Today in Transportation History – 1927: A Future Hero of Dunkirk and D-Day is Launched

The twin-screw turbine steamer SS Ben-my-Chree was launched at North West England’s Cammell Laird shipyard, where she had been constructed. The steamer was the fourth Cammell Laird vessel to be named Ben-my-Chree, which means “girl of my heart” in the Manx language that is native to that region’s Isle of Man.

This latest version of Ben-my-Chree was the first steamer built after World War I for the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company.  (The company is a longtime provider of passenger, freight, and vehicle shipping services between the Isle of Man and various ports in the United Kingdom and Ireland.)  Ben-my-Chree, which was popularly known as the Ben, made her maiden voyage from Liverpool to the town of Douglas on the Isle of Man less than three months after being launched. Over the next several years, the Ben was used primarily as a passenger ferry for regular runs between both of those ports.  The Ben epitomized the elegance associated with the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company’s ships throughout the era, and achieved big-screen immortality by appearing in the 1935 musical-comedy film “No Limit.”

With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the Ben entered military service.  She played a key role in the 1940 evacuation of Allied soldiers from Dunkirk, making three trips to that stricken French port and rescuing nearly 4,100 troops.  The Ben was also used during the war as a military transport ship between England, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands.  In addition, the Ben took part in landing U.S. Army Rangers on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944, as part of the Normandy landings.

After the war, the Ben resumed her service with the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company.  She continued to operate in this capacity until being sold to the Belgium-based company Van Heyghen Freres in 1965 and eventually scrapped.

For more information on SS Ben-my-Chree, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Ben-my-Chree_(1927).

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