Castles in the Sea

One of the larger items in our collections is a name board from a ship, HMS Oakham Castle.

HMS Oakham Castle was built by A. & J. Inglis in Glasgow. She was ordered in December 1942 and begun, or in ship building terms laid down, on 30 November 1943. She was launched on 20 July 1944 and commissioned on 10 December 1944. On entering service, Oakham Castle was employed on convoy escort duty in the North Atlantic.

In 1948, Oakham Castle joined the 2nd Training Squadron based at Portland Harbour, continuing to serve in this duty until December 1950, when she was reduced to reserve at Devonport. Oakham Castle was refitted in 1953, and then was laid up in a preserved condition at South Shields.

The ‘Castle’ class were 252 feet (77 m) long and displaced just over 1,000 tons. They were an enlarged version of the earlier and more numerous ‘Flower’ class, being some 50 feet longer and 40 tons heavier. Unfortunately they had the same engines, meaning they were somewhat underpowered, with a top speed of just 19 mph (30 km/h), but a range of 7,000 miles (11,000 km).

HMS Oakham Castle in April 1956

They were intended as small convoy escort ships that could be produced quickly and cheaply in large numbers. Like the ‘Flower’ class the design used parts and techniques common to merchant shipping, which meant they could be constructed in small commercial shipyards where larger or more sophisticated warships could not be built.

The majority of the Castle class were scrapped in the late 1950s, but Oakham Castle had a second life. In 1957 she was converted by James Lamont & Co, renamed ‘Weather Reporter’ and became a weather ship for the next 20 years before finally being scrapped in 1977.

One of the Castle class, HMS Portchester Castle, became a film star. It featured in the 1953 film of Nicholas Monsarrat’s book ‘The Cruel Sea’ playing the part of the fictitious HMS Saltash Castle.

A. & J. Inglis became part of Harland and Wolff shipbuilders and their Pointhouse shipyard closed in 1962. The site now houses the Riverside Museum – home of The Glasgow Transport Museum.

HMS Oakham Castle name board