H M Transports in 1939
In 1939, at the outbreak of the second world war there were nine large troopships owned by Bibby, British India and P&O under charter to the British government as His Majesty’s Transports distinguished by their white hulls surrounded by a broad blue band, red boot-topping, white super-structure and yellow funnels, but retaining mercantile status, wearing the Red or Blue Ensign and manned by merchant navy crews. These nine ships were:-
Devonshire (i), 1939, 11275 tons, 16 knots, built as a permanent troopship carrying 104 1st class, 90 2nd class and 1,150 troops, a ship very similar to British India’s Dunera (ii) She was sold to the British India Line in 1962. Refitted for school cruising and broken up in 1968.
Dorsetshire (i), 1920, 9,345 tons, 12 knots, converted 1927 into a permanent troopship carrying 127 1st class, 64 2nd class, 108 troops families in 3rd class and 1,123 troops. Served as a hospital ship in the 1939-45 war. Resumed service as a trooper post-war. Sold for migrant service in 1952 and broken up in 1954.
Lancashire (ii), 1914, 9542 tons, 15 knots, converted 1930 into a permanent troopship carrying 141 1st class, 75 2st class, 108 3rd class and 1,210 troops. She was the first post-War Bibby passenger liner chartered for trooping. She served as a trooper from 1930 to 1956, when she was broken up. Lancashire carried 2 Surreys from UK to Singapore (1st Sept to 17th Nov 1938) Replaced by Oxfordshire.
Somersetshire, 1921, 9345 tons, 12 knots, sister of Dorsetshire(i) and converted with her 1927 into a permanent troopship carrying 120 1st class, 58 2nd class, 108 3rd class and 1,123 troops, broken up in 1954. She served as a troopship from 1927. She carried 1 Surreys home from the Sudan (19th December 1938 to 3rd January 1939). Hospital ship in 1939-45 War. Sold for migrant service and broken up in 1956.
Empire Pride, 1941, 8418 tons, 16 knots, built as a troopship for the Ministry of War Transport (Bibby Bros & Co, managers) to carry 2,000 troops under war conditions; replaced as a troopship by Devonshire (i) in 1954 and sold to Charlton Steam Shipping Co, a Chandris subsidiary, and renamed Charlton Pride. Sold 1956 to Donaldson Line and renamed Calgaria as a freighter. Broken up 1963 under name Embassy.