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SS Tonbridge – Past and Present

ID Number ((LR 1930-31): 86720

HMS Tonbridge

Ex Tonbridge

SS Tonbridge

Steel twin screw steamer, built and engined by D. & W. Henderson, Glasgow, in 1924 (Yard No 633) as a Cargo ship.

Technical Data

  • Length on Deck: 69.82m
  • Breadth of Hull: 10.24m
  • Depth: 4.30m
  • Tonnage: 682 gross (1925/467 net (1925)/270 deadweight (1928)
  • Engines: 2 x T3Cyl. (15, 25 & 41 – 24)in
  • Power: 1,850 ihp
  • Speed: 15 knots
  • Capacity: 5 passengers, 30,000 cu ft of cargo space
  • Call Sign: KRDL, MLYV
  • Number in Book (Lloyds Register 1930-31): 86720
  • Official Number: 147690
  • Registry: London
  • Sister Ships: Deal (818), Minster (634), Hythe (II) (706), Whitstable (707), Fratton (720), Maidstone (II)(729), Haslemere (719) Ringwood (730)


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.

June 3rd 1924: Launched.

July 23rd1924: Completed and based Dover or Folkestone according to need.

SS Tonbridge

1932: Operated to the Channel Islands, to help out at the height of the produce season, and also made a couple of trips the following year.

May 19th 1940: Sailed Folkestone – Boulogne for the last time.

May 23rd 1940: With MAIDSTONE sailed to set up a new cargo service between Portsmouth – St Malo.

June 15th 1940: After only five trips, owing to the military situation, service terminated. She was sent from Portsmouth to Guernsey.

June 21st 1940: Embarked 250 women and children evacuees.

June 23rd 1940: Arrived in Weymouth,

June 26th 1940: Made a crossing from Plymouth to Guernsey.

June 28th 1940: Arrived in Southampton.

August 28th 1940: Requisitioned at Southampton for service as an auxiliary Netlayer.

November 16th 1940: Left Southampton.

November 27th 1940: Commissioned as HMS TONBRIDGE (T.119) and initially served on the English South Coast.

May 1941: Moved to the Humber and survived an air attack en-route,

June (Mid) 1941: Based at Great Yarmouth.

August 21st 1941: Left port with 2½ miles of net defence to lay off Sheringham.

August 22nd 1941: Made her last lay and was returning to Yarmouth when she was attacked by an aircraft which machine gunned the ship, then dropped four bombs. One of them hit between her bridge and funnel, another struck the mess deck aft. Within six minutes the vessel sank with a loss of 32 lives.


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. 

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

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