14th August 1939:

14th August 1939:
Aboard Balmoral in Sandown Bay.

On Monday 14th August 1939 Balmoral was scheduled to sail on a day trip from Southampton to Ryde, Southsea, Sandown, Shanklin, Ventnor and Bournemouth.

Balmoral canting off Sandown Pier.

She was due away from Southampton (9am) for Ryde (10.15am), Clarence Pier Southsea (10.35am), South Parade Pier Southsea (10.40am), Sandown (11.55am), Shanklin (12.10pm), Ventnor (12.30pm) and Bournemouth (2.40pm).

From mid July 1939 Red Funnel were one ship short at Bournemouth after Bournemouth Queen had to be taken out of service with boiler trouble. It is therefore likely that whilst her passengers were ashore enjoying Bournemouth, Balmoral would have been put to use to help plug the gap and provide one extra round trip on the Swanage service away from Bournemouth (3pm|) for Swanage (3.45pm) and back to Bournemouth (4.30pm) in time to load her own passengers once again for the return leg of her trip back to to Southampton.

Bournemouth Pier with Red Funnel’s Queen and Lorna Doone on the west side and Cosens’ Monarch on the east side.

She was then due away from Bournemouth (4.40pm) for Ventnor (7pm), Shanklin (7.20pm), Sandown (7.35pm), South Parade Pier Southsea (8.30pm), Clarence Pier Southsea ( 8.45pm), Ryde (9.15pm) and Southampton (10.30pm).

Aboard PS Balmoral.

It was a long old day with a plethora of different trip options offered between the various piers. Some passengers would have gone only as far as Ryde or Southsea. Others may have stayed on to one or other of the Island’s East Coast piers or gone all the way to Bournemouth. New passengers would have boarded at Ryde and Southsea with some for the Island’s piers and others for the longer trip. More would have come aboard and got off at Sandown, Shanklin and Ventnor so by no means every passenger who boarded Balmoral for her morning departure from Southampton that day would have stayed on for the whole duration.

Indeed for any specifically wanting to travel to Bournemouth this was a very convoluted way to do it. With Balmoral’s journey time coming in at approaching six hours each way, this did not compare favourably with the railway on which you could have done it in about 45 minutes.

Red Funnel’s cruising area between the wars.

The clouds of war were starting to hover in an increasingly menacing sort of way over everything during the balmy days of this August in 1939. There was increasing huffing and puffing, gauntlets being thrown down and postures being struck across Europe as Hitler and Mussolini continued to flex their military muscles.

Then on 1st September Germany invaded Poland and within two days Britain was once again at war and that was it for the excursion trade just as it had been in 1914.

Balmoral’s last scheduled passenger service from Southampton is thought to have been a long afternoon cruise to Ryde, Southsea, Sandown, Shanklin and Ventnor on Sunday 3rd September 1939. Steamer notices for September had been printed and distributed but all the trips advertised in them were withdrawn.

Balmoral became an anti-aircraft ship of the sort used to help protect near coastal convoys from air attack until 1944 but the deteriorating condition of her structure led to her being withdrawn and instead used as a static accommodation ship. She was scrapped in Southampton in 1949.

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.

John Megoran

John Megoran

This article was first published on 14th August 2020.