Duke of York

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Introduction

Duke of York was launched in 1935 as a ferry but had a long and interesting service history. During WW2 she served as a Landing Ship, Infantry (LSI) and troopship, returned to ferry duties after repairs and reconfiguration with one funnel, survived having her bows sliced off in an accident and a subsequent rebuild, then spent many years on passenger cruises. She was finally broken up in 1975 giving her a service life of 40 years.

Duke of York
An old photo of Duke of York - the date is not known but it is clearly pre-war as she has two funnels. [2]

Basic Data

Item Value
Type Passenger ship
Registered owners, managers and operators London Midland & Scottish Railway
Builders Harland & Wolff
Yard Belfast
Country UK
Yard number 951
Registry London
Official number 128318
Signal letters N/K
Call sign GYKV
Classification society N/K
Gross tonnage 3,743
Net tonnage 1,547
Deadweight N/K
Length 339.5 ft
Overall Length N/K
Breadth 52.3 ft
Depth 18.1 ft
Draught N/K
Engines 4 steam turbines SR geared to 2 SC shafts
Engine builders Harland & Wolff
Works Belfast
Country UK
Boilers N/A
Power 502 NHP
Propulsion Twin Screw
Speed 12 knots
Cargo capacity N/K
Crew N/K

Additional Construction Information

The Lloyds Register entry for Duke of York for 1945-6 has the following additional information about her:

  • She had two decks
  • Cruiser stern
  • Fitted with echo sounding and radio direction finding equipment
  • Fitted with one of the earliest automatic fire extinguishers by Grinnell.

Deck Plans

Since the initial publication of this web page I was contacted by Keith Nisbet who had a set of berthing plans for Duke of York and kindly sent them on to me. They are reproduced below but raise some interesting questions. The 1945-6 Lloyds Register entry for Duke of York says that the ship had two decks and a cruiser stern. The berthing plans cover three decks, and the images on this page also appear to show three rows of portholes indicating three decks even pre-war when she had two funnels. I have no explanation for this and would be interested in hearing from anyone that may have further information to explain this.

The deck plans show three decks in the main body of the ships, and also three decks in the fo'c'sle area.

Duke of York
This is the berthing plan for the 'Prom' or upper deck. This area includes 52 1st Class cabins, bathrooms and toilets, a room for the Radio Operator, and 1st and 2nd Class Smokerooms - each with bars. [3]
Duke of York
This is the berthing plan for the 'Bridge' or A deck. This area includes 37 1st Class cabins, bathrooms and toilets, various rooms used by the crew, and 1st and 2nd Class saloons and restaurants. [3]
Duke of York
This is the berthing plan for the 'Main' or B deck. This area includes 50 1st Class cabins, toilets, various rooms used by the crew, the galley and a gyro room. [3]
Duke of York
This is the berthing plan for the Poop Deck 2nd Class. This area includes 33 2nd Class berths, toilets, a ladies room, mail room and baggage room. I believe that this area is at the same level as the Bridge (A) deck based on its position on the overall plan. [3]
Duke of York
This is the berthing plan for the Main Deck 2nd Class (Poop). This area includes the 2nd Class lounge and pantry and toilets. [3]
Duke of York
This is the berthing plan for the Lower or D Deck 2nd Class. This area was presumably below the level of the Main deck and 54 berths and accommodation for the stewards. It gives the impression of being a sort of "steerage" area and was presumably the cheapest place to travel. [3]

Career Highlights

Date Event
7 March 1935 Launched by Her Grace the Duchess of Abercorn
4 June 1935 Completed
1942 Requisitioned for war service; name changed to HMS Duke of Wellington to avoid duplicate names and converted for use as a Landing Ship, Infantry (LSI)
1945 Name changed back to Duke of York on return to original owners.
1950 Refit with change to oil engine and modified to have just one funnel
6 May 1953 Collision with Haiti Victory sliced off bow. Repaired and fitted with a raked bow by Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company of Jarrow.
1963 Purchased by A.J.& D.J.Chandris and name changed to York
1963 Name changed to Fantasia
December 1975 Taken to Pireaus for breaking by Prodromos Sariktzis
Duke of York
This is is a newspaper cutting showing the launch of Duke of York by Harland and Wolff - the source was an unknown newspaper but it is probably from a Harland & Wolff publicity shot originally. [2]

Service Pre WW2

Duke of York was built for the London Midland and Scottish railways and used for the Heysham to Belfast ferry route from the time she was brought into service in 1935.

Service in WW2

Duke of York was requisitioned for war service in 1939 for use as a troopship. She was converted for use as a Landing Ship, Infantry (Hand-Hoisting) - LSI(H) vessel in 1942 and her name was changed to HMS Duke of Wellington as there was already an HMS Duke of York in service. The 'hoisting' refers to her being designed to lower and hoist the landing craft on hand-operated davits. Her conversion allowed her to carry 250 troops and 10 landing craft. She was also fitted with a 12-pounder gun and eight 20mm cannon for defence against aircraft.

Operation Jubilee

HMS Duke of Wellington was one of the LSIs that took part in Operation Jubilee - an abortive raid on Dieppe on 19th August 1942. She was assigned to the landing at Blue beach which was at Puits to the east of Dieppe according to External Ref. #29. She had soldiers from The Black Watch of Canada on board who had embarked at Southampton. Temporary Acting Lieutenant Leslie Breach MID RNVR was killed during this operation and is buried in Haslar Naval Cemetery, Gosport in Grave G 10.9

HMS Duke of Wellington claimed to have shot down a Ju88 aircraft with a Lewis gun and the port wing was described as having been shot off. The gunner, AB N. Mitchinson, was Mentioned in Dispatches as a result.

The assault started at 05:00 but a decision was made to retreat by 09:00. The failed operation involved 6,086 allied forces with Canadians suffering the greatest losses:

A report on the operation by the naval force commander J. Hughes-Hallett - External Ref. #29 - was produced shortly after the raid but not published until 1947 - it can be read online at the link I have provided. There are a large number of books and websites covering this operation for anyone wanting to know more.

The Normandy Landings

HMS Duke of Wellington is known to have taken part in the Normandy landings of 1944 and transported a large number of troops. One account described the decks of the ship as "heaving with hundreds of assault infantryman, made up of Canadian troops and soldiers from the Royal Wiltshire Regiment”. She was one of the ships transferring assault forces to Juno Beach and part of Force J under the command of Commodore G.N.Oliver who was on HQ Ship HMS Hilary. Able Seaman George Lea MID D/JX 362781 was killed on 6 June 1944 - the first day of the D-Day landings. He is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial on Panel 86 column 3.

Duke of York
This image shows Tank Landing Craft LCT765 in the foreground with Duke of Wellington behind her. A coaster and a Liberty Ship are also visible. The image is believed to have been taken during the Normandy Landings but this is not confirmed and the source is not known. [2]

Apart from the information already stated, I have not so far discovered much more about HMS Duke of Wellington's service following Operation Jubilee until towards the end of the war when she was serving as a troopship taking passengers between Tilbury and Ostend. An account of this latter period is provided by Stan Mayes who served on her at this time can be found in the Recollections section of the Benjidog website HERE. Stan signed onto this ship on 14 March 1945 and refers to her as Duke of York rather than HMS Duke of Wellington. His record-keeping was meticulous so her name must have been changed back by then.

Service post WW2

Following the end of war, she was restored to her previous state and returned to her owners. She was transferred to the Harwich - Hook of Holland route in May 1948 and worked the route along with Arnhem.

In 1950 she was rebuilt with an oil engine and a single funnel. After the rebuild she had cabin accommodation for 520 passengers.

Duke of York
This is a low resolution image of a postcard showing Duke of York with one funnel - therefore it was taken after the 1950 refit; as she is without a raked bow it was taken before the collision in 1953 (see below). [1]

Collision with Haiti Victory

On 6 May 1953 Duke of York was in collision with the American ship Haiti Victory. Duke of York was struck on her port side forward of her bridge and cut in two; the bow section sank. She was en route from Hook of Holland to Harwich with 473 passengers and 72 crew.

Since first publishing the page about Duke of York I have been contacted by various people with additional information about the collision and have created a separate page with full details, photographs, a video and eye-witness accounts.

Access the page by clicking HERE.

Repairs After Collision

Her bow section was rebuilt by Palmers Shipbuilding & Iron Co. of Jarrow and given a modernised raked bow, lengthened by about 7 Ft. and rejoined the Harwich fleet in 1954.

Looking at the extent of the damage it seems remarkable that the main section of the Duke of York did not sink as well as the bow section.

Duke of York
Duke of York with one funnel. The raked bows are apparent so this would have been taken after the repairs following the collision with Haiti Victory. [2]
Duke of York
Duke of York after rebuild moored at Parkeston Quay Harwich - date not known. [2]

Service as a Cruise Ship

In August 1963 Duke of York was sold to Chandris Lines, renamed York and transferred to the company's shipyard at Ambelaki. She was then sent to Smiths Dock Company for conversion to a cruise ship and entered service in 1964. Facilities included two small swimming pools which were located where the forward and aft cargo holds had been when she was a ferry.

Renamed as Fantasia she ran mainly on cruises in the Eastern Mediterranean, with some winter charters to religious tour groups.

Duke of York
This is is a Chandris advertisement from The Times of 24 December 1965 advertising a "Dream Cruise". [4]

Duke of York
An old postcard showing Duke of York as Fantasia passing The Doge's Palace . She looks relatively acceptable in that setting compared with some of the monstrous cruise vessels that go there now. [2]

Fantasia was withdrawn from service in December 1975 and broken up in Spain.

Image Credits

  1. By courtesy of Stan Mayes
  2. Source unknown
  3. By courtesy of Keith Nisbet
  4. By courtesy of The Times