On Sunday 1st June 1940 the mass evacuation of troops from the beaches of Dunkirk was well under way. Consideration had been given to using the Humber paddle steamers Tattershall Castle and Wingfield Castle for this and other war work but it was thought that their incredibly shallow drafts for their size, of little more than 4ft, made them unsuitable for seagoing work. And the Humber ferry service was considered to be of strategic importance and required these specially designed shallow draft paddle steamers to maintain it across the mud flats at low tide. Other ships of that size would have run aground so they remained in service on the Humber route throughout the war.
So on 1st June, along with the veteran paddle steamer Killingholme, these two paddle steamers continued to operate on the ferry also carrying large numbers of child evacuees away from the dangers of the city to the rural countryside of Lincolnshire on the south bank of the estuary and beyond. It would be another year before Lincoln Castle arrived on the scene from her Clyde builders in July 1941 releasing Killingholme to become a full time barrage balloon ship to try to help thwart the enemy air raids.
Hull had a difficult time in the war. Between 19th June 1940 and 17th March 1945 the city suffered nearly ninety serious bombing raids causing widespread death, destruction and devastation of buildings and infrastructure. The Humber itself was also a target with frequent German raids dropping mines in the river. At these times black flags were flown on the piers to indicate the danger until the local minesweepers could dispose of them.
So paddling backwards and forwards between Hull and New Holland throughout the war was not such an easy task for these Humber paddle steamers and brought with it significant dangers for them.
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 1st June 2021.