Writing home for Christmas from H.M.S. Dunluce Castle

Rescued from the breaker's yard in 1939, H.M.S. Dunluce Castle served in many roles including a mail sorting dept allowing sailors to write home for Christmas.

H.M.S. Dunluce Castle saw action with the Royal Navy in both The Great War and the Second World War. Built in 1904 at the Harland and Wolff Shipyard, Belfast, Dunluce Castle first sailed in 1910. It takes its name from the famous castle on a rocky outcrop on the north coast of Ulster.

In 1914, H.M.S. Dunluce Castle was a troopship carrying thousands of soldiers before becoming a Hospital Ship at Gallipoli in 1915. By 1916, Dunluce Castle was in the Mediterranean, carrying wounded soldiers before a U-Boat attack on 23rd February 1917. By 1939, the vessel was past its best and was sold for scrap. However, the outbreak of the Second World War gave the Belfast-built ship a new lease of life.

Christmas 1942 on H.M.S. Dunluce Castle

Imperial War Museum Photo: (A 13521) (Part of the Admiralty Official Collection) Leading Seaman V. McCann of Belfast has the honour of impersonating the Captain during Christmas inspections of the mess decks on H.M.S. Dunluce Castle on Christmas Day. Photo taken on 25th December 1942. Copyright Lieutenant J.A. Hampton.

In the Second World War, H.M.S. Dunluce Castle served as part of the Home Fleet, first based on the River Humber and then at Scapa Flow. The Admiralty put the vessel to use as an accommodation ship, a submarine depot ship, and a mail sorting depot. As a mail sorting facility, H.M.S. Dunluce Castle processed letters and postcards from thousands of sailors and officers to and from their loved ones.

Christmas on H.M.S. Dunluce Castle

A series of photos from the Imperial War Museum archives show sailors bringing Christmas cards and letters on board H.M.S. Dunluce Castle. After censoring from officers, the mail made its way to loved ones and the Royal Navy's 'Postmen' returned to their vessel with letters from home.