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SS Uganda was a passenger liner, then cruise ship, hospital ship and troop ship between 1952 and 1986.
Initially Uganda operated as a passenger/cargo liner of the British-India Steam Navigation Company (BI), between London and East Africa, calling at Gibraltar, Naples, Port Said, Aden, Mombasa, Dar-es-Salaam and Tanga, between 1952 and 1967.
When made redundant on the East Africa route, Uganda was converted to an educational cruise ship at Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft at Hamburg. Her passenger capacity leapt from 300 to 1200 and tonnage increased to 16,607 tons. In her new role she sailed her maiden voyage on 27 February 1968 and delighted school children, their teachers, passengers and crew for 14 years cruising mainly Scandinavia and the Mediterranean, together with her company consort SS Nevasa until 1974 when Nevasa was withdrawn and scrapped - Uganda (known as the "UgTug" in the crew bar) ploughed on.
By this time, the British-India Steam Navigation Company had been totally absorbed into the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, but, uniquely within the P&O fleet, Uganda retained her BI livery. White hull with a black band, black funnel with two white bands. She deigned to wear the P&O house flag, but a walk through her public rooms and a visit to the bridge continued to remind one of the days of the British Raj, not least for her adult cabin passengers - who preferred her gentle cruising style to that of her more rowdy younger sisters like SS Oriana and SS Canberra - continuing to tap a foot to the gentle rhythms of the resident four-piece band.
In 1982 the ship served as a hospital ship in the Falklands War with the call sign of "Mother Hen". She was called up for military duty while on cruise 276 and discharged her 315 cabin passengers and 940 school children, who were on an educational cruise, in Naples. When the Uganda was docking in Naples, reporters turned up their microphones to hear a ship full of school children singing "Rule, Britannia!".
Uganda had a three-day refit in Gibraltar where she had helicopter platform, fittings for replenishment at sea, satellite communications and her wards and operating theatres kitted out. Two additional water distillers were fitted on the sports deck. In accordance with the Geneva Convention the ship was painted white and eight red crosses were painted, two on each side of the hull, one facing forward on the bridge superstructure, one on the upper deck visible from the air, and one on either side of her funnel. A team of 135 medical staff, including 12 doctors, operating theatre staff and 40 members of the Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Nursing Service, left Portsmouth to join the ship taking large quantities of medical supplies with them.
Working closely with Uganda were the converted survey ships HMS Hecla, HMS Hydra and HMS Herald.
Uganda sailed to and fro between "Red Cross Box 2" – at position 50°50′S 58°40′W and Middle Bay, taking on casualties, both British and Argentine, transferring those who were well enough to the converted survey ships for passage to Montevideo. On the 28th of May the land battles started and Uganda anchored in Grantham Sound, 11 miles North West of Goose Green, where casualties from both sides arrived by helicopter and were treated. By the 31st May she had 132 casualties on board.
Uganda co-ordinated the movements of the four British and three Argentine hospital ships Bahia Paraiso, Almirante Irizar and Puerto Deseado and treated 730 casualties, 150 of them Argentine making four rendezvous with the Argentine ships.
By 10 July her role as a hospital ship was over and the crew held a party for 92 Falkland children more in keeping with her peacetime role. On the 14th July, Uganda was deregistered as a hospital ship and the red crosses were painted out. Two days later she went back to Grantham Sound, to embark the Gurkha regiment and their equipment, before sailing for the UK on 18 July. She arrived at Southampton on the 9th August 1982, 113 days after she had sailed to join the Task Force. During this time, she had sailed 26,150 miles, consuming 4,700 ton of fuel with over a 1,000 helicopter landings on her flight deck and 3,111 personnel had been transferred to or from the ship.
After a refit in North Shields (the games deck windows never did close properly again after having Sea King helicopters landing on the quoits court), the ship returned to the familiar relaxed pattern of educational cruising again, but only for a few months as in January 1983 she took the Queen's shilling a second time and returned to duty as a troop ship serving between Ascension Island and the Falkland Islands.
Two years later, she was laid up, rusting, in the River Fal and despite efforts to keep her steaming was eventually sold for scrap and, rebadged as the SS Triton, taken on her final voyage to Taiwan with a crew of just 21, where she anchored awaiting breaking.
She was driven ashore by Typhoon Wayne on 22 August 1986 near Kaohsiung, Taiwan and there she lay until broken up in 1992.
The ship's original tonnage was 14,430 gross and she was fitted with two steam turbines developing 12,300 horse power. On trials her top speed was slightly over 19 knots.
St Kilda (cinderella)