It was one of the most important British liner routes of all - the express run from Southampton to the South African Cape. Carrying passengers as well as cargo, including the all-important mail, it was a byword in travel - 'every Thursday at 4', as one of the big Union-Castle liners set off for Cape Town and beyond. By the late 1950s, these mail ships included the Arundel Castle, Carnarvon Castle, Winchester Castle, Athlone Castle, Stirling Castle, Capetown Castle and two post-war sensations, the Edinburgh Castle and Pretoria Castle. Three new liners arrived in 1959, the last great ships built for Union-Castle. They were Pendennis Castle, Windsor Castle and Transvaal Castle. The route was not just to the Cape - for Union-Castle also offered a service down the East coast of Africa and a round-Africa route too. In 1977, with the mail contract and passengers lost to the jet and cargo to container ships, the service ceased in October that year and Union-Castle was no more.
William H Miller has written many books on golden age of transatlantic travel. He lives in Secaucus, New Jersey, but is as likely to be found lecturing aboard a cruise ship. He regularly appears on television.