Past and PresentPort of Dover

DHB Lady Brassey – Past and Present

ID Number: 114909

DHB Lady Brassey

ex HMS Lady Brassey, Lady Brassey

© Alex Duncan, Roy Thornton Collection

Lady Brassey –  © Alex Duncan, Roy Thornton Collection

Steam twin screw salvage steamer built by J P Rennoldson & Co, South Shields (Yard No 285) in 1913 for Dover Harbour Board. 

Technical Data

  • Length: 39.62m (130.1 ft)
  • Breadth of hull: 8.56m (28.1 ft)
  • Depth: 4.21m (13.8 ft)
  • Tonnage: 362 gross/348 net/148 deadweight
  • Engines: 2 x 2-cylinder J P Rennoldson comp
  • Power: 235 nhp
  • Winches: 5BH
  • Speed: 12 knots
  • Code/Call Sign: GQWY
  • ID Number: 114909
  • Registry: Dover
  • Sister-ships: LADY CRUNDALL

Selected History

July 24th 1913: Delayed from June, launched.

October 1913: Completed and delivered to Dover Harbour Board.

October 30th 1913: Arrived in Dover.

“The Lady Brassey has been built in almost, every respect to the same model as the Lady Crundall, which shows that although the latter vessel has now been in service some years, there was no need to make any serious alterations to the design of the new boat, whilst, moreover, new tug has been completed without a single extra being required. The chief outward difference between the two is that the Lady Brassey is fitted with an after mast in order that wireless may be rigged. This difference will, however, soon be equalised, as a new steel aft mast was brought Dover in the new tug that will fitted in the Lady Crundall, so that it, too may have wireless telegraphy. The engines of the Lady Brassey are some 1,600 h.p., rather more powerful than its sister ship. The salvage pumps are under the engine hatch instead of being on deck and they provide not only for suction from another ship, but also from the engine room, and also for pumping into a ship on fire. The crew’s quarters are aft and forward is a deck cabin and a saloon for liner passengers’ accommodation. On the upper deck are four of the new life-saving apparatus designed by Captain Iron (the Harbour Master) to comply with the Board of Trade regulations. There are two new fittings here. The steam whistle is actuated a lever by the steering wheel instead of a cord, and there is no safety valve over the deck to deluge the passengers with water. The side lights have been placed in a revolving carrier so that, when the tug goes alongside a vessel, they can be swung inboard and the lamps saved from being damaged. Otherwise, there are really no differences to be noted from the sister ship. Both vessels are fitted with German system of wireless telegraphy, which occupies less space than some of the other systems. There will be three wireless operators, who have a berth off the saloon, the apparatus standing on the saloon table when in use. The new tug came into dock last night, and will remain in over Sunday.”.    (Dover Express – Friday 31st October 1913)

Courtesy of Mike Jackson Courtesy of Mike Jackson Courtesy of Mike Jackson

Lady Brassey – Courtesy of Mike Jackson

February 7th 1916: Assisted PEEL CASTLE when a fire broke out in the steward’s storeroom.

February 27th 1916: Went to assistance of S.S. MALOJA which had struck a mine two nautical miles off Dover. Eventually sank, 132 dead.



August 29th 1917: Went to assistance of barque CUPICA, anchored near buoy 13 and, wanting tow clearance of mines.



September 16th 1918: Assisted HMS GLATTON.

February 2nd 1920: Assisted in refloating the S.S. BERRIMA.



1934: Accompanied H. E. Temme as he swam the Channel, South Foreland to Cap Blanc Nez.

December 20th 1939: Commissioned as HMS LADY BRASSEY operating as a “Rescue Tug”

Courtesy of Andy Gilbert

Lady Brassey – Courtesy of Andy Gilbert

March 4th 1940: Went to assistance of tanker CHARLES T. MEYER which had stuck a floating mine.

April 16th 1940: Panamanian steamer ALBA ran aground on the Goodwins, 3½ miles 55° from Deal Coast Guard Station. Tug LADY BRASSEY and salvage vessel DAPPER sailed from Dover to assist. After jettisoning cargo and the efforts of seven tugs, she was finally refloated at 1830/17th, brought to the Downs and anchored.

May 28th 1940: Went to the assistance of the Examination Vessel OCEAN REWARD which had been reported in collision with a Hospital Ship off the Southern Breakwater.

June 1st 1940: Assisted PRAGUE (London and North Eastern Railway passenger ship) to be beached off Deal.

June 24th 1944: Assisted EMPIRE LOUGH, collier, which had been intercepted by German E-boats in the English Channel and set on fire. Beached near Folkestone but a total loss.

June 28th 1944: Together with tug LADY DUNCANNON went to assist DALEGARTH FORCE


1 & 2


3 & 4

Extracts from: Admiralty Salvage in Peace and War 1906 – 2006: Grope, Grub and Tremble (by Tony Booth)

Extract “London Gazette” 19/09/1944

January 31st 1946: Together with tug PERSIA made unsuccessful attempt to tow S.S. LURAY VICTORY off the Goodwin Sands.

June 29th 1946: Returned to the Dover Harbour Board.

Roy Thornton CollectionRoy Thornton Collection

Lady Brassey – Roy Thornton Collection

February 24th 1951: During a gale collided with Belgian Marine Administration’s PRINCE PHILIPPE II. The Belgian ship being flung against the tug while the latter was berthed against the Prince of Wales Pier.

Courtesy of  Dover

Lady Brassey – Courtesy of Dover

1957-1958: She and her smaller ‘workmate’ LADY DUNCANNON were replaced by two twin screw diesel-engined tugs DILIGENT and DOMINANT

© P Ransome-Wallis

Lady Brassey – 🆕Courtesy of Derrick Packman (© P Ransome-Wallis)

November 1958: Towed to Rotterdam

Courtesy of John Hendy

Lady Brassey – Courtesy of John Hendy

Coventry Evening Telegraph

Coventry Evening Telegraph (28/11/1058)

November 28th 1958: Broken up by NV Machinehandel & Scheepssloperij, Nieuw Lekkerkerk.

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: Dover Express Archives, Andy Gilbert, Mike Jackson, Derrick Packman and Nigel Scutt for their assistance in producing this feature.

Special thanks go to John Hendy

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


  1. According to my father, she used to run trips out to sea now and again with a few passengers to open the bar and sell drinks duty free.

  2. When searching family history (George William Blackmore), I came across a ‘mentioned in despatches’ whilst he was serving on the lady Brassey. The citation was published in May 1941 – ‘for good services when an enemy aircraft was destroyed’; do you have any further information about this incident?

      1. Thank you – worth a try!
        Thank you for the information that you published above – really interesting and useful.

      2. Dear Nigel,
        You may have seen from the messages, below, that we may have made some interesting connections!
        Is there a way for you to allow access to my email address for Richard Marsh, so that we can go into a little more detail?
        Thank you!

    1. Hi Jane
      George William Blackmore was my Granddad. I have the original “mentioned in dispatches” letter from the war office; in fact I was just looking at it last weekend, when tidying up some papers. I also have a letter of congratulation from Dover Harbour Board. What’s even more exciting, is I have a set of binoculars from 1919, presented to Granddad by the US President, for the part he played in rescuing the crew of USS Piave when it sunk on the Goodwin Sands.

      1. My goodness; that’s brilliant! What a treasure trove of artefacts; it is lovely to find that these things survive and that the stories are kept alive.
        I came to this forum whilst looking through Armed Forces Records but with little information beyond names and birth dates.
        So, I’m not sure whether we are related to the same parts of the Blackmore family or not, I’m afraid – George and William seem to have been popular Blackmore names at that time!
        I’ll message the forum administrator and see if there is a way for me to pass my mail address on to you, so that we can exchange a bit more information, if you are happy to do so?
        Basically, the bit of my family tracks back: Geoffrey Frank Blackmore (b. 1930), Frank Blackmore (b. 1905) (his brother was a George William (b. 1896)), George Blackmore (b. 1862), Stephen Blackmore (b.1831). I don’t think my great uncle (George William) had any children, although I may be very wrong, but I wonder if we track back via Stephen Blackmore’s other son, William (b. 1865) and his son Albert (b.1897) – it would be intriguing to know a little more!!
        Many thanks for your message – the jigsaw puzzle of tracing family history is fascinating!

  3. My father was in the crew in1918, aged 18, he was a WTO(?). Didn’t see much action but was in attendance at one of the Zeebrugge raids.

  4. Reference the DHB tug “Lady Brassey”. You show her as being taken out of service 1957/8 – this may well be correct in respect service as a tug. However, she was still in use on 8th May 1964 as a passenger tender because I was aboard her in Dover Harbour when joining the Port Line’s tsmv “Port Phillip” as replacement Third Mate, en route for a continental voyage to Norway, Sweden and Germany.

    Captain James Martin

    1. Captain Martin,

      Thank you for commenting.

      I find what you say very interesting as all information provided to me states that “The Brassey” no longer existed during the year you specify.

      I will try and contact you direct and ask that you monitor both email in boxes and spam over the next few days

      Nigel Thornton

  5. My Grandfather, William John Pearce, was one of the Masters of the Lady Brassey from its purchase by DHB in 1913 until his death in 1941, I say one of the Masters since there were three interchangeable crews serving the Lady Duncannon and the Lady Brassey. My family have always understood he was the “principal Master” on the Lady Brassey. Whilst there is quite a bit of information about the exploits of the Lady Bassey only occasionally is it possible to know who was on board at the time. I have receipts of the salvage payments made by the DHB to my Grandmother after his death but this only covers the period January to July 1940 and they only relate to commercial rescues. The Naval duties are less clear. I do have a letter from the Admiralty dated April 1941 which states between September 1939 and February 1941 the tugs gave assistance to 120 ships – it lists some of the H.M.Ships.
    I am particularly interested to know what part my grandfather played in the evacuation of Dunkirk. I know the Lady Brassey was involved.
    Do the ships logs for this period exist? Or is there any other way of knowing who was on board on a particular day?
    Your help would be much appreciated

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