SS California
California passing the Statue of Liberty, New York, 1925
United Kingdom
Name: California
Namesake: California
Owner: Anchor Line
Port of registry: United Kingdom 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; sunk the next day by the Royal Navy
General characteristics
  • 16,792 GRT[1]
  • tonnage under deck 12,093
  • 9,930 NRT
Length: 553.0 ft (168.6 m)
Beam: 70.4 ft (21.5 m)
Depth: 33.8 ft (10.3 m)
Propulsion: 6 steam turbines; twin screw
Speed: 16 kn (30 km/h)[2]
Armament: DEMS

SS California was a British 16,792 GRT steam turbine ocean liner that was built in Glasgow in 1923 for Henderson Brothers and destroyed in the North Atlantic by a Luftwaffe air attack in 1943.


Alexander Stephen & Sons of Linthouse, Glasgow built California for Henderson Brothers. 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 dummies. Note the Infobox photograph shows smoke emerging only from the middle funnel.



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

World War II

As armed merchant cruiser HMS California in World War II

In 1939 she was requisitioned by the Admiralty and converted to an Armed Merchant Cruiser, and from 1942 she was a troopship.


On 8 July 1943 the small fast Convoy Faith, comprising Port Fairy, the troopships Duchess of York and California, and escorted by the destroyer HMS Douglas and frigate HMS Moyola, sailed Port Glasgow, Scotland, for Freetown, Sierra Leone. On the evening of 10 July the convoy rendezvoused with the Canadian destroyer HMCS Iroquois 500 miles (800 km) WSW of Land's End. On 11 July 1943 when about 300 miles (480 km) west of Vigo, Spain, the convoy was attacked by three Focke-Wulf Fw 200 aircraft of Kampfgeschwader 40[3] from Merignac near Bordeaux.

Focke Wulf Fw 200

Accurate high-altitude bombing left Duchess of York and California in flames.[4] The attack cost the lives of 46 servicemen and crew,[5] and both ships were abandoned. It was feared the flames from the ships would attract U-boats, so in the early hours of 12 July[4] they were sunk by Royal Navy torpedoes in position 41°15′N 15°24′W / 41.250°N 15.400°W / 41.250; -15.400Coordinates: 41°15′N 15°24′W / 41.250°N 15.400°W / 41.250; -15.400.[6]


  1. ^ a b c California.
  2. ^ a b "1147871". Miramar Ship Index. Retrieved 21 June 2009.
  3. ^ "Mercantile". Archived from the original on 27 July 2011. Retrieved 20 June 2008.
  4. ^ a b "Maritime Disasters of World War II". Retrieved 20 June 2008.
  5. ^ "Anchor Line". The Ships List. Archived from the original on 3 August 2008. Retrieved 25 June 2008.
  6. ^ "SS California (+1943)". Retrieved 25 June 2008.


  • "Clyde Built database". Archived from the original on 28 September 2004. Retrieved 25 June 2008.CS1 maint: unfit url (link)
  • Osborne, Richard; Spong, Harry & Grover, Tom (2007). Armed Merchant Cruisers 1878–1945. Windsor, UK: World Warship Society. ISBN 978-0-9543310-8-5.

External links

  • BBC World War II People's War