HMS Pretoria Castle (F61)

For other ships with the same name, see Pretoria Castle.
HMS Pretoria Castle
Name: Pretoria Castle
Port of registry: United Kingdom London
Builder: Harland & Wolff
Yard number: 1006[1]
Launched: 12 October 1938
Completed: 18 April 1939[1]
Fate: Requisitioned by Royal Navy in October 1939
United Kingdom
Name: HMS Pretoria Castle
Commissioned: 28 November 1939
Decommissioned: August 1942
Refit: Converted from armed merchantman to escort carrier
Commissioned: 29 July 1943
Decommissioned: 26 Jan 1946
Fate: Sold back to the Union-Castle Line in 1946 and converted to a passenger ship
Name: RMMV Warwick Castle
Port of registry: United Kingdom London
Acquired: 1946
Fate: scrapped, July 1962
General characteristics
Displacement: 23,450 tons
Length: 594 ft (181.1 m)
Beam: 76 ft (23.2 m)
Draught: 29 ft (8.8 m)
Propulsion: Diesel, 16,000 bhp
Speed: 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph)
Aircraft carried: 21

HMS Pretoria Castle (F61) was an armed merchant cruiser and escort aircraft carrier of the Royal Navy that saw service during World War II. She had previously been the ocean liner Pretoria Castle of the Union-Castle Line; built at Harland & Wolff shipyards in Belfast, Northern Ireland and launched in 1938.

She was requisitioned by the Royal Navy in October 1939, and converted to an armed merchant cruiser with 6-inch (150 mm) and 3-inch (76 mm) guns, entering service in November 1939. In this role she served mainly in the South Atlantic.

In July 1942 she was bought outright by the Navy for conversion to an escort carrier at the Swan Hunter shipyards in Tyne and Wear. She was commissioned in this role in July 1943 and was operated as a trials and training carrier, seeing no active combat service.

In 1945 she twice became part of aviation history, firstly when British test pilot Captain Eric "Winkle" Brown landed a Bell Airacobra Mk. 1 on her flight deck - the first carrier landing made using an aircraft with a tricycle undercarriage, due to a declared emergency during initial trials for rubber deck landings planned for future carriers, and then by hosting the first ever landings and take-offs by a glider, performed by John Sproule in a Slingsby T.20 as part of research into 'Round-down' turbulence. On 11 August 1946, while moored on the Clyde, a Gloster Meteor was used for deck handling trials which later led to flight trials on other carriers.[2]

Post-war, the ship was sold back to the Union-Castle Line in 1946 and converted back to a passenger liner, being renamed the Warwick Castle and operating on routes from England to South Africa. She was eventually sold and scrapped in Barcelona in 1962.


  1. 1 2 McCluskie, Tom (2013). The Rise and Fall of Harland and Wolff. Stroud: The History Press. p. 146. ISBN 9780752488615.
  2. url= accessdate=Feb 2016


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Coordinates: 23°47′N 22°15′W / 23.783°N 22.250°W / 23.783; -22.250

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