On Thursday 6th August 1914 Majestic, described by Cosens as “Second to none on the South Coast”, was re-scheduled to run a day trip from Bournemouth (10.25am), Boscombe (10.40am) and Swanage (11.25am) to view the “Warships Cleared for Action” in Portland Roads and then on for time ashore in Weymouth (1pm – 3.30pm).
After the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo on 28th June, the international situation had deteriorated rapidly with some countries, like the USA and many in Europe , declaring their neutrality in any potential conflict whilst others prepared to take up arms to support those with which they had alliances and treaties.
On 1st August Germany declared war on Russia. On 2nd August Germany invaded Luxembourg. On 3rd August Germany declared war on France. On 4th August Britain declared war on Germany.
This resulted in much increased military activity on the South Coast with the Government closing the Needles Passage, Spithead and Portland Harbour to all but naval shipping. This posed a problem for Cosens as it meant that they could no longer continue with their advertised programme of excursions from Bournemouth to land at Totland Bay, Cowes and Southsea. However they could still run to Ventnor and Shanklin by passing south of the Isle of Wight and also continue to offer trips westwards to Swanage and Weymouth
The steamer notice for the new schedule for 6th August for Majestic makes much play of the military activity at Portland including “Possibly seeing the 5th Battle squadron”. Note the use of “possibly” as they couldn’t be sure whether or not the fleet would have sailed by then. Portland Roads were said to be “in a state of siege”.
After returning from this adventure in the run up to war, Majestic was rostered for an evening cruise to (but not landing at) Alum Bay and Totland Bay and to “View the Searchlight Display at the Needles Passage” which was scheduled to be away from Bournemouth (7.30pm) and Boscombe (7.40pm) with return at 9.30pm.
All exciting stuff to help draw aboard a patriotic crowd to witness at first hand the build up for war and to support our boys.
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 6th August 2021.