British Transport Commission (BTC)Past and PresentSouthern RailwayViking Line

TS Brittany – Past and Present

TS Alandsfarjan

ex Brittany, HMS Brittany, Brittany

© Skyphotos

© Skyphotos, Roy Thornton Collection

Steel twin screw steam turbine vessel built in 1933 by William Denny & Bros Ltd, Dumbarton, (Yard No 1261) as a passenger and cargo vessel for Southern Railways Co, London, England

Technical Data

  • Length: 76.14 m(249.8 ft) (overall) m (between perpendiculars)
  • Breadth: 11.92 m (39.1 ft)
  • Depth: 4.27 m (14.0 ft)
  • Draught: m
  • Tonnage: 1445 – 1542 – 1482 gross/554 -551 net/325 deadweight
  • Engines: Four Parsons single reduction geared turbines
  • Power: kW/2500 sHP
  • Speed: 15.8 knots
  • Capacity: 850 passengers/ 800 passengers 40 cars
  • Call Sign: MBDQ
  • LR Reg Number (1944-45)/IMO Number: 71046/5400322
  • Official Number: 163616
  • Port of Registry: Southampton/UK, Mariehamn/Finland


October 21st 1932: Ordered

December 23rd 1932: Keel laid.

June 2nd 1933: During sea trials reached a speed of 17.66 knots.

June 9th 1933: Delivered to Southern Railways Co, London.

June 18th 1933: Commenced service between Southampton – Guernsey – Jersey in the summer season and laid up in Boulogne, during the winter. Also operated excursions to Guernsey, Sark, Alderney, Granville and Cherbourg.

 Roy Thornton Collection   Roy Thornton Collection

July 16th 1935: At Spithead to celebrate King George V Silver Wedding.

May 20th 1937: At Spithead to celebrate crowning of George VI.

December 26th 1939: Painted grey while on stop-over at St Malo.

January 22nd 1940: Sent from Southampton to Folkestone to make return crossing to Calais most days until April 20th.

March 1st 1939- March 3rd 1939: Assisted in the evacuation of residents from the Channel Islands

May 29th 1940: At Southampton requisitioned and despatched to Cherbourg where she embarked for Weymouth 400 French naval personnel, as well as 200 French and Belgian refugees

June 2nd 1940: Left Weymouth for Brest with 776 French servicemen, then returned to Weymouth to make three crossings to Cherbourg, carrying French troops who were being repatriated after escaping from Dunkirk.

June 12th 1940: From Le Havre 780 British troops for Cherbourg.

June 15th 1940: Allocated to bring to the mainland some of those who wished to leave Jersey and Guernsey. She made one round trip to Weymouth and two to Southampton.

June 24th 1940: Laid up in Southampton

September 14th 1940: Requisitioned by the Royal Navy as an auxiliary net layer.

December 23rd 1940: Fitted out in Southampton and commissioned as HMS BRITTANY.

January 24th 1941: Left Southampton for Portsmouth, then continued to Rosyth, on the way being attacked by two aircraft off North Foreland. Four bombs exploded near her port side and machine gun fire swept her upper deck, but during the skirmish she shot down one of her attackers with a starboard Hotchkiss gun.

February 26th 1941: Left Rosyth via Scapa to lay nets at the entrance to Skaale Fjord in the Faeroes.

March 27th 1941: Arrived at Methil and was holed above the water-line in collision with the jetty, needing the services of two tugs to return her to Rosyth.

April 6th 1941: Left the Forth to lay submarine nets at the entrance to Sullom Voe in Shetland.

July 21st 1941: Commenced laying bottom nets at Hoy, the Orkney island to the west of Scapa Flow.

April 18th 1942: Having been allocated to work in the Indian Ocean, left the Clyde for Cape Town.

August 1st 1942: Reached Mauritius to establish boom defences there.

September 10th 1942: Started laying nets in Madagascan waters, in which the lack of them had earlier allowed a Japanese midget submarine to hit the tanker BRITISH LOYALTY and HM battleship RAMILLIES.


December 1942: After re-loading nets at Kilindini, Kenya spent the second half of the month carrying out further work at Diego Suarez in Madagascar.

January 1943: At Addu Atoll, a secret base in the Maldives, engaged in salving old nets and laying new ones, to close the two northern entrances: having done this she reached Kilindini to land 169 salved boom defence buoys, as well as 225 cases of empty beer bottles from the service contingent in the Seychelles.

February 22nd 1943: Arrived at cyclone hit Tamatave, Madagascar carrying cement, iron sheeting and nails after taking on board carpenters and more repair materials at Diego Suarez.

March 7th 1943: Delayed arrived at Kilindini owing to engine defect.

March 29th 1943: Arrived at Bombay, via the Seychelles, for refit and fitting of Asdic (an early form of sonar used to detect submarines)

June 16th 1943: Remained at Bombay before leaving for the Red Sea.

June 27th 1943: Arrived at Port Said and loaded with torpedo nets for eventual use in captured ports.

July 5th 1943: Acting as a rescue ship she left Port Said for the Operation Husky landings in Sicily.

July 23rd 1943: Sailed to Syracuse with the Senior Naval Landing Officer G and then carried him and his staff to Malta.

August 6th 1943: Arrived Malta, prior to landing the main Salerno port party early the following month.

September (end) 1943: Had aboard a Royal Marines battalion at short notice to proceed to the Corfu area.

February 14th 1943: Directed from Naples to Beirut to assist the move to Malta of equipment used by the First Submarine Flotilla.

March 28th 1943: Back at Haifa, in the eastern Mediterranean.

April (mid) 1943: Left for the UK.

May 5th 1943: Arrived at Southampton.

May 31st 1943: (Operation Neptune/the landings in Normandy) Departed Southampton to take up her anchorage position in the Solent.

June 6th 1943: Crossed to Normandy as part of the “Mooring Force“.

June 7th 1943: Laid out a 13-buoy trot for “Bombardon” floating breakwaters and then the initial Liberty ship moorings.

June 1943: At work in the Mulberry harbour at Arromanches.

July 1943: Laid new nets off the Normandy coast.

July 31st 1943: Having been selected to to play her part in the U-boat war, she was to lay six miles of net, without moorings, to foul U-boats after they had been tracked. She left Plymouth for a location 17 miles from Trevose Head in North Cornwall but the operation was called off.

February 22nd 1945: Left Lerwick to lay four miles of wire attached to floats, in an endeavour to slice off the snorkel masts of U-boats operating to the west of Shetland.

May 6th and 19th 1945: Further lengths of wire laid.

April 11th 1945: Proceeded to a point 120 miles west of Shetland to start laying no less than 52 miles of anti-snorkel obstruction.

June 1945: Transferred to the East Indies Fleet in the continuing war against Japan and, in readiness for this, she was just to completing her refit in Alloa, on the Forth, when the Japanese surrendered (August 14th 1945).

October 17th 1945: Paid off and returned to Southern Railways and refitted at Harland & Wolff in Southampton.

June 4th 1946: Commenced service between Jersey – St Malo.

March 10th 1947: Took up service between Southampton – Le Havre

August 28th 1947: Struck a rock off Gorey on the east coast of Jersey during a cruise round the island and was off service for six weeks.

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

Roy Thornton Collection  Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection

November 1950: Lost her rudder and had to be towed back to Southampton.

March 1951: Returned to service after repairs.

© William Macdonald

🆕© William Macdonald

June 10th 1951: Hit a quay wall casing her bow to be flattened, giving the ship a huge bow wave for the rest of the season.

© Derek Longly

© Derek Longly

November 29th 1962: Made her last commercial sailing from St Malo to Jersey then returned to Southampton.

November 1962: Laid up in Southampton.

April 9th 1963: Sold till Rederi Ab Ålandsfärjan, Mariehamn, Finland. Renamed ÅLANDSFÄRJAN.

April 21st 1963: Left Southampton.

May 1963: Modernised at Helsingborgs Yard.

June 20th 1963: Commenced service between Mariehamn – Gräddö.


Official Postcards

Andreas Wörteler Collection

Andreas Wörteler Collection

July 30th 1966: One marketed company name of Viking Linjen was formed to cover the joining of three companies Rederi Ab Vikinglinjen, Rederi Ab Slite and Rederi Ab Ålandsfärjan.

September 1966: Colour scheme changed to red hull with white trading name “Viking Line” painted on the side. Commenced service between Mariehamn – Kapellskär.

Official Postcard

January 12th 1970: Owners changed name to SF-Line Ab, Mariehamn, Finland.

Andreas Wörteler Collection

Andreas Wörteler Collection

May 10th 1972: Grounded off Kapellskär in Stockholm Archipeligo. Although re-floated under her own power damage was such that she was declared a total loss.

June 26th 1972: Sold to Teijon Tehtaat Oy, Helsinki, Finland for scrapping. Much of her interior fittings and panelling were saved by the owner and were later built into the “Brittany Bar” of the Park Hotel in Mariehamn.

July 17th 1972: Towed by Norwegian tug LUNDE JUNIOR to Teijo for scrapping.

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, William Macdonald and Andreas Wörteler for their assistance in producing this feature.

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


  1. I have only just discovered this – many many thanks. My father served on HMS Brittany from 1943 to 1945 and I have some of his letters that he wrote home to his mother during this time. One of the letters mentioned that he thought the ship was heading for Shetland and your timeline has just confirmed that that was indeed the case! By coincidence, I now live in Shetland and was hoping to discover some further details about the ship’s stay in Lerwick, especially photos or reports from the time. I shall try to do my own research here but I’d be grateful if you could tell me if you hold any further records or where else I can search.

    Many thanks in advance

    June Woodward

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button