FerriesPast and PresentRegie voor Maritiem Transport (RMT)

TS Ville De Liege – Past and Present

ID Number: 5603661


ex HMS Ambitious, London Istanbul, Algoma, Ville De Liege

Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection

Steel triple screw turbine steamer, built and engined by Cockerill’s of Hoboken (Yard No. 531) in 1914 for the Belgian Marine Administration’s Ostend service as a passenger/mail vessel

Technical Data

  • Length on deck: 91.44m (300.0 ft)
  • Breadth of hull: 10.97m (36.0 ft)
  • Depth: 7.0m (14.6 ft)
  • Tonnage: 1,365 gross (1931)1,384, 1,849 (1937)/636 net (1931), 890 (1937)/1,779 deadweight (1937)
  • Engines: 3 sets Cockerill compound direct drive steam turbines later converted to oil burner.
  • Boilers: 8 Babcock & Wilcox w/t forced draught
  • Power: 12,000shp
  • Speed: 24 knots
  • Capacity: 900 passengers (1914), 200 passengers and 60 cars (1936)
  • ID Number: 5603661
  • Call Sign: GQDS, OTLA 
  • Sister ship: Stad Antwerpen (530)


January 1914: Delivered  to Regie voor Maritiem Transport, Oostende, Belgium and, like her sister, experimentally fitted with Frahm-type anti-roll tanks which were later removed. She was introduced between Ostend and Dover.

August 1st 1914: Laid up in reserve.

August 1914 – August 20th 1914: Served between Ostend and Folkestone.

Roy Thornton Collection

1914 – 1918: Served as a transport for allied troops and wounded, being used as a hospital ship for the Belgian army at Calais.

August 21st 1914: Arrived in Antwerp.

October 7th 1914: Left Antwerp for Ostend, carrying part of the Government Services and refugees.


Bernt Anderson Collection

October 10th 1914 – October 14th 1914: Took part in the evacuation of Ostend.

October 17th 1914: Arrived in Calais and fitted out as an Army Pharmaceutical Depot ship stationed at Calais.

May 1917: Loaned to the British and rebuilt in Dover as a hospital ship.

June 21st 1917 – December 31st 1918: Operated between England and France. Made 252 crossings.

January 18th 1919: Together with her sister STAD ANTWERPEN, they were the first Belgian steamers to bring Belgian exiles back to Ostend .

January 1919: After extensive refit she resumed ordinary civilian service between Dover and Ostend.

February 11th 1929: She was driven by heavy seas onto rocks outside the entrance to the inner harbour at Dover. Attempts to tow her off were frustrated by the ship sinking during the operation.


Roy Thornton Collection (both)

February 20th 1929: She was eventually salvaged by Capt. John Iron, the Harbour Master, being raised and taken into the Granville Dock for temporary repairs.

Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection

March 8th 1929: When repairs were completed, she was towed, stern-first, to Calais for dry-docking.

March 1929: Later towed to Cockerill, Hoboken, Belgium were her hull was gutted and two boilers and one funnel were removed, the remaining four boilers being regrouped and converted to oil burning. She was fitted with four starboard mounted boarding ramps of different heights to cope with tidal range and her capacity was 100 cars, whilst passenger capacity and speed were reduced to 200 and 21.5 knots respectfully

July 25th 1936: Redelivered after rebuild and renamed LONDON-ISTANBUL.

July 30th 1936: Re-entered service between Ostend and Dover.

Courtesy of Julien Tahon

Courtesy of Julien Tahon

Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection

1940: Like most of the Belgian Marine’s fleet, she sailed to Britain to prevent capture by the Germans, and for a short while was used as a floating base hospital at Calais, being withdrawn before the port fell to the enemy.

May 17th 1940: Carrying evacuees she left Ostend for Folkestone.

May 18th 1940: Arrived in Folkestone and disembarked 207 passengers.

May 19th 1940: Sailed to Southampton.

September 30th 1940: Sailed to Dartmouth where she was stranded awaiting fuel.

November 6th 1940: Adrift in the Bristol Channel owing to fuel shortage. Then moved to Holyhead.

November 11th 1940: In collision with the merchant ship SANTIAGO. She was then laid up.

September 14th 1941: Taken over by the Royal Navy U.K. rebuilt by Barclay Curle & Co, Glasgow, and temporarily renamed ALGOMA.

1941: She was converted for the Admiralty at Barclay, Curle & Co Ltd., Glasgow to a minesweeper depot ship and sent to Lynes, Scapa Flow, where she operated under the name of HMS AMBITIOUS.

January 16th 1942: Commissioned.

February 7th 1942: Left the Clyde.

February 11th 1942: Arrived at Scapa where she remained.

November 22nd 1942: Went to Immingham for repairs which took 9 months. She was intended to serve as a Depot and Amenities Ship in Icelandic waters. Upon completion she needed further attention.

September 10th 1943: Rosyth for repairs.

January 1944: From Scapa operated round Lerwick, as a temporary Depot Ship for Coastal Forces. April 8th 1944: She then went to Brigham & Cowan, Hull for repairs and overhaul.

May 16th 1944: Left Humber for Thames Estuary.

June 6th 1944: Took part in the Normandy landings.

June 9th 1944: Left Solent to take up her assigned anchorage in the British Eastern Task Force.

June 19th 1944: Moved inside the Mulberry harbour at Arromanches where she had the additional role of directing mine laying as well as the mine-sweeping operations.

October 24th 1944: At Le Havre.

December 21st 1944: Upon completion of her French coast assignment, crossed to Portsmouth.

January 28th 1945: Left Portsmouth to take up position as Headquarters ship at Terneuzen.

July 16th 1945: The war over, the vessel was paid off and handed back to the Belgians and once again renamed LONDON-ISTANBUL.

July 1945 and October 1945: Extensively renovated at Cockerill Yard, Hoboken.

October 22nd 1945: Re-opened the post-war Ostend service, sailing from the Belgian port to Folkestone and returning the next day with the inaugural British sailing. As a result she became the vessel which restarted services from Ostend to Dover at the end of both world wars!

 Roy Thornton Collection

  Courtesy of Karel Goutsmit

Courtesy of Karel Goutsmit (Left) 🆕 (Right)

October 23rd 1946: Commenced service between Ostend – Dover.

May 1949: Laid up in Ostend.

July 1949 – September 1949: Being made redundant on the Ostend route by the introduction of the new Belgian vessel CAR FERRY, she was chartered to British Railways, for a Folkestone- Calais service, in conjunction with the DINARD.

Courtesy of Karel Goutsmit Courtesy of Karel Goutsmit

(Calais 1949)(Left) Courtesy of Karel Goutsmit (Calais with FORDE astern)(Right)

September 1950: Boiler trouble caused her to be taken off service again and sent to Dover for repairs.

September 14th 1950: Left Dover for Ostend.

October 1950: Sold for scrap.

December 9th 1950: Towed to Antwerp where breaking commenced in 1951.

All information is believed to be correct and no responsibility is accepted for any errors or omissions found. All items included in this article are subject to © copyright. We would like to take this opportunity of thanking: Bernt Anderson, Julien Tahon and Andreas Wörteler for their assistance in producing this feature.

Special thanks to Karel Goutsmit and Urbain Ureel

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


  1. Splendid article, having seen victualling bills from Holyhead suppliers to the strangly named London-Istanboul
    there has been much conjecture as to what sort of ship was involved!
    This article, together with others from the Belgian Marine Administration for example, has indeed answered all our queries.
    Great Work, Many Thanks
    Dafydd Edwards.
    Volunteer, Holyhead Maritime Museum.

    1. Dafydd,

      Thanks very much for the comment.

      There is more to come,but it is taking longer to research the further I go back.

      Keep viewing!

      Take care
      Nigel Thornton

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