RMS Virginian was a steam turbine powered transatlantic ocean liner, launched in 1904 for the Allan Line. She operated from 1920 to 1948 for the Swedish American Line as SS Drottningholm.

  • RMS Virginian
  • 1920: Drottningholm
  • 1948: Brasil
  • 1951: Homeland
Builder: Alexander Stephen and Sons, Glasgow
Launched: 22 December 1904[1]
Maiden voyage: 6 April 1905[1]
Fate: Feb 1955: scrapped at Trieste
General characteristics
Type: Passenger liner and cargo
Tonnage: 10,757 gross register tons (GRT)[1]
Length: 538 ft (164 m)[2]
Beam: 60 ft (18 m)[2]
Depth: 38 ft (12 m)
Propulsion: Steam Turbine
Speed: 18 kn (21 mph)[2]
Capacity: 1712 passengers[2]


Greta Garbo & Mauritz Stiller on board the SS Drottningholm in 1925 en route to the United States.

Virginian was built in 1905 by Alexander Stephen and Sons in Glasgow for the Allan Line of Canada.[2] She was a sistership to RMS Victorian and operated in Allan Line service until 1920.[2] In 1912, she was one of several ships in wireless radio communication with RMS Titanic, giving iceberg warnings, and at one point erroneous wireless messages had Virginian towing Titanic to Halifax, Nova Scotia and that all on board Titanic were safe. Such a report appeared in the Daily Mirror on 16 April 1912.[3]

World War IEdit

During World War I she served as a troop transport ship for Canada and Armed Merchant Cruiser for Royal Navy.[4] On 21 August 1917 she was damaged by the German submarine U-102.[5]

In 1920, she was sold to the Swedish American Line and renamed SS Drottningholm. In 1922-1923 she was refurbished, re-engined and her superstructure enlarged.[6]

She served Sweden until 1948, notably under the command of Captain John Nordlander.[1]

World War IIEdit

During wartime the ship was used as a mercy ship to exchange civilian internees, POWs, and diplomats. She was chartered by the American, British, and French governments for a total of 14 voyages that transported 18,160 individuals.[7] In March 1942 the ship was chartered by the U.S. State Department via an arrangement with the Nazi Germans and other Axis powers, facilitated with the help of the Swiss and Swedish governments, to repatriate civilian internees and diplomats from both sides of the war.

Her first east bound voyage from the US, carrying Axis individuals, was from New York City to Lisbon, Portugal on May 7, 1942. On May 22, she departed Lisbon for a west bound return trip carrying Allied individuals to New York, arriving on June 1, 1942. The passengers included American Chargé d'affaires to Germany Leland B. Morris and diplomat George Kennan. She made one more east bound voyage to Lisbon on June 3 from Jersey City, New Jersey.[8] [9] Her final west bound exchange mission from Lisbon to New York arrived in the United States on June 30. That would be her last exchange trip from Lisbon as the Nazi government cancelled all further trades.[10] On July 15, she left from New York City to her home port in Gothenburg, Sweden, carrying approximately 800 Axis nationals.[11]

She continued to serve the British and French as a repatriation mercy ship.

The Drottningholm carried Red Cross supplies for distribution to other nationals still in Japanese controlled territory. One Japanese national jumped overboard and drowned causing the exchange to be halted until an American offered to stay in captivity.[8]

The Drottningholm was painted white with the name of the vessel in very large letters, the Swedish flag and the words "Sverige" (Sweden) and "Diplomat" painted prominently on port and starboard. She was fully illuminated so her markings could be easily viewed.[8]

On 16 March 1944 she docked in New York after an exchange voyage that took 750 Germans to Europe in exchange for 600 wartime internees, including Mary Berg.[8]

In September 1944, she was being used by the Red Cross to transport POWs and civilians being repatriated from Germany to the UK via Sweden, under the command of Captain John Nordlander. Another voyage in April 1945 docked in Liverpool that included 212 ex-interned Channel Islanders.[12]:172-9

From 1948–1955 she sailed for the Home Lines of Italy, first as SS Brasil and from 1951 as SS Homeland, before she was sold for scrap in 1955.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d "Ship Descriptions – V". The Ship List. Retrieved 22 April 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Miller Jr., William (2001). Picture History of British Ocean Liners 1900 to the Present. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-41532-5.
  3. ^ "From the Archives: Titanic 100 years on" (PDF). Contact. University of Dundee: 27. April 2012. Retrieved 17 April 2012.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ Royal Navy list.
  5. ^ www.uboat.net: Virginian
  6. ^ Micke Asklander. "S/S Virginian (1905)". Fakta om Fartyg (in Swedish). Retrieved 22 February 2008.
  7. ^ "S/S Drottningholm a history". Salship.
  8. ^ a b c d "Drottningholm and Gripsholm The Exchange and Repatriation Voyages During WWII". Salship.
  9. ^ "Drottningholm Sails With 949 Axis Nationals". Chicago Daily Tribune, June 4, 1942.
  10. ^ "Nazis Refuse Safe Conduct For Rescue Ship". Chicago Daily Tribune, July 2, 1942.
  11. ^ "Drottningholm Leaves NY With 800 Axis Nationals". Chicago Daily Tribune, July 16, 1942.
  12. ^ Harris, Roger E. Islanders deported part 1. ISBN 978-0902633636.

External linksEdit