Built as a passenger-cargo-reefer vessel under yard No 1006 by Harland & Wolff Ltd. Belfast for the Union-Castle Mail Line SS Co. Ltd, London.
12 October 1938 launched as the PRETORIA CASTLE.
Tonnage 17,392 gross, 10,436 net, dim. 181.1 x 23.3 x 8.8m (draught).
Powered by two SCDA 8-cyl. Burmeister 7 Wain type oil engines, manufactured by the shipbuilder, twin screw, speed 18.5 knots.
Accommodation for 220 first and 335 tourist class passengers.
Reefer capacity 178,680 cubic feet.
18 April 1939 Completed.
HMS PRETORIA CASTLE (F61) was a Union-Castle ocean liner that in the Second World War was converted into a Royal Navy armed merchant cruiser, and then converted again into an escort carrier. After the war, she was converted back into a passenger liner and renamed WARWICK CASTLE.
20 April 1939 Sailed from London for her maiden voyage around Africa.
Harland and Wolff built PRETORIA CASTLE in Belfast, launching her in 1938 and completing her in April 1939. The Admiralty requisitioned and hired her for the Royal Navy on 06 October 1939 and converted her in London into an armed merchant cruiser with 6-inch (150 mm) and 3-inch (76 mm) guns, entering service in November 1939. In this role, she served mainly in the South Atlantic.
May 1940 Freetown Escort Force till June 1941.
18 December 1940 a distress signal sent by DUQUESA during her capture by the German heavy cruiser ADMIRAL SCHEER triggered wide-range British search operations with PRETORIA CASTLE being deployed in the St Helena Islands area in company with HMS HERMES and DRAGON.
17 June 1941 PRETORIA CASTLE captured the Vichy French steamer DESIRADE east of the Antilles.
July 1941 – June 1942 stationed on the South Atlantic Station.
15 August 1941 German steamer NORDERNEY scuttled herself northeast of the Amazon estuary when she was approached by DESPATCH and PRETORIA CASTLE.
n July 1942 the British Admiralty bought her outright for conversion to an escort carrier by Swan Hunter on Tyneside. For her new role, her armament included ten Oerlikon 20 mm cannons. She was commissioned in her new role in July 1943. She operated as a trial and training carrier, seeing no active combat service.
09 July 1943 commissioned as HMS PRETORIA CASTLE (F61). Carried 21 aircraft.
In 1945 she twice became part of aviation history, firstly when British test pilot Captain Eric "Winkle" Brown landed a Bell Airacobra Mk. 1 on her flight deck - the first carrier landing made using an aircraft with a tricycle undercarriage, due to a declared emergency during initial trials for rubber deck landings planned for future carriers, and then by hosting the first-ever
landings and take-offs by a glider, performed by John Sproule in a Slingsby T.20 as part of research into "round-down" turbulence. On 11 August 1946, while moored on the Clyde, a Gloster Meteor was used for deck handling trials which later led to flight trials on other carriers.
January 1946 after the war the ship was sold back to the Union-Castle Line Mail SS Co. Ltd., London, and converted back to a passenger liner by Harland & Wolff, Belfast, restored to its route between England and South Africa but renamed WARWICK CASTLE.
Passenger accommodation for 205 first-class and 335 tourist classes.
26 January 1946 decommissioned.
The WARWICK CASTLE was used in the liner service from Great Britain around Africa.
June 1962 sold to Industrias Siderurgicas S.A. Barcelona for scrap, and resold to Pedro Alberich in Barcelona. 26 July 1962 arrived Barcelona for demolition.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Pretoria_Castle_(F61) Union-Castle Line by Peter Newall. Armed Merchant Cruisers 1878 – 1945 by Osborne, Spong and Grover.
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