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I remember the second Royal Daffodil ferry boat scrapped nearly 50 years ago and have travelled on the current one many times.I have no recollections of the second ferry on the Mersey but remember her at Birkenhead docks awaiting the breakers in 1962. At that time I was an avid ship spotter and I think there were three old ferry boats tied up together.

The current Royal Daffodil came into service about the same time. It was always a great thrill to sit on the bollards overlooking the churning propellers. However, when I was on board recently the stern was cordoned off – doubtless for Health & Safety reasons.

The River Mersey has been served by Royal Daffodil ferry boats for nearly a century and they hold a special place in the hearts and minds of many people.

Three Royal Daffodils have played a prominent part in what is probably the most famous ferry in the world.

The first was built in 1906 and was simply called Daffodil – she was given the prefix Royal in recognition of her part in the famous Zeebrugge Raid during the First World War.

The Liverpool to Wallasey ferry boat was requisitioned for war service in 1918 and became HMS Daffodil. The purpose of the operation was to stop Germany using Zeebrugge in Belgium as a submarine base.

Daffodil’s role was to hold the warship HMS Vindictive against the mole or breakwater in the harbour. She gallantly managed to do this despite being hit by two shells and peppered with shrapnel.

Renamed Royal Daffodil by the command of George V because of her bravery, she returned to the Mersey bearing the scars of war.

Royal Daffodil II was built at Cammell Laird’s Birkenhead shipyard in 1934 In 1941, during the May Blitz of Liverpool by German bombers, she suffered a direct hit and sank – fortunately without loss of life. A year later she was refloated, repaired and returned to duty.

close up detail of a model of a ferry

Image courtesy of the Liverpool Daily Post and Echo

A half model (pictured) on display at Merseyside Maritime Museum was used to provide the dimensions of her outer hull during building work.  Today computers are used to develop three-dimensional building configurations. The 1:48 scale model carries the yard number 999 and detailed plate measurements.

The current Royal Daffodil was built in 1962 and is the flagship of the today’s three Mersey Ferries. She was called the Overchurch until she was renamed in 1999 following a major refit which saw her interiors extensively altered.

A new Maritime Tale by Stephen Guy appears every Saturday in the Liverpool Echo. A paperback – Mersey Maritime Tales (£3.99) – is available from the museum, newsagents, bookshops or from the Mersey Shop website (£1 p&p UK).