Royal Mail Ship
Royal Mail Ship (sometimes Steam-ship or Steamer), usually seen in its abbreviated form RMS, is the ship prefix used for seagoing vessels that carry mail under contract to the British Royal Mail. The designation dates back to 1840. Any vessel designated as "RMS" has the right to fly both the pennant of the Royal Mail when sailing and to include the Royal Mail "crown" insignia with any identifying device and/or design for the ship.
It was used by many shipping lines, but is often associated in particular with the White Star Line, Cunard Line, Royal Mail Lines and Union-Castle Line, which held a number of high-profile mail contracts, and traditionally prefixed the names of many of their ships with the initials "RMS".
While some lines in the past, particularly the Royal Mail Lines, called all their ships "RMS", technically a ship would use the prefix only while contracted to carry mail, and would revert at other times to a standard designation such as "SS".
Originally the Admiralty operated these ships.
The designation "RMS" has been used since 1840. In 1850 contracts were awarded to private companies. Having the title "RMS" was seen as a mark of quality and a competitive advantage, because the mail had to be on time.
The most valuable route, with the highest volume, was between Kingstown (now Dún Laoghaire), in Ireland, and Holyhead in Wales. The City of Dublin Steam Packet Company (CDSPCo) won the contract. They bought RMS St Columba and RMS Llewellyn from the Admiralty to supplement their Prince Arthur.
The Canadian Pacific Railway's trans-Pacific Royal Mail contract required the building of the first three of a fleet of steamships: the RMS Empress of China, RMS Empress of India and RMS Empress of Japan which regularly sailed between Vancouver and Asia beginning in 1891. The RMS designation was also used on the ships White Star Line, P&O and the Cunard lines of the 19th and 20th century.
In recent years the shift to air transport for mail has left only three ships with the right to the prefix or its variations: RMS Segwun, which serves as a passenger vessel in Gravenhurst, Ontario, Canada; RMV Scillonian III, which serves the Isles of Scilly; and RMS Queen Mary 2. QM2 was conferred "RMS" by Royal Mail when she entered service in 2004 on the Southampton to New York route as a gesture to Cunard's history.
The Royal Mail continues a form of this tradition on modern day airliners. The UK's flag carrier airline, British Airways, is contracted to carry mail on some of its scheduled long-distance routes. Aircraft operating these routes with the facilities to carry mail are allowed to display the Royal Mail's logo and crest on their fuselage, usually alongside their registration markings.
The less-common designations RMMV for Royal Mail Motor Vessel and RMMS for Royal Mail Motor Ship, were used for a period when RMS was restricted to steam-ships. Motor Vessel and Motor Ship indicated that propulsion was provided by diesel rather than steam.
The RMV Scillonian III carries the designation RMV for Royal Mail Vessel and is the only active RMV.
List of Royal Mail Ships
Service dates are the years with the status of Royal Mail Ship. Those highlighted are still in service with the status of Royal Mail Ship.
|Name||Line||In service||Left service||Status|
|Alaunia||Cunard||1913||1916||Sunk by mine|
|Alaunia||Cunard||1960||1969||Sold 1969 to Brocklebank Line and renamed as Malancha, sold again in 1971 to Panama as Humi Nastta and fate unknown|
|Albania||Cunard||1911||1930||Built in 1900 as Consuelo, bought by Cunard 1911 & renamed Albania, sold 1912 & renamed Poleric, scrapped 1930|
|Alcantara||Royal Mail SP Co||1913||1916||Sunk by enemy action|
|Alcantara||Royal Mail SP Co||1926||1958||Scrapped|
|Almanzora||Royal Mail SP Co||1906||1948||Scrapped|
|Amanda||Pickford & Black||—||—||—|
|Amazon||Royal Mail SP Co||1906||1916||Sunk by enemy action|
|Andania||Cunard||1913||1918||Sunk by enemy action|
|Andania||Cunard||1921||1940||Sunk by enemy action|
|Andes||Royal Mail SP Co||1913||1929||Scrapped after finishing career as the cruise ship Atlantis|
|Andes||Royal Mail Lines||1939||1959||Scrapped in 1971 after finishing career as a cruise ship|
|Arabia||Peninsular and Oriental||1898||1916||Sunk by enemy action|
|Aragon||Royal Mail SP Co||1905||1917||Sunk by enemy action|
|Arlanza||Royal Mail SP Co||1912||1938||Scrapped|
|Asturias||Royal Mail SP Co||1925||1957||Scrapped|
|Aurania||Cunard||1916||1918||Sunk by enemy action|
|Atlantic||White Star||1871||1873||Sunk after collision with rocks|
|Avon||Royal Mail SP Co||1906 and 1919||1914 and 1929||Converted as troopship in 1914, then as armed merchant cruiser 1915 and renamed HMS Avoca, return to owners and renamed Avon in 1919; scrapped 1930|
|Ben-my-Chree||IoM Steam Packet||1845||1860||Wrecked|
|Ben-my-Chree||IoM Steam Packet||1875||1906||Scrapped|
|Ben-my-Chree||IoM Steam Packet||1908||1915||Sunk by enemy action|
|Ben-my-Chree||IoM Steam Packet||1927||1965||Scrapped|
|Ben-my-Chree||IoM Steam Packet||1966||1984||Scrapped|
|Ben-my-Chree||IoM Steam Packet||1998||2008||Currently on active service as RO/PAX vessel|
|Britannic||White Star||1915||1916||Sunk by mine|
|Bulimba||British India Steam Navigation Company||1886||1922||Built 1881, sold to China in 1822, scrapped in 1933.|
|Campania||Cunard||1891||1918||Sank after collision with HMS Glorious|
|Carinthia||Cunard||1925||1940||Sunk by enemy action|
|Carinthia||Cunard||1956||1968||Sold 1968; renamed Fairland; scrapped 2006|
|Carnarvon Castle||Union-Castle||1926 and 1950||1939 and 1963||Commissioned as HMS Carnarvon Castle from 1939 to 1947.|
|Carpathia||Cunard||1903||1918||Sunk by enemy action|
|Caronia||Cunard White Star||1948||1974||Scrapped|
|Columba||David MacBrayne||1964||1968||Owned by the Secretary of State for Scotland, chartered to David MacBrayne. Renamed MV Columba in 1968. Currently in active service as Hebridean Princess.|
|Doric||White Star||1923||1935||Scrapped after collision with the Formigny|
|Douglas||IoM Steam Packet||1858||1862||Sold to Cunard, Wilson and Co. Later scrapped|
|Douglas||IoM Steam Packet||1864||1888||Scrapped|
|Douglas||IoM Steam Packet||1901||1923||Sunk after collision with Artemisia|
|Dunottar Castle||Union-Castle||1890||1915||Sunk during bad weather|
|Durham Castle||Union-Castle||1904||1940||Sunk by mine|
|Ebro||Royal Mail SP Co||1914||1954||Scrapped after becoming NT Serpa Pinto|
|Ellan Vannin||Castletown Steam Navigation Company||1854||1858||Sold to the Government of Sardinia, renamed Archimedes|
|Ellan Vannin||IoM Steam Packet||1883||1909||Sunk during bad weather in the River Mersey, December, 1909|
|Empress of Asia||Canadian Pacific||1913||1942||Sunk by enemy action|
|Empress of Australia||Canadian Pacific||1922||1952||Scrapped|
|Empress of Australia||Canadian Pacific||1953||1956||Scrapped|
|Empress of Britain||Canadian Pacific||1906||1930||Scrapped|
|Empress of Britain||Canadian Pacific||1931||1940||Sunk by enemy action|
|Empress of Britain||Canadian Pacific||1956||1965||Scrapped|
|Empress of Canada||Canadian Pacific||1922||1943||Sunk by enemy action|
|Empress of Canada||Canadian Pacific||1929||1953||Scrapped|
|Empress of Canada||Canadian Pacific||1961||2003||Scrapped|
|Empress of China||Canadian Pacific||1891||1912||Scrapped|
|Empress of England||Canadian Pacific||1957||1970||Scrapped|
|Empress of France||Canadian Pacific||1914||1931||Scrapped|
|Empress of India||Canadian Pacific||1891||1919||Scrapped|
|Empress of India||Canadian Pacific||1908||1928||Scrapped|
|Empress of Ireland||Canadian Pacific||1906||1914||Sunk after collision with SS Storstad|
|Empress of Japan||Canadian Pacific||1930||1966||Scrapped after fire|
|Empress of Russia||Canadian Pacific||1913||1945||Scrapped after fire|
|Empress of Scotland||Canadian Pacific||1906||1930||Scrapped|
|Empress of Scotland||Canadian Pacific||1930||1966||Scrapped after fire|
|Empress Queen||IoM Steam Packet||1897||1916||Foundered on the Ring Rocks off Bembridge, Isle of Wight, February, 1916|
|Fenella||IoM Steam Packet||1881||1929||Scrapped|
|Fenella||IoM Steam Packet||1937||1940||Sunk by enemy action at the Dunkirk evacuation.|
|Fenella||IoM Steam Packet||1951||1973||Sold 1973 and renamed Vasso M. Sank off Damietta, February 2, 1977|
|Ivernia||Cunard||1955||1971||Renamed RMS Franconia 1963, sold 1973 and renamed Feodor Shalyapin; scrapped 2004|
|Kenya Castle||Union-Castle||1951||1967||Sold to Chandris of Greece and renamed Amerikanis; used until 1996 and sold after 2000 and scrapped 2001|
|King Orry||IoM Steam Packet||1842||1858||Sold 1858|
|King Orry||IoM Steam Packet||1871||1912||Scrapped|
|King Orry||IoM Steam Packet||1913||1940||Sunk by enemy action at the Dunkirk evacuation|
|King Orry||IoM Steam Packet||1946||1975||Scrapped|
|King Orry||IoM Steam Packet||1990||1998||Sold 1998|
|Knight of Malta||Cassar Co. Ltd.||1929||1941||Wrecked|
|Laconia||Cunard||1912||1917||Sunk by enemy action|
|Laconia||Cunard||1922||1942||Sunk by enemy action|
|Lady Drake||Canadian National||1928||1942||Sunk by enemy action|
|Lady Hawkins||Canadian National||1928||1942||Sunk by enemy action|
|Lady Nelson||Canadian National||1928||1939||Acquired as hospital ship and later as troop ship by Royal Canadian Navy; returned to CN 1946; retired by CN 1952 and sold to Egypt as Gumhuryat Misr for Khedivial Mail Line, renamed Alwadi in 1960; broken up in Egypt 1968|
|Lady Rodney||Canadian National||1929||1953||Sold to Khedivial Mail Line and renamed Mecca, then to United Arab Maritime Company in 1961; scuttled in Egypt 1967|
|Lady Somers||Canadian National||1929||1940||Acquired by RN 1940 and sunk in Atlantic Ocean about 400 kilometres (250 mi) east of Ponta Delgada, Azores 1941|
|Lady of Mann||IoM Steam Packet||1930||1971||Scrapped|
|Lady of Mann||IoM Steam Packet||1976||2005||Sold 2005|
|Lancastria||Cunard||1920||1940||Sunk by enemy action|
|Leinster||City of Dublin SP||1896||1918||Sunk by enemy action|
|Llandovery Castle||Union-Castle||1914||1918||Sunk by enemy action|
|Lucania||Cunard||1893||1909||Scrapped after fire|
|Lusitania||Cunard||1907||1915||Sunk by U Boat|
|Maloja||Peninsular and Oriental||1923||1954||Scrapped|
|Manxman||IoM Steam Packet||1920||1940||Scrapped|
|Manxman||IoM Steam Packet||1955||1982||Scrapped|
|Manx Maid||IoM Steam Packet||1923||1950||Scrapped|
|Manx Maid||IoM Steam Packet||1962||1984||Scrapped|
|Manx Viking||IoM Steam Packet||1978||1987||Sold 1987|
|Mauretania||Cunard White Star||1906||1935||Scrapped|
|Mauretania||Cunard White Star||1939||1965||Scrapped|
|Medina||Peninsular and Oriental||1911||1917||Sunk by enemy action|
|Mona||IoM Steam Packet||1832||1841||Sold 1841|
|Mona||IoM Steam Packet||1878||1883||Sunk in the Formby Channel, after being struck by the SS Rita|
|Mona||IoM Steam Packet||1903||1909||Scrapped|
|Mona||IoM Steam Packet||1919||1938||Scrapped|
|Mona's Isle||IoM Steam Packet||1830||1851||Scrapped|
|Mona's Isle||IoM Steam Packet||1860||1883||Converted to screw propulsion and renamed Ellan Vannin, sank 1909 in River Mersey|
|Mona's Isle||IoM Steam Packet||1882||1915||Scrapped|
|Mona's Isle||IoM Steam Packet||1905||1948||Scrapped|
|Mona's Isle||IoM Steam Packet||1950||1980||Scrapped|
|Mona's Isle||IoM Steam Packet||1984||1986||Sold 1986 and renamed Al Fahad; wrecked off Jeddah, June 2004|
|Mona's Queen||IoM Steam Packet||1853||1880||Scrapped|
|Mona's Queen||IoM Steam Packet||1885||1929||Recommissioned in 1915; returned to service in 1919; Scrapped by Smith & Company in Port Glasgow, 1929|
|Mona's Queen||IoM Steam Packet||1934||1940||Sunk by enemy action|
|Mona's Queen||IoM Steam Packet||1946||1962||Scrapped in 1981|
|Mona's Queen||IoM Steam Packet||1972||1995||Scrapped in 2008|
|Mooltan||Peninsular and Oriental||1923||1953||Scrapped|
|Newfoundland||Johnston Warren Lines||1925||1943||Burnt out by enemy action|
|Niagara||Union Steamship Co of NZ||1912||1940||Sunk by enemy action|
|Nova Scotia||Johnston Warren Lines||1926||1942||Sunk by enemy action|
|Orama||Orient Line||1911||1917||Torpedoed by the German submarine U-62 south of Western Approaches|
|Orama||Orient Line||1924||1940||Sunk by the German cruiser Admiral Hipper off Norway|
|Orizaba||Orient Line||1886||1905||Wrecked off Garden Island, Fremantle|
|Ormuz||Orient Line||1886||1912||Sold to Cie de Nav. Sud-Atlantique, renamed SS Divona; last owned by Union Industrielle Et Maritime (U.I.M) and scuttled in 1942 off Bizerta, Tunisia, raised and scrapped in 1946|
|Ormuz||Orient Line||1920||1927||Ex-Zeppelin, 1920 renamed Ormuz, 1927 sold to North German Lloyd, renamed Dresden.|
|Orontes||Orient Line||1902||1916||Lost RMS status in 1916–1917 while serving as a troopship. Laid up in 1921. Sold in 1922 and became the exhibition ship SS British Trade. Repossessed by Orient Line later the same year and reverted to Orontes (although not with the status of RMS). Scrapped in 1926.|
|Orotava||Orient Line||1889||1906||Served as a troop ship between 1899 and 1903 as a troopship during the Second Boer War. Scrapped.|
|Otranto||Orient Line||1926 and 1948||1939 and 1957||Served as troop ship HMTS Otranto during World War II. Sold to the British Iron & Steel Corporation as scrap and broken up at Faslane.|
|Peel Castle||IoM Steam Packet||1912||1939||Scrapped|
|Peveril||IoM Steam Packet||1884||1899||Sank off Douglas after a collision with SS Monarch 16 September 1899|
|Peveril||IoM Steam Packet||1929||1964||Scrapped|
|Port Kingston||Imperial Direct West Mail Co||1904||1911||Sold to Union Steamship Co of NZ; renamed Tahiti; sank 1930|
|Prince of Wales||IoM Steam Packet||1888||1915||Scrapped|
|Queen Elizabeth||Cunard White Star||1947||1968||Launched in 1940 and served as a troop ship until 1946. Scrapped after arson fire.|
|Queen Elizabeth 2||Cunard White Star||1969||2008||Currently a floating hotel in Dubai.|
|Queen Mary||Cunard White Star||1936 and 1947||1940 and 1967||Served as a troop shop from 1940 to 1946. Decommissioned in 1967; currently restaurant/hotel/museum in Long Beach, California|
|Queen Mary 2||Cunard||2004||Conferred the status of Royal Mail Ship as a gesture to Cunard's history but does not carry mail. Currently in active service as a cruise ship.|
|Queen of the Isle||IoM Steam Packet||1834||1845||Sold 1845; eventually reported lost off the Falkland Islands|
|Queen Victoria||IoM Steam Packet||1888||1915||Scrapped|
|Quetta||British-India SN Co||1881||1890||Wrecked|
|Ramsey Town||IoM Steam Packet||1904||1936||Scrapped|
|Remuera||New Zealand Shipping Co||1911||1940||Sunk by enemy action|
|Republic||Oceanic Steam Navigation d/b/a White Star Line||1903||1909||Sunk after collision with another ship|
|Rotorua||New Zealand Shipping Co||1910||1917||Sunk by enemy action|
|Rhone||Royal Mail SP Co||1865||1867||Wrecked|
|Royal Adelaide||City of Dublin SP||1838||1849||Sank|
|Rushen Castle||IoM Steam Packet||1898||1947||Scrapped|
|Saxonia||Cunard||1954||1999||In 1962 renamed Carmania; in 1973 sold & renamed Leonid Sobinov, scrapped 1999|
|St Helena||HM Government||1977||1990||Ex-Northland Prince. Lost RMS status in 1990 and renamed St Helena Island. Renamed Avalon in 1990 and Indooceanique in 1993. Scrapped in 1996.|
|St Helena||HM Government||1990||2018||Sold to Oman as MNG Tahiti.|
|Scillonian||Isles of Scilly SC||1926||1955||Scrapped|
|Scillonian||Isles of Scilly SC||1955||1977||Sold and eventually sank after owner abandoned her in 2004|
|Scillonian III||Isles of Scilly SC||1977||Currently in active service. Officially designated Royal Mail Vessel but has the status of Royal Mail Ship. Currently the only ship still carrying mail for Royal Mail.|
|Segwun||Muskoka Lakes Navigation Co||1887||Built as SS Nipissing, then as Segwun 1925, out of service from 1958 to 1981; restored 1972–1981 and returned to service since 1981. The only remaining steam-powered Royal Mail Ship.|
|Slavonia||British-India SN Co||1902||1909||Wrecked|
|Snaefell||IoM Steam Packet||1863||1875||Sold 1875|
|Snaefell||IoM Steam Packet||1876||1904||Scrapped|
|Snaefell||IoM Steam Packet||1910||1918||Sunk by enemy action|
|Snaefell||IoM Steam Packet||1920||1945||Scrapped 1948|
|Snaefell||IoM Steam Packet||1948||1978||Scrapped 1978|
|Snaefell||IoM Steam Packet||2006||2011||Built 1991, acquired 2006, sold 2011.|
|Southampton Castle||Union-Castle||1965||1978||Sold to Cost Armatori of Italy with Good Hope Castle and renamed Paola C; scrapped in China 1984|
|Strathaird||Peninsular and Oriental||1931||1961||RMS status removed in 1954 and renamed SS Strathaird. Scrapped.|
|Strathnaver||Peninsular and Oriental||1931||1962||RMS status removed in 1954 and renamed SS Strathnaver. Scrapped.|
|Sylvania||Cunard||1957||2004||Sold 1968 & renamed Fairwind; scrapped 2004|
|Tahiti||Union Steamship Co of NZ||1911||1930||Hull holed by broken propeller; sank|
|Tayleur||White Star (not OSNC)||1853||1853||Ran aground|
|The Ramsey||IoM Steam Packet||1895||1915||Sunk by enemy action|
|Titanic||White Star||1912||1912||Sunk after collision with iceberg|
|Transvaal Castle||Union-Castle||1961||2000||Sold 1966 to Safmarine and renamed "SA Vaal"; left Royal Mail service 1969; scrapped 2003|
|Trent||Royal Mail SP||1841||1865||Scrapped|
|Tynwald||IoM Steam Packet||1846||1886||Sold 1866|
|Tynwald||IoM Steam Packet||1886||1888||Sold 1888|
|Tynwald||IoM Steam Packet||1891||1934||Sold 1934|
|Tynwald||IoM Steam Packet||1936||1939||Sunk by enemy action|
|Tynwald||IoM Steam Packet||1947||1974||Scrapped 1975|
|Tynwald||IoM Steam Packet||1986||1990||Sold and left Royal Mail service 1990; scrapped 2007|
|Tyrconnel||IoM Steam Packet||1911||1932||Scrapped|
|Viceroy of India||Peninsular and Oriental||1927||1942||Sunk by enemy action|
|Victoria||IoM Steam Packet||1907||1957||Scrapped|
|Victoria||East African Railways & Harbours||1961||1977||Lost status when EAR&H was dissolved; still in service as "MV Victoria"|
|Victorian||Allan Line||1904||1929||World's first steam turbine ocean liner; scrapped 1929|
|Viking||IoM Steam Packet||1905||1954||Scrapped in 1954|
|Windsor Castle||Union-Castle||1922||1943||Sunk by enemy action|
- The first citation in The Times is from 18 August 1840.
- Royal Mails employees Courier newspaper page 20 August 2007
- QM2 Archived 13 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine
- "United Kingdom – Royal Mail". Flags of The World. Retrieved 19 December 2017.
- Maxtone-Graham, John et al. (2004). Queen Mary 2, p. 184.
- By Wireless from R.M.S. Empress of Australia. "Royal Gifts Gladden 172 On Lonely Atlantic Island" (Tristan da Cunya)," New York Times. 24 March 1935; Robinson, Samuel. (1924). Official report of Capt. S. Robinson, R.N.R.,: Commander of the Canadian Pacific S.S. "Empress of Australia", on the Japanese earthquake, the fire and subsequent relief operations.
- The Admiralty took over the Packet Service from the General Post Office in 1823.
- The first citation in The Times is from 18 August 1840.
- Kennedy, John. (1903). The History of Steam Navigation, pp. 147–151.
- "Empress of Asia Sunk Last 4 Feb.; Canadian Pacific Liner Hit by Five Bombs in Flight From Singapore MOST OF TROOPS ESCAPED 16,909-Ton Ship Abandoned After Four-Day Fires Had Ruined Her Interior," New York Times. 20 May 1942.
- 40-year-old Ship Makes Last Trip; Empress of Australia, Luxury Liner and Troop Carrier, on Way to Scrap Heap," New York Times. 1 May 1952.
- "British Announce Empress Ship Loss; Admiralty Fixes Death Toll at 45 Out of 643 Aboard Canadian Pacific Liner TORPEDOES FINISH JOB U-Boat Overtakes Burning Ship in Tow and Completes Task Started by Bomber Ship Attacked Three Times Women and Children Calm," New York Times. 29 October 1940.
- "Transport News and Notes; Empress of France Will Be Retired," New York Times 27 November 1960.
- Kennedy, p. 150.
- "Lady Eden to Launch Ship," New York Times 5 May 1956.
- "Pacific Air Routes Replace Ship Line; Canadian Company Abandons Pre-War Service of Fleet, Maps Overseas Flights," New York Times. 10 April 1949.
- "MV Antrim Princess (1967)". www.tynebuiltships.co.uk. Retrieved 29 April 2017.