SS California (1923)

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SS California
SS California passing the Statue of Liberty, New York, 1925.
Career (UK) Red Ensign
Name: SS California
Namesake: California
Owner: Anchor Line
Port of registry: Glasgow
Route: Glasgow/New York
Builder: Alexander Stephen & Sons, Glasgow
Yard number: 494 [1]
Launched: 17 April 1923[1]
Identification: Official number: 1147871[2]
Fate: Crippled by German air attack 11 July 1943 and sunk the next day by the Royal Navy
General characteristics
Tonnage: 16,792 GRT [1]
Length: 167.64 m (550.0 ft)
Beam: 21.34 m (70.0 ft)
  • Steam turbines
  • Two propellers
Speed: 16 kn (30 km/h)[2]

SS California was a British steam-powered passenger ship of 16,792 tons built in 1923 for the Henderson Brothers Ltd, Glasgow.


California was built by Alexander Stephen & Sons, of Linthouse, Glasgow. Photographs of the ship taken in the 1930s show only one funnel, suggesting either a major refit, or that the original fore and aft funnels were for show only. Note the Infobox photograph shows smoke emerging only from the middle funnel.



California carried passengers between Glasgow and New York, and in 1935 she was transferred to the Anchor Line (1935) Ltd.

World War II

In 1939 she was requisitioned by the Admiralty and converted to a Armed Merchant Cruiser, and from 1942 she was used as a Troopship.


On 8 July 1943 the small fast Convoy Faith, comprising MV Port Fairy, the troopships Duchess of York and California, and escorted by the destroyer HMS Douglas and the frigate HMS Moyola, sailed Port Glasgow, Scotland, for Freetown, Sierra Leone. On the evening of 10 July the convoy made rendezvous with the Canadian destroyer HMCS Iroquois 500 miles WSW of Land's End. On 11 July 1943 when about 300 miles west of Vigo, Spain, the convoy was attacked by three Focke-Wulf Fw 200 aircraft of Kampfgeschwader 40[3] based at Merignac near Bordeaux.

File:Focke Wulf Fw200.jpg
Focke Wulf Fw200

Accurate high-altitude bombing left the Duchess of York and California blazing.[4] Both ships were abandoned, and in the early hours of 12 July[4] they were sunk by Royal Navy torpedoes in position 41°15′N 15°24′W / 41.25°N 15.4°W / 41.25; -15.4[5] as it was feared the flames from the ships would attract U boats. The attack cost the lives of 46 servicemen and crew.[6]

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