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Harwich to the Hook Of Holland


Page researched and created by: Trevor STUBBERFIELD (52A)



Many of us did the North Sea crossing from Harwich to the Hook of Holland and then onwards by rail to our postings throughout Europe. Usually the passage took place through the night and all we saw of the troopship was the gangplank as we climbed to the deck and then the various stairways as we descended through the levels, down into the bowels of the ship.


Did you ever get to see the whole ship? Perhaps the following photos will give you some idea of the age and condition of the vessels that were used for trooping.


Three ships were in service, namely the S.S. “Empire Wansbeck”, the S.S. “Vienna” and the H.M.T. “Empire Parkeston”. You took pot luck on which one you would be travelling on and luck was generally in short supply.


The “Empire Wansbeck” was the smallest of the three and in normal conditions was not a bad ship to travel on.  Get a rough sea and it would bob about like a cork.


S.S. “Empire Wansbeck”


S.S. “Empire Wansbeck”


3,508 Tons.  Built in 1943 it was originally named the “Linz” and was owned by North German Lloyd. It became a war prize and in 1946 was renamed the “Empire Wansbeck”. It plied the Harwich - Hook Of Holland route as a troopship till 1961 when it was sold to Greece and renamed the “Esperos”.


S.S. “Vienna

Next in size was the H.M.T. S.S. “Vienna”, a name to strike fear in to the hearts of strong men when it was the one they were to travel on. It could turn a mill-pond sea into a typhoon struck ocean. It taught me some lessons I've never forgotten, even when I travel by modern ferry. The first was to always take the top bunk of the tier of three. That way, when your travelling companions were bringing up the contents of their stomachs during a rough passage, at least it didn't come down over you. Always travel with your feet pointing to the sharp end, so that you went down in to the troughs almost standing up but of course you stood on your head going up in to the waves. On one particularly bad crossing, when the crew was as sick as the passengers, I learnt never to jump down from the top bunk. There was so much vomit on the floor that it was like a skating rink and it was a certainty that you would end up on your back in it. Also, there was no point in making for the ‘heads’ because they were in the same condition and the washbasins were just full to the brim. How they prepared the boat for the return voyage I couldn't guess.


S.S. “Vienna


4,227 tons. Built 1921. In 1941 it was bought from the London and North Eastern Railway and became a hospital ship and troopship. Started on the Harwich to the Hook of Holland run in 1945 and was scrapped in 1960.




Two photos of the SS Vienna tied up at the Hook of Holland. These would appear to be taken when the ship was still in service with the London and North Eastern Railway before it became a troopship.

These and more photos of shipping can be found at the web site of Simplon Postcards accessed from this link



Copyright ©

Ian Boyle/Simplon Postcards.











H.M.T. “Empire Parkeston”

Largest of the three was the H.M.T. “Empire Parkeston” and was probably the best boat to travel on.  It was big enough to withstand all but the worst of the sea conditions we encountered.  It must have been OK as I, a notoriously bad sailor, always managed to hang on to my last meal but was always pleased to get back on to dry land.


H.M.T. “Empire Parkeston”


6,893 tons. Built in 1930 and originally named the “Prince Henry”. It was purchased from the Canadian Government and renamed “Empire Parkeston”. Possibly because the quay that the troopships sailed from was called Parkeston Quay, just along the River Stour from Harwich. It was scrapped in 1962.



These photos and information are available from HERE along with many more items of interest regarding service life.