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Soldiers climb down netting on the sides of USS McCawley (APA-4) on 14 June 1943, rehearsing for landings on New Georgia. McCawley would be torpedoed and sunk during the operation, just two weeks after this picture was taken.

A troopship (also troop ship or troop transport or trooper) is a ship used to carry soldiers, either in peacetime or wartime. Operationally, troopships are normal ships, and unlike landing ships, cannot land troops directly on shore, typically loading and unloading at a seaport or onto smaller vessels, either tenders or barges.


Ships to transport troops were already used in Antiquity. Thus Ancient Rome used the navis lusoria, a small vessel powered by rowers and sail, to move soldiers on the Rhine and Danube.[1]

The modern troopship has as long a history as passenger ships do, as most maritime nations enlisted their support in military operations (either by leasing the vessels or by impressing them into service) when their normal naval forces were deemed insufficient for the task. In the 19th century, navies frequently chartered civilian ocean liners, and from the start of the 20th century painted them gray and armed them; their speed, originally intended to minimize travel time, would prove valuable for outrunning submarines and enemy surface cruisers. HMT Olympic even managed to turn the tables, and rammed and sank a U-boat during one of its wartime crossings. Smaller or older liners with poorer performance were protected by operating in convoys. Olympic's sister ship RMS Titanic would have also been a troopship, had it never struck the iceberg which caused it to sink.

Most major naval powers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries provided subsidies toward ensuring that they would have troopships available during times of war. The British government provided subsidies to both Cunard and the White Star Line toward the construction of liners RMS Mauretania, RMS Aquitania, RMS Olympic, RMS Britannic. When the vulnerability of these ships to return fire was realized most were used instead as troopship or hospital ships.

The RMS Queen Mary and the RMS Queen Elizabeth were two of the most famous converted liners of World War II. When they were fully converted, each of them could carry well over 10,000 troops per trip.


The designation HMT (Hired Military Transport) would normally replace RMS (Royal Mail Ship) or SS (Steamship) on ships converted to troopship duty with Great Britain's Royal Navy. The US did not use an alternate designation, using USS (United States Ship) as it does for any ship operated by its navy.

Recent use

In the era of the Cold War the United States designed the SS United States so that it could easily be converted from a liner to a troopship, in case of war. More recently, RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 and the SS Canberra were requisitioned by the Royal Navy to carry British soldiers to the Falklands War. By the end of the twentieth century, nearly all long-distance transfers of soldiers were being done by air in military transport aircraft.

Some notable troopships



  • James Dugan, The Great Iron Ship, 1953 (regularly reprinted) ISBN 0-7509-3447-6
  • Stephen Harding, Great Liners at War, Motorbooks Int'l, Osceola, WI, USA, 1997 ISBN 0-7603-0346
  • Goron Newell, Ocean Liners of the 20th Century, Bonanza Books, USA, 1963 ISBN 0-517-03168-X


External links

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