Try travelling on international journeys without a passport today in the modern world and just see how far you get. In 1955 the winds of change were blowing in the other direction with P & A Campbell celebrating the relaxation of passport restrictions which allowed them to offer ‘no-passport’ trips from Eastbourne to Boulogne aboard their ‘Galloping Gertie’ aka Glen Gower.
The Eastbourne Herald Chronicle reported: “In 1954 Glen Gower ran a few ‘passport’ trips across the Channel from Newhaven, really to prove to the Government that the company could not get the requisite number of passengers for such excursions under these conditions as most people did not have a passport and, if they did, usually failed to bring it with them on a Sussex seaside holiday. The service was not successful and this was used in the argument which enabled ‘no-passport’ trips to be started on June 23 1955 (only from Eastbourne as it happened) – these were a great fillip for the Eastbourne holiday amenities. In that year, under Capt J Harris, the Glen Gower made 37 trips to Boulogne carrying 16,000 passengers.”
More ‘no-passport’ trips were offered the following year but it was a poor season for weather with plenty of wind leading to twelve cross-Channel cancellations and revenue consequently and substantially down. By that time P & A Campbell was already in big financial difficulties as a business with its continued operation dependent on the goodwill of its bankers not calling in loans. For 1957 there was a re-structuring of the company and Glen Gower did not return to the South Coast again. She sailed for one more season on the Bristol Channel before being withdrawn and was eventually sold for scrap in 1960.
1956 was therefore the last year in which you could have crossed the Channel from the Sussex resorts to France by paddle steamer.
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.