British Railways Board (BRB)British Transport Commission (BTC)FerriesPast and PresentSealink

TS Lord Warden – Past and Present

IMO Number: 5212191

TS Al Zaher

ex Lord Warden

Courtesy of the World Ship Society, East Kent Branch

Lord Warden – Courtesy of the World Ship Society, East Kent Branch

Steel twin screw turbine steamer, built and engined by Dennys of Dumbarton in 1952 (Yard No 1455) for the British Transport Commission’s cross-Channel fleet, and intended for running between the new car ferry terminals at Dover and Boulogne

Technical Data

  • Length: 110.37m (362 ft) (overall), 105.92m (347.5 ft) (between perpendiculars)
  • Breadth of Hull: 18.50m (60.6 ft) (extreme)
  • Draught: 3.95m (12.9 ft) (maximum)
  • Tonnage: 3,333 gross, 1,156 net, 570 deadweight
  • Engines: 2 Denny steam turbines, double reduction gearing, connected to two screw shafts
  • Power: 8,000 shp x 2
  • Speed: 20 knots
  • Capacity: 1,000 passengers (reduced to 600 in May 1978 for Irish Sea crossings), 120 cars.
  • Call Sign: GPCD
  • IMO Number: 5212191
  • Official Number: 184622
  • Registry: London/United Kingdom 🇬🇧, Jeddah/Saudi Arabia 🇸🇦


Glasgow University Archives

Lord Warden  – Glasgow University Archives (Both)

December 14th 1951: Launched

Courtesy of John F Hendy

Lord Warden – Courtesy of John F Hendy

April 28th 1952: Sea trials (21.22 knots) were conducted on the Skelmorlie measured mile in the Firth of Clyde.

April 28th 1952: Left the Clyde

Roy Thornton Collection   

Lord Warden – Roy Thornton Collection

April 30th 1952:Delivered to British Transport Commission, Southern Region, London, England at Southampton (owing to delays in the completion of the link span at Boulogne‘s berth 13. First drive-on drive-off car ferry (electrically, not hydraulic, operated stern doors, no ramp) to be built for British Railways’ cross-Channel service, the only other one in the fleet at the time (ignoring train ferries) being DINARD, a converted passenger ship and therefore in a different category. Anticipating the arrival of the new ship at Dover, and to avoid confusion, the Lord Warden Hotel, offices of the Divisional Manager, Southern Region, British Railways, was in February 1952 renamed Southern House. One strange feature of this vessel was that, owing to the shape of her hull, adjustable height guide rods were fitted to facilitate the lowering of her lifeboats.

June 14th 1952: Made her first appearance at Dover.

June 16th 1952: Made a press run to Boulogne, coinciding with the opening there of the new marine station and car ferry terminal, a facility similar to the one still under construction at Dover. She then continued Dover – Boulogne.


Roy Thornton Collection Roy Thornton Collection  

Roy Thornton Collection  

Roy Thornton Collection Roy Thornton Collection  

Lord Warden  – Roy Thornton Collection

February 1953: Only a few weeks after the loss of the PRINCESS VICTORIA in the Irish Sea, in January 1953, caused when the stern loading doors were burst open by high seas, a similar incident threatened the safety of the LORD WARDEN. Fortunately there was no tragedy this time, but soon after , the rear doors of all other vessels considered to be at risk, were strengthened.

June 15th 1953: Present at the Coronation Spithead Review.

Courtesy of the World Ship Society, East Kent Branch Courtesy of John Bullard Courtesy of John Bullard

Lord Warden – Courtesy of the World Ship Society, East Kent Branch (As indicated) Courtesy of John Bullard (As indicated)

June 1953: The Dover ramp became operative.

Roy Thornton Collection

Lord Warden  – Roy Thornton Collection

September 26th 1954: A rough voyage from Boulogne to Dover was televised, the first time that a television programme was relayed direct from a ship at sea. During the course of the journey the late Richard Dimbleby, commenting on the bridge, was nearly drowned by a huge wave bursting over him.

July 7th 1956: Whilst en route to Boulogne, in thick fog off Cap Gris Nez, the vessel collided with the French TAMBA, resulting in extensive bow damage.

Roy Thornton Collection Roy Thornton Collection  

Roy Thornton Collection Roy Thornton Collection  

Roy Thornton Collection Roy Thornton Collection  

Lord Warden  – In dry dock after collision with TAMBA July 7th 1956 Roy Thornton Collection

Courtesy of Derrick Packman

Lord Warden – Courtesy of Derrick Packman

1958 – 1959: A pair of stove pipes were extended from her funnel

Courtesy of the World Ship Society, East Kent Branch Nigel Thornton Collection  

Lord Warden – Courtesy of the World Ship Society, East Kent Branch (Left) and Nigel Thornton Collection (Right)

 Nigel Thornton Collection  

Lord Warden – Courtesy of Michael Woodland (Left) and Nigel Thornton Collection (Right)

January 22nd 1959: The ship ‘touched’ the breakwater while entering Dover in thick fog. Damage was slight and the ship remained in service.

Courtesy of Derrick Packman

Lord Warden – Courtesy of Derrick Packman

1959: An additional part was added to her funnel, in appearance somewhat like a “fireman’s hat”. It deflected the nuisance smoke and provided more agreeable working conditions for the crew.

Courtesy of Derrick Packman 

Lord Warden – (Funnel Extension) Courtesy of Derrick Packman (Right)

Roy Thornton Collection Roy Thornton Collection Courtesy of the World Ship Society, East Kent Branch

Lord Warden – Roy Thornton Collection (Left) and Courtesy of the World Ship Society, East Kent Branch (Right)

August 1963: Switched to Folkestone – Boulogne to cover ISLE OF THANET. Dover – Boulogne cars were taken by train-ferry.

Roy Thornton Collection  Roy Thornton Collection  

Roy Thornton Collection

Lord Warden – Roy Thornton Collection

October 1964: Was the first ship to be painted in the new British Rail livery of blue hull, red funnel with black top and double arrow logo.


Courtesy of Bob Hollingsbee  Courtesy of Bob Hollingsbee  

Lord Warden – Courtesy of Bob Hollingsbee

November 18th 1964: Left the Wellington Dock for dry docking. It was during this period that her grey upper works reverted to white and the line of black paint on her funnel extension was lowered.

Roy Thornton Collection  © A Duncan

Lord Warden – © A G Jones (Wellington Dock, Dover 15/10/1966)(Left) © A Duncan (Right)

© A G Jones © A G Jones  

Lord Warden – © A G Jones

Roy Thornton Collection  © Fotoflite  

Lord Warden – Roy Thornton Collection (Left) 🆕© Fotoflite (Right)


Lord Warden – © Ken Larwood (Left) and © Ted Ingham (Right)

1967 (early): Her restaurant was converted into a self-service cafeteria.

Lord Warden -Roy Thornton Collection

November 1969: It was announced that British Rail’s Shipping and International Services Division (SISD) had adopted the new brand name Sealink and as a consequence all vessels were painted in the new house colours.

© A G Jones © A G Jones  

Lord Warden – © A G Jones

August 2nd 1970: Collided with the quayside in Calais and sent to Harland & Wolff, London for repairs.

Roy Thornton Collection Roy Thornton Collection  

Lord Warden – Roy Thornton Collection

April 7th 1971: Commenced service between Holyhead – Dun Laoghaire.

February 2nd 1972 – February 20th 1972: Covered the ” Golden Arrow” service between Dover – Calais.

June 3rd 1972: Relieved Folkestone – Boulogne.

1972: Laid up in Newhaven.

1973: Sealink trading name painted on hulls

© Fotoflite

Lord Warden – © Fotoflite

Courtesy of Michael Woodland  

Lord Warden – Roy Thornton Collection (Left) and Courtesy of Michael Woodland (Right)

May 23rd 1974 – September 30th 1974: Operated between Dover – Calais.

1975 (Early): Switched to Folkestone to cover the DOVER which went off service with stern damage . Her inability to carry more than one lorry on the overnight Folkestone – Ostend sailings proved to be a disaster and the ANDERIDA was also switched to Folkestone to assist with the movement of freight.

January 20th 1975: Involved in a collision with the HENGIST in Folkestone Harbour during the course of a gale. Retired for inspection docking at Calais.

June 14th 1975 – May 21st 1975: Operated between Dover – Calais.

January 6th 1976 – October 20th 1976: Operated between Folkestone – Boulogne/ Oostende.

June 1977: Operated for a short time between Newhaven – Dieppe.

March 1978 – April 1978: Operated between Weymouth – Cherbourg.

© Ken Larwood © Ken Larwood  

Lord Warden – © Ken Larwood

May 1978: Operated between Fishguard – Rosslare/Dun Laoghaire.

Lord Warden

July 1978: Underwent refurbishment and repairs at Southampton. New higher/re-enforced stern doors fitted.

Roy Thornton Collection  

Roy Thornton Collection

Lord Warden – Undergoing repairs @ Southampton prior to opening summer only Fishguard – Rosslare. From Rail News, both Roy Thornton Collection

Lord Warden – © John Hendy


Lord Warden

July 1978: Opened a new passenger and vehicle ferry route between Fishguard and Rosslare, operating there until September.

Lord Warden

November 1978 – December 8th 1978: Operated between Dover – Boulogne.

January 1st 1979: Registered to Sealink UK Ltd.

January 1979: Transferred to Holyhead/Fishguard – Dun Laoghaire service

March 28th 1979: Unable to berth at Rosslare with 150 passengers and 40 cars and was forced to ride out force 10 gusts overnight in the bay. What may well turn out to be her last spell of Sealink service starts on July 13 when she is due to operate the 18.30 and then the 07.30 services from Fishguard with the 00.15 and 12.30 returns to Rosslare. This is due to terminate on September 2nd (1979)

September 2nd 1979: Reverted to single sailings but four days later was required to deputise for the ST COLUMBA which was off for attention. She ran trials on the following day but missed her afternoon sailing when more low tides prevented the LORD WARDEN from sailing from the Salt Island berth until 20.00. Arrival at Dun Laoghaire was at 11.30 and she was away again at 01.20. (Sea Breezes Vol.53 No.408 December 1979).

September 8th 1979: Made her last trip between Dun Laoghaire – Holyhead. From the ramp, she moved to the repair berth and thence to the rarely-used Town Quay before sailing for Newhaven at 18.00 on September 10th.

© Ron Baker

Lord Warden – © Ron Baker

September 10th 1979: Laid up in Newhaven.

Roy Thornton Collection

Lord Warden – Roy Thornton Collection

November 15th 1979: At about 18.00 the tug CALSHOT towed the her to Vosper’s at Southampton where she underwent a seven to ten-day refit prior to sailing eastwards. Amongst other work carried out, the new set of stern doors were removed and a ramp was substituted.

November 16th 1979: Arriving at Berth 20 at about 11.00.

Nigel Thornton Collection

Al Zaheer – Nigel Thornton Collection

November 19th 1979: Dry-docked at No. 7 dry dock (King George V Graving Dock).

Roy Thornton Collection  Roy Thornton Collection  

Al Zaheer – Roy Thornton Collection

November 19th 1979: Repainted in the colours of her new owners, the Baboud Trading and Shipping Agency and was renamed AL ZAHER, registered in Jeddah. Her hull was painted mid blue and her funnel is white with a narrow black top and a broad blue band across the white portion. Inside a white circle on this band is painted a ship’s wheel.

November 27th 1979: Undocked and was towed round to the Empress Dock.

December 29th 1979: Due to sail from Southampton at 13.00 but at 16.30 on the previous day her Egyptian crew walked off over a pay dispute.

January 2nd 1980: She finally sailed for Jeddah during the late morning.

© Alan Blakely

Al Zaheer – © Alan Blakely (Ship Spotting)

1980: Commenced service at a sheep-transport between Jeddah – Port Sudan.

April 25th 1981: Arrived at Karim Shipbreaking Industries, Gadani Beach, Pakistan for scrapping.

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: Ron Baker, Alan Blakely, John Bullard, Fotoflite, John F Hendy, Bob Hollingsbee, AG Jones, Ken Larwood, Derrick Packman, Eugene Sloan and Michael Woodland for their assistance in producing this feature.

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


  1. Has any one access to plans for the Lod Warden? .I fancy producing a 1/1200 model and the ship brings back memories of when I was young and a possible family link.I may have been on the bride when I was young and met the captain ,it all rings a bell .The photographs we took went missing .Some of my many Dover relatives worked on her I think

    1. Martin,

      I don’t have plans, but there is a GA plan in the book “Remembering Lord Warden” by John Hendy. Ferry Publications ISBN 9781871947861.

      Also there is a LARGE model of her in the Dover Transport Museum if you ever pass this way

      Nigel Thornton

  2. She was my 3rd ship I loved working on her even when we had to bail her out.

  3. The Lord Warden featured in the 1954 Cardew Robinson/ Spike Milligan film “Calling All Cars”, a comedy documentary about the Dover Harbour car terminal. The film can be seen regularly on the Sky channel ‘Talking Pictures’.

  4. Interesting to see this history of the Lord Warden. I worked on the ship from July – September 1967 as an assistant steward after I left school and before I went off to University. Most of the assistant stewards were students with the main role of working in the newly converted cafeteria. The ship sailed on the Dover to Boulogne route and was run by British Rail. Shifts were 12 hours on and 24 hours off (unlike those on Townsend ferries who had 12 hours on and 12 hours off 4 days a week with 3 days rest) with a shift comprising 2 return sailings. Once a week, the ship sailed to Boulogne and stayed over night, returning next morning – the “off-turn” when the crew spirit allowance was available (13 shillings or 65p for a 70cl bottle of whisky, gin, rum or brandy); there were some interesting stories to tell!

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