Durban Castle
Ship Number
Vessel Type
Passenger Ship
Slip Number
Launch Date
June 14, 1938
Launched By
Lady Clarke
December 15, 1938
Union-Castle Mail Steamship Co.
17388 grt
BP Length
560 feet
76 feet
No. of Screws
Speed (approx)
19 knots
B&W 2-stroke, double acting oil engines with 16 cylinders of 24 7/16 inches diameter each; stroke 55 1/8 inches; 3,284 nominal horsepower; by H&W
Official No.
 Durban Castle

Twin screws motor vessel; 3 decks; 4th deck except in after hold; 9 partly cemented bulkheads; fitted with refrigerating machinery; direction finder, echo sounding device, gyro-compass and submarine signalling device; cellular double bottom 435 feet, 1,944 tons;  Forward Peak Tank 137 tons; Aft Peak Tank 301 tons
Built for the Round Africa service and inaugurated the practice of naming ships after non-existent South African castles.
In September 1939 she was converted into a troopship. When Greece fell in 1941 the King of Greece and his family first took refuge in Egypt and then South Africa from where the Durban Castle transported him, his family and entourage from Durban to the United Kingdom.
In 1942 she was converted into a Landing Ship Infantry with nine landing craft on each side and on 6th November took part in the North African landings at Arzue. During July 1943 she landed the 41st Marine Commando on Sicily and later landed troops at Salerno and Anzio. On 15th August 1944 she landed troops near Cannes during the invasion of southern France.
She returned to commercial service in 1946 still carrying her AA gun platforms and with 9 lifeboats on each side replacing the landing craft. This austere situation was rectified when she was later re-furbished. In July 1947 she resumed service, initially on the mail service pending the return of the larger ships which were themselves being refurbished after war service, and then on the Round Africa service.
In October 1947 she made the news headlines when a glamorous young actress, Gay Gibson, was murdered during a voyage from South Africa to England. She was reported as being missing from her cabin and a search of the ship failed to find her. Then a steward reported that he had seen one of his colleagues in Gay's cabin late on the night of her disappearance and his story led to an amazing trial at Winchester Assizes. Without a body in the case, the accused, a steward named James Camb, had a good chance that his story that Gay died from natural causes while he made love to her would be believed. Camb said that he panicked and pushed her body out of the port hole but the court decided otherwise and he was convicted of her murder.
On 28th March 1962 she completed her final voyage in London and in the following month was sold to Eisen & Metall GmbH of Hamburg for breaking up.