Pretoria was not a Royal Navy Troopship
R.M.S. Pretoria services were offered to Her Majesty’s Government by the Union S.S. Line to help with the troop build-up in South Africa after Ishandlwana.
On February 20, 1879 she conveyed the 91st Highlanders to Natal. Among the other passengers were the following Naval Officers for Transport Service; Capt. G. O. Twiss, Lt. Caffin, Lt. Pelly and Paymaster Ramsey. She arrived at Durban 16th March. The trip was made in record time.
From “The Graphic” March 1, 1879:
“More than 350 feet long and 40 feet broad, 3,199 tons, and 500 horse power, the ‘Pretoria’ is a swift –going steamer of the newest type. In eight days she was converted into a troop-ship for the reception of the 91st (Princess Louise’s) Argyllshire Highlanders. She is expected to make the run to Durban in about twenty three days, with about 1,200 souls on board, for, besides the troops, she took a number of private passengers for the Cape. The ‘Pretoria’ has been carefully fitted for the conveyance of troops, and, among other appliances, the ventilation has been diligently attended to – no small matter, as most of the voyage lies through hot latitudes. Prevision, too, has been made for debarkation at Durban – a more risky affair than the embarkation at Southampton. The troops will be stowed in large barges outside the bar, and then dragged two or three miles through the surf before they are actually landed.
The 91st were inspected by on the 18th February, at Aldershot, by H.R.H. the Commander-in-Chief. The regiment was in a very efficient state, and although about 400 volunteers had joined it during the preceding four days, every man appeared in the regimental uniform. The embarkation took place at Southampton on the following day. There were no colours flying or bands playing. All was silent, swift, and business-like, the operation lasting barely an hour. A few horses took almost as much time to haul on board as nearly a thousand men.”
There were sketches in the Illustrated papers of the day showing the 91st boarding the ship, and of the ship heading out to sea. Unfortunately I have neither.
Petty Officer Tom