FerriesPast and PresentRegie voor Maritiem Transport (RMT)

MV Prince Philippe (I) – Past and Present

ID Number: 5614116

MV Prince Philippe (I)

ex HMS Prince Philippe, Prince Philippe (I)

© Nationaal Scheepvaartmuseum

© Nationaal Scheepvaartmuseum (70-48-23)

Steel twin screw motor vessel, built and engined by Cockerill’s of Hoboken in 1939 (Yard No. 687) for the Belgian Marine Administration’s Ostend service. 

Technical Data

  • Length on deck: 113.60m (370.7 ft)(overall)/108.81m (357.0 ft) (between perpendiculars)
  • Breadth of hull: 14.95m (49.9 ft)(extreme)
  • Depth: 6.52m (21.4 ft) (to shelter deck), 7.59m (24.9 ft)(moulded)
  • Draught: 3.81 (12.75 ft)(maximum)
  • Tonnage: 2,938 gross/1,884 net
  • Engines: Two 12-cylinder Cockerill/Sulzer single acting two-stroke diesels
  • Power: 8,500 hp
  • Speed: 24 knots
  • Capacity: 1,829 passengers
  • ID Number: 5614116
  • Registry: Ostend/Belgium 🇧🇪
  • Sister ships: Prins Albert II (651), Prince Baudouin II (650)


The third of a trio of motor ships which was destined to become the shortest-lived of all the Ostend ships. The three were distinguished by forward mast markings: Triangular (3) (starboard side) PRINCE BAUDOUIN (II), Vertical (2)(starboard side) PRINCE ALBERT (II) and one (Starboard side) PRINCE PHILIPPE (I).

September 29th 1939: Launched and then fitted out, but never entered commercial service.

Prince Philippe (I) – Courtesy of Frederik Janssens

May 10th 1940: The German Lufwaffe attacked. Although the ship’s engines were in place, her screws were on the quayside adjacent to the dry-dock in which the ship was sitting. Orders then came from Brussels to sail her to Ostend and worked progressed at speed to make her ready for sea. Only one engine was operational.

May 17th 1940: Finally left Antwerp in company of 26 other ships on Whit Sunday. On reaching Vlissingen at noon, the convoy was attacked by more German aircraft but the PRINCE PHILLIPE sailed on to Ostend where she arrived three hours later. That same evening three bombs were dropped on Ostend Quay, one of them landing on the roof of the new car ferry station, alongside which she had been moored.

May 17th 1940: Sailed from Ostend to Southampton, dropping some 30 refugees by tender off at Folkestone- the only passengers ever to cross the Channel on her.

June 2nd 1940: Arrived at Southampton where work continued on the ship’s second engine and once completed, in the company of the five Belgian mail-boats, she took part in the evacuation of British and French troops from St Malo.

July 1940: Taken over for service as a Torpedo Target vessel, but this plan never materialised.

October 1940: Approval given to use her got Combined Operation work and conversion was to be completed at Southampton.

National Maritime Museum N15739

National Maritime Museum N15739

December 1940: Decision to complete conversion at Devonport, again never materialised.

December 22nd 1940: Left Southampton for Penarth.

December 23rd 1940: Arrived at Penarth.

June 14th 1941: Commissioned as HMS PRINCE PHILIPPE.

June 19th 1941: Left Barry Roads for Dartmouth and the Solent.

June 23rd 1941: Near the Needles attacked by two aircraft. Although damage was caused to her water tanks and landing craft she managed to evade the bombing raid.
She then sailed to Inveraray in Loch Foyne to the Combine Operations base.

June 30th 1941: At Tobermory then headed south.

July 14th 1941: Left the Mersey to calibrate her direction finding equipment, but in the approaches to the Firth of Clyde NE of Larne, she was in collision in thick fog with the British ship EMPIRE WAVE.

July 15th 1941: Taken in tow but sank some 6 hours later. Only 29 of her crew were picked 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.

Special thanks to Frederik Janssens

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

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