Until the Great War, although such a service operated from 1860, across the Firth of Forth, until the great bridge was built, train ferries saw little use in Britain. All that changed with the need to get vast quantities of railway rolling stock, heavy artillery and eventually tanks over to France as quickly as possible. The three vessels to be used between Harwich and Zeebrugge were built during the war to operate between the military port which was established at Richborough and Calais / Dunkirk and between Southampton and Dieppe. Because of all the equipment which had to be repatriated, it took over five years to prise the sticky fingers of government off them then they had to be refurbished. Hence the obsolete Great Eastern name. (The ferry company would be taken over by the LNER in the 1930’s). The Southern Railway ordered three new ferries of its own, and would inaugurate a night time Dover Calais passenger service where passengers spent the night on board tucked up inside their sleeping cars. (The only sleepers ever to run in Britain with lifejackets under the bunks!) There was never a passenger service on the Harwich ferries.
The event marked a rare official engagement for Prince George, cousin of the present Queen brother of Kings Edward VIII and George VI. Later to be created Duke of Kent Prince George was a bit of a black sheep. Although married with three children he was a cocaine and morphine user and bisexual transvestite (he apparently did a very convincing impersonation despite being much taller, of the then Duchess of York, on visits to London night spots. He had numerous affairs with a wide variety of partners including dame Barbara Cartland and Noel Coward. Having served in the Royal Navy in the Great War and after, he transferred to the RAF in 1940, and was killed in an air crash while on a secret Mission to Sweden in 1942 . He was the first member of the British Royal Family to be killed on active service for 500 years.
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