British Transport Commission (BTC)FerriesPast and PresentSouthern Railway

SS Fratton – Past and Present

Official Number: 147039

SS Fratton

ex HMS Fratton, Fratton


Nigel Thornton Collection

Steel twin screw steamer, built and engined by D. & W. Henderson, Glasgow, in 1925 (Yard No 720) for the Southern Railway

Technical Data


From 1924 to 1928 nine new twin-screw cargo steamers were put into commission on the Dover, Folkestone and Southampton services by the new Company (Southern Railway) ; the above seven were allocated to Dover and Folkestone, the remainder being based at Southampton, though a certain amount of interchanging has occurred from time to time. These ships were all alike though their gross tonnage varied between 680 and 750; they came from Meadowside Yard of Messrs. D & W Henderson, Glasgow, the firm so closely identified with the old Anchor Line. They were handsome ships of their class, each with a single funnel, two masts and cruiser stern. They appear to be credited with a maximum speed of 15 knots.

August 18th 1925: Launched at a cost of £41,450.

September 27th 1925: Entered service at Folkestone. Also used at Southampton.

October 7th 1927: Struck the Vieux Bank off St Malo and had to be escorted back to Southampton.

1930’s (summers): Carried cars Southampton – Le Havre.

Nigel Thornton Collection

Nigel Thornton Collection

December 20th 1933: Ran aground on Brook Beach, Isle of Wight, in thick fog, inward bound to Southampton from Jersey. She was carrying 10 passengers and was aground for 8 hours before re-floating herself and continuing on her way. No damage to the hull reported.

June 21st 1940 – June 22nd 1940: Made one crossing carrying evacuees from Guernsey – Weymouth., then resume her cargo sailings.

June 28th 1940: Crossing from Southampton to Guernsey, attacked by German aircraft and recalled.

August 9th 1940: Requisitioned and used as a barrage-balloon vessel for three years. Based at Sheerness.

August 12th 1940: Commissioned as HMS FRATTON.

© Imperial War Museum (IWM HU1335)

© Imperial War Museum (IWM HU1335)

September 2nd 1940 – December 1st 1940: Had completed 15 consecutive convoys without serious defects.

February 6th 1942: In collision with the vessel RUDMORE in the Thames Estuary.

May 12th 1943: Ordered to land her gear at Sheerness following the withdrawal from service. Re-allocated to serve as a coastal convoy Commodore’s Ship, again based at Sheerness.

February 1944 (late): Completed service as a coastal convoy Commodore’s ship.

June 1944: At Weymouth ( the assembly point of the Mulberry “Bombardons” – 200 ft steel tanks designed to act as outer floating breakwaters off each of the Normandy beach heads) as assembly control vessel.

June 4th 1944: Left Weymouth via Selsey.

June 7th 1944: Arrived off Gold beach-head as a “Bombardon” control ship.

August 18th 1944: Whilst at anchor off the Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches, when an explosion occurred on the port side aft. The vessel sank within four minutes, the victim of a torpedo attack.

All information is believed to be correct and no responsibility is accepted for errors or omissions. All items included in this article are subject to © copyright.

Thanks to John Hendy.

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


  1. There is an error, possibly typographical, in the reported propulsion equipment for the FRATTON. She had reciprocating engines only so not cylinders AND steam turbines.
    Would be interested in the reason for the TS prefix as this does seem appropriate ti any of her roles.

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