16th January 1903 –
Ionic’s maiden voyage

Ionic at anchorIonic (II) was built by Harland and Wolff (yard number 346) in December 1902 for the joint White Star/Shaw, Savill & Albion service to New Zealand. She began her maiden voyage on 16th January 1903, from London to Wellington. She arrived at Wellington on 5th March, and left on 16th April for the return trip. In August 1914 Shaw, Savill & Albion ships changed their inbound port of call from Plymouth to Southampton, with Ionic being first to do so.

With the declaration of the Great War both Australia and New Zealand volunteered to send troops. Among the first liners to be requisitioned were Medic, Afric and Ionic. A torpedo was fired at her in the Mediterranean on 31st December 1915 but it missed her by a matter of feet. Ionic returned to commercial service on 31st January 1919, after being operated under the Liner Requisition Scheme.

IONICDuring a refit in 1929, the accommodation was converted to Cabin Class and Third Class only. In 1932 White Star’s Australian service passed to Shaw, Savill & Albion, together with Ionic and Ceramic, plus Mamilius (ex-Zealandic). Although the corporate entities had merged, operations continued unchanged but White Star had no further interest. Subsequently she was rebuilt with Tourist Class accommodation only for 280 passengers. On 9th September 1936 Ionic left Avonmouth for New Zealand on her last sailing. Having sailed over 2 million miles, she was sold for scrapping on 6th January 1937 for £31,500. She left Liverpool for Osaka, arriving on 16th June, and soon after was dismantled.

16th January 1942 –
Llangibby Castle torpedoed

llangibbycastleLlangibby Castle was built in 1929 for Union Castle by Harland & Wolff at Govan. A motorship, she was 485 feet long and 11,951grt, and was principally used on the “Round Africa” service. She was requisitioned in July 1940, and converted into a troopship, initially transporting troops to South Africa. She was damaged in an air raid on Liverpool in December 1940 but was quickly repaired.

Llangibby_Castle_FL5793She was in Convoy WS-15, which sailed on 12th January 1942 from Liverpool and the Clyde for Durban, via Freetown. On 16th January Llangibby Castle was torpedoed by U-402, just north of the Azores. The torpedo blew off part of the stern, including her after gun, and her rudder and killed 26 men, but she remained afloat. In spite of repeated air attacks, and using her propellers to steer, she managed to reach Horta, Portugal, on 19th January.

1Llangibby4After emergency repairs, she sailed for Gibraltar, arriving on 8th February, having fought off several U-boat attacks, where she landed her troops. Finally on 6th April, after some repairs but still without a rudder, she sailed for the UK, arriving on 13th April, escorted by three destroyers. Llangibby Castle had sailed some 3,400 miles without a rudder, an amazing feat which earned her captain a CBE.

In November 1942 she took part in Operation Torch, landing troops in North Africa. Then in 1943 she took part in the Sicily landings, transporting Canadian commandos. She was converted into a Landing Ship Infantry in March 1944, carrying 18 landing craft and could also carry 1,590 troops. In 1944 she took part in the Normandy landings, making several trips with mainly Canadian troops to Juno Beach. It was later estimated that she had landed over 1,000 soldiers in 70 crossings. Later she was used as  troopship in the Far East.

Following the war Llangibby Castle was thoroughly refitted and in 1946 returned it commercial service. In June 1954 she was sold to shipbreakers in Newport, Monmouthshire.