Soldiers climb down netting on the sides of the attack transport USS McCawley on 14 June 1943, rehearsing for landings on New Georgia.
USS DuPage, a Bayfield-class attack transport underway with its complement of landing craft

A troopship (also troop ship or troop transport or trooper) is a ship used to carry soldiers, either in peacetime or wartime. Troopships were often drafted from commercial shipping fleets, and were unable to land troops directly on shore, typically loading and unloading at a seaport or onto smaller vessels, either tenders or barges.

Attack transports,[1] a variant of ocean-going troopship adapted to transporting invasion forces ashore, carry their own fleet of landing craft. Landing ships beach themselves and bring their troops directly ashore.


Ships to transport troops were used in antiquity. Ancient Rome used the navis lusoria, a small vessel powered by rowers and sail, to move soldiers on the Rhine and Danube.[2]

Nicknamed the "Grey Ghost", RMS Queen Mary holds the all-time record for most troops on one passage, 15,740 on a late July 1943 run from the U.S. to Europe.[3]

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 added a degree of armament; their speed, originally intended to minimize passage time for civilian user, proved valuable for outrunning submarines and enemy cruisers in war. HMT Olympic even rammed and sank a U-boat during one of its wartime crossings. Individual liners capable of exceptionally high speed transited without escorts; smaller or older liners with poorer performance were protected by operating in convoys.

Most major naval powers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries provided their domestic shipping lines with subsidies to build fast ocean liners capable of conversions to auxiliary cruisers during wartime. The British government, for example, aided both Cunard and the White Star Line in constructing the liners RMS Mauretania, RMS Aquitania, RMS Olympic and RMS Britannic. However, when the vulnerability of these ships to return fire was realized during World War I most were used instead as troopships or hospital ships.

RMS Queen Mary and RMS Queen Elizabeth were two of the most famous converted liners of World War II. When they were fully converted, each could carry well over 10,000 troops per trip. Queen Mary holds the all-time record, with 15,740 troops on a single passage in late July 1943,[3] transporting a staggering 765,429 military personnel during the war.[3]

World War II

A U.S. General G. O. Squier-class troop transport
Aiken Victory, a Victory ship troop ship conversion, arriving in Boston with 1,958 troops from Europe, 26 July 1945[4]

Large numbers of troopships were employed during World War II, including 220 "Limited Capacity" Liberty ship conversions, 30 Type C4 ship-based General G. O. Squier-class, a class of 84 Victory ship conversions, and a small number of Type-C3-S-A2 ship-based dedicated transports, and 15 classes of attack transports, of which some 400 alone were built.


The designation HMT (Her/His Majesty's Transport) would normally replace RMS (Royal Mail Ship), MV (Motor Vessel) or SS (Steamship) for ships converted to troopship duty with the United Kingdom's Royal Navy. The United States used two designations: WSA for troopships operated by the War Shipping Administration using Merchant Marine crews, and USS (United States Ship) for vessels accepted into and operated by the United States Navy. Initially, troopships adapted as attack transports were designated AP; starting in 1942 keel-up attack transports received the designation APA.

"HMT" was also used, for a while, to designate "Hired Military Transport."[16][17]

Post-World War II

In the era of the Cold War, the United States designed the United States ship so that she could easily be converted from a liner to a troopship, in case of war. More recently, Queen Elizabeth 2 and Canberra were requisitioned by the Royal Navy to carry British soldiers to the Falklands War.[18] By the end of the twentieth century, nearly all long-distance personnel transfer was done by airlift in military transport aircraft.

Some notable troopships

See also


  1. ^ "Amphibious Attack Transport (APA)".
  2. ^ Pferdehirt B. "The Museum of Ancient Shipping". Retrieved August 3, 2010.
  3. ^ a b c "Queen Mary – Ship History and Specifications".
  5. ^ a b Live, 2013 edition, p. 6.
  6. ^ a b c "S.S. John W. Brown Walk-around".
  7. ^ Live, 2013 edition, p. 4.
  8. ^ Cooper, p. 5.
  9. ^ Project Liberty Ship: Armament Aboard SS JOHN W. BROWN Archived 2013-10-15 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "HAER for Private Frederick C. Murphy" (PDF). United States Maritime Administration. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 May 2013. Retrieved 6 August 2013. "In the summer of 1945, eighty-four VC2-S-AP2 Victory ships, including the Maritime Victory, were converted into troopships by MARITIME VICTORY the U.S. Maritime Commission in preparation for an assault on the Japanese home islands. The ship made several crossings of the Atlantic Ocean and was used to repatriate American troops from Europe after World War II. pp. 1–2
  11. ^ crossings in 1945
  12. ^ "Troop Ship of World War II, April 1947, Page 356-357" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2020-10-30. Retrieved 2016-12-24.
  13. ^ 69th infantry division, newsletter, 1986
  14. ^ Binghamton NY Press Grayscale 1945 – Fulton History, Oct. 15, 1945
  15. ^ Isthmian Lines ship S.S. Steel Scientist [2] Troop capacity: 2156
  16. ^ "1941 Dunera Boys Hay Internment Camp Collection". NSW Migration Heritage Centre. Retrieved 8 March 2020.
  17. ^ "Troopship". The designation HMT (Hired Military Transport) ...
  18. ^ Rebecca Fowler (26 June 1996). "Last voyage for Canberra, the Great White Whale of the Falklands".


Media related to Troop ships at Wikimedia Commons