RMS Alcantara (1926)
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Alcantara off Rio de Janeiro between 1934 and 1939
|Name:||RMS Alcantara (1926–39; 1943–58)
HMS Alcantara (1939–43)
|Owner:||Royal Mail Lines|
|Operator:||Royal Navy (1939–43)|
|Port of registry:||Belfast|
|Route:||Southampton – South America|
|Builder:||Harland & Wolff, Belfast|
|Fate:||Returned to civilian service 1948
Broken up 1958
|Type:||ocean liner 1926–39; 1948–58
armed merchant cruiser 1939–43
troop ship 1943–48
tonnage under deck 16,089
|Length:||630.5 ft (192.2 m)|
|Beam:||78.5 ft (23.9 m)|
|Depth:||40.5 ft (12.3 m)|
|Installed power:||3,366 NHP (until 1934)
4,205 NHP (from 1934)
|Propulsion:||steam turbines (from 1934)|
|Speed:||16 knots (30 km/h) (until 1934)
19 knots (35 km/h) (from 1934)
432 1st class
223 2nd class
775 3rd class
|wireless direction finding
echo sounding device
BL 6 inch Mk XII naval guns
QF 3 inch 20 cwt anti-aircraft guns
|Notes:||sister ship: RMS Asturias|
RMS Alcantara was a Royal Mail Lines ocean liner that was built in Belfast in 1926. She served in the Second World War as first an armed merchant cruiser and then a troop ship, was returned to civilian service in 1948 and scrapped in 1958.
Building and civilian service
In the 1920s Harland & Wolff of Belfast built a pair of 22,200 GRT passenger liners for Royal Mail Lines, completing Asturias in 1925 and her sister ship Alcantara in 1926. The latter was named after Royal Mail Lines' previous SS Alcantara that had been sunk by a German armed merchant cruiser in 1916.
Each of the two new ships was powered by a pair of eight-cylinder four-stroke double-acting diesel engines built by Burmeister & Wain of Copenhagen, Denmark. These gave each ship a speed of about 16 knots (30 km/h). The ships worked Royal Mail Lines' liner route between Southampton and ports on the east coast of South America.
In 1934 Royal Mail Lines had both ships re-engined from diesel to steam. Each was fitted with three water tube boilers supplying superheated steam at 435 lbf/in2 to a set of six steam turbines that drove her twin propeller shafts by single reduction gearing. This increased each ship's nominal horsepower by 25% and increased their speed to about 19 knots (35 km/h).
Second World War service
In 1939 the Admiralty requisitioned Alcantara and Asturias and had each ship converted into an armed merchant cruiser. Each ship had one of her twin funnels removed, increasing the arc of fire for her anti-aircraft guns.
On 28 July 1940 Alcantara encountered the German German auxiliary cruiser Thor in the South Atlantic. Thor scored three hits on Alcantara, and was hit twice by Alcantara's six-inch main guns. One of the hits on Alcantara flooded her engine room and forced her to reduce speed, allowing Thor to escape.
In 1943 Alcantara was converted into a troop ship.
Alcantara remained a troop ship well after the end of the war, and did not return to civilian service until October 1948. Asturias remained in UK Government service as an emigrant ship, and Alcantara alone resumed their route between Southampton and South America. In April 1958 she was withdrawn from service and sold to Japanese shipbreakers who renamed her Kaisho Maru, took her to Japan and broke her up in the same year.
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