Serapis, 6,211 tons and measuring 360 feet in length, was one of five Indian government troopships ordered in 1863 to assist with the policing of Britain's expanding overseas empire in the Victorian era. Serapis - identical in design and tonnage to her sisters Crocodile, Euphrates, Jumna and Malabar - was launched from the Thames Shipbuilding Company's yard at Blackwall on 2 September 1866 and entered service as soon as she was completed. All five troopships were fast, fine-lined and provided accomodation far superior to anything the previous generation of transports had offered. Apart from Jumna which suffered recurrent engine touble, the new ships
were extremely popular and all remained in service until withdrawn in 1894, either for breaking or depot duties. In a busy but otherwise uneventful career, Serapis achieved a brief moment of glory in the mid-1870's. In 1875, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) decided to visit India and Serapis was chosen as the most suitable vessel to accomodate him and his suite. Crossing Europe by special train, the royal party boarded Serapis at Brindisi and she sailed on 16 October. Under the command of Captain the Hon. Carr Glynn and escorted by the frigates H.M.S. Hercules and Pallas, there were brief stops at Cairo and Aden before making Bombay on 8 November. From there the Prince went to Ceylon to shoot elephant, before arriving in Calcutta to a tremendous welcome on 23 December. The visit - the first by a future sovereign - was hugely successful and when Serapis eventually sailed for home, she was laden with jewellery, trophies of every kind and a large collection of wild animals, all of which had been presented to the Prince. Leaving Bombay on 13 March 1876, Serapis again called at Cairo and also Lisbon on the journey home. On the morning of 11 May, Capt. Glynn stopped engines off the Needles to allow the Princess of Wales, who had come out to meet her husband on their yacht Osborne, to come aboard to greet him. Once the Princess had been transferred, the royal convoy proceeded on its way and docked at Portsmouth later the same day amidst scenes of great patriotic rejoicing for the Prince's safe return.