These ferries were the best thing Dover never got as far as Sealink ship building was concerned! British Rail had been making do with antiquated converted passenger ships such as Normannia to handle its vehicle ferry traffic through Dover. Meanwhile it was not until 1972 Folkestone had its own linkspan constructed to facilitate vehicle ferries. And two very capable vessels were built to open 'drive-on' services from the port.
Hengist and Horsa were quite impressive ships for their day, and many would argue that they were superior to the ‘Saint Class’ vessels that finally modernised Sealink operations from Dover in the 1980s. They were virtually identical externally and were the first to feature the 'Sealink' brand name in large white sans serif lettering applied in white to the monastral blue British Rail hull. They sometimes interchanged with services to Calais and Oostende but were essentially Folkestone/Boulogne ships and survived on that route until it was closed by Stena as a cost saving measure at the end of 1991. In those two decades the Hengist and Horsa were something of a local institution at Folkestone and their unusual funnels were a familiar feature of the harbour skyline. A third sister, Senlac, was built in 1973 for the Newhaven/Dieppe route which she served for thirteen years before being sold to Greek interests. All three sisters went on to operate in the Hellas Ferries fleet as Express Artemis, Express Penelope, and Express Apollon respectively.
M. S. Hengist, Horsa & Senlac
Builders: Arsenal de la Marine National Français, Brest.
Yard numbers: CF1, CF2, CF3.
Dimensions (length, breadth, depth): 118.09 x 19.84 x 4.12 metres.
Tonnages (gross, net, dead weight): 5,596, 2,008, 1,030.
Engines: Two 16 cylinder, S.E.M.T. Pielstick diesel.
Power: 15,000 kW.
Speed (knots): 19.5.
Passenger certificate: 1,400.
Car capacity: 256.
29.4.1972: Hengist launched.
6.6.1972: Delivered to British Rail Short Sea Shipping Division, London.
16.6.1972: Entered service Folkestone/Boulogne.
18.7.1984: Registered for Sea Containers Limited.
16.10.1987: Blown aground near Folkestone during the night of the Great Storm.
4.1990: Registered for Sealink Stena Line Limited.
1.1.1991: Renamed Stena Hengist.
24.12.1991: Finished service Folkestone/Boulogne.
18.3.1992: Sold to Flanmare Shipping Inc, Piraeus, Greece. Renamed Romilda. G. A. Ferries service.
4.1993: Sold to Ventouris Sea Lines, Piraeus, Greece. Renamed Apollo Express I.
9.1996: Sold to Milos Naftiki Eteria, Piraeus, Greece. Renamed Panagia Ekatondapiliani. Agapitos Lines service.
18.11.1999: Sold to Minoan Flying Dolphins, Piraeus, Greece. Renamed Express Artemis. Hellas Ferries service.
6.2001: Renamed Panagia Ekatondapiliani.
29.4.1972: Horsa launched.
30.7.1972: Delivered to British Rail Short Sea Shipping Division, London.
2.8.1972: Entered service Folkestone/Boulogne.
1.1975: Collided with Lord Warden at Calais.
18.7.1984: Sealink U. K. Limited sold to Sea Containers Limited, Bermuda.
3.1990: Transferred to Holyhead/Dun Laoghaire (near Dublin).
4.1990: Registered for Sealink Stena Line Limited. Renamed Stena Horsa.
14.2.1991: Returned to Folkestone/Boulogne.
31.12.1991: Last sailing.
5.1.1992: Laid up at Milford Haven.
15.2.1992: Sold to Flanmare Shipping Inc, Piraeus Greece, Renamed Penelope A.
11.1999: Sold to Minoan Flying Dolphins Piraeus Greece. Renamed Express Penelope. Hellas Ferries.
1.12.1972: Senlac launched.
1.4.1973: Delivered to British Rail Short Sea Shipping Division, London.
2.5.1973: Entered service Newhaven/Dieppe.
27.7.1984: Registered for Sea Containers Limited.
31.1.1985: Sold to Société Nationale Des Chemins de Fer Français, Dieppe.
19.6.1987: Chartered to: B. & I. Line, Dublin. Fishguard/Rosslare.
9.1987: Laid up at Dunkerque.
25.11.1987: Sold to Ventouris Sons Shipping Company, Piraeus, Greece. Renamed Apollo Express.
1993: Renamed Apollo Express I.
8.1996: Sold to Agapitos Express Lines, Piraeus, Greece. Renamed Express Apollon.
8.11.1999: Sold to Minoan Flying Dolphins, Piraeus, Greece. Hellas Ferries.
A Skyland Model of a 'Hengist Class' vessel: A number of these were displayed in Sealink ticket offices and travel agencies around the United Kingdom. This particular model was rebranded in the 1985 Sealink British Ferries livery. It is now in the care of Matt Murtland, creator of the HHV Ferry tribute website which provides further information about these much loved ships.
Model provided by: Julie Johnson.