On the evening of Friday 10th January 1941 Portsmouth was the subject of a series of devastating air raids during which one hundred and fifty three German bombers unleashed their deadly cargoes of incendiary bombs onto the city. The first raid started shortly after 6pm and continued throughout the evening and on up to shortly after 10pm. Then as people started to come out to assess the damage a second wave started at about 10.40pm raining down yet more incendiary bombs. This went on beyond midnight and on into the small hours of the next morning.
The Southern Railway paddle steamer Merstone was alongside the Portsmouth Harbour Station at the time waiting to take the early morning mail run to Ryde. She used her fire pumps, sourcing water from the harbour, to help put out the blaze on the Harbour Station, in the general offices and the marine manager’s office.
It was a night of real carnage.
Kingswear Castle returned to service in 2023 after the first part of a major rebuild which is designed to set her up for the next 25 years running on the River Dart. The Paddle Steamer Kingswear Castle Trust is now fund raising for the second phase of the rebuild. You can read more about the rebuilds and how you can help if you can here.
This article was first published on 10th January 2021.