Royal Mail Steam Packet Company

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For the British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, see Cunard Line.
Royal Mail Steam Packet Company
Industry Shipping
Fate Liquidated
Successor Royal Mail Lines Ltd
Founded 1839
Founder James Macqueen
Defunct 1932
Headquarters London, United Kingdom
Key people
Lord Kylsant
Royal Mail Lines Ltd
Industry Shipping, cruise line
Fate Acquired
Predecessor Royal Mail Steam Packet Company
Successor Furness, Withy & Co.
Founded 1932
Defunct 1965
RMS Asturias in a 1930 poster by Kenneth Shoesmith, who created a number of images advertising Royal Mail Lines ships

The Royal Mail Steam Packet Company was a British shipping company founded in London in 1839 by a Scot, James MacQueen. The line's motto was Per Mare Ubique (everywhere by sea). After good and bad times it became the largest shipping group in the world in 1927 when it took over the White Star Line.[1]

A poster stamp issued by the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company to promote their service from Canada to the British West Indies.

The company was liquidated and its assets taken over by the newly formed Royal Mail Lines in 1932 after financial trouble and scandal; over the years RML declined to no more than the name of a service run by former rival Hamburg Süd.

History as Royal Mail Steam Packet Company[edit]

Queen Victoria granted the initial Royal Charter of Incorporation of "The Royal Mail Steam Packet Company" on 26 September 1839.[2] In 1840 the Admiralty and the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company made a contract in which the latter agreed to provide a fleet of not fewer than 14 steam vessels for the purpose of carrying all Her Majesty's mails, to sail twice every month to Barbados in the West Indies from Southampton or Falmouth. Fourteen new steam vessels were built for the purpose: Thames, Medway, Trent, and Isis (built at Northfleet); Severn and Avon (built at Bristol); Tweed, Clyde, Teviot, Dee, and Solway (built at Greenock); Tay (built at Dumbarton); Forth (built at Leith); and Medina, (built at Cowes). In reference to their destination, these vessels were known as the West Indies Mail Steamers.[3]

The West Indian Mail Service was established by the sailing of the first Royal Mail Steam Packet, PS Thames from Falmouth on 1 January 1841. A Supplemental Royal Charter was granted on 30 August 1851 extending the sphere of the Company's operations. In 1864, the mail service to the British Honduras was established. A further Supplemental Royal Charter was granted extending the sphere of the Company's operations on 7 March 1882.[2]

In the decade before the First World War the RMSP modernised its fleet, introducing a series of larger liners ranging from 9,588 GRT to 15,551 GRT on its Southampton – Buenos Aires route. Each had a name beginning with the letter "A", so collectively they were called the "A-liners" or the "A-series". The first was RMS Aragon in 1905, followed by sister ships Amazon, Araguaya and Avon in 1906, Asturias in 1908, Arlanza in 1912, Andes and Alcantara in 1913 and Almanzora in 1915. Earlier members of the series, from Aragon to Asturias, had twin screws, each driven by a four-cylinder quadruple-expansion steam engine. The final four members of the series, from Arlanza to Almanzora, had triple screws, with the middle one driven by a low pressure Parsons steam turbine.[4]

After the First World War RMSP faced not only existing foreign competition but a new UK challenger. Lord Vestey's Blue Star Line had joined the South American route and won a large share of the frozen meat trade. Then in 1926–27 Blue Star introduced its new "luxury five" ships Almeda, Andalucia, Arandora, Avelona and Avila to both increase refrigerated cargo capacity and enter the passenger trade. At the same time RMSP introduced a pair of new 22,200 GRT liners, RMS Asturias in 1926 and RMS Alcantara in 1927, which at that stage were the largest motor ships in the World. Although these were the biggest and most luxurious UK ships on the route, RMSP Chairman Lord Kylsant called Blue Star's quintet "very keen competition".[5]

Reconstitution as Royal Mail Lines[edit]

The company ran into financial trouble, and the UK Government investigated its affairs in 1930, resulting in the Royal Mail Case. In 1931 Lord Kylsant was jailed for 12 months for misrepresenting the state of the company to shareholders.[1] So much of Britain's shipping industry was involved in RMSPC that arrangements were made to guarantee the continuation of ship operations after it was liquidated. Royal Mail Lines Ltd (RML) was created in 1932 and took over the ships of RMSPC and other companies of the former group.[6] The new company was chaired by Lord Essendon.[7]

The new company's operations were concentrated on the west coast of South America, the West Indies and Caribbean, and the Pacific coast of North America; the SouthamptonLisbonBrazilUruguayArgentina route was operated from 1850 to 1980. RML was also a leading cruise ship operator.

RMS's largest vessel was the 25,895 GRT turbine steamship RMS Andes. She was designed as an ocean liner but when launched in 1939 was immediately fitted out as a troopship. She finally entered civilian liner service in 1948, was converted to full-time cruising in 1960 and was scrapped in 1971.[8]

RMSP and RML lost a number of ships in their long history. One of the last was the 17,547 GRT turbine steamship RMS Magdalena, which was launched in 1948 and grounded and sank off Brazil on her maiden voyage in 1949.[9]

In 1965 RML was bought by Furness, Withy & Co.,[1] and rapidly lost its identity. In the 1970s parts of the Furness Withy Group, including RML, were sold on to Hong Kong shipowner C.Y. Tung, and later sold on to former River Plate rival Hamburg Süd; by the 1990s Royal Mail Lines was no more than the name of a Hamburg-Süd refrigerated cargo service from South America to Europe.

Fleet[edit]

List of RMSP Company vessels[edit]

[10]

For conciseness smaller ships such as schooners and lighters are omitted.[11]

Ship Date Commissioned GT Propulsion Hull Notes
Clyde 1841 1,841 paddle wood
Tweed 1841 1,800 paddle wood
Thames 1841 1,889 paddle wood
Forth 1841 1,900 paddle wood
Solway 1841 1,700 paddle wood
Tay 1841 1,858 paddle wood
Medina 1841 1,800 paddle wood
Medway 1841 1,895 paddle wood
Dee 1841 1,849 paddle wood
Trent 1841 1,856 paddle wood Involved in the Trent Affair between the UK and US
Teviot 1841 1,744 paddle wood
Isis 1841 1,900 paddle wood
City of Glasgow 1841 1,700 paddle wood
Avon 1841 2,069 paddle wood
Severn 1841 1,886 paddle wood
Great Western 1847 1,775 paddle wood Brunel's first ship
Amazon 1851 2,256 paddle wood Caught fire at sea and sank on Maiden Voyage
Oronico 1851 2,901 paddle wood
Parana 1852 3,070 paddle wood
Magdalena 1852 2,943 paddle wood
Demerara 1851 2,318 paddle wood
La Plata 1852 2,826 paddle wood
Atrato 1853 3,184 paddle iron
Solent 1853 1,804 paddle composite
Tamar 1854 1,850 paddle wood
Tyne 1854 1,603 paddle iron
Oneida 1858 2,285 paddle iron
Paramatta 1859 3,439 paddle iron
Mersey 1859 1,039 paddle iron
Shannon 1859 3,609 paddle iron
Tasmanian 1858 2,956 screw iron
Seine 1860 3,440 paddle iron
Eider 1864 1,569 paddle iron
Douro 1865 2,824 screw iron
Arno 1865 1,038 screw iron
Rhone 1865 2,738 screw iron
Danube 1865 2,000 screw iron
Corsica 1867 1,134 screw iron
Neva 1868 3,025 screw iron
Nile 1869 3,039 screw iron
Elbe 1870 3,063 screw iron
Tiber 1871 1,591 screw iron
Ebro 1871 1,509 screw iron
Liffey 1871 1,504 screw iron
Moselle 1871 3,298 screw iron
Belize 1871 1,038 screw iron
Tagus 1871 3,299 screw iron
Boyne 1871 3,318 screw iron
Essequibo 1873 1,831 screw iron
Larne 1873 1,670 screw iron
Severn 1873 1,736 screw iron
Minho 1874 2,540 screw iron
Mondego 1874 2,564 screw iron
Dee 1875 1,864 screw iron
Guadiana 1875 2,504 screw iron
Para 1875 4,028 screw iron
Don 1875 4,028 screw iron
Medway 1877 3,687 screw iron
Solent 1878 1,915 screw iron
Tamar 1878 2,923 screw iron
Trent 1878 2,912 screw iron
Derwent 1879 2,466 screw iron
Humber 1880 2,371 screw iron
Avon 1880 2,162 screw iron
La Plata 1882 3,240 screw iron
Eden 1882 2,145 screw iron
Esk 1882 2,145 screw iron
Dart 1883 2,641 screw iron
Orinoco 1886 4,572 screw steel
Atrato 1888 5,347 screw steel
Magdalena 1889 5,373 screw steel
Thames 1889 5,261 screw steel
Clyde 1890 5,618 screw steel
Nile 1893 5,855 screw steel
Danube 1893 5,891 screw steel
La Plata 1896 3,445 screw steel
Minho 1896 3,445 screw steel
Ebro 1896 3,445 screw steel
Severn 1898 3,760 screw steel
Tagus 1899 5,545 screw steel
Trent 1899 5,525 screw steel
Tyne 1900 2,902 screw steel
Eider 1900 1,236 screw steel
La Plata 1901 4,464 screw steel
Dee 1902 1,871 screw steel
Tamar 1902 3,207 screw steel
Teviot 1902 3,271 screw steel
Parana 1904 4,515 screw steel
Caroni 1904 2,628 screw steel
Conway 1904 2,650 screw steel
Pardo 1904 4,464 screw steel
Catalina 1904 4,464 screw steel
Potaro 1904 4,464 screw steel
Aragon 1905 9,588 screw steel
Oruba 1906 5,737 screw steel
Orotava 1906 5,851 screw steel
Oroya 1906 6,297 screw steel
Arcadian 1906 7,945 screw steel
Marima 1906 2,742 screw steel
Manau 1906 2,745 screw steel
Amazon 1906 10,037 screw steel
Segura 1906 4,756 screw steel
Sabor 1906 4,758 screw steel
Araguaya 1906 10,537 screw steel
Avon 1906 11,073 screw steel
Monmouthshire 1907 5,091 screw steel Ex Shire Line. Renamed Tyne in 1919. Sold to Japan in 1922 and renamed Toku Maru. Scrapped in 1934,
Denbighshire 1907 3,844 screw steel Ex Shire Line. Renamed Tamar in 1919. Sold in 1923 and renamed Joyce Nancy. Resold in 1925 and renamed Sassa. Sold again the same year and renamed Argostoli. Sold once more in 1928 and renamed Avgy. Scrapped in 1930.
Flintshire 1907 3,815 screw steel Ex Shire Line. Sold in 1913 to Ellerman Lines and renamed Algerian. Mined by UC-5 on 12 January 1916.
Asturias 1908 12,015 screw steel Requisitioned for use as a hospital ship in WW!. Torpedoed by UC-66 on 20 March 1917 and beached. Subsequently salvaged for use as an ammunition hulk. Repurchased by RMSP in 1920 and refitted as a cruise ship and renamed Arcadian. Scrapped in 1933.
Arzila 1908 2,722 screw steel Ex Mersey Steamship Co. Sold in 1922 to Kehdivial Mail Line and renamed Bilbeis. Wrecked 5 March 1934.
Agadir 1908 2,722 screw steel Ex Mersey Steamship Co. Sold in 1922 to Kehdivial Mail Line and renamed Belkas. Resold in 1935 and renamed Damas. Sold again in 1940 and renamed Sakara. Requisitioned by the MoWT in WW2. Returned to KML in 1946 and scrapped in 1955.
Berbice 1909 2,379 screw steel Originally deployed on the West Indies inter-island service. Requisitioned in 1915 as a hospital ship. Sold to Mitchell Cotts & Co in 1922 and renamed Suntemple. Resold in 1924 and renamed Baltara. Wrecked in 1929.
Balantia 1909 2,379 screw steel Originally deployed on the West Indies inter-island service. Requisitioned in 1916 as a hospital ship and renamed St. Margaret of Scotland. Returned in 1918 and resumed former name. Sold in 1922 to Kehdivial Mail Line and renamed Boulac. Scrapped in 1935.
Deseado 1911 11,475 screw steel Passed to RML. Scrapped in 1934.
Arlanza 1912 15,044 screw steel Requisitioned as an AMC in WW1. Returned to civilian service in 1920. Passed to RML. Scrapped in 1938.
Demerara 1911 11,484 screw steel Scrapped in 1933.
Desna 1912 11,484 screw steel Scrapped in 1933.
Alcala 1913 10,660 screw steel Ex Lamport and Holt Vauban. Returned to L&H in 1914 and resumed original name. Chartered again for a short time in 1922. Scrapped in 1932 after having been laid up for two years.
Andes 1913 15,620 screw steel Requisitioned as an AMC in WW1. Renamed Atlantis in 1929 and redeployed as a cruise chip. Passed to RML. Requisitoned as a hospital ship in WW2 and retained as an emigrant ship afterwards. Scrapped in 1952.
Radnorshire 1913 4,302 screw steel Operated by Shire Line. Captured and sunk by SMS Möwe, 7 January 1917.
Caribbean 1913 5,824 screw steel Ex Union-Castle Line Dunnottar Castle. Requisitioned as an AMC in WW1. Foundered 27 September 1915.
Merionethshire 1913 4,308 screw steel Ex Cambrian SN Co Reptonian. Operated by Shire Line. Torpedoed and sunk by U-62, 27 May 1918.
Cardiganshire 1913 9,426 screw steel Operated by Shire Line. Requisitioned as a troopship in WW1. Sold to Christian Salvesen in 1929 and renamed Salvestria. Mined and sunk, 27 July 1940.
Cobequid 1913 4,738 screw steel Ex Union-Castle Line Goth. Stranded and wrecked, 13 January 1914.
Caraquet 1913 4,917 screw steel Ex Union-Castle Line Guelph. Ran aground on a reef and sank, 25 June 1923.
Alcantara 1913 15,831 screw steel Requisitioned as an AMC in WW1. Sunk in action with SMS Greif, 29 February 1916.
Carnarvonshire 1913 9,406 screw steel Operated by Shire Line. Scrapped in 1933
Drina 1913 11,483 screw steel Ex Elder Dempster Lines. Initially requisitioned as a hospital ship but returned to RMSP. Mined and sunk, 1 March 1917.
Almanzora 1914 15,551 screw steel Requisitioned as an AMC in WW1. Passed to RML. Requisitiond as troopship in WW2 then retained as an emigrant ship until 1947, Scrapped 1948.
Essequibo 1914 8,489 screw steel Requisitioned as an AMC in WW1. Sold to Pacific Steam Navigation Company in 1922. Sold to USSR in 1935 and renamed Neva.
Ebro 1914 8,480 screw steel Requisitioned as an AMC in WW1. Sold to Pacific Steam Navigation Company in 1922. Resold to Jugoslavia in 1935 and renamed Princess Olga. Sold to Portugal in 1940 and renamed Serpa Pinto. Scrapped in 1954.
Carmarthenshire 1915 7,823 screw steel Scrapped in 1929.
Pembrokeshire 1915 7,821 screw steel Scrapped in 1933.
Larne 1916 3,808 screw steel Ex Aberdeen Line Ninevah, ex E&ASC Aldenham. Sold in 1917 and scrapped in 1923.
Brecknockshire 1916 8,422 screw steel Operated by Shire Line. Captured and sunk on her maiden voyage by SMS Möwe, 15 February 1915.
Darro 1916 11,493 screw steel Collided with the troopship SS Mendi 21 February 1917, the latter sank with great loss of life. Scrapped in 1933.
Navasota 1917 8,795 screw steel Passed to RML. Torpedoed and sunk by U-47, 5 December 1939.
Sambre 1919 5,260 screw steel Ex War Swift. Passed to RML. Torpedoed and sunk by U-34, 27 Jul 1940.
Glamorganshire 1919 8,192 screw steel Ex War Armour. Operated by Shire Line. Scrapped in 1933
Nagara 1919 8,803 screw steel Passed to RML. Torpedoed and sunk by U-404, 29 March 1943.
Segura 1919 5,295 screw steel Ex War Pansy. Sold 1921 to Buenos Aires & Great Southern Railway. Resold in 1932 to Houlder Line and renamed Langton Grange. Sold to Greece in 1937 and renamed Nicolaos M. Embiricos. Mined and sunk 4 November 1939.
Somme 1919 5,265 screw steel Ex War Toucan. Passed to RML. Torpedoed and sunk by U-108, 18 February 1942.
Severn 1919 5,246 screw steel Ex War Pelican. Sold to Greece in 1932 and renamed Leonidas II. Scrapped in 1934.
Radnorshire 1919 6,723 screw steel Ex War Diamond. Operated by Shire Line. Sold to Henry Thompson in 1931 and renamed Sithonia. Torpedoed and sunk by U-201, 13 July 1942.
Silarus 1919 5,101 screw steel Sold to G N Stathatos in 1931 and renamed Nemea. Torpedoed and sunk by the Luigi Torelli, 15 January 1941.
Siris 1919 5,242 screw steel Ex War Gem. Passed to RML. Torpedoed and sunk by U-201, 12 July 1942.
Narenta 1919 8,266 screw steel Passed to RML. Sold to Japan in 1939. and renamed Kosei Maru. Torpedoed and sunk by USS Tunny, 7 April 1943.
Nictheroy 1920 8,265 screw steel Passed to RML. Sold to Lauro Lines in 1937 and renamed Cuma. Mined and sunk, 18 October 1940.
Orcana 1920 7,814 screw steel Ex Aberdeen Line Militiades. Sold to Pacific Steam Navigation Company in 1922. Scrapped in 1924.
Oruba 1920 7,818 screw steel Ex Aberdeen Line Marathon. Sold to Pacific Steam Navigation Company in 1922. Scrapped in 1924.
Natia 1920 8,723 screw steel Passed to RML. Captured and scuttled by the German raider Thor, 8 October 1940.
Nariva 1920 8,723 screw steel Passed to RML. Torpedoed and sunk by U-91, 17 Mar 1943.
Nebraska 1920 8,261 screw steel Passed to RML. Torpedoed and sunk by U-843, 8 Apri 1944.
Sarthe 1920 5,371 screw steel Passed to RML. Torpedoed and sunk by U-68, 8 October 1942.
Sabor 1920 5,212 screw steel Ex War Whale. Passed to RML. Torpedoed and sunk by U-506, 7 March 1943.
Montgomeryshire 1921 6,650 screw steel Ex War Valour. Operated by Shire Line. Sold to Italy in 1931 and renamed Riv. Sunk in an air raid, 30 August 1941.
Lochkatrine 1921 9,419 screw steel Passed to RML. Torpedoed and sunk by U-552, 3 August 1942.
Lochgoil 1922 9,462 screw steel Passed to RML. Taken over by MoWT in 1939 and converted to CAM ship Empire Rowan. Torpedoed by Italian aircraft, 27 March 1943 and beached. Wreck blew up in 1951.
Culebra 1923 3,044 screw steel Ex War Mirage, ex Riposto. Passed to RML. Sunk by gunfire from U-123, 25 January 1942.
Orca 1923 16,063 screw steel Ex Pacific Steam Navigation Company. sold to White Star Line in 1927 and renamed Calgaric. Scrapped in 1934.
Orduña 1923 15,499 screw steel Ex Pacific Steam Navigation Company. Returned to PSNC in 1926 Scrapped in 1951.
Orbita 1923 15,486 screw steel Ex Pacific Steam Navigation Company. Initially chartered in 1921 then purchased in 1923. Returned to PSNC in 1926, Scrapped in 1950
Ohio 1923 18,940 screw steel Sold to White Star Line in 1927 and renamed Albertic. Scrapped in 1934.
Lochmonar 1923 9,412 screw steel Wrecked off Liverpool, 30 November 1927.
Asturias 1925 22,048 screw steel Passed to RML. Requisitioned as an AMC in WW2, later converted for use as an emigrant ship. Scrapped in 1958.
Alcantara 1926 22,209 screw steel Passed to RML. Requisitioned as an AMC in WW2, later converted as a troopship. Returned to service in 1948 and scrapped in 1958.

List of Royal Mail Lines Vessels[edit]

This list is of the additional vessels acquired by RML in addition to those passed directly from RMSP.

Ship Service GRT Notes
Highland Chieftain 1932 - 1958 14,131 ex Nelson Line. Sold and renamed Calpean Star
Highland Brigade 1932 - 1959 14,131 ex Nelson Line. Troopship in WWII. Sold and renamed Henrietta.
Highland Monarch 1932 - 1958 14,139 ex Nelson Line. Scrapped 1960
Highland Patriot 1932 - 1940 14,157 ex Nelson Line. Torpedoed and sunk by U-38 in the North Atlantic.
Highland Princess 1932 - 1959 14,128 ex Nelson Line Sold and renamed Marianna.
Nagoya 1932 - 1936 8,442 ex Nelson Line Highland Warrior. Sold and renamed Marlene.
Nasina 1932 - 1935 7,206 ex Nelson Line Meissonier. Sold and renamed Asmara.
Nela 1932 - 1946 7,206 ex Nelson Line Moliere.
Nalon 1932 - 1940 7,206 ex Nelson Line Murillo. Bombed and sunk off Ireland, 6 November 1940.
Magdalena 1948 - 1949 17,547 Sank off the coast of Brazil on Maiden Voyage.
Andes 1948 - 1971 25,895 Launched 1939, taken over as a troopship.
Amazon 1959 - 1968 20,348 Transferred to Shaw Saville and renamed Akaroa.
Aragon 1959 - 1969 20,348 Transferred to Shaw Saville and renamed Arawa.
Arlanza 1960 - 1969 20,348 Transferred to Shaw Saville and renamed Aranda.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Royal Mail Steam Packet Company". Shipping Lines. Plimsoll.org. Retrieved 17 April 2012. 
  2. ^ Dodd, George (1867). Railways steamers and telegraphs: a glance at their recent progress and present state. London: W&R Chambers. pp. 159–161. 
  3. ^ Nicol 2001b, p. 101.
  4. ^ Nicol 2001a, p. 130.
  5. ^ Nicol, Stuart. "The Royal Mail Story". Users.on.net. Archived from the original on December 8, 2011. Retrieved 17 April 2012. 
  6. ^ Nicol 2001b, p. 138.
  7. ^ Nicol 2001b, pp. 162–186.
  8. ^ Nicol 2001b, pp. 186–193.
  9. ^ Nicol 2001a, pp. 222–241.
  10. ^ The steamer Dane was running to Cape Town in 1860: Morning Chronicle, 30 November 1860 - Cape of Good Hope

Sources[edit]

  • Anonymous (1910). A Link of Empire; or, 70 years of British Shipping: Souvenir of the 70th year of incorporation of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company. London: Royal Mail Steam Packet Company. 
  • Bushell, T.A. (1958) [1939]. Royal Mail: a Centenary History of the Royal Mail Line 1839–1939. London: Trade and Travel Publications Ltd. 
  • Bushell, T.A. (1950). Eight Bells, Royal Mail Lines War Story 1939–1945. London: Trade and Travel Publications Ltd. 
  • Nicol, Stuart (2001a). MacQueen's Legacy; A History of the Royal Mail Line. 1. Brimscombe Port and Charleston, SC: Tempus Publishing. ISBN 0-7524-2118-2. 
  • Nicol, Stuart (2001b). MacQueen's Legacy; Ships of the Royal Mail Line. 2. Brimscombe Port and Charleston, SC: Tempus Publishing. ISBN 0-7524-2119-0. 

External links[edit]