British Railways operated a number of ships from its formation in 1948 on a variety of routes. Many ships were acquired on nationalisation, and others were built for operation by British Railways or its later subsidiary, Sealink.
British Railways which was formed in 1948 with the ships from former LMS, LNER, SR and GWR fleets. British Railways was rebranded British Rail in 1965, and new corporate colours and logo were introduced.
In 1968 an Act of Parliament separated the shipping interests of British Rail into a new division, for which the marketing name Sealink was adopted in 1970. In 1979, the ownership of vessels was transferred to Sealink UK Ltd, in preparation for the privatisation of the railway fleet. On 27 July 1984 the UK Government sold Sealink UK Ltd to Bermuda-based Sea Containers for £66m. The company was renamed Sealink British Ferries. 7 years later, In 1991 Sea Containers sold Sealink British Ferries to Stena Line. The new Swedish owners changed the company name to Sealink Stena Line then again a few years later to Stena Sealink Line.
In 1996 the Sealink name disappeared when the UK services were re-branded as Stena Line.
Mv Amorique was briefly used on the Hook of Holland-Harwich service following the final voyage of Zeeland from Harwich on 25th March 1986. Originally constructed in 1972 for Baltic Sea service as Terje Vigen. She was acquired by Brittany Ferries four years later for their new Portsmouth/St. Malo crossing. She went on to launch the Plymouth/Santander service in 1981 and subsequently the company’s link between Cork in Ireland and Roscoff.
In 1993 she was sold to Xiamen Ocean Shipping Company and getting renamed Min Nam and entering service between Xiamen and Hong Kong in 1994, she was sold again in 1998 to WeiHai ferry co and renamed Sheng Sheng an the being sold to Dharma Lautan and being renamed Tirta Kencana I and then the Musthika Kencana II in 2010. It is believed she sank in the Java Sea in 2011.
The design of the Arnhem was basically pre-war, although built with a single funnel and, in order to pick-up the cruise market once again, she was fitted out as a one-class steamer. during March, April and the first half of May 1954 she was converted to a 2-class vessel, her last call at the Hook of Holland was on the 27th of April 1968 she was scrapped the following year.
Amsterdam was the first of the trio to make courtesy calls to Amsterdam on 12-13th July and Rotterdam on 13th-14th July before making her maiden voyage from Harwich on Monday 15th July 1929. The third of the sisters, the Amsterdam, worked her maiden voyage on Saturday 26th April 1930.
The Amsterdam was requisitioned by the Royal Navy and in use as trooper. This ship was the last merchant ship that left Le Havre, before the enemy blew up the town. In June 1944 the Amsterdam was rebuilt as a hospital ship. On 7th August 1944 mined on the second trip as hospital ship near the French Coast with heavy loss of life.
May 29th 1950. With sirens hooting a welcome from ships large and small in Harwich harbour and at Parkeston Quay the new British Railway’s vessel Amsterdam sailed majestically into Harwich harbour on Monday morning, her new paint glistening in the sun. She had been taken over on the Clyde by the Marine Superintendent, Capt. R. Davis, after very successful trials. A big crowd saw the ship pass through the harbour with her siren sounding.
The last word in comfort for passengers and crew, the new ship was is equipped with every modern aid to navigation and control. For the passengers there is attention to detail in cabin furnishing and deck, companion way and saloon spaciousness, which will make the overnight crossing a luxury on its own.
The final touch which lifts the ship clear of any austerity is to be found in four “cabins de-luxe”, each with two beds and a bathroom, and each decorated in a distinctive colour-scheme – red; pink and silver; blue and white; and green and brown.
The crew. as well as finding the ship “easy-working” , due to her spaciousness and the convenience of well-thought out fittings, are pleased with their own quarters, Ventilation and crew’s quarters are a great improvement on those in other ships on the Harwich-Hook service.
Proposing good fortune to the Amsterdam, Captain P.D.H.R. Pelly, D.S.O.,R.N., senior officer, Reserve fleet, Harwich, said it was appropriate the he, as a naval officer, should have had the honour. Merchant ships were an essential part of our life in peace and war, and the task of protecting them was undertaken by the Navy. He wished success to the Amsterdam and all who sailed in her.
Sold in 1969 to Chandris Line, converted to a cruise ship and renamed Fiorita. Laid up in 1978 and used from 1978–80 as an accommodation ship. Renamed Ariane II in 1980 and laid up until 1983. Served as an accommodation ship at Fethaye, Turkey until she capsized and sank in a storm on 27 January 1987.
After performing trials in the Clyde Avalon steamed to Harwich to undergo berthing trials and made her first sailing on 25th July 1963. Probably the quietest arrival of a new ship in her home port. There was no excitement about this arrival of a brand new ship. The naming ceremony did not take place in Scotland owing to labour troubles at the shipyard. Apart from the Avalon giving a “How d’you do” toot as she nosed slowly across the harbour towards the quay, the sound from ships’ sirens was noticeably absent.
The Avalon was brought alongside the quay with calculated precision . There were no cheery waves from the quay to the ship or from the ship to the quay. It was a really quiet affair.
On the quayside, Mr T. Tulloch, the shipping port superintendent, waited with a group of officials and dock staff. The gangway was put into position-and the ship was in.
Captain Frederick Allen
A familiar figure to thousands of passengers on night ships between Parkeston Quay and Hook of Holland, he left the bridge of ss Avalon for the last time in his official capacity. Before he joined the London and North Eastern Railway in 1934, Captain Allen had been a “deep sea” man. His first voyage from Liverpool at the age of 16 was to Australia and this began the thousands of sea travel by sail and steam which has now drawn to a close. For a time he served with the train ferries between Harwich and Zeebrugge until events of the Second World War halted the service. Then came Dunkirk when, with many of is Harwich colleagues, Captain Allen was aboard the railway ships that played such an admirable part in the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Forces.
Later, in view of his experience of Belgian waters, Captain Allen acted as the first commander-in-chief of the Free Belgian Navy. Then, with the Royal Navy Reserve, he served in the anti-submarine patrols that turned the tide against the menace of the U-boats.
After the war, Captain Allen returned to the Harwich ships and later, in 1953 he made his first trip as master of the passenger ship Duke of York. He took command of the Avalon in 1964.
The Arrival of the St Edmund in 1974 rendered the Avalon redundant and on the 29th December she sailed to the Tyne where Swan Hunter converted her into a stern loading car ferry for the Irish Sea service which she served until 1980 served until 1980 when she was sold to Seafaith Navigation Co, Limassol, Cyprus and renamed Valon, she arrived on the 21st January 1981 at Gadani Beach, Pakistan for scrapping.
Seen approaching Parkeston Quay,whilst on charter to British Rail for the Harwich-Dunkirk “Freightliner” service. Chartered from 1971 by British Rail for the Parkeston Quay – Dunkirk service and in 1974-1975 for the Harwich-Dunkirk service. from 1978-1980 charterd back to assist on the Harwich- Zeebrugge/Dunkirk service.
Calderon (1976) – Brathay Fisher (1978) – Haje Naime (1981) – Violette (1983) -Haje Naime (1983) – Newpoint (1985) – Pel Carrier (1985) – Pancon 3 (1994) -Progress 3 (2002)
Used a relief ship for the Sea Freightliners at Parkeston Quay from 13h October 1970 – 5th December 1970.
Pelttainer (1990) – Abdul H. (2004).
Served on routes between Harwich –Rotterdam & Dunkirk from 1959 -1972.
Taurus II (1975) – Gloriana (1979) – Sea Wave (1984) – Taurus (1985) – Diana (1991).
Parham (1979) – Sofia (1984) – Saint Anthonys (1989) – Golden Bird (1990) Mariya (1991) Swene (1996) – Baris B. (1996)
Launched by James Fisher & Sons, Barrow and Chartered by British Rail in 1968 for service between Parkeston Quay and Antwerp.
Built at Harland and Wolff, Belfast and completed in 1935, Duke of York was designed to operate as a passenger ferry on the Heysham to Belfast route.
The Duke of York was requisitioned in 1942 for war service. She was renamed HMS Duke of Wellington. The conversions allowed her to carry 250 troops and ten Landing Craft Assault to carry them to shore. For anti-aircraft defence a 12 pounder gun and eight 20 mm cannon were fitted.
She reverted to her original name after the war, and in May 1948 she was transferred to the Harwich to Hook of Holland service, alongside the Arnhem.
Originally a twin funnel vessel, she was rebuilt in 1950 with a single funnel. She was upgraded from coal to oil firing and cabin accommodation for 520 passengers was provided.
On 6 May 1953, she collided in fog with the American freighter USNS Haiti Victory. Six passengers were killed and the bow was completely sheared off just in front of the bridge. Duke of York arrived back at Parkeston Quay shortly before midnight. She was moored to buoys in the river before being taken alongside some eight hours later. Six bodies were recovered, one passenger remained unaccounted for and eight passengers were injured. She was re-built by Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company of Jarrow-on-Tyne with a more modern shaped bow and lengthened by about 7 ft. She re-joined the Harwich fleet in 1954.
A Familiar site for many years the 28 year old steamer left Harwich on Sunday 8th September 1963 for the last time. now named York, of Monrovia, the vessel was sold by British Railways to a Greek firm for Mediterranean cruises. She left Harwich at 6 a.m. for North Shields for conversion work before setting off for her journey into the sun.
She entered service in 1964 as the Fantasia. She was withdrawn in December 1975 and was broken up in 1976 in Spain.
Built for services between Holyhead and Dun Laoghaire, Hibernia was used as a relief ship in 1968 and made two round trips on the Harwich-Hook of Holland day service.
She was sold in 1976 to the Agapitos Brothers in Greece and became the Express Apollon but never traded in Greece. She remained laid-up at Salamina, and was sold to Indian breakers in 1980. She arrived in Darukhana, India in 1980 for scrapping by Ankom Solid Steel Traders, and had been demolished by 1981.
Built in 1960 for the British Transport Commission by Goole Shipbuilding Co Ltd, the Landguard spent almost her entire career on the River Stour form 1960 – 1990 before being broken up at Gillingham in July 1989.
Captain Owen May was on the old dredger, Landguard as a mate, The difference between the two vessels is like that between chalk and cheese, Whereas the old Landguard was not much more than a barge, the new vessel had the comfort of a modern home, with the latest navigational devices.
Chartered by Sealink British Ferries in January 1989 on the Harwich-Hook of Holland route.
Seaboard Universe (1992) – Crowley Universe (1999) – Maestro Universe (2008)
Normannia was built in 1952 by William Denny & Brothers, In 1953 she was called to assist ten round sailings after the Duke of York incident. Sold in June 1978 to Red Sea Ferries, Dubai intended but not proceeded with. Arrived at Gijon, Spain in December 1978 for scrapping.
During 1969 S.N.C.F opened a new ro-ro service from Dunkirk – Parkeston Quay the service was initially thrice-weekly, later becoming five times a week arriving Parkeston Quay 2300 and sailing at 0500.
Peliner (1990) – Destiny (2004) – Yamm (2010).
Broken Up Aliaga 19.11.2014
These two container ships operated the service between Harwich and Zeebrugge and were the first of their type to be built in Britain. The containers slotted into cell spaces in sectioned holds, occupying the whole of the cargo space. Each ship made one round trip per day, both built in south shields they entered service in 1968. After a period of lay up she sailed to Falmouth in 1987 and then on to Naples and China via Colombo. SFL I was scrapped in Kaohsiung in May 1987.
These two container ships operated the service between Harwich and Zeebrugge and were the first of their type to be built in Britain. The containers slotted into cell spaces in sectioned holds, occupying the whole of the cargo space. Each ship made one round trip per day, both built in south shields they entered service in 1968. After a period of lay up she left the River Blackwater on 26th September 1986 for Tilbury and then to Naples and Pakistan loaded with scrap pipe. Arrived at Karachi on 2 January 1987 and was beached for scrapping.
St Edmund was launched on the 14th November 1973 and entered service on the 19th January 1975,the new car ferry service proved to be very successful and by 1970 traffic had reached sufficient levels to warrant the building of a third vessel for the route. The contract for the new and larger ship was given to Cammell Laird at Birkenhead. The new St. Edmund was launched on 13th November 1973 but due to long delay’s she entered service on 19th January 1975. The St. Edmund was a vast improvement on the St. George and boasted accommodation for as many as 1400 day passengers, 1000 night passengers and 300 cars. On her entry into service the new ship took over the main sailings while the St. George was used as back-up at peak periods. In spring 1982 the St. Edmund was requisitioned by the Ministry of Defense for the Falklands war.
St George was launched on the 28th February 1968. She was designed to accommodate 1200 passengers on the revamped day service and 700 on the night sailing, with berths for 550 and reclining seats for another 100. The St. George made her maiden voyage on the night sailing on 17th June 1968.
St.Nicholas made her maiden voyage on 10th June 1983. The new ship boasted two restaurants offering both self-service style and a la carte meals. The St. Nicholas went to Bremerhaven on 7th January 1991 for a refit and emerged as the Stena Normandy. She returned on 21st January 1991 for a brief final spell.
In 1983 she was chartered to Sealink as the St Nicholas, for their Harwich-Hook of Holland service. In 1990, Sealink was acquired by Stena Line Ab. In 1991, St Nicholas was renamed Stena Normandy, in preparation for moving to the Southampton-Cherbourg route later that year. This route closed in 1996. In 1997 she was chartered to Tallink for Tallinn-Helsinki services as the Normandy.
In 1997 she was chartered to Irish Ferries as Normandy for use on their France-Ireland routes. She was purchased by Irish Ferries’ parent company Irish Continental Line in 1999.
On November 5, 2007, the Normandy sailed from Rosslare to Frederica, Denmark, where she was laid up until sold to the Singapore-based oil service company Equinox Offshore Accommodation on 28 January 2008. The new owners planned to rebuild her into an accommodation and repair vessel at SembCorp Marine shipyards, Singapore. However, instead of being rebuilt she was chartered to the Morocco-based Ferrimaroc in March 2008, entering service on the Almeira—Nador route in April 2008. She finally left the Mediterranean in the autumn of 2008 and arrived in Singapore on 19 October for her planned conversion.
The planned conversion of M/S Normandy never happened, and the ship was abandoned by her last owners at a berth in Singapore. After this the condition of the ship declined rapidly with broken windows allowing flooding, mold and plants to take over the interior of the ship.
On 31 October 2012, M/S Normandy left Singapore for India and was scrapped shortly after.
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