The Union-Castle Shipping Company

Union-CastleOne of the great sights to be seen in Southampton during the heyday of British merchant shipping was the wonderful sight of the magnificent, lavender-hulled liners of Union-Castle Line.

To travel on one of those great ocean liners was an exciting adventure in its own right, an adventure that would start at London’s Waterloo Station, as railway porters pushed trolleys piled high with almost unlimited baggage, towards the special boat train to Southampton.

At the stroke of eleven am, the train’s whistle would blow and clouds of hissing steam from the spinning wheels, as the engine gathered speed, taking her ward of excited passengers on the first leg of an epic journey to South Africa.

In those days before in rise in popular air travel, the only way to travel abroad was by sea and there was no better way to sail to the African Continent than aboard one of those magnificent Union-Castle liners.

It was said that you set your watch by a Thursday afternoon Union-Castle sailing. At precisely 4pm one of their great liners would sound its mighty whistle over the whole of Southampton and the surrounding countryside as its mooring lines were cast off as it nosed its way gently into the Solent and out into the English Channel, passing the famous Isle of Wight Needles landmark and heading south for Africa.

They had so many great ships in that Union-Castle fleet, many of which actually feature in the two DVDs dedicated to that once truly famous shipping company.

Winsor Castle SouthamptonWith the use of the rare film we have been able to find and restore, we can watch the great ships being built and then sail with them on their voyages to the Cape.

We are also able to use the intermediate Union-Castle liners that sailed from London on voyages that took them all around the African continent.

I managed to sail on two of those wonderful Union-Castle liners, the Pendennis Castle and the Windsor Castle, and what fantastic voyages they were.

There is so much that could be written about Union-Castle and the great ships they operated, but perhaps the best way to enjoy the memory of them is to actually watch the DVDs (Episodes 2 & 7).

Watching the rare film you can really experience just what it was like to have sailed aboard those ships, ships that offered a service equal to the best, ships that thrilled their passengers as they passed each other at sea perhaps closer than any other shipping company dared… what a thrill that was, with everyone onboard both passing ships waving and screaming like mad as flags dipped and whistles sounded…

Sadly, the end of episode 2, also shows us the final sailing of the “Windsor Castle”, leaving Cape Town for the last time in a very emotional farewell.

There are those who will argue that with the armada of giant and to my mind, rather unsightly cruise ships of today, this countries maritime fleet is once again great, but in truth, these cruise ships and their operations can never match the feeling of excitement, adventure and romance that was once so much part of sailing on a magnificent Union-Castle ocean liner.

How could we have had so much and somehow manage to loose it all? Well, at least we have this rare film and through it, are able to enjoy seeing and sailing aboard those magnificent Union-Castle liners again.

These are DVDs you really should see!

View our range of DVD's