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The Fleets

Union Steamship Company

Formed in 1853 as a steam collier company named the Southampton Steam Shipping Co to bring coal from South Wales to Southampton for the large liner companies. In the same year it became the Union Steam Collier Co, but in 1854 all their five ships were taken over as transports for the Crimean War. Returned to their owners in 1856, they remained idle due to the large stocks of coal accumulated at Southampton. The company made unsuccessful ventures into the UK - South America and Birkenhead - Hamburg routes, but in 1857 they were awarded the mail contract between the UK and South Africa. In 1876 a joint mail contract with the Castle Line was awarded by the Colonial Government with the proviso that the two companies did not amalgamate. This contract expired in 1899, and after much political manoeuvering, the two companies merged to become the Union-Castle Mail SS Co and received the new mail contract.

Many thanks to Ted Finch for his assistance in collecting this data. The following list was extracted from various sources. This is not an all inclusive list but should only be used as a guide. If you would like to know more about a vessel, visit the Ship Descriptions (on-site) ot the Immigrant Ship web site.

Routes:

  • 1853          South Wales ports to Southampton.
  • 1856-7      Southampton - Rio de Janeiro - Buenos Aires.
  • 1857          Birkenhead - South Coast of England ports - Hamburg.
  • 1857          Southampton - Plymouth - Cape Town / Simonstown - St.Helena - Ascension - Southampton.
  • 1863          Intercolonial: Cape Town - Algoa Bay (Port Elizabeth) - Buffalo River (East London) - Port Natal.
  • 1863-1900 Mail Service: Southampton - Cape Town.
  • 1863-1900 Intermediate Service: Southampton - Plymouth - Cape Town - Port Elizabeth.
  • 1864-1868 Eastern Mail: Cape Town - Algoa Bay - Port Natal - Mauritius (thence via P&O Line Suez - UK)
  • 1866-1868 Cape Town - Algoa Bay - Port Natal - Mauritius - Galle, Ceylon (thence via P&O Line to Far East or UK)
  • 1868-1900 Cape Town - Algoa Bay - Port Natal - Mauritius.
  • 1873-1900 Southampton - Port Elizabeth.
  • 1873-1881 Cape Town - Zanzibar.
  • 1873-1878 Cape Town - Port Nolloth.
  • 1881-1900 Southampton - Antwerp(later) - Rotterdam - Hamburg.
  • 1883-1884 Liverpool - Newport News - Baltimore.
  • 1892-1900 Union-America Line (joint cargo service with Castle Line) South Africa - USA.

Funnel:
1858 - 1863 Black
1863 - 1870 Buff, black top
1870 - 1891 Black
1891 - 1900 Buff

Fleet: Ships which transferred to Union Castle fleet after the merger in 1900 are not shown again under that fleet

1858-1863
1870-1891
1863-1870
1891-1900
Vessel Built Years in Service Tons
African (1) 1873 1885 sold to F. Stumore & Co., London. (picture) 2,019
African (2) 1886 S.A coastal service, 1893 sold to F.H.Powell, Liverpool, renamed Graceful. 1,372
American 1873 1880 sank off Las Palmas after propeller shaft fractured; no loss of life. 2,126
Anglian (1) 1864 1869 sold to Palgrave, Murphy & Co, Dublin. 661
Anglian (2) 1873 1894 sold to Huddart Parker & Co, Melbourne. 2,206
Arab 1879 1900 transferred to Union-Castle Mail SS Co, scrapped same year. 3,170
Asiatic 1872 1881 sold to H.Martini, Southampton. 2,087
Athenian 1881 1897 sold to Canadian Pacific 3,877
Athens 1856 1858 purchased from Schilizzi & Co, Liverpool, 1865 wrecked Table Bay; loss of 29 lives. 739
Basuto 1873 S.A.coastal service, 1876 sold to France. 1,034
Briton (1) 1854 1857 lost at sea. 491
Briton (2) 1861 1873 sold to Admiralty became troopship HMS Dromedary. 1,164
Briton (3) 1897 1900 transferred to Union-Castle Mail SS Co, 1926 scrapped. 10,248
Cambrian 1860 1872 sold to France. 1,055
Carnarvon 1883 tug at Durban, 1890 transferred to Lourenco Marques, 1896 sold to Vianna & Co, Lourenco Marques. 104
Celt (1) 1855 1862 sold to Charles Langley in part exchange for new ship. 531
Celt (2) 1866 1874 rebuilt to 2112 tons, 1875 wrecked South Africa; no loss of lives. 1,439
Dane (1) 1854 1865 wrecked near Port Elizabeth. 530
Dane (2) 1866 1870 sold to Azores, renamed Atlantico. 788
Dane (3) 1870 ex- Australia, 1889 purchased from P&O Line, renamed Dane, 1893 scrapped. 3,664
Danube 1866 1871 purchased from Royal Mail SP Co, 1888 scrapped. 2,039
Durban 1877 1891 cargo only, 1893 wrecked Tenerife. 2,875
European 1869 ex- Europe, 1872 purchased from Ryde & Co, Liverpool, renamed European. 1877 sank off Ushant after striking rock; no loss of life. 2,242
Falcon 1896 Southampton passenger tender, 1900 transferred to Union-Castle Mail SS Co, 1942 out of service. 41
Gaika 1896 1900 transferred to Union-Castle Mail SS Co, 1928 scrapped. 6,287
Galeka 1899 1900 transferred to Union-Castle Mail SS Co, 1916 mined off LeHavre while hospital ship, beached but total loss; loss of 19 lives. 6,772
Galician 1900 transferred to Union-Castle Mail SS Co while fitting out, 1914 renamed Glenart Castle, 1918 torpedoed and sunk in Bristol Channel while hospital ship; loss of 168 lives. 6,575
Gascon 1897 1900 transferred to Union-Castle Mail SS Co, 1928 scrapped. 6,287
Gaul 1893 1900 transferred to Union-Castle Mail SS Co, 1906 sold to Royal Mail SP Co, renamed Sabor. 4,745
German (1) 1877 1896 sold to Navigazione Generale Italiana, renamed Sempione. 3,028
German (2) 1898 1900 transferred to Union-Castle Mail SS Co, 1914 renamed Glengorm Castle, 1930 scrapped. 6,763
Goorkha 1897 1900 transferred to Union-Castle Mail SS Co, 1926 scrapped. 6,287
Goth 1893 1900 transferred to Union-Castle Mail SS Co, 1913 sold to Royal Mail SP Co, renamed Cobequid 4,738
Greek 1893 1900 transferred to Union-Castle Mail SS Co, 1906 sold to Royal Mail SP Co, renamed Segura 4,757
Guelph 1894 1900 transferred to Union-Castle Mail SS Co, 1913 sold to Royal Mail SP Co, renamed Caraquet 4,917
Kafir 1873 S.A coastal service, 1878 wrecked Simonstown. 982
Mauritius 1865 1869 sold to Palgrave, Murphy & Co, Dublin. 587
Mexican 1883 1900 transferred to Union-Castle Mail SS Co, 1900 sank after collision with WINKFIELD near Cape Town; no loss of life. 4,668
Midge 1889 tender at East London, 1900 transferred to Union-Castle Mail SS Co. 1906 sold to African Fisheries Ltd. 64
Moor 1881 1900 in 1894 rebuilt to 4644 tons, 1900 transferred to Union-Castle Mail SS Co, 1901 sold to Royal mail SP Co renamed La Plata. 3,688
Namaqua 1873 S.A coastal service, 1876 wrecked off Port Nolloth. 352
Natal (1) 1865 1883 sold to Trinder, Anderson & Co, London. 618
Natal (2) 1892 passenger tender at Durban, 1900 transferred to Union-Castle Mail SS Co, 1913 sold to Cape Town City Steamers, renamed Sir Fred. 158
Norman (1) 1854 1865 sold to Charles Langley in part exchange for new ship. 530
Norman (2) 1894 1900 transferred to Union-Castle Mail SS Co, 1926 scrapped. 7,537
Norseman (1) 1866 1873 sold to J. Heugh converted to a cable ship. 1,386
Norseman (2) 1890 S.A.coastal service, 1893 sold to W.Bailey, Hull. 938
Northam 1858 (ex-P&O Line), 1869 purchased from Day Summers & Co, 1876 sold to Sir John Malcolm, Liverpool, became sailing barque Stars and Stripes. 1,330
Nubian 1876 1892 ran ashore at Lisbon - total loss; no loss of life. 3,091
Nyanza 1864 1873 purchased from P&O Line, 1880 sold to Sultan of Zanzibar as private yacht. (picture) 2,128
Phoebe 1851 1857 purchased from Preston & Co, Glasgow, 1861 sold to Union SS Co of New Zealand. 613
Pretoria 1878 1897 sold to Quebec SS Co (Furness Withy) 3,199
Roman (1) 1863 1889 sold to Turkey, renamed Adana. 1,282
Roman (2) 1870 ex- Nile, 1890 purchased from Royal Mail SP Co, renamed Roman, 1891 scrapped. 2,994
Sabine 1895 ex- Marino, 1898 purchased from Elder Dempster, renamed Sabine, 1900 transferred to Union-Castle Mail SS Co, 1921 transferred to Bullard, King & Co, London, renamed Umzinto. 3,809
Sandusky 1891 ex- Montezuma, 1898 purchased from Elder Dempster & Co, renamed Sandusky, 1899 sold to Mississippi & Dominion SS Co (Dominion Line) renamed Englishman. 6,315
Saxon (1) 1854 1858 sold to Bremner, Bennett & Bremner, London. 490
Saxon (2) 1863 1876 sold to Bailey & Leetham, Hull. 1,142
Saxon (3) 1887 S.A coastal service, 1895 sold to Portugal. 469
Saxon (4) 1900 transferred to Union-Castle Mail SS Co while fitting out, 1935 scrapped. 12,385
Scot 1891 1900 transferred to Union-Castle Mail SS Co, 1905 sold to Hamburg America Line, renamed Oceana 6,844
Seagull 1883 tender at Southampton, 1898 sold, became harbour ferry. 24
Spartan 1881 1900 transferred to Union-Castle Mail SS Co, 1900 sold to Italy, renamed Fiume. 3.487
Susquehanna 1896 ex- Mount Sephar, 1898 purchased from Smith & Service, Glasgow, renamed Susquehanna, 1900 transferred to Union-Castle Mail SS Co, 1921 sold to Denaby Shipping Co, Southampton, renamed London City. 3,711
Syria 1863 (ex-P&O Line ), 1870 purchased from Caird & Co, 1878 sold to J. Laing, shipbuilder in part exchange for new ship. 1,932
Tartar 1883 1897 sold to Canadian Pacific 4,425
Teuton 1869 ex- Glenartney, 1873 purchased from Jardine, Matheson & Co., Hong Kong, renamed Teuton, 1881 sank after striking rock off Cape Colony; loss of 236 lives. 1,741
Titan 1898 passenger tender at Durban, 1900 transferred to Union-Castle Mail SS Co, 1902 sold to African Boating Co. 151
Trojan 1880 1900 transferred to Union-Castle Mail SS Co, 1900 sold to Elder Dempster & Co, renamed Wassau. 3,555
Tyrian 1890 S.A.coastal service, 1894 sold to Howard Smith & Co., Melbourne. 1,455
Union (1) 1854 1858 sold to P&O Line. 336
Union (2) 1878 tug at Durban, 1894 lost on port of Chinde bar. 113
Zulu 1872 S.A. coastal service, 1877 sold to S.Ezekial 94

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