec

27-Dec


Port Said

30-Dec

30-Dec


Suez

31-Dec

31-Dec


1946

Port

Arrived

Sailed

Comments

Aden

04-Jan

04-Jan


Fremantle

17-Jan

18-Jan


Melbourne

22-Jan

23-Jan


Wellington

27-Jan

31-Jan


Singapore


21-Feb


Bombay

27-Feb

03-Mar


Port Said

12-Mar

12-Mar


Southampton

21-Mar

12-Apr

Engine examination and overhaul

Naples

18-Apr

18-Apr


Port Said

21-Apr

22-Apr


Bombay

30-Apr

07-May


Port Said

15-May

15-May


Southampton

23-May

14-Jun

Voyage repairs and drydocking

Naples

20-Jun

20-Jun


Malta

21-Jun

22-Jun


Alexandria

24-Jun

27-Jun


Malta

29-Jun

29-Jun


Toulon

01-Jul

02-Jul


Alexandria

06-Jul

10-Jul


Malta

13-Jul

13-Jul


Toulon

15-Jul

16-Jul


Alexandria

20-Jul

24-Jul


Toulon

30-Jul

31-Jul


Alexandria

04-Aug

06-Aug


Malta

09-Aug

09-Aug


Toulon

11-Aug

12-Aug


Naples

13-Aug

13-Aug


Port Said

16-Aug

20-Aug


Malta

23-Aug

23-Aug


Toulon

25-Aug

27-Aug


Port Said

31-Aug

01-Sep


Piraeus


04-Sep


Toulon

07-Sep

08-Sep


Malta

10-Sep

10-Sep


Alexandria

12-Sep

12-Sep


Port Said

13-Sep

20-Sep

Engine maintenance work

Piraeus

22-Sep

23-Sep


Toulon

26-Sep

26-Sep


Port Said

01-Oct

08-Oct


Piraeus

10-Oct

11-Oct


Toulon

14-Oct

15-Oct


Port Said

19-Oct

23-Oct


Piraeus

25-Oct

27-Oct


Toulon

30-Oct

31-Oct


Port Said

04-Nov

09-Nov


Southampton

18-Nov

23-Nov


Belfast

23-Nov



Remaining under Union-Castle command, in 1943 she was converted into a Landing Ship Infantry with nine landing craft on each side and on 6th November took part in the North African landings at Arzue.

During July 1943 she landed the 41st Marine Commando on Sicily and later landed troops at Salerno and Anzio. On 15th August 1944 she landed troops near Cannes during the invasion of southern France.

In her role as an Infantry Landing Ship it is clear to see that her movements in that role were not accurately reflected in the movements shown above.

This is probably due to her receiving her orders direct from operational forces rather than from command of troop transports.

Review - April 1962

Farewell Durban Castle - 1962

At the breakers in Hamburg

Durban

Castle

Left London

24 January

For S & E Africa

Master

H L Holland

Chief Officer

D Bird

Second Officer

C Ennis

Jnr Second Officer

A Clarke

Third Officer

M Godfrey

Fourth Officer

D Wiles

Surgeon

C Clemenson

Purser

O Gilbert

Asst Pursers

D Smith

M Morley

Purser’s Clerks

D North

Miss S Lomax

First Radio Officer

R Everett

Second Radio Officer

J Cagney

Third Radio Officer

T Sullivan

Nursing Sister

Miss M Evans

Children’s Hostess

Miss D Jordan

Carpenter

A West

Bosun

C Parker

Master-at-Arms

R Maddox

Master-at-Arms

A Siney

Chief Engineer

F Benham

Second Engineer

J Wilson

Int Second Engineer

J Lee

Jnr Second Engineer

J Rice

I Gubbins

Snr Third Engineer

T Jenkins

Int Third Engineer

J Watson

Jnr Third Engineer

H Fourie

Snr Fourth Engineer

J Bain

Jnr Fourth Engineer

M Clifford

Junior Engineers

J Booth

P Khaled

M Selwood

J Graham

First Electrician

D Thorpe

Second Electrician

J Goulstone

ER Storekeeper

S Burrows

Chief Catering Officer

C Frost

Second Catering Officer

T Barnes

Chief Barman

A Silverstein

Storekeeper

A Berry

Linen Steward

P McShane

First Class Head Waiter

R Furness

First Tourist Steward

C Murphy

Tourist Head Waiter

H Kennedy

Laundryman

G Hanna

Chef

J Brown

Baker and Confectioner

A Ware

Butcher

J Wylie

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