British Transport Commission (BTC)FerriesPast and PresentSouthern Railway

TS Isle of Guernsey – Past and Present

Ts Isle of Guernsey

ex HMS Isle of Guernsey, Hospital Carrier No 26, Isle of Guernsey

Steel twin screw turbine vessel, built in 1930 by Wm Denny & Bros, Dumbarton, (Yard No 1233), for Southern Railways as a passenger and cargo vessel

Technical Data

  • Length: 92.78¬†m (on deck) m (between perpendiculars)
  • Breadth: 12.83¬†m
  • Depth: 4.24¬†m
  • Draught:¬†3.84 m
  • Tonnage:¬†2,143 (1930),2,152 (1947),2,188 (1956),2,189(1956) gross / 862 (1930),834 (1947),845(1956),846(1956) net/
  • Engines:¬†2 x Parsons geared turbines
  • Power: kW/5400 iHP
  • Speed:¬† 19.5 knots
  • Capacity:¬†1,400 passengers
  • Call Sign: GQYJ
  • ID Number: 74263 (LR 1930 -1931)
  • Official Number: 161686
  • Port of Registry:¬†Southampton
  • Sister-Ships: Isle of Jersey, Isle of Sark


December 17th 1929: Launched

February 24th 1929: Sea trials speed reached 19.59 knots.

Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection

March 6th 1930: Delivered to Southern Railways as the Isle of Guernsey.

Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection

April 5th 1930: Maiden voyage to the Channel Islands, then being introduced on the Southampton – Channel Islands route.

Roy Thornton Collection  Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection (all)

When she entered service all her ventilator were painted brown, but in early 1934 these were repainted white and the superstructure given an extra strake of white.

Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection

1937: Improvements, including extra seating and deck awnings were made.

September 4th 1939: After the outbreak of war (September 3rd 1939 11.00 hrs) left Southampton carrying RAF personnel and equipment to France.

September 6th 1939: Returned to Southampton and resumed normal service to the Channel Islands

September 22nd 1939: Last trip from the Channel Islands.

September 23rd 1939: Taken up for military duty and converted to HOSPITAL CARRIER No 26.

October 6th 1939: Sailed to Dieppe to await casualties.

October 19th 1939: First crossing to the main hospital base at Newhaven.

November 29th 1939 – December 21st 1939: Completed only one other sailing on that route.

March 25th 1940: Stand-by duties at Cherbourg.

April 1940: Stand-by duties (2 occasions at Dieppe).

May 19th 1940: Stand-by duties at Boulogne then completed return crossings between Southampton – Cherbourg, before being despatched for service across the Strait of Dover.

May 26th 1940: Embarked evacuees (346 stretcher cases) at Dunkirk.

May 27th 1940: Arrived at Newhaven.

May 29th 1940: Left Dover for Dunkirk. “…Off Calais observed a British airman dropping by parachute close ahead. The ship was stopped, a seaman went down a rope ladder, assisted the airman aboard, whereupon 10 aircraft attacked the ship with bombs and machine guns. The seaman (Able Seaman Fowles), injured, fell into the water, but was subsequently picked up by another vessel.”.

May 30th 1940: Entered Dunkirk, in spite of constant air raids, embarked 490 patients before sailing to disembark her wounded and undergo repairs at Newhaven. The ship’s Master Captain E.L. Hill was awarded the D.S.C., as was the Chief Engineer, Mr D Robb. A.b. John Fowles received the D.S.M. and Mr R.F. Pembury, the Chief Officer, was Mentioned in Despatches. This was the largest number of awards to be received by any hospital ship.

June 1st 1940: Left Newhaven and, over the following two months, was at Weymouth Bay, Southampton, Falmouth and Milford Haven.

August 1940: The Admiralty decided to use the vessel as a Fleet Air Arm/R.A.F. Target Ship.

August 7th 1940: Arrived off Barry Island to be taken in hand at Penarth.

October 21st 1940: Commissioned as HMS ISLE OF GUERNSEY.

November 1st 1940: Left Penarth to take up her target duties at Lamlash, Arran.

April 1941: Moved to Campbeltown.

July 1941: Returned to Lamlash, the Firth of Clyde are continuing to be her base.

1943 (Early): Became a radar training ship

September 1943: Allocated for conversion to a Red Ensign Landing Ship, Infantry (Hand Hoisting).

September 27th 1943: Paid off.

September 29th 1943: Arrived in Leith for fitting out work.

January 2nd 1944: Fitting out completed.

Roy Thornton Collection

Dover Ferry Photos Library (February 1944)

February 6th 1944: In preparation for Operation Neptune, sailed out of the Firth of Forth for the English South Coast.

June 5th 1944: Left the Solent as part of Assault Convoy J10.

June 6th 1944: Her six landing craft put troops ashore at Juno beach-head, after which the vessel crossed to the Solent, then moved along the coast to embark 800 troops at Newhaven.

October 1944: She sailed between Southampton and Ostend before being moved to Newhaven.

November 1st 1944: First of seven return crossings that month to Dieppe.

Roy Thornton Collection  Dover Ferry Photos Library

Roy Thornton Collection (Left) and Dover Ferry Photos Library (Right)

January 15th, 1945 РMarch 23rd 1945: Still in camouflage livery, she re-opened the Newhaven  РDieppe service, the first cross-Channel service since 1940. She crossed three times a week in each direction.

March 31st 1945 – April 20th 1945: Reverted to government charter for three weeks to cover the Newhaven – Calais forces leave service

Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection

June 25th 1945: It also fell to the ship to re-open the service to the Channel Islands where she arrived proudly flying both the Southern Region and Great Western region house flags. At this time she had an all-grey hull but the funnels had been repainted yellow and black. She made only five trips on the service before returning to Newhaven.

June 25th/26th 1945: Left Newhaven for Southampton.

October 30th 1945: Grounded for nine hours in Dieppe Harbour

July 1946 – April 23rd 1947: Underwent a major refit (hull damage repair), ran trials.

April 26th 1947: Returned to the Channel Islands.

January 1st 1948: Registered to British Transport Commission, Southern Region.

July 30th 1953: The ship sailed from the islands covering for the ST JULIEN.

1956 (Early): Improvements were made to the third-class accommodation and the buffet area, with more seats being installed.

Roy Thornton Collection  © William Macdonald

Roy Thornton Collection (Left) 🆕¬†¬© William Macdonald (Right)

1956 РMay 13th 1961: Remained Southampton РChannel Islands service with the occasional trip to Le Havre when she ended the passenger service from Southampton. She then went to Weymouth to take the duties of third (relief) ship pending the arrival of the SARNIA. Apart from the weekend sailings, she made two excursions to Guernsey, one from Weymouth on June 5th and the other from Torquay on June 7th.

Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection

June 10th 1961: Made her last sailing direct from Jersey to Weymouth – Southampton.

June 16th 1961: Last complete sailing and then she was laid-up in Southampton.

November 20th 1961: Sold for scrap later and arriving at Van Heyghen Freres, Ghent for breaking.

All information is believed to be correct and no responsibility is accepted for any errors or omissions. We would like to take this opportunity of thanking: William Macdonald for his assistance in producing this feature. All items included in this article are subject to © copyright.

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


  1. Thank you for all of this information. My grandad served on her during WW2. When I was a little girl he took me on board to give me a tour. I can still smell that unique aroma all old vessels have. She is featured in the World at War series picking up the troops at the beaches. Many thanks for rekindling my memories of her and my grandfather.

  2. Nigel –I have a faithful model of the isle of Guernsey and would like very much to be able to print out your valued history .please confirm how to do so and the cost .Many thanks ,Michael Dawe

    1. Michael,

      Thanks for the contact.
      I’m afraid there is no facility to print articles.
      If you monitor your email (all boxes in/trash/spam) and I will endeavour to contact you direct.

      Nigel T

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