© National Railway Museum/Science & Society Picture LibraryTS St Helier – Past and Present

TS St Helier

ex HMS St Helier, St Helier

© National Railway Museum/Science & Society Picture Library

© National Railway Museum/Science & Society Picture Library

Steel twin screw turbine vessel, built in 1925 by John Brown & Company Ltd., Clydebank (Yard No. 510), for the Great Western Railway (British Railways).

Technical Data

  • Length: 88.71 m (overall) 86.015m (between perpendiculars)
  • Breadth: 12.19 m
  • Depth: 4.97 m
  • Draught: 3.96 m
  • Tonnage: 1885 – 1952 – 1949 gross/789 – 810 net/ deadweight
  • Engines: 4 x SRG steam turbines
  • Power: kW/5,838 S.H.P
  • Speed: 18 knots
  • Capacity: 1,000 passengers
  • Call Sign: GLBT
  • ID Number: 73703 (LR 1948 – 49)
  • Official Number: 148612
  • Port of Registry: Weymouth/United Kingdom
  • Sister-Ship: St Julien


March 26th 1925: Launched.

June 1925: Completed and delivered to Great Western Railway for their Weymouth – Channel Islands service.

June 17th 1925: Arrived at the Channel Islands on her maiden voyage.

© National Railway Museum/Science & Society Picture Library  © National Railway Museum/Science & Society Picture Library

© National Railway Museum/Science & Society Picture Library (With REINDEER) (Left)

April 10th 1926 (March 10th 1926)(?????): Rammed the pier heads at Jersey and was off service for repairs.

© National Railway Museum/Science & Society Picture Library

© National Railway Museum/Science & Society Picture Library

May (early): Resumed service.

April 11th 1928: Arrived back in the Channel Islands after refit and at the suggestion of the masters in an effort to improve handling the aft funnel was removed. Also had accommodation improvements and had her high aft docking bridge removed.

© National Railway Museum/Science & Society Picture Library

© National Railway Museum/Science & Society Picture Library

1937: Again returned to service after refit with further improvements to the accommodation, four and a half foot cut from the top of her remaining funnel and with an added cowl. The first-class saloon being extended to the full width of the ships and the large windows in this area being replaced by fewer smaller ones.

© National Railway Museum/Science & Society Picture Library

© National Railway Museum/Science & Society Picture Library

September 16th 1939: After arriving from Jersey and Guernsey, laid up following the closure of the service.

September 26th 1939: Left to replace the requisitioned ST ANDREW on the Fish guard – Rosslare route. Was, herself, requisitioned for troopship duty from Southampton.

November 24th 1939: First sailing to Cherbourg.

November 30th 1939: Whilst at anchor at Spithead struck and damaged by the “Brand New” destroyer HMS KELVIN.

© Imperial War Museum

© Imperial War Museum

May 22nd 1940: During “Operation Dynamo” 1,500 British and French troops evacuated.

May 23rd 1940: Further trip, aborted.

May 27th 1940: Further trip, but ordered back.

May 30th 1940 (16.05 hrs): Embarked 1,200 French servicemen. A couple of miles west of Dunkirk she rammed HM Minesweeper SHARPSHOOTER which came across her path. At the other vessels request ST HELIER was kept going slow ahead for some 40 mins until the tug FOREMOST 22 could take SHARPSHOOTER in tow, whereupon the ST HELIER withdrew her bow from the gash in the minesweepers side.

© Imperial War Museum  © Derek Longly

© Imperial War Museum (Left) and © Derek Longly (Right)

May 30th 1940 (23.12 hrs): In collision with Isle of Wight paddle steamer PRINCESS HELENA, outward bound from Dover to Dunkirk. Followed by an encounter with a submerged wreck she completed an incident packed crossing arriving in Folkestone May 31st 1940.

May 31st 1940: Left Folkestone for Dunkirk, off the French Coast attacked by aircraft, which dropped four bombs ahead of her and nine on her port bow 20 yds away; nevertheless she was able to embark 1,250 troops.

June 1st 1940: Reached Dover.

June 1st 1940: Headed for Dunkirk on her penultimate crossing: she entered harbour, and during a seven hour stay, suffered damage and casualties from shore battery fire.

June 2nd 1940: Able to get to Dover and landed not only her 1,334 troops but also three more crew members.

June 2nd 1940: A final crossing to Dunkirk saw her embark 1,227 British troops.

June 3rd 1940: Alongside at Folkestone.

June 4th 1940: Left Folkestone for repairs at Southampton.

June 11th 1940: During “Operation Cycle and Aerial” (The evacuations from NW France) Left Southampton to rescue stranded troops from St Valery-en-Caux but, on finding no naval vessel in the vicinity the following morning. Turned back.

June 12th 1940: Reached Southampton.

June 13th 1940: Left Southampton again repatriating 600 French troops to St Malo.

June 15th 1940: Brought back 800 troops and French passengers. The ship was ordered to St Malo again and embarked 2,043 British troops.

June 17th 1940: Arrived in Southampton.

June 18th 1940: Under way once more in the direction of Plymouth and the Atlantic coast of France.

June 20th 1940: Off La Pallice but, as there were no troops to embark and she was under air attack, she set sail for a return to England. On the way she evaded a U-boat and a severe electrical storm which burnt out her degaussing (“Degaussing” is a process in which systems of electrical cables are installed around the circumference of ship’s hull, running from bow to stern on both sides. A measured electrical current is passed through these cables to cancel out the ship’s magnetic field. It could be said that degaussing, correctly done, makes a ship “invisible” to the sensors of magnetic mines, but the ship remains visible to the human eye, radar, and underwater listening devices.) cable and rendered the ships compass useless.

June 21st 1940: Eventually arrived in Plymouth Sound.

June 25th 1940: Moved to Liverpool.

June 28th / July 9th 1940: Sailed from Liverpool , on the second occasion carrying 1,500 detainess to the Isle of Man. Thereafter she was directed to the Clyde.

October 1940: Directed to Penarth for refit and whilst there was taken over for Combined Operations duty.

November 7th 1940: Commissioned as HMS ST HELIER.

November 15th 1940: Arrived at Milford Haven with troops on training exercises.

December 8th 1940: Sailed to the Clyde to be a tender at Inveraray.

© National Railway Museum/Science & Society Picture Library

© National Railway Museum/Science & Society Picture Library

February 9th 1941: Took over as Combined Operations Base and Accommodation Ship at Dartmouth, at the start of a 13-month period at moorings in the River Dart.

September 4th 1942: Under “Operation Neptune, The Landings in Normandy” Arrived at Inverary after her conversion on the Clyde to a Landing Ship Infantry (Hand-hoisting) and remained in the area for most of the subsequent 16 months.


© Imperial War Museum (January 13th 1943 @ Greenock)

October 13th 1943 : Sustained damage on entering dry-dock at Troon.

January 1944 (mid): Sustained damage on leaving Preston.

February 1st 1944: Final departure from the Clyde for the English South Coast.

June 5th 1944: Left the Solent as part of Assault Convoy J10 to land her troops at Juno beach-head the following morning.

November 1st 1945: Made crossings between Newhaven and Dieppe.

January 29th 1945: Arrived at Tilbury to operate on the Ostend forces duty service.

February 5th 1945: Went aground on the Nore Sands.

February 24th 1945: Involved in a collision with the tug TID 90.

May 4th 1945: Left the Thames Estuary for Plymouth.

May 11th 1945: Sailed to Guernsey as part of Group I on Operation Nestegg (The Liberation of the Channel Islands) anchoring off the St Peters Port Castle breakwater.

May 16th 1945: Crossed to Jersey from the Solent with reinforcements.

May 22nd 1945: Returned to Tilbury to resume Ostend trooping.

July 16th 1945: An error on the part of the cargo vessel LIGHTFOOT resulted in ST HELIER being extensively damaged on her port aft side. With the port tunnel flooded, her engines virtually unusable and in tow of the tugs STOKE and PERSIA, she reached Gravesend en-route to Blackwall.

August 14th 1945: During repairs she was paid off.

November 15th 1945: Reached Harwich .

November 18th 1945: Started Red Ensign trooping to Hook of Holland.

March 15th 1946: On completion of her final crossing berthed at Harwich and was sent to Newport for refit and conversion back to a mail-boat.

June 13th 1946: Arrived back at Weymouth.

© National Railway Museum/Science & Society Picture Library

© National Railway Museum/Science & Society Picture Library

June 16th 1946: Arrived for the first time since conversion in the Channel Islands, with a red funnel which had a thin black top-band, while the hull as in pre-war days was all black. A thick black top-band was added later to the funnel and, at the same time the forecastle had half a strake painted white.

January 1st 1948: Transferred to the Western Region fleet.

May 31st 1948: When she returned to service her funnel was yellow and the hull had an extra strake of white.

© National Railway Museum/Science & Society Picture Library

© National Railway Museum/Science & Society Picture Library

November 1st 1948: Transferred from the Western Region to Southern Region (BTC)

December 20th 1958: Operated from Jersey – St Malo, when NORMANNIA had been unable to make the trip.

1959: The ship lost half a strake of her white paint.

© National Railway Museum/Science & Society Picture Library  © National Railway Museum/Science & Society Picture Library

© National Railway Museum/Science & Society Picture Library

September 12th 1960: Sailed her last mail service from the Channel Islands.

September 14th 1960: Last duty was an excursion from Torquay – Guernsey.

December 19th 1960: Having been sold to Belgian ship-breakers, the ship arrived at Antwerp in the tow of tug SCHOUWENBANK.

December 29th 1960: Broken up.

All information is believed to be correct and no responsibility is accepted for any errors or omissions. All items included in this article are subject to © copyright. We would like to take this opportunity of thanking: Derek Longly and the National Railway Museum/Science & Society Picture Library for their assistance in producing this feature.

Article © Nigel Thornton and Ray Goodfellow (Dover Ferry Photos Group)

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