SS Maid of Orleans



Built by William Denny & Brothers Ltd of Dumbarton as a cross channel ferry in 1918. Initially owned by South Eastern and Chatham Railways, she was transferred to Southern Railways in 1923. From 1925, she was used on the Folkestone – Boulogne route and in 1926, she was converted from coal to oil-burning.

In 1939, she was requisitioned as a troop transport to help ship the BEF to France. In mid-May 1940, she took part in the evacuation of Rotterdam and of Belgian nationals from Cherbourg. On the 22nd May, she transported 723 men of the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment to Calais.

Operating exclusively from Dover, she was one of the first ships sent to Dunkirk as part of Operation Dynamo on the 26th May, where she landed 6,000 two-gallon cans of water and embarked 988 troops. On the 29th, she lifted a further 1,372 soldiers from the port. However, on the 1st June, when leaving Dunkirk with 1,856 troops on board, she was rammed and badly damaged by the destroyer HMS Worcester. She underwent temporary repairs at Folkestone, before sailing for Southampton for major repairs.

Having been converted to an infantry landing ship, she took part in the Normandy landings, operating from Southampton and Newhaven, and was involved in landing troops and supplies on both Sword and Juno beaches. At 21.30 hours on the 28th June 1944, on a return trip from Juno beach, the vessel apparently hit a mine south-east of St Catherine's Point, Isle of Wight. The Maid of Orleans sank within 30 minutes with the loss of six of her crew. The 92 survivors were rescued by HMS Hotham, HMS Eglinton and the tug Empire Roger.



The exhibits on display include a period postcard of the Maid of Orleans in Southern Railway livery leaving Folkestone harbour. The second exhibit is a Christmas card sent by one of the crew (R C C Ayling) in December 1940.
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