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The Ships (2)

The Armed Merchant Cruiser (A.M.C.) - During the two World Wars most of our major shipping companies had large vessels requisitioned by the naval authorities for service as troopships, hospital ships or armed merchant cruisers. The Union Castle Line's Pretoria Castle, which was being built when the Second World War broke out, was quickly converted into an aircraft carrier. An A.M.C was fitted with medium sized guns and frequently used for sea patrols and assisting regular naval ships to enforce blockades. They were used extensively during the First World War for a variety of purposes but, because of their weak armament, lack of armoured protection and large target area for enemy gunfire, their value to naval warfare lessened and by the middle of the Second World War they had been completely withdrawn for use in other roles. During both World Wars the German Navy used armed merchant cruisers extensively to attack allied shipping. On the 14th September 1914 the Cunard ship Carmania sank the German A.M.C. Cap Trafalgar in the South Atlantic. Another well-known British A.M.C was the Jervis Bay which fought a notable convoy action in 1940.

A CAMSHIP was, in the Second World War, a merchant ship fitted with a catapult with which to launch a fighter aircraft. They sailed in the ordinary way with a convoy and their purpose was to provide anti-aircraft protection against attack from the air. The camship was intended principally as an answer to the German long-range Focke-Wolf aircraft based in western France which could attack and shadow convoys a long way out in the Atlantic. The fighter from the camship could not, of course, land on board again after being catapulted, and the pilot saved himself by ditching his aircraft as close as possible to a merchant ship so that he could be picked up, the aircraft being abandoned. The name came from the initial letters of catapult aircraft merchant ship.

The R.M.S Britannia, was a 1,156 ton wooden paddle steamer with an overall length of 207 feet. Together with the Acadia, the Caledonia and the Columbia, she was ordered by Samuel Cunard when he founded the Cunard Line in 1840. Following her maiden voyage from Liverpool to Boston she returned with sixty three passengers and completed the crossing in 15 days. During one winter voyage she became trapped by ice in Boston and, to ensure that she sailed on time, the local people cut a seven mile channel through the ice to enable her to reach the open sea.


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