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Dover: Lock and Key of the Kingdom

The Canterbury

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The ‘Canterbury’ was ordered by the Southern Railway from  Denny Bros early in 1928. She was to be the ferry link in the  new ‘Golden Arrow’ / ‘Flèche d’Or’ luxury train service between  London and Paris.   Her tall funnel and lofty masts gave her a well-balanced profile,  and she created much interest following her introduction on the  new service between Dover and Calais on 15 May 1929. Initially  she carried only 400 first class passengers. The accommodation  was more luxurious than anything seen before on the Channel,  and included two suites and 18 private cabins, a restaurant  seating about 100 and a palm court. Click here to see plans of the ship in 1929. At first she suffered a number of mechanical problems and  underwent an extensive refit during the winter of 1931/32.  These were the days of the Depression and first class only  service was no longer viable, so during this refit she was also  given second class accommodation.   This increased the total  passenger complement to 1400, which gives some indication of  the space originally available to her first class passengers. In 1935 she was present at King George V’s Jubilee Naval  Review at Spithead. After the outbreak of the Second World War she served as a  transport for troops and refugees on a number of routes, and  later made five trips to Dunkirk between 25 May and 4 June  1940. After this she served a short term as a Fleet Air Arm  target ship before being converted to a troop landing ship. She  took part in the D-Day landings and ran as a leave ship between Calais and the Kent ports before being released back to  commercial service.   After a refit she returned to the ‘Golden Arrow’ service on 15  April 1946, being replaced six months later by a new ship the  ‘Invicta’. The ‘Canterbury’ switched to the Folkestone-Calais run, returning to her old service for a six month spell from January  1947. In summer 1948 she moved to a seasonal Folkestone to  Boulogne service where she remained for the next 16 years  until the end of her career. The ‘Canterbury’ was withdrawn and laid up at Dover after her  final crossing on 27 September 1964. On the 30 July 1965 this  popular ship left the port she knew so well in tow of a Belgian  tug, bound for Antwerp and the shipbreakers.
The First Season.  The 'Canterbury' leaving Dover on the 'Golden Arrow' service, May 1929. The 'Canterbury' as a troop transport, 1st January 1945. Passenger seating on the Awning Deck, 1929. The Palm Court, 1929. Passengers embarking at Dover.  Taken from a broschure celebrating the reintroduction of the service in 1946. The Dining Saloon.  A return to pre-war luxury in this picture from a broschure celebrating the reintroduction of the service in 1946.