The Falaise was built for Southern Railway in 1947 by William Denny at Dumbarton. She was a twin screw turbine steamer of 3,710 tons, 311 feet in length, 48 feet beam, speed 20 knots; fitted with radio telephone, radar and Denny-Brown stabilisers. She became part of the British Railways fleet on nationalisation in 1948.
Her first trip to Jersey was on 19 July 1947, but, although she was intended at the outset primarily for the Channel Islands services, and would be seen quite frequently in Channel Island waters, it was largely as a relief vessel, because her normal route became Southampton to St Malo.
Drive-on ferry service
In her first summer she operated a once-weekly direct service between Southampton and Jersey, but was rarely seen in island waters before she was converted to carry cars between Newhaven and Dieppe. In 1973 she was transferred to a new drive-on car ferry service between Weymouth and Jersey, where a ramp had been installed on the Albert Pier. The service proved so popular, as the island's tourism trade boomed and more and more people wanted to bring their own cars with them on holiday, that wWhat was to have been a summer-only service was soon extended to year-round.
The route was extended to take in Guernsey from October 1973, but cars had to be craned on and off the vessel to begin with because St Peter Port had no ramp. Guernsey soon followed Jersey in installing a ramp, but Falaise was worked so hard that machinery problems the following year caused her to be taken out of service, and it was decided that she was not worth any further work and she was sold to be broken up.
Thus the introduction to the Channel Islands of the popular drive-on ferry service by the Falaise was short-lived, but it paved the way for what would become the standard means of transport between the islands, the south coast of England, and St Malo in France.