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Royal Mail Ship (sometimes Steam-ship, Steamer), usually seen in its abbreviated form RMS, is the ship prefix used for seagoing vessels that carry mail under contract by Royal Mail. They have the right to fly the pennant of the Royal Mail when sailing.[1][2][3]

The designation has been used since 1840.[4] It was used by many shipping lines, but is often associated in particular with the Cunard Line[5][6], Royal Mail Lines and Union-Castle Line, which held a number of high-profile mail contracts, and which traditionally prefixed the names of many of their ships with the initials "RMS". The Canadian Pacific Railway's trans-Pacific Royal Mail contract required the construction of the first three of a fleet of steamships—the RMS Empress of China, the RMS Empress of India, and the RMS Empress of Britain which regularly sailed between Vancouver and Asia beginning in 1891.[7]

While some lines, 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".[8]

RMS Prince Arthur

Originally the Admiralty operated these ships.[9] In 1850 contracts were awarded to private companies. 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 purchased RMS Saint Columa and RMS Llwywllyn from the Admiralty, it joined their Prince Arthur.

Having the title "RMS" was seen as a mark of quality and a competitive advantage, because the mail had to be on time. In the 1860 CDSPCo contract there was a penalty clause of £1 1s 4d for every minute's delay. The White Star Line sisters RMS Olympic and RMS Titanic were Royal Mail Ships.

In recent years the shift to air transport for mail has left only three ships with the right to the prefix; RMS Segwun, which serves as a passenger vessel in Gravenhurst, Ontario, Canada, RMS St Helena, which serves the island of Saint Helena in the South Atlantic,[10] 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.[11]

Royal Mail aircraft marking.

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 Ship indicates that propulsion is provided by diesel rather than steam.

Contents

List of RMS ships

Name Line Maiden Voyage Left Service Fate
Queen Elizabeth 2 Cunard 1969 2008 Currently laid up
Queen Mary 2 Cunard 2004 in service
St Helena HM Government 1990 in service
Adriatic White Star 1907 1934 broken-up
Aquitania Cunard 1914 1950 broken-up
Arabia Peninsular and Oriental 1898 1916 sunk (enemy action)
Alcantara Royal Mail Lines 1913 1916 sunk in battle while serving as Armed Merchant Cruiser
Alcantara Royal Mail Lines 1926 1958 scrapped
Andes Royal Mail Lines 1913 1929 renamed Atlantis cruise ship
Andes Royal Mail Lines 1939 1959 became cruise ship
Arlanza Royal Mail Lines 1912 1938 broken-up
Atlantic White Star 1871 1873 sunk
Baltic White Star 1904 1933 broken-up
Berengaria Cunard 1913 1938 broken-up
Britannia Cunard 1840 1880 sunk
Britannic White Star 1929 1960 broken-up
Lucania Cunard 1893 1909 broken-up
Carpathia Cunard 1903 1918 sunk (enemy action)
Britannic White Star 1915 1916 sunk (enemy action)
Caronia Cunard White Star 1949 1974 broken-up
Celtic White Star 1901 1933 broken-up
Cedric White Star 1903 1932 broken-up
Dunottar Castle Union Castle 1890 1915 sunk
Empress of China[12] Canadian Pacific 1891 1912 broken-up
Empress of India[12] Canadian Pacific 1891 1919 broken-up
Empress of Japan[12] Canadian Pacific 1891 1926[13] broken-up
Empress of Britain Canadian Pacific 1906 1930 broken-up
Empress of Ireland Canadian Pacific 1906 1914 collided and sank; over 1,000 died
Empress of Asia[14] Canadian Pacific 1913 1942[14] sunk (enemy action)
Empress of Russia[15] Canadian Pacific 1913 1945[15] caught fire and scrapped
Empress of France Canadian Pacific 1914 1931 scrapped 1934
Empress of India Canadian Pacific 1908 1928 sold for scrap 1929
Empress of Australia[8] Canadian Pacific 1922 1952[16] broken-up
Empress of Scotland Canadian Pacific 1906 1930 sold for scrap 1930
Empress of Canada Canadian Pacific 1922 1943[15] torpedoed;sunk
Empress of Canada Canadian Pacific 1929 1953 broken-up
Empress of Japan Canadian Pacific 1930 1966 Caught fire and scrapped
Empress of Britain Canadian Pacific 1931 1940[17] torpedoed; sunk
Empress of Scotland Canadian Pacific 1930 1966 Caught fire and scrapped
Empress of Australia Canadian Pacific 1953 1956 sold for scrap 1962
Empress of Britain Canadian Pacific 1956 . sold for scrap 2008
Empress of England[18] Canadian Pacific 1957 . scrapped
Empress of Canada[19] Canadian Pacific 1961 . sold for scrap 2003
Etruria Cunard 1885 1909 broken-up
Homeric White Star 1922 1935 broken-up
Laconia Cunard 1922 1942 sunk (enemy action)
Laconia Cunard 1912 1917 sunk (enemy action)
Lusitania Cunard 1907 1915 sunk (enemy action)
Mauretania Cunard White Star 1939 1965 broken-up
Maloja Peninsular and Oriental 1923 1954 broken-up
Majestic White Star 1922 1940 broken-up
Mooltan Peninsular and Oriental 1923 1953 broken-up
Niagara Union Steamship 1912 1940 sunk (enemy action)
Oceanic White Star 1871 1896 broken-up
Queen Elizabeth Cunard White Star 1940 1968 destroyed by arson
Royal Adelaide City of Dublin Steam Packet 1838 1849 sunk
Georgic White Star 1933 1954 broken-up
Olympic White Star 1911 1935 broken-up
Mauretania Cunard 1907 1935 broken-up
Queen Mary Cunard White Star 1936 1967 retired
Umbria Cunard 1884 1910 broken-up
Scythia Cunard 1921 1958 broken-up
Titanic White Star 1912 1912 sunk
Tayleur White Star (not OSNC) 1853 1853 ran aground
Windsor Castle Union-Castle 1960 1998 broken-up
Viceroy of India Peninsular and Oriental 1927 1942 sunk (enemy action)
Oceanic White Star 1899 1914 broken-up
Snaefell Isle of Man Steam Packet 1910 1918 sunk (enemy action)
Mona's Queen Isle of Man Steam Packet 1934  ?  ?
King Orry Isle of Man Steam Packet 1911  ?  ?
Lady of Mann Isle of Man Steam Packet 1930  ?  ?
Ben My Chree Isle of Man Steam Packet 1927  ?  ?
Peel Castle Isle of Man Steam Packet 1894  ?  ?
Fenella Isle of Man Steam Packet 1937  ?  ?
Tynwald Isle of Man Steam Packet 1937  ?  ?
Segwun Muskoka Steamships 1887 restored and returned to service
Trent Royal Mail Steam Packet 1841 1865 broken-up
Leinster City of Dublin Steam Packet 1896 1918 sunk (enemy action) 517 lost
Servia Cunard 1881 1901 broken-up

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Royal Mails employees Courier newspaper page 20 August 2007
  2. ^ QM2
  3. ^ United Kingdom - Royal Mail
  4. ^ The first citation in the Times is from August 18, 1840
  5. ^ Maxtone-Graham, John et al. (2004). Queen Mary 2, p. 184.
  6. ^ Royal Mails employees Courier newspaper page 20 August 2007
  7. ^ Kennedy, John. (1903). The History of Steam Navigation, pp. 147-151.
  8. ^ a b By Wireless from R.M.S. Empress of Australia. "Royal Gifts Gladden 172 On Lonely Atlantic Island" (Tristan da Cunya)," New York Times. March 24, 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.
  9. ^ The Admiralty took over the Packet Service from the General Post Office in 1823]]
  10. ^ Neilan, Terence P. "Q and A," New York Times. October 29, 1989.
  11. ^ Royal Mails employees Courier newspaper page 20 August 2007
  12. ^ a b c Kennedy, p. 150.
  13. ^ Kirsten Weisenburger, Kirsten and Marc Dinsdale. "First Class Warrior Empress," Pacific Rim Online Magazine (Vancouver, British Columbia). 1998.
  14. ^ a b "Empress of Asia Sunk Last Feb. 4; 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. May 20, 1942.
  15. ^ a b c "Pacific Air Routes Replace Ship Line; Canadian Company Abandons Pre-War Service of Fleet, Maps Overseas Flights," New York Times. April 10, 1949.
  16. ^ 40-year-old Ship Makes Last Trip; Empress of Australia, Luxury Liner and Troop Carrier, on Way to Scrap Heap," New York Times. May 1, 1952.
  17. ^ "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. October 29, 1940.
  18. ^ "Lady Eden to Launch Ship," New York Times. May 5, 1956.
  19. ^ "Transport News and Notes; Empress of France Will Be Retired," New York Times. November 27, 1960.

References

External links

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