MV Royal Daffodil (1939)

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Civil Ensign of the United Kingdom.svgUnited Kingdom
Name: MV Royal Daffodil II
Owner: General Steam Navigation Co. Ltd.
Operator: General Steam Navigation Co. Ltd
Port of registry: London
Builder: William Denny and Sons, Dumbarton.
Launched: 24 January 1939[1]
Completed: May 1939[2]
In service: 1939
Out of service: 1967
  • Official Number 167210
  • Code Letters GSGL
  • ICS Golf.svgICS Sierra.svgICS Golf.svgICS Lima.svg
Fate: scrapped 1967
General characteristics
Tonnage: 2,060 GRT
Length: 299 ft 7 in (91.31 m)[2]
Beam: 50 ft 1 in (15.27 m)[2]
Depth: 9 ft 9 in (2.97 m)[2]
Propulsion: 2 x SCSA diesel engines (Wm Denny & Bros Ltd, Dumbarton) 841 hp (627 kW), Twin screws[2]
Speed: 21 knots (39 km/h)
Capacity: 2,073 passengers

MV Royal Daffodil II was built in 1939 and scrapped in 1967. In the late 1950s and early to mid 1960s she was used for "no passport" trips to France, which enabled people to drink outside normal licensing hours as these did not apply at sea.


Royal Daffodil II was launched in 1939, and in her inaugural season was used for continental trips from Tower Pier to Ostend, being quickly requisitioned for war service. Initially she was used for the evacuation of children from South East England to East Anglia.[3][4]

[She was the third ship to carry the name. SS Daffodil was a Mersey ferry taken over by the Royal Navy and played a key role in the Zeebruge Raid of 1918. She was granted the 'Royal' moniker by the King for her war service. She was sold in October 1933 to the New Medway Steam Packet Co. Ltd, where she was used on the Rochester-Strood-Sheerness-Southend route. When she was sold for scrap in 1938 in Ghent, Belgium, after the NMSPC was taken over by the General Steam Navigation Co.Ltd of London in 1936, they replaced her with a larger vessel, which her owners named the Royal Daffodil II (1939) - the vessel of this article. In the meantime on the Mersey, Wallasey Corporation had already replaced their original vessel with their own Royal Daffodil II in 1934. The Mersey ferry did not go to Dunkirk, whereas the Royal Daffodil II (1939) did.]]

From 15 September 1939, Royal Daffodil II was used to carry troops of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) to France, continuing on this duty until October that year.[5] On 21 May 1940 Royal Daffodil was placed on standby to take part in evacuating the BEF if it became necessary.[6] On 23 May, Royal Daffodil along with the passenger steamer Archangel carried troops of the 30th Brigade to Calais.[7][8] She was one of the ships that took part in Operation Dynamo, the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940. She rescued 9,500 men in seven trips. On 2 June 1940, a bomb passed straight through her and exploded under her. The explosion caused a hole in the starboard side, and the Master ordered everyone to port side, which raised the hole out of the water and enabled a temporary patch of mattresses and wood to be applied. Royal Daffodil made it safely to Ramsgate and disembarked the evacuees. Later she was sailed to Deptford under her own power and repaired.[9][10] As well as the bomb, Royal Daffodil also survived machine gun and torpedo attacks.[11]

After the war, Royal Daffodil was refitted, and was used on sailings from Gravesend or Tilbury to view the French coast, also calling at Southend and Margate after a few seasons on this route. In the summer of 1960 the licensed grocers W.H. Cullen hired the ship to take its staff down river to Margate as a celebration of an anniversary. From 1954, with passports and 1955 without passports, she was again able to land in France and later had live musical entertainment provided by top stars of the day. These included Gene Vincent in 1962 and Jerry Lee Lewis in 1963. Unfortunately these trips proved to be unprofitable and in 1966 Royal Daffodil made her last crossing. She was sold for scrapping in Ghent, making her last journey to the breakers along the Terneuzen Canal under her own power to a sad demise in 1967. This event was shown on BBC TV.

Official number and code letters[edit]

Official Numbers were a forerunner to IMO Numbers.

Royal Daffodil had the UK Official Number 167210 and used the Code Letters GSGL.[2] Royal Daffodil was allocated the IMO number 5530130 towards the end of her life.[1]


  1. ^ a b "Single Ship Report for "5530130"". Miramar. Retrieved 28 January 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "LLOYD'S REGISTER, NAVIRES A VAPEUR ET A MOTEURS" (PDF). Plimsoll Ship Data. Retrieved 28 January 2009.
  3. ^ "An Evacuee to Wymondham". BBC. Archived from the original on 11 November 2012. Retrieved 28 March 2008.
  4. ^ "Jean's War - Evacuated from Gravesend to Dartington Hall". BBC. Archived from the original on 30 November 2012. Retrieved 28 March 2008.
  5. ^ Winser 1999, p. 60.
  6. ^ Winser 1999, p. 11.
  7. ^ Winser 1999, p. 12.
  8. ^ Kindell, Don. "Naval Events, May 1940 (Part 4 of 4): Wednesday 22nd – Friday 31st". British and Other Navies in World War 2 Day-by-Day. Retrieved 11 September 2015.
  9. ^ "M V Royal Daffodil". Tom Lee. Archived from the original on 7 September 2008. Retrieved 28 March 2008.
  10. ^ "GREENWICH INDUSTRIAL HISTORY Volume 10, Issue 1, April 2006". GREENWICH INDUSTRIAL HISTORY SOCIETY. Archived from the original on 23 December 2012. Retrieved 28 March 2008.
  11. ^ "Docklands at War - The Blitz". Museum in Docklands. Archived from the original on 15 February 2011. Retrieved 28 March 2008.
  • Winser, John de S. (1999). B.E.F. Ships before, at and after Dunkirk. Gravesend, UK: World Ship Society. ISBN 0-905617-91-6.