British Transport Commission (BTC)FerriesPast and PresentSouth Eastern and Chatham Railway (SE&CR)

TS Maid of Orleans (I) – Past and Present

Official Number: 142610

TS Maid of Orleans (I)

Roy Thornton Collection

Maid of Orleans (I) – Roy Thornton Collection (1920)

Steel twin screw turbine steamer, built and engined by Denny’s of Dumbarton (Yard No. 1028) for the South Eastern and Chatham Railway, in 1918. 

Technical Data

  • Length on deck: 107.29m (352 ft)(overall), 104.0m (between perpendiculars)
  • Breadth of hull: 13.7m (extreme)
  • Depth: 4.87m ( ft)
  • Draught: 3.88m (12.75 ft)
  • Tonnage: 2,384 gross/952 net
  • Engines: 4 Denny/Parsons steam turbines in two independent sets, each working one of the twin-screws.
  • Boilers: Six Babcock & Wilcox w/t 202lb/sq in
  • Power: 10,000ihp
  • Speed: 22 knots (24.0 knots trial)
  • Capacity: 130 1st class, 1,200 deck
  • Crew: 59
  • Call Sign: GPBS 
  • Official Number: 142610
  • Registry: London/UK 🇬🇧
  • Sister Ship: Biarritz (1015)


August 26th 1914: Ordered just before the outbreak of war, and both her and her sister were still on the stocks when hostilities commenced. Small differences in outward appearance from their predecessors consisted in the funnels having deeper black tops. Later the cowls would be removed and still later funnels would be altered with tops as deep as those on vessels of the other sections of the Southern Railway fleet. She could always be separated from her sister by the positioning of her whistles.

October 10th 1914: Keel laid.

1915: Work virtually ceased, her turbines needed by the Navy.

1917: Taken over for conversion into a cross Channel troopship, carrying 1,000.

January 29th 1918: Price fixed as cost + 2 ½ % + Admiralty conversion costs.

March 4th 1918: Launched.

August 16th 1918: Delivered to South Eastern and Chatham Railway. Maiden voyage Southampton – Le Havre with troops. Final cost £132,221. Following the armistice, she transferred to Dover, together with her sister, BIARRITZ, carrying soldiers to Britain for demobilisation.

1919: Carried Mahatma Gandhi cross channel for his talks with the British Government. Although given a cabin he squatted in a 3rd class alleyway and travelled 3rd class on the train despite a special compartment.


Maid of Orleans (I) – Roy Thornton Collection

December 1919: Sent for refitting to Messrs. Vickers, Barrow-in-Furness.

May 1920: Returned to Dover.

June 1st 1920: Made her first sailing as a civilian passenger boat to Calais.

January 1st 1923: Transferred to the Southern Railway.

1925: She was then placed on the Folkestone – Boulogne route, together with the BIARRITZ, their former station at Dover being taken by the new ships ISLE OF THANET and MAID OF KENT (II).

February 26th 1926 – May 20th 1926: Rebuilt at William Denny & Bros Ltd, Dumbarton and converted to burning oil instead of coal, cowls being removed from funnels. Promenade deck enclosed. Extra cabins added.


Maid of Orleans (I) – Roy Thornton Collection

1930 – 1931: Overhauled by R.H.Green & Silley Weir, London. Funnels heightened.


Maid of Orleans (I) – © A Duncan, Roy Thornton Collection (Left) and Roy Thornton Collection (Right)

Tuesday June 20th 1933: King Faisal of Iraq arrived at Dover from Ostend in the Maid of Orleans, specially chartered to carry the king and his suite.  A 21 gun salute was fired from the castle as the ship entered the harbour. She tied up at the Admiralty Pier at 13.10. The local Southern Railway Commodore, Captain RH Kilbee acted as Master for the day.

September 5th 1939: At the outbreak of the war sent to Southampton and converted into a military transport once more.

September 9th 1939: First sailing, she embarked around 1,000 troops at Southampton and sailed to the Solent to anchor.

September 10th 1939: Convoy got underway, but the escort fouled the boom defence with her propeller, struck the MAID OF ORLEANS amidships. Despite this mishap she continued to Cherbourg. Thereafter continued Southampton – Cherbourg.

December 12th 1939: Left Southampton the join forces leave service between Boulogne – Dover.

December 21st 1939: First crossing with 1,042 troops.

January 6th 1940: About to enter Dover Harbour when she collided with the Pilot Vessel PRUDENCE and suffered serious stern damage. Sent to Southampton for repairs.

March 12th 1940: After repairs, resumed service Dover – Boulogne.

April 10th 1940: Sent to Netherlands to be ready to evacuate British subjects from Rotterdam. She then proceeded to the River Maas from Hook of Holland.

April 28th 1940: Relieved by ST DENIS and returned to Dover.

May 13th 1940: Trooping to Hook of Holland then proceeded to Southampton.

May 18th – May 19th 1940: Crossed to Cherbourg to embark Belgian nationals for Weymouth.

May 20th 1940: Arrived at Weymouth. Then she steamed to Dover.

May 22nd 1940: Carried 723 members of the Royal Tank Corps to Calais.

May 23rd 1940: Assigned to transport barrage balloon gas cylinders to Boulogne, but on approaching the port she came under fire from shore guns, indicating the Germans had already occupied the town.

May 26th 1940: Despatched to help rescue the British Expeditionary Force and land 6,000 two-gallon cans of water at Dunkirk, but ordered to turn back. Sailed again that evening landing the water and embarking 988 troops.

May 27th 1940: Further abortive crossing.

May 29th 1940: Allowed into Dunkirk harbour and remained alongside for five hours, embarking 1,372 troops before crossing to Dover with a stop en-route to rescue two French officers from a small boat.

June 1st 1940: Dunkirk again 1,856 troops embarked and when leaving rammed by HM destroyer WORCESTER , causing sizeable hole in MAID OF ORLEANS’s shell plating on her port side.

June 5th 1940: Temporary work at Folkestone enabled her to reach Southampton, where she repaired.


Maid of Orleans (I) – National Railway Museum

August 10th 1940: Sailed from Southampton to the Mersey.

September 18th 1940 – October 16th 1940: Made 5 crossings to Douglas, the first carrying 630 Italian male internees and their 72-strong military escort and the last with 14 army trucks, 21 motor cycles and 25 soldiers.

October 19th 1940: Took up troop service from Stranraer – Larne.

January 24th 1942: Based in the Clyde for troop movements in the area, tendering to large troopships and ferrying to the Combined Operations base at Inveraray in Loch Fyne.



January 26th 1942: In Belfast Loch alongside STRATHAIRD ferried the first US army contingent to arrive in the UK “when anti-aircraft fire was directed at a passing German aircraft , the arriving Americans were informed it was a salute in their honour!”

January 28th 1942: Whilst on passage from Greenock to Gourock collided with the Norwegian vessel BONDE.

February 27th 1942: At Govan for dry-docking with steering gear problems. “As the dock emptied and before the shores were in position, the ship went over on her port side to an angle of 30 degrees: the dock was at once re-flooded, the vessel righted and surprisingly little damage was found”.

1942: Some of the famous ships that she tendered;

May 19th 1942: AQUITANIA



May 29th 1942: BRITANNIC

July 12th 1942: MONTEREY

August 8th 1942: QUEEN MARY

August 25th 1942: HM battleship NELSON



August 28th 1942: US cruiser TUSCALOOSA

September 6th 1942: QUEEN ELIZABETH

April 7th 1943: While anchored in Gourock Roads DINARD dragged her anchor and was slightly damaged when she collided with MAID OF ORLEANS.

August 4th 1943: Under great security went to Gareloch to carry Winston Churchill to QUEEN MARY anchored in the Firth of Clyde. She was then put in quarantine in Loch Long until it was confirmed that the Prime Minister had safely reached Canada.

August 28th 1943: Sent to Glasgow for conversion to a Landing Ship, Infantry (Hand-hoisting).

November 4th 1942: Work completed and sporting a new white and blue camouflage sailed to Southampton.

November 19th 1943: Arrived in Southampton, then carried out training exercises off the English South Coast and in Scottish waters off Invergordon.

June 5th 1944: Left the Solent as part of Assault Convoy 27. Arrived off “Sword“ beach to land her Commandos. That evening she returned for later crossings from Newhaven.

June 28th 1944: After unloading off “Juno” and whilst returning to the UK she was lost by mine (although other accounts state she was torpedoed by U988 37 miles NE of Barfleur. “A hole was blown in the ship’s side, from below the waterline to the cabin deck: water rushed into the stoke-hold, the vessel listed heavily to port and a column of steam and smoke enveloped the ship to a height of 150 ft.”


HMS Eglinton, PhotoShip

June 28th 1944: Survivors were picked up by HM ships EGLINTON and HOTHAM before the ship finally sank at 2320 hours, Captain G D Walker gained the DSC (Distinguished Service Cross) for his work with the Maid of Orleans at Dunkirk.


© Sir Peter Allen

All information is believed to be correct and no responsibility is accepted for any errors or omissions. All items included in this article are subject to © copyright. We would like to take this opportunity of thanking: Sir Peter Allen, PhotoShip and the National Railway Museum for their assistance in producing this feature.

Thanks also go to John Hendy

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


  1. Fascinating reading the history of the Maid of Orleans. She may well have carried Winston Churchill and Mahatma Gandhi but more importantly, in August 1919, she returned Pte. J. Bedford Cheshire Regiment from France. Important because he was my Dad!

    1. Hi Jim,

      Thank you for the comment. It just goes to prove that the personal stories are sometimes a lot more important than the historical data we publish.

      All the best

  2. Nigel,

    Looking at the Ensign on Sunday, Black Ensign is a more correct term – well it was removed in a hurry and has spent 72 years in the church. It is probably too fragile to clean.


  3. I’m trying to find out any information regarding a relative of mine who served with Southern Railways ferries just before and then during the war. His name was Cyril Scanes and he lived with his wife at Elms Vale Road in Dover (63 I think). If anyone is able to offer any leads I would be very grateful.

  4. I served with Sealink 1968 to 1976 when I immigrated to Canada
    First ship the Hampton Ferry followed by the Dover, Maid of Kent,
    Vortigen a nd the Hengist. I served as 2nd and 1st mate, learned
    my ship handling skills from Capt Arthur andCapt Bodium, This
    helped me enormously..Thanks for your great website.

    John Winsor.

  5. The impression might be given that Capt GD (Tony) Walker was the Maid’s Master at the time of her sinking. In fact her Master by then was Capt HL (Len) Payne who just happened to be on leave on 28th June 1944. The reserve Master throughout the Normandy Invasion period was Capt Cecil Masters who was on board that night.

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