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Southern Africa Jewish Genealogy SA-SIG

Ships and Shipping Companies


Editor: Dr Saul Issroff
Copyright © 2002-2003 Saul Issroff, Mike Getz, SAfrica SIG
and Jewishgen Inc.
Updated: 25 May 2003


General comments:

In July 2002, Dr Saul Issroff wrote:

Passenger Lists UK to SA

We are doing a feasibility study of relating to creating a database of names derived from Passenger manifests in the Public Records Office BT 27, of ships leaving the U.K. for South Africa. The majority of these would be for the ports of London and Southampton, and largely involve ships of the Union and Castle lines (though it will be easier to look at all lines going to SA). The initial period of study will be 1895-1914, to be followed by 1915-1935.

The records will either be manually transcribed, or photocopied or microfilmed before transcription. It would be very helpful, at this stage, to hear from anyone who has either transcribed a full passenger list, or possibly has previously ordered a microfilm of a series of ships around these time periods. Please contact me privately by e-mail

Dr. Saul Issroff,
Project Director ( London),
The South African Center for Jewish Migration and Genealogy Studies (Kaplan
Centre for Jewish Studies, University of Cape Town),

Prof. Aubrey Newman,
Department of History, Leicester University,

Nicholas J. Evans,
Maritime Historical Studies Centre, University of Hull;
Caird Doctoral Fellow, National Maritime Museum).

In July 2002, Ann Rabinowitz wrote:

There are a number of resources which provide ship's names, i.e., those that went from Lithuania and/or other countries to England and those that went from England to South Africa.

For those that are readily available to you, try the following:
1.. For ships that went from Lithuania to England, try the Poor Jews' Temporary Shelter Database,
2.. For ships that went from England to South Africa, try "The Cape Run."

In terms of a book similar to Morton's that has all the names and sailings of all the ships, that has not been done. There was a database available of ships' names at the last IAJGS in London, but it has not been published and is not available generally. The database did not give the sailings of all the ships, only their names.

The major purveyers of passenger, mail and cargo traffic to South Africa in the 1800's were The Union Steam Ship Co., Ltd. and Castle Mail Packets Co., Ltd. The two companies amalgamated on March 8, 1900, and became known as the Union-Castle Mail Steamship Company Limited.

In order to harmonize their efforts after amalgamation, the home base for the mail ships was designated as the port of Southampton. The home base of the intermediate service was designated as East India Dock, Blackwall, London.

The mechanics of the intermediate service required that the ships load their cargo first at the three major European ports of Antwerp, Rotterdam and Hamburg. From there, the ships went onto their home base at the East India Dock, Blackwall, London, where they completed their loading before departing for their fortnightly sailings for South Africa.

A copy of the SA Passenger Registers, 1924-1929 (donated by Ann Rabinowitz), has been lodged at the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People (CAHJP) in Jerusalem where the Registers may be viewed.


RMS Saxon

In July 2002, Ann Rabinowitz wrote:

It was the last mailship ordered by the Union Steam Ship Co. Ltd. prior to its merger with the Castle Mail Packets Co. Ltd. to form the Union-Castle Line. It made its first sailing to South Africa on June 16, 1900 and its last run in June, 1931, after which it was sold for breaking up in 1935. Reference to the ship can be found on Page 31 of "The Cape Run" by W.H. Mitchell and L.A. Sawyer.

On 24-07-2002, Mike Masinter wrote:

With regard to the Union line ship SAXON , there were actually 4 ships with the same name, however only SAXON 4 is relevant. Saxon 1 made one commercial sail and then served in the Crimean war, Saxon 2 sank in 1890, Saxon 3 wrecked in 1895.

If anyone has any information on passenger lists for this ship I would appreciate it.

SAXON (4) was built in 1900 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast with a tonnage of 12385grt, a length of 570ft, a beam of 64ft and a service speed of 17.5 knots. She was launched as the last vessel for the Union Steam Ship Co. but delivered to the newly formed Union-Castle Line. Consequently, until she underwent her first re-paint, she operated with a white hull and cream masts but with Union-Castle's red funnel.

In August 1902 she arrived at Southampton with three Boer generals, Botha, de la Ray and de Wet, the Boer War having ended on 31st May with the establishment of three Boer republics within the British Empire. When the First World War was declared in August 1914 she continued operating the mail run but often carried contingents of troops in third class.

By this time London had become the temporary terminal port as Southampton had been designated a military port. In January 1917 she became a full troopship in both directions and then used to ferry troops between Alexandria and Marseilles. She then made one voyage from Alexandria to Basra, anchoring in Koweit Bay and in November 1918 carried troops to Australia before resuming commercial service in 1919 after a refit at Harland and Wolff's in Belfast.

In September 1920 she had a minor mishap when she lost her rudder after hitting a barge at Cape Town. On 14th August 1921, shortly after leaving Madeira, a fire was discovered in her bunkers and with it under control she made her way to Freetown in Sierra Leone escorted by British India's Waipara. The Kenilworth Castle then took of the passengers and the mail whilst the Armadale Castle escorted her to Cape Town. She made her final sailing on the Intermediate run on 2nd January 1931 and in the following June was replaced by the Warwick Castle and laid up at Netley as a reserve steamer.

The last remaining Union vessel, she was sold for scrap in 1935, realising £27,500, and was broken up at Blythe, Northumberland by Bolckow & Co.


The following information is based on "The Cape Run" by W.H. Mitchell and L.A. Sawyer.

Castle Mail Packets Co., Ltd., The

Intermediate service ships included:
  1. Arundel castle
  2. Avondale Castle
  3. Braemar Castle
  4. Doune castle
  5. Dunolly Castle
  6. Harlech Castle
  7. Lismore Castle
  8. Pembroke Castle
  9. Raglan Castle
  10. Tintagel Castle

Union Steam Ship Co., Ltd.

The intermediate service of the Union Steam Ship Co. included the following ships:
  1. Gaul
  2. Goth
  3. Greek
  4. Guelph
  5. Gascon
  6. Gaika
  7. Goorkha
  8. German
  9. Galeka
  10. Galician

Heather's South African Genealogy Help List
shipping links at

Michael P. Palmer's List of Merchant Vessels

The Red Duster Illustrated lists of Union-Castle ships.
Home page:

This web site also includes a substantial list of web sites for genealogists and ship seekers:

The Union Castle Line

The Union Castle Line and Emigration from Eastern Europe to South Africa

by Prof. Aubrey Newman, Department of History, Leicester University, United Kingdom.

Union-Castle Line ships
Windsor Castle:

Spertus Institute
Ships -- -- New York (N.Y.) -- -- Passenger lists.
Ships -- -- New York (State) -- -- New York -- -- Passenger lists
Ships -- -- Passenger lists -- -- Handbooks, manuals, etc.



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