On Thursday 3rd April 1945 the Admiralty announced that “spirited and successful action” was fought between HMS Paddle Minesweeper Lorna Doone, formerly part of Red Funnel’s fleet of excursion steamers, and three German Dornier 215s.
The magazine The War Illustrated recounted the story:
The Nazis delivered machine gun and bombing attacks from low flying clouds. Shells from Lorna Doone’s guns were seen bursting around them. One of the Dorniers was seen to be on fire and losing height rapidly. A coastguard station in the neighbourhood of the action reported that large pieces were seen falling from another of the Dorniers. The third made good its escape in low visibility.
By skillful manoeuvring the Lorna Doone avoided four large bombs dropped by the enemy and only two of the crew were wounded while the only damage sustained by the little ship was superficial damage to the deck and deck-houses from machine gun bullets. And that is the story of how a Victorian paddle steamer built in 1891 for pleasure jaunts, kept her end up against the apparently overwhelming force of three modern Dornier bombers.
After the ship had returned to port the ratings assembled in their mess and were joined by the officers. Mugs of beer were passed round and Lt T W Sherrin RNVR, her captain, spoke a few words to the crew and read out some of the many messages of congratulation received.
In an interview Lt Sherrin said:
“Little did I think when I sailed in her as a tripper between Bournemouth and Southampton that I should ever live to command the old Lorna Doone. Why, I used to look up at the bridge and wonder what it was like. I know now.”
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 3rd April 2021.