British Empire Article

SS Llangibby Castle

The SS Llangibby Castle was a passenger liner of the Union-Castle Line, operating between 1929 and 1954. The ship was named after the castle at Llangybi, Monmouthshire. The ship was constructed by Harland and Wolff, at their shipyard in Govan, Glasgow. She was the first ship to utilise pressure charging in combination with exhaust gas boilers. The ship was principally employed by the company on the Round Africa service.

In 1940, the Llangibby Castle transported a number of Germans, who had been deported from Kenya and Tanganyika, due to the commencement of the Second World War, to Genoa, Italy. She was damaged during an air raid while docked in Liverpool on the night of on 21/22 December 1940. While sailing as a troopship, the Llangibby Castle was torpedoed on 16 January 1942 by the German submarine U-402, under the command of Siegfried von Forstner, during U-402‍ ' s second patrol in the Bay of Biscay. The torpedo hit the Llangibby Castle‍ ' s stern, killing 26 people and blowing away her after gun and the rudder. Her engines were still operational and she was able to limp to Horta, in the Azores, steering with her engines, and only making 9 knots (17 km/h). During the voyage she had to fight off attacks from Fw 200s. She arrived safely at Horta on 19 January, but could only stop for 14 days as Portugal was a neutral country. After making some repairs she prepared to sail again for Gibraltar on 2 February, escorted by the destroyers HMS Croome, HMS Westcott and HMS Exmoor, and towed by the tugboat Thames. The convoy was followed by several U-boats, but escaped damage, with Westcott sinking U-581.The small convoy arrived at Gibraltar on 8 February, where the troops were disembarked, and some temporary repairs carried out. Llangibby Castle sailed for Britain on 6 April, still lacking a rudder. She arrived in Britain on 13 April, having sailed 3400 miles with a damaged stern and steering by engines, an achievement which led to her master, a man named Bayer, being awarded the OBE.

After full repairs, Llangibby Castle returned to service as a troopship, and took part in Operation Torch on 9 November 1942, during which she was hit by a shell from a shore battery, and had one man killed. While being prepared at Gibraltar to take part in the Allied invasion of Italy she damaged her bows. After being repaired in the UK, she underwent conversion to an Landing Ship, Infantry. After working up in Loch Fyne, she was used to transport troops in the Mediterranean, and was assigned to the Normandy landings in 1944, carrying Canadian troops to Juno Beach. She landed two waves of troops, and was later moved to land troops at Omaha and Utah Beaches, and at Le Havre. She spent the last year of the war as a troopship in the Far East.

Image courtesy of Gordon Mumford

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