HMS Pretoria Castle

Pennant F61



Years in Service


HMS Pretoria Castle


Entered service as Pretoria Castle (1)

1939 requisitioned as an Armed Merchant Cruiser

1942 sold to Admiralty and rebuilt as an aircraft carrier

1946 re-purchased by Union-Castle and renamed Warwick Castle (4)


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.  The conversion took place at Swan Hunters on the Tyne.

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.

From 1939 to 1942 as Armed Merchant Cruiser

From 1943 to 1945 as Escort/Trainer carrier

Being rebuilt as Aircraft Carrier by Swan Hunter

Capt R Bell-Davies RN


Supermarine Seafire landing on HMS Pretoria Castle

The naval version of the Spitfire

Fairey Baracudda being launched from HMS Pretoria Castle

Fairey Firefly ready for stowing

In November 1944 seen from the air


8 x 6” Guns

2 x 4” Guns


21 Aircraft

Small watercolour of Pretoria Castle in 3 Guises

Taken up by the Admiralty and converted first to an Armed Merchant Cruiser, and later to an Escort Carrier.

She spent most of her time as the Trials Carrier for development of Naval Aircraft and flight deck operations.

She was returned to her original configuration and re named Warwick Castle.

Artist - Jim Rae

HMS Pretoria Castle - Art Gallery

Picture owned by The Imperial War Museum

Artist - Stephen Bone

No Room for Error by Stephen West

Capt Eric (Winkle) Brown launches his Seafire TM379, from the deck of the trials carrier HMS Pretoria Castle in July 1945.

Unlike other carriers, those used for trials, usually had their decks clear of other aircraft.

On this day, once the aircraft is launched the carrier’s crew streamed onto the deck to check the surface and clear anything that may obstruct a landing.

TM379, was the first prototype, Seafire Mk 45 and was fitted with a Rotol contra prop, modified fin, rudder and tail hook.

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