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Merchant Navy


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I am trying to find out info on my great grandfather Herbert Frank Charman who I believe was in the merchant navy during WW1.

From old newspaper cuttings I have read he was a steward on the Balmoral Castle, Castle line.

I believe he was invalided out in 1917 from the merchant navy. He then went to work in the Victoria and Albert Docks chasing railway trucks down sidings to check brakes were working and they were going where they should ( makes you wonder what he was invalided out with if he was able to run that fast!!)

Does anyone have any information at all about the castle line, it may have possibly have gone to South Africa at sometime??


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Hello Musicmaker,

Your great grandfather would have served with the Union-Castle line, whose ships regularly sailed between South Africa and UK.

From Wikipedia,

The Union-Castle Line was a prominent shipping line that operated a fleet of passenger liners and freighters between Europe and Africa from 1900 to 1977.

The company originated as Union-Castle Mail Steamship Company, Ltd on 8 March 1900 with the merger of Union Line and Castle Shipping Line, with Castle Shipping Line taking over the fleet.

Union-Castle named most of their ships with the suffix "Castle" in their names. They were well known for the lavender hulled liners with black and red funnels, running on a rigid timetable between Southampton and Cape Town. Every Thursday at 4pm a Union-Castle Royal Mail Ship would leave Southampton bound for Cape Town. At the same time, a Union-Castle Royal Mail Ship would leave Cape Town bound for Southampton.

In December 1999, the Union-Castle name was revived for a millennium cruise; the P&O ship Victoria was chartered for a 60-day cruise around Africa, and had its funnel repainted for the occasion.

'Balmoral Castle' Union Castle Line 13,361 GRT 1910-1939



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'Balmoral Castle' was the first Union-Castle ship to be fitted with Marconi wireless telegraphy and made her maiden voyage at the end of February on the mail service. She acted as the Royal Yacht when the Duke and Duchess of Connaught travelled to South Africa for the opening of Parliament in the October. For this one special trip she was painted white overall, had yellow funnels, flew the White Ensign and had a Royal Navy crew. At the beginning of the First World War she remained on the mail service but carried troops northbound to Europe. During March through to May 1915 she carried troops to the landings at Gallipoli. After the Armistice she assisted in the repatriation of the Australian and American troops. She made two trips from Liverpool to New York on charter to Cunard in 1919 and then reverted to her normal mail service where she remained for the next twenty years. She was broken up at Newport in Monmouthshire in June of 1939.

Built: 1910 by Fairfield S.B. & E. Co, Glasgow.

Tonnage: 13, 361g, 7, 512n, 11, 600 dwt.

Engines : Twin Screw, 2 x Quadruple Expansion, 2, 234 NHP, 14 Knots.

Passengers: 320 First Class, 220 Second Class, 270 Third Class.

Launched 13th November 1909, completed beginning of February 1910.

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