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M V Royal Daffodil

Builders: William Denny & Bros Dumbarton 1939

Propulsion type: Twin Screw

Owners: General Steam Navigation Co Ltd

Service dates: 1939 - 1967

Tonnage: Net 1048 Gross 2060


A popular and impressive ship, the naming of the new Denny ship in 1939 was not without controversy. Royal Daffodil (I) was a former Mersey ferry, which had been bought by the New Medway Steam Packet Co in 1933. Royal Daffodil (I) had received her regal prefix after she had taken part in the raid on Zebrugge in the First World War. After she was sold in 1938 for breaking, the people of Merseyside thought that a new ship built in 1934 for the Mersey Ferry and named Royal Daffodil II, could drop the suffix and be named Royal Daffodil. The General Steam Navigation Co Ltd, however, used the name for their new vessel pictured above. The GSN ship was twice the size of Queen of the Channel, whom she resembled in appearance.Quickly pressed into war service, Royal Daffodil was at Dunkirk and took off 9500 men over seven trips. On the last of these on 2 June 1940, a bomb went right through her hull and exploded outside.The hole was patched up by a matress and she got safely home. After the war she was refitted in 1947 and undertook non stop trips to France from Tilbury or Gravesend, calling at Southend and Deal in later years.

After 1955 she made "no passport" trips to France. In an attempt to revive pasenger numbers, particularly amongst younger passengers, the GSN held "Rock Across the Channel" events between 1957 and 1963. They included a 1963 crossing with Jerry Lee Lewis backed by the Outlaws, featuring a young Richie Blackmore and Chas Hodges (of Chas and Dave fame). Many other groups, including The Hi-Fi's also performed on board, backing Gene Vincent on 17 June 1962. The GSN ran this event on the Royal Daffodil (II) from 1957 with a Skiffle event from Southend to Boulogne. The downside to the 1963 event was that the gentleman promoting it went off with the money. All these attempts proved insufficient to sustain passenger numbers and sadly, at the end of the season in 1966, the GSN decided they could no longer continue their Thames services and Royal Daffodil was withrawn and placed for sale. Keen enthusiasts may remember the BBC pictures of her sailing under her own power to her final resting place for breaking up in Holland in 1967.

For a family picture of her at Calais quayside in 1957 please click here.

For more information on the music cruises of the 1950's and 1960's please click here

I am grateful to Darren Vidler for information relating to the Rock Across the Channel events and to Len Ford for the information relating to his time on board with The Hi-Fi's .

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