FerriesPast and PresentTownsend Thoresen

SS Forde, Past and Present

ID Number: 6106974

SS Gibel Tarik

ex Forde, HMS Ford, Fleetwood

Courtesy of Paul Isles

Courtesy of Paul Isles

Built as a Royal Navy, twin screw, “Town” class minesweeper, by Dunlop, Bremner & Co. Ltd., Port Glasgow (Yard no 329) in 1918. Engines by the Ailsa Shipbuilding Co. Ltd. of Troon

Technical Data

  • Original purchase cost: £5,000
  • Length on deck: 66.8 m (219.2 ft), 67.1m (between perpendiculars)
  • Breadth of Hull: 8.7m (28.6 ft)
  • Depth: 4.72m (15.5 ft)
  • Draft: 2.4m (8 ft)
  • Tonnage: 710 (1930), 829 gross/ 982, 303 net
  • Engines: Steam reciprocating, consisting of 2 sets of Yarrow type 6-cylinder triple-expansion engines.
  • Power: 106 nhp
  • Speed: 13 knots (16 knots max)
  • Armament (1939): 1 x QF 4 inch (forward), QF 12 pounder (aft), 2 x twin 0.303 machine guns
  • Capacity: 165 passengers (1930), 307 passengers and 26 cars
  • ID Number: 6106974


Originally laid down as FLEETWOOD becoming Hunt class (Aberdare sub-class) minesweeper HMS FORD

October 19th 1918: Launched as class minesweeper HMS FORD

December 1918: Completed.

1930: Purchased Townsend Motor Ferries Ltd., then engaged in seasonally carrying cars between Calais and the British port.

1930: Sent to Earle’s Shipbuilding and Engineering Co of Hull where she was stripped and converted for civilian use to the design of Norman M. Dewar. The cost of the work was £14,000. She was fitted with astern door which folded down onto the quay, an arrangement, however, which could not be used by cars before the war because of the absence of adjustable bridges at both the British and French ports needed to compensate for great variations on the height of tides. She remained coal burning although it was believed that she might be converted to oil at some stage in her future career. A passenger certificate for 168 and for 38 crew was given although additional passengers could be carried under the Steam 2 limited Certificate for daylight service under 10 hours duration, when she could carry 307 people. Renamed FORDE

Roy Thornton Collection  Roy Thornton Collection  

Roy Thornton Collection

April 15th 1930: Commenced service Dover – Calais.

Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection

April 29th 1930: Collided, head on, with the Quai Paul Devot when arriving from Dover. While the damage was being repaired, she was out of service for a whole month.

© Steve Salter Archives

🆕 © Steve Salter Archives

© Mike Goodall © Mike Goodall

© Mike Goodall (Dover – Calais  car ferry Forde badge. The Rd. number is 792192 giving a date of 1934 and is maker stamped Thomas Fattorini Limited Birmingham.)

June 9th 1936: A three week General Strike in France commenced and therefore, there was no one available to drive the crane in order to lift-on and lift-off FORDE’s cars. The drive on method of loading was then introduced. At correct level of tide the FORDE went astern to the Calais quayside, lowered her stern gate and discharged.

Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection

July 1936: Offered for sale while Townsend looked for a larger replacement.

At the outbreak of war sent to lay-up in Poole Harbour.

October 27th 1939: Requisitioned by the Admiralty serving through the hostilities as a salvage vessel.

November 2nd 1939: Officially taken over by the Admiralty. Her main duty was port clearance.

March 2nd 1940: Left Southampton and went to the assistance of DOMALA which had bomb damage.

April 8th 1940: Arrive at Harwich, which was to be her main base.

April 26th 1940: Sent to Scapa Flow.

During Dunkerque evacuations she was made available in the Dover Strait for rescue and salvage work.

May 30th 1940: Assisted FULHAM IV after she had been bombed.

June 2nd 1940: Assisted ROYAL DAFFODIL holed during air attack.

November 20th 1940: Working on the salvage of HM trawler DUNGENESS, of Haisborough, Suffolk

November 25th 1940: Salvaging guns from the wreck of HOUSTON CITY, mined in the Thames Estuary.

1944: Based in South Wales.

April 1944: Assisted Liberty Ship ARTEMIS WARD.

May 18th 1944: Left Swansea for Dungeness (to take part in “Operation Neptune”) where the Mulberry “Phoenix” breakwaters were pumped out and raised of the sea bed ready for towing to Normandy.

1944 (Autumn): No longer required by the Admiralty and her salvage gear was removed. She was transferred from Barry to Swansea, remaining there for 2 years. She was then refitted at Southampton.

April 12th 1947: Returned to Dover as a car ferry.

Roy Thornton Collection  Roy Thornton Collection  

Roy Thornton Collection

Courtesy of Ed Connell (Left) and Roy Thornton Collection (Right)

Courtesy of Karel Goutsmit

Courtesy of Richard Perrin (Left) Courtesy of Karel Goutsman (@ Calais,  astern of LONDON-ISTANBUL)(Right)

Courtesy of Ed Connell   Courtesy of Ed Connell

Courtesy of Ed Connell   Courtesy of Ed Connell

Courtesy of Ed Connell   Courtesy of Ed Connell

Courtesy of Ed Connell   Courtesy of Ed Connell

Courtesy of Ed Connell (all)

October 18th 1949: Retired and sent to lay-up in London.

November 1949: Sold for £20,000 to M.H. Bland & Co Ltd., of Gibraltar for the ferry service linking the Gibraltar with Tangier. She was renamed GIBEL TARIK. Livery change to a light green hull and red funnel – and crane on her after deck.

© Skyfotos  © Fotoflite

© Fotoflite (Courtesy of Nigel Scutt)(Both)



September 26th 1953: Boilers failed and it was decided that she would not be worth repairing.

March 1954: Arrived at Malaga for breaking up.

March 2nd 1954: Scrapping commenced.


All information is believed to be correct and no responsibility is accepted for errors and omissions. All items included in this article are subject to ©. We would like to take this opportunity of thanking: Ed Connell, Mike Goodall, Paul Isles, Richard Perrin and Steve Salter for their assistance in compiling this feature.

Sincere thanks to Nigel Scutt (Dover Strait Shipping)(Fotoflite)

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


  1. I have a nice pic of my aunt’s car being loaded onto SS Forde. Would you like to see it?

    Richard Perrin

  2. Used in the London Films production “The Captain’s Paradise” with Alec Guinness, Yvonne de Carlo,

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