FerriesPast and PresentSealinkSouthern Railway

TS Hampton Ferry – Past and Present

IMO Number: 5141433

TS Tre-Arddur

ex Hampton Ferry, HMS Hampton, Hampton Ferry

Scan from, P Ransome-Wallis, Roy Thornton Collection

Scan from, P Ransome-Wallis, Roy Thornton Collection

Steel twin screw turbine steamer, one of three identical stern-loading railway ferry boats ordered by the Southern Railway in 1933 for their intended new Dover-Dunkirk ferry service. Built by Messrs. Swan, Hunter and Wigham Richardson Ltd., Walker-on-Tyne (Yard No. 1448), and engined by Parsons Marine Steam Turbine Co. Ltd., Messrs. Yarrow & Co. of Scotstoun, Glasgow, providing the oil-fired boilers

Technical Data

  • Length on Deck: 346.8 ft (105.36m)
  • Breadth of Hull: 60.7 ft (18.50m)
  • Depth: 18.2 ft (5.55m)
  • Draught: 12.5 ft (loaded)
  • Tonnage: 2,839 gross, 1,044 net, 1,200 deadweight
  • Speed: 16.5 knots (max), 15 knots (service)
  • Engines: 4 Parson’s single reduction steam turbines of 948 nominal horse power in two sets, each driving one screw
  • Power: 3300 kW
  • Capacity: 500 passengers, 12 sleeping cars and 2 baggage wagons (or 40 x 25-foot (7.62m) goods wagons) 25 cars.
  • IMO Number: 5141433
  • Official Number: 163542
  • Registry: London/UK 🇬🇧
  • Sister Vessels: Twickenham Ferry (1446), Shepperton Ferry (1450)


“One of three identical ships originally coal fired and, economically, using Kent coal transported direct to Dover, Eastern Arm, by overhead cable way”

Roy Thornton Collection

July 30th 1934: Launched at a cost of £148,896.

November 1934: Delivered to Southern Railways, London, England.

November 13th 1934: Arrived at Dover, but had to be sent to Southampton until the ferry berth was ready.

Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection

October 3rd 1936: Commenced service for goods trucks only between Dover – Dunkerque.

Roy Thornton Collection

October 12th 1936: Inaugural voyage, with passengers, between Dover – Dunkerque

Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection

August 25th 1939: Service suspended because, like her sister SHEPPERTON FERRY, she was requisitioned for naval use.

September 3rd 1939: Completed her conversion to a minelayer.

September 4th 1939: Commissioned as HMS HAMPTON at Portsmouth.

September 4th 1939: Fire broke out in the coal loaded into her port bunker and, later, smoke was seen issuing from the starboard bunker also, a problem which persisted spasmodically for the following three weeks.

September 6th 1939: Sailed from Portsmouth for a programme of mining exercises in the Solent.

September 8th 1939: Arrived at Dover.

September 11th 1939: With her sister, SHEPPERTON FERRY, began laying mines in the Channel off Dover. (Each vessel laid 256 -270 mines on Sept 11, 14, 15 and 16.

September 18th – September 23rd 1939: Her garage was converted to provide crew space and a galley.

September 25th – November 2nd 1939: In seven phases, laid the Dover Barrage between Folkestone and Cap Gris Nez, placing mines 150 ft apart: four of the lines extended almost the complete width of the Strait.

January 1940: Returned to Dover to carry war material to Dunkerque.

February 1940: Horse stalls were erected in the garages and in the train decks and the sisters conveyed over 12,000 horses, personnel and equipment of most of the British Army Cavalry Regiments to France, where they were entrained en route to Palestine.

March 14th 1940: King George VI visited Dover and boarded the ship to witness a dummy mine being laid.

Roy Thornton Collection Roy Thornton CollectionRoy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection

May 1940: Again used as a mine-layer to extend the East Coast protective mine barrier.

May 10th 1940: Owing to the vessels vulnerability she was moved to Portsmouth and ordered to discharge her mines into lighters.

June 9th 1940: Despatched to Le-Havre and, in the absence of any lit buoys at the harbour entrance, sailed right over the defence net, sheering off her electric log in the process.

June 10th 1940: After returning to Portsmouth she crossed to St Valery-en-Caux with a naval beach contingent.

June 11th 1940: Contingent disembarked. One hour after she arrived she came under heavy fire from a shore battery and therefore moved out of range and headed towards Le Havre. As she did so, 16 bombs were aimed at her by 30 aircraft in four attacks: the dense fog, into which she escaped almost certainly saved her from destruction.

July 7th 1940: At Portsmouth had her mine laying equipment removed prior to “paying off”.

July 10th 1940: “Paid Off”.

July 18th 1940: Moved to Southampton.

August 17th 1940: Transferred north to operate between Scotland and Northern Ireland.

September 1940 – April 1944: Used as a troop-transport between Stranraer – Larne and had again been renamed HAMPTON FERRY.

February 9th 1941: In Loch Ryan collided with PRINCESS MARGARET.

December 13th 1942: At Larne collided with the tug ABEILLE No 3.

March 6th 1944: In Loch Ryan collided with the cargo ship WHITSTABLE.

April 25th 1944: Arrived on the Mersey for refit in preparation for the ship’s use assisting the build-up of allied forces in France after the Normandy landings.

Roy Thornton Collection   

Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection

June 30th 1944: Having had a special gantry fitted to her stern (weighing 258 tons and jutting 35 feet beyond the vessels stern. Similar to a kind of derrick fitted with great straps for lifting engines, each strap weighing 2.5 cwt. For vehicles of less than 60 tons a ramp was used, and beyond that the derrick, which could cope with a load of 84 tons and would first lift and turn the engine and then drop it gently on board. A ferry’s full load was 16 locomotives, with the engines ready coaled and about 20 trucks. One interesting point about the HAMPTON was that beyond crew, she had ships staff of 18 American soldiers who were under the direct command of the ships Master (Captain Munton). They looked after the gear, did all the greasing, and adjusted the straps for lifting.

© Imperial War Museum © Imperial War Museum

© Imperial War Museum (Southampton 13/07/1944)

Roy Thornton Collection Roy Thornton Collection Roy Thornton Collection

🆕 Roy Thornton Collection

October 24th 1944: Sent to Dieppe.

Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection

March 12th 1945: Sent to Dover.

March 13th 1945: Began operating to Calais.

February 18th 1946: Ended her government service but continued on the Dover – Calais route as a commercial cargo carrier.

© National Maritime Museum

© National Maritime Museum (SHEPPERTON FERRY in background)

October 1947: Sent to the Clyde for conversion to oil-burner and refitting for commercial service. 

1947: Redelivered to Southern Railways and re-installed in train-ferry service.

Courtesy of Michael Woodland

Courtesy of Michael Woodland

Roy Thornton Collection Roy Thornton Collection  

Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection

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

1950: Specially fitted with additional flooring on the train deck to allow her to take more cars and lorries. Capacity increased to carry nearly 100 cars at a time.

Roy Thornton Collection © A G Jones  

Roy Thornton Collection (Left) and © A G Jones (Right)

February 18th 1950: Slightly damaged when she struck the South Pier at Dover.

July 8th 1951: Collided into the end of the breakwater near the Eastern Entrance, severely damaging her bows.

Roy Thornton Collection Roy Thornton Collection  

Roy Thornton Collection

July 1951: Went to Cardiff for repairs

© A G Jones © A G Jones  

© A G Jones

August 24th 1951: Returned to service after repair.

February 17th 1953: Collided with the British cargo vessel RIPPINGHAM GRANGE, in dense fog off the French coast.

June 18th 1953: After refitting and repairs at Cardiff, including having her rear doors stiffened, she arrived at Stranraer.

June 19th 1953 – October 2nd 1961: Operated a seasonal sailing to and from Larne, based in Scotland in the summer and going back to Dover in the winter-time. Whilst in the north, her train deck was entirely covered with planks to accommodate the drive-on cars, the upper garage not being used at all for this purpose, serving instead as covered seating for passengers.

© Stephen Brown

🆕 © Stephen Brown (Larne, 1957)

© Kenny Kane

© Kenny Kane (Larne, June 1960)

© A G Jones

© A G Jones (Southampton 1956)

October 3rd 1961: Sailed back to Dover, and re-introduced between Dover – Dunkerque.

January 1st 1963: British Railways Board succeeded British Transport Commission.

1963: Operated for a short while as relief between Dover – Boulogne

Roy Thornton Collection Roy Thornton Collection  

Roy Thornton Collection (both)

1963 – 1964: Vessels painted in the new livery of British Railways, (blue hull and red funnels) and the “Double -Arrow”

© A G Jones © A G Jones © A G Jones © A G Jones © A G Jones © A G Jones © A G Jones © William MacDonald

© A G Jones & 🆕© William MacDonald (as noted)

Roy Thornton Collection Roy Thornton Collection

Roy Thornton Collection

1968: Altered, at Heckbereich,  to accommodate the new ramp at Dunkerque.

November 1969: Sold to Claxton Ltd., Hamilton, Bermuda. Renamed TRE-ARDDUR.

© Mike Lennon, Andreas Wörteler Collection Andreas Wörteler Collection  

Andreas Wörteler Collection

December 9th 1969: Laid up in Faslane. Fitted with new boilers and diesel engines.

June 29th 1971: Towed from Faslane to Piraeus.

July 19th 1971: Arrived at Piraeus

1971: Laid up in Piraeus.

July 5th 1973: Towed from Piraeus to Valencia for scrapping.

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 thank: Stephen Brown, Kenny Kane, A G Jones, William MacDonald, Bob Scott, Michael Woodland and Andreas Wörteler for his assistance in producing this feature.

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


  1. These images bring back fond memories of the Hampton Ferry.
    When I was young I travelled a lot on the Larne – Stranrear run to holiday with relatives in Northern Ireland. As kids we viewed the voyage on the Hampton Ferry as the prelude to a great holiday and always looked forward to it – even being smartly dressed for the occasion!
    I remember having to stand on one of the deck taps to see over the side – only to inadvertently turn the water on! A passing crew member informed me that the decks had already been swabbed!
    I now live near Holyhead, Anglesey and recently visited the excellent maritime museum there. I noticed they had the brass binnacle of the Hampton Ferry on display. Someone had obviously rescued it from the scrapyard. This brought back the memories and prompted me to do a bit of research. Thanks for providing all this detailed information about the ship. I had no idea she had such an eventful career!
    Miss the old girl….

    Thanks again


    Pat Joyce

  2. Me too! From 1960 to about 1967 I travelled from Stranraer to Larne on many occasions as my family are from Stranraer with other members in NI. I travelled to France in about 1967 and was stunned when I realised I was on the Hampton Ferry as I had no idea she swapped routes from summer to winter.

    I also had absolutely no idea about her incredible history during war. What an amazing story. Thank you for the information and it was just by accident that the family were reminiscing and using the power of Google I was stunned to read this historical account and the single comment.

  3. I wonder if someone out there would be able to help me.

    Between 1940 and 1942 my uncle served as a Royal Artillery gunner aboard the Hampton during her trips between Stranraer and Larne. In the letters he wrote home he often referred to the ship as a “train ferry”. I would be interested to know whether the Hampton at that time carried railway carriages as well as personnel and other vehicles.

    Unfortunately, he was later killed in a U-boat attack off the Eastern seabord of the USA in 1942.

    Thank you in anticipation of an answer to my question!


    1. Hi Anthony,

      I passed this on to my very knowledgeable friend, Trevor Kidd, in Larne. This is his reply.

      “Hampton Ferry (the other 2 were here during the war as well) would have been ro-ro road vehicles only. We had no 4ft 8 and a half inch track over here and no facilities to change wheel sets that I know of. Larne only had narrow 3ft gauge and 5 foot 3 inches gauge into the harbour. Continental quay was built by the War department during WWII to increase ro-ro ramp capacity in Larne from 1 to 2 ramps.

      Any through rail cargo would have been off loaded at Stranraer shipped across on road trailers and put back on Irish wagons here. The other more likely being that they left Larne by road and not rail.

      Transport in this fashion by rail certainly persisted up to the 1980s last traffic being mainly mail and parcel containers. 3 car DMU on a normal passenger service hauled the containers to/from Belfast. They were transhipped using the crane siding at Larne harbour onto road trailers for the ship”.

      Thanks Trevor.

      Nigel T

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