The Southern Railway paddle steamer Portsdown hit a recently laid German mine and sank while on passage between Portsmouth and Ryde on the 4am mail run on Saturday 20th September 1941 in the Swashway just to the north of Spitsand Fort.
The force of the explosion blew the ship in two with the aft section settling on an even keel with the deck above water, as it was pretty much low tide at the time, and the forward section coming to rest upside down on the bottom.
Unfortunately most of the crew were in the forward part of the ship which took the major force of the explosion and eight of them were lost including Portsdown’s master Capt H A Chandler. Twelve out of the twenty one service passengers and three out of the eight civilian passengers were also killed.
More fortunate were deck hand Sam Jupe, who was on lookout in the bow, and the Chief and Second Engineers Messrs WH Kreutzer and H J O Allen. Somehow Sam Jupe survived being blown into the air and coming down in the water after which he swam to the stern section. Although slightly injured and in shock the two engineers managed to launch one of the boats which was taken in tow to Haslar by a naval cutter.
Another survivor was relief master Capt William Gibson. He had been due to take over from Capt Chandler at 6am at Ryde and had slept aboard that night in the aft saloon and so was somewhat protected from the blast.
A memorial service was held in Portsmouth Cathedral on 19th October in memory of the passengers and crew who lost their lives.
The deceased amongst the crew included Capt H A Chandler, Mate S S Burgess, Purser E H Cottrell, Fireman W Harrison, Fireman W E Rawlings, Seaman A F Farey, Seaman J Monk and Ordinary Seaman E Burnett.
Portsdown continued to lie in the Swashway until after the war when the wreck was eventually removed.
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 20th September 2020.