The Windsor Castle - Union Castle Line

Builders: Cammell Laird and Co Ltd, Birkenhead
Delivered to the Union Castle Line in 1960 she was the largest and most luxurious of the Castle Liners at that time. She sailed from Southampton via Las Palmas to Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, east London and Durban.

She carried 830 passengers
(239 first class, 591 tourist class)
Overall length 783ft 4 1/2 in
Breadth 92 ft
Normal service speed 19 knots

WINDSOR CASTLE (3) was built in 1960 by Cammell Laird & Co. (Shipbuilders & Engineers) Ltd at Birkenhead with a tonnage of 37640grt, a length of 783ft 1in, a beam of 92ft 7in and a service speed of 22.5 knots.

She was the largest ship owned by the company, Cammell Lairds first building for Union-Castle and the largest liner built in England.

Replacing the Winchester Castle she completed her maiden voyage to Cape Town in 11.5 days.

1970 - second Southbound Voyage - Helene and Odette

 I was lucky enough to travel on her second voyage - it was a real voyage of adventure for me as it was my first journey to Africa. She was indeed luxurious - I had never traveled on a vessel like her and to a young girl embarking on a new life in what was then Rhodesia she was the ideal introduction to what would be years of adventure and excitement!

Read about the mystery of the Windsor Castle!

Talk about the Windsor Castle on the Windsor Castle Forum!


Pictures taken on board nothbound voyage in 1974

In December 1970 having carried 35,000 passengers over 700,000 miles without breakdown or delay, her 50th voyage was celebrated in style. On 12th August she made her 124th and final sailing for Union-Castle and left Southampton with much ceremony which included an RAF fly past. On her return she had been sold to John Latsis of Piraeus and renamed Margarita L.

She proceeded to Greece where she was converted for use as a static luxury accommodation ship at Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. There, she was deployed as an office and leisure centre for the Petrola International S.A. construction company replacing the Marianna IV. A special jetty was built two miles north of Jeddah with car parks, swimming pools and other sports facilities and the ship was equipped with a helicopter pad on the fore deck.

In 1983 she was overhauled in Bahrain before returning to Jeddah where she remained until June 1991 when she returned to Piraeus to be laid up.

See her interiors as they were in the brochure.

See the Windsor Castle as she is now!

 Now perhaps soon to be scrapped - she waits as the Margarita L in Eleusis about 15 miles north of Piraeus or perhaps, one hopes, to be sold and sail once more - see article below from the Times 14 April 2001.

There may, however, be hope!
Mailship Windsor Castle Project.

and see what you can do to save her.


End of the line looms for part of shipping history


ELEUSIS BAY, on the western outskirts of Athens, is a world removed from the empty Birkenhead quaysides of Cammell Laird. The Sacred Way of antiquity has given way to a traffic-snarled highway that runs a gauntlet of factories and oil refineries. As far as the eye can see, ships lie at anchor, huddled together as if seeking solace from the wind that blows in off the Aegean.

In a distant corner of the bay, a familiar silhouette rides the swells. Her sides are streaked with rust and a foreign name graces her bow. But to those who remember her, there is no mistaking the elegant lines of the Windsor Castle.

Built by Cammell Laird in 1959, and launched by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, the Windsor Castle, at 36,000 tonnes, was the last big passenger ship to be built on Merseyside. She was the biggest and most famous of the Union-Castle mailships that sailed between Southampton and the Cape.

Even in 1959, Cammell Laird and its competitors were in their twilight years. The industry's problems were highlighted this week when receivers were appointed to the Birkenhead yard. The original Cammell Laird closed in 1993, but the company was reborn under new owners as a repairer and converter of ships.

With their lavender hulls and black-and-red funnels, the Union-Castle mailships were part of a golden age. However, cheap air travel, oil price increases and containerisation rang the death knell for the Union-Castle liners.

In September 1977 the Windsor Castle sailed from Cape Town for the last time, with a flotilla of boats and tugs leading the way. While sisters such as the Edinburgh Castle went to the breakers, the Windsor Castle was to end up in the ships' graveyard that is Eleusis. How she came to be there is the story of a missed opportunity and of a Greek billionaire called John S. Latsis.

Latsis is one of Greece's more colourful characters. Now 90, and in failing health, he is best known in Britain for playing host to the Prince of Wales on jaunts around the Mediterranean on board his luxury motor yacht Alexander. The Latsis Group owns banks, oil refineries, tankers and construction companies.

Latsis has long been close to the Saudi Royal Family. He started out running pilgrims to Mecca free of charge and was rewarded with favourable oil concessions for his tankers. When the Windsor Castle was put up for sale, Latsis bought her to accommodate his workers in Saudi Arabia.

A South African consortium proposed using the Windsor Castle for carrying cargoes of wool, but the opportunity came too late. She was repainted white with a yellow funnel and renamed Margarita L after one of Latsis's daughters.

In late 1977 the Windsor Castle sailed from Southampton for Greece with the port anchor bashing against the bow. On the first night at sea, one of the Greek crewmen switched off an oil pump, seizing one of the turbines. Union-Castle engineers worked day and night fitting new bearings.

After a year laid up in Eleusis, the Windsor Castle set sail for Jedda. She was berthed in the Jedda docks, where Latsis was building a navy base for Saudi Arabia. Escalators were installed on the quayside and a helicopter landing pad was fitted on the aft deck. The forward hold was fitted with a desalination unit producing 600 tonnes of fresh water a day.

The Windsor Castle stayed at Jedda from 1978 to 1990. She moved twice, first a little farther up the coast to where Latsis was building a palace for the future King Fahd, and then to Rabegh, where Latsis was building an oil refinery. The ship became the centrepiece of a complex with swimming pools and sports facilities. She was dry-docked at five-year intervals, first in Piraeus and then in Bahrain.

Her usefulness at an end, the Windsor returned to Eleusis to be laid up.

A handful of Union-Castle ships remain intact. The former Kenya Castle continued in service as the Chandris cruise ship Amerikanis. Laid up in Eleusis, she is set to return to London's Docklands as a floating hotel, opening in autumn 2002. The Dunnottar Castle, now the Princessa Victoria, is cruising out of Cyprus.

The S.A. Vaal, similar in size to the Windsor, has spent the past two decades cruising the Caribbean as the Carnivale and more lately as Island Breeze. Her most recent owner, Premier Cruises, collapsed last year, and the ship is laid up in Freeport, Bahamas.

The Windsor is for sale at $5 million (3.5 million), but her prospects appear bleak. Her steam turbines make her hopelessly expensive to run. Under progressive rules aimed at reducing fire hazards on ships, all wood used in construction, bulkheads and decking must be removed by 2010. This leaves a narrow window for anyone looking to return the Windsor Castle to service.

Martin Hill, a retired radio officer living in Yorkshire, is trying to drum up support for an investment scheme that entails modernising the Windsor Castle while keeping many of her features. Investors would buy shares in the ship for a few hundred pounds each. The costs could run to as much as 40 million, however, and Hill has made little progress.

A group of enthusiasts is in talks with City venture capitalists about launching a classic cruise service, with the Windsor Castle as an obvious candidate. Others would like to see her donated for use as a mercy ship serving African ports.

Peter Knego, a classic-ship expert who managed to get on board the Windsor Castle in 1998, says her interiors are much as they were 30 years ago. He says: "She still has the same chairs, brass railings, linoleum decking, chandeliers, even most of the same carpeting and soft furnishing. Signs in the passageways still say Windsor Castle, especially in officers' territory. She is a treasure trove of classic fittings and would make a magnificent museum or hotel. I think Latsis's people were holding out for this, as her asking price is still above scrap value."

Knego adds: "Sadly, it would be a poor investment to restore her to cruise service as 2010 would force her retirement. One would have to recoup the moneys spent on a refit in too short a time to make sailing her again viable. Her engines need work and crewing a steamship is very difficult nowadays. Add to that the price of fuel and the lack of interest in other steamships that are in better condition and cannot find work and it looks more and more as if she will be going to the scrappers."

The signs are not encouraging. Two other Latsis-owned liners, the Aureol and the former Principe Perfeito (moored alongside the Windsor Castle) were recently sold for scrap.

It is sad to think that the Windsor could soon be following them to the breakers, taking with her an irreplaceable slice of Britain's proud shipbuilding heritage.

The ship is now being scrapped - Sumer of 2005m

Read about it here on Rodney JN Gascoyne's Pages

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