Pretoria Castle (2)

PRETORIA CASTLE (2) was built in 1948 by Harland & Wolff in Belfast with a tonnage of 28705grt, a length of 747ft 4in, a beam of 84ft and a service speed of 22.5 knots.

Costing £2,500,000 she was launched by Mrs Jan Smuts by telephone on 19th August 1947 as a replacement for the lost Windsor Castle.

With her sister the Edinburgh Castle (3) she was an enlarged version of the Capetown Castle, the company's largest ships to date and propelled by steam.

The story was always told that the reason the "Pretoria Castle" and her exact sister the "Edinburgh Castle" were steam turbine rather than motor ships was that Harland & Wolff at Belfast had on their hands the turbines and boilers destined for naval ships the orders for which were cancelled in 1945.   

More than likely true for in all other respects the ships were simply larger versions of the "Capetown Castle".   

The fact was that with the austerity then prevailing, there were shortages of just about everything, importantly including the finance for building ships, the two new mail ships were built as cheaply as possible.

The "Pretoria Castle" was noteworthy in that she was the first (and possibly only) ship to be launched electronically by radio.   

The Company wanted Ooma Smuts the wife of General Smuts, Prime Minister of South Africa to launch the ship, Ooma Smuts was too frail to make the journey to Belfast and thus this unique radio connection was set up so that she could set the ship down the slip way from her home in the Transvaal.



Years in Service


Pretoria Castle (2)


1966 transferred to South African Marine Corp.,

 renamed S.A.Oranje,

1975 scrapped.


The launching platform in Belfast awaiting the signal from Pretoria

In Pretoria, Mrs Jan Smuts pressing the button which set the mechanism going for the launching of Pretoria Castle 6000 miles away.

Launch of Pretoria Castle - 19 August 1947

On 15th June 1953 she hosted Government guests at the Spithead Coronation Review and took part in the procession through the lines formed by 260 ships which was headed by Trinity House's Patricia, the then Royal Yacht HMS Surprise, followed by Orient Lines Orcades, Pretoria Castle, P&O's Strathnaver and British Rail ships carrying Admiralty staff.

The Coronation Spithead Review of  1953, with guest liners, Pretoria Castle, Orcades and Strathnaver, following astern of the warships.

Outward bound Pretoria Castle rounding Calshot Spit

Photo by Beken of Cowes

The Spithead Review - 1953

Refit - 1965

In 1965 both Pretoria Castle and her sister ship Edinburgh Castle underwent refits so that they could meet the specifications of the accelerated eleven and a half day mail schedule due to be inaugurated that year.

The refit included: shot-blasting the hull, some engine and propellor modifications - these increased the speed by 1 knot.

They were also given mast layouts similar to Pendennis Castle, i.e. reduced foremast, removal of the main mast and the fitting of a signal mast just abaft the monkey island.

Sea Trials - July 1948

On trials off the Isle of Arran




J C Brown



R Wren



J H Trayner

Relief Master



G E Mayhew



J D B Fisher

Relief Master



J D B Fisher



J P Smythe






J B James

Relief Master






W S Byles

Relief Master



Permanent Masters shown in bold

Maiden Voyage - 1948

Pretoria Castle

Left Southampton

22 July

For South Africa


J C Brown

Chief Officer

A E F Payne

1st Officer

J E Young

2nd Officer

A J Culpin

3rd Officer

J A Cairns

Chief Engineer

J J Stobo

1st Engineer

W H McCombie-Smith

2nd Engineer

E J Tuck


J F Kirwan


H S Rigg

Chief Steward

R H Hubbard

Review - April 1963

Flagship of Vice Admiral of The Blue - 1963

Pretoria Castle

Left Southampton

7 February

For South Africa


J P Smythe

Chief Officer

P Rose

First Officer

R Lofts

Second Officer

D Rawlins

Jnr Second Officer

G Hobbs

Third Officer

P Bowes

Fourth Officer

R Parker

Jnr Fourth Officer

A Hague


R Heald

Chief Purser

L G Cooper-Thorne


B James

Purser Catering

S Tupper

Second Purser

M Peploe

Second Purser Catering

T Barnes

Asst Pursers

C Lloyd

Third Purser Catering

F Gregory

Purser’s Clerks

R Poletyllo

Miss M Scott

Miss F Ross

First Radio Officer

G Kilmister

Second Radio Officer

S Harden

Third Radio Officer

M Hargreaves

Fourth Radio Officer

R Pocklington

Nursing Sister

Miss A Bean

Children’s Hostess

Miss M Hicks

Band Leader

G Clark


A Wheeler


B Jones


R Guy

G Lees

Chief Engineer

W Makepeace

First Engineer

W Robertson

Second Engineer

M Stewart

Int Second Engineer

W Nicholls

Jnr Second Engineer

E Sartori

J B Kerr

R Govan

Snr Third Engineer

V Hamilton

Int Third Engineer

P Scott

Jnr Third Engineer

L Guthrie

Snr Fourth Engineer

R Crowe

Jnr Fourth Engineer

G Venter

Junior Engineer

K Richardson

D Nicholson

P Bryan

B Larkin

D Hinds

D Aitken

First Electrician

D Thorpe

Second Electrician

A Moir

Third Electrician

J Pegler

ER Storekeeper

J Phillips

ER Leading Hand

T Andrews

Chief Barman

L Hockley


R Howells

Head Waiter (1st Class)

T Gough

First Tourist Steward

W Jackson

Head Waiter (Tourist Class)

J Russell


A Fabian


D Heard


J Wood


R Wateridge

Arrival of Springbok Rugby Team - September 1951

Pretoria Castle - Art Gallery

As portrayed on the front covers of the South African Shipping News magazine.

Artist - Unknown

The South African Prime Minister Travels from Southampton to Cape Town - July 1956

Clansman - Autumn 1956

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